Daniel Chapter 5 -The Handwriting on the Wall. The Party’s Over

There are many poignant applications for us in this chapter, both for our country and for us personally, so we will spend the time we need on this chapter to plumb the depths of the lessons God wants us to learn and pass on to others. The fear of the Lord is almost lost in our nation today as it was in Babylon 2,500 years ago. Yet, in just two short verses God says, the party’s over! “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.” (vv. 30-31) It happened fast when it was God’s time! (See the poem at the end of this lesson; – I have not been able to find the author.) Many Christian leaders think America has passed the point of a national revival but like Daniel, who lived in the godless nation of Babylon, we as individual believers can remain devoted to the Lord and have salt and light influence on those around us even if our nation continues to reject God. (See Matthew 5:13-16) This week we will look at the big picture and over the weeks ahead we’ll take the time needed to learn the many lessons the Lord has for us and seek to apply them to our lives.

See Ken Boa’s and Beth Moore’s comments below on the time frame of this chapter and the relationship of Belshazzar to Nebuchadnezzar. (They differ somewhat as do other commentators on the number of years/time frame of this event.) It seems he was his grandson though Belshazzar refers to him as “my father” (e.g., Dan. 5:13) several times. In Aramaic and in Hebrew there is no word for grandfather or for grandson.  So it is very likely that Nebuchadnezzar was the grandfather of Belshazzar, and this seems to be affirmed in verse 11 when the queen came out to talk to Belshazzar.  She probably was the queen mother, the wife of Nabonidus, the father of Belshazzar. In verse one, Belshazzar’s wives and concubines are present at the feast; this would exclude the queen mother who arrives in verse 11.  She is most likely Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, Nabonidus’ wife, and Belshazzar’s mother.  Daniel may have been politically exiled after Nebuchadnezzar’s death (sometimes new kings would actually kill the leadership of the former king). Godless rulers do not want godly people around them; it cramps their style as they say. Daniel is approximately 80 years old and yet still bearing fruit for God as seen in this chapter and the remaining seven chapters. Please read Daniel chapter 5.

[“CHAPTER 5: THE FEAST OF BELSHAZZAR AND THE FINGER OF GOD! This chapter portrays the final doom of the Gentile world powers. (See Rev. 17-19) “The fifth chapter of Daniel opens about 30 years after the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity. Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for 23 years. He died in 562 B.C. after a forty-three year reign. Babylon began an immediate decline.” “Nabonidus reigned for 17 years from 556-539 B.C. and appointed Belshazzar as co-regent.” Beth Moore, Daniel, p. 103 BEHIND THE SCENE DRAMA Chapter five is a drama that unfolds before the reader’s eyes. There are two concurrent events taking place. While Belshazzar is busy feasting with his nobles, wives and concubines, the armies of Medes and Persia are outside the walls of Babylon planning their assault on the “impregnable” city, the pride and glory of the Babylonian kingdom. TIME FRAME – Chapter 4 takes place at the close of the life of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C. This chapter takes place at the close of the Babylonian kingdom in the year 539 B.C. Chapter 5 is 23 years later than chapter 4, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. NEO-BABYLONIAN KINGS CHART Naborpolasar (621-605); Nebuchadnezzar (605-562); Evil-Merodoch (562-560), Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law; Neriglisar (560-556); Neriglissar’s son Laboroarchod or Labashi-Marduk (556; 9 months); Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law Nabonidus (556-539) and Nabonidus’ son, Belshazzar (553-539). Nabonidus was constantly fighting the Medes and Persians.  He set up a co-regency with Belshazzar—see vv. 7, 29.  Many scholars believed that the mention of Belshazzar as king of Babylon was in error since no such king was known.  However, three stelae (inscribed stone slabs) found in 1956 at Haran say that Nabonidus had entrusted kingship to his son Belshazzar while he went on a campaign against the invading Persians.” http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=DANIEL]

[“According to verse 22, Belshazzar would have been familiar with the stories of Daniel and his companions.  The wine caused him to boldly challenge the God of Israel. This was a defiant repudiation of the God of Israel; open contempt. By profaning the items from Solomon’s Temple to praise the Babylonian gods, Belshazzar was making a direct challenge to the God of Israel.” Source: http://www.truthnet.org/Daniel/Chapter5] God wins; He instantly and publicly humbles the proud king (Dan. 4:37), has him slain and gives the kingdom to the Medes and Persians. In fact, Ezra 1 tells us that “after the fall of Babylon, Cyrus, King of Persia sent the exiles of Judah home with the gold and silver articles Nebuchadnezzar stole from the temple (in Jerusalem), the vessels Belshazzar lifted to his gods.” Beth Moore, Daniel, p. 102

Guilty but unrepentant – “Immediately and suddenly there appeared the fingers of a man’s hand and wrote on the plaster of the wall opposite the candlestick [so exposed especially to the light] in the king’s palace, and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the color and the [drunken] hilarious brightness of the king’s face was changed, and his [terrifying] thoughts troubled and alarmed him; the joints and muscles of his hips and back gave way and his knees smote together.  The king cried aloud [mightily] to bring in the enchanters or soothsayers, the Chaldeans [diviners], and the astrologers.” (vv. 5-7) Even after Daniel courageously indicts him of his sin and high-handed rebellion against God, there are no indications of his repentance. (See vv. 7-31)

Note the same lack of repentance seen in the book of Revelation when God is pouring out his wrath: “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” (Rev. 16:20-21) These people are not atheists; they know God and acknowledge His supernatural power but shake their fist at Him versus admit their guilt and cry out for His mercy and salvation.

“Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.) [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap. For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers].”  (Gal. 6:7-10)



1.  What are the lessons we can learn from this account and apply to our lives?

a. For our nation and its leaders – look at Belshazzar the king and the people at the feast. (See Daniel 9:3-19 for a great prayer for our nation.)

b. For unbelievers – look at the party and how it ended suddenly.

c. For ourselves – look at Daniel.

Next week we will look at this account again and the lessons we need to learn. I will share applications, gleaned from a number of pastors and theologians that are very pertinent to our lives 2,500 years later.


At the feast of Belshazzar and a thousand of his lords,

While they drank from golden vessels, as the Book of Truth records,

In the night, as they reveled in the royal palace hall,

They were seized with consternation—’twas the Hand upon the wall!

See the brave captive, Daniel, as he stood before the throne,

And rebuked the haughty monarch for his mighty deeds of wrong;

As he read out the writing—’twas the doom of one and all,

For the kingdom now was finished—said the Hand upon the wall!

So our deeds are recorded There’s a Hand that’s writing now; 

Sinner, give your heart to Jesus, To His royal mandate bow;                                                                          

For the day is soon approaching – It must come to one and all 

When the sinner’s condemnation , will be written on the wall.”  Knowles Shaw

“And I saw the dead (unsaved), great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Rev. 20:12)

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