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
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.