Introduction: Chapter 5 of the book of Daniel has a very interesting
background. King Nebuchadnezzar died in 563 B.C. Chapter 5 takes
place about 25 years after his death. King Nabonidus is now on the
throne, but he shares his authority with his evil son, Belshazzar.
The Persians, lead by King Cyrus, attack the Babylon empire and
defeat the troops led by King Nabonidus. King Nabonidus moves the
main Babylonian army to Borsippa, and King Cyrus heads for the city
of Babylon and surrounds it. My guess is that before Cyrus got to
Babylon, a great number of officials fled to the city for protection.
Babylon was protected by a massive double wall and had a sufficient
food supply to last for 20 years. The setting for our study today is
that Vice-King Belshazzar is within the safety of the walls of
Babylon, King Cyrus and the Persians surround the city, and the main
army of Babylon is off licking its wounds. Let’s dive into Daniel 5!

  1. The Party

    1. Read Daniel 5:1. What was King Belshazzar thinking? The
      city is surrounded with enemy troops and he throws a
      party? (It could be several things. He might have felt
      safe behind the walls of the city. He might have been a
      weak, “party-boy” who thought, when in doubt, throw a
      party. It might have been a strategy to encourage the
      citizens of the city – no reason to worry, life will go on
      as usual, we are safe inside.)

    2. Read Daniel 5:2-4. Nebuchadnezzar was, at best, the
      grandfather of Belshazzar. The Bible calls him “father”
      because it was the custom to call an ancestor “father.”
      Consider that Jesus was called “the Son of David” and
      David “the son of Abram.” Matthew 1:1. When we last saw
      Nebuchadnezzar, he had been converted to the worship of
      the true God of Heaven. What does Belshazzar show is his
      attitude toward the true God of Heaven?

      1. Why would he have this attitude? If the true God of
        Heaven were unknown or “not an issue,” why try to
        insult Him? (Nebuchadnezzar had created this huge
        kingdom and the beautiful city fortress of Babylon.
        Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the true God of
        Heaven controls kings and kingdoms. ( Daniel 4:34-35)
        The logical conclusion from this (based on the fact
        the Persians are here) is that the true God does not
        care for Belshazzar and is working against him.
        Belshazzar, being the evil and arrogant man that he
        is, decides that he will show God who is who by
        having all guests drink out of the goblets of God’s
        temple while praising other gods. Very defiant. Very

      2. Look at the list(v.4)of their gods for a moment. What
        do you find curious about this list? (What a group of
        simple gods! You would think they would at least
        worship something like the sun, which looks and feels
        powerful. But dead trees and rocks?)

  2. The Hand

    1. Read Daniel 5:5-6. Imagine seeing this yourself. Imagine
      seeing this if you had never seen a movie before in your

      1. How is Mr. “defiant arrogance” doing now?

      2. Did God send “the fingers” because of the act of
        drinking from the temple goblets?

      3. Don’t you wish God would do this kind of thing more
        often? (Of course, not in your house.)

    2. Read Daniel 5:7-9. Why would the King make the person who
      decrypted the message “third highest?” (Remember that King
      Belshazzar and his father were jointly ruling the empire.
      King Belshazzar was offering the position of authority
      next to himself!)

      1. How many wanted to take a shot at winning this
        reward? (Verse 8 says “all” the wise men showed up.)

      2. God obviously wrote the message in a way that was
        difficult for the people to understand. Why would God
        do that? (Some may think this is an argument for
        studying from the KJV. I think God did this to
        increase the mystery of the moment and underscore the
        inadequacy of the king and his “wise men.”)

      3. Some very important fact is being communicated by
        what is not said. Notice that (v.8) “all the king’s
        wise men came in.” Has Daniel been demoted? (Yes.
        Daniel no longer holds a position of responsibility.)

        1. How do you explain that God has been blessing
          Daniel all these years, but now he has been
          dropped from a place of honor and authority?

        2. Remember that Daniel was a very young man when
          he was captured. According to my rough
          calculations, Daniel was in his middle to late
          50’s when Nebuchadnezzar died. How would you
          like to lose your high, respected position and
          slip into obscurity at that age?

    3. Read Daniel 5:10-12. What queen do you imagine this is
      based on what she is saying? (I would guess this is the
      grandmother – wife of Nebuchadnezzar.)

    4. Read Daniel 5:13. What is the first thing that Belshazzar
      asks Daniel? (Were you a slave?)

      1. Was this intended to be a compliment?

      2. Does this reflect what the queen grandmother said
        about Daniel? (She said nothing about Daniel being a

      1. What could the king have asked instead? (Were you for
        many years the number one wise man in the kingdom?)

      2. What does this show us about Belshazzar? (He is just
        arrogant and obnoxious.)

    1. Read Daniel 5:14-16. Here is Daniel’s ticket back to fame
      and fortune! He can be ranked next in authority to
      Belshazzar! Good times are here again.

    2. Read Daniel 5:17. What is going on? Why does Daniel turn
      down this wonderful promotion? (I wish I could have been
      there. My bet is that it had been a long time since
      Belshazzar had anyone tell him, “You have nothing to give
      me that I value.” This, from a former slave.)

  1. The Interpretation

    1. Read Daniel 5:18-21. I was a bit concerned when Daniel
      said in verse 17 “I will read the writing for the king and
      tell him what it means.” To whom does Daniel attribute the
      ultimate power?

      1. Why was King Nebuchadnezzar so successful? (God
        blessed him. This is precisely what Belshazzar does
        not want to hear at this moment.)

    2. Read Daniel 5:22-23. Could this kind of talk get Daniel
      killed? (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the
      Old and New Testaments, recites that historian Xenophon
      recorded that Belshazzar killed one of his nobles “merely
      because, in hunting, the noble struck down the game before
      him.” He also records that Belshazzar emasculated one of
      the court personnel simply because one of his concubines
      said the man was handsome. Needless to say, people had
      been killed by evil Belshazzar for a lot less than the
      insults Daniel was throwing around right now.)

    3. Read Daniel 5:24-28. Do you recall how Daniel brought bad
      news to Nebuchadnezzar? (Compare Daniel 4:19. Daniel
      always tried to soften the bad news. He would give the
      good news first.)

      1. Why doesn’t Daniel soften this news? (I think Daniel
        has no respect for Belshazzar. This king is arrogant,
        obnoxious and impious – and for no good reason.
        Nebuchadnezzar really was a world conqueror. But,
        Belshazzar has done nothing, gets drunk when danger
        approaches and insults God.)

      2. Remember that we learned from Daniel 4:27-31 that
        Nebuchadnezzar was given a chance to repent? He was
        given a second chance. Why is Belshazzar not given a
        similar opportunity? (Let’s re-read Daniel 5:22.
        Belshazzar knew what was right. He knowingly defied
        the great God of Heaven. My belief is that Daniel’s
        attitude towards Belshazzar reflected God’s attitude
        towards this king. He was just evil (“found wanting”)
        and arrogant and the time for judgment had come.)

    4. Read Daniel 5:29. Belshazzar keeps his word. Why?

      1. What is missing from verse 29? (Every time Daniel
        revealed God’s will to Nebuchadnezzar by interpreting
        a dream, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the true God of
        Heaven. Belshazzar does nothing of the kind.)

    5. Read Daniel 5:30. Judgment is executed against Belshazzar.
      Would you want to be promoted to number three the very
      same evening that number two is killed by invaders?

    6. Friend, if you have a hard, rebellious heart, the time to
      turn to God is right now. God is not only a God who
      pursues the wicked (as He did Nebuchadnezzar) to encourage
      them to follow Him, but God is also a God of judgment for
      those who continue to rebel. Why not repent today?

  2. Next week: An Ancient Death Decree.