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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 5

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1 KING Belshazzar gave a grand banquet for a thousand of his nobles and he was drinking wine in their presence. 2Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the vessels of gold and silver which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem to be fetched, so that he and his nobles, along with his concubines and courtesans, might drink from them. 3So those vessels belonging to the house of God, the temple at Jerusalem, were brought, and the king, the nobles, and the concubines and courtesans drank from them. 4They drank their wine and they praised their gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5Suddenly there appeared the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster of the palace wall opposite the lamp, and the king saw the palm of the hand as it wrote. 6At this the king turned pale; dismay filled his mind, the strength went from his legs, and his knees knocked together. 7He called in a loud voice for the exorcists, Chaldaeans, and diviners to be brought in; then, addressing Babylon's wise men, he said, ‘Whoever reads this writing and tells me its interpretation shall be robed in purple and have a gold chain hung round his neck, and he shall rank third in the kingdom.’ 8All the king's wise men came, but they could neither read the writing nor make known to the king its interpretation. 9Then his deep dismay drove all colour from King Belshazzar's cheeks, and his nobles were in a state of confusion.

10Drawn by what the king and his nobles were saying, the queen a 5:10 queen: or queen mother. entered the banqueting hall: ‘Long live the king!’ she said. ‘Why this dismay, and why do you look so pale? 11There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him; he was known in your father's time to possess clear insight and godlike wisdom, so that King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, appointed him chief of the magicians, exorcists, Chaldaeans, and diviners. 12This Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, is known to have exceptional ability, with knowledge and insight, and the gift of interpreting dreams, explaining riddles, and unravelling problems b 5:12 unravelling problems: or unbinding spells. ; let him be summoned now and he will give the interpretation.’

13Daniel was then brought into the royal presence, and the king addressed him: ‘So you are Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles whom my royal father brought from Judah. 14I am informed that the spirit of the gods resides in you and that you are known as a man of clear insight and exceptional wisdom. 15The wise men, the exorcists, have just been brought before me to read this writing and make known its interpretation to me, but they have been unable to give its meaning. 16I am told that you are able to furnish interpretations and unravel problems c 5:16 unravel problems: or unbind spells. . Now, if you can read the writing and make known the interpretation, you shall be robed in purple and have a gold chain hung round your neck, and you shall rank third in the kingdom.’ 17Daniel replied, ‘Your majesty, I do not look for gifts from you; give your rewards to another. Nevertheless I shall read your majesty the writing and make known to you its interpretation.

18‘My lord king, the Most High God gave a kingdom with power, glory, and majesty to your father Nebuchadnezzar; 19and, because of the power he bestowed on him, all peoples and nations of every language trembled with fear before him. He put to death whom he would and spared whom he would, he promoted them at will and at will abased them. 20But, when he became haughty and stubborn and presumptuous, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21He was banished from human society, and his mind became like that of an animal; he had to live with the wild asses and to feed on grass like oxen, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he came to acknowledge that the Most High God is sovereign over the realm of humanity and appoints over it whom he will. 22But although you knew all this, you, his son Belshazzar, did not humble your heart. 23You have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven; his temple vessels have been fetched for you and your nobles, your concubines and courtesans to drink from them. You have praised gods fashioned from silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which cannot see or hear or know, and you have not given glory to God, from whom comes your every breath, and in whose charge are all your ways. 24That is why he sent the hand and why it wrote this inscription.

25‘The words inscribed were: “Mene mene tekel u-pharsin.” 26Their interpretation is this: mene d 5:26 mene: that is numbered. , God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27tekel n 5:27 tekel: that is shekel or weight. , you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; 28u-pharsin e 5:28 u-pharsin: prob. rdg; Aram. peres. There is a play on three possible meanings: half-mina or divisions or Persians. , your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’ 29Then at Belshazzar's command Daniel was robed in purple and a gold chain was hung round his neck, and proclamation was made that he should rank third in the kingdom.

30That very night Belshazzar king of the Chaldaeans was slain, 31 f 5:31 In Aram. 6:1. and Darius the Mede took the kingdom, being then about sixty-two years old.

Notes:

a 5:10 queen: or queen mother.

b 5:12 unravelling problems: or unbinding spells.

c 5:16 unravel problems: or unbind spells.

d 5:26 mene: that is numbered.

e 5:27 tekel: that is shekel or weight.

f 5:28 u-pharsin: prob. rdg; Aram. peres. There is a play on three possible meanings: half-mina or divisions or Persians.

g 5:31 In Aram. 6:1.

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