There are a few issues to mention before we get into the text of Daniel chapter 5.
(1) People die.
Ge 3:22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
Because of sin, God decreed that man shall not live forever. In Genesis 5 we have a summary of the race from Adam … and the noticeable thing is that each person mentioned died. God was showing that sin has drastic consequences. You and I will die. People have tried to extend their lives with certain “pills” and by exercise and eating selected foods, but they die. They die because God said man will die. The saying goes … “There are two certainties in life. The one is that you will pay taxes and the other is that you will die.”
Now returning to the Book of Daniel and our theme … “Dare to be a Daniel”, we transition from chapter 4 to 5 without any mention that king Nebuchadnezzar died. In fact, he is not mentioned again … why? He died and Daniel, guided by the Holy Spirit does not see it as an important thing to mention. He’s death is not spoken of. In real life this is true for most of us. People die … important people die and all people die … and a fuss might be made at the funeral, eulogies are given, tomb stones are erected, memorial plaques are placed, mostly close family remember the deceased for a while (some forever), but generally a person dies and is soon forgotten. This might happen to you here on earth. We become overlooked because we served our purpose … and life goes on. This is however not true in Glory. In that Heavenly Land and Kingdom we live on and our names are known to God. We will be forgotten here but there we will be known!
(2) A new king appears without introduction. His name is Belshazzar. Manuscripts have been written about his name.
(a) Some say this was Belteshazzar (Daniel), whilst others say he was some other king. They say Daniel got it wrong here. Yet, this Script is part of the Holy Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is inerrant and authoritative.
(b) Even though many commentators argue against it, this king Belshazza is the son of Nebuchadnezzar. The linguistic tools used to analyze ancient historical documents, written in ancient languages are good, but when it comes to the Scriptures, additional tools must be used and if I might say, without being disrespectful, these tools are the rest of the Bible Book, The Bible, Prayer and wisdom and discernment provided by the true author of Scripture, The Holy Spirit. So the transition from chapter 4 to 5 contains all the information the Spirit wants us to know.
1) The setting of the chapter. Remember Nebuchadnezzar had come to acknowledge the sovereignty of the God of Heaven. Now we see his son is steeped in paganism.
Da 5:1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
There are a number of things to consider here …
(1) It was natural in those days to have huge royal feasts. In this case, a “thousand” people present, a number meaning huge. Some like Alexander had 10,000 at a wedding feast.
(2) The oriental custom was that the king’s table was set on a high platform where he could overlook his guests. (Maybe for protection as well).
(3) Although the meal was important, it was subsidiary to the “wine”. The predominant element of the feast was drinking wine. The king drank too. His elevated platform might well have been for the express purpose of safety because as the drinking progressed so did the debauchery. One commentator speaks of “the wickedness that followed”. We are so aware that many parties, feasts and celebrations have the consumption of alcohol as the dominant feature. Often debauchery in the shape of violence, abuse or sexual immorality follows.
2) Belshazzar started to experience the effects of the wine and lost the sense of decency and respect. When his father had conquered Judah, taken the people into exile and he looted the Temple, taking items dedicated to God and brought them to Babylon. Now his drunken son orders that these vessels be brought so that he and his key leadership together with his wives and his concubines drink from them.
(1) It was the custom in Babylonia to allow women to participate in their “drinking feasts”. Whilst I am not against moderate drinking by anyone old enough to do so and behave responsibly, I have noticed a sharp upswing of women meeting together at restaurants, ordering a bottle of wine and often more. This is before and during lunch time. A worrying sign I must say.
(2) The word “concubine” as used here refers to an inferior class of women housed at the harem with the wives for the benefit of the king. Although this king was a pagan, God’s words to Solomon remain true. Many wives was one of the reason for his downfall. (Today the KwaZulua-Natal premier handed six black Toyota Prados, each costing less that R800,000 to the late Zulu king’s queens (wives). I use this as an example of the cost of many wives to a state or provincial government that is actually footed by the people who pay taxes.)
(3) Drunken stupor led to the worship of pagan gods … such debauchery would include sexual immorality as part of worship. The three things to “take-away” today must be …
(a) Avoid drunkenness. It will ruin you.
(b) Avoid multiple partners, for some, polygamy (women – polyandry) … God’s design is a one husband one wife union for life.
(c) Avoid being a burden on the state’s coffers. Too many enjoy luxury at the expense of the destitute.
O Lord, help me to live under Your Lordship, depending upon You to provide for me and my family as I live a modest life being guided by the Holy Spirit for our Jesus’ sake. Amen.