Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 15

Chapter 15: The Night Prophecy Was Fulfilled ~ Daniel 5:13-31

Q1 – It makes an interesting study to review some of the scriptures in Jeremiah where he foretold what would happen during Babylonian captivity. Begin reading around Jeremiah 21, or search on “Nebuchadnezzar” in the book of Jeremiah and note how what was foretold lined up with what occurred in Daniel.

A1 – It would be good to start this study by placing events in perspective. Timelines can be very helpful for this. You can do your own search for Bible timelines or refer to the ones listed below.

  • The Rulers and Prophets of Daniel’s Time – (This timeline provides a picture representation of the time periods covered by the various books of the Bible, from about 650 BC almost to the time of Christ.)
  • Daniel – (Scroll down to the graphic in #4 and note the large shaded rectangle denoting the time covered by the book of Daniel. Note that the complete line depicting the time period for the book of Jeremiah is not shown and would extend back to about 627 BC. However, you can see that the book of Jeremiah precedes and overlaps the book of Daniel.)
  • Bible Timeline – (This timeline gives a complete listing of approximate dates, from the creation in Genesis through the book of Revelation. References to Daniel begin at 605 BC, and you can scroll around and see how the various scriptures in Jeremiah line up with Daniel.)
  • Amazing Bible and World History Timeline Poster – (This poster is for sale and looks to be very comprehensive. However, I have not actually seen it, nor do I receive any compensation whatsoever.)

The book of Daniel covers the time period from about 605 BC to 536 BC, approximately 69 years, which lines up with the 70 years of Babylonian captivity. Daniel was a young person when he went into captivity, possibly 14-20 years old, which would place his birth as early as around 625-620 BC. He lived through all the Babylonian kings and was there the night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom (Daniel 5:30-31). It was Darius who had Daniel thrown in the den of lions, which Daniel survived. He went on to prosper during the reigns of Darius and of Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 6:28). This means Daniel lived probably well into his 80s or even into his 90s, making an estimated time of his death around 535-530 BC.

The lives of Daniel and Jeremiah overlapped, although Jeremiah was a little older than Daniel. Jeremiah began his years as a prophet probably around the time Daniel was born or maybe a few years before his birth. Scriptures do not say how old Jeremiah was at the time, but in Jeremiah 1:6, he tried to tell God he was too young to be His prophet, an excuse that didn’t work. He states in Jeremiah 1:2-3 that the word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the king of Judah, and extended through the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. (Remember that Daniel went into exile earlier, around 605 BC, when the first wave of captives were taken.) This would date Jeremiah’s calling around the year 627 BC.

So Jeremiah served as a prophet of God during the time directly preceding Babylonian captivity and until the Israelites were almost midway through those years. He acted as a mouthpiece of God, instructing and admonishing the people during this most tumultuous time in their history. He was also letting them know as they went along what was about to occur so they would know what to expect. Even though God was unhappy with His people and punished them with these years of foreign captivity, He kept in contact with them through His prophets and did not abandon them.

Scroll through the scriptures in Jeremiah that mention Nebuchadnezzar to see how Jeremiah kept the Israelites informed as to what was occurring or about to occur.

In Jeremiah 29 you can read the letter that Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the exiles living in Babylon. The body of the letter is in verses 4-23. In that letter, God instructs His people to build houses and to settle down. He tells them to have children and seek peace and prosperity in the city where they are living in exile. He admonishes them not to listen to the false prophets who play to their dreams of returning to Jerusalem any time soon. Even though God will bring them back, it’s going to be after the seventy years in Babylon are completed. Through this letter, God is instructing His people how to live while in Babylonian captivity.

An interesting aside is the account of the the false prophet Hananiah in Jeremiah 28. He tried to say that within two years God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, bring His people back, and restore things like they were (verses 2-4). He even went so far as to break the wooden yoke off Jeremiah’s neck to symbolize how God would break Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke from off their nation (verses 10-11). God comes back strong against Hananiah’s prophecy and states, “‘I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.’” (Jeremiah 28:14, NIV) Because Hananiah tried to persuade the people to trust in his lies and preached rebellion, God said He would remove him from the face of the earth, and he died that same year.

Q2 – Compare Daniel’s demeanor with that of the acute anxiety of everyone else in the room, particularly the king. What gave Daniel his confidence? Why was he not worried he would be killed for delivering this devastating message?

A2 – Daniel is an old man at the time of this scripture. He has lived through being marched off into captivity, being reprogrammed to serve the king, and who knows how many death threats he has endured along the way. He has seen firsthand how God protects and delivers those who are faithful to Him, even while living in captivity in a foreign land. He has also served as God’s mouthpiece, interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and delivering God’s messages to him. He could just as well have uttered the words that the Apostle Paul would proclaim several centuries later, “I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.” (II Timothy 1:12b, CEB) He did not fear what other people might do to him, because live or die, he would serve God.

Q3 – Why do you suppose God wrote “mene” twice in His message to Belshazzar?

A3 – God must have repeated this word for emphasis, so there could be no doubt as to the finality of His decision—the days of this kingdom were numbered, and this king’s number was up.

Of course, with words from God, once would have been enough, but the audience probably consisted of people who believed in false gods and not in the true God. Try to envision this whole scene. The people present saw the hand writing the message up on the wall, and they felt the fear envelop the room and themselves. Then it took awhile for the king to summon his wise men and let them try to figure out the meaning, for the queen to hear the outcry, come into the banquet hall and tell the king what to do, and for Daniel to be found and brought before the king. How long? It could have been hours, or maybe all day, as the scripture states in verse 30 that Belshazzar was killed that night.

If you had been there in that banquet hall, what would you have been doing during this time of what had to seem like an endless wait? Probably staring up at that wall, trying over and over to figure out what those words meant. You would definitely have noticed “mene” was written twice. And when Daniel finally interpreted the words, you would most certainly have felt this double impact and the absolute finality of God’s judgement.