The Handwriting on the Wall
By Tom Hendrickson-P.G.M.
Have you ever heard the old saying “The Handwriting on the wall”? It’s a metaphor we generally use to describe a vague feeling of pending doom or a feeling that something bad is going to happen.
The saying comes from Belshazzar’s Feast which is mentioned in the Royal Arch Degree. It is a story that has many important lessons for all of us to consider. To understand the rest of the story I will explore the source which is in the Old Testament Book of Daniel Chapters Four and Five.
The scene is in Babylon about the Sixth Century before our era (or B.C.) and King Nebuchadnezzar’s Armies had conquered Jerusalem. A sizable portion of the Jewish population of Judah including all the Nobel’s and scholars had been captured and deported back to Babylon. The Temple was sacked of all of its sacred treasures and taken to Babylon as well. Among the stolen plunder were many sacred cups made of gold and silver.
King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his officials to conduct a talent search among the prisoners to find the best and the brightest to learn the local language and literature to serve within the Kings Palace. The most impressive among the group of talented young Jews was Daniel. Daniel had a very special gift as he could interpret the Kings dreams and reveal their mysteries.
In time Daniel became a trusted servant to the King, and Nebuchadnezzar did relinquish his pagan gods and acknowledged Daniel’s God, the God of the people of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar eventually become King and he is a different story all together.
Now before we move on to the main thrust of the story. I highly recommend you go on line and Google a painting by Rembrandt called Belshazzar’s Feast. The painting depicts beautifully the story you are about to read.
Daniel 5 Living Bible (TLB)
5 Belshazzar the king invited a thousand of his officers to a great feast where the wine flowed freely. 2-4 While Belshazzar was drinking, he was reminded of the gold and silver cups taken long before from the Temple in Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and brought to Babylon. Belshazzar ordered that these sacred cups be brought in to the feast, and when they arrived, he and his princes, wives, and concubines drank toasts from them to their idols made of gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone.
5 Suddenly, as they were drinking from these cups, they saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall opposite the lampstand. The king himself saw the fingers as they wrote. 6 His face blanched with fear, and such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him.
7 “Bring the magicians and astrologers!” he screamed. “Bring the Chaldeans! Whoever reads that writing on the wall and tells me what it means will be dressed in purple robes of royal honor, with a gold chain around his neck, and he will become the third ruler in the kingdom!”[a]
8 But when they came, none of them could understand the writing or tell him what it meant.
9 The king grew more and more hysterical; his face reflected the terror he felt, and his officers too were shaken.
So the Queen-Mother heard the ruckus and ran into the banquet hall and told the King to calm down. She told him to call Daniel for he could interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems and he would know what the writing on the wall means.
So Daniel is summoned and rushes in…..
22 “And you, his successor, O Belshazzar—you knew all this, yet you have not been humble. 23 For you have defied the Lord of Heaven and brought here these cups from his Temple; and you and your officers and wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not praised the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! 24-25 And so God sent those fingers to write this message: ‘Mene,’ ‘Mene,’ ‘Tekel,’ ‘Parsin.’
26 “This is what it means:
“Mene means ‘numbered’—God has numbered the days of your reign, and they are ended.
27 “Tekel means ‘weighed’—you have been weighed in God’s balances and have failed the test.
28 “Parsin means ‘divided’—your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was robed in purple, a gold chain was hung around his neck, and he was proclaimed third ruler in the kingdom.
And that very night King Belshazzar was killed, and Babylon was conquered.
Quite a story. If you googled the picture as suggested, the story comes to life within the painting. The morale of the story is clear: remember that our days on this earth are numbered and the time we spend here will be weighed and judged. So, live each day to the fullest, do good works and appreciate every day for it may be your last.
Remember -”The Hand Writing is on the wall”.