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Lesson 6: From Arrogance to Destruction *

Introduction: Chapter 5 of the book of Daniel has a very interesting background. King Nebuchadnezzar died in 563 B.C. Chapter 5 takes place about 25 years after his death. King Nabonidus is now on the throne, but he shares his authority with his evil son, Belshazzar. The Persians, lead by King Cyrus, attack Babylon and defeat the troops led by King Nabonidus. King Nabonidus moves the main Babylonian army to Borsippa, and King Cyrus heads for the city of Babylon and surrounds it. My guess is that before Cyrus got to Babylon, a great number of officials fled to the city for protection. Babylon was protected by a massive double wall and had a sufficient food supply to last for 20 years. The setting for our study today is that Vice-King Belshazzar is within the safety of the walls of Babylon, King Cyrus and the Persians surround the city, and the main army of Babylon is off licking its wounds. Let's dive into Daniel 5!

  1. The Party


    1. Read Daniel 5:1. What was King Belshazzar thinking? The city is surrounded with enemy troops and he throws a party? (It might be a strategy to encourage the leaders of the city - no reason to worry, life will go on as usual, we are safe inside these walls. Perhaps feeling safe behind the walls of the city, and being a weak, "party-boy," he thought "Why not throw a party?")


    2. Read Daniel 5:2-3. This is an interesting choice of goblets. When we last saw "father" Nebuchadnezzar, he acknowledged the one true God of heaven. Why would his grandson choose these for the party? (Read the first part of Daniel 5:23. It informs us of Belshazzar's thinking. It says Belshazzar "set [himself] up against the Lord of heaven." This is deliberate. This is defiance. He did not accidentally choose these gold goblets.)


      1. If this is not an accident, why defy God? (I think it goes back to the prophecy of the statue - God said that Babylon will be defeated by another empire. Belshazzar is defying the prophecy.)


    3. Read Daniel 5:4. What point is being made by the leadership of Babylon? (Their gods defeated the "God of the goblet" - the God who the golden goblets celebrated.)


  2. The Party Spoiler


    1. Read Daniel 5:5-6. Imagine that you never saw a movie before. How would you react to seeing something like this? (For Belshazzar, it was absolutely frightening.)


      1. What does this say about Belshazzar? (He was not a fighter, not one who had great courage. We understand why King Nabonidus is out on the field of battle while Belshazzar is "safely" behind the walls of the city.)


      2. Does the cowardly character of Belshazzar make his defiance of God that much more disgusting?
    2. Read Daniel 5:7-8. What kind of performance review would you give these wise men? Three times we have seen this group tasked with interpreting something, and they are never able!


      1. What position is Belshazzar offering? (The position just below him.)


      2. Note that it says "all the king's wise men" came. Does this mean that Daniel is no longer among the wise men? (That is what this suggests. The fact that Daniel used to hold the "next to the king" spot also suggests that he no longer holds a position of importance.)


    3. Read Daniel 5:9. Why would Belshazzar be even more terrified? (Once again, this shows his weakness. He depends on others. When his advisors do not know, he gets even more terrified. You can be sure Nebuchadnezzar would not have responded this way.)


    4. Read Daniel 5:10. Commentators believe that this queen is Nebuchadnezzar's widow. How do you think she views her grandson compared to her husband, Nebuchadnezzar? (She likely thinks what we are thinking - he is spineless. She comes to put some steel in his spine.)


  3. Enter Daniel


    1. Read Daniel 5:11-12. Is this how Daniel would want to be remembered? (No! Read Daniel 4:8-9. This is exactly how Nebuchadnezzar described Daniel before he acknowledged the supremacy of the God of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar's widow describes Daniel the same way!)


      1. Is it a good thing that the God of Heaven is not identified? (If we are correct in our assumption that Belshazzar is involved in an act of defiance against the true God, it might be better for him to be confused about the source of Daniel's power.)


    2. Read Daniel 5:13 and compare it with Daniel 5:11. Did the queen say anything about Daniel being a slave? (No. She said he was "chief of the magicians.")


      1. Why does Belshazzar first ask him if he was a slave? (He is a nasty guy - and not too smart. He insults the man whose help he desperately needs. He likely now realizes that Daniel worships the true God of Heaven.)


    3. Read Daniel 5:14-16. Just how badly does Belshazzar want this information?


      1. Assume you lost your high-ranking job and you were offered it back later. What would you say? (Being next to the king is Daniel's old job.)


    4. Read Daniel 5:17. Is Daniel insulting Belshazzar? (Yes! A former slave tells him "You have nothing to give me that I value.")


      1. Why is this true? (Daniel knows the kingdom is ending right now.)


      2. Compare Daniel's answer in verse 17 with his answer in Daniel 2:26-28. Why does Daniel fail to give the glory to God as he did with Nebuchadnezzar? (Read Matthew 7:6. Belshazzar was about to be killed. There was no future for him. Daniel had no respect for him. His grandfather was a world conqueror who (finally) acknowledged the true God. Belshazzar has done nothing, gets drunk when danger approaches, and insults God.)


    5. Read Daniel 5:18-23. Are these more insults? (Yes!)


      1. Is this dangerous? (Historian Xenophon recorded that Belshazzar killed one of his nobles "merely because, in hunting, the noble struck down the game before him." He also records that Belshazzar emasculated one of the court personnel simply because one of his concubines said the man was handsome. Needless to say, people had been killed by evil Belshazzar for a lot less than the insults (which were the truth) Daniel was throwing around right now.)


    6. Read Daniel 5:24-28. Do you recall how Daniel brought bad news to Nebuchadnezzar? (Read Daniel 4:19. This continues to show Daniel's contempt for Belshazzar.)


      1. Nebuchadnezzar is given a couple of second chances. Why none for Belshazzar? (Re-read Daniel 5:22. Daniel says that Belshazzar knew the history of his grandfather and he learned nothing.)


        1. What does that say to us who have all of these Bible stories to consider?


    7. Read Daniel 5:29. Is this the promotion you want at this point in time?


      1. Why does Belshazzar promote Daniel in the face of all of these insults? (He is even more terrified now. My guess is that he is hoping that Daniel or God will somehow save him.)


    8. Read Daniel 5:30-31 and Daniel 6:1-2. Compare the outcome for Belshazzar and Daniel. Why does Daniel, who holds such a high position, not also die that night? (Who is in charge of the affairs of humans? This shows us that we need to be more concerned about God's opinion of us than we are about the opinion of our supervisors. Since the Medes took over that night, they might have seen the writing and learned that Daniel revealed that the Medes would take over. That would make Daniel an ally, not the enemy.)


    9. Friend, it appears that Daniel has been demoted in his old age and seemingly become irrelevant to the leadership. Whatever may be happening in your life, God is still on His throne. He still controls the affairs of humans and He cares about you. Will you accept this truth and trust God no matter what?


  4. Next week: From the Lion's Den to the Angel's Den.
* Copr. 2020, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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