Daniel 5 – and the rest of Scripture – make it clear that all unrepentant sinners will be dealt with, along with all arrogant and wicked rulers. That is good news indeed. So hang in there, even as you see evil and corruption and the abuse of power all around you. It will not last for long. God is still in charge.
In a recent article I looked at Daniel chapter 4, and the story of the most powerful ruler of the day, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Because of his pride, God brought him low. But repentance saw his restoration. Daniel 5 tells the story of Belshazzar, a son of Nebuchadnezzar. He too was proud, but his judgment was final.
As I said in my earlier piece, a major theme of the book of Daniel is how God is sovereign, and all human governments and rulers are under his authority, and they will all come to an end. So here in chapter 6 we have another historic example of this very thing occurring. A powerful leader is brought to an end by the Most High God.
That is certainly good news. The story found in Daniel 5 is worth looking at in more detail. Nebuchadnezzar had died some years prior, and Belshazzar was now ruling. In the first 12 verses we read about a big party the king had put on, with plenty of wine flowing. But in his arrogance, he brought out the sacred utensils captured from the Jerusalem temple and used them to drink from.
The partying is brought to an abrupt stop when a mysterious hand appears and starts writing on the wall. His own religious elites could not read nor interpret the handwriting, so the Queen says he should ask Daniel. He comes along and says this to the king in verses 18-28:
Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
The next three verses tell us what happened next: “Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.”