Grace Before Judgment Daniel 5


“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.” (John 15:22-24)

In this chapter of Daniel 5 we are going to look at a man who had no excuse whatsoever for his rejection of the true God of heaven and was thus summarily judged without mercy for his defiant denial of the truth. Belshazzar had undoubtedly heard and maybe seen first hand the amazing episode that we studied in chapter three where a “one like the son of God” person was in the fiery furnace – arguably Jesus Christ Himself. He had certainly heard the retelling of his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue and how the God of the Israelites revealed to his servant Daniel both the dream and interpretation. He most certainly was aware of Nebuchadnezzar’s time of insanity and how after returning to his senses wrote the following:

Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation.
37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

He had been witness to all these things and yet now, some twenty years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, his heart was hardened, defiant, insolent and scornful of the God of the Judeans. Thus as Jesus said concerning those who rejected Him in His day, so too was Belshazzar without excuse. Had the amazing works not been done in the days of his grandfather, he would have had excuse. In fact, it seems that God was patient and gracious with Nebuchadnezzar since such works had not been done previously. God was long suffering toward Nebuchadnezzar who in the end humbled himself and proclaimed the might works of the most high God.

You see, grace always precedes judgment. God had shown his mighty works through miracles like we saw with Hannaniel, Azariah and Mishael and also through the revelation of mysteries that, according to the astrologers and magicians, only the gods could know. For 70 years God had used the presence of his people in this foreign and pagan land to reveal Himself to its people. God used the Jews, especially Daniel and his friends to be light in a dark place and some like the king (and who knows how many more – Magi at Jesus’ birth) were affected by the witness and received the truth.

However, as Jesus said to Nicodemus,

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19 [NKJV])

Belshazzar proves the point all too well that even with signs and wonders of all kinds – even the testimony of his grandfather! – was not enough for him to believe. He truly loved the darkness rather than the light. And after rejecting the truth and light which was so powerfully shown to him, Scripture declares that there is nothing left but certain judgment

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26, 27)

And so, we are now witness to the last night of the Babylonian empire. Judgment will come swiftly, in one night, upon the insolent king and upon the empire that had taken God’s people captive.

However, Bible critics until the latter half of the 1800’s used to scoff at this passage and accuse the of being Bible inaccurate. This chapter was held up as evidence that there really never was a Jewish captive named Daniel who served king Nebuchadnezzar.
“Daniel states that Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon when the Persians overthrew the city in 539 B. C. However any discerning historian realized that, according to all extant documents, Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon at this time. Historical-critical scholars jumped at the opportunity and said that Daniel was not accurate in its depiction of Babylonian activities and therefore must have been written during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 2nd century B. C. Traditional scholars tried desperately to connive explanations. 1

Who is Nabonidus?

Nabonidus is not mentioned in the Bible but in extra-Biblical records such as those of Herodutus and also Babylonian records. He was not a blood relative of Nebuchadnezzar- some used to think that he was a usurper until later documents were found giving more details about his life. Following the death of Nebuchadnezzar there were three kings who reigned for two-years, then another for four years and the last for only a few months when he was murdered. With the throne vacant, the husband of Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter Nitrocis, was invited to become king. Thus their son, was Belshazzar who later became co-regent of the kingdom. According to the Babylonian documents that have been recovered, we now know that while Nabonidus was out conquering other cities (and apparently doing a bit of archaeological work!), Belshazzar king over Babylon.
Now we come to evidence that shows that Belshazzar was indeed appointed by his father, Nabonidus, as co-regent. In the ziggurat of Ur, four cylinders were found containing a prayer of Nabonidus. This prayer and a variation of it also found at Ur place Belshazzar in a very close relationship with Nabonidus. It names Belshazzar as the first born son and asks for the god’s special blessing on him….
An astrological document from the seventh year of Nabonidus’ reign contains more important information. The seventh year was one of the years that Nabonidus was absent from Babylon and far away in Arabia. This text twice mentions Nabonidus and Belshazzar in the following manor.

“‘In my dream I saw, and for the favor of Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, my lord, and for the favor of Belshazzar, the son of the king, my lord may my ear attend to them.’ On the seventeenth day of Tebet, the seventh year of Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, Shum-ukin says as follows: ‘The star I saw and (for) the favor of Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, my lord and (for) the favor of Belshazzar, the son of the king, my lord, may my ear attend.'” (Dougherty 98.)2

Also the Nabonidus Cylinder from UR:

“As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.”[2]

Thus once again the Bible has silenced its critics. It is too bad that after all these proofs there still remain so many skeptics that refuse to believe. It would seem that they, like Belshazzar, as we are about to see, refuse to see the light that is plainly in front of them.
Dan 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand.
Dan 5:2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.
Dan 5:3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.
Dan 5:4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

Outside of the city walls, Cyrus was actively diverting the flow of the Euphrates river, which flowed through the middle of the city in order to be able to walk in under the wall.

Inside the city, Belshazzar must have felt very safe from any attack inside its walls. It is thought that they had about 20 years worth of food stores and therefore could easily wait out almost any siege upon the city.
City of Babylon – a truly impregnable city.
The city was 60 miles in circumference, walls that were 300 feet high (according to Herodutus – though doubted by his own people), 35 feet below ground (thus none could undermine) and 80 – 150 feet thick. The walls were then protected by deep moats filled with water, 250 towers.

Not only had Belshazzar refuse to believe in the miracles that had happened in his grandfather’s day, but he was here openly mocking the God that Nebuchadnezzar had testified of. It is almost that he is shaking his hand toward Heaven saying “I double dog dare you!!!” By bringing in the approximately 5400 vessels taken from Jerusalem Temple into his wanton party and then drinking in honor of the false gods was truly the final straw. God is so gracious and longsuffering but there is a time when He will step in and directly change the course of history. God will not allow the evil to go unpunished forever, even though, when we look around our world, it seems as though evil might persist.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. (Ps 73:2 – 15 [NKJV])
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image. (Ps 73:17 -20NKJV])

Dan 5:5 In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

God himself is not seen, but what he does is.
(Romans 1:19 What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. 20 From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.

(Acts 14:17 [Gw])
Yet, by doing good, he has given evidence of his existence. He gives you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He fills you with food and your lives with happiness.”

(Ps 19:1 [NKJV])
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

(Ps 97:6 [NKJV])
The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.

Dan 5:6 Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.

Dan 5:7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Guilty conscience

Belshazzar seems to have had a guilty conscience since rather than seeing the writing from a good message from one of his gods – his great fear suggests that he understands it to be a bad message. Knowing that there was none in all of the kingdom that could interpret messages like Daniel, he calls his own wise-guys, nevertheless. – Sad…..

Dan 5:8 Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation.
Dan 5:9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.

When we deny the God of heaven, our only recourse is in our own strength and ability and how feeble those are!!!

The King Rebuked

Dan 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change.
Dan 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father–your father the king–made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.
Dan 5:12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas[1] were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”

The queen here is his mother, the wife of Nabonidus, who rebukes her son for willfully forgetting to call in the one who can answer the riddle.

Dan 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives[2] from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?

Belshazzar says perhaps in a haughty voice and intonation? Daniel doesn’t come in boasting of what he had accomplished in his service to the mighty Nebuchanezzar. Daniel remains humble and lets God exalt him.

(Prov 15:33 [NKJV])
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.

Dan 5:14 I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.

It is God’s Spirit who gave Daniel the wisdom to untie knots

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26 [NKJV])

Dan 5:15 Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.
Dan 5:16 And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Nabonidus – Belshazzar – Daniel

Dan 5:17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
Dan 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor.
Dan 5:19 And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down.

We ought to never forget that it is God who gives all of us our abilities. Perhaps you make money with ease – don’t forget who blessed you with that ability. Perhaps you are able to create beautiful music – don’t forget where it came from. Perhaps you excel athletically – don’t forget who blessed you with feet to run and hands to compete.
Nebuchadnezzar is a type of antichrist. The power, influence and authority of the beast or antichrist will be absolute and so will his pride be. God will humble, him, however in the end.

Dan 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.
Dan 5:21 Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.

Zoanthropy or Lycanthropy

Clinical zoanthropy is a rare delusion in which a person believes himself or herself to be an animal.
AIM: To assess the clinical and scientific relevance of this classical diagnostic category.
METHOD: A search was conducted in the classical and scientific literature and in PubMed, Embase, and Ovid.
RESULTS: Only 56 cases of clinical zoanthropy could be found in the international scientific literature. Since specific studies have yielded a relatively large numbers of cases in the past, it can be concluded that the disorder is probably more prevalent than is suggested in the literature. These cases may well be not only primary types, based on mental or unclear causes, but also secondary types, mediated by aberrant somatosensory sensations. Treatment of the underlying condition (in most cases a psychotic or mood disorder) has proved to be increasingly successful over time.

The insanity of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4)

“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar; and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (Dan. 4:33).
The king’s insanity is corroborated by history. Josephus quotes from a Babylonian historian named Berasus who mentions a strange malady suffered by Nebuchadnezzar. There is also the testimony of Abydenus, the Greek historian of 268 B.C.
It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar himself gives testimony concerning this. Archaeologist Sir Henry Rawlinson has translated an excavated inscription of the king. It reads:
“For four years the seat of my kingdom in the city … did not rejoice my heart. In all my dominions I did not build a high place of power; the precious treasures of my kingdom I did not lay out in the worship of Merodach, my lord, the joy of my heart. In Babylon the city of my sovereignty and the seat of my empire I did not sing his praises, and I did not furnish his altars; nor did I clear out the canals.”
The form of insanity in which men think of themselves as beasts and imitate the behavior of a beast is not without precedent. It is known as “Insania zoanthropica”.
Raymond Harrison recites a personal experience with a modern case similar to that of Nebuchadnezzar, which he observed in a British mental institution in 1946. Harrison writes: “A great many doctors spend an entire, busy professional career without once encountering an instance of the kind of monomania described in the book of Daniel. The present writer, therefore, considers himself particularly fortunate to have actually observed a clinical case of zoanthropy in a British mental institution in 1946.
The patient was in his early 20’s, who reportedly had been hospitalized for about five years. His symptoms were well developed on admission, and diagnosis was immediate and conclusive. He was of average height and weight with good physique, and was in excellent bodily health. His mental symptoms included pronounced anti-social tendencies, and because of this he spent the entire day from dawn to dusk outdoors, in the grounds of the institution …. His daily routine consisted of wandering around the magnificent lawns with which the otherwise dingy hospital situation was graced, and it was his custom to pluck up and eat handfuls of the grass as he went along.
On observation he was seen to discriminate carefully between grass and weeds, and on inquiry from the attendant the writer was told the diet of this patient consisted exclusively of grass from the hospital lawns. He never ate institutional food with the other inmates, and his only drink was water … the writer was able to examine him cursorily, and the only physical abnormality noted consisted of a lengthening of the hair and a coarse, thickened condition of the finger-nails.
Without institutional care, the patient would have manifested precisely the same physical conditions as those mentioned in Daniel 4:33 … from the forgoing it seems that the author of the fourth chapter of Daniel was describing accurately an attestable, if rather rare, mental affliction.”

Dan 5:22 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.
Dan 5:23 And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.

How foolish to deny our maker! Belshazzar, unfortunately, is not alone. So many today are denying that there is a God. They look to evolution to explain where we came from. They deny the existence of the very one who sustains their life and keeps the breath in their lungs.

Dan 5:24 Then the fingers[3] of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.
Dan 5:25 “And this is the inscription that was written:
Dan 5:26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it;
Dan 5:27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;
Dan 5:28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”[7]
Dan 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Dan 5:30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
Dan 5:31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Isa 44:28
Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”‘

Isaiah 45:1 Cyrus, God’s Instrument Salvation Will Come Only by the LORD “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held– To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut:
2 “I will go before you And make the crooked places[1] straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron.
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.