Belshazzar’s name means “Bel, Protect the King”. He was a 6th-century BC prince of Babylon, and the last king of Babylon.
Many years before Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar 2 had invaded Judah and exiled many of the best and brightest people to Babylon. He also destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and carried away many of the gold utensils to his own palace. Time went by…
Babylon’s might quickly declined during the reign of Nabonidus. He had left the city of Babylon to live in an oasis in the Arabian Desert and worship the moon god, Sin. He had left his son, Belshazzar, as prince/regent over the city.
I. The Ball (Dan. 5:1)
Belshazzar, while serving as prince/regent, held a great banquet for all his officials… about a thousand people.
II. The Gall (Dan. 5:2-4)
During the festivities, Belshazzar ordered the vessels of gold, that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem, to be brought so everyone can drink wine from them and praise their gods… the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
III. The Wall
– The Hand (Dan. 5:5)
A man’s hand appeared and started to write on a wall.
– The Horror (Dan. 5:6)
Belshazzar’s countenance is stated to have “changed”.
Belshazzar was used to being in control. But, suddenly, he was confronted with a force he could not control – a hand writing strange words on a wall.
IV. The Call
– To the Magicians (Dan. 5:7-9)
Belshazzar cried out to bring in his astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers… whoever interpreted the writing would be made the 3rd-highest ruler in kingdom. But, none of them could interpret it.
– To the Prophet
* The Recommendation (Dan. 5:10-12)
The queen suggested that he call for Daniel, who was – by now – an old man. Nebuchadnezzar 2 had made him his chief of the Magicians, Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers.
* The Reward (Dan. 5:13-16)
* The Refusal (Dan. 5:17)
* The Rebuke (Dan. 5:18-23)
* The Revelation (Dan. 5:24-28)
Daniel interpreted the writing, what it meant for Belshazzar, and the consequences for him. God had numbered Belshazzar’s days, because he failed to measure up to God’s standard. His kingdom would be handed over to the Medes & Persians.
* The Robing (Dan. 5:29)
In a futile attempt to win God’s favor and escape God’s judgment, Belshazzar clothed Daniel in purple and proclaimed him 3rd ruler in the kingdom.
V. The Fall (Dan. 5:30,31)
That very night, the prophecy came true… and Belshazzar was killed.
The Midrash tradition states that Cyrus & Darius were employed as doorkeepers of the royal palace. Belshazzar, being greatly alarmed at the mysterious “writing on the wall”… and wondering if someone in disguise might enter the palace with murderous intent… ordered his doorkeepers to behead everyone who attempted to force an entrance that night, even if such a person should claim to be the king himself. Belshazzar, overcome by sickness, left the palace unobserved during the night by a rear exit. On his return, the doorkeepers refused to admit him. In vain, he pleaded that he was the king. They remembered the king’s words… saying they should kill anyone who tried to get in, especially if they claimed to be the king… so, they grabbed a heavy part of a candelabra and smashed Belshazzar’s skull with it!
Sooner or later, we will all come to the realization that terrified Belshazzar… that we are NOT in control of our own destiny.
Will we shrink back from it like Belshazzar did – choosing a life lived for our own wants and desires? Or, will we humbly turn to God and ask Him to lead the way?
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of your own power, wealth, or status. Give thanks to God who shapes your destiny and lights your path!
* In all your ways, acknowledge God! See Proverbs 3:5,6.
You can read Belshazzar’s story in Daniel 5.