Daniel Interprets the Vision
“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! The tree that you saw, which became great and grew strong, whose height reached to heaven and which was visible to all the earth, 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— 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. 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,” this is the interpretation, O king: It is the decree of the Most High [God], which has come upon my lord the king: 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. 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. 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
“All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the upper level of the royal palace of Babylon. 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?’ 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, 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.”’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was [a]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.
“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.
“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?’
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. 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.”
- 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.
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 [a]father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the [b]temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his [c]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 [d]third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not [e]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.
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. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is [f]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 [g]King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans and diviners. 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
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? 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. 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. 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.”
- Daniel 5:2 This Aramaic word (see note 2:4) may also mean “ancestor” (see vv 11, 13, 18).
- 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).
- Daniel 5:2 See note Gen 22:24.
- Daniel 5:7 Nabonidus was first, Belshazzar, his son, was second.
- 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.).
- Daniel 5:11 Or possibly the Spirit of the Holy God, and so throughout the chapter.
- Daniel 5:11 Twenty-three years have passed since Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 b.c.