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The King Acknowledges God

Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.


“How great are His signs
And how mighty are His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
And His dominion is from generation to generation.(A)

The Vision of a Great Tree

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream and it made me afraid; and the fantasies and thoughts and the visions [that appeared] in my mind as I lay on my bed kept alarming me. So I gave orders to bring in before me all the wise men of Babylon, so that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the enchanters (Magi), the Chaldeans [who were the master astrologers] and the diviners came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it and make known its meaning to me. But at last Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and in whom is [a]a spirit of the holy gods; and I told the dream to him, saying, ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles or troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.

10 ‘The visions that passed through my mind as I lay on my bed were these: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the middle of the earth, and its height was great.

11 
‘The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to heaven,
And it was visible to the end of the earth.
12 
‘Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky nested in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.

13 ‘And behold, I saw in the visions of my mind as I lay on my bed, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.

14 
‘He shouted aloud and said this:
“Cut down the tree and cut off its branches;
Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit;
Let the living creatures run from under it
And the birds fly from its branches.
15 
“Nevertheless leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
Bound with a band of iron and bronze
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be wet with the dew of heaven,
And let him feed with the animals in the grass of the earth.
16 
“Let his mind and nature be changed from a man’s
And let an animal’s mind and nature be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 
“This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
So that the living may know [without any doubt]
That the Most High [God] rules over the kingdom of mankind
And He bestows it on whomever He desires
And sets over it the humblest and lowliest of men.”(B)

18 This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, explain its meaning, since none of the wise men of my kingdom are able to reveal its interpretation to me; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’

Daniel Interprets the Vision

19 “Then Daniel, whose [Babylonian] name was Belteshazzar, was appalled and speechless for a while [because he was deeply concerned about the destiny of the king], and his thoughts alarmed him. The king said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation frighten you.’ Belteshazzar answered, ‘My lord, may the dream be [meant] for those who hate you and its message for your enemies! 20 The tree that you saw, which became great and grew strong, whose height reached to heaven and which was visible to all the earth, 21 whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and on which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field lived, and in whose branches the birds of the sky nested— 22 it is you, O king, who have become great and grown strong; your greatness has increased and it reaches to heaven, and your dominion [reaches] to the ends of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Cut the tree down and destroy it; but leave the stump with its roots in the earth, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him feed with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is the decree of the Most High [God], which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you shall be driven from mankind and your dwelling place shall be with the beasts of the field; and that you be given grass to eat like the cattle and be wet with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know [without any doubt] that the Most High [God] rules over the kingdom of mankind and He bestows it to whomever He desires. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree [in the earth], your kingdom shall be restored to you after you recognize (understand fully) that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice to you be [considered and found] acceptable; break away now from your sins and exhibit your repentance by doing what is right, and from your wickedness by showing mercy to the poor, so that [if you repent] there may possibly be a continuance of your prosperity and tranquility and a healing of your error.’

The Vision Fulfilled

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the upper level of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king said thoughtfully, ‘Is not this the great Babylon which I myself have built as the royal residence and seat of government by the might of my power and for the honor and glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came [as if falling] from heaven, saying, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: “The kingdom has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the animals of the field. You will be given grass to eat like the cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you know [without any doubt] that the Most High God rules over the kingdom of mankind and He bestows it on whomever He desires.”’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was [b]driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.

34 “But at the end of the days [that is, at the seven periods of time], I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my understanding and reason returned to me; and I blessed the Most High [God] and I praised and honored and glorified Him who lives forever,

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion;
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 
“All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing.
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth;
And no one can hold back His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

36 Now at the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor were returned to me, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was re-established in my kingdom, and still more greatness [than before] was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and faithful and His ways are just, and He is able to humiliate and humble those who walk in [self-centered, self-righteous] pride.”

Belshazzar’s Feast

Belshazzar the king [who was a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar] gave a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking his wine in the presence of the thousand [guests]. Belshazzar, as he tasted the wine, gave a command to bring in the gold and silver vessels which his [c]father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the [d]temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his [e]concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the gold and silver vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing opposite the lampstand on [a well-lit area of] the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the part of the hand that did the writing. Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; the joints and muscles of his hips and back weakened and his knees began knocking together. The king called aloud to bring in the enchanters (Magi), the Chaldeans [who were master astrologers] and the diviners. The king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold put around his neck, and have authority as the [f]third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not [g]read the writing or reveal to the king its interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly perplexed, his face became even paler, and his nobles were bewildered and alarmed.

10 Now the queen [mother], overhearing the [excited] words of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet area. The queen [mother] spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not be alarmed at your thoughts or let your face be changed. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is [h]a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And [i]King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans and diviners. 12 It was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, the ability to interpret dreams, clarify riddles, and solve complex problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called and he will give the interpretation.”

Daniel Interprets Handwriting on the Wall

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. And the king said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the sons of the exiles of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard of you, that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 Now the wise men and the enchanters, were brought in before me so that they might read this writing and reveal its meaning to me, but they could not give the interpretation of the message. 16 But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to make interpretations and solve complex problems. Now if you are able to read the writing and reveal its interpretation to me, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold put around your neck, and you shall have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the writing to the king and reveal the interpretation to him. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and greatness and glory and majesty; 19 and because of the greatness that He gave him, all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language trembled and feared him. Whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he kept alive; whomever he wished he promoted and whomever he wished he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. 21 He was also driven from mankind, and his mind was made like that of an animal, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until he came to know [without any doubt] that the Most High God rules over the kingdom of mankind and He appoints it to whomever He wills. 22 And you, his [j]son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart (mind), even though you knew all this. 23 And you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven, and the vessels of His house have been brought before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But the God who holds in His hand your breath of life and your ways you have not honored and glorified [but have dishonored and defied]. 24 Then the hand was sent from the presence [of the Most High God], and this inscription was written:

25 “This is the [k]inscription that was written, ‘mene, mene, tekel, upharsin [numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided].’ 26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘mene’—God has numbered the days of your kingdom and put an end to it; 27 tekel’—you have been weighed on the scales [of righteousness] and found deficient; 28 [l]peres’—[m]your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and [n]Persians.”

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple and a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation concerning him was issued [declaring] that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 During that same [o]night Belshazzar the [last] Chaldean king was slain [by troops of the [p]invading army]. 31 So [q]Darius the Mede received the kingdom; he was about the age of sixty-two.

Daniel Serves Darius

It seemed good to Darius [who became king after Belshazzar] to appoint over the kingdom 120 [r]satraps who would be in charge throughout the kingdom, and over them three chief commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, so that the king would have no loss [from disloyalty or mismanagement]. Then this Daniel, because of the extraordinary spirit within him, began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and the satraps, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire realm. Then the [other two] commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a reason to bring a complaint against Daniel concerning the [administration of the] kingdom; but they could find no reason for an accusation or evidence of corruption, because he was faithful [a man of high moral character and personal integrity], and no negligence or corruption [of any kind] was found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any basis for an accusation against this Daniel unless we find something against him in connection with the law of his God.”(C)

Then these commissioners and satraps agreed to approach the king and said to him, “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors have consulted and agreed together that the king should establish a royal statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who petitions (prays to) any god or man besides you, O king, during the next thirty days, shall be thrown into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which [insures that it] may not be altered or revoked.” So King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.

10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he went into his house (now in his roof chamber his windows were open toward Jerusalem); he continued to get down on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.(D) 11 Then, by agreement, these men came [together] and found Daniel praying and making requests before his God. 12 Then they approached and spoke before the king regarding his injunction, “Have you not signed an injunction that anyone who petitions (prays to) any god or man except you, O king, within the designated thirty days, is to be thrown into the den of lions?” The king answered, “The statement is true, in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be altered or revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, does not pay any attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you have signed, but keeps praying [to his God] three times a day.”

14 Then, as soon as the king heard these words, he was deeply distressed [over what he had done] and set his mind on rescuing Daniel; and he struggled until the sun went down [trying to work out a way] to save him. 15 Then, by agreement, these same men came to the king and said, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be altered or revoked.”

Daniel in the Den of Lions

16 Then the king gave a command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you constantly serve, rescue you Himself!”(E) 17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no music or entertainment was brought before him, and he remained unable to sleep.

19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and hurried to the den of lions. 20 When he had come near the den, he called out to Daniel with a troubled voice. The king said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God has sent His angel and has shut the mouths of the lions so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also before you, O king, I have committed no crime.”(F) 23 Then the king was greatly pleased and ordered that Daniel be taken out of the den. So Daniel was taken out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in and relied on and trusted in his God. 24 The king then gave a command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions, they, their children and their wives; and before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language who were living in all the land: “May peace abound to you! 26 I issue a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to [reverently] fear and tremble before the God of Daniel,

For He is the living God, enduring and steadfast forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
27 
“He rescues and saves and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth—
He who has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

28 So this [man] Daniel prospered and enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Footnotes

  1. Daniel 4:8 Or possibly the Spirit of the holy God, and so throughout the chapter.
  2. Daniel 4:33 It is likely that Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors continued to run the government while the king was incapacitated, keeping him in an inconspicuous place within the palace enclosure during his illness. The king may have been stricken with a very rare mental condition, boanthropy, in which patients believe themselves to be cattle.
  3. Daniel 5:2 This Aramaic word (see note 2:4) may also mean “ancestor” (see vv 11, 13, 18).
  4. Daniel 5:2 Gold utensils had been used in the temple building itself, and silver utensils had originally been stored in the “treasuries of the house of God” (2 Chr 5:1).
  5. Daniel 5:2 See note Gen 22:24.
  6. Daniel 5:7 Nabonidus was first, Belshazzar, his son, was second.
  7. Daniel 5:8 In light of what Daniel says in v 25, it is hard to escape the conclusion that for some reason the letters were unreadable to the wise men. The ancient rabbis speculated that the words were written in some kind of code that had to be deciphered. Among the suggestions were reversing the order of the letters (e.g. ENM for MENE etc.) and an elaborate puzzle in which the letters of each word were separated and spread out to form three senseless words: “MMTUS NNKFE EELRN” (“M...N...E” etc.).
  8. Daniel 5:11 Or possibly the Spirit of the Holy God, and so throughout the chapter.
  9. Daniel 5:11 Twenty-three years have passed since Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 b.c.
  10. Daniel 5:22 The Aramaic (see note 2:4) word may also mean “grandson” or “descendant.”
  11. Daniel 5:25 These words are ordinary Aramaic from that time, so some commentators have speculated that the wise men recognized them but just could not put them into orderly sentences. Yet here Daniel seems to clearly “read” the words simply by pronouncing them in Aramaic (cf note v 8). His interpretation (vv 26-28) goes far beyond what the simple words mean by themselves.
  12. Daniel 5:28 The singular of upharsin (see v 25).
  13. Daniel 5:28 Foretold in Is 21:2, 5, 9.
  14. Daniel 5:28 Aram Paras.
  15. Daniel 5:30 The 16th of Tishri (October 12, 539 b.c).
  16. Daniel 5:30 The Persian army had been outside the walls of Babylon for some time, but waited until this time of national feasting before invading.
  17. Daniel 5:31 Some scholars believe “Darius” may be a title rather than a proper name and in this context refers either to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, who conquered Babylon or (more likely) to Gubaru, Cyrus’ commander who led the nighttime attack on the city and was appointed governor of the Babylonian territories.
  18. Daniel 6:1 See note 3:2.

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