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Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; the joints and muscles of his hips and back weakened and his knees began knocking together. The king called aloud to bring in the enchanters (Magi), the Chaldeans [who were master astrologers] and the diviners. The king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold put around his neck, and have authority as the [a]third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not [b]read the writing or reveal to the king its interpretation.

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Footnotes

  1. Daniel 5:7 Nabonidus was first, Belshazzar, his son, was second.
  2. Daniel 5:8 In light of what Daniel says in v 25, it is hard to escape the conclusion that for some reason the letters were unreadable to the wise men. The ancient rabbis speculated that the words were written in some kind of code that had to be deciphered. Among the suggestions were reversing the order of the letters (e.g. ENM for MENE etc.) and an elaborate puzzle in which the letters of each word were separated and spread out to form three senseless words: “MMTUS NNKFE EELRN” (“M...N...E” etc.).

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