posted on Mar, 25 2013 @ 06:01 PM
I watched a documentary once on the comedian Frankie Howard.
It soon became clear that his gigs had a standard opening.
Whatever the location , whether college, theatre, army camp, he would explain his presence by saying he’d received a telephone call from the local
top man, giving the man’s name and adding-
“You know, the one who thinks he’s God”.
The audience would always roar.
It was a safe bet that the people under the man in charge would recognise the description, or think they did.
The central theme of Daniel, as I’ve said before, is the clash between the will of God and the over-bearing self-esteem of the human ruler who
thinks he’s God.
In the earlier chapters of the book, the king in question was Nebuchadnezzar.
Coming to the fifth chapter, we move on to Belshazzar.
The first three chapters were mainly about the God of Israel protecting his people under royal pressure.
The fourth and fifth chapters focus more on the kings themselves, coming under judgement.
The fourth chapter picked up the process of judgement at the earlier stage. Nebuchadnezzar was given a warning, and a severe punishment, and a second
He had time to repent, and to think about the nature of the self-deceiving illusion of kingship.
What we see in the fifth chapter is the final announcement of sentence.
Belshazzar is named as the son of Nebuchadnezzar.
The Belshazzar of history was the son of Nabonidus, the last king of the Babylonians, and would have been under his authority (which might explain why
he can’t offer Daniel more than third place in the kingdom).
If he’s not quite the highest rank in the land, his arrogance doesn’t fall short of what we might expect from a great king.
His arrogance displays itself in his contempt for the God of Israel, known to the people of Israel as the real ruler of the world.
He brings out the gold and silver vessels which had been captured from the temple at Jerusalem, and puts them to use in his own banqueting.
That is the very definition of profanation; taking something which has been set aside for God, and putting it back into circulation for ordinary human
That’s without even considering what else might have been happening once they reached the “drunk and disorderly” stage.
And using the vessels intended for God was another way of putting himself in God’s place.
Meanwhile, to show there was nothing unconscious about this contempt, they were busy praising “the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and
In short, these people stand for the idolatrous religious culture of Babylon, over against the Jerusalem worship of the Creator God.
The conclusion that Daniel reaches about all this is “You have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven”.
The Lord of heaven’s response comes in the writing on the wall;
“MENE, MENE, TEKEL,UPHARSIN”.
Why is the “MENE” repeated, when it’s only interpreted once?
Perhaps this was the best way of getting four lines out of a message which only had three elements. This book of Daniel is pervaded with groups of
four- the four young men in the first chapter, the four figures In the furnace, the two sequences of four kingdoms- and having four lines in the
message fits into that pattern.
Even in the middle of the English translation, you must admit, the “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” is more poetic than “MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN”
would have been.
Another puzzle is why the Babylonian wise men were unable to read the writing themselves.
Perhaps the simplest answer is not to be too literal about “could not read”, and focus instead upon “could not interpret”. That is, they could
read the words clearly enough, but could find no message in them.
Even Daniel, in his own interpretation, had to do some padding and “reading between the lines”, and the difference was that God had equipped him
for this in a way which was not available to the others.
Daniel’s interpretation depended on finding two meanings for each word;
MENE- “Numbered”, but also “finished”.
Elaborated into “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.”
TEKEL- “Weighed”, but also “wanting”.
Elaborated into “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”
PERES- “Divided”, but also “Persian”.
Elaborated into “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
This was not a “call to repentance”, but the announcement of a judicial sentence, just before the sentence was carried out.
As when the angel of Revelation ch.10 made his declaration to the world, it was a case of “no more delay”.
Perhaps the invaders were entering the city even as Daniel was speaking, for Belshazzar was slain that very night.
The central theme of Daniel, as I said at the beginning, is the clash between the will of God and the will of the ruler who thinks he’s God.
I’ve suggested elsewhere that this clash resembles the old conundrum; “What happens when an Irresistible Force meets an Immovable Object?”
The simplest way of putting the answer to this conundrum is to say that “One of them is exposed as a fraud.”.
And that sums up the fate of this king.
Insofar as Daniel prophecies a future confrontation between believers and the ruling power, the story is foretelling God’s final judgement on the
pretensions of the latter.
The point would be reached where there was no more time for final warnings.
In any case, the ruling power would not want to listen (one of the reasons why there would be no more time).
“No more time” in Revelation is associated with the blowing of the “seventh trumpet”, which sets in motion the winding up of the whole
There is no second chance for a Belshazzar.