Christian Churches of God
Commentary on Daniel Chapter 5
(Edition 1.0 20200929-20200929)
Chapter 5 is a warning to sacrilege and false religion stemming from the Babylonian system throughout the nations.
Commentary on Daniel Chapter 5
As we saw in the section dealing with the Introduction to the Book of Daniel, Chapter 5 skips on to deal with Belshazzar, the son of the last Neo-Babylonian ruler, who was viceroy in his absence on extended religious devotions. The state banquet used the utensils taken to Babylon in chapter 1:2 from the Temple of God at Jerusalem (see also Ezra 1:7-11) and involved God’s punishment in the sacrileges conducted. This was to serve as warning to the religious systems set up from Babylon and which passed on into the various successive empires. By these aspects they were to be judged and condemned and their empires taken from them and given to those more worthy. In the end none are counted worthy and Messiah is sent to take over the world religions and establish them under the Laws of God as we see at the end.
The Writing on the Wall
The words written on the wall by the finger were Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin (Lat. mane, thecel, phares) or Upharsin in the KJV, which is often corrected to peres but the MT retains it. The “u” is merely the copulative “and.” The word pharsin or parsin is peres in the plural meaning “halves”. These are the names of weights as Babylonian money. The word mene is repeated, representing two mina, but the word itself is repeated to signify two entities. Some scholars do not understand the significance of the text and omit the second mene thinking it in error. Mn’ is vocalised by Daniel, as he reads it and as it is recorded here, using the lemedh-he root as menah making it mean “He numbered.” The use of the second mene not only refers to the second of the rulers it also has the effect of retaining the four divisions for the first empire of the head of Gold as the empires themselves are in four divisions with the fifth division as replication of the fourth but is a religious empire and the sixth as a reorganisation of the fifth. The sixth empire is struck by the seventh which is the stone uncut by human hands. That is the return of the Messiah and the millennial rule of Christ which destroys the sixth and effectively topples the whole edifice of the Babylonian religious system and the preceding structures for the reorganisation of the world. The symbolism is also retained in the week as the six working days or six thousand years of Satan with the Sabbath as the millennial rest of Jesus Christ.
Tekel (Tql) means a shekel which is less than a mina. Vocalised as Teqal it means “He weighed”. The parsin is a divided or half mina taking its name from peres to divide. The written prs is vocalised as peras meaning “He divided.” The word peres is found on Babylonian half mina weights and thus it is tied to that weight for the context. That it relates to the half mina and not a half shekel is understood implicitly from the LXX which arranges them in that order and the Talmud refers to it as a half mina (and not as per Eissfeldt cf. Interpreters Dict. of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 349a). That is what Nabonidus did with the kingdom and divided the rulership of Babylon between him and his son, as viceroy during his absences and joint ruler although referred to as the crown prince on the tablets. Thus they, Nabonidas and his son were two half mina. The concept of the division was then taken to be divided between the Medes and the Persians due to their impiety and the restoration of the cult of the moon god Sin at Ur where Nabonidas made his daughter high priestess. The concepts of the names relate to the previous kings after Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) (605-562 BCE). Evil-Merodach, his son, and Neriglissar are each represented by, or weigh, a mina. The third successor Labashi-Marduk is represented as weighing only a shekel. Parsin has the meaning of a divided mina or half mina. They thus carry also the concepts of numbering, of weighing, and dividing. In that way they were presented as prophecy in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel chapter 2, which he gave to Nebuchadnezzar signifying the end of the Babylonian head of gold and the concept of reducing in intrinsic value with the third and fourth successive rule. Daniel knew what was to happen because he had given the understanding of the prophecy of the statue of the head of gold etc. to Nebuchadnezzar four reigns earlier. That was to continue now until the time of the end and the final empire of the ten toes of iron and miry clay. This prophecy can only be understood again in the last days as these facts of the kings became known again from archaeology and history. The Bible does not contain all the names of the kings and is open to misinterpreting.
That very night Belshazzar, king of Babylon was slain and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom (Dan. 5:29-30). This king of the Medes was almost certainly regent for Cyrus king of Persia as the dates of Nabonidus and Cyrus overlap by two months and the Bible is definite on the rule of Cyrus in succession of Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Darius was not the name the leader of the subjugated Medes was known by to history. Darius is a Persian name but the line of the Medes by then may well have been named or taken the name of Darius as the Bible states.
The tablets prove that Astyages was the last known king of the Medes. Astyages due to a dream refused to marry his daughter Mandane to a Mede but rather married her to Cambyses the Elamite (of Anshan, later termed of Persia) who was the father of Cyrus. Cambyses was thus the son-in-law of Astyages and Cyrus was Astyages’ grandson. After a subsequent dream and the interpretation of an oracle, he tried to have the new born Cyrus murdered.
The lineage of the Anshan Elamites is as follows
Darius follows in another line from (4) Teispes to Ariaramnes, Arsames, Hystaspes, as (9) Darius the Great King.
Astyages was subjugated by Cyrus in 549 BCE and in 546 BCE, for the first time, Cyrus styled himself king of the Parsu or Persians. History records that Astyages was well treated by Cyrus. The application of the name Darius was unknown.
Darius the Mede is recorded by Josephus as Cyrus’ uncle, son of Astyages, placed in rule over Media (Jospehus, A. of J., Book X, ch. X, s. 4). The evidence of the Bible indicates one of the family named Darius was placed in command of the Medes. He was thus a vassal king ruling over Media for the Persians.
Cyrus’ general Gobryas took military command of Babylon before Cyrus arrived but he was neither a Mede nor 62 years of age. There were thus two entities in command in Babylon in the initial occupation in 539 BCE.
In 525 Cambyses’ son of Cyrus invaded Egypt (see the paper The Fall of Egypt the Prophecy of Pharaohs Broken Arms (No. 036) and also The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)).
He was succeeded by Darius son of Hystaspes in 521 BCE after the one year reign of the Magi in 522. The text in Ezra 4 takes this sequence along from Cyrus down to Artaxerxes II and the end of the OT period with the death of Ezra in 323 BCE in the same year as Alexander the Great and the close of the OT canon.
We can thus see how the sequential break down of the Empires was applied even within those systems becoming progressively of less value within Babylonian rule through the four kings subsequent to Nebuchadnezzar and down through the Medes and Persians as the upper torso made of silver with two arms and the chest incorporating Babylon also.
The Greeks were the lower torso of bronze representing Alexander the Great and the legs split into the two sections proceeding into the legs of iron representing the Roman Empire which became the effective King of the North after the Greeks. We will deal with that aspect in its appropriate chapter.
The king of the South became whoever ruled Egypt and for a long time that was the Muslim system.
The Roman Empire was effectively in two divisions of East and West being ruled from Rome and Constantinople. This Empire came to an end from 410 when Alaric the Goth invaded Rome and finally and completely in 475 CE. The empire was reinstated as the Holy Roman Empire which was the empire of the feet of iron and clay in 590 by Pope Gregory (termed the Great). Each progression is more warlike and brutal than the previous but of less intrinsic value to civilisation.
The ten toes are the last and least socially valuable institution and will be destroyed by Christ at his second coming to save the elect and to rule the world. These concepts are dealt with in the relevant chapters in more detail where appropriate. In this section the major lesson is the progressive reduction both in empires and within those empires until the Last Days sees a structure of low social worth and injustice and a completely corrupt administration ruled by an oligarchic structure signified by the ten toes. We will explain those aspects as we progress.
Daniel Chapter 5
1Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. 5In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. 7The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8 Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. 9Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. 10Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: 11There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. 13Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? 14I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. 15And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing: 16And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.17Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23But hast lifted up thyself against the LORD of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: 24Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. 25And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.29Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom 30In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. 31And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old. (KJV)
Bullinger’s Notes on Chapter 5
a great feast. The hall in which it was held has lately been excavated. It is 60 feet wide and 172 feet long, the walls being beautifully decorated with painted stucco designs. See Records of the Past, vol. i, part v, p. 160.
wine. Chaldee. chamra". Same as Hebrew. chemer. App-27.
father Nebuchadnezzar. No "historical difficulty". Critics should tell us what word Daniel could have used, seeing there is no word in Chaldee or Hebrew for "grandfather". The word "father" is used by Figure of speech Synecdoche (of Species), App-6, for ancestor. Compare 1 Kings 15:11-13, where David is called the "father" of Asa, and Maachah is called his mother (compare 2 Kings 15:1, 2 Kings 15:2 with 11-13). In 2 Kings 14:3 the same is said of Amaziah; and in 2 Chronicles 34:1, 2 Chronicles 34:2, of Josiah. Compare Romans 9:10, where Paul speaks of "our father Isaac". But Jeremiah 27:7 explains the matter fully: "all nations shall serve him (i.e. Nebuchadnezzar), and his son (Nabonidus), and his son"s son (Belshazzar), until the very time of his land come". See note on Daniel 7:1.
wives. Showing that the "queen" mentioned in Daniel 5:10 must have been his mother.
be the third ruler = rule as one of three: i.e. the third: Nabonidus being the first, and Belshazzar the second.
the queen. Nitocris, the daughter in law of Nebuchadnezzar, and mother of Nabonidus.
came into, &c. She was not present among the "wives" of Daniel 5:2.
the MOST HIGH. Same as Hebrew. "elyon. App-4.
the Lord. Chaldee. mare. The equivalent for the Hebrew Adonai. App-4. Compare Maran in "Maranatha" (1 Corinthians 16:22).
breath. Chaldee. nishma". Same as Hebrew. neshamah. App-16.
this writing. The Divine prophetic meaning could not be known or understood till interpreted by Daniel.
written: or graven.
MENE, MENE = NUMBERED, NUMBERED. Figure of speech Epizeuxis (App-6), for great emphasis. Chaldee. mene", mene" = numbered [yea] ended. See note on Jeremiah 27:7.
TEKEL = WEIGHED. Chaldee. tekel (compare Hebrew. shekel. App-51.)
UPPHARSIN = AND DIVIDED (or BROKEN). Chaldee. upharsin (the "u" being the conjunction = and), from Chaldee. paras = to break. See note on Daniel 4:27. There is a further reference, by the Figure of speech Syllepsis (or combination), App-6, to the Persians, by whom the kingdom of Babylon was broken up.
Verse 30 .
the Chaldeans. Here spoken of in the national sense, not of a special class. See note on Daniel 1:4.
slain. Either by the Persians, or it may have been by assassination by one of his own followers, or accidentally in the tumult. Chaldee. ketal, used of a violent death. Compare Daniel 5:19. This was on the third of the month Marchesvan. On the eleventh, Belshazzar"s wife died, perhaps from grief. See Encycl. Brit, vol. iii, p. 711, 712, 11th (Cambridge) edition. See App-57.
Darius the Median. Through not noting the fact that "Darius" was an appellative denoting "the Maintainer", and used by Xerxes and others, modern critics have denied the existence of such a king. ASTYAGES was called "Darius". CYRUS (his son) was co-regent. His general GOBRYAS took the city in the name of CYRUS. See Isaiah 45:1. Compare Jeremiah 51:30, Jeremiah 51:31. See notes there. Consult App-57.
took. Chaldee. kebal = to take from another. Compare Daniel 7:18. Not the same word as in verses: Daniel 5:5, Daniel 5:2, Daniel 5:3, which is nephak = to take out; or Daniel 5:20, which is "adah = remove. …