Daniel 5:29-31; Sovereign God of History ~ 20211107 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

11/07_Daniel 05:29-31; Sovereign God of History; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211107_dan05_29-31.mp3

In the face of imminent danger (the Persian army was camped outside the walls of Babylon), Belshazzar had arrogantly attempted to display his dominance over the conquered people of Israel and their God by drinking wine from God’s holy vessels with his lords, his wives and his concubines. But instead of a show of power, he was humiliated in front of his thousand. God disrupted his party by writing in the plaster of his party room ‘Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.’ The king lost control of himself. He shouted for his wise men to interpret the writing, but all they could do was admit their incompetence.

Then the queen mother entered and reminded the king:

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

So Daniel was summoned, and after declining the king’s offer of gifts, he rebuked the king with a history lesson. Daniel reminded the king of Nebuchadnezzar, who because of his pride was driven insane for 7 years:

Daniel 5:21 ...until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

This king who had arrogantly put Daniel in his place now had to listen to a lecture from this exile from Judah. The king was displayed as lacking in both power and wisdom, dependent on this exile to read to him and give him the interpretation of the writing. He was put in his place by this prophet of the living God. Daniel then read the writing.

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Your days are numbered. You have been weighed, evaluated by God and you have fallen short. Your reign is over; God is giving your kingdom to someone else.

Exile Honored

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Many have asked why Daniel received these honors after earlier refusing them. But Daniel may not have had a choice. The king had made a promise in front of his thousand, and he would have been obliged to keep his word. This verse describes what was done to Daniel, not how Daniel responded to this treatment. His earlier up front rejection of the offer of gifts demonstrated that he would not be bought; he was not interested in the king’s gifts, they would not compromise his telling of the truth to the king, as became obvious by his straightforward interpretation of the writing.

But there may be something bigger going on here. The book of Daniel opens with this statement:

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

The first thing we see is the king of Babylon conquering Jerusalem, taking the holy vessels, and also taking

Daniel 1:3 ...some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

These youths were to be thoroughly reprogrammed, indoctrinated, Babyon-ized. But a few of these youth refused to compromise and stood firm in their faith in YHWH, regardless of the cost. Now, 66 years later (605-539BC), Daniel was still found faithful. The Lord’s holy vessels had been defiled, and Daniel had been disrespected by Belshazzar, but the final official act on the final night of the kingdom of Babylon, Daniel the exile was honored by the final king of the Babylonian dynasty.

When all seems hopeless and out of control, is God still in control? Nebuchadnezzar learned that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will’ (4:32); that he ‘lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation’ (4:34). God can raise up whom he will, and humble whom he will (5:19); and at the close of the Babylonian empire, he humbled proud Belshazzar and lifted up dishonored Daniel.

Stubborn and Unrepentant

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Belshazzar honored Daniel. What is missing here is any acknowledgment of God. In chapter 2, when Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream,

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

In chapter 3, when the three came through the fire unharmed,

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 ...there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

In chapter 4, after he had lived like a beast for 7 years,

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

Nebuchadnezzar was humbled. He honored Daniel and his friends, and he blessed and praised and honored the one true God. Belshazzar kept his word and honored Daniel, but even to the end he refused to bow the knee to God.

Darius the Mede

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We don’t know with certainty who this Darius was. But many were skeptical of the existence of Belshazzar until 1854 when the first of several cylinders inscribed with his name was unearthed in the ruins of Ur and then Sippar and other cities. We do know that this is not the same Darius mentioned in Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. That is Darius 1 Hystaspes, who ruled 17 years later (522-486).

We do know that Babylon was taken by Gubaru or Gobryas, who governed Babylon from 539 to at least 525/524BC. Many important people in history were known by different names, and it is possible that this Gubaru was also known as Darius, although we have no evidence of this. Verse 31 says that he ‘received the kingdom’. This could mean that he was entrusted with the kingdom by Cyrus his superior, or it could be a theological statement that he received the kingdom from God, as the beginning of the book Daniel tells us that ‘the Lord gave the king of Judah into his hand’.

Another more likely possibility is that Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede are two titles for the same person. Cyrus’ father was Persian, but his mother was the daughter of Astyages, king of Media. Cyrus led the combined armies of Media and Persia. Daniel may have intended to communicate that at the end of chapter 6:

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This could be read as two distinct and successive reigns of different individuals, or the conjunction ‘and’ could be translated ‘even’ (as in 1 Chr.5:26), where two titles referring to the same individual are paralleled.

Cyrus Cylinder [6th cent. BC; discovered 1879 Babylon]

We know from history that Babylon fell to the armies of Cyrus. Cyrus’ own account as inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder says this:

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshippers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e. Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (and) ordered him to march against his city Babylon. He made him set out on the road to Babylon going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops – their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established – strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. ... All the inhabitants of Babylon as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors, bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship, and with shining faces. Happily they greeted him as a master through whose help they had come (again) to life from death (and) had all been spared damage and disaster, and they worshipped his (very) name. [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1880-0617-1941]

Herodotus Histories [430 BC] 1:190-191

Herodotus records that the Babylonians:

...had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards.

191. Therefore, whether it was some other man who suggested it to him when he was in a strait what to do, or whether he of himself perceived what he ought to do, he did as follows:--The main body of his army he posted at the place where the river runs into the city, and then again behind the city he set others, where the river issues forth from the city; and he proclaimed to his army that so soon as they should see that the stream had become passable, they should enter by this way into the city. Having thus set them in their places and in this manner exhorted them he marched away himself with that part of his army which was not fit for fighting: and when he came to the lake, Cyrus also did the same things which the queen of the Babylonians had done as regards the river and the lake; that is to say, he conducted the river by a channel into the lake, which was at that time a swamp, and so made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done in such a manner, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man's thigh. ...as it was, the Persians came upon them unexpectedly; and owing to the size of the city (so it is said by those who dwell there) after those about the extremities of the city had suffered capture, those Babylonians who dwelt in the middle did not know that they had been captured; but as they chanced to be holding a festival, they went on dancing and rejoicing during this time until they learnt the truth only too well. [https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hh/hh1190.htm]

Xenophon Cyropaedia [c.370 BC]

Xenophon records in his Cyropaedia:

[Book VII; c.5] (7) When they were encamped, Cyrus called a council of his officers and said, "My friends and allies, we have surveyed the city on every side, and for my part I fail to see any possibility of taking by assault walls so lofty and so strong: on the other hand, the greater the population the more quickly must they yield to hunger, unless they come out to fight. If none of you have any other scheme to suggest, I propose that we reduce them by blockade."

(8) Then Chrysantas spoke: "Does not the river flow through the middle of the city, and it is not at least a quarter of a mile in width?"

"To be sure it is," answered Gobryas, "and so deep that the water would cover two men, one standing on the other's shoulders; in fact the city is even better protected by its river than by its walls."

(9) At which Cyrus said, "Well, Chrysantas, we must forego what is beyond our power: but let us measure off at once the work for each of us, set to, and dig a trench as wide and as deep as we can, that we may need as few guards as possible."

(10) Thereupon Cyrus took his measurements all round the city, and, leaving a space on either bank of the river large enough for a lofty tower, he had a gigantic trench dug from end to end of the wall, his men heaping up the earth on their own side. ...(13) Thus his army was employed, but the men within the walls laughed at his preparations, knowing they had supplies to last them more than twenty years. ...

(15) However by this time the trenches were dug. And Cyrus heard that it was a time of high festival in Babylon when the citizens drink and make merry the whole night long. As soon as the darkness fell, he set his men to work. (16) The mouths of the trenches were opened, and during the night the water poured in, so that the river-bed formed a highway into the heart of the town.

...(21) To-night we go against them when some are asleep and some are drunk, and all are unprepared: and when they learn that we are within the walls, sheer astonishment will make them still more helpless than before.

...(24) ...he said, turning to Gadatas and Gobryas, "show us the streets, you know them; and once we are inside, lead us straight to the palace."

(25) "So we will," said Gobryas and his men, "and it would not surprise us to find the palace-gates unbarred, for this night the whole city is given over to revelry. Still, we are sure to find a guard, for one is always stationed there."

"Then," said Cyrus, "there is no time for lingering; we must be off at once and take them unprepared."

Xenophon [Book IV, (C.6), 2-7] records Gobryas as defecting from Babylon and joining Cyrus to seek vengeance on ‘this vile king ...the prince, who is now king’ because out of jealousy the prince had murdered his only son.

[Book VII; c.5] (26) Thereupon they entered: and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revellers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king's palace. ...(28) As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. (29) Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword's point into the presence of the king.

(30) They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could. [https://gutenberg.org/files/2085/2085-h/2085-h.htm#2H_4_0007]

Daniel records:

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Jeremiah [c. 628-586 BC]

Some 50 years earlier the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah 51:5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. ...

...11 “Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for his temple. 12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon; make the watch strong; set up watchmen; prepare the ambushes; for the LORD has both planned and done what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. 13 O you who dwell by many waters, rich in treasures, your end has come; the thread of your life is cut. 14 The LORD of hosts has sworn by himself: Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts, and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.

...24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the LORD.

...28 Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion.

...39 While they are inflamed I will prepare them a feast and make them drunk, that they may become merry, then sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the LORD. 40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and male goats. 41 “How Babylon is taken, the praise of the whole earth seized! How Babylon has become a horror among the nations!

...57 I will make drunk her officials and her wise men, her governors, her commanders, and her warriors; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”

The Lord had not forsaken his people.

Isaiah [c.740-681 BC]

At least 140 years earlier, God spoke to his chosen people through Isaiah the prophet, reminding them that he alone is God, warning of the folly of idolatry

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 ...that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isn’t this exactly what we see here in Daniel? God makes fools of diviners, dries up their river, and names Cyrus, who will loose the belts of kings? God is still on his throne, sovereign over history. ‘The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ ‘He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’ (4:32, 35). ‘Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases’ (Ps.115:3).


2021.11.07 Sermon Notes

Daniel 5:29-31 Sovereign God of History

The final official act of the Babylonian empire was to publicly honor an exile

Daniel 1:1-4; 5:13, 29

Belshazzar honored Daniel but refused to honor God

Daniel 2:47; 3:28-29; 4:34; 5:29

How Babylon fell:

Cyrus Cylinder [6th cent. BC]

Herodotus Histories [430 BC] 1:190-191

Xenophon Cyropaedia [c.370 BC] Book VII; c.5

The fall of Babylon foretold

Daniel 5:24-28 [October 12, 539 BC]

Jeremiah 50-51 [c.628-586 BC]

Isaiah 44-45 [c.740-681 BC]

Our sovereign God does all that he pleases

Daniel 4:25, 32, 35; Psalm 115:3


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org