My King of Kings! Study Guide: Day Four

A Vacation Bible School Curriculum by Barry McWilliams
an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America

Daily Theme: God will bring judgement on those whose hearts persist in unrepentance and rebellion against Him.

BAD NEWS WRITTEN ON A WALL a story from Daniel 5. The supernatural handwriting on the wall - announces God's judgement [the immediate fall of Babylon] - at the height of a sinful king's rebellion and mockery of God, [Contrasting Nebuchadnezer with Belshazzar] - a prelude to the final judgement when God will come again in Glory and overthrown all man's attempts at kingdom.

Obj Lesson: He Knows what lies in Darkness and Light dwells with Him.

Study Guide:

Read Daniel 5 several times, taking appropriate notes. Check the time line for dates. When Nebuchadnezer died in 562 B.C., he was succeeded by a bloody series of several short-lived Kings. Daniel skips over them, choosing to focus on and contrast King Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezer.

In fact Belshazzer was a co-ruler under his father Nabonidus, and when he offers Daniel the third highest position in the kingdom that was the most he could offer for he was No. 2! There is no real difficulty in the references to Nebuchadnezer as his "father" (5:11; 18, 22) as the word refers to Nebuchadnezer as the "father" or "founder" of the Neo-Babylonian kingdom, being held up as an example of prudent rule.

This is 32 years after Nebuchadnezer's second dream - Daniel is 81 years old. But Belshazzer didn't know of him until informed of him by the Queen mother. (5:10) This chapter covers events which happened on one night of March, 538 B.C. Already defeated by the Medo-persians Belshazzar is holed up in his fortress, beseiged by the armies of Cyrus, under General Darius.

Read about Belshazzar, the Medes, the Persians and Cyrus the Great in a Bible dictionary or encylopedia.


1. How is Belshazzar responding to the seige of his citadel in Babylon?

Perhaps the period of tragedy that has followed Nebuchadnezer's death had its seeds in those 7 years of insanity when the king's hand was no longer on the helm. But then too, God had foretold the fall of this kingdom. (Isa 47, Jere 25:12-14) Daniel's troubled heart has received two visions during the reign of Belshazzer (chapters 7 & 8), both illustrating the wickedness and greed of man's kingdoms. God is reminding him that his hope must be fixed in the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Surrounded, defeated, impotent, hours away from complete disaster - still this pitiful prince plays monarch - throwing a tremendous banquet in grand style. Where Nebuchadnezer had nurtured education; discipline has been replaced with permissiveness and excess; the abuse of alcohol and flagrant partying with the king's harem. This is where a society goes apart from God.

2. What does the king use for tableware? Why? To what are they directing their toasts? Given the circumstances, is there sarcasm expressed?

Where Nebuchadnezer treated these with respect, Belshazzar uses them for a drunken orgy. There is no fear of God whatsoever in his heart. The wicked are often bold in treating anything associated with God with defiant sacrilege. The drunken toasts directed to his own gods were just as mocking and sacriligious.

"Belshazzar's behavior and Daniel's interpretation of it helps us understand the biblical teaching of what 'sin' is in its essential nature. Beshazzar knew what he was doing. (Vss 22,23) His sin was an absurb and deliberate choice of darkness over against the full shining of the light. What makes a sin really sin is the decision of the will, in the full light of knowledge, not to receive the grace of God, or to acknowledge his light, or to keep his law, but in hatred of Him to prefer darkness and lawlessness." Ronald S. Wallace, The Message of Daniel (Inter-Varsity Press: Bible Speaks Today Series, 1979) p. 99

3. What happened? Of the many present, who saw it happen? How did the King react? (Vss 6, 7, 9)

Belshazzar alone saw the fingers writing on the plaster of the wall of the great banquent room. But the writing was there for all to see.

4. The queen, Belshazzar's mother told him of Daniel? How does she describe him to Belshazzar? (vss 10-12)

While Daniel's wisdom and understanding had been developed with much study, it was his constant searching of the Word of God and his just as constant prayer for guidence that God blessed with the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems.

5. What does the King offer to Daniel? What does Daniel want?

Some people think they can buy their way out of any situation. Daniel, however can't be bought. His reward comes from his true Lord.

6. Why does Daniel recount the story of chapter 4 to Belshazzar? What does he accuse Belshazzar of doing?

This is the irrefutable word of judgement. Belshazzar knew of Nebuchadnezer's humbling, yet has rebelled against clear knowledge and reason. (Vs 22) He has chosen to set himself against God. Vs. 23 describes God's relationship to this drunken King as...? The king praised false gods - impotent man-made idols - yet mocked the true and all powerful God of heaven who holds his very life in His hands. The God of Daniel is the Lord of all men.

7. What was written on the wall and what did it mean? Does Daniel offer any hope of repentence and deliverance to Belshazzar?

The words are Hebrew words. In their noun form they indicate weights used in the market place on the scales. But Daniel picks up on the riddle of their verbal form. "Daniel's skill consisted in drawing the connection between the sign given and the doom he knew to be imminent." Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary: Daniel (Inter-Varsity, 1978) p. 124

Mene = "Numbered" Tekel = "assessed" Pares = "divided"

God's mercy is patient, but has it's limits. Weighed in God's scale, Belshazzar has failed repeatedly to tip the balance in his favor. Now his kingdom will be divided between the Medes and Persians.

"We can confidently assert that the affair of the writing on the wall was only the climax of a long process in which this man had come to know exactly what he was rejecting when he refused to follow the way of Nebuchadnezer." Wallace p. 93.

8. Why do you think did the King reward Daniel anyway?

To speak the truth to a frightened and drunken king - that His kingdom is weighed, wanting, divided - especially one who knew him not, took tremendous courage. Whatever the reason, when the city fell, welcoming its conquerors, in God's providence, Daniel, was vested with authority. His place in the government of Darius (6:2-3) was the work of God.

9. Why does this story come to such a sudden end?

God's judgement has come. Secular sources, which are not very clear, record that the Persians diverted the river which flowed under the walls through the city in order to gain access through the riverbed into the city. Apparently there was little fighting and resistence.

© 1988 Barry McWilliams and Mission Church Fellowship,
Hypertext Version © 1996 Barry McWilliams
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