Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 18, Belshazzar Calls For Daniel

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 18
Belshazzar Calls For Daniel

A hand appeared and wrote on the wall during Belshazzar's drunken feast. Belshazzar's celebratory mood turns to fear. The words are in Aramaic, which he apparently cannot read, and he needs to know what the words are and what they mean for him.

"The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, 'Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom." (Daniel 5:7) Nabodinidus was first in the kingdom, his son Belshazzar co-reigned with him as second in the kingdom, and the man who interprets the writing is to be made third in the kingdom.

"Then all the wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. 'May the king live forever!' she said. 'Don't be alarmed! Don't look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means." (Daniel 5:8-12) Again we find Nebuchadnezzar being referred to as Belshazzar's father, but since there is archaeological proof that Belshazzar was the son of Nabodinidus, this is more a title of honor than of fact. There were some short-reigning kings in between Nebuchadnezzar and the co-regency of Nabodinius and Belshazzar, so naturally the queen would pass over those and compare her husband to the great Nebuchadnezzar. Some scholars believe this woman's identity is the queen-mother, that she is Belshazzar's mother and not his chief wife because we had been told his wives and concubines were already at the feast. The queen-mother would have been old enough to remember what Daniel had done for Nebuchadnezzar. Whatever her identity, she is the voice of reason and a comforting presence in the midst of the fear and confusion.

Daniel is a senior citizen by this time. The Babylonian captivity was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah to last seventy years and about fifty of these years have passed. Daniel was probably in his early teens when he was taken into captivity, so if we make a guess that he might have been thirteen when he came to Babylon, he would be about sixty-three now. He would be close to the age that United States citizens can sign up for Social Security and may have been semi-retired. Or it could be that in Belshazzar's administration he didn't hold the same position he held under King Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar doesn't seem to have ever met Daniel until now. "So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, 'Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?" (Daniel 5:13)

The king explains why he has called for Daniel. "I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom." (Daniel 5:14-16)

The king assumes Daniel is as motivated by greed as the other wise men and will work harder on the problem if he knows there is a reward. Daniel wants the king to know he cannot be bribed to tell anything but the truth. The message says what it says. He won't make up pretty words in order to allay the king's fears. "Then Daniel answered the king, 'You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means." 

Daniel is going to do his duty. When we study what he says to the king in tomorrow's passage, we will get the impression that Daniel may not respect the profane and blasphemous Belshazzar as a man, but he does respect his position as king. He will respectfully but truthfully point out Belshazzar's wrongdoing and the fact that he did not learn anything from what happened to the prideful Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is going to faithfully relate the message of the Lord to the king while the city, which Belshazzar thought so impregnable, is captured by an army.

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