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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

The Handwriting Part 1

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Series: Daniel

Chapter 5:1-9 ESV

As Daniel Chapter 5 opens we are introduced to King Belshazzar which begs the question, who was King Belshazzar and where did he come from?

According to the historian Berosus, King Nebuchadnezzer was on the throne 43 years when he died. The throne of Babylon went to his son Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27-30 and Jeremiah 52:31-34) who was on the throne for 2 years and he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglassar.

King Nergalsharezer (also known as Neriglassar, Jeremiah 39:3,13) was on the throne four years before dying a natural death.

Next, his son and only child Laborosoarchod had a mental condition that today would be diagnosed as partial insanity; King Laborosoarchod ruled for 9 months when a gang of conspirators beat him to death.

The conspirators who killed him appointed Nabonidus as King of Babylon. Then when King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon, his son was Belshazzar assumed the throne. (

Now we can pick up in Daniel 5:1 where we learn that the son of King Cyrus of Persia, King Belshazzar was on the throne, “King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.”

When we wonder about chapter 5 opening with that statement, we need to pause. Why was it such a big deal that the King had a huge feast and drank wine for all to see.

It turns out that it was a deal.

In Daniel 5:2-9, we learn, “Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. (V.6) Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.”

In verse 2 of chapter 5 the word ‘Father’ is puzzling because King Nebuchadnezzar was not the father of King Belshazzar. The pronunciation for the Hebrew word used is ’ă·ḇū·hî (the Hebrew is אֲב֔וּהִי) and when we look at word usage in scripture it often refers to a general term of fathers or the fathers who came before. Since we have established that King Belshazzar was the son of King Cyrus of Persia who had conquered Babylon we know the word father is a generalization.

Back to the golden vessels. These were the vessels that were taken out of the Temple in Jerusalem when they were originally conquered by King Nebuchadnezzer (see 2 Kings 24:1-2). They weren’t just any vessels. These were holy vessels. These were holy vessels that were being defiled.

So in Daniel 5:4 when it says they drank from these vessels and praised the gods (little g gods) of gold and silver, they had the attention of God (the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth). In verse 5 a really strange thing happened. Right there at the party a hand appeared from out of nowhere and the hand wrote a message on the wall in the palace.

The King saw the hand write the message on the wall.

When the King (and everyone else I might add) saw the writing on the wall we are told in Daniel 5:6 that his color changed, he was visibly alarmed, his limbs warbled, and his knees were knocking together.

We’re talking about being visibly and violently shaken. Then the king immediately called for anybody who was anybody who knew anything about the strange hand to come forward. He called on the enchanters, the astrologers, the wise men, and even the Chaldeans (a reference to another group who might be able to read the language of this text written on the wall.) The King wanted anybody who knew anything about what the hand wrote in the wall to step forward.

In addition to that, the King sweetened the pot.

He promised that anybody who could read the writing on the wall would be given a purple robe and a gold chain around their neck. Those symbolized royalty and riches from the earth.

AND the King also promised the person who could decipher the text on the wall would be third in line to the throne.

The King was certainly willing to pay handsomely for the knowledge of what was written on the wall.

He was offering valuable gifts and a title because he was desperate to find out what the writing meant!

As a side note, the writing on the wall was in Aramaic. And apparently the saying, “the handwriting on the wall” did come from Daniel Chapter 5.

Spiritual Practice: The Writing on the Wall

What does that saying mean to you?

In God, Deborah


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