A study on the book of Daniel.
We will divide the study into two major parts: Part I: A History of the Times…And the Setup for Coming Attractions: | Part II: Events Prophesied…Prophecies Fulfilled.
… These two parts will be broken down and delved into in detail.
Don’t Look Now, but There’s Something on Your Wall
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.
Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
Another title for this chapter could be “The World’s Wildest Party,” hosted by playboy millionaire Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and number two in command in Babylon. It was a drunken orgy where the women were in abundance and the wine flowed like water-a graphic example of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” With one small correction: They would not die tomorrow; they would be attacked, defeated, and murdered that very night by stealthy troops already assembled deep beneath the city.
Before we slip into the celebration to see what was really going on, let’s look at the man Belshazzar. Who was he? What were his credentials? It’s important to note that for many years, liberal interpreters of Holy Writ pleaded their case that there was no such person at all. Scholar Ferdinand Hitzack, in 1850, said that no one by the name of Belshazzar had ever existed, and therefore the Book of Daniel was a farce.
However, just four years later, J. G. Taylor was on an archeological dig in southern Iraq where he dug up artifacts that contained sixty lines of cuneiform-a system of writing used for a number of ancient Near Eastern languages from c. 3000 B.C. until the first century A.D. Primarily a Mesopotamian system, cuneiform was inscribed on clay, stone, metal, and other hard materials. This was a key discovery for Taylor and the Christian world, because one of those sixty lines of cuneiform prayed for the health of Nabonidus, and his son Belshazzar.
In 1924, Sidney Smith did some excavating of his own in the region and he, too, unearthed an artifact that stated Nabonidus gave the kingship to his son Belshazzar. Again, liberal Bible scholars do not have a position at all. In fact, those who wish to appear foolish need only to suggest that the Bible has errors in content, history, or personnel. The answers may not be immediately observable, but the truth will always emerge, even as it did in the case of Belshazzar, whom some say was a phantom.
Nabonidus was a great military warrior, always away on a mission to add territory and subjects to his mighty Babylon, and always returning with the booty and spoils of the conquered. In his absence, Babylon was left in the control of his son, Belshazzar. And when the cat’s away, we know what the mice do: They play and play and play-as if there were no tomorrow.
And that’s where we pick up our story-and perhaps the wildest party ever held in Babylon. This was no little soiree in a small drawing room with a few guests. The hall for the festivities was enormous-176 feet long and 56 feet wide. Some of the dinners held in that room had as many as ten thousand guests, with the largest banquet in history having an invitation list of 69,800 people. That’s a lot of folks, and I’m sure that much of the celebration had to be celebrated outdoors. This is the enormous physical environment of chapter five. Big party. Big spenders. Big orgy. Big trouble!
The problems started when young Belshazzar made the mistake of using the holy vessels that his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar stole from the temple in Jerusalem. As far as we know, Nebuchadnezzar committed no sacrilege with these hallowed temple vessels-to his credit. But Belshazzar? He could not have cared less. He wanted to drink, and he didn’t care into what kind of cup his servants poured the brew. Imagine the scene: Young Belshazzar is in charge of the affairs of state, but tonight he figures it’s time to have a party. He goes over the guest list, and probably says, “Well, with Dad out of the country on another campaign, this is my night to howl.”
And howl he did, starting by desecrating the Jewish temple vessels-goblets that told the story of God’s redemption through blood. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins].” The Jews also believed that blood makes an atonement for sins (Leviticus 17:11). These were holy utensils, not everyday cups and saucers. But Belshazzar ordered them to be filled with booze of all descriptions, much to the delight of his pagan friends who drank, laughed, and danced the night away. But no party lasts forever, and this one would be especially short-lived. Belshazzar would pay dearly for his sacrilege.
Booze was about to become a problem for the young ruler. Have you noticed in the age in which you and I live, that liquor is no less a problem? More than half of all our automobile accidents are alcohol-related. Booze has destroyed more families than anyone can imagine. Drinking has ruined careers, crippled relationships, and left otherwise sane people mentally incompetent. The warnings about alcohol have been in the Bible for thousands of years, and I think it’s important to quote a few verses to indicate what God thinks about the issue.
What God Says about Strong Drink
Proverbs 20:1 says,
“Wine is a mocker strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.“
Proverbs 23:29 reads,
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.“
That’s why Proverbs 31 commands:
“Look not on the wine when it is red.“
Juice was called wine. The writer of Proverbs said that when the wine turns red and ferments, don’t look at it!
It’s also the message of Proverbs 23:20,
“Be not among winebibbers [drinkers].”
Habakkuk 2:15 says,
“Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also.“
The judgment of God is upon those who drink, upon those who get drunk, and equally, upon those who serve strong drink to others to get them intoxicated. First Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 state that no drunkard can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he repents of this sin and turns to God.
Well, with that fusillade of verses on what God thinks about wine and strong drink, we note that Belshazzar was not only inebriated as he sat there on his elevated platform, surrounded by his many concubines who encouraged all-night drinking bouts with the guests, but he also added sacrilege to indignity by drinking his kingly brew out of precious vessels of redemption-goblets and temple-ware that represented eternal salvation. To top it off, he and his guests “drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (Daniel 5:4).During this orgy, God was watching the scene from the portals of heaven, and He was not pleased.
And we will pick-up our study next week with the handwriting on the wall.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE