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The Blue Letter Bible

Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Belshazzar’s Queen Mother—Daniel 5.

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King Belshazzar of Babylon was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar, whose daughter, Nitocris, his father had married. This king, although he must have known the dealings of God with his grandfather, was an utterly godless and sensual man, possessed apparently of great force of character, but using it for his own ends, and failing to acknowledge the supremacy of the God who made heaven and earth, and who so marvellously revealed Himself in the deliverance of the Jewish youths in the furnace, and in His dealings with Nebuchadnezzar himself, when He visited him with madness, and afterwards restored him.

Babylon was at this time besieged by Darius the Median. So sure was Belshazzar that his city could stand the siege, and so confident was he in his own power that, with the enemy at the gates, "he made a great feast to a thousand of his lords," and indulged in excess of wine in their presence. While, probably, in a state of intoxication, he went further in a


and called for the sacred vessels which had been brought from Jerusalem, that he, "his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein." By this very deed, he treated the God of Israel with contempt, and acted as though he were His superior.

"Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further" (Job 38:11), is God's law of control to every power in His creation, whether of man or of the elements. "In the same hour" that the deed of sacrilege was being committed, "came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote."

Besides the enemy who was at that very moment draining away the waters of the Euphrates into a neighbouring marsh, that so the river might be fordable for his besieging troops, there was the mysterious Enemy whose hand traced the indecipherable characters upon the wall of the king's banqueting house-an enemy within and an enemy without! O miserable, doomed king! what wilt thou do?

At last the bold countenance of the tyrant begins to change, his thoughts trouble him, the joints of his loins are loosed, his knees smite one against another, his courage fails him, and he who counted himself strong against the hosts of Persia, trembles like the veriest coward because the unknown God whom he has blasphemed mysteriously writes his doom, and he is in terrible suspense to understand it. He cries aloud to bring in all the human help that can be found-astrologers, Chaldeans, soothsayers; but, in vain. The king offers gorgeous clothing, with scarlet and chains of gold, and posts of honour; but not one of the king's wise men can read the writing, not one can make known the interpretation; none of these can understand


Terror increases upon the king. He is greatly troubled, his countenance is changed in him, and his lords are astonished.

The rumour of the mysterious writing spreads; it reaches one who has not been at the banquet-one whose acquaintance in that worldly court is with the man of God, the aged Daniel, who still witnesses, in the midst of evil, to the presence and power of the God of heaven. The queen, that is, the queen‐mother, "by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting house." The mission of this woman is not to encourage her son in feasting and revelry, and in his blasphemy of the true God; she comes into his presence as a friend of Daniel, a disciple of God's true witness in the kingdom.

What must it have been for this woman, who, probably, was a true believer, to live in such a court, at such a time! We can hardly imagine such a life. We hear nothing more of her in the Word of God but her sudden appearance at this juncture. But it is enough to tell us that where she went, she went for God, and what she said, she spoke for God. It may be that her life and the life of Daniel were a salt in the ungodly court, in those ungodly days. How many


who abstains from the worldly gatherings in a worldly house, may spread there a savour of Christ, a savour of life unto life! The worldly butterflies around will ask why it is she never comes to the balls, why she is never found at the dinner parties, why it is she never attends an entertainment, etc., and the answer, perhaps, in sneering accents, will be: "O, she is too religious!" But this answer remains engraven on the hearts of many, and perhaps comes back in times of trial and of suffering, to awaken them eventually to a knowledge of the Lord.

The queen‐mother stood, probably, in simple clothing, in the midst of those who were gorgeously apparelled, and another current came in with her. She spoke and said:

"O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee nor let thy countenance be changed: 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."

How came it that this woman was so much acquainted with Daniel? Doubtless her heart had yearned for the truth, and she had longed for something different from her surroundings; and in her communion of spirit with Daniel, who was no longer a favourite at court, but hidden away somewhere in a corner, as though he were useless, this royal personage had found something better than all the pleasures and all the distinctions of a court. She had learnt, probably, to know her God through Daniel, and Daniel must have found, in fellowship with this queenly woman, one heart which understood and sympathised with him, and which received the testimony of the true God.

The queen‐mother went on to affirm that "an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar;" and she had no hesitation in adding:

"Now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation."

She could count on Daniel, and she knew that God could count on him also: by faith she was the daughter of Abraham (Gal 3:7).

This woman had borne her testimony, and she retired off the scene. She had done her work. But the witness she had borne to her God was counted


Daniel was brought before the king; he interpreted the writing, and with it preached a sermon to Belshazzar, strong in its conviction of his sin, but too late to bring him to repentance. Daniel reminded him of God's dealings with his grandfather, and declared:

"And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven…and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified."

Just as soon as God's witness had thus testified to the blasphemies of the king, "the part of the hand that wrote" disappeared, and the judgment of the king was thus interpreted:

"God hath numbered thy kingdom; and finished it;…Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting;…Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."

"In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain."

The queen‐mother had fulfilled her vocation. Perhaps she, too, was slain, but she had not lived for nought. The king had missed his vocation, and he must bear the consequences for ever and for ever.

Job's Wife—Job 2:9-10 ← Prior Section
Elizabeth—Luke 1. Next Section →
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