"THE BOOK OF DANIEL"
The Hand Writing On The Wall (Daniel, Chap. 5)
1. So far in our study of the book of Daniel, we have seen…
a. The faith of young Daniel, who made the commitment not to defile
himself – Dan 1
b. The first dream of Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted by Daniel – Dan 2
1) Prophesying the rise and fall of four world empires
2) Foretelling the establishment of the kingdom of Christ
c. The faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the face of fire
– Dan 3
d. The second dream of Nebuchadnezzar and it is fulfillment,
confirming that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men – Dan 4
2. We now come to the Dan 5, where we find an incident familiar to
a. The event is often called: "The Hand Writing On The Wall"
b. As with any Old Testament account, it was written for our
admonition – cf. 1 Co 10:11
[As we begin with the text, we first read of…]
I. BOOZE AND IDOLATRY IN A KING’S COURT (Dan 5:1-4)
A. BELSHAZZAR, THE KING…
1. The time is now about 539 B.C.
a. Nebuchadnezzar had died in 562 B.C.
b. He was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach – cf. 2 Kin 25:27
1) After two years he was assassinated by Nergilissar, his
2) Who in turn died four years later (556 B.C.), leaving
the throne to his infant son, Labashi-Marduk
3) Labashi-Marduk was soon deposed by a priestly revolution
c. Nabonidus, a former priest under Nebuchadnezzar, was made
king in 556 B.C.
1) Who was more interested in scholarly and religious
2) So he appointed his son Belshazzar as ruler of Babylon
in his place
d. Belshazzar therefore became co-regent in 550 B.C.
1) He was "second" in command
2) Which explains why he offered Daniel only the "third"
position in the kingdom – cf. Dan 5:16; Dan 5:29
3) Nebuchadnezzar is called his "father" – Dan 5:2; Dan 5:11;
Dan 5:13; Dan 5:18; Dan 5:22
a) Nabodonius (Belshazzar’s father) may have been
Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law, and it was common to
refer to one’s ancestor as "father"
b) Or "father" may be used figuratively
2. Belshazzar throws a big feast – Dan 5:1-3
a. Nebuchadnezzar had taken gold and silver vessels from the
temple in Jerusalem – cf. 2 Chr 36:10
b. Belshazzar adds insult to injury by using them in the feast
B. THEY PRAISED THE GODS OF GOLD AND SILVER…
1. The king and guests foolishly praised the creation rather than
2. Would we ever stoop so low?
a. Worship the gods of silver and gold?
b. Become guilty of idolatry?
3. We do if we succumb to the sin of covetousness! – Ep 5:5; Co 3:5
a. When we make mammon (material riches) our god – cf. Mt 6:24
b. When we make created things the prime focus of our time and
[As we continue in Dan 5, notice how quickly things change as we read
II. PANIC AND HUMILIATION IN A KING’S COURT (Dan 5-9)
A. THE HAND WRITING ON THE WALL…
1. The fingers of a man’s hands appear – Dan 5:5a
2. They write on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace
– Dan 5:5b
3. Belshazzar sees the part of the hand that wrote – Dan 5:5c
B. THE QUAKING KING…
1. In the case of King Belshazzar…
a. One moment his heart is puffed up with pride
b. The next moment, his knees are knocking together – Dan 5:6
— A vivid illustration of: "Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall." – Pro 16:18
3. All he saw was a man’s hand…
a. What if he had seen the face of God?
b. If just a tiny manifestation of God’s power had that
effect, then what would be the effect of coming face to
face with God?
4. What about the coming Judgment? Will we be able to stand?
a. Not if we are wicked – cf. Psa 1:5
b. But we can if we have pure hearts and holy hands – cf. Psa 24:3-5
C. THE HELPLESS ADVISORS…
1. Once again, a king appeals first to those unable to help – Dan 5:7-9
2. Just as Nebuchadnezzar did in Dan 2:4
3. People often do the same thing today in times of crisis
a. They go to the wrong place for help
1) Looking to their own strength or wisdom
2) Or that of other people
b. When they need to trust in God first – cf. Pro 3:5-10; Mt 6:33
[As we continue with the Biblical account, we read of…]
III. THE ARRIVAL OF GOD’S MAN (Dan 5:10-16)
A. THE ADVICE OF THE QUEEN…
1. The queen was likely the "queen mother", for the wives were
already present – Dan 5:10-12; cf. Dan 5:2
2. Note that the queen was not present at the banquet…
a. Could the one who knew where to turn in time of trouble,
have also known the banquet was no place for her to be?
b. Those who like to party and "live it up" are usually those
who are lost in despair when trouble strikes!
B. DANIEL BEFORE THE OFFENDER…
1. Twice the king says "I have heard of you" – Dan 5:13-16
a. It sounds as though the king knew him only by reputation
b. He evidently had not made much effort to know Daniel prior
to this event
2. People in the world are not much different
a. They make little effort to get to know the people of God
b. But in times of sickness, trials, and death, where do they
turn? To the church, of course
— The time to get to know God’s people is before, not after!
IV. THE INDICTMENT (Dan 5:17-24)
A. DANIEL REJECTS THE KING’S REWARD…
1. At this point the character of Daniel really shines – Dan 5:17
2. Unlike many, who teach only if they are given gifts
(or "love offerings")
3. Daniel willingly tells the truth for free
B. DANIEL RECOUNTS A LESSON FROM HISTORY…
1. The lesson from Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream is recounted
– Dan 5:18-21
2. We would do well to learn from history
a. Those who ignore history, are doomed to repeat it
b. This is especially true with inspired history!
C. DANIEL REBUKES THE KING…
1. Belshazzar did not learn from his father’s experience – Dan 5:22-24
a. He exalted himself, when he should have glorified God
b. This handwriting on the wall was sent
2. When will people learn from history?
a. Should we not learn from the pride of Pharaoh in the book
b. Should we not learn from the murmuring of the Israelites in
— Indeed, inspired history was written for our learning! –
Ro 15:4; 1 Co 10:11
[Belshazzar failed to benefit from his knowledge of God’s dealings with
mankind, and so upon him was to come…]
V. THE SENTENCE AND EXECUTION (Dan 5:25-31)
A. THE HAND WRITING ON THE WALL EXPLAINED…
1. The meaning of: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" – Dan 5:25-28
a. Mene – God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it
b. Tekel – You have been weighed in the balances, and found
c. Peres (Upharsin) – Your kingdom has been divided, and given
to the Medes and Persians.
2. From the Believer’s Study Bible:
a. The term mene (Aramaic) could be the monetary "mina," or a
participle meaning "numbered." Its repetition produces the
sense "thoroughly numbered." God had set limits on
b. The term tekel (Aramaic) could be a monetary unit
corresponding to the Hebrew shekel, or a participle meaning
c. The final word upharsin (Aramaic) could also be a monetary
unit, a half-mina or half-shekel, or a plural participle
from the verb paras, "divide," meaning "and divided."
d. The message of Daniel’s interpretation is that Belshazzar’s
kingdom had been numbered for destruction. The king himself
is weighed and found wanting. The kingdom was to be taken
away and given to the Medes and the Persians.
B. A THIRD OF NOTHING…
1. Belshazzar is true to his promise – Dan 5:29
2. But as we will soon see, what he gave Daniel was a "third of
C. "THIS NIGHT YOUR SOUL WILL BE REQUIRED OF YOU…"
1. How quickly the proud and boastful can fall, despite power and
wealth – Dan 5:30-31
a. Herodotus indicates that Babylon fell as a consequence of
the diverting of the waters of the Euphrates, allowing the
enemy to enter under the city walls
b. Other sources explain it as the result of treason and
subterfuge from within, resulting in the opening of the
gates to the conquering armies
2. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ story of the rich fool – Lk 12:15-21
a. Boasting one day
b. Dead the next
1. The announcement of doom in this story was provoked in part
a. The king misused and abused some pieces of metal
b. These pieces of metal were God’s pieces of metal
— For such disregard of what belonged to God, a kingdom would be
2. Remember that we are the temple of God today – 1 Co 3:16-17
a. If God did not view lightly the misuse of His vessels then…
b. Will He be casual about the impenitent abuse of His church today?
— Just as He destroyed the one who defiled His temple of old, so He
will destroy those who defile His temple (the church) today!
Let’s not wait for "The Hand Writing On The Wall" to tell us it is too
late, that judgment has been passed and the sentence is final.