King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Daniel 5:1-4
The fifth chapter of Daniel we see that Nebuchadnezzar no longer rules over Babylon. It has been about 70 years since chapter 1. Nebuchadnezzar has died in 562 BC and Babylon falls in 539 BC. After the 43 year reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon went through a turbulent time with a number of rulers. Nebuchadnezzar was replaced by his son Evil-Murdoch. He was assassinated after two years by Neriglisar. Neriglisar then occupied the throne for four years. After his death his son Laborocoarchod, a child, reigns for nine months and was beaten to death by conspirators. The conspirators appointed Nabonidus to the throne who reigned for seventeen years until defeated by Cyrus the Persian. Nabonidus married either Nebuchadnezzar’s wife or daughter.
We now come to Belshazzar. Belshazzar was for many years only mentioned in Daniel. Many scholars believed him to be a fiction of Daniel, until the Nabonidus Cylinder was found which mentioned Belshazzar. Belshazzar could have been a son of Nebuchadnezzar, but was most likely the son of Nabonidus and could have been the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. At this time there was no word for grandfather or grandson. Belshazzar was a co-regent with his father and after Nabonidus’ defeat by Cyrus; Belshazzar was the king of the city of Babylon.
While Daniel indicated that Nebuchadnezzar finally accepted that God was the one true god his belief does not appear to have survived Nebuchadnezzar’s death and been passed down to subsequent rulers of Babylon. So we see Belshazzar hosting a feast and in order to impress his guests he orders that the treasures of the temple be brought out of storage so he and his guest could use them to eat and drink on. These holy implements used in the worship of God will now be used as the dining ware of a pagan king.
The same scenario played out repeatedly in the kingdoms of Israel and Judea where one king would follow god while those coming after him would fall away from the faith. The difference of course is that Babylon was a pagan society worshiping many gods so to have Belshazzar turn back to the Babylonian gods would not be much of a surprise. Still, God will not be mocked and we will soon see that Belshazzar’s will be given bad news. His kingdom will be taken from him.
Have a blessed day,