30 October 2007

Daniel 5:1-31

"You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which you do not see or hear or know; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honoured." (v.23)


The book of Daniel is one of the 'apocalyptic' books of the bible - a tradition in which dramatic visions and their interpretation feature strongly. 'Apocalyptic' means revealing what is hidden. It was probably written down in the first or second century BC, when the Temple had been destroyed by Antiochus Epiphanes. But it draws on earlier stories of a prophet called Daniel.

Daniel 5 gives us insight into how a kingdom as wealthy, vast and powerful as the Babylonian Empire could fall.

In the midst of a festival, King Belshazzar is seen using the sacred vessels of gold and silver from the Jewish Temple to drink from. God, through Daniel's interpretation of the writing on the wall, pronounced doom on the empire, and after a few hours, destruction came.

For years critics have said that the book of Daniel was inaccurate because they believed Belshazzar never existed - that there was no historical record of such a man. However when archaeologists discovered what is called "The Nabonidus Cylinder," history acquired its first known record of Belshazzar. Approximately 36 years old at the time of Daniel 5, Belshazzar was decadent, dissolute, idolatrous, immoral, impious, and unworthy to rule. Although he was a co-regent with his father Nabonidus, Belshazzar was sitting in the seat of royalty the night Babylon fell.

The story condemns in the most dramatic way Belshazzar's misuse of the Temple vessels, and worship of idols. The story of how Belshazzar's inescapable fate is revealed has given us the phrase about 'reading the writing on the wall'. Even the most wealthy and powerful can be brought to nothing.

Those who devote themselves to honouring wealth, power and material things, rather than the living God, stand under the judgement of God, which will ultimately be made clear.

To Ponder

In what ways are we tempted to praise the created rather than the creator?

What aspects of your life give honour to God?

Is there anything that you aware of in your daily life that does not bring honour to God?

Allow the phrase, "God in whose power is your very breath" draw you into praise.

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.