A theme found throughout Scripture is that God humbles the proud and exalts the humble. Nebuchadnezzar is stronger than anyone else, and he knows it. He willingly accepts credit for all that has happened in his life, so God moves decisively to show how insignificant Nebuchadnezzar truly is. It takes little to reduce him to an animal-like state, a wild man living at the margins of humanity, his power and prestige eroded overnight. If one of the greatest kings in history degenerates so completely, what can be done to common folks? Seven years of living as an animal go by, however, and he comes to his senses. He recognizes the truth of who he is and who God is. That realization is his salvation.
5 1-2 A few decades later, the king, Belshazzar, held a state banquet and invited a thousand of his officials.
The regent stands in for the king and performs his duties while King Nabonidus spends 10 years campaigning abroad, that is, fighting to expand the kingdom. In this case, the regent is Nabonidus’ son Belshazzar.
As he was tasting the wine, he ordered servants to bring in the gold and silver vessels his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from the temple in Jerusalem many years earlier. He wanted his officials to join him, his wives, and his concubines in drinking a royal toast from them. 3 A little later his servants returned carrying in the gold[a] vessels that had been taken from the temple, the house of the one True God in Jerusalem. The king, his officials, his wives, and his concubines began to drink from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they offered praise to their idols crafted in gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5 Suddenly the fingers of a hand—a human hand—appeared and began to write on the plaster of one of the palace walls lit by a nearby lampstand. The king stood transfixed, watching the hand as it wrote. 6 Then his face changed. He grew pale and began to feel sick. His thoughts frightened him: what was this strange vision? His legs felt weak and wobbly. His knees knocked together. 7 The king cried out to his servants, ordering them to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldean wise men, and the diviners.
Belshazzar (to Babylon’s wise men): A great reward awaits the first person who can read this writing and tell me what it means. He will be clothed in purple, wear a gold chain around his neck, and ascend in rank and privilege to be the third-highest-ranking ruler in the kingdom.
8 All the king’s purported wise men came forward to examine the wall, but no one could read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9 When it became clear that none of his sages could help him, King Belshazzar became even more frightened. His face grew even paler, and his officials were dumbfounded.
10 Belshazzar’s mother, the queen, overheard some of the discussions between the king and his noble guests, so she entered the banquet hall.
Queen: Long live the king! Don’t let this strange incident frighten you or let your face grow pale. 11 Need I remind you that there is a gifted man in your kingdom who possesses the spirit of the holy gods. Years ago, in the time of your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, he was discovered to have insight, understanding, and wisdom like that of the gods. That is why King Nebuchadnezzar put him in charge of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldean astrologers, and diviners in his kingdom. 12 This man Daniel, whom King Nebuchadnezzar named Belteshazzar, has special abilities, knowledge, and wisdom; he is able to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve problems no one else can. Why don’t you call for Daniel? He will tell you what the writing means.
13-14 With no other options, Belshazzar gave the order, and Daniel was brought before him.
Belshazzar (to Daniel): Are you that Daniel I’ve heard so much about, one of the exiles brought here from Judah by my predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar? I have been told that you possess the spirit of the holy gods—that you have insight, understanding, and exceptional wisdom. 15 Before you arrived, I had the wise men and enchanters brought before me to see if they could read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means, and not one of them was able to tell me. 16 But it has been reported to me directly that you can offer accurate interpretations and solve problems no one else can. Now I will offer you what I offered the others: if you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple, wear a gold chain around your neck, and ascend in rank and privilege to be the third-highest-ranking ruler in the kingdom.
Daniel: 17 Keep the gifts for yourself, or else award them to another. That is up to you. Still, I will agree to read the writing on the wall and tell you what it means.
18 O king, the Most High God gave sovereignty, greatness, honor, and splendor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. 19 God made him so great and powerful that all peoples, regardless of their heritage, nationality, or language, trembled in fear before him. He did as he pleased: executing or sparing, honoring or shaming anyone as he wished. 20 But there came a point when his heart was so proud and his spirit so haughty that he acted arrogantly; he lost his royal throne and was stripped of his royal honors. 21 He was driven away from all that is human, and he took on the base instincts of an animal; he lived in the company of wild donkeys and bent over to eat grass like the oxen; every night the dew of heaven fell heavy on his body and made him wet until he learned his lesson and acknowledged that the Most High God is the true sovereign over all earthly kingdoms, and He grants authority to anyone He wishes.
22 But even though you knew all this, you, Belshazzar, his descendant, have followed in his ways and not lived humbly. 23 On the contrary, you have risen up against the true Lord of heaven. By demanding that the sacred vessels from His temple be brought before you and having you, your officials, your wives, and your concubines drink from them, you have issued a challenge you cannot win. You have made toasts and offered praise to the idols crafted in silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—idols which cannot see you, hear you, or know anything at all. And you have failed to honor in all you do the one True God who holds the breath of life in the palm of His hand and makes possible all your days. 24 He is the one who sent this hand and inscribed this message on the wall, 25 and this is what the inscription says: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.”
The cryptic word play is short and sweet. MENE, MENE; TEKEL; PARSIN: Numbered, numbered (your days); weighed (deficiently); divided (your empire).
26 Here is what these words mean: MENE: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed on the scales and found defective; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided and handed over to the Medes and Persians.”
29 True to his word, Belshazzar gave the order and Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and the king proclaimed that he ascend in rank and privilege to be the third-highest-ranking ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night, under the cloak of darkness, Belshazzar, the Chaldean king of Babylonia, was killed. 31 Then Darius the Mede, in his 62nd year, gained control of the kingdom.
- 5:3 Other manuscripts add, “and silver.”
2 Peter 2
2 Just as false prophets rose up in the past among God’s people, false teachers will rise up in the future among you. They will slip in with their destructive opinions, denying the very Master who bought their freedom and dooming themselves to destruction swiftly, 2 but not before they attract others by their unbridled and immoral behavior. Because of them and their ways, others will criticize and condemn the path of truth we walk as seedy and disreputable. 3 These false teachers will follow their greed and exploit you with their fabrications, but be assured that their judgment was pronounced long ago and their destruction does not sleep.
New Testament writers warn the church to watch out for false teachers. Peter faults them primarily for their immoral lifestyles rather than for doctrinal differences.
4 For God did not spare the heavenly beings who sinned, but He cast them into the dark pits[a] of hell[b] to be kept until the time of judgment; 5 and He did not spare the ancient world, but He sent a flood swirling over the ungodly (although He did save Noah, God’s herald for what is right, with seven other members of his family); 6 and God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ash as a lesson of what He will do with the ungodly in the days to come 7-8 (although again He did rescue Lot, a person who did what was right in God’s eyes and who was distressed by the immorality and the lawlessness of the society around him. Day after day, the sights and sounds of their lawlessness were like daggers into that good man’s soul). 9 If all this happened in the past, it shows clearly the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials and how to hold the wicked in punishment until the day of judgment.
Is God different in the New Testament from what He is in the First Testament? In the First Testament, God seems prone to judgment; but some feel God is more concerned about love in the New Testament. However, the central and most repeated affirmation about God’s character in the First Testament is that He is gracious and compassionate (Exodus 34:6–7). And the New Testament clearly does not ignore the idea of God’s judgment, as this text shows. His judgment will come, but it is delayed by God’s patient mercy.
10 And above all, it shows He will punish those who let the desires of their bodies rule them and who have no respect for authority. People like this are so bold and willful that they aren’t even afraid of offending heavenly beings, 11 although the heavenly messengers—in spite of the fact that they have greater strength and power—make no such accusations against these people before the Lord. 12 These people who speak ill of what they do not understand are no different from animals—without sense, operating only on their instincts, born to be captured and killed—and they will be destroyed just like those animals, 13 receiving the penalty for their evil acts. They waste their days in parties and carousing. As they feast with you, these stains and blemishes on your community are feasting on their deceptions.[c] 14 Their eyes are always looking for their next adulterous conquests; their appetites for sin cannot be satisfied. They seduce the unwary soul, and greed is the only lesson they have learned by heart. God’s curse lies upon them. 15 They have veered off the right road and gotten lost, following in the steps of Balaam, the son of Beor, the false prophet. Balaam loved the reward he could get by doing evil, 16 but he was rebuked for crossing the line into sin; his own speechless donkey scolded him in a human voice, an amazing miracle that reined in the prophet’s insanity.[d]
17 These people I’m talking about are nothing but dried-up springs, mists driven by fierce winds; the deepest darkness has been set aside for them. 18 They speak in loud voices empty and arrogant. They exploit the desires of the flesh, take advantage of sensual natures, to entangle people who have just escaped from those who live by deception. 19 They claim to offer them freedom, but they themselves are enslaved by corruption because whatever a person gives in to soon becomes his master. 20 Those who have been pulled out of the cesspool of worldly desires through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Anointed One, yet have found themselves mired in it again are worse off than they were before. 21 They would have been better off never knowing the way of righteousness than to have known it and then abandoned the sacred commandment they had previously received and dived back into the muck! 22 In their cases, the words from Proverbs hold true: “The dog goes back to his own vomit,”[e] and as the Greeks say, “The sow is washed to wallow in the mud.”
113 I despise those who waver back and forth,
but I love Your teachings.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield of protection;
I hope in Your word.
115 Away from me, reprobates!
I am committed to observing the commands of my God.
116 Support me in keeping with Your promise, O God, so that I may live;
do not let my hope turn into shame.
117 Help me so that I will be safe,
and I will respect Your laws continually.
118 You have rejected all those who stray from Your commands
because their fraudulent lifestyles are cunning and empty.
119 You have discarded all the wicked from the land, skimmed them off like dross;
that’s why I love Your testimonies.
120 My body shakes because of my fear of You,
and I am in awe of Your wise rulings.
121 I have lived with fairness and integrity;
do not leave me at the mercy of my tormenters.
122 Provide security and protection for Your servant’s welfare;
do not let the proud oppress me.
123 My eyes are strained as I look for Your salvation
and for Your righteous promise to be fulfilled.
124 Treat Your servant in a manner that shows Your unfailing love,
and help me to learn Your decrees.
125 I am Your servant; impart to me understanding
so that I may fully grasp the depths of Your statutes.
126 It is time for the Eternal to step in and do something
because some have broken Your law.
127 Indeed, I love Your commands
more than gold, even more than the highest quality gold.
128 It’s true that I regard all Your guidance to be correct and good;
I despise every deceptive path.
19 Whoever cultivates his land will have plenty of food in the harvest,
but whoever cultivates worthless ventures will have poverty in abundance.
20 A reliable person will not escape blessings,
but one who wants to get rich quick will not escape trouble.