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The Handwriting on the Wall

King Belshazzar threw a large banquet for 1,000 nobles and drank wine with them. As they were tasting the wine, Belshazzar ordered that the gold and silver utensils which his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought to him. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines.[a]

So the servants brought the gold utensils that had been taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem. The king, his nobles, wives, and concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, or stone.

Suddenly, the fingers of a person’s hand appeared and wrote on the plaster wall opposite the lamp stand of the royal palace. The king watched as the hand wrote. Then the king turned pale, and his thoughts frightened him. His hip joints became loose, and his knees knocked against each other.

The king screamed for the psychics, astrologers, and fortunetellers to be brought to him. He told these wise advisers of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me its meaning will be dressed in purple, wear a gold chain on his neck, and become the third-highest ruler in the kingdom.” All the king’s wise advisers came, but they couldn’t read the writing or tell the king its meaning. King Belshazzar was terrified, and his face turned pale. His nobles didn’t know what to do.

10 The discussion between the king and his nobles brought the queen herself into the banquet hall. The queen said, “Your Majesty, may you live forever! Don’t let your thoughts frighten you, and don’t turn pale. 11 There’s a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your grandfather, he was found to have insight, good judgment, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him head of the magicians, psychics, astrologers, and fortunetellers. 12 This Daniel (who had been renamed Belteshazzar) was found to have knowledge, judgment, and an extraordinary spirit. He has the ability to interpret dreams, solve riddles, and untangle problems. Now, call Daniel, and he will tell you what it means.”

13 So Daniel was taken to the king. The king asked him, “Are you Daniel, one of the captives that my grandfather brought from Judah? 14 I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods and that you have insight, good judgment, and extraordinary wisdom. 15 The wise advisers and the psychics were brought to me to read this writing and tell me its meaning. But they couldn’t tell me its meaning. 16 I have heard that you can interpret such things and untangle problems. If you can read the writing and tell me its meaning, you will be dressed in purple, wear a gold chain on your neck, and become the third-highest ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Daniel told the king, “Keep your gifts. Give your gifts and awards to someone else. I’ll still read the writing for you and tell you its meaning.

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your grandfather Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, might, honor, and glory. 19 People from every province, nation, and language trembled and were terrified by him, because God gave him power. Nebuchadnezzar killed whomever he wanted to kill, and he kept alive whomever he wanted to keep alive. He promoted whomever he wanted to promote, and he demoted whomever he wanted to demote. 20 But when he became so arrogant and conceited that he became overconfident, he was removed from the royal throne. His honor was taken away from him. 21 He was chased away from people, and his mind was changed into an animal’s mind. He lived with wild donkeys, ate grass like cattle, and his body became wet with dew from the sky. This happened until he realized that the Most High God has power over human kingdoms. God puts whomever he wishes in charge of them.

22 “Belshazzar, you are one of Nebuchadnezzar’s successors. You didn’t remain humble, even though you knew all this. 23 But you made yourself greater than the Lord of heaven. You had the utensils from his temple brought to you. You, your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them. You praised your gods made of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, or stone. These gods can’t see, hear, or know anything. You didn’t honor God, who has power over your life and everything you do. 24 So he sent the hand to write this inscription. 25 This is what has been written: Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, and Divided. 26 This is its meaning: Numbered—God has numbered the days of your kingdom and will bring it to an end. 27 Weighed—you have been weighed on a scale and found to be too light. 28 Divided—your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[b]

29 Then Belshazzar ordered that Daniel be dressed in purple and wear a gold chain on his neck. He made Daniel the third-highest ruler in the kingdom. 30 That night King Belshazzar of Babylon was killed. [c] 31 Darius the Mede took over the kingdom. He was 62 years old.

Footnotes

  1. Daniel 5:2 A concubine is considered a wife except she has fewer rights under the law.
  2. Daniel 5:28 There is a play on words here between Aramaic peres (divided) and paras (Persians).
  3. Daniel 5:31 Daniel 5:31 in English Bibles is Daniel 6:1 in the Hebrew Bible.

The Writing on the Wall

King Belshazzar(A) gave a great banquet(B) for a thousand of his nobles(C) and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking(D) his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets(E) that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines(F) might drink from them.(G) So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods(H) of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.(I)

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale(J) and he was so frightened(K) that his legs became weak(L) and his knees were knocking.(M)

The king summoned the enchanters,(N) astrologers[b](O) and diviners.(P) Then he said to these wise(Q) men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck,(R) and he will be made the third(S) highest ruler in the kingdom.”(T)

Then all the king’s wise men(U) came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant.(V) So King Belshazzar became even more terrified(W) and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.

10 The queen,[c] hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!”(X) she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods(Y) in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom(Z) like that of the gods.(AA) Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.(AB) 12 He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar,(AC) was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles(AD) and solve difficult problems.(AE) Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.(AF)

13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?(AG) 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods(AH) is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.(AI) 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it.(AJ) 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems.(AK) If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck,(AL) and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”(AM)

17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.(AN) Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar(AO) sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor.(AP) 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death;(AQ) those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled.(AR) 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride,(AS) he was deposed from his royal throne(AT) and stripped(AU) of his glory.(AV) 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign(AW) over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.(AX)

22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[d] have not humbled(AY) yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against(AZ) the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives(BA) and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand.(BB) But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life(BC) and all your ways.(BD) 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene[e]: God has numbered the days(BE) of your reign and brought it to an end.(BF)

27 Tekel[f]: You have been weighed on the scales(BG) and found wanting.(BH)

28 Peres[g]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes(BI) and Persians.”(BJ)

29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck,(BK) and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.(BL)

30 That very night Belshazzar,(BM) king(BN) of the Babylonians,[h] was slain,(BO) 31 and Darius(BP) the Mede(BQ) took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.[i]

Footnotes

  1. Daniel 5:2 Or ancestor; or predecessor; also in verses 11, 13 and 18
  2. Daniel 5:7 Or Chaldeans; also in verse 11
  3. Daniel 5:10 Or queen mother
  4. Daniel 5:22 Or descendant; or successor
  5. Daniel 5:26 Mene can mean numbered or mina (a unit of money).
  6. Daniel 5:27 Tekel can mean weighed or shekel.
  7. Daniel 5:28 Peres (the singular of Parsin) can mean divided or Persia or a half mina or a half shekel.
  8. Daniel 5:30 Or Chaldeans
  9. Daniel 5:31 In Aramaic texts this verse (5:31) is numbered 6:1.

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