Daniel 5:2
Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.
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(2) Whiles he tasted—i.e., while he was enjoying the wine. The sacred vessels were brought out of the temple of Merodach, and profaned in this manner for the purpose of defying Jehovah. But it may be reasonably asked, What led him to think of Jehovah in the midst of the revelry? It may have been that some drunken fancy seized him. It may have been that he had been warned that the prophets of Jehovah had foretold the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus, whose armies were now in the neighbourhood. Whatever the true explanation may be, there can be no doubt, from Daniel’s language (Daniel 5:23), and from the way in which Belshazzar’s gods are mentioned (Daniel 5:4), that the whole act was one of defiance of Jehovah.

Daniel 5:2-4. Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine — When he grew warm with wine, Houb. Commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels, &c. Triumphing thereby over God and his people. They drank wine — Made themselves merry with wine. And praised the gods of gold, &c. — Praised, as gods, senseless images of gold, silver, brass, iron, &c.; thus insulting the great God of heaven and earth, as if these images were more powerful than he, and had enabled them to prevail against him and his people. This their conduct was the more sinful, because Nebuchadnezzar had, not long before, prohibited, by a solemn decree, that any one should speak lightly of the God of the Jews. The Alexandrine and Coptic versions, after mentioning their praising their false gods, add, “But the everlasting God they praised not.” Such a wanton and sacrilegious insult deserved and called for exemplary punishment.

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.Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine - As the effect of tasting the wine - stating a fact which is illustrated in every age and land, that men, under the influence of intoxicating drinks, will do what they would not do when sober. In his sober moments it would seem probable that he would have respected the vessels consecrated to the service of religion, and would not have treated them with dishonor by introducing them for purposes of revelry.

Commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels - These vessels had been carefully deposited in some place as the spoils of victory (see Daniel 1:2), and it would appear that they had not before been desecrated for purposes of feasting. Belshazzar did what other men would have done in the same condition. He wished to make a display; to do something unusually surprising; and, though it had not been contemplated when the festival was appointed to make use of these vessels, yet, under the excitement of wine, nothing was too sacred to be introduced to the scenes of intoxication; nothing too foolish to be done. In regard to the vessels taken from the temple at Jerusalem, see the note at Daniel 1:2.

Which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken - Margin, "grandfather." According to the best account which we have of Belshazzar, he was the son of Evil-Merodach, who was the son of Nebuchadnezzar (see the Introduction to the chapter, Section II.), and therefore the word is used here, as in the margin, to denote grandfather. Compare Jeremiah 27:7. See the note at Isaiah 14:22. The word father is often used in a large signification. See 2 Samuel 9:7; also the notes at Matthew 1:1. There is no improbability in supposing that this word would be used to denote a grandfather, when applied to one of the family or dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar The fact that Belshazzar is here called "the son" of Nebuchadnezzar has been made a ground of objection to the credibility of the book of Daniel, by Lengerke, p. 204. The objection is, that the "last king of Babylon was "not" the son of Nebuchadnezzar." But, in reply to this, in addition to the remarks above made, it may be observed that it is not necessary, in vindicating the assertion in the text, to suppose that he was the "immediate" descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first degree. "The Semitic use of the word in question goes far beyond the first degree of descent, and extends the appellation of "son" to the designation "grandson," and even of the most remote posterity. In Ezra 6:14, the prophet Zechariah is called "the son of Iddo;" in Zechariah 1:1, Zechariah 1:7, the same person is called "the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo." So Isaiah threatens Hezekiah Isaiah 39:7 that the sons whom he shall beget shall be conducted as exiles to Babylon; in which case, however, four generations intervened before this happened. So in Matthew 1:1, 'Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.' And so we speak every day: 'The sons of Adam, the sons of Abraham, the sons of Israel, the sons of the Pilgrims,' and the like." - Prof. Stuart, "Com. on Dan." p. 144.

That the king and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein - Nothing is too sacred to be profaned when men are under the influence of wine. They do not hesitate to desecrate the holiest things, and vessels taken from the altar of God are regarded with as little reverence as any other. It would seem that Nebuchadnezzar had some respect for these vessels, as having been employed in the purposes of religion; at least so much respect as to lay them up as trophies of victory, and that this respect had been shown for them under the reign of his successors, until the exciting scenes of this "impious feast" occurred, when all veneration for them vanished. It was not very common for females in the East to be present at such festivals as this, but it would seem that all the usual restraints of propriety and decency came to be disregarded as the feast advanced. The "wives and concubines" were probably not present when the feast began, for it was made for "his lords" Daniel 5:1; but when the scenes of revelry had advanced so far that it was proposed to introduce the sacred vessels of the temple, it would not be unnatural to propose also to introduce the females of the court.

A similar instance is related in the book of Esther. In the feast which Ahasuerus gave, it is said that "on the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, etc., the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty," etc. Esther 1:10-11. Compare Joseph. "Ant." b. xi. ch. 6: Section 1. The females that were thus introduced to the banquet were those of the harem, yet it would seem that she who was usually called "the queen" by way of eminence, or the queen-mother (compare the note at Esther 5:10), was not among them at this time. The females in the court of an Oriental monarch were divided into two classes; those who were properly concubines, and who had none of the privileges of a wife; and those of a higher class, and who were spoken of as wives, and to whom pertained the privileges of that relation. Among the latter, also, in the court of a king, it would seem that there was one to whom properly belonged the appellation of "queen;" that is, probably, a favorite wife whose children were heirs to the crown. See Bertholdt, in loc. Compare 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Kings 11:3; Sol 6:8.

2. whiles he tasted the wine—While under the effects of wine, men will do what they dare not do when sober.

his father Nebuchadnezzar—that is, his forefather. So "Jesus … the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Mt 1:1). Daniel does not say that the other kings mentioned in other writers did not reign between Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar, namely, Evil-merodach (Jer 52:31), Neriglissar, his brother-in-law, and Laborasoarchod (nine months). Berosus makes Nabonidus, the last king, to have been one of the people, raised to the throne by an insurrection. As the inscriptions show that Belshazzar was distinct from, and joint king with, him, this is not at variance with Daniel, whose statement that Belshazzar was son (grandson) of Nebuchadnezzar is corroborated by Jeremiah (Jer 27:7). Their joint, yet independent, testimony, as contemporaries, and having the best means of information, is more trustworthy than any of the heathen historians, if there were a discrepancy. Evil-merodach, son of Nebuchadnezzar (according to Berosus), reigned but a short time (one or two years), having, in consequence of his bad government, been dethroned by a plot of Neriglissar, his sister's husband; hence Daniel does not mention him. At the elevation of Nabonidus as supreme king, Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was doubtless suffered to be subordinate king and successor, in order to conciliate the legitimate party. Thus the seeming discrepancy becomes a confirmation of genuineness when cleared up, for the real harmony must have been undesigned.

wives … concubines—not usually present at feasts in the East, where women of the harem are kept in strict seclusion. Hence Vashti's refusal to appear at Ahasuerus' feast (Es 1:9-12). But the Babylonian court, in its reckless excesses, seems not to have been so strict as the Persian. Xenophon [Cyropædia, 5.2,28] confirms Daniel, representing a feast of Belshazzar where the concubines are present. At the beginning "the lords" (Da 5:1), for whom the feast was made, alone seem to have been present; but as the revelry advanced, the women were introduced. Two classes of them are mentioned, those to whom belonged the privileges of "wives," and those strictly concubines (2Sa 5:13; 1Ki 11:3; So 6:8).

This king having the wine, liked it so well, that he resolved to make a merry day of it, and in order to it, sent for the vessels of God’s temple, which he did in scorn and contempt, triumphing thereby over God and his people; but this sport lasted not long: they had more honour for the vessels of their own idols, which they kept sacred and untouched; therefore the prophet upbraids them with this insolent profaneness, for the concubines also drank of them.

Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine,.... As he was drinking his cups, and delighted with the taste of the wine, and got merry with it: or, "by the advice of the wine" (h), as Aben Ezra and Jarchi interpret it, by a personification; as if that dictated to him, and put him upon doing what follows; and which often puts both foolish and wicked things into the heads of men, and upon doing them: then he

commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels, which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; what these vessels were, and the number of them, we learn from the delivery of them afterwards to the prince of Judah by Cyrus, Ezra 1:9, these were put into the temple of Bel by Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 1:2 and from thence they were now ordered to be brought to the king's palace, and to the apartment where he and his nobles were drinking:

that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein; Saadiah says, this day the seventy years' captivity ended; and so, in contempt of the promise and prophecy of it, he ordered the vessels to be brought out and drank in, to show that in vain the Jews expected redemption from it.

(h) "vino dictante", Tigurine version.

Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his {c} father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.

(c) Meaning his grandfather.

2. whiles] the genitive sing. of the subst. while (as in ‘for a while’), used adverbially (cf. ‘needs,’ ‘upwards’). It occurs in A.V. Daniel 9:20-21; Ezekiel 21:29 (twice), Ezekiel 44:17; Hosea 7:6; Matthew 5:25; Acts 5:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; and several times in Shakespeare, as Much Ado, iv. 1, 221, ‘What we have we prize not to the worth, Whiles we enjoy it, Meas. for Meas. iv. 3, 84; Jul. Caes. i. 2. 209.

whiles he tasted the wine] in the taste—i.e. enjoyment—of the wine, when he began to feel the influence of the wine.

commanded, &c.] an act, under the circumstances, of wanton and defiant impiety.

the golden and silver vessels, &c.] see Daniel 1:2.

his father] Belshazzar is not known to have been related to Nebuchadnezzar: his father was Nabu-na’id, a usurper, the son of one Nabo-balâṭsu-iḳbi, and expressly said (see Introd. pp. xxvii, li) to have been unconnected with Nebuchadnezzar’s family.

‘Father’ may, however, by Hebrew usage, be understood to mean grandfather (Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:10; cf. 1 Kings 15:13 for great-grandfather); and there remains the possibility that Nabu-na’id may have sought to strengthen his position by marrying a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, in which case, of course, Nebuchadnezzar would be ‘Belshazzar’s grandfather on his mother’s side (see however, p. li, [254].).

[254] The supposition, sometimes made, that he was ‘co-regent’ with his father is also destitute of foundation in the inscriptions.

2. princes] lords, as Daniel 5:1. So Daniel 5:3.

his wives] his consorts: so Daniel 5:3; Daniel 5:23. The word is a rare one, being found otherwise in the O.T. only in Nehemiah 2:6 (of the queen of Artaxerxes), and Psalm 45:9[255].

[255] It is read by some scholars conjecturally in Jdg 5:30 (‘for the neck of the consort,’—שׁגל for שׁלל). The coguate verb means to ravish (Isaiah 13:16 al.)

concubines] so Daniel 5:3; Daniel 5:23. Not the usual Hebrew word, but one found also in the Aramaic of the Targums. Cf. Song of Solomon 6:8, where ‘queens’ and ‘concubines’ are mentioned side by side.

The presence of women at feasts was not usual in antiquity (cf., of Persia, Esther 1:10-12); but there is some evidence, though slight, that it was allowed in Babylon (Xen. Cyrop. v. ii. 28; and, in the age of Alexander, Curtius v. i. 38). The LXX. translator, feeling probably some difficulty in the statement, omits the clause relating to the ‘wives and concubines’ both here and Daniel 5:3; Daniel 5:23.

Verse 2. - Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. The Septuagint has included the last clause of the Massoretic recension of the first verse, "And he drank wine, and his heart was lifted up, and he commanded to bring the vessels of gold and of silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar his father had brought from Jerusalem, and to pour out wine in them for those companions of his (ἐν αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἑταίροις)." The translator seems to have regarded the first syllable of the name Belshazzar as a separate word, and has translated it according to the meaning the word has in Eastern Aramaic, "heart" (Exodus 12:23, Peshitta). After this initial mistake - if mistake it was - the remaining change was easy. The syntax here, according to the Massoretic text, is different from what we should expect. אמר ('amar), "to say," is translated "command" in eight cases in this book, and in every other case it is followed immediately by the infinitive' of the action commanded. Hence we are inclined, with the LXX., to omit "whiles he tasted the wine." While the LXX. Aramaic seems to have בהין, "in them," it has not had "king," "wives," or "concubines." As the Septuagint is the shorter, on the whole, we prefer it, though we maintain the Massoretic reading of "in them," referring to the vessels. Theodotion and the Peshitta follow the Massoretic reading. Whether or not the libation offered to the gods was in the mind of the writer, the mere fact that the sacred vessels were used for the purposes of a common feast was desecration. The addition of the "wives" and "concubines" adds at once to the degradation in the eyes of an Eastern, and to the stately rhetorical cadence of the verse. This renders all the stronger the suspicion engendered by the omission of these features in the Septuagint. It is to be observed that the Septuagint translator must have had an Eastern Aramaic manuscript before him, or he could never have translated bal "heart." At the same time, the presence of women at Babylonian feasts was not so uncommon as it was in the rest of the East, as we learn from the Ninevite remains. Certainly Quintus Curtius mentions this in connection with Alexander's visit to Babylon (v. 1). But was an obscure Jew likely to know this in Palestine? It is very difficult for a person writing in a different age to keep strictly to verisimilitude in these matters. Even a contemporary may make a blunder in writing, not a novel, but a biography, as Froude, in his 'Life of Carlyle,' declares he was "quietly married in the parish church of Temple." To be quietly married in a parish church in any part of Scotland, in the early years of this century, would be a contradiction in terms. Yet Froude had often been in Scotland, and knew Carlyle well. Could a Jew living in Palestine have all his wits about him so as to note every varying feature which distinguished the habits of Babylon from those of the rest of the East? The question may be asked why were the vessels of the Lord in Jerusalem singled out to be desecrated by a common use? It might, of course, be that the sacred vessels of the temples of the gods of all conquered nationalities were brought in, and thus that the singling out of the Jewish sacred vessels was due, not to the preference of the Babylonian monarch, but to the Jew, who saw only those. We think this can scarcely be. It was certainly the policy of Nabunahid to draw all worship to Babylon (Annals of Nabunahid, col. 3. line 20, "The gods of Akkad, which Nabunabid had brought to Babylon, were carried back to their city"). But this would lead him to avoid anything that would savour of disrespect to these gods whom he had brought to dwell in Babylon. We do not think it would have been merely the beauty of those vessels that led to their desecration, for the temple at Jerusalem had suffered several plunderings before the capture of the city, and the period between the age of Hezekiah and Zedekiah was not one in which wealth and artistic talent were likely to increase. Some suspicion must have reached the court of Babylon that the Jews were in league with Cyrus; perhaps the contents of the second Isaiah had reached the knowledge of the Babylonian police. If so, the act of Belshazzar was an act of defiance against Jehovah of Israel. Daniel 5:2חמרא בּטעם, while he tasted the wine, i.e., when the wine was relished by him; thus "in the wanton madness of one excited by wine, Proverbs 20:1" (Hitz.). From these words it appears that Belshazzar commanded the temple vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem to be brought, not, as Hvernick thinks, for the purpose of seeking, in his anxiety on account of the siege of the city, the favour of the God of the Jews, but to insult this God in the presence of his own gods. The supposition of anxiety on account of the siege does not at all harmonize with the celebration of so riotous a festival. Besides, the vessels are not brought for the purpose of making libations in order to propitiate the God to whom they were consecrated, but, according to the obvious statement of the text, only to drink out of them from the madness of lust. וישׁתּון, that they may drink; before the imperf. expresses the design of the bringing of the vessels. ב שׁתה, to drink out of, as Genesis 44:5; Amos 6:6. שׁגלן, the wives of the king; cf. Nehemiah 2:6 with Psalm 45:10. לחנן, concubines; this word stands in the Targg. for the Hebr. פּלּגשׁ. The lxx have here, and also at Daniel 5:23, omitted mention of the women, according to the custom of the Macedonians, Greeks, and Romans (cf. Herod. Ch. 5:18; Corn. Nep. proem. 6); but Xenophon (Cyr. v. 2. 28) and Curtius (v. 1. 38) expressly declare that among the Babylonians the wives also were present at festivals.
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