7 The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing, and show me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
The Prophet narrates how King Belshazzar sought a remedy for his anxiety; hence we gather how his mind was so immediately wounded, and how he felt he could not escape God's hand, otherwise he would not have called the wise men so suddenly in the midst of the banquet. Again, when the Prophet says, He cried out loudly, he was clearly so astonished as to forget his being king, for to cry out at table was not consistent with his dignity. But God expelled all pride from him, by compelling him to burst forth into a cry, like a man completely beside himself. We must now consider the remedy to which he resorted: he ordered the Chaldeans, and magi, and astrologers to be called We learn from this how exceedingly prone men are to vanity, lying, and falsehood. Daniel ought to have been first, even among the Chaldeans, for that was an answer worthy of remembrance which he had given to the grandfather of this king, when he predicted his becoming like the beasts of the forest. Since this prophecy was verified by the event, his authority ought to have flourished even to a thousand years. He was daily in the king's sight, and yet he was neglected, while the king sent for all the Chaldeans, and astrologers, and diviners, and magi. Truly enough, these men were then in so great repute that they deservedly obscured the fame of Daniel, for they were indignant at a captive being preferred to native teachers, when they knew their own glory amongst all peoples depended upon the persuasion of their being the only wise men. As, therefore, they wished to retain their good opinion, as being God's counselors, no wonder they despised this stranger. But this feeling cannot avail for a moment before God: for what can be urged in defense of the king's impiety? His grandfather was a memorable instance of God's vengeance, when rejected from the company of men, and compelled to dwell among the wildest beasts of the forest. This, truly, could not appear a matter of chance. God, then, had first admonished him by a dream, and next sent his own Prophet as the interpreter of the oracle and the vision. As I have said, the fame of this event ought to have been perpetual among the Chaldeans, yet the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten his example, insulted the God of Israel, profaned the vessels of the temple, and triumphed with his idols! When God sets before him the sign of his judgment, he calls together the magi and the Chaldeans, and passes by Daniel. And what possible excuse can he have for this? We have seen, as I have said, how very prone men are to be deluded by Satan's impostures, and the well-known proverb becomes true, -- The world loves to be deceived! This, also, is worthy of notice, because in the present day, and in troublous times, many protect themselves behind the shield of their ignorance. But the explanation is at hand -- they are willingly blind; they shut their eyes amidst the clearest light; for if God considered King Belshazzar without excuse when the Prophet was once presented to him, what excuse can the blind of these days allege? Oh! if I could determine what God's will is for me, I would submit myself instantly to it, because God daily and openly calls to us and invites us, and shews us the way; but none answer him, none follow him, or at least how very few! Hence we must diligently consider the example of the King of Babylon when we see him full of anxiety, and yet not seeking God as he ought. And why so? He wanders about in great hesitation; he sees himself constrained, and yet he cannot fly from the judgment of God, but seeks consolation in magi, Chaldeans, and other impostors; for, as we have seen, they had been once or twice proved so, and this ought to have been sufficiently celebrated and notorious to all men. We see, then, how blind King Belshazzar was, since he closed his eyes to the light offered him. So in the present day almost all the world continues in blindness; it is not allowed to wander in darkness, but when light shines upon it, it closes its eyes, rejects God's grace, and purposely desires to cast itself headlong. This conduct is far too common. Now the Prophet says, -- The king promised the wise men a present of a chain of gold to whoever read the writing; and besides this, raiment of purple, and the third rank in the kingdom! This shews him not to have been sincerely touched by the fear of God. And this repugnance is worthy of observation in the wicked, who dread God's judgments, and yet the pride of their hearts is not corrected and subdued, as we saw in the case of this king. For his knees smote one against the other, and the joints of his loins were loosened: he trembles throughout his entire frame, and becomes half dead with fear, because God's terror seizes on all his senses. Meanwhile, we see a hidden pride lurking in his mind, which breaks forth in the promise, whoever shall interpret the writing, shall be the third in rank in the kingdom! God had already deprived him of his royal dignity; yet he still wishes to raise others on high in defiance of God! What, then, is the meaning of this? We see how often the wicked are terrified, and how deeply they cherish a hidden contumacy, so that God never subdues them. They shew, indeed, many signs of repentance; but if any one carefully weighs all their words and deeds, he will find the Prophet's narration concerning King Belshazzar completely verified, because they rage against God, and are never teachable or obedient, but utterly stupefied. We saw this partly in former verse, and shall see it again more clearly at the end of the chapter. As to the latter clause of the verse, he shall rule as third in the kingdom, it is uncertain whether he promises the third portion or the third rank; for many think the queen, of whom mention will soon be made, was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar, and grandmother of King Belshazzar. It follows: --
And the king cried aloud - Margin, as in the Chaldee, "with might." This indicates a sudden and an alarming cry. The king was deeply terrified; and, unable himself to divine the meaning of the mysterious appearance of the hand, he naturally turned at once to those whose office it was to explain dreams and supernatural appearances.
To bring in the astrologers - See the note at Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7.
And said to the wise men of Babylon - Those just referred to - the astrologers, etc. Having the power, as was supposed, of interpreting the indications of coming events, they were esteemed as eminently wise.
Whosoever shall read this writing - It would seem from this that even the characters were not familiar to the king and to those who were with him. Evidently the letters were not in the ordinary Chaldee form, but in some form which to them was strange and unknown. Thus there was a double mystery hanging over the writing - a mystery in regard to the language in which the words were written, and to the meaning of the words. Many conjectures have been formed as to the language employed in this writing (compare the note at Daniel 5:24), but such conjectures are useless, since it is impossible now to ascertain what it was. As the writing, however, had a primary reference to the sacrilege committed in regard to the sacred vessels of the temple, and as Daniel was able to read the letters at once, it would seem not improbable that the words were in the Hebrew character then used - a character such as that found now in the Samaritan Pentateuch - for the Chaldee character now found in the Bible has not improbably been substituted for the more ancient and less elegant character now found in the Samaritan Pentateuch alone. There is no improbability in supposing that even the astrologers and the soothsayers were not familiar with that character, and could not readily read it.
And show me the interpretation thereof - The meaning of the words.
Shall be clothed with scarlet - The color worn usually by princes and by persons of rank. The margin is "purple." So the Greek of Theodotion - πορφύραν porphuran. So also the Latin Vulgate - "purpura." On the nature and uses of this color, see the note at Isaiah 1:18.
And have a chain of gold about his neck - Also indicative of rank and authority. Compare Genesis 41:42. When Joseph was placed over the land of Egypt, the king honored him in a similar manner, by putting "a gold chain about his neck." This was common in Persia. See Xen. "Cyrop." I. 3, 2, II. 4, 6, VIII. 5, 18; Anab. I. 5, 8. Upon most of the figures in the ruins of Persepolis the same ornament is now found. Prof. Stuart renders this, "a collar of gold."
And shall be the third ruler in the kingdom - Of course, the king was first. Who the second was, or why the one who could disclose the meaning of the words should not be raised to the second rank, is not stated. It may be, that the office of prime minister was so fixed, or was held by one whose services were so important to the king, that he could not be at once displaced. Or the meaning may be, that the favored person who could interpret this would be raised to the third "rank" of dignity, or placed in the third class of those who held offices in the realm. The Chaldee is, "and shall rule third in the kingdom," and the idea would seem rather to be that he should be of the third rank or grade in office. So Bertholdt understands it. Grotius understands it as the third person in rank. He says the first was the king; the second, the son of the king; the third, the prince of the Satraps.
Whosoever shall read this writing - He knew it must be some awful portent, and wished to know what.
The king cried aloud to bring in (g) the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. [And] the king spake, and said to the wise [men] of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and [have] a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
(g) Thus the wicked in their troubles seek many means, which draw them from God, because they do not seek for him who is the only comfort in all afflictions.
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers,.... Or, "with strength" (n); with a strong voice, as loud as he could; which is expressive of the fright he was in, and of his eagerness and impatience of information; laying aside all decency, and forgetting his royal majesty, like a man out of his senses, quite distracted, as it were: of the "astrologers", &c. See Gill on Daniel 1:20, Daniel 2:2, this was the usual course the kings of Babylon took, when they had matters of difficulty upon them, as appears from Daniel 2:2 and though they found it oftentimes fruitless and vain, yet still they pursued it; so besotted and addicted were they to this kind of superstition:
and the king spake and said to the wise men of Babylon; who were presently brought in from the several parts of the city where they dwelt, and probably many of them might be at court at that time; and being introduced into the hall where the king and his nobles were, he addressed them in the following manner;
whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof: pointing to the writing upon the wall, which continued; and which neither the king nor any about him could read or interpret, and therefore both are required to be done:
he shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck; or "with purple" (o); the colour wore by persons of rank and figure; and the chain of gold was an emblem of honour and dignity, and more to be regarded for that than for the value of the gold of which it was made:
and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom; not rule over the third part of the kingdom, as Aben Ezra; but be the third man in the kingdom; next to the king and the queen mother, or to the king and the heir apparent; or one of the third principal rulers; or one of the three presidents of the kingdom, as Daniel afterwards was.
(n) "cum virtute", Vatablus; "in virtute", Montanus; "fortiter", Cocceius; "cum robore", Michaelis. (o) "purpura", Vatablus, Pagninus; Montanus; Grotius, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis.
He calls for the magicians, who more than once had been detected in imposture. He neglects God, and Daniel, whose fame as an interpreter was then well-established. The world wishes to be deceived and shuts its eyes against the light [CALVIN]. The Hebrews think the words were Chaldee, but in the old Hebrew character (like that now in the Samaritan Pentateuch).
third ruler--The first place was given to the king; the second, to the son of the king, or of the queen; the third, to the chief of the satraps.
Since there are in this verse only three classes of wise men named as ordered to come to the king, to whom he promised the reward for the reading and the interpretation of the writing, and in Daniel 5:8 it is first stated that all the king's wise men came, the probability, is, that at first the king commanded only the three classes named in Daniel 5:7 to be brought to him. On this probability Kranichfeld founds the supposition that the king purposely, or with intention, summoned only the three classes named to avoid Daniel, whom he did not wish to consult, from his heathen religious fear of the God of the Jews. But this supposition is altogether untenable. For, first, it does not follow from Daniel 8:27 that under Belshazzar Daniel was president over all the wise men, but only that he was in the king's service. Then, in the event of Daniel's yet retaining the place assigned to him by Nebuchadnezzar, his non-appearance could not be explained on the supposition that Belshazzar called only three classes of the wise men, because the supposition that מלכּא חכּימי כּל (all the king's wise men) in Daniel 5:8 forms a contrast to the three classes named in Daniel 5:7 is not sustained by the language here used. But if by "all the wise men of the king," Daniel 5:8, we are to understand the whole body of the wise men of all the classes, and that they appeared before the king, then they must all have been called at the first, since no supplementary calling of the two classes not named in Daniel 5:7 is mentioned. Besides this, the words, "the king spake to the wise men of Babylon," make it probable that all the classes, without the exception of the two, were called. Moreover it is most improbable that in the case before us, where the matter concerned the reading of a writing, the חרטמּים, the magicians Schriftkenner, should not have been called merely to avoid Daniel, who was their רב (president) (Daniel 4:6 [Daniel 4:9]). Finally, it is psychologically altogether very improbable, that in the great agitation of fear which had filled him at the sight of the hand writing, Belshazzar should have reflected at all on this, that Daniel would announce to him misfortune or the vengeance of the God of the Jews. Such a reflection might perhaps arise on quiet deliberation, but not in the midst of agitating heart-anguish.
The strange circumstance that, according to Daniel 5:7, the king already promised a reward to the wise men, which presupposes that they were already present, and then that for the first time their presence is mentioned in Daniel 5:8, is occasioned by this, that in Daniel 5:7 the appearing of the wise men is not expressly mentioned, but is naturally presupposed, and that the first two clauses of the eighth verse are simply placed together, and are not united to each other by a causal nexus. The meaning of the statement in Daniel 5:7 and Daniel 5:8 is this: The king calls aloud, commanding the astrologers, etc., to be brought to him; and when the wise men of Babylon came to him, he said to each of them, Whoever reads the writing, etc. But all the king's wise men, when they had come, were unable to read the writing. As to the names of the wise men in Daniel 5:7, see under Daniel 2:2. יקרה for יקרא, from קרא, to read. As a reward, the king promises a purple robe, a gold chain for the neck, and the highest office in the kingdom. A robe of purple was the sign of rank worn by the high officers of state among the Persians, - cf. Esther 8:15 with Xenophon, Anab. i. 5. 8, - and among the Selucidae, 1 Macc. 10:20; and was also among the Medes the princely garb, Xen. Anab. i. 3. 2, ii. 4. 6. ארגּון, Hebr. ארגּמן, purple, is a word of Aryan origin, from the Sanscrit râga, red colour, with the formative syllables man and vat; cf. Gesen. Thes. Addid. p. 111f. וגו' דּי והמנוּכא does not depend on ילבּשׁ, but forms a clause by itself: and a chain of gold shall be about his neck. For the Kethiv המנוּכא the Keri substitutes the Targum. and Syr. form המניכא (Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:16, and Daniel 5:29), i.e., The Greek μανιάκης, from the Sansc. mani, jewel, pearl, with the frequent formative syllable ka in the Zend, whence the Chaldee word is derived; it signifies neck- or arm-band, here the former. The golden neck-chain (στρεπτὸς χρύσεος) was an ornament worn by the Persians of rank, and was given by kings as a mark of favour even to kings, e.g., Cambyses and the younger Cyrus; cf. Herod. iii. 20; Xen. Anab. i. 1. 27, 5. 8, 8. 29.
It is not quite certain what the princely situation is which was promised to the interpreter of the writing, since the meaning of תּלתּי is not quite clear. That it is not the ordinale of the number third, is, since Hvernick, now generally acknowledged, because for tertius in Aram. תּליתי is used, which occurs also in Daniel 2:39. Hvernick therefore regards תּלתּי, for which תּלתּא is found in Daniel 5:16 and Daniel 5:29, as an adjective formation which indicates a descent or occupation, and is here used as a nomen officii corresponding to the Hebr. שׁלישׁי. Gesenius and Dietrich regard תּלתּי as only the singular form for תּליתי, and תּלתּא as the stat. abs. of תּלת, third rank. Hitzig would change תּלתּי into תּלתּי, and regard תּלתּא as a singular formed from תּלתּאין, as triumvir from triumvirorum, and would interpret it by τρίτος αὐτός, the third (selbst-dritt): as one of three he shall rule in the kingdom, according to Daniel 6:3. Finally, Kranichfeld takes תּלתּי to be a fem. verbal formation according to the analogy of ארמית, אחרי, in the sense of three-ruler-wise, and תּלתּא for a noun formed from תּלתא, triumvir. Almost all these explanations amount to this, that the statements here regard the government of a triumvirate as it was regulated by the Median king Darius, Daniel 6:3 (2); and this appears also to be the meaning of the words as one may literally explain תּלתּי and תּלתּא. Regarding the Keri עלּין see under Daniel 4:4, and regarding פּשׁרא, under Daniel 4:15.
As all the wise men were unable to read the writing, it has been thought that it was in a foreign language different from the usual language of Babylon, the knowledge of which could not legitimately be expected to be possessed by the native wise men; and since, according to Daniel 5:17, Daniel 5:24., Daniel at once showed his acquaintance with the writing in question, it has from this been concluded that already the old Babylonians had handwriting corresponding to the later Syro-Palmyrenian inscriptions, while among the Hebrews to the time of the Exile the essentially Old-Phoenician writing, which is found on the so-called Samaritan coins and in the Samaritan Scriptures, was the peculiar national style of writing (Kran.). But this interpretation of the miracle on natural principles is quite erroneous. First, it is very unlikely that the Chaldean wise men should not have known these old Semitic characters, even although at that time they had ceased to be in current use among the Babylonians in their common writing. Then, from the circumstance that Daniel could at once read the writing, it does not follow that it was the well-known Old-Hebrew writing of his fatherland. "The characters employed in the writing," as Hengstenberg has rightly observed (Beitr. i. p. 122), "must have been altogether unusual so as not to be deciphered but by divine illumination." Yet we must not, with M. Geier and others, assume that the writing was visible only to the king and Daniel. This contradicts the text, according to which the Chaldean wise men, and without doubt all that were present, also saw the traces of the writing, but were not able to read it.
*More commentary available at chapter level.