And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; (Daniel 5:22)
Following the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C., Babylon started to decline from its former glory. Evil-Merodach succeeded his father and reigned for two years. He was murdered by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar (referred to as Nergal-Sharezer in Jeremiah 39:3, 13), in 560 B.C. He reigned four years, died in 556 B.C., and was succeeded by his young son, Labashi-Marduk, who ruled for two months and was assassinated by Nebonitus. Although Nebonitus became king, his interests in restoring the religion of the moon god, Sin, kept him away from Babylon for 10 out of the 17 years he reigned. In his stead, he named his son, Belshazzar as coregent of the kingdom.
On October 12, 539 B.C., while the Persian army, led by Ugbaru, besieged Babylon, Belshazzar threw a party for 1000 of his nobles proudly trusting in the impregnable walls of that great city. Babylon straddled the banks of the Euphrates River. The river’s entrance and exit through the city were protected by iron-bar gates preventing man or beast from passing through. The Persians were not so easily deterred. While Belshazzar partied, the Persians were busy diverting the waters of the Euphrates so that the flow through the middle of the city dried up. The dry riverbed now provided unrestricted entry into the city, and the Persians caught the Babylonians with their proverbial pants down. Considering the engineering effort to divert the Euphrates around the city, it seems apparent that no one was watching. The Persians conquered Babylon, they killed Belshazzar, and Nebonitus was somewhere in Arabia clueless that he lost his kingdom.
In the middle of all of this drama, Daniel records the final night of Babylon’s glory. As the wine freely flowed into vessels taken from God’s Temple in Jerusalem, Belshazzar saw “the fingers of a man’s hand” writing on the wall. The “vision” so terrified him that he lost control of his bowels. The writing was real. It was not imagined. Belshazzar called his “wise” men to interpret the writing, but they failed. Then Belshazzar’s mother remembered about Daniel and his abilities, so she came to the king to offer advice. “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.” (Daniel 5:11-12).
Belshazzar called for Daniel and offered him a third of the kingdom if he would interpret the writing. Such status would put Daniel on equal standing with Nebonitus and Belshazzar. However, Daniel refused the offer. He knew it would be short-lived anyway; he knew what was coming. Rather than meet the request directly, Daniel recited Nebuchadnezzar’s history.
O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. (Daniel 5:18-21, emphasis mine)
Daniel charged Belshazzar with the same pride that brought Nebuchadnezzar down. “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (Daniel 5:22, emphasis mine). Belshazzar was not ignorant of this fairly recent history, and yet he blasphemed the only God that could save him.
He knew this, and God held him accountable for what he knew to be true. He would answer for it. Daniel read the writing and gave the interpretation:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:25-28, emphasis mine)
“In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Daniel 5:30-31).
God has given every human on earth enough information so that they can recognize and worship Him as God. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, emphasis mine).
Indeed, Paul says that those who do not know the law of God follow that law instinctively. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:14-15, emphasis mine).
Everyone will have to answer for what they know. However, God’s standard requires perfection, and no one – whether knowing the written law of God, or whether knowing the law of God instinctively – can keep the law perfectly. And James says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10, emphasis mine). In the end, everyone will have to answer for what they know. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works … and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15, emphasis mine).
Reader, Jesus is coming very soon. Are you prepared to meet Him? Now especially, having read this, you will answer for what you know. There is only one way to avoid that judgment. Ask Jesus to be your Savior. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
 John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Victor Books, SP Publications Inc., 1985), p. 1344.
 Belshazzar was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. The term “father” is used as a metaphor meaning predecessor or founder.