Study 11 Daniel 5

Daniel and his three friends are carried from Jerusalem as captives by the Babylonians, and later chosen to be educated in Babylonian culture. They are not prophet, priest, or king but ordinary people like us, working out their faith in the work place. Daniel is assigned to the group of wise men and we see him successfully interpreting dreams by King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar’s (506 – 549 BC) first dreamt of an enormous statue with a golden head, the Babylonian empire. The King did not understand God’s sovereignty implied and had a huge golden statue made of himself. Hence the three friends in the fiery furnace. Next the King dreamt about a great tree that was cut down for 7 years. Again only Daniel of the wise men can interpret the dream. Daniel again warns the king that the king will develop boanthropy, experience himself as an ox, until he acknowledges God’s sovereignty. And so it happened. Between Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, time passes and a new king is in power. Chapter 5 opens, possibly 15 years later with another king, King Belshazzar, having a terrifying experience. No longer is it a dream. No longer is it private but in public.   Again there is no understanding of the experience. The Queen remembers Daniel and Daniel’s advice is sought.

  1. Do you remember a time when your advice was misunderstood, perhaps a teenager consistently wanting to do it “my way.” Perhaps we have had the experience with an elder entering dementia. The struggle over the car keys is real! Can you identify with an experience like that? __________________________________
  2. Describe the feelings that accompany an experience of rejected advice. __________
  3. Let’s read this next story, noting the role of:
  • King Belshazzar_________________________________
  • Queen_________________________________________
  • Partyers________________________________________
  • Daniel__________________________________________

King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

  1. Do you think it is significant that articles dedicated to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem were used in a public drinking celebration?
  2. How would you describe “desecration”? ____________________
  3. Often we think of desecration as a violation of our personhood as our sense of public sacred places or things is not strong. Perhaps our recent demonstrations ring a bell here as places we love have been “violated.” Do you have words for such an experience?_________

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners; and the king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around his neck, and rank third in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar became greatly terrified and his face turned pale, and his lords were perplexed.

  1. Perhaps you are familiar with the story but what might be a message you could receive you that would terrify you? Death of a spouse in a car accident? Diagnosis of disease? Bank crash? ____________
  2. A finger writing on the wall, terrified the King. What might be a modern day equivalent? __________________________________

10 The queen, when she heard the discussion of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall. The queen said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts terrify you or your face grow pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”

  1. The queen, the wife of the king I am assuming, is an unlikely person to enter with words of direction. It reminds me of Balaam being spoken to by his donkey (Numbers 22) or the servant girls telling Namaan’s wife (2 Kings 5) about Elisha being able to cure his leprosy. Have you ever been surprised by sage advise from an unlikely source?______ Did you follow it?

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, “So you are Daniel, one 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 enlightenment, understanding, and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and tell me its interpretation, but they were not able to give the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you are able to read the writing and tell me its interpretation, you shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around your neck, and rank third in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered in the presence of the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else! Nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and let him know the interpretation. 

  1. King Belshazzar does not seem to know his chief wise man? Perhaps Daniel feels “forgotten,” “overlooked” or “erased.” Perhaps the others did not want to look ignorant again. Perhaps Daniel had aged and stepped down from his responsibilities. In any case, I suspect we can identify with the feeling of being forgotten. Describe_________________________ Daniel’s response to the King seems a bit sharp.

18 O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. He killed those he wanted to kill, kept alive those he wanted to keep alive, honored those he wanted to honor, and degraded those he wanted to degrade. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he acted proudly, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory was stripped from him. 21 He was driven from human society, and his mind was made like that of an animal. His dwelling was with the wild asses, he was fed grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals, and sets over it whomever he will. 22 And you, Belshazzar his son, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this! 23 You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven! The vessels of his temple have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.

  1. How would you describe the trajectory of Nebuchadnezzar’s life?____ How would you describe the trajectory of your life?___________________
  2. How has King Belshazzar gone astray?________________________
  3. Are there ways in which you could improve in honoring God? _______

24 “So from his presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 tekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; 28 peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed in purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made concerning him that he should rank third in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed. 31  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

  1. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. You have been weighed in the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” This time there was no one year lull between prophesy and reality. That night King Belshazzar was killed and the great Babylonian empire came to an end. Pretty heavy. What lesson might we learn from this chapter of Daniel that could apply to our lives in 21st century USA?


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