Weighed and Wanting, Daniel 5

Daniel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:23
0 ratings
Today we will be studying Daniel chapter 5. In this chapter, we find a new king in Babylon, Belshazzar. We will see Belshazzar truly dishonoring the Lord, and consequences he faced.
As we will see God saying to him, he was weighed on God’s scales of justice and found wanting.
This is a sobering chapter to study. As I studied, and as we study together, we need to consider what God would say to us, if he were to weigh us on His scales of justice? Would we be found wanting?
Let’s pray and ask the Lord to give us understanding, and to speak to us today.
Now, let’s begin studying this chapter.
Daniel 5:1 NIV
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.

Who is Belshazzar?

Belshazzar was a king in Babylon from about 553 BC, until the fall of Babylon in 539 BC.
For a long time, scholars believed Daniel was in error, because they had not records of Belshazzar being a king in Babylon. However, they later found that Daniel was correct, and Belshazzar was a king of Babylon.
I think it is important to know who this man is, and the history behind this chapter so that we can have a better understanding of why God weighed him and found him wanting. So, please bear with me while I share some of the background information for this chapter.

Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar

Belshazzar’s mother calls Nebuchadnezzar his father.
It is possible that he could be Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson through his mother, with Nabonidus as his father. If this were the case, it would still be acceptable for Daniel to refer to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s ‘father’ since the term for ‘father’ in Aramaic is also used for predecessor. That is why Abraham is the ‘father’ of Israel, his grandson, and all Israelites, who are his descendants. ‘Father’ also means predecessor.
However, I think he was Nebuchadnezzar’s son.
So, how did this work. Here is a little history.

Nebuchadnezzar, 605 - 562 BC

So far in Daniel, the king of Babylon has been Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605 BC to 562 BC.
Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years, and was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach.

Evil-Merodach, 562 - 560 BC

Evil-Merodach was assassinated after two years, and Neriglisar took the throne.

Neglisar, 560 - 556 BC

Neriglisar reigned 4 years, followed by his son, Laborosoarchod, or Labashi-Marduk, who was only a child.

Labashi Marduk, 556 - 556 BC

Labashi-Marduk and reigned 9 months, and was overthrown by a group of conspirators.

Nabonidus, 556 - 539 BC

Nabonidus was a conspirator who overthrew Labashi-Marduk, and he reigned seventeen years. Nabonidus married one of Nebuchadnezzar’s wives to legitimize his reign.
(Some scholars think Nabonidus may have married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and that Belshazzar could have been Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. However, in considering the history, and that Nabonidus appointed Belshazzar as coregent three years after his rule began, it makes sense that Belshazzar could have been a teenage son of Nebuchadnezzar when Nabonidus married his mother.)
His son Belshazzar, biological son of Nebuchadnezzar, was made a co-regent with his father around 553.

Belshazzar, 553 - 539 BC

Nabonidus moved to another city, and was absent from Babylon for over half of his reign, leaving Belshazzar in charge in Babylon.

Nabonidus Cylinder

Interestingly, critics of Daniel used to claim Daniel was wrong because they did not have extra-biblical evidence of Belshazzar. Around 1880 cylinders which were written recordings from Nabonidus were found, which confirmed his son as co-regent in Babylon.
Once again, the Bible is shown to be true.
So, Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, through the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon when...

What is the Setting?

This is also important information.
At the time of this feast in 539 BC, about the 15th year of Belshazzar’s reign,

The Persians besieged Babylon

Babylon was under siege when Belshazzar chose to throw a party for his officials, wives and concubines!
This shows you a little more of Belshazzar’s character. He was arrogant. He was proud, and unafraid.
Why was he so arrogant?
Babylon was an impregnable city! Who cares if the Persians were outside?
The city was protected by a double wall. The inner wall was 21 feet thick with 30-60 foot defensive towers every 60 feet along the wall. 23 feet outside of that wall, was the 12 foot thick outerwall. 65 feet outside of that wall was a moat, connected to the Euphrates river. The city could not be breached! And, they could hold out longer than an army surrounding them.
The city boasted that it had an unlimited water supply, and enough food to feed everyone for over 2 years!

Belshazzar was proud and arrogant

So, while the city was under siege, he was throwing a party. And what is more, he was defying the God who had so powerfully shown Himself to his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 5:2–4 NIV
While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
Daniel records it two times that the were using the goblets from the temple for their revelry, and worship of other Gods. Nebuchadnezzar had too much respect for God to do this during his reign, when he commanded that everyone must show respect to this Most High God, Daniel 3:29.
But in the midst of the party scene...
Daniel 5:5–6 NIV
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
Now Belshazzar was afraid. Really afraid. What is this hand? What is going on? What is this writing?
Hebrew and Aramaic were written right to left, with consonants only. The vowels needed to be supplied by the reader.
Immediately, Belshazzar is scared sober, and he calls for...
Daniel 5:7–9 NIV
The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
The party is over. What is going on? What is this message?
Daniel 5:10–12 NIV
The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
I love that Daniel is still being referred to as Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar first brought him from Jerusalem, he changed his name to identify him with the gods of the Babylonians.
Once Nebuchadnezzar worshiped the One, True God, Daniel is back to his name which identifies him with the Most High.
Remember, Daniel means, God is my judge. And in this account, God is acting as judge.
Daniel 5:13–17 NIV
So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
I get the sense that Belshazzar is looking down on Daniel, one of those slaves brought from that disgusting Jerusalem.
However, Daniel responds respectfully. I do not want your gifts. I will tell you what the writing means.
Daniel 5:18–23 NIV
“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.

What is the Point: The Most High is Sovereign

The main point of Daniel’s message to Belshazzar is that God is the Most High. God is the One who gave a kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar. God showed this to Nebuchadnezzar when He humbled him.
God is the One who makes kingdoms to rise, and other kingdoms to replace them.
Nebuchadnezzar learned this. Belshazzar should have! He should have been very familiar with all that took place with his father.

You knew this

Daniel points out that Belshazzar did know all that happened with Nebuchadnezzar.
He very pointedly says, “You knew this.”
Belshazzar knew about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and how his kingdom represented by gold would be replaced by the kingdom of silver.
In fact, it was not only Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel 7 records a vision of Daniel’s from Belshazzar’s first year as king, in which the different kingdoms were again prophesied.
Then, in Daniel 8, in the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, Daniel had yet another vision. In that vision, the Lord specifically revealed that the kings of Media and Persia would conquer the land. It was the next kingdom.
So, the army outside of Babylon should have been a concern to King Belshazzar. Why?
Because according to Daniel 8:27,
Daniel 8:27 NIV
I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
Daniel was still in the king’s service at that time. King Belshazzar should have been familiar with the prophesy the Most High God made that the Medes and Persians would conquer him.
But instead of listening to the Lord, instead of learning that He is sovereign and bowing to worship him as did his father Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar thumbed his nose at God!
When the Medes and Persians came, Belshazzar took the goblets dedicated to the worship of the One True God, the One who said He was giving the kingdom to the Medes and Persians, and he desecrated them by letting his wives and concubines drink from them. He went even further and used them to worship false gods!
He was truly living in arrogant defiance of the Lord!
So, the Lord interrupted his grand party.
Daniel 5:24–31 NIV
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.” 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.
Daniel tells the king that God has weighed him and found him wanting. He was given revelation through his father. He was given revelation through Daniel. He was given opportunity to bow to the sovereignty of the Lord. However, instead, he defied the Lord. He refused to listen.
So, God in His justice said he was ‘wanting’. He did not measure up. He would be destroyed.
And sadly, that night, the Persians broke into the impregnable city.
They dammed up the Euphrates, and walked under the wall where the river ran through.
Darius put Belshazzar to death.

What about me? Who am I in this account?

As I considered this account from Daniel, I have to wonder, what does God want me to learn? What does He want you to learn?
I wonder, if I were in the story. Who would I be?
Would I be Daniel?
Daniel was faithful to the Lord. He was taken from his family. He was marched as a slave to a foreign land, given a new language, a new name, and forced to live in a new culture. But through it all, Daniel was faithful to God.
Kings came, and kings went. Still, he remained faithful to God, and faithful to his duties serving the king. No matter who the king was. He did what he was supposed to do, and he always pointed the king to the Lord.
Am I faithful to the Lord like Daniel?
Do I remain faithful, come what may in life?
Do I remain faithful to the Lord, and carry out my duties to the best of my ability, to the glory of the Lord, like Daniel did?
Am I respectful, and carry out my duties even toward those who disrespect me, as Belshazzar did Daniel?
Am I Daniel? Are you?
The other option is not a good one.
Am I Belshazzar?
God revealed Himself, and truth to Belshazzar. However, Belshazzar did not care to listen to God.
Am I like Belshazzar?
God has certainly revealed Himself to us. He has shown us through His word, and through Creation that He is God. He is Sovereign.
He has shown us what is good and what the Lord requires of us.
However, do I listen? Have I listened? Do I say He is Lord with my lips and then live how I want to live?
Do I treat my spouse the way He says I should?
Do I treat my siblings the way He says I should?
Do I treat my parents with respect as He says I should?
Do I treat my enemies the way He says I should?
Am I joining with others in bad-mouthing governmental leaders, or am I showing the proper respect as God demands since He has put them in place for His goals and as the means to His ends?
Am I loving my brothers and sisters in Christ, or treating them improperly because they don’t agree with me about how things should be, whether on Facebook, or in gossip, talking about them to others?
Am I living for life here on Earth, or pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness?
We know the answers in our hearts.
The question is, if God were weighing me today, what would his finger write on the wall of my house? What would he write on the wall of your house?
It is time for us to do some self-evaluation. Let’s not be like Belshazzar, having God’s revelation yet living in defiance of God.
Let’s be like Nebuchadnezzar who repented and worshipped the Lord.
I ask you to take a moment to pray with me. Let’s pray what David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24
Psalm 139:23–24 NIV
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
It is easy to live like Adam and blame someone else for our sinful thoughts, attitudes and actions. But like Adam found out, he was responsible before God for his thoughts, attitudes and actions. His blaming Eve did not change that.
Are you blaming someone else and what they have done for your wrong thoughts, attitudes and actions?
God will weigh you, your thoughts and your actions, and hold you accountable for them. Not someone else.
Let’s be honest. Let’s listen to the Lord speaking to us.
Let’s repent of anything He shows us. And let’s follow Him in the way everlasting.
Read Romans 12:3
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more