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 Babylon 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 might be a strategy to encourage the leaders of
      the city – no reason to worry, life will go on as usual,
      we are safe inside these walls. Perhaps feeling safe
      behind the walls of the city, and being a weak,
      “party-boy,” he thought “Why not throw a party?”)

    2. Read Daniel 5:2-3. This is an interesting choice of
      goblets. When we last saw “father” Nebuchadnezzar, he
      acknowledged the one true God of heaven. Why would his
      grandson choose these for the party? (Read the first part
      of Daniel 5:23. It informs us of Belshazzar’s thinking. It
      says Belshazzar “set [himself] up against the Lord of
      heaven.” This is deliberate. This is defiance. He did not
      accidentally choose these gold goblets.)

      1. If this is not an accident, why defy God? (I think it
        goes back to the prophecy of the statue – God said
        that Babylon will be defeated by another empire.
        Belshazzar is defying the prophecy.)

    3. Read Daniel 5:4. What point is being made by the
      leadership of Babylon? (Their gods defeated the “God of
      the goblet” – the God who the golden goblets celebrated.)

  2. The Party Spoiler

    1. Read Daniel 5:5-6. Imagine that you never saw a movie
      before. How would you react to seeing something like this?
      (For Belshazzar, it was absolutely frightening.)

      1. What does this say about Belshazzar? (He was not a
        fighter, not one who had great courage. We understand
        why King Nabonidus is out on the field of battle
        while Belshazzar is “safely” behind the walls of the

      2. Does the cowardly character of Belshazzar make his
        defiance of God that much more disgusting?
    2. Read Daniel 5:7-8. What kind of performance review would
      you give these wise men? Three times we have seen this
      group tasked with interpreting something, and they are
      never able!

      1. What position is Belshazzar offering? (The position
        just below him.)

      2. Note that it says “all the king’s wise men” came.
        Does this mean that Daniel is no longer among the
        wise men? (That is what this suggests. The fact that
        Daniel used to hold the “next to the king” spot also
        suggests that he no longer holds a position of

    3. Read Daniel 5:9. Why would Belshazzar be even more
      terrified? (Once again, this shows his weakness. He
      depends on others. When his advisors do not know, he gets
      even more terrified. You can be sure Nebuchadnezzar would
      not have responded this way.)

    4. Read Daniel 5:10. Commentators believe that this queen is
      Nebuchadnezzar’s widow. How do you think she views her
      grandson compared to her husband, Nebuchadnezzar? (She
      likely thinks what we are thinking – he is spineless. She
      comes to put some steel in his spine.)

  3. Enter Daniel

    1. Read Daniel 5:11-12. Is this how Daniel would want to be
      remembered? (No! Read Daniel 4:8-9. This is exactly how
      Nebuchadnezzar described Daniel before he acknowledged the
      supremacy of the God of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar’s widow
      describes Daniel the same way!)

      1. Is it a good thing that the God of Heaven is not
        identified? (If we are correct in our assumption that
        Belshazzar is involved in an act of defiance against
        the true God, it might be better for him to be
        confused about the source of Daniel’s power.)

    2. Read Daniel 5:13 and compare it with Daniel 5:11. Did the
      queen say anything about Daniel being a slave? (No. She
      said he was “chief of the magicians.”)

      1. Why does Belshazzar first ask him if he was a slave?
        (He is a nasty guy – and not too smart. He insults
        the man whose help he desperately needs. He likely
        now realizes that Daniel worships the true God of

    3. Read Daniel 5:14-16. Just how badly does Belshazzar want
      this information?

      1. Assume you lost your high-ranking job and you were
        offered it back later. What would you say? (Being
        next to the king is Daniel’s old job.)

    4. Read Daniel 5:17. Is Daniel insulting Belshazzar? (Yes! A
      former slave tells him “You have nothing to give me that I

      1. Why is this true? (Daniel knows the kingdom is ending
        right now.)

      2. Compare Daniel’s answer in verse 17 with his answer
        in Daniel 2:26-28. Why does Daniel fail to give the
        glory to God as he did with Nebuchadnezzar? (Read
        Matthew 7:6. Belshazzar was about to be killed. There
        was no future for him. Daniel had no respect for
        him. His grandfather was a world conqueror who
        (finally) acknowledged the true God. Belshazzar has
        done nothing, gets drunk when danger approaches, and
        insults God.)

    5. Read Daniel 5:18-23. Are these more insults? (Yes!)

      1. Is this dangerous? (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 (which were the truth)
        Daniel was throwing around right now.)

    6. Read Daniel 5:24-28. Do you recall how Daniel brought bad
      news to Nebuchadnezzar? (Read Daniel 4:19. This continues
      to show Daniel’s contempt for Belshazzar.)

      1. Nebuchadnezzar is given a couple of second chances.
        Why none for Belshazzar? (Re-read Daniel 5:22.
        Daniel says that Belshazzar knew the history of his
        grandfather and he learned nothing.)

        1. What does that say to us who have all of these
          Bible stories to consider?

    7. Read Daniel 5:29. Is this the promotion you want at this
      point in time?

      1. Why does Belshazzar promote Daniel in the face of all
        of these insults? (He is even more terrified now. My
        guess is that he is hoping that Daniel or God will
        somehow save him.)

    8. Read Daniel 5:30-31 and Daniel 6:1-2. Compare the outcome
      for Belshazzar and Daniel. Why does Daniel, who holds
      such a high position, not also die that night? (Who is in
      charge of the affairs of humans? This shows us that we
      need to be more concerned about God’s opinion of us than
      we are about the opinion of our supervisors. Since the
      Medes took over that night, they might have seen the
      writing and learned that Daniel revealed that the Medes
      would take over. That would make Daniel an ally, not the

    9. Friend, it appears that Daniel has been demoted in his old
      age and seemingly become irrelevant to the leadership.
      Whatever may be happening in your life, God is still on
      His throne. He still controls the affairs of humans and He
      cares about you. Will you accept this truth and trust God
      no matter what?

  4. Next week: From the Lion’s Den to the Angel’s Den.