Dn 5 Writing on Wall


Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein. . . . They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood and of stone. In the same hour, came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote, over against the candlestick, upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud, to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans and the sooth-sayers. . . . Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation. thereof. . . .

Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqu-house: and the queen spoke and said, . . . Let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation. Then was Daniel brought before the king. . .. Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another: yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.

O thou king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar, thy father, a kingdom, and majesty, and glory and honor…. But, when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him…. And thou, his son, a Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, and thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them : and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand is thy breath, and whose are all thy ‘ways, hast thou not glorified: then was the part of the hand sent from Him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene, God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres, thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians…In that night was Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, slain. And Darius, the Median, took the kingdom.-DANIEL v.

WHEN genuine love and faith cease, and the love of self prevails in the church, there grows up the spirit of Babylon, which is the love of ruling over others, especially of ruling over the souls of men; making dominion over others the secret end, and religion merely the means, And this spirit finally will profane the holy things of the Divine Word, and will exalt itself above the holy Word, and even above the Lord. And such a spirit will destroy the church in which it prevails.


Belshazzar, a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, is here called a son, in the general sense of a lineal descendant. The Chaldean name, Belshazzar, means a prince of God. It was nearly the same name as that given to Daniel, by the Chaldeans, when he and his companions were taken to Babylon. But we are to avoid confusing the two men, Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, and Belteshazzar, the Hebrew prophet, Daniel. Belshazzar, the king, was a man of sensuous tastes and habits, and a heathen idolater. He was living among the heathen ways of the ancient Orientals, including polygamy, and gross immorality, without any Christian standard of virtue.

While at one of his great feasts, and while under the influence of heavy drinking of wine, it occurred to him to give style to his carousal, by the use of the beautiful and valuable golden and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had stolen as plunder, from the altar of Jehovah, in the temple at Jerusalem. These sacred vessels, dedicated to worship of the true God, only, the king insolently used for the animal pleasures of a debauch, in a low-minded company. And such an act was sacrilege and profanation, which were intensified by the fact, that while drinking from the sacred vessels of the only true God, these Babylonians praised their own heathen idols, dead images, of gold, silver, etc., which had no life nor power.

As the text states that these Babylonians drank wine from the gold and silver vessels of Jehovah’s temple; and then that they praised the gods of gold and of silver, etc., we might, at first, naturally infer that they were praising the God to whom these gold and silver vessels belonged. But this was not the case. And the fact that these two passages about gold and silver happen to come into the text, nearly together, does not involve any such association. These heathen carousers were, practically, denying the true God, and expressing their contempt for Him.


And, while they were doing so, a vision of impending judgment was revealed to them. Their spiritual eyes were opened, and they, or some of them, including the king, saw a hand, writing some obscure words upon the wall of the room. Of course, this scene was in the spiritual world, and was revealed to the spiritual eyes of those who saw it. In the spiritual world, the plastic substances can be readily formed to represent anything which the Lord desires, and even the things which the angels think and feel, and desire to represent.

This scene greatly impressed the sensuous king. And, naturally, he called upon his wise men, to read and to interpret the mysterious writing. But they were not able to do so. But the queen, who had not been present at the carousal, but who had been attracted to the banquet-hall by the excitement of the occasion, suggested to the king that he should call Daniel, to interpret the writing. This queen was probably the queen-mother, and not one of the wives of the reigning king. And she was probably of a better personal character than the women who had been carousing, as is suggested by the facts that she was not invited to the feast, and that she cherished the memory of Daniel.

Daniel read and interpreted the writing on the wall; and he proclaimed a severe judgment against the king and his kingdom. And this judgment was literally fulfilled that very night, in the death of the king, and the taking of the kingdom, by Darius, the Mede, who had been besieging the city. This is the literal story, which is merely the outside of the more important spiritual story.


Babylon represents the selfish love of ruling over others. And the king of Babylon represents the leading false principle, which directs this evil love of rule. When we transfer the scene to the minds of men, a good feast is a reception of goodness and truth, of love and of wisdom, from the Lord. But evil men do not come together to receive goodness and truth from the Lord, but to feast on their own evils and falsities, which are opposed to the Lord’s principles.

When an evil man’s selfish love of ruling over others becomes active, the king, the leading false principle, makes a mental feast, and calls in all the lords of the land, which are the prominent principles of the natural mind; and all the princes, or all the leading truths; and his wives, or his natural affections; and his concubines, or his disorderly sensuous affections. When all these evils and falsities join in a mental feast, it is a debauch, a carousal, in which the laws of goodness and of decency are disregarded.

But, while an evil man’s mind may be in this condition, yet, he may know many true doctrines, drawn from the Word of the Lord, and taught in the church. And while he is under the influence of the wine, i.e., of truth such as he has, he seeks to make the true doctrines of the church agree with his own false notions. These doctrines of the church are the golden and silver vessels from the altar of the Lord, in His holy temple : i.e., from the Lord’s presence in the church. And the evil man’s own notions are the wine which he puts into the holy vessels of the Lord’s temple. The literal scene, of the king and his companions drinking their wine from the holy vessels stolen from the altar in the temple, is the graphic counterpart of the mental scene in the evil mind, which calls all its capacities to feast in evil and in sin, and yet seeks to force the teachings of the Lord to agree with its evil life.


When the heathen used the vessels of the Lord’s temple in their sensuous carousals, they committed an act of sacrilege, by abusing holy things. And so the human. mind which uses the Divine Truths to uphold and justify its own selfish evils, commits profanation, by the intentional abuse of known truths. These are the men who, in their own minds, “make the Word of God of none effect, by their traditions.”

And this sin of profanation is a most serious evil, because it is not done in the simplicity of ignorance, but in the duplicity of wilful evil. And the profound character of this evil is seen in the fact that the heathen, while drinking wine from the vessels of Jehovah, praised their own idols, mere images made of various metals, as well as of wood and of stone; dead things, which could do nothing. This is a picture of the man who, while he knows the truths of the Divine Word, and the doctrines of the church, yet uses these things of the Lord to deny the Lord’s supremacy ; and, in heart, to exalt himself above the Lord.


An idol of gold is the evil of self-love, in which the goodness of the Lord is profaned. An idol of silver is the falsity, which, in the mind worshipping this evil, destroys both the Divine Truth and the love of the neighbor. An idol of brass is the natural evil, evil on the natural plane, which is a corruption of that natural goodness which comes to men in keeping the Lord’s commandments. An idol of iron is a hard literal rule of conduct, which is opposed to the Divine rules for human life. An idol of stone is a literal statement accepted as a truth, and yet used in such a way as to make it false, in effect, An idol of wood is that which the man desires as good to his sensuous life, but which is not good according to the Divine standard.

And, for a man to praise all these idols, while drinking from the Lord’s vessels, is, for instance, to use the letter of the Divine Word to justify his own selfish evils of affection, and falsities of thought, and sins of conduct. And this, practically, is making a hell out of those things which the Lord gives us as a means of making a heaven within us. And this is abuse, sacrilege, profanation. It is putting self in the place of God, in our hearts, and in our thoughts. It is making a hell in our own hearts; i.e., in our own actual character, or quality of mind. It is living in coldness so dense that the Lord’s love can not warm it, and in a darkness so thick that His wisdom can not enlighten it; because these sources of life are shut out from the man’s mind. Thus the man fills up the measure of his evil character. He brings upon himself the judgment, which, necessarily, must come to things which have run their course.


The hand-writing on the wall of the palace proclaimed this judgment against the king and his kingdom, And the king saw the part of the hand which wrote on the wall; and he was greatly troubled. Even to the evil man, sunk into the lusts of sensuous life, there sometimes come warnings and premonitions of his self-imposed, impending fate, which the Lord, in His loving providence, has sought to prevent, but which the man determinedly prefers, in character and in life.

When a disturbing premonition of trouble comes to the evil man, naturally, he consults his own thoughts, and his self-interest, to think what may happen to him, For, naturally, in his mind, a sense of trouble means loss or trouble to his own evil and selfish qualities. It does not occur to him that the loss means his loss of spiritual life. And his self-dependence is represented by the king, Belshazzar, calling in his heathen astrologers, etc., to read and interpret the writing on the wall. And the fact that these heathen wise men could neither read nor interpret the writing, represents the spiritual fact that our own selfish notions and worldly ideas cannot point out to us the dangers of our selfish life, and our impending judgment.

But the queen-mother, who was not one of the carousers at the feast, remembered Daniel, the prophet of Jehovah; and sought him, to read and interpret the writing on the wall. This queen represents what there was remaining of the better nature, in the mind, the “remains” stored up by the Lord, especially in childhood; and by which the man could be led to look to the Lord, and to His holy Word, for light, in distress. And Daniel, the prophet, represents the Divine Word. And Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall, and plainly informed the king of his condition, and its results.


“Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” “Mene, God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it,” i.e., brought it to an end. We say, of anything which has come to its completion, or end, ” Its days are numbered.” “Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,” i.e., lacking in character. “Peres, thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

As to the literal sense, naturally we wonder why Daniel reads the writing as ” Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” but in explaining it, uses the word” Peres” instead of ” Upharsin.” There is no difficulty in this, but merely an idiom of language. The Book of Daniel is written in the ancient Chaldee, or Syrian. language. The word ” Upharsin” is a compound of two words, “U,” which means ” and,” and” pharsin” which means “dividing.” In our language, we would have written it in two words, “and dividing.” But, in the Chaldee, the word for “and” is joined to the following noun, and they are written in one word. Grammatically, the words “Mene” and “Tekel” are past participles, expressing things which have been done, i.e., numbered and weighed. But the word “pharsin” is an active present participle, meaning, “dividing,” that is they are now dividing your kingdom. But, when Daniel explained the meaning, instead of using the active present participle, “pharsin,” he used the past participle, “Peres,” meaning “have divided,” as if the Medes and Persians had already divided the kingdom.


Spiritually, to number is to estimate the character of a thing, as to whether it is true. And to weigh anything is to test its goodness. Thus the word “Mene” is explained by Daniel as meaning “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” Personally, a man’s own mind, his mental kingdom, is meant. And this is numbered; i.e., estimated as to the truth that is in it. And hen it has filled up the measure of its career, and has falsiied all truths which have come to its knowledge, its ways will be spiritually numbered, and its career finished, brought to an end, in the judgment.

“Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting;” i.e., thou art weighed as to character; as to goodness, and art found lacking in goodness, and without sincerity. “Jehovah is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.” (I. Samuel ii. 3.)

And Job says, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.” (Job xxxi. 6.)

“Peres, thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” And, spiritually, to divide the kingdom of the mind, is to destroy it, because a human mind truly and spiritually lives only when the Lord dwells in it, as His kingdom, And this kingdom must be in goodness and truth, united in life. But if the man separates the truth which he knows, from his heart, and from his life, he destroys his spiritual kingdom; because then the Lord can not dwell therein, as its King. And then the man’s mental kingdom is captured by his spiritual enemies, his own evil loves and false thoughts. The heathen Medes and Persians represent the evil states of a man’s mind, in which he separates charity and faith, or goodness and truth, and thus allows his mental kingdom to fall under the power of evil and falsity. And, in that dark night, the king is slain, by the loss of spiritual life.

These representative pictures teach every rational man that his spiritual manhood, and his future happiness, depend upon his daily resistance to the suggestions of self-love and its accompanying falsities. The spiritual world is all around us, as well as within us. And, every day of our life, each thing and circumstance presents, before us, a handwriting on the wall. And, if we were as wide-awake to our spiritual interests, as we are to our natural life, we could see the writing, and read the interpretation. And we should always find, on the walls of our life, a judgment written against everything in our character that is not good and true. To every such evil and falsity in our mind and life, comes the proclamation, ” Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” in every element of heavenly life. “Thy sorrow is incurable, for the greatness of thine iniquity.” (Jeremiah xxx, IS.)

Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903