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Daniel 5:1

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Belshazzar the king - See Introduction to the chapter, Section II. In the Introduction to the chapter here referred to, I have stated what seemed to be necessary in order to illustrate the history of Belshazzar, so far as that can be now known. The statements in regard to this monarch, it is well understood, are exceedingly confused, and the task of reconciling them is now hopeless. Little depends, however, in the interpretation of this book, on the attempt to reconcile them, for the narrative here given is equally credible, whichever of the accounts is taken, unless that of Berosus is followed. But it may not be improper to exhibit here the two principal accounts of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar, that the discrepancy may be distinctly seen. I copy from the Pictorial Bible. “The common account we shall collect from L‘Art de Verifier les Dates, and the other from Hales‘ “Analysis,” disposing them in opposite colums for the sake of comparison:

d Comparison of Historical Accounts of Nebuchadnezzar

d

d From L‘Art de Verifier From Hales's Analysis

d

d 605Nebuchacnezzar, who was succeeded by his son.604Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son.

d

d 562Evil-Merodach, who, having provoked general indignation by his tyranny and atrocities, was, after a short reign of about two years, assassinated by his brother-in-law.561Evil-Merodach, or Ilverodam, who was slain in a battle against the Medes and Persians, and was succeeded by his son.

d

d 560Nerigilassar, or Nericassolassar, who was regarded as a deliverer and succeeded by the choice of the nation. He perished in a battle by Cyrus, and was succeeded by his son.558Neriglissar, Niricassolassar, or Belshazzar, the common accounts of whom seem to combine what is said both of Neriglissar, and his son opposite. He was killed by conspirators on the night of the ‹impious feast,‘ leaving a son (a boy).

d

d 555Laborosoarchod, notorious for his cruelty and oppression, and who was assassinated by two nobles, Gobryas and Gadatas, whose sons he had slain. The vacant throne was then ascended by.553Laborosoarchod, on whose death, nine months after, the dynasty became extinct, and the kingdom came peaceably to ‹Darius the Mede,‘ or Cyaxares who, on the will-known policy of the Medes and Persians, appointed a Babylonian nobleman, named Nabonadius, or Labynetus, to be king, or viceroy. This person revotled against Cyrus, who had succeeded to the united empire of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus could not immediately attend to him, but at last marched to Babylon, took the city, b.c. 536, as foretold by the prophets.

d

d 554Nabonadius, the Labynetus of Herodotus, the Naboandel of Josephus, and the Belshazzar of Daniel, who was the son of Evil-Merodach, and who now succeeded to the throne of his

d

d 538father. After a voluptuous reign, his city was taken by the Persians under Cyrus, on which occasion he lost his life.

d

d

It will be observed that the principal point of difference in these accounts is, that Hales contends that the succession of Darius the Mede to the Babylonian throne was not attended with war; that Belshazzar was not the king in whose time the city was taken by Cyrus; and, consequently, that the events which took place this night were quite distinct from and anterior to that siege and capture of the city by the Persian king which Isaiah and Jeremiah so remarkably foretold.

Made a great feast - On what occasion this feast was made is not stated, but is was not improbably an annual festival in honor of some of the Babylonian deities. This opinion seems to be countenanced by the words of the Codex Chisianus, “Belshazzar the king made a great festival ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐγκαινισμοῦ τῶν βασιλείων en hēmera engkainismou tōn basileiōn ) on the day of the dedication of his kingdom;” and in Daniel 5:4 it is said that “they praised the gods of gold, of silver, and of brass,” etc.

To a thousand of his lords - The word thousand here is doubtless used as a general term to denote a very large number. It is not improbable, however, that this full number was assembled on such an occasion. “Ctesias says, that the king of Persia furnished provisions daily for fifteen thousand men. Quintus Curtius says that ten thousand men were present at a festival of Alexander the Great; and Statius says of Domitian, that he ordered, on a certain occasion, his guests ‹to sit down at a thousand tables.‘ “ - Prof. Stuart, in loc.

And drank wine before the thousand - The Latin Vulgate here is, “And each one drank according to his age.” The Greek of Theodotion, the Arabic, and the Coptic is, “and wine was before the thousand.” The Chaldee, however, is, as in our version, “he drank wine before the thousand.” As he was the lord of the feast, and as all that occurred pertained primarily to him, the design is undoubtedly to describe his conduct, and to show the effect which the drinking of wine had on him. He drank it in the most public manner, setting an example to his lords, and evidently drinking it to great excess.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 94

Verse 1

The chief feature of interest pertaining to this chapter is the fact that it describes the closing scenes of the Babylonish empire, the transition from the gold to the silver of the great image of chapter 2, and from the lion to the bear of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7. This feast is supposed by some to have been a stated annual festival, in honor of one of their deities. On this account, Cyrus, who was then besieging Babylon, learned of its approach, and knew when to lay his plans for the overthrow of the city. Our translation reads that Belshazzar, having invited a thousand of his lords, drank before the thousand. Some translate it, “drank against the thousand,” showing that whatever other propensities he may have had, he was, at least, an enormous drinker.DAR 94.2

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Belshazzar bade defiance to the judgments of God. Most historians consider that Cyrus then besieged Babylon. Security and sensuality are sad proofs of approaching ruin. That mirth is sinful indeed, which profanes sacred things; and what are many of the songs used at modern feasts better than the praises sung by the heathens to their gods! See how God struck terror upon Belshazzar and his lords. God's written word is enough to put the proudest, boldest sinner in a fright. What we see of God, the part of the hand that writes in the book of the creatures, and in the book of the Scriptures, should fill us with awful thoughts concerning that part which we do not see. If this be the finger of God, what is his arm when made bare? And what is He? The king's guilty conscience told him that he had no reason to expect any good news from heaven. God can, in a moment, make the heart of the stoutest sinner to tremble; and there needs no more than to let loose his own thoughts upon him; they will give him trouble enough. No bodily pain can equal the inward agony which sometimes seizes the sinner in the midst of mirth, carnal pleasures, and worldly pomp. Sometimes terrors cause a man to flee to Christ for pardon and peace; but many cry out for fear of wrath, who are not humbled for their sins, and who seek relief by lying vanities. The ignorance and uncertainty concerning the Holy Scriptures, shown by many who call themselves wise, only tend to drive sinners to despair, as the ignorance of these wise men did.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Belshazzar the king made a great feast - This chapter is out of its place, and should come in after the seventh and eighth. There are difficulties in the chronology. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach his son ascended the throne of Babylon. Having reigned about two years, he was slain by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar. He reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod, who reigned only nine months. At his death Belshazzar the son of Evil-merodach, was raised to the throne, and reigned seventeen years, and was slain, as we read here, by Cyrus, who surprised and took the city on the night of this festivity. This is the chronology on which Archbishop Usher, and other learned chronologists, agree; but the Scripture mentions only Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, and Belshazzar, by name; and Jeremiah, Jeremiah 27:7, expressly says, "All nations shall serve him (Nebuchadnezzar), and his son (Evil-merodach), and his son's son (Belshazzar), until the very time of his land come;" i.e., till the time in which the empire should be seized by Cyrus. Here there is no mention of Neriglissar nor Laborosoarchod; but as they were usurpers, they might have been purposely passed by. But there remains one difficulty still: Belshazzar is expressly called the son of Nebuchadnezzar by the queen mother, Jeremiah 27:11; : "There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and in the days of Thy Father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him: whom the king Nebuchadnezzar Thy Father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians." The solution of this difficulty is, that in Scripture the name of son is indifferently given to sons and grandsons, and even to great grandsons. And perhaps the repetition in the above verse may imply this: "The king, Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king thy father." The king thy father's father, and consequently thy grandfather. If it have not some such meaning as this, it must be considered an idle repetition. As to the two other kings, Neriglissar and Laborosoarchod, mentioned by Josephus and Berosus, and by whom the chronology is so much puzzled, they might have been some petty kings, or viceroys, or satraps, who affected the kingdom, and produced disturbances, one for four years, and the other for nine months; and would in consequence not be acknowledged in the Babylonish chronology, nor by the sacred writers, any more than finally unsuccessful rebels are numbered among the kings of those nations which they have disturbed. I believe the only sovereigns we can acknowledge here are the following:

  1. Nabopolassar;
  • Nebuchadnezzar;
  • Evil-merodach
  • Belshazzar; and with this last the Chaldean empire ended.
  • To a thousand of his lords -

    Perhaps this means lords or satraps, that were each over one thousand men. But we learn from antiquity that the Persian kings were very profuse in their entertainments; but it does not follow that the Chaldeans were so too. Besides, one thousand lords and their appropriate attendants would have been very inconvenient in a nocturnal assembly. The text, however, supports the common translation. Literally, "Belshazzar the king made bread for his lords a thousand; and against the thousand he drank wine." That is, say some, he was a very great drinker.

    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 162

    Ignorance is no excuse now for the transgression of law. The light shines clearly, and none need be ignorant, for the great God Himself is man's instructor. All are bound by the most sacred obligations to God to heed the sound philosophy and genuine experience which He is now giving them in reference to health reform. He designs that the great subject of health reform shall be agitated and the public mind deeply stirred to investigate; for it is impossible for men and women, with all their sinful, health-destroying, brain-enervating habits, to discern sacred truth, through which they are to be sanctified, refined, elevated, and made fit for the society of heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory. 3T 162.1

    The inhabitants of the Noachian world were destroyed because they were corrupted through the indulgence of perverted appetite. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed through the gratification of unnatural appetite, which so benumbed the intellect that they could not discern the difference between the sacred claims of God and the clamor of appetite. The latter enslaved them, and they became so ferocious and bold in their detestable abominations that God would not tolerate them upon the earth. God ascribes the wickedness of Babylon to her gluttony and drunkenness. 3T 162.2

    The apostle Paul exhorts the church: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Men, then, can make their bodies unholy by sinful indulgences. If unholy, they are unfitted to be spiritual worshipers and are not worthy of heaven. If man will cherish the light that God in mercy gives him upon health reform, he may be sanctified through the truth and fitted for immortality. But if he disregards that light and lives in violation of natural law he must pay the penalty. 3T 162.3

    God created man perfect and holy. But man fell from his holy estate because he transgressed God's law. Since the Fall there has been a rapid increase of disease, suffering, and death. Yet notwithstanding man has insulted his Creator, God's love is still extended to the race; and He permits light to shine that man may see that in order to live a perfect life he must live in harmony with those natural laws which govern his being. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that he know how to live so that his powers of body and mind may be exercised to the glory of God. 3T 162.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 102

    “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side?” The trumpeters caught up the words, and sounded them through the trumpet, “Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” All who were repentant had the privilege of taking their stand beside Moses. “And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.” There was no partiality, no hypocrisy, no confederating to shield the guilty. For the terror of the Lord was upon the people. TM 102.1

    Those who had shown so little sense of the presence and the greatness of God, and who, after the exhibition of His majesty, were ready to depart from the Lord, would be a continual snare to Israel. They were slain, as a rebuke to sin, and to put a fear upon the people to dishonor God. TM 103.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Christ's Object Lessons, 259

    To live for self is to perish. Covetousness, the desire of benefit for self's sake, cuts the soul off from life. It is the spirit of Satan to get, to draw to self. It is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice self for the good of others. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12. COL 259.1

    Wherefore He says, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” COL 259.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Medical Ministry, 151

    Christian physicians need to pray—to watch unto prayer. Before them is opened a door for many temptations, and they need to be awakened to a lively sense that there is a Watcher by their side, as surely as there was a Watcher at that sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar, when men praised the gods of silver and gold and drank from the sacred vessels of the temple of God. When men take honor to themselves, they are dishonoring God. MM 151.1

    Whenever one by any action leads men to be forgetful of God, or to neglect the plain injunctions of His word, the unseen Witness testifies, as in the writing on the walls of the palace, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” Daniel 5:27.—Manuscript 17, 1890. MM 151.2

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