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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 5


1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his lords, with whom he drank.


2 Under the influence of the wine, he ordered the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, to be brought in so that the king, his lords, his wives and his entertainers might drink from them.


When the gold and silver vessels taken from the house of God in Jerusalem had been brought in, and while the king, his lords, his wives and his entertainers were drinking


wine from them, they praised their gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.


Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king's palace. When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote,


his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked.


The king shouted for the enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers to be brought in. "Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means," he said to the wise men of Babylon, "shall be clothed in purple, wear a golden collar about his neck, and be third in the government of the kingdom."


But though all the king's wise men came in, none of them could either read the writing or tell the king what it meant.


Then King Belshazzar was greatly terrified; his face went ashen, and his lords were thrown into confusion.


When the queen heard of the discussion between the king and his lords, she entered the banquet hall and said, "O king, live forever! Be not troubled in mind, nor look so pale!


There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy God; during the lifetime of your father he was seen to have brilliant knowledge and god-like wisdom. In fact, King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers,


because of the extraordinary mind possessed by this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. He knew and understood how to interpret dreams, explain enigmas, and solve difficulties. Now therefore, summon Daniel to tell you what this means."


Then Daniel was brought into the presence of the king. The king asked him, "Are you the Daniel, the Jewish exile, whom my father, the king, brought from Judah?


I have heard that the spirit of God is in you, that you possess brilliant knowledge and extraordinary wisdom.


Now, the wise men and enchanters were brought in to me to read this writing and tell me its meaning, but they could not say what the words meant.


But I have heard that you can interpret dreams and solve difficulties; if you are able to read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be clothed in purple, wear a gold collar about your neck, and be third in the government of the kingdom."


Daniel answered the king: "You may keep your gifts, or give your presents to someone else; but the writing I will read for you, O king, and tell you what it means.


The Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and glorious majesty.


Because he made him so great, the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Whomever he wished, he killed or let live; whomever he wished, he exalted or humbled.


But when his heart became proud and his spirit hardened by insolence, he was put down from his royal throne and deprived of his glory;


he was cast out from among men and was made insensate as a beast; he lived with wild asses, and ate grass like an ox; his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdom of men and appoints over it whom he will.


You, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this;


you have rebelled against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of his temple brought before you, so that you and your nobles, your wives and your entertainers, might drink wine from them; and you praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence. But the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify.


By him were the wrist and hand sent, and the writing set down.


3 "This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, and PERES. These words mean:


4 MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it;


TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting;


PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians."


Then by order of Belshazzar they clothed Daniel in purple, with a gold collar about his neck, and proclaimed him third in the government of the kingdom.


The same night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was slain:



1 [1] King Belshazzar: Belshazzar was actually the crown prince, but he had been given royal authority in Babylon by his father Nabonidus.

2 [2] Nebuchadnezzar, his father: several kings of Babylon intervened between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Either the term father is used here in the broad sense of "remote predecessor," or the name Nebuchadnezzar is used for "Nabonidus."

3 [25] Mene, Tekel, and Peres: these seem to be the Aramaic names of weights and monetary values: the mina, the shekel (the sixtieth part of a mina), and the parsu (a half-mina).

4 [26-28] Daniel interprets these three terms by a play on the words: Mene, connected with the verb meaning to number; Tekel, with the verb meaning to weigh; Peres, with the verb meaning to divide. There is also a play on the last term with the word for Persians.

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