23 but have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which don't see, nor hear, nor know; and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, you have not glorified.
*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
The Prophet continues his own sentence, and confirms what I have said, namely, King Belshazzar was intractable and willfully blind to God's judgment. For thou hast raised thyself, says he, against the Lord of heaven. If he had raised himself thus insolently against men, his sin would be worthy of punishment; but when he had provoked God on purpose, this arrogance neither could nor ought to be borne. Again, therefore, the Prophet increases the guilt of the king's pride by saying, he raised himself against the King of heaven He also expresses the manner of his doing so, by commanding the vessels of the temple to be brought to sight; he drank from them This profanation was an indecent sacrilege, but Belshazzar was not content with that indignity; he used these vessels for luxury and foul debauchery, abusing them in the company of concubines and abandoned women; and added a yet greater reproach against God, in praising his gods of silver and gold, brass and iron, wood and stone, which cannot feel. This had not been said previously; but since Daniel here sustains the character of a teacher, he does not relate the events so shortly as at first. When he said at the beginning of this chapter, Belshazzar celebrated that impure banquet, he spoke historically; but he now executes, as I have said, the office of a teacher. Thou, says he, hast praised the gods made of corruptible material, who neither see, nor hear, nor understand; but thou hast defrauded the living God of his honor, in whose hand is thy life, on which thou dependest, and whence all in which thou boastest proceeds. Because thou hast so despised the living God, who had been so gracious unto thee, this ingratitude was both base and shameful. We see, therefore, how severely the Prophet reproves the impious tyrant of sacrilege, and mad rashness, and foul ingratitude towards God. I pass over these things lightly, since they have been treated elsewhere. It now follows, --
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven - The God who had so signally rebuked and humbled Nebuchadnezzar. The monarch had done this, it would seem, during the whole of his reign, and now by a crowning act of impiety he had evinced special disregard of him, and contempt for him, by profaning the sacred vessels of his temple.
And they have brought the vessels of his house before thee - See the note at Daniel 5:2.
And the God in whose hand thy breath is - Under whose power, and at whose disposal, is thy life. While you have been celebrating the praises of idol gods, who can do you neither good nor evil, you have been showing special contempt for that great Being who keeps you in existence, and who has power to take away your life at any moment. What is here said of Belshazzar is true of all men - high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, princes and people. It is a deeply affecting consideration, that the breath, on which our life depends, and which is itself so frail a thing, is in the "hand" of a Being who is invisible to us, over whom we can have no control; who can arrest it when he pleases; who has given us no intimation when he will do it, and who often does it so suddenly as to defy all previous calculation and hope. Nothing is more absolute than the power which God holds over the breath of men, yet there is nothing which is less recognized than that power, and nothing which men are less disposed to acknowledge than their dependence on him for it.
And whose are all thy ways - That is, he has power to control thee in all thy ways. You can go nowhere without his permission; you can never, when abroad, return to your home without the direction of his providence. What is here said, also, is as true of all others as it was of the Chaldean prince. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps." None of us can take a step without his permission; none can go forth on a journey to a distant land without his constant superintending care; none can return without his favor. And yet how little is this recognized! How few feel it when they go out and come in; when they go forth to their daily employments; when they start on a voyage or journey; when they propose to return to their homes!
Hast thou not glorified - That is, thou hast not honored him by a suitable acknowledgment of dependence on him.
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord - And the highest evidence of this rebellion was, the profaning the sacred vessels of the Lord's house.
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven,.... Who made it, and dwells in it; from whence he beholds all the actions of the children of men, and will bring them to an account for them; and yet, though so high and great, such was the insolence of this king, that he dared to lift up himself against him, as if he was above him, and greater than he; and indeed so it may be rendered, "above the Lord of heaven" (x); which showed his great pride and vanity, his want of knowledge, both of himself, and of the true God. This name of God is the same with Beelsamen (y); by which the Phoenicians used to call him:
and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee; that is, his servants by his orders had brought the vessels of the temple at Jerusalem, which Nebuchadnezzar had took from thence, and set them upon his table for him and his company to drink out of; which is an instance of the pride of his heart, and of his daring boldness and impiety; see Daniel 5:2,
and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drank wine in them; even that very day or night: this Daniel had knowledge of by some means or another; and his intelligence was so good that he could with great certainty affirm it:
and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone; see Daniel 5:4,
which see not, nor hear, nor know; no more, than the various metals and materials of which they are made; and therefore it must be great madness and folly to praise such as gods that are below men, and even brutes; have neither the sense of animals, nor the knowledge of men; see Psalm 115:4,
and the God in whose hand thy breath is; who gave it to him at first, and as yet continued it in him, and could take it away when he pleased: and whose are all thy ways; counsels and designs, works and actions; under whose direction and control they all are; the events, issue, and success of which all depend upon him; see Jeremiah 10:23,
him hast thou not glorified; by owning him as the only true God; ascribing all he was and had unto him, and giving due worship, adoration, and honour to him; but, on the contrary, setting up his idol gods above him, and treating him, and everything belonging to him, with ignominy and contempt.
(x) "super Dominum coeli", Montanus; "super Dominum scelorum", Michaelis. (y) Sanchoniatho apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. c. 9. p. 34.
*More commentary available at chapter level.