Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
HANDWRITING ON THE
DANIEL OF THE
1. Belshazzar--RAWLINSON, from the Assyrian inscriptions, has
explained the seeming discrepancy between Daniel and the heathen
historians of Babylon, BEROSUS and
ABYDENUS, who say the last king
(Nabonidus) surrendered in Borsippa, after Babylon was taken, and had an
honorable abode in Caramania assigned to him.
Belshazzar was joint king with his father (called Minus in the
inscriptions), but subordinate to him; hence the Babylonian account suppresses the facts which cast discredit on Babylon, namely,
that Belshazzar shut himself up in that city and fell at its capture;
while it records the surrender of the principal king in Borsippa
to Daniel). The heathen XENOPHON'S description of
Belshazzar accords with Daniel's; he calls him "impious," and
illustrates his cruelty by mentioning that he killed one of his nobles,
merely because, in hunting, the noble struck down the game before him;
and unmanned a courtier, Gadates, at a banquet, because one of the
king's concubines praised him as handsome. Daniel shows none of the
sympathy for him which he had for Nebuchadnezzar. XENOPHON confirms Daniel as to Belshazzar's end. WINER explains the "shazzar" in the name as meaning
made . . . feast--heaven-sent infatuation when his city was at the
time being besieged by Cyrus. The fortifications and abundant provisions
in the city made the king despise the besiegers. It was a festival day
among the Babylonians [XENOPHON].
drank . . . before the thousand--The king, on this extraordinary
occasion, departed from his usual way of feasting apart from his nobles
2. whiles he tasted the wine--While under the effects of wine, men
will do what they dare not do when sober.
his father Nebuchadnezzar--that is, his forefather. So "Jesus
. . . the son of David, the son of Abraham"
Daniel does not say that the other kings mentioned in other writers did
not reign between Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar, namely, Evil-merodach
Neriglissar, his brother-in-law, and Laborasoarchod (nine months).
BEROSUS makes Nabonidus, the last king, to have
been one of the people, raised to the throne by an insurrection.
As the inscriptions show that Belshazzar was distinct from, and joint
king with, him, this is not at variance with Daniel, whose statement
that Belshazzar was son (grandson) of Nebuchadnezzar is
corroborated by Jeremiah
Their joint, yet independent, testimony, as contemporaries, and having
the best means of information, is more trustworthy than any of the
heathen historians, if there were a discrepancy. Evil-merodach, son of
Nebuchadnezzar (according to BEROSUS), reigned but
a short time (one or two years), having, in consequence of his bad
government, been dethroned by a plot of Neriglissar, his sister's
husband; hence Daniel does not mention him. At the elevation of
Nabonidus as supreme king, Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar,
was doubtless suffered to be subordinate king and successor, in order
to conciliate the legitimate party. Thus the seeming discrepancy
becomes a confirmation of genuineness when cleared up, for the real
harmony must have been undesigned.
wives . . . concubines--not usually present at feasts
in the East, where women of the harem are kept in strict seclusion.
Hence Vashti's refusal to appear at Ahasuerus' feast
But the Babylonian court, in its reckless excesses, seems not to have
been so strict as the Persian. XENOPHON
[Cyropædia, 5.2,28] confirms Daniel, representing a feast
of Belshazzar where the concubines are present. At the beginning "the
for whom the feast was made, alone seem to have been present; but as
the revelry advanced, the women were introduced. Two classes of them
are mentioned, those to whom belonged the privileges of "wives," and
those strictly concubines
3. This act was not one of necessity, or for honor's sake, but in
4. praised--sang and shouted praises to "gods," which being of gold,
"are their own witnesses"
confuting the folly of those who fancy such to be gods.
5. In the same hour--that the cause of God's visitation might be
palpable, namely, the profanation of His vessels and His holy name.
fingers of . . . hand--God admonishes him, not by a dream (as
Nebuchadnezzar had been warned), or by a voice, but by "fingers coming
forth," the invisibility of Him who moved them heightening the awful
impressiveness of the scene, the hand of the Unseen One attesting his
doom before the eyes of himself and his guilty fellow revellers.
against the candlestick--the candelabra; where the mystic characters
would be best seen.
BARNES makes it the candlestick taken from the
temple of Jerusalem, the nearness of the writing to it intimating that
the rebuke was directed against the sacrilege.
upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace--Written in
cuneiform letters on slabs on the walls, and on the very bricks, are
found the perpetually recurring recital of titles, victories, and
exploits, to remind the spectator at every point of the regal greatness.
It is significant, that on the same wall on which the king was
accustomed to read the flattering legends of his own magnificence, he
beholds the mysterious inscription which foretells his fall (compare
part of the hand--the anterior part, namely, the fingers.
6. countenance--literally, "brightness," that is, his bright look.
joints of his loins--"the vertebræ of his back"
7. He calls for the magicians, who more than once had been detected
in imposture. He neglects God, and Daniel, whose fame as an interpreter
was then well-established. The world wishes to be deceived and shuts its
eyes against the light
[CALVIN]. The Hebrews think the words were
Chaldee, but in the old Hebrew character (like that now in the
third ruler--The first place was given to the king; the second, to
the son of the king, or of the queen; the third, to the chief of the
8. The words were in such a character as to be illegible to the
Chaldees, God reserving this honor to Daniel.
10. queen--the queen mother, or grandmother, Nitocris, had not
been present till now. She was wife either of Nebuchadnezzar or of Evil
merodach; hence her acquaintance with the services of Daniel. She
completed the great works which the former had begun. Hence
attributes them to her alone. This accounts for the deference paid to
her by Belshazzar.
Compare similar rank given to the queen mother among the Hebrews
11. spirit of the holy gods--She remembers and repeats Nebuchadnezzar's
(Da 4:8, 9, 18).
As Daniel was probably, according to Oriental custom, deprived of the
office to which Nebuchadnezzar had promoted him, as "master of the
at the king's death, Belshazzar might easily be ignorant of his
the king . . . thy father the king . . . thy father--The repetition
marks with emphatic gravity both the excellencies of Daniel, and the
fact that Nebuchadnezzar, whom Belshazzar is bound to reverence as his
father, had sought counsel from him in similar circumstances.
13. the captivity of Judah--the captive Jews residing in Babylon.
17. Not inconsistent with
For here he declares his interpretation of the words is not from the
desire of reward. The honors in
were doubtless urged on him, without his wish, in such a way
that he could not with propriety refuse them. Had he refused them after
announcing the doom of the kingdom, he might have been suspected of
cowardice or treason.
18. God gave--It was not his own birth or talents which gave him the
vast empire, as he thought. To make him unlearn his proud thought was
the object of God's visitation on him.
majesty--in the eyes of his subjects.
glory--from his victories.
honour--from the enlargement and decoration of the city.
19. A purely absolute monarchy
21. heart was made like . . . beasts--literally, "he made his heart
like the beasts," that is, he desired to dwell with them.
22. Thou hast erred not through ignorance, but through deliberate
contempt of God, notwithstanding that thou hadst before thine eyes the
striking warning given in thy grandfather's case.
23. whose are all thy ways--
24. Then--When thou liftedst up thyself against the Lord.
the part of the hand--the fore part, the fingers.
was . . . sent from him--that is, from God.
25. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin--literally, "numbered, weighed, and
26. God hath fixed the number of years of thine empire, and that number
is now complete.
27. weighed in the balances--The Egyptians thought that Osiris weighed
the actions of the dead in a literal balance. The Babylonians may have
had the same notion, which would give a peculiar appropriateness to the
image here used.
found wanting--too light before God, the weigher of actions
Like spurious gold or silver
28. Peres--the explanation of "dividers"
the active participle plural there being used for the passive
participle singular, "dividers" for "divided." The word "Peres"
alludes to the similar word "Persia."
divided--namely, among the Medes and Persians
[MAURER]; or, "severed"
from thee [GROTIUS].
29. Belshazzar . . . clothed Daniel with scarlet--To
come from the presence of a prince in a dress presented to the wearer
as a distinction is still held a great honor in the East. Daniel was
thus restored to a similar rank to what he had held under
Godly fidelity which might be expected to bring down vengeance, as in
this case, is often rewarded even in this life. The king, having
promised, was ashamed before his courtiers to break his word. He perhaps
also affected to despise the prophecy of his doom, as an idle threat. As
to Daniel's reasons for now accepting what at first he had declined,
compare Note, see on
The insignia of honor would be witnesses for God's glory to the world
of his having by God's aid interpreted the mystic characters. The
cause of his elevation too would secure the favor of the new
for both himself and his captive countrymen. As the capture of the city
by Cyrus was not till near daylight, there was no want of time
in that eventful night for accomplishing all that is here recorded. The
capture of the city so immediately after the prophecy of it (following
Belshazzar's sacrilege), marked most emphatically to the whole world
the connection between Babylon's sin and its punishment.
30. HERODOTUS and
XENOPHON confirm Daniel as to the suddenness of
the event. Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into a new channel and, guided
by two deserters, marched by the dry bed into the city, while the
Babylonians were carousing at an annual feast to the gods. See also
Isa 21:5; 44:27;
Jer 50:38, 39; 51:36.
As to Belshazzar's being slain, compare
Isa 14:18-20; 21:2-9;
Jer 50:29-35; 51:57.
31. Darius the Median--that is, Cyaxares II, the son and
successor of Astyages, 569-536 B.C. Though Koresh,
or Cyrus, was leader of the assault, yet all was done in the name of
Darius; therefore, he alone is mentioned here; but
shows Daniel was not ignorant of Cyrus' share in the capture of
Isa 13:17; 21:2,
confirm Daniel in making the Medes the leading nation in
destroying Babylon. So also
Jer 51:11, 28.
HERODOTUS, on the other hand, omits mentioning
Darius, as that king, being weak and sensual, gave up all the authority
to his energetic nephew, Cyrus [XENOPHON,
Cyropædia, 1.5; 8.7].
threescore and two years old--This agrees with
[Cyropædia, 8.5,19], as to Cyaxares II.