August 10 Explore the Bible: Pride Goes Before Destruction
Aug 5, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL
Archaeology and historical records provide support for the accuracy of the biblical text of Daniel 5. Critics formerly debunked Daniel because the last king of Babylon was Nabodinus rather than Belshazzar. In the 19th century, archaeologists discovered Babylonian records that support the Bible. Nabodinus rejected the traditional Babylonian gods in favor of the moon god “Sin.” He left Babylon and devoted himself to worshiping the moon god in ancient Haran and turned over functioning authority to his son Belshazzar.
The early chapters describe Daniel as a young man or even a teenager. A shift occurs with chapter 5 and the passage of approximately 30 years from the events of chapter four. The book of Daniel is not always chronological. The incident of Daniel 5 illustrates the last words of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Daniel. “He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37).
What lessons does Daniel 5 set forth about sin, pride and judgment?
First, pride leads to foolish decisions (Dan. 5:1-4). According to Greek historians, the events described in Daniel 5 occurred on the night of Oct. 12, 539 B.C. As the Persian army surrounded the city of Babylon, the ruling authority held a drunken orgy. He possessed confidence that the high, thick city wall of Babylon would protect the city from the Persian army. Belshazzar’s motivation for the party was to uplift the morale and confidence of the people. Normally, the king did not make a public appearance at such a party; Belshazzar led in the partying before the people. Because he was related to Nebuchadnezzar, the king knew what God did to the former king. Belshazzar mocked the one true God by drinking from holy vessels from the Jerusalem temple. The act proclaimed the gods of Babylon as more powerful than the gods of other nations.
Second, pride neglects the warning of God (Dan. 5:5-6). At the moment of greatest blasphemy, God actively intervened in Belshazzar’s party. The image of a disembodied man’s hand began writing on the wall. The writing occurred on plaster walls by a lampstand to give visibility to all the party participants. The Bible focuses on the response of one man—the king. Belshazzar became terrified. His outward expression changed as his face lost its color. Emotionally, the king became frightened (literally, his thoughts left him). His legs became weak. When confronted by God, his pride vanished.
Third, believers must not become entangled in presumptuous sins (Dan. 5:16-17). Belshazzar turned to worldly wisdom. At the time of his greatest need, the wisdom of the Babylonian wise men left him helpless. The king offered Daniel the position of the No. 3 leader of the empire behind Nabodonius and Belshazzar. Daniel chose the path of obedience rather than wealth.
Fourth, the presumptuous sin of pride receives judgment (Dan. 5:23-31). Rather than receiving the kingdom from his father, Nabodonius, the sovereign God gave rule to Nebuchadnezzar and his decedents (v. 18). All rulers, then, are accountable to God. Because Belshazzar knew the family history of Nebuchadnezzar, he did not commit sin in ignorance (v. 22). The king illustrates Romans 1:21. He knew God but did not honor Him. The message on the wall communicated God’s judgment. God numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom. God weighed Belshazzar in the scales of judgment and the king failed to meet the standard. God divided the kingdom between the rule of the Medes and Persians. That very night, Darius the Mede, another name for Cyrus, conquered Babylon. The king led the people in the path of pride; the people suffered the same fate as the king.
The name Belshazzar means “protected by the god Bel.” No power is sufficient to protect against the judgment of God.
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