DANIEL 5      Other translations  -  previous  -  next  -  Daniel  -  BM Home  -  Full Page

CHAPTER V. BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST

  1. Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of
  2. his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his lords, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein.
  3. 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 lords, his wives and his
  4. concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood,
  5. and of stone. In the same hour came forth the fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king
  6. saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed in him, and his thoughts troubled him; and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote
  7. one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about
  8. his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation.
  9. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were perplexed.
  10. Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: the queen spoke and said, O king, live for ever; let not your thoughts trouble you,
  11. nor let your countenance be changed: there is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him: and the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made him master of the magicians, enchanters. Chaldeans,
  12. and soothsayers; for as much as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of dark sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.
  13. Then was Daniel brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, Art you that Daniel, which are of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my
  14. father brought out of Judah? I have heard of you, that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding
  15. and excellent wisdom is found in you. And now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the
  16. interpretation of the thing. But I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if you can read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, you shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about your neck, and shall be the third
  17. ruler in the kingdom. Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; nevertheless I will read the writing to the
  18. king, and make known to him the interpretation. O you king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father
  19. the kingdom, and greatness, and glory, and majesty: and because of the greatness that he gave him, all the peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he raised up, and whom he would he
  20. put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened that he dealt proudly, he was deposed from
  21. his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: and he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; he was fed with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven: until he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and that he
  22. sets up over it whomsoever he will. And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew
  23. all this; but have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine in them; and you have praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, have you
  24. not glorified: then was the part of the hand sent from
  25. before him, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed, mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.
  26. This is the interpretation of the thing: mene; God has
  27. numbered your kingdom, and brought it to an end. tekel; you are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.
  28. peres; your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes
  29. and Persians. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with purple, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made proclamation concerning him, that he
  30. should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night
  31. Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

 

REFERENCES.
Verses. Numbers.
1-4. P. P.
1-5 and following AR 459
1 and following AE 587
1 to end AC 1326; L. J. 54; AR 717; AE 1029; Dict. P. 12
1, 2, 25-28 AR 313
2. AR 913
2-4 HH 365; AE 220
2-5 AR 316
2 and following AC 3079; AE 242
2-4 and following AC 10227
2-5, 21 AE 376
2-4, 23 AC 8932
2-4, 25, 28 AC 9093
2, 5, 25, 26 AE 453
2, 5, 27 AR 364
3-5 AC 1183
5,6 P.P.
7-9. P.P.
10-24. P. P.
11 AC 5223
l1, 12, 14 D. L. & W. 383
12,14 AC 9818; TCR 156; AE 183
23 AE 1029
25 AC 10217
25-28 AC 3104; AE 373; P.P.
25, 30 AR 316
29, 30 P. P.
30 AC 3079
Chapter cited. TCR 754

COMMENTARY: Belshazzar's Feast.

we have considered what is said of Nebuchadnezzar in the first four chapters of this book of Daniel. This king now passes out of sight at the end of the fourth chapter. It is a little remarkable that nothing is said of his death. His reason returned to him, and it is said that "he praised, extolled, and honored the King of heaven," but we are not told how he came to his end.

When it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, "you are this head of gold" (chap. ii. ver. 28), he represents the highest principle the love of good derived from the Lord and the desire that this principle should rule among men. But this principle when perverted becomes the love of dominion from the love of self, which destroys the church. The successive states of vastation through which the church passes, are denoted by the things that are related of Nebuchadnezzar. His insanity is that which arises from the exercise of this evil love. But he passed away before the final judgement came. He is believed to have reigned forty-four years.

A deeper state of evil, a lower degree of profanation was successively reached, and this is represented by what is said of Belshazzar, Regent of Babylon, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. There were four successors of Nebuchadnezzar who occupied the throne for brief periods after his death. These were Evil Merodach, Neriglissar, Laborosarchod, and Nabonidus.

The last named, a usurper, married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. His eldest son was Belshazzar (prince of God), who seems to have shared the throne with his father, or at least governed in the city of Babylon at the time of the invasion of Babylonia by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus. When this invasion began, and the invading army neared the city, Nabonidus fled to Borsippa, an outlying suburb of Babylon, where he submitted to the conquerors, while Belshazzar remained in the city, apparently ignorant of his impending fate.

In the light of these statements the apparent discrepancies in this fifth chapter of the book of Daniel are removed. The identity of Belshazzar with the son of Nabonidus is now established by the inscriptions on the clay cylinders discovered in Babylon.

What then does he represent, and what is the significance of that great feast and the words of judgement seen written upon the wall of the banquet chamber of his palace?

Belshazzar seems to have been a more degraded character than Nebuchadnezzar. He was given up to licentiousness and excess. Like the man spoken of in the Gospel, he said to himself, "Soul, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry," not knowing that the Lord would say, "You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you." The tendency of the love of self which seeks power in the world is to degrade man more and more until he gives himself up to the indulgence of his corporeal and sensual appetites and passions. The greatest tyrants have become like beasts. So debasing is the infernal lust of dominion. And when those who have known the sacred value of the truth and the holiness of heavenly things use these things to minister to their own pleasure and to gratify their ambition, they are guilty of the sin of profanation, out of which they cannot be delivered. The lot of profaners in the other life is the worst of all.

Now let us turn to the narrative. "Belshazzar made a feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand." This is the initial verse of the chapter. The fact that nothing is related in this book of the previous life of Belshazzar, or of his acts and doings, or of the others who ruled after Nebuchadnezzar, does not require explanation. We need only refer to the general statement, already given in previous notes, that the Word was written for the sake of its spiritual meaning; that it is not, strictly speaking, a connected historical relation, and that only such things are recorded as are needed to convey spiritual truths relating to the church and to man's spiritual history.

A feast denotes the appropriation of good and true principles of life from the Lord, who is the source of all life, and at the same time the communication of these good and true things to others from a state of mutual love. But in an opposite sense it denotes the appropriation of what is evil and false.

When man profanes what is true and adulterates what is good, he takes delight in their opposites, and brings them forth in every possible form of self indulgence, associating with those who are in similar evil and falsity. To drink wine does not always mean to appropriate what is false; for wine in a good sense denotes truth derived from the Word and seen in spiritual light, that is in its relation to the good of life, while in an opposite sense it denotes truth falsified and used to confirm what is evil. This latter is the wine of Babylon, or the wine of abomination, with which the nations have become drunken. Those who are in the love of ruling over others come into states of spiritual drunkenness. The mention of a thousand lords, to whom Belshazzar made his feast, denotes a full and complete state of profanation, when every truth is falsified and every good adulterated.

This is the end or spiritual consummation of the Church, when the Lord is wholly rejected and every religious principle is denied, even though it may be outwardly acknowledged. This state can only be known to the Lord, or to those to whom He has revealed it.

What now follows in the text shows in what manner this evil of profanation takes hold of holy things that relate to the church and its Divine worship, and uses them to promote its own selfish delights.

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 lords, 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 lords, 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. (Ver. 2.)

Here we have exhibited the spirit of profanation and idolatry. The vessels of gold and silver which had been used in the temple service at Jerusalem represented the good and true principles from which man acknowledges and worships the Lord, and by which he is kept in a state of charity and faith. These Babylonians used these vessels for the purpose of gratifying their corporeal appetites, thus profaning holy things. In the representative worship of the Jewish Church these vessels themselves were holy because they contained the wine which corresponded to the pure and holy truths of the Word derived from the Lord, which nourish and sustain man's spiritual life. But now they were used as symbols of the false, worship of those who are in the love of self. The good is mixed with evil and the true with the false.

The holy vessels in Jerusalem were carried away more than once. Ahaz took the silver and the gold from the house of the Lord and sent it to the Kings of Assyria (2 kings 16:8), Nebuchadnezzar took away what remained (dan. 2:2. See also jer. 26:18-22; jer. 53:17, 24; 2 kings 24:13. We read of their restoration in ezra 1:7-1.

The gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone were real images or idols, and they correspond to the false imaginations and conceits of every degree, celestial, spiritual, and natural, derived from evil affection and a perverted application of the truth. The different degrees of good and truth, thus turned into evil and falsity, which become objects of iron's affection and delight, are the gold and silver, the brass and iron, the wood and stone. The lowest state of evil and thus the end of the church is reached when all the principles of religion, even down to the things which relate to a man's natural life in the world, are made subservient to his selfish delight and pleasure. Whether we apply this to the individual life or to the church as a whole, we may see that the teaching is the same. The Christian Church reached its lowest state when its priests and rulers profaned its holiest truths and mixed, them with their selfish evil loves, their very outer lives furnishing scenes of drunkenness and crime.

The time of visitation and judgement is now at hand.

In the same hour came forth the fingers of a man's hand and wrote over against the candlestick, upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (Ver. 5.)

This was a revelation manifested by an outward spiritual appearance. It was an actual manifestation of the Divine power, a visitation of God preparatory to the final judgement that awaited the wicked and degraded king and people who were revelling in their mad passion and lust.

All judgement is effected by a revelation of Divine Truth, and in the spiritual meaning this is signified by the handwriting on the wall.

It was seen over against the candlestick, which represents the false light of a consummated church. This spiritual appearance was seen by Belshazzar, and it produced fear and trembling. "Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him; and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another." The effect of the light upon the wicked is to produce fear and to interrupt the influx of life, thus destroying their power. When man is deprived of the power of exercising his evil loves, his physical nature gives way and he becomes weak, the joints are loosened.

As in the case of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers are called in to read the writing and to give the interpretation. If we understand Babylon to mean the church, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church when it was sunk under the evil of the love of dominion by which its worship became profane and it came to an end, we will interpret the conduct of Belshazzar to represent the acts of the rulers of that church, previous to the Last Judgement, before the Lord had revealed the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem.

They could not understand the spiritual meaning of the Word, in which the church is condemned as to its evil dominion. It is the same with every individual. When man becomes immersed in evil, he fails to see or to understand the signs of the coming judgement upon his own life. The wise men of Babylon represent the scholars and divines in the church who are appealed to to explain the meaning of the Word. The revelation must come from the Lord, who is represented by Daniel, and by those who are enlightened by Him. No others can open the book.

Now it is said that when these wise men failed, the queen said to the king, after reciting what Daniel had done in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, "Let Daniel be called and he will show the interpretation." The queen here represents the remaining affection in the church, from which some are led to seek the truth from the Word and to understand its meaning. Unless there were some remains of good at the end of the church none could be saved.

Daniel was gifted by the Lord with knowledge and wisdom which enabled him to see the handwriting and tell its meaning. His spiritual sight was opened, so that he could see the handwriting, and at the same time explain the meaning of the inscription: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." "Mene: God has numbered your kingdom and brought it to an end. Tekel: You are weighed in the balances and are found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Now we must not mistake the character of Daniel's vision, or attribute to him the power of understanding the spiritual meaning of this sentence as applicable to the state of the church at the time of its judgement. As in the case of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams and their interpretation, Daniel's language seems to point only to the downfall of an earthly kingdom. It did so point. This was its lowest meaning. But this earthly kingdom was representative, and purely so, of the reign of the evil love of dominion in the human heart wherever it prevails. The natural power is only a type of the spiritual, and this whole account was written for the sake of revealing the state of the church at its end, and not to give us the history of Belshazzar, as an earthly king.

The words, "God has numbered your kingdom and brought it to an end," have reference to the quality of the church signified by Babylon, that it is destitute of any truth; there was no truth remaining in it, at its consummation. To number, in the language of the Word, signifies to judge of the quality or state of the church as to truth. The Lord alone can do this. He alone reveals the state of the church. The handwriting on the wall is the Lord's own judgement made known in the Word. The words, "You are weighed in the balances and are found wanting," refer to the state of the church as to the principle of good; "you are found wanting" meaning that there is no good remaining with those who are of the church. There was a complete vastation of the church, although there were some nominally members of it who were not spiritually a part of it. This was the case at the end of the Jewish Church.

The third clause of the sentence is, "Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." Here we may again fall into the supposition that this language refers merely to the transfer of the Babylonian Empire to the Medo-Persian power. This transfer did take place, but such an event has little meaning for us now unless we see what it represents. Judgement upon the state of the church when it comes to an end is always followed by division and dispersion, and when one religion loses its sway over the minds of men another takes its place, but the final consummation does not come until both the will and understanding are destroyed, when there is no longer remaining any love of good or any understanding of truth. The power of Babylon was overthrown in the night, and Belshazzar was slain. But the kingdom was transferred to another who was not less inclined to claim the homage of men. We are told in the sixth chapter that Darius, the Mede, required to be worshiped as a god. This was profanation, but it was that kind of profanation which comes from the exaltation of the human intellect.

Looking for a fulfillment of these sayings of the book of Daniel in the history of the Christian Church, we see that when the church came to an end through the exercise of the love of dominion with the Roman Catholics, then faith alone reared its head, and it was not until this kingdom of error was set up, which was also accompanied by the loss of charity, that the final consummation came, and the judgement was fulfilled, signified by the words of the handwriting on the wall of the king's palace. The kings of Media and Persia, we are told, represent those who are in faith separate from charity. (See Doctrine concerning Faith, No. 66.)

But the reign of Cyrus, who conquered so many kingdoms and restored the Jews to their own land, has another and a different meaning, as we shall show hereafter.

The command of Belshazzar to clothe Daniel with scarlet, to put a gold chain about his neck, and to make him the third ruler in the kingdom, is only the enforced respect of one who is compelled to acknowledge the power of Divine truth against the desires of his own heart. The particulars of the capture of the City of Babylon by the invading army by night, are not given in this book, although secular history tells us that the forces gained entrance into the city by turning the waters of the Euphrates into a lake. The magnificence and grandeur of this great city, the descriptions of which almost exceed belief, find some confirmation in the allusions to it in the Book of Revelation, where it symbolizes the power of the church in which the evil of dominion holds absolute sway.

This is Babylon the Great which has fallen. (See jer. ii., rev. xvii. and xviii.)

It is worthy of note that the thirty-first or concluding verse of the fifth chapter of this book of Daniel is placed by Swedenborg as the initial verse of the sixth chapter. And this seems to be its proper place, if the arrangement into chapters is to be regarded, for it tells of the beginning of the new reign.

"And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old."

 

DANIEL 5    Other translations  -  previous  -  next  -  Daniel  -  BM Home  -  Full Page