A good reputation

While he was living in exile in Babylon, Daniel earned for himself a reputation of being a godly man. After Nebuchadnezzar died and was succeeded by Nabonidus and Belshazzar, Daniel was once again placed in a prominent position in the Neo-Babylonian empire. In the year 539 B.C., Belshazzar took it upon himself to “bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein” (Daniel 5:2). The vessels were holy, consecrated to the Lord, so it was unthinkable that Belshazzar should do such a thing. His arrogance surpassed that of his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar.

As a result of Belshazzar’s actions, it says in Daniel 5:5, “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Like his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar tried to have the writing interpreted by astrologers and fortune tellers, but they could not discern the message. Then the queen told him, “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods” (Daniel 5:11). After Daniel was brought in, Belshazzar told him, “I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee…that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts” (Daniel 5:14,16).

Daniel was probably around 80 years old when he was brought before the king of Babylon to interpret the handwriting on the wall. In spite of his good reputation, Daniel had no real influence at that time. It is possible he had fallen into obscurity after Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C., almost 30 years earlier. One thing is for certain, no one else ever took Daniel’s place as a spokesman for God. Daniel was the only know prophet to have ministered to the kings of Babylon, and later to the king of Persia. Perhaps, the reason Daniel was used in such a significant way was he had actually integrated into the Babylonian culture as a young man. Daniel understood the Babylonian way of thinking and could relate to the people as an insider. For sure, Daniel knew the king’s language and could speak fluently when he gave his interpretation of the handwriting on the wall.

Daniel spoke with tact, but also courageously when he told Belshazzar, “O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour…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 thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (Daniel 5:18,20,22). Daniel went on to tell the king that he was about to die and his kingdom would be given to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:26-28). As Daniel had prophesied, it says in Daniel 5:30-31, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two year old.”

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