We finished chapter 4 noticing that Nebuchadnezzar has taken the pen and describes what had taken place to him. Because of his arrogance, God humbled him by making him as one of the beasts of the field. Once Nebuchadnezzar turned his eyes back toward God and humbled himself, the kingdom was restored to Nebuchadnezzar and he returned to his right mind. This was an effort to teach Babylon and the other nations that God is in charge of the world kingdoms.
Verses 1-9 Handwriting on the wall
We now read that the king of Babylon is Belshazzar and so it is estimated by scholars that it has been about 23 years since the death of Nebuchadnezzar. As we will notice later in the story, Belshazzar seems to be second in charge of the kingdom, but is given power and rule over the plains of Babylon by Nebonidus. Belshazzar is having a great feast with thousands of his lords. He gives the command, likely under the influence of the wine, to bring in the gold and silver vessels that had been captured from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. So these vessels are brought in to Belshazzar and they all drink wine from them while praising their gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Within the same hour, the fingers of a man appeared and wrote on the wall. Belshazzar’s reaction is the same reaction that we would all have at such a sight. He is greatly troubled, he grows faint, and his knees are knocking together. Belshazzar is terrified. Therefore, Belshazzar makes a decree that anyone who can read the words that were written by the hand and can give its interpretation will be made third in the kingdom, clothed in purple, and a chain of gold put around his neck. However, none of the wise men of Babylon can read the writing on the wall nor make an interpretation. Again, Belshazzar is greatly troubled and all the wise men are astonished.
Verses 10-17 The call of Daniel
The queen hears about what has taken place and she tells Belshazzar that there is a man in the kingdom with the spirit of the holy God. In the days of Nebuchadnezzar he had wisdom far beyond all the other wise men. Go call for Daniel and he will give the interpretation. It seems clear that this queen was queen during the days of Nebuchadnezzar and can therefore remember when Daniel interpreted the dreams of the king. Daniel is brought in to Belshazzar. Belshazzar goes through the whole thing with Daniel. Belshazzar has heard that Daniel is a wise man with the spirit of God. He further explains that none of his wise men could read the writing or interpret the words and if Daniel can do so, he will be made third in the kingdom, clothed with purple and a gold chain placed around his neck.
Verses 18-31 Daniel interprets the words
Daniel first says that he is not here for the gifts and that Belshazzar can keep them. Daniel goes on to explain some history to Belshazzar. Daniel reminds Belshazzar about what happened to king Nebuchadnezzar when he became proud. His throne and glory were taken away and he was made like one of the beasts. In verse 22 Daniel says to Belshazzar that he has not humbled himself either. By taking the gold and silver vessels of the temple and praising his gods while drinking wine, he had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven. So the fingers of the hand were sent, writing MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. MENE: God has numbered the kingdom and put it to an end. It seems by the duplication of the word MENE, that God is suggesting that he has numbered it twice or that it is said twice for emphasis. TEKEL: You have been weighed and found lacking. PERES: This word is apparently the plural of “pharsin” and the “u” is a conjunction. The word means, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar gives the command to make Daniel third in the kingdom and gives him the gifts. It does not seem that Belshazzar has understood the gravity of the message. That very night, Belshazzar is killed and the Medo-Persian empire takes over. This validates our interpretation of the kingdoms in chapter 2 of Daniel. There we saw a great statue and were told that there would be a kingdom that would rise up after Babylon , symbolized by the silver chest. This is clearly the Medo-Persian empire. History reveals more information about the fall of Babylon . The New American Commentary says this in regard to Babylon , “The outer walls were approximately 25 feet in width and rose to a height of at least forty feet. These fortifications were too difficult to challenge, and so according to Herodotus and Xenophon, the Medo-Persian army diverted water from the Euphrates river (which ran under the walls of Babylon ) into a marsh. With the level of the water lowered, the soldiers were able to wade the river under the walls and enter the city.” Further, “the city was invaded while the Babylonians were feasting in a time of drunken revelry.” This can be seen in what we have just read in Daniel. Therefore, the Medo-Persian empire seized Babylon , fulfilling the prophecy found in Isaiah 21:9, ” Babylon is fallen, is fallen!”
Verses 1-3 Daniel made governor
Darius the Mede is now in control of the region of Babylon . Three governors were set up to be in charge over 120 satraps within the kingdom. To each of these governors were the satraps accountable. We see that Daniel was one of the governors. Daniel excelled so much more than the others that the king even considered setting him in charge over the whole realm. Once again we see the providence of God, taking care of Daniel even during a time of political upheaval, with the establishment of a new power.
Verses 4-5 Plot against Daniel
As one would imagine, the other governors and satraps did not like this at all. So they went about trying to find some charge concerning Daniel. However, there was no accusation that could be made against Daniel. The only thing they knew that they could do would be to pit the law of God against the law of the king. There was no other way that they would be able to come up with any charge against Daniel.
Verses 6-9 Decree made
Therefore, these governors and satraps came before King Darius. They tell the king that they have all been talking and “we want you to establish a royal decree that no one can petition any god except for you.” Anyone who does not obey this command will be thrown into the lion’s den. Further, it is decreed according to the law of Medes and Persians. This meant that the law could not be altered. I always thought this was strange. It would seem that if the king were all-powerful he could revoke a law or change a law. But that does not seem to be the case in this empire. This would be an advantage to the people of God when they return and are building in Jerusalem . Cyrus decrees by law that the people go rebuild their temple, which could not be altered by other kings.
Verses 10-15 Daniel’s and Darius’ responses
When Daniel knew that the decree was signed, he goes home and prays to God. There is no hesitation on the part of Daniel. Daniel is going to continue praying to God no matter what law is given. Of course, this is what the governors and satraps are waiting for. So they go back to King Darius and tells him that Daniel has violated his law. I would like for you to notice the reaction of Darius in comparison to the reaction of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar went into a fit of rage, heats up the furnace seven times hotter, and throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it. Darius, however, is upset with himself. He realizes that he has made a foolish mistake. Further, Darius tries to get Daniel out of this mess. However, the governors and satraps remind Darius that this is a law that cannot be altered.
Verses 16-28 The outcome
Daniel is brought before the king. Notice what Darius says to Daniel in verse 16, “your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” Darius is well aware of Daniel’s faith and service to God and says that his God will deliver him. Daniel is then put into the lion’s den and a stone is put over it and sealed so that the stone cannot be moved or tampered with. Notice again what the king is doing. He is fasting on behalf of Daniel. The king is showing a great amount of faith and concern for Daniel. In verse 19 Darius rises and runs to the lion’s den. Again, we see an amount of faith, believing that Daniel could have survived this incident. Darius calls out to Daniel, asking if Daniel has been delivered by his God. Daniel responds that an angel was sent to him to shut the mouths of the lions because he is innocent and has done nothing wrong. Daniel is pulled out of the lion’s den and Darius gives the command to cast in all those who had made an accusation, including their children and wives. Immediately the lions overpower the people and break their bones into pieces before they ever come to the bottom of the den. Finally, Darius makes a decree praising the true and living God. No one else can make a decree against God. And so Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and Cyrus.
No accusation could be made
In Daniel 6:4 we saw that no charge could be made against Daniel, the man of God. Do we measure up to the example of Daniel? If someone were looking to destroy us, would they be able to lay a charge against us because of the way we live our lives? It is so impressive that these evil men were watching Daniel, trying to find a way to get him thrown out of the kingdom, but there was nothing they could say against him. Christians, we are told to be blameless. 2 Peter 3:14 says, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” We must examine our lives to see that this is true of us.
All knew his faith in God
These evil people realize that the only way they can bring down Daniel is to make the law of God conflict with the law of the king. They knew that Daniel served the Lord with all of his heart and would not stop serving even if the decree were made. They did not stop and think that it would not work. They knew Daniel would keep praying and serving his God. Do we show such an example? Does everyone know our faith in God? Do people know that there is nothing that is going to prevent us serving the Lord? Sometimes this is not the case. When we put our own pleasures and things we have to do before God, we do not show this. When it is more convenient to remain at home, take care of our own things, than serve God or even come to services, then we do not show this. If we cannot even choose God against our own personal wants, how would we ever choose God if God’s law came into conflict with the law of the land? We would not. What kind of faith do we have?
Deliverance comes by faith
Having true faith in God is the only reason for having confidence that God will deliver. Read 6:23 carefully again. Notice the last sentence, “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.” We cannot expect salvation and deliverance from God when the hard times come if we do not have true faith in God. Daniel knew that God could save him. Daniel knew that he had to serve God despite any consequences that man could throw at him. We must give ourselves completely to the Lord if we are going to believe that God will deliver us.
Great faith of an unbeliever
I hope you noticed the faith that Darius had in God. He knew that Daniel could be saved from the lion’s den. This was his hope and the reason why he ran to the den to see if Daniel had made it. Darius was not astonished like Nebuchadnezzar was when he saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking around in the fiery furnace. He knew this could happen. Our final point: Do some unbelievers have greater faith than us? I don’t know that they would believe that we could be delivered. But this heathen king did. Do unbelievers have a greater faith than we do? This was the case in the days of Jesus. Notice in Matthew 8:5-10 the great faith of the centurion. Jesus had not found this kind of faith in all of the people of Israel . Would these words be said by Jesus today if he were walking among us? Could Jesus find great faith in us?