Daniel 5: The Reason for Babylon’s Fall
May 16, 2015
When none of the wise men of Babylon were able to interpret the meaning of the handwriting on the wall, the king’s mother, Queen Nitocris, remembered Daniel. When we consider also her past building projects and preparations to fortify the city, it seems that she was the only one with any true wisdom in the room. Our respect for her deepens when she expresses her confidence in the forgotten prophet. Daniel 5:10-12 says,
10 The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods [or God]; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods [or God] were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans, and diviners. 12 This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems [“untying knots”] were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation.”
Nebuchadnezzar was not actually Belshazzar’s father. Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father, and even he was not descended from Nebuchadnezzar. The term “father” in those days was used for any ancestor or even a predecessor.
We can only speculate about the queen’s condition and state of mind at this point. Her husband, Nabonidus, was in hiding, having been defeated in battle. The Persian army was at the gates. She had constructed many twists and turns in the Euphrates as it passed through Babylon in order to make it more difficult to use ships in a siege of the city.
Yet suddenly at the banquet, she was the only one who calmly speaks truth and who remembers Daniel from previous spiritual crises. In Daniel 4 King Nebuchadnezzar had been warned to change his ways and to rule the kingdom according to the mind of God. When he failed to change his ways, he was humbled until he learned that there was a God in heaven who ruled as King of Kings.
But this had occurred many years earlier, and because Belshazzar himself had not had the same experience as his predecessor, the lesson was lost, and it appears that even Daniel himself was forgotten. Unfortunately for Belshazzar, the lesson that God had taught Nebuchadnezzar was not only for him personally but for the Kingdom of Babylon itself. This made Belshazzar just as accountable to God as Nebuchadnezzar had been to recognize the sovereignty of God.
The Failure of All Flesh
Because God had taken the Dominion Mandate from the king of Judah and had given it to the king of Babylon, this meant that the kings of Babylon became responsible to fulfill the terms of the Dominion Mandate. Genesis 1:28 tells us that this responsibility was to “subdue” the earth. Psalm 8:6 adds, “Thou hast put all things under his feet.” The Apostle Paul interprets this further, showing that Christ was the Heir of all things; and since the kingdoms of men had been unable to fulfill the terms of the Dominion Mandate, Christ Himself came to put all things under the feet of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).
The kingdoms of men fell, one after the other, because they refused to fulfill the terms of the Dominion Mandate. Such was a foregone conclusion, of course, but nonetheless, God chose them all in turn, giving each kingdom an opportunity to be “chosen” and to do what the “chosen people” were responsible to do.
And keep in mind that God had given the first opportunity to Judah. Judah was the first of the nations that failed to put all things under His feet. In the end, when all flesh has failed, Christ Himself will succeed, along with His Body, the saints of the Most High, who receive the Dominion Mandate after the kingdoms of men have failed fully (Daniel 7:22, 27).
Belshazzar Calls Daniel
Daniel 5:13-16 says,
13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?”
Apparently, Belshazzar had never met Daniel personally, because he did not know what the prophet looked like. Yet he had heard the stories from the past and knew how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled for about seven years.
14 “Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message.”
Today, the oligarchs of Mystery Babylon and of all major corporations all have astrologers on paid staff, advising them on the most favorable time (from the positions of the stars) to conclude any major business deals. But in the end, they too will fail to prevent the collapse of Babylon, because their Magi and conjurers do not know the mind of God. Their advice is based upon corporate and political self-interest and maintaining their positions of power, rather than upon fulfilling the terms of the Dominion Mandate.
16 But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.
Belshazzar assumed that the prophet—like himself—was interested in money and power. He assumed that the prophet—like the other wise men of Babylon—wanted to be recognized for his wisdom and promoted to a higher position in the government. But he was mistaken, as we read in Daniel 5:17,
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.”
Normally, to refuse a gift is insulting to the giver. But on this occasion the king was frightened enough to overlook the insult in order to know the meaning of the writing.
The Reason Babylon was being Sentenced
By this time Daniel must have seen the inscription on the wall and knew its meaning. He had a copy of Jeremiah’s writings (Daniel 9:2), and because he had been taken to Babylon toward the start of that kingdom, he certainly knew that the “seventy years” of Jeremiah’s prophecy was coming to a climax.
In Daniel 5:18-24 the prophet gives Belshazzar the reason for Babylon’s overthrow. He begins by reminding him of the lesson that God had taught his “father,” Nebuchadnezzar.
18 “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. 19 And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled.”
The kings of Babylon were absolute monarchs. They believed that they had the divine right to do as they pleased, and that God would back them whether their decisions were just or unjust. In fact, their definition of justice was based solely upon whether it was the will of the king or not. If he did it, it was justice. It was the same mindset spoken many years later by US President Nixon, in an interview with David Frost on May 19, 1977:
Nixon: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition.
Nixon: Exactly. Exactly.
King Nebuchadnezzar ruled by fear—at least until he was humbled by the hand of God. All men knew that their lives were in the king’s hands to do with as he wished. None of the kings consulted God in order to do the will of God as stewards of the throne. Instead, they ruled by their own wills, and it was assumed that God gave them that right.
Not only Belshazzar but all of the kings of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar had continued to misuse the Dominion Mandate, thinking that their thrones were theirs, rather than God’s. Unfortunately for Belshazzar, he was on the throne when Babylon’s time came to an end, and so he paid the debt for his sin and the sin of his predecessors. Daniel continues, reminding Belshazzar about Nebuchadnezzar’s experience:
20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him. 21 He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.”
These were strong words to speak to an absolute monarch who claimed the power of life and death over all of his subjects. Under normal circumstances, Belshazzar probably would have sentenced Daniel to death in the most painful manner possible.
22 Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven, and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified.
To drink the wine of Babylon from the vessels of the House of God prophesies also of the cause of the fall of Mystery Babylon. The wine of Babylon is false teaching. In particular, it manifests in the worship of the gods of silver, gold, bronze, etc. in the House of God itself. In other words, the House of God, which was designed to be a house of prayer for all people, today has become a house of merchandise, even as the temple had become in Jesus’ day (John 2:16). The New Testament presents this problem as the cause of the temple’s soon-coming destruction at the hands of the Roman army.
When Babylonian doctrines are taught in the House of God, the people drink the wine of Babylon in the vessels of God. This is why most of the Church itself is disqualified to rule in the Kingdom in the age to come. That honor is reserved for the saints of the Most High, who are the overcomers. For this reason the first resurrection is limited to a few, as I have explained in my book, The Purpose of Resurrection.
This is part 20 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones