Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Living in an Alien Culture: Daniel 5

Living in an Alien Culture
Daniel 5

·     Belshazzar: historical information

o   The events of Daniel 5 occur about 23 years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar

§ Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC

§ Cyrus of Persia conquers Babylon in 539 BC

§ “Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC and was succeeded by Amel-Markuk 562-560, the Evil-Merodach of Jeremiah 52:31 and 2 Kings 25:27.  He was in turn succeeded by Mergal Shar-usar (Nergal-Sharezer)in 560-556. After him came his son Labasi-Marduk who was overthrown after six months by a group of conspirators including Nabonidus, who was to be the last actual Chaldean king.

“Nabonidus made his son Belshazzar co-regent, entrusting the kingdom to him during a ten-year absence in Arabia; so that Belshazzar was technically the second ruler of the kingdom.  This is why Belshazzar was only able to offer the position of being the third ruler in the kingdom to anyone who could read the writing on the wall.  The description of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 5, as the ‘father’ of Belshazzar, is consistent with ancient Near-Eastern usage, signifying ‘ancestor’ rather than immediate progenitor.”[1]

·     vv. 2-4

o   “vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple”

§ Links to chapter one—1.2

“The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along 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(s), and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god(s).”

§ Treating holy things of the Lord as common

o   Belshazzar used Yahweh’s holy items to praise the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone

§ Blasphemy and idolatry 

o   Nebuchadnezzar had not treated the vessels of YHWH according to God’s standards but note two things:

§ This was God’s judgment (1.2)

§ They were put in a place of honor—idolatrous context, yes, but still a place of honor

·     Belshazzar treats the vessels with contempt and actively uses them in idolatry

·     This administration moves further into idolatry and blasphemy 

·     “While repeating his predecessor’s sin of arrogance, Belshazzar takes it to a new level of offense against Yahweh.  He expresses his superiority not by taking inordinate pride in his own achievements, but by profaning the things associated with God.”[2]

·     v. 6—God shows up and crashes the party!

o   From a blasphemous party to fear and uncertainty

·     v. 7—“third ruler” see quotation above

·     vv. 10-12

o   Queen: probably not Belshazzar’s wife—see 5.3

§ Queen mother[3]

o   She knows Daniel

§ She knows her history but Belshazzar doesn’t

§ Q: How quickly do we forget the Lord’s work?

§ Q: Will your children know of the Lord and his ways?

·     See Deuteronomy 6.4-9; Exodus 10.1-2; 12.24-27; Judges 2.10; Psalm 71.17-18

·     vv. 13-16—Disrespect to Daniel

o   “ A close reading of the text reveals a condescending attitude by Belshazzar toward this man who played such a significant role in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, a role concerning which he is fully aware (cf. v. 22).”[4]

o   Way he refers to Daniel—“one of the exiles” (v. 13)

§ “Such an address intends to remind Daniel of his place before Belshazzr.  Belshazzar is king; Daniel is his captive.”[5]

§ Compare to Queen’s words in v. 11

o   Language—“heard about you” (vv. 14, 16)

§ Why does he not “know” about Daniel?  Has Daniel been “side-lined” over the years?

·     v. 17—Daniel’s humility and wisdom

o   Kingdom is going down; no sense is accepting a position in upper management!

·     vv. 18-21—Daniel rehearses Nebuchadnezzar’s rise-fall-rise

o   Issue of pride

·     vv. 22-23

o   Belshazzar held accountable for what he knows

o   He has manifested the same pride as Nebuchadnezzar

§ But it is worse in light of the revelation given to Nebuchadnezzar

§ “Belshazzar knew about the transformation of Nebuchadnezzar’s life; and yet he had chosen to publicly insult and dishonour the God who had been responsible for it. In an act of suicidal defiance Belshazzar had decided to use God’s sacred vessels in the service of the very idolatry that he knew God hated.”[6]

§ Matthew 11.20-21

o   Comparison of false gods to the true God of Daniel

§ False gods—do not see, hear, or understand

§ True God—“the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways”

·     This one is worthy of glory and worship!

o   See Acts 17.22-31 for similar theology set in a New Covenant context speaking to pagans at Athens

o   “you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven”

§ Q: How might our (or other) political leaders do this today?

§ Q: Do they become more self-conscious in their rebellion?

§ Q: Is there intensification of sin and rebellion?

·     vv. 24-28—Judgment pronounced

·     vv. 29-30

o   Belshazzar carries on; no repentance

o   Perhaps Belshazzar thought he had time; Nebuchadnezzar had a year (4.29)

·     vv. 30-31

o   Judgment and regime change happens quickly

o   Consider one year before this episode… did they have any idea?

§ Cf. Mark 13—“Be on the alert”


·     Daniel is maintaining consistency of theology and public stand for Yahweh across the decades and changing political rulers.

o   Q: How many Christians, churches, and leaders changing their theology and public stance on sexual ethics in the face of cultural and political pressure?

o   We must choose to cast our lot either with a society that admits only private faiths, and then simply add another idol to modernity's expanding God-shelf, or we must hoist a banner to a higher Sovereign, the Lord of lords and King of kings.  Just as the Christian witness to "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" invited unrelenting persecution by Roman authorities, so also Christianity's reiteration of a universal validity-claim still invites and will continue to invite the entrenched hostility of modern intellectual authority.”[7] 

·     The judgment of God on cultures and nations is real—and we face the judgment of God.

o   Francis Schaeffer

“Finally, we must not forget that the world is on fire.  We are not only losing the church, but our entire culture as well.  We live in the post-Christian world which is under the judgment of God.  I believe today that we must speak as Jeremiah did.  Some people think that just because the United States of America is the United States of America, because Britain is Britain, they will not come under the judgment of God.  This is not so.  I believe that we of Northern Europe since the Reformation have had such light as few other have ever possessed.  We have stamped upon that light in our culture.  Our cinemas, our novels, our art museums, our schools scream out as they stamp upon that light.  And worst of all, modern theology screams out as it stamps upon that light.  Do you think God will not judge our countries simply because they are our countries?  Do you think that the holy God will not judge?”[8] 

     [1]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 174-175.
     [2]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 145.
   [3]“This queen is most likely to have been the wife of Nabonidus and mother of Belshazzar.” Joyce G. Baldwin, DanielTyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1978), 122.  Although Tremper Longman suggests it may have been Nitocris, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar “still exerting her influence more than two decades later.”  Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 139.
     [4]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 140.
     [5]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 140.
     [6]John C. Lennox, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Monarch Books, 2015), 182.
     [7]Carl F. H. Henry, Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift Toward Neo-Paganism (Crossway, 1988), 181.

     [8]Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster[1984] in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (vol. 4),p. 363.   For a more sustained meditation on the wrath of God in regards to nations see my blog post “Newtown, CT: God’s Judgment?” White Rose Review(December 26, 2012)—online: https://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2012/12/newtown-ct-gods-judgment.html.