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Daniel 5:1-5

Context
Belshazzar Sees Mysterious Handwriting on a Wall

5:1 King Belshazzar 1  prepared a great banquet 2  for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in front of 3  them all. 4  5:2 While under the influence 5  of the wine, Belshazzar issued an order to bring in the gold and silver vessels – the ones that Nebuchadnezzar his father 6  had confiscated 7  from the temple in Jerusalem 8  – so that the king and his nobles, together with his wives and his concubines, could drink from them. 9  5:3 So they brought the gold and silver 10  vessels that had been confiscated from the temple, the house of God 11  in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, together with his wives and concubines, drank from them. 5:4 As they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5:5 At that very moment the fingers of a human hand appeared 12  and wrote on the plaster of the royal palace wall, opposite the lampstand. 13  The king was watching the back 14  of the hand that was writing.

1 sn As is clear from the extra-biblical records, it was actually Nabonidus (ca. 556-539 B.C.) who was king of Babylon at this time. However, Nabonidus spent long periods of time at Teima, and during those times Belshazzar his son was de facto king of Babylon. This arrangement may help to explain why later in this chapter Belshazzar promises that the successful interpreter of the handwriting on the wall will be made third ruler in the kingdom. If Belshazzar was in effect second ruler in the kingdom, this would be the highest honor he could grant.

2 sn This scene of a Babylonian banquet calls to mind a similar grandiose event recorded in Esth 1:3-8. Persian kings were also renowned in the ancient Near Eastern world for their lavish banquets.

3 sn The king probably sat at an elevated head table.

4 tn Aram “the thousand.”

5 tn Or perhaps, “when he had tasted” (cf. NASB) in the sense of officially initiating the commencement of the banquet. The translation above seems preferable, however, given the clear evidence of inebriation in the context (cf. also CEV “he got drunk and ordered”).

6 tn Or “ancestor”; or “predecessor” (also in vv. 11, 13, 18). The Aramaic word translated “father” can on occasion denote these other relationships.

7 tn Or “taken.”

8 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

9 sn Making use of sacred temple vessels for an occasion of reveling and drunkenness such as this would have been a religious affront of shocking proportions to the Jewish captives.

10 tc The present translation reads וְכַסְפָּא (vÿkhaspa’, “and the silver”) with Theodotion and the Vulgate. Cf. v. 2. The form was probably accidentally dropped from the Aramaic text by homoioteleuton.

11 tn Aram “the temple of the house of God.” The phrase seems rather awkward. The Vulgate lacks “of the house of God,” while Theodotion and the Syriac lack “the house.”

12 tn Aram “came forth.”

13 sn The mention of the lampstand in this context is of interest because it suggests that the writing was in clear view.

14 tn While Aramaic פַּס (pas) can mean the palm of the hand, here it seems to be the back of the hand that is intended.



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