|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-9 Belshazzar bade defiance to the judgments of God. Most historians consider that Cyrus then besieged Babylon. Security and sensuality are sad proofs of approaching ruin. That mirth is sinful indeed, which profanes sacred things; and what are many of the songs used at modern feasts better than the praises sung by the heathens to their gods! See how God struck terror upon Belshazzar and his lords. God's written word is enough to put the proudest, boldest sinner in a fright. What we see of God, the part of the hand that writes in the book of the creatures, and in the book of the Scriptures, should fill us with awful thoughts concerning that part which we do not see. If this be the finger of God, what is his arm when made bare? And what is He? The king's guilty conscience told him that he had no reason to expect any good news from heaven. God can, in a moment, make the heart of the stoutest sinner to tremble; and there needs no more than to let loose his own thoughts upon him; they will give him trouble enough. No bodily pain can equal the inward agony which sometimes seizes the sinner in the midst of mirth, carnal pleasures, and worldly pomp. Sometimes terrors cause a man to flee to Christ for pardon and peace; but many cry out for fear of wrath, who are not humbled for their sins, and who seek relief by lying vanities. The ignorance and uncertainty concerning the Holy Scriptures, shown by many who call themselves wise, only tend to drive sinners to despair, as the ignorance of these wise men did.
Verse 6. - Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The Septuagint differs in a somewhat important degree from the Massoretic text, "And his countenance was changed, and fears and thoughts troubled him." In this clause not improbably φόβοι and ὑπόνοιαι are double renderings of רעין. "And the king hasted and rose up, and looked at that writing, and his companions round about him (κύκλῳ αὐτοῦ) boasted." It is clear that the text from which the Septuagint had repeated the verb בֶהַל (bebal), which means originally "to hasten," and had the word "king "after it, if the Septuagint Aramaic were the original, we can easily understand how the word repeated might be omitted by bomoioteleutoa. While קם could easily be read קט after the square character had got place, קמ could not in the script of the Egyptian Aramaic papyri be easily read קם. consequently we are inclined to look on the reading of the Septuagint here as being the primitive one. The king, according to this verse, saw the handwriting, but not till he rose did he see what was written. This representation of the succession of events is natural, whereas the statements about his loins being loosed is mere amplification. The last clause storms to be a misreading of the clause which appears in the Massoretic at the end (which see). The first word seems to have been misread heberren, and thus a meaning is violently given to the other parts of the clause. The probability is in favour of the Massoretic reading here, Theodotion and the Peshitta agree with the Massoretic text. The omen of a hand appearing to write on the wall of the palace was one that might easily cause the thoughts of the king to trouble him. Much more was the omen of importance when the king saw that the hand which had appeared to write had actually left certain words written. It was but natural that the brightness of the king's countenance should depart from him when he saw the hand. thus awfully coming out of the darkness, and writing, and that his knees should smite one upon another when what was written gleamed upon him from the wall before him. He might well be sure that the message so communicated would be laden with fate. Fear is naturally the first emotion occasioned by any mysterious occurrence; and then Babylon was, in all likelihood, being pressed by the advance of Cyrus. If he had any suspicion of the treachery that had sapped the power of his father, his apprehensions would be all the greater.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then the kings countenance changed,.... Or, "his brightness" (l); his ruddy countenance, his florid looks, his gay airs; all his jollity and mirth, that appeared in his face, were changed into paleness, sadness, and confusion:
and his thoughts troubled him; what should be the meaning of this; perhaps he might immediately fear it presaged ruin and destruction to him; the sins of his former life might at once come into his thoughts, and those particularly he had now been guilty of; his luxury and intemperance, his idolatry and profanation of the vessels of the sanctuary, which his conscience might accuse him of, and give him great distress and trouble:
so that the joints of his loins were loosed; or, "the girdles of his loins" (m); which were loosed or broke, through the agitation he was in; or he was all over in a sweat, so that he was obliged to loose his girdle; or, as persons in great fear and consternation, he was seized with a pain in his back; it opened as it were; nor could he hold his urine; as Grotius and others; see Isaiah 45:1, where this seems to be prophesied of:
and his knees smote one against another; as is the case of persons in a great tremor, or under a panic. "Et subito genua intremuere timore".--Ovid.
(l) "splendores ejus", Montanus, Vatablus, Michaelis. (m) "cingula lumborum ejus", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. countenance—literally, "brightness," that is, his bright look.
joints of his loins—"the vertebræ of his back" [Gesenius].
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