Daniel - 5:1

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

Verse In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of Daniel 5:1.

Differing Translations

Compare verses for better understanding.
Baltasar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his nobles: and every one drank according to his age.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his nobles, and drank wine before the thousand.
Belshazzar the king hath made a great feast to a thousand of his great men, and before the thousand he is drinking wine;
Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, drinking wine before the thousand.
Beltsazar rex fecit convivium magnum proceribus suis mille, et coram mille vinum bibit.

*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Daniel here refers to the history of what happened at the taking of Babylon; but meanwhile he leaves those judgments of God to the consideration of his readers, which the Prophets had predicted before the people had become exiles. He does not use the prophetic style, as we shall afterwards see, but is content with simple narrative; while the practice of history may be learnt from the following expressions. It is our duty now to consider how this history tends towards building us up in the faith and fear of God. First of all we notice the time at which Belshazzar celebrated this banquet. Seventy years had passed away from the time when Daniel had been led into exile with his companions. For although Nebuchadnezzar will soon be called the father of Belshazzar, yet it is clear enough that Evil-Merodach lived between them; for he reigned twenty-three years. Some reckon two kings before Belshazzar; for they place Regassar after Labassardach; and these two will occupy eight years. Metasthenes has stated it so, and he has many followers. But Nebuchadnezzar the Great, who took Daniel captive, and was the son of the first king of that name, evidently reigned forty-five years. Some transfer two years to the reign of his father; at any rate, he held the regal power for forty-five years; and if the twenty-three years of Evil-Merodach are added, they will make sixty-eight years -- in which Belshazzar had reigned eight years. We see, then, how seventy-two years had passed away from the period of Daniel being first led captive. Metasthenes reckons thirty years for the reign of Evil-Merodach; and then, if we add eight years, this makes more than eighty years -- which appears probable enough, although Metasthenes seems to be in error in supposing different kings instead of only different names. [1] For Herodotus does not call Belshazzar, of whom we are now speaking, a king, but calls his father Labynetus, and gives him the same name. [2] Metasthenes makes some mistakes in names, but I readily embrace his computation of time, when he asserts Evil-Merodach to have reigned thirty years. For when we treat of the seventy years which Jeremiah had formerly pointed out, we ought not to begin with Daniel's exile, no,' yet with the destruction of the city, but with the slaughter which occurred between the first victory of king Nebuchadnezzar, and the burning and ruin of the temple and city. For when the report concerning the death of his father was first spread abroad, as we have elsewhere said, he returned to his own country, lest any disturbance should occur through his absence. Hence we shall find the seventy years during which God wished the people's captivity to last, will require a longer period for the reign of Evil-Merodach than twenty-three years; although there is not any important difference, for soon after Nebuchadnezzar returned, he carried off the king, leaving the city untouched. Although the temple was then standing, yet God had inflicted the severest punishment upon the people, which was like a final slaughter, or at least nearly equal to it. However this was, we see that Belshazzar was celebrating this banquet just as the time of the deliverance drew nigh. Here we must consider the Providence of God, in arranging the times of events, so that the impious, when the time of their destruction is come, cast themselves headlong of their own accord. This occurred to this wicked king. Wonderful indeed was the stupidity which prepared a splendid banquet filled with delicacies, while the city was besieged. For Cyrus had begun to besiege the city for a long time with a large army. The wretched king was already half a captive; and yet, as if in spite of God, he provided a rich banquet, and invited a thousand guests. Hence we may conjecture the extent of the noise and of the expense in that banquet. For if any one wishes to entertain only ten or twenty guests, it will occasion him much trouble, if he wishes to treat them splendidly. But when it was a royal entertainment, where there were a thousand nobles with the king's wife and concubines, and so great a multitude assembled together, it became necessary to obtain from many quarters what was required for such a festival; and this may seem incredible! But Xenophon though he related many fables and preserved neither the gravity nor the fidelity of a historian, because he desired to celebrate the praises of Cyrus like a rhetorician; although he trifles in many things, yet here had no reason or occasion for deception. He says a treasure was laid up, so that the Babylonians could endure a siege of even ten or more years. And Babylon was deservedly compared to a kingdom; for its magnitude was so large as to surpass belief. It must really have been very populous, but since they drew their provisions from the whole of Asia, it is not surprising that the Babylonians had food in store, sufficient to allow them to close their gates, and to sustain them for a long period. But in this banquet it was most singular that the king, who ought to have been on guard, or at least have sent forth his guards to prevent the city from being taken, was as intent upon his delicacies as if he had been in perfect peace, and exposed to no danger from any outward enemy. He had a contest with a strong man, if any man ever was so. Cyrus was endued with singular prudence, and in swiftness of action by far excelled all others. Since, then, the king was so keenly opposed, it is surprising to find him so careless as to celebrate a banquet. Xenophon, indeed, states the day to have been a festival. The assertion of those Jews who think the Chaldeans had just obtained a victory over the Persians, is but trifling. For Xenophon -- who may be trusted whenever he does not falsify history in favor of Cyrus, because he is then a very grave historian, and entirely worthy of credit; but when he desires to praise Cyrus, he has no moderation -- is here historically correct, when he says the Babylonians were holding a usual annual festival. He tells us also how Babylon was taken, viz., by Gobryas and Gadatas his generals. For Belshazzar had castrated one of these to his shame, and had slain the son of the other in the lifetime of his father. Since then the latter burnt with the desire of avenging his son's death, and the former his own disgrace, they conspired against him. Hence Cyrus turned the many channels of the Euphrates, and thus Babylon was suddenly taken. The city we must remember was twice taken, otherwise there would not have been any confidence in prophecy; because when the Prophets threaten God's vengeance upon the Babylonians, they say their enemies should be most fierce, not seeking gold or silver, but desiring human blood; and then they narrate every kind of atrocious deed which is customary in war. (Jeremiah 50:42.) But nothing of this kind happened when Babylon was taken by Cyrus; but when the Babylonians freed themselves from the Persian sway by casting off their yoke, Darius recovered the city by the assistance of Zopyrus, who mutilated his person, and pretended to have suffered such cruelty from the king as to induce him to betray the city. But then we collect how hardly the Babylonians were afflicted, when 3000 nobles were crucified! And what usually happens when 8000 nobles are put to death, and all suspended on a gallows -- nay, even crucified? Thus it easily appears, how severely the Babylonians were punished at the time, although they were then subject to a foreign power, and treated shamefully by the Persians, and reduced to the condition of slaves. For they were forbidden the use of arms, and were taught from the first to become the slaves of Cyrus, and dare not wear a sword. We ought to touch upon these things shortly to assure us of the government of human events by the judgment of God, when he casts headlong the reprobate when their punishment is at hand. We have an illustrious example of this in King Belshazzar. The time of the deliverance predicted by Jeremiah was at hand -- the seventy years were finished -- Babylon was besieged. (Jeremiah 25:11.) The Jews might now raise up their heads and hope for the best, because the arrival of Cyrus approached, contrary to the opinion of them all; for he had suddenly rushed down from the mountains of Persia when that was a barbarous nation. Since, therefore, the sudden coming of Cyrus was like a whirlwind, this change might possibly give some hope to the Jews; but after a length of time, so to speak, had elapsed in the siege of the city, this might east down their spirits. While king Belshazzar was banqueting with his nobles, Cyrus seems able to thrust him out in the midst of his merriment and hilarity. Meanwhile the Lord did not sit at rest in heaven; for he blinds the mind of the impious king, so that he should willingly incur punishments, yet no one drew him on, for he incurred it himself. And whence could this arise, unless God had given him up to his enemy? It was according to that decree of which Jeremiah was the herald. Hence, although Daniel narrates the history, it is our duty, as I have said, to treat of things far more important; for God who had promised his people deliverance, was now stretching forth his hand in secret, and fulfilling the predictions of his Prophets. (Jeremiah 25:26.) It now follows -- King Belshazzar was drinking wine before a thousand Some of the Rabbis say, "he strove with his thousand nobles, and contended with them all in drinking to excess;" but this seems grossly ridiculous. When he says, he drank wine before a thousand, he alludes to the custom of the nation, for the kings of the Chaldeans very rarely invited guests to their table; they usually dined alone, as the kings of Europe now do; for they think it adds to their dignity to enjoy a solitary meal. The pride of the kings of Chaldea was of this kind. When, therefore, it is said,Belshazzar drank wine before a thousand, something extraordinary is intended, since he was celebrating this annum banquet contrary to his ordinary custom, and he deigned to treat his nobles with such honor as to receive them as his guests. Some, indeed, conjecture that he drank wine ordeals, as he was accustomed to become intoxicated when there were no witnesses present; but there is no force in this comment: the word before means in the presence or society of others. Let us go on:


1 - See the [25]Dissertations at the end of this volume, in which these historical points are treated at length.

2 - Herod., lib. 1, sect. 188. Comp. Cyropoed., lib. 4 and 7.

Belshazzar the king - See Introduction to the chapter, Section II. In the Introduction to the chapter here referred to, I have stated what seemed to be necessary in order to illustrate the history of Belshazzar, so far as that can be now known. The statements in regard to this monarch, it is well understood, are exceedingly confused, and the task of reconciling them is now hopeless. Little depends, however, in the interpretation of this book, on the attempt to reconcile them, for the narrative here given is equally credible, whichever of the accounts is taken, unless that of Berosus is followed. But it may not be improper to exhibit here the two principal accounts of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar, that the discrepancy may be distinctly seen. I copy from the Pictorial Bible. "The common account we shall collect from L'Art de Verifier les Dates, and the other from Hales' "Analysis," disposing them in opposite colums for the sake of comparison:
Comparison of Historical Accounts of Nebuchadnezzar From L'Art de Verifier From Hales's Analysis 605 Nebuchacnezzar, who was succeeded by his son. 604 Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son. 562 Evil-Merodach, who, having provoked general indignation by his tyranny and atrocities, was, after a short reign of about two years, assassinated by his brother-in-law. 561 Evil-Merodach, or Ilverodam, who was slain in a battle against the Medes and Persians, and was succeeded by his son. 560 Nerigilassar, or Nericassolassar, who was regarded as a deliverer and succeeded by the choice of the nation. He perished in a battle by Cyrus, and was succeeded by his son. 558 Neriglissar, Niricassolassar, or Belshazzar, the common accounts of whom seem to combine what is said both of Neriglissar, and his son opposite. He was killed by conspirators on the night of the 'impious feast,' leaving a son (a boy). 555 Laborosoarchod, notorious for his cruelty and oppression, and who was assassinated by two nobles, Gobryas and Gadatas, whose sons he had slain. The vacant throne was then ascended by. 553 Laborosoarchod, on whose death, nine months after, the dynasty became extinct, and the kingdom came peaceably to 'Darius the Mede,' or Cyaxares who, on the will-known policy of the Medes and Persians, appointed a Babylonian nobleman, named Nabonadius, or Labynetus, to be king, or viceroy. This person revotled against Cyrus, who had succeeded to the united empire of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus could not immediately attend to him, but at last marched to Babylon, took the city, b.c. 536, as foretold by the prophets. 554 Nabonadius, the Labynetus of Herodotus, the Naboandel of Josephus, and the Belshazzar of Daniel, who was the son of Evil-Merodach, and who now succeeded to the throne of his 538 father. After a voluptuous reign, his city was taken by the Persians under Cyrus, on which occasion he lost his life.
It will be observed that the principal point of difference in these accounts is, that Hales contends that the succession of Darius the Mede to the Babylonian throne was not attended with war; that Belshazzar was not the king in whose time the city was taken by Cyrus; and, consequently, that the events which took place this night were quite distinct from and anterior to that siege and capture of the city by the Persian king which Isaiah and Jeremiah so remarkably foretold.
Made a great feast - On what occasion this feast was made is not stated, but is was not improbably an annual festival in honor of some of the Babylonian deities. This opinion seems to be countenanced by the words of the Codex Chisianus, "Belshazzar the king made a great festival ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐγκαινισμοῦ τῶν βασιλείων en hēmera engkainismou tōn basileiōn) on the day of the dedication of his kingdom;" and in Daniel 5:4 it is said that "they praised the gods of gold, of silver, and of brass," etc.
To a thousand of his lords - The word thousand here is doubtless used as a general term to denote a very large number. It is not improbable, however, that this full number was assembled on such an occasion. "Ctesias says, that the king of Persia furnished provisions daily for fifteen thousand men. Quintus Curtius says that ten thousand men were present at a festival of Alexander the Great; and Statius says of Domitian, that he ordered, on a certain occasion, his guests 'to sit down at a thousand tables.' " - Prof. Stuart, in loc.
And drank wine before the thousand - The Latin Vulgate here is, "And each one drank according to his age." The Greek of Theodotion, the Arabic, and the Coptic is, "and wine was before the thousand." The Chaldee, however, is, as in our version, "he drank wine before the thousand." As he was the lord of the feast, and as all that occurred pertained primarily to him, the design is undoubtedly to describe his conduct, and to show the effect which the drinking of wine had on him. He drank it in the most public manner, setting an example to his lords, and evidently drinking it to great excess.

Belshazzar the king made a great feast - This chapter is out of its place, and should come in after the seventh and eighth. There are difficulties in the chronology. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach his son ascended the throne of Babylon. Having reigned about two years, he was slain by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar. He reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod, who reigned only nine months. At his death Belshazzar the son of Evil-merodach, was raised to the throne, and reigned seventeen years, and was slain, as we read here, by Cyrus, who surprised and took the city on the night of this festivity. This is the chronology on which Archbishop Usher, and other learned chronologists, agree; but the Scripture mentions only Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, and Belshazzar, by name; and Jeremiah, Jeremiah 27:7, expressly says, "All nations shall serve him (Nebuchadnezzar), and his son (Evil-merodach), and his son's son (Belshazzar), until the very time of his land come;" i.e., till the time in which the empire should be seized by Cyrus. Here there is no mention of Neriglissar nor Laborosoarchod; but as they were usurpers, they might have been purposely passed by. But there remains one difficulty still: Belshazzar is expressly called the son of Nebuchadnezzar by the queen mother, Jeremiah 27:11 : "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." The solution of this difficulty is, that in Scripture the name of son is indifferently given to sons and grandsons, and even to great grandsons. And perhaps the repetition in the above verse may imply this: "The king, Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king thy father." The king thy father's father, and consequently thy grandfather. If it have not some such meaning as this, it must be considered an idle repetition. As to the two other kings, Neriglissar and Laborosoarchod, mentioned by Josephus and Berosus, and by whom the chronology is so much puzzled, they might have been some petty kings, or viceroys, or satraps, who affected the kingdom, and produced disturbances, one for four years, and the other for nine months; and would in consequence not be acknowledged in the Babylonish chronology, nor by the sacred writers, any more than finally unsuccessful rebels are numbered among the kings of those nations which they have disturbed. I believe the only sovereigns we can acknowledge here are the following:
1. Nabopolassar;
2. Nebuchadnezzar;
3. Evil-merodach
4. Belshazzar; and with this last the Chaldean empire ended.
To a thousand of his lords - Perhaps this means lords or satraps, that were each over one thousand men. But we learn from antiquity that the Persian kings were very profuse in their entertainments; but it does not follow that the Chaldeans were so too. Besides, one thousand lords and their appropriate attendants would have been very inconvenient in a nocturnal assembly. The text, however, supports the common translation. Literally, "Belshazzar the king made bread for his lords a thousand; and against the thousand he drank wine." That is, say some, he was a very great drinker.

(a) Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine (b) before the thousand.
(a) Daniel recites this history of King Belshazzar, Evilmerodach's son, to show God's judgments against the wicked for the deliverance of his Church, and how the prophecy of Jeremiah was true, that they would be delivered after seventy years.
(b) The kings of the east part then used to commonly sit alone, and disdained that any should sit in their company: and now to show his power, and how little he thought of his enemy, which then besieged Babylon, made a solemn banquet, and used excess in their company, which is meant here by drinking wine: thus the wicked are very lax in morals and negligent, when their destruction is at hand.

Belshazzar the king made a great feast,.... This king was not the immediate successor of Nebuchadnezzar, but Evilmerodach, Jeremiah 52:31, who, according to Ptolemy's canon, reigned two years; then followed Neriglissar, his sister's husband, by whom he was slain, and who usurped the throne, and reigned four years; he died in the beginning of his fourth year, and left a son called Laborosoarchod, who reigned but nine months, which are placed by Ptolemy to his father's reign, and therefore he himself is not mentioned in the canon; and then followed this king, who by Ptolemy is called Nabonadius; by Berosus, Nabonnedus (t) by Abydenus (u), Nabannidochus; by Herodotus (w), Labynitus; and by Josephus (x), Naboandelus, who, according to him, is the same with Belshazzar; whom some confound with the son of Neriglissar; others take him to be the same with Evilmerodach, because he here immediately follows Nebuchadnezzar, and is called his son, Daniel 5:11, and others that he was a younger brother, so Jarchi and Theodoret; but the truth is, that he was the son of Evilmerodach, and grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, which agrees with the prophecy in Jeremiah 27:7, for though Nebuchadnezzar is called his father, and he his son, Daniel 5:2 this is said after the manner of the eastern nations, who used to call ancestors fathers, and their more remote posterity sons. He had his name Belshazzar from the idol Bel, and may be rendered, "Bel's treasurer": though, according to Saadiah, the word signifies "a searcher of treasures", of his ancestors, or of the house of God. Hillerus translates it, "Bel hath hidden". This king
made a great feast; or "bread" (y), which is put for all provisions; it was great, both on account of plenty of food, variety of dishes, and number of guests, and those of the highest rank and quality. On what account this feast was made is not easy to say; whether out of contempt of Cyrus and his army, by whom he was now besieged, and to show that he thought himself quite safe and secure in a city so well walled and fortified, and having in it such vast quantities of provision; or whether it was on account of a victory he had obtained that morning over the Medes and Persians, as Josephus Ben Gorion (z) relates; and therefore in the evening treated his thousand lords, who had been engaged in battle with him, and behaved well: though it seems to have been an anniversary feast; since, according to Xenophon and Herodotus, Cyrus knew of it before hand; either on account of the king's birthday, or in honour to his gods, particularly Shach, which was called the Sachaenan feast; See Gill on Jeremiah 25:26, Jeremiah 51:41 which seems most likely, since these were praised at this time, and the vessels of the temple of God at Jerusalem profaned, Daniel 5:2, this feast was prophesied of by Isaiah, Isaiah 21:5 and by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 51:39, it had its name from Shach, one of their deities, of which See Gill on Daniel 1:4, Daniel 1:7 the same with Belus or the sun. The feasts kept in honour of it were much like the Saturnalia of the Romans, or the Purim of the Jews; and were kept eleven days together, in which everyone did as he pleased, no order and decorum being observed; and, for five of those days especially, there was no difference between master and servant, yea, the latter had the government of the former; and they spent day and night in dancing and drinking, and in all excess of riot and revelling (a); and in such like manner the Babylonians were indulging themselves, when their city was taken by Cyrus, as the above writers assert (b); and from the knowledge Cyrus had of it, it appears to be a stated feast, and very probably on the above account. According to Strabo (c), there was a feast of this name among the Persians, which was celebrated in honour of the goddess Anais, Diana, or the moon; and at whose altar they placed together Amanus and Anandratus, Persian demons; and appointed a solemn convention once a year, called Saca. Some say the occasion of it was this; that Cyrus making an expedition against the Sacse, a people in Scythia, pretended a flight, and left his tents full of all provisions, and especially wine, which they finding, filled themselves with it; when he returning upon them, finding some overcome with wine and stupefied, others overwhelmed with sleep, and others dancing and behaving in a bacchanalian way, they fell into his hands, and almost all of them perished; and taking this victory to be from the gods, he consecrated that day to the god of his country, and called it Sacaea; and wherever there was a temple of this deity, there was appointed a bacchanalian feast, in which men, and women appeared night and day in a Scythian habit, drinking together, and behaving to one another in a jocose and lascivious manner; but this could not be the feast now observed at Babylon, though it is very probable it was something of the like nature, and observed in much the same manner. And was made "to a thousand of his lords"; his nobles, the peers of his realm, governors of provinces, &c.; such a number of guests Ptolemy king of Egypt feasted at one time of Pompey's army, as Pliny from Varro relates (d); but Alexander far exceeded, who at a wedding had nine (some say ten) thousand at his tables, and gave to everyone a cup of gold, to offer wine in honour of the gods (e); and Pliny reports (f) of one Pythius Bythinus, who entertained the whole army of Xerxes with a feast, even seven hundred and eighty eight thousand men.
And drank wine before the thousand; not that he strove with them who should drink most, or drank to everyone of them separately, and so a thousand cups, as Jacchiades suggests; but he drank in the presence of them, to show his condescension and familiarity; this being, as Aben Ezra observes, contrary to the custom of kings, especially of the eastern nations, who were seldom seen in public. This feast was kept in a large house or hall, as Josephus (g) says, afterwards called the banqueting house, Daniel 5:10.
(t) Apud Joseph. contr. Apion. l. 1. (u) Apud Euseb. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41. p. 457. (w) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 188. (x) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 2. (y) "panem", Montanus, Piscator. All food is called bread, Jarchi in Leviticus. xxi. 17. (z) Hist. Hebr. l. 1. c. 5. p. 24. (a) Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 14. c. 10. ex Beroso & Ctesia. (b) Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 23. Herodot. Clio, sive l. 1. c. 191. (c) Geograph. l. 11. p. 352, 353. (d) Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 10. (e) Plutarch. in Vit. Alexand. (f) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 10.) (g) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 2.

Belshazzar bade defiance to the judgments of God. Most historians consider that Cyrus then besieged Babylon. Security and sensuality are sad proofs of approaching ruin. That mirth is sinful indeed, which profanes sacred things; and what are many of the songs used at modern feasts better than the praises sung by the heathens to their gods! See how God struck terror upon Belshazzar and his lords. God's written word is enough to put the proudest, boldest sinner in a fright. What we see of God, the part of the hand that writes in the book of the creatures, and in the book of the Scriptures, should fill us with awful thoughts concerning that part which we do not see. If this be the finger of God, what is his arm when made bare? And what is He? The king's guilty conscience told him that he had no reason to expect any good news from heaven. God can, in a moment, make the heart of the stoutest sinner to tremble; and there needs no more than to let loose his own thoughts upon him; they will give him trouble enough. No bodily pain can equal the inward agony which sometimes seizes the sinner in the midst of mirth, carnal pleasures, and worldly pomp. Sometimes terrors cause a man to flee to Christ for pardon and peace; but many cry out for fear of wrath, who are not humbled for their sins, and who seek relief by lying vanities. The ignorance and uncertainty concerning the Holy Scriptures, shown by many who call themselves wise, only tend to drive sinners to despair, as the ignorance of these wise men did.

Belshazzar--RAWLINSON, from the Assyrian inscriptions, has explained the seeming discrepancy between Daniel and the heathen historians of Babylon, BEROSUS and ABYDENUS, who say the last king (Nabonidus) surrendered in Borsippa, after Babylon was taken, and had an honorable abode in Caramania assigned to him. Belshazzar was joint king with his father (called Minus in the inscriptions), but subordinate to him; hence the Babylonian account suppresses the facts which cast discredit on Babylon, namely, that Belshazzar shut himself up in that city and fell at its capture; while it records the surrender of the principal king in Borsippa (see my Introduction to Daniel). The heathen XENOPHON'S description of Belshazzar accords with Daniel's; he calls him "impious," and illustrates his cruelty by mentioning that he killed one of his nobles, merely because, in hunting, the noble struck down the game before him; and unmanned a courtier, Gadates, at a banquet, because one of the king's concubines praised him as handsome. Daniel shows none of the sympathy for him which he had for Nebuchadnezzar. XENOPHON confirms Daniel as to Belshazzar's end. WINER explains the "shazzar" in the name as meaning "fire."
made . . . feast--heaven-sent infatuation when his city was at the time being besieged by Cyrus. The fortifications and abundant provisions in the city made the king despise the besiegers. It was a festival day among the Babylonians [XENOPHON].
drank . . . before the thousand--The king, on this extraordinary occasion, departed from his usual way of feasting apart from his nobles (compare Esther 1:3).

The verses describe the progress of Belshazzar's magnifying himself against the living Do, whereby the judgment threatened came upon him and his kingdom. A great feast, which the king gave to his officers of state and to his wives, furnished the occasion for this.
The name of the king, בּלשׁאצּר, contains in it the two component parts of the name which Daniel had received (Daniel 1:7), but without the interposed E, whereby it is distinguished from it. This distinction is not to be overlooked, although the lxx have done so, and have written the two names, as if they were identical, Balta'sar. The meaning of the name is as yet unknown. לחם, meal-time, the festival. The invitation to a thousand officers of state corresponds to the magnificence of Oriental kings. According to Ctesias (Athen. Deipnos. iv. 146), 15, 000 men dined daily from the table of the Persian king (cf. Esther 1:4). To account for this large number of guests, it is not necessary to suppose that during the siege of Babylon by Cyrus a multitude of great officers from all parts of the kingdom had fled for refuge to Babylon. The number specified is evidently a round number, i.e., the number of the guests amounted to about a thousand. The words, he drank wine before the thousand (great officers), are not, with Hvernick, to be explained of drinking first, or of preceding them in drinking, or of drinking a toast to them, but are to be understood according to the Oriental custom, by which at great festivals the king sat at a separate table on an elevated place, so that he had the guests before him or opposite to him. The drinking of wine is particularly noticed as the immediate occasion of the wickedness which followed.

Belshazzar - The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Made a great feast - After the manner of the eastern kings who shewed their magnificence this way. But this is prodigious that he should carouse when the city was besieged, and ready to be taken by Darius the Mede.

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