29 November 2023

Daniel 5:1-28

'But the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honoured.' (v. 23b)

Psalm 31:9-24


Yesterday we were reading chapter 2 of the book of Daniel and now we have jumped to chapter 5. A  descendant of King Nebuchadnezzar, (possibly a son) is now king. At the beginning of this chapter, Daniel seems to have moved down from the prominence he had before and not to be known to King Belshazzar. It isn’t entirely clear which generation the queen is from, but she knows of Daniel and when the king is terrified by the writing on the wall she gets the king to call on Daniel. Note in verse 16 the contrast between Daniel and the king in terms of their interest in visible wealth and power.

Then Daniel explains the history of King Nebuchadnezzar (see chapter 4) and says that the writing on the wall is by God. God is ending the king’s reign because of his failures/sins. The failures/sins of King Belshazzar are threefold:

  1. Despite knowing God’s sovereignty he chose to not humble himself and indeed exalt himself.(v. 22)
  2. Belshazzar defied God by desecrating sacred vessels from the Temple. (v. 23a)
  3.  He praised idols. (v. 23b)

When it comes to interpreting the writing on the wall: Mene, Tekel and Parsin (v. 25), they are probably different measures of money that could be counted or weighed, hence the idea that the king is being measured in three ways for his three failures. The last of these (Parsin) mentions the Medes and Persians which connects back to the vision in chapter two of the different kingdoms before the eternal kingdom of God.

The punchline to this story comes at verse 30 (“That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed.”).

This passage is another from Daniel which emphases the sovereignty of God and the consequences of a leader going against God.


To Ponder:

  • How does this emphasis on God’s sovereignty and the consequences of going against God fit with your understanding of the gospels and Jesus, the son of God? 
  • Are there lessons for us about honouring God and humbling ourselves? What are they?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in Wythenshawe, Manchester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism, sailing and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.

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