5 Belshazzar the king invited a thousand of his officers to a great feast where the wine flowed freely. 2-4 While Belshazzar was drinking, he was reminded of the gold and silver cups taken long before from the Temple in Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and brought to Babylon. Belshazzar ordered that these sacred cups be brought in to the feast, and when they arrived, he and his princes, wives, and concubines drank toasts from them to their idols made of gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone.
5 Suddenly, as they were drinking from these cups, they saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall opposite the lampstand. The king himself saw the fingers as they wrote. 6 His face blanched with fear, and such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him.
7 “Bring the magicians and astrologers!” he screamed. “Bring the Chaldeans! Whoever reads that writing on the wall and tells me what it means will be dressed in purple robes of royal honor, with a gold chain around his neck, and he will become the third ruler in the kingdom!”[a]
8 But when they came, none of them could understand the writing or tell him what it meant.
9 The king grew more and more hysterical; his face reflected the terror he felt, and his officers too were shaken. 10 But when the queen mother heard what was happening, she rushed to the banquet hall and said to Belshazzar, “Calm yourself, Your Majesty, don’t be so pale and frightened over this. 11 For there is a man in your kingdom who has within him the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father this man was found to be as full of wisdom and understanding as though he were himself a god. And in the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar,[b] he was made chief of all the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers of Babylon. 12 Call for this man, Daniel—or Belteshazzar, as the king called him—for his mind is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve knotty problems. He will tell you what the writing means.”
13 So Daniel was rushed in to see the king. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel brought from Israel as a captive by King Nebuchadnezzar? 14 I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods within you and that you are filled with enlightenment and wisdom. 15 My wise men and astrologers have tried to read that writing on the wall and tell me what it means, but they can’t. 16 I am told you can solve all kinds of mysteries. If you can tell me the meaning of those words, I will clothe you in purple robes, with a gold chain around your neck, and make you the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Daniel answered, “Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means. 18 Your Majesty, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar, who long ago preceded you, a kingdom and majesty and glory and honor. 19 He gave him such majesty that all the nations of the world trembled before him in fear. He killed any who offended him and spared any he liked. At his whim they rose or fell. 20 But when his heart and mind were hardened in pride, God removed him from his royal throne and took away his glory. 21 He was chased out of his palace into the fields. His thoughts and feelings became those of an animal, and he lived among the wild donkeys; he ate grass like the cows, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until at last he knew that the Most High overrules the kingdoms of men and appoints anyone he desires to reign over them.
22 “And you, his successor, O Belshazzar—you knew all this, yet you have not been humble. 23 For you have defied the Lord of Heaven and brought here these cups from his Temple; and you and your officers and wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not praised the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! 24-25 And so God sent those fingers to write this message: ‘Mene,’ ‘Mene,’ ‘Tekel,’ ‘Parsin.’
26 “This is what it means:
“Mene means ‘numbered’—God has numbered the days of your reign, and they are ended.
27 “Tekel means ‘weighed’—you have been weighed in God’s balances and have failed the test.
28 “Parsin means ‘divided’—your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was robed in purple, a gold chain was hung around his neck, and he was proclaimed third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed, 31 and Darius the Mede[c] entered the city and began reigning at the age of sixty-two.
- Daniel 5:7 become the third ruler in the kingdom. Belshazzar was the second under Nabonidus, his father, who was out of town at the time.
- Daniel 5:11 King Nebuchadnezzar, literally, “King Nebuchadnezzar, your father”—the Aramaic word for “father” can also mean “predecessor,” in this instance, fifth removed.
- Daniel 5:31 Darius the Mede. Darius the Mede is not to be confused with Darius the Persian mentioned in Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah, nor with the one in Nehemiah 12:22.