Daniel 5:23
But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Gods of silver . . .—Comp. Deuteronomy 4:28. Belshazzar had exceeded those limits of authority over Israel which he had by right of conquest. The Israelites were, indeed, his subjects, but he had no right to blaspheme their God. For similar instances of men exceeding the limits of their authority while acting as ministers of God’s chastisement, see Isaiah 10:5-18; Jeremiah 51:20-25; Hosea 14, 5.

Not glorified—i.e., dishonoured.

5:18-31 Daniel reads Belshazzar's doom. He had not taken warning by the judgments upon Nebuchadnezzar. And he had insulted God. Sinners are pleased with gods that neither see, nor hear, nor know; but they will be judged by One to whom all things are open. Daniel reads the sentence written on the wall. All this may well be applied to the doom of every sinner. At death, the sinner's days are numbered and finished; after death is the judgment, when he will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting; and after judgment the sinner will be cut asunder, and given as a prey to the devil and his angels. While these things were passing in the palace, it is considered that the army of Cyrus entered the city; and when Belshazzar was slain, a general submission followed. Soon will every impenitent sinner find the writing of God's word brought to pass upon him, whether he is weighed in the balance of the law as a self-righteous Pharisee, or in that of the gospel as a painted hypocrite.But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven - The God who had so signally rebuked and humbled Nebuchadnezzar. The monarch had done this, it would seem, during the whole of his reign, and now by a crowning act of impiety he had evinced special disregard of him, and contempt for him, by profaning the sacred vessels of his temple.

And they have brought the vessels of his house before thee ... - See the note at Daniel 5:2.

And the God in whose hand thy breath is - Under whose power, and at whose disposal, is thy life. While you have been celebrating the praises of idol gods, who can do you neither good nor evil, you have been showing special contempt for that great Being who keeps you in existence, and who has power to take away your life at any moment. What is here said of Belshazzar is true of all men - high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, princes and people. It is a deeply affecting consideration, that the breath, on which our life depends, and which is itself so frail a thing, is in the "hand" of a Being who is invisible to us, over whom we can have no control; who can arrest it when he pleases; who has given us no intimation when he will do it, and who often does it so suddenly as to defy all previous calculation and hope. Nothing is more absolute than the power which God holds over the breath of men, yet there is nothing which is less recognized than that power, and nothing which men are less disposed to acknowledge than their dependence on him for it.

And whose are all thy ways - That is, he has power to control thee in all thy ways. You can go nowhere without his permission; you can never, when abroad, return to your home without the direction of his providence. What is here said, also, is as true of all others as it was of the Chaldean prince. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps." None of us can take a step without his permission; none can go forth on a journey to a distant land without his constant superintending care; none can return without his favor. And yet how little is this recognized! How few feel it when they go out and come in; when they go forth to their daily employments; when they start on a voyage or journey; when they propose to return to their homes!

Hast thou not glorified - That is, thou hast not honored him by a suitable acknowledgment of dependence on him.

23. whose are all thy ways—(Jer 10:23). He instanceth in three or four things.

1. They have brought the vessels of his house before thee to drink wine in them, to profane them in your idolatrous feast, and ye have all polluted them with your filthy, blasphemous mouths, concubines and all.

2. Ye have praised the idol gods of metal, wood, and stone, which cannot hear, nor see, nor know.

3. And hast not glorified the true God, in whose hands thy breath is, and all thy ways. Yea, thou hast highly dishonoured, and affronted, and reproached him.

But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven,.... Who made it, and dwells in it; from whence he beholds all the actions of the children of men, and will bring them to an account for them; and yet, though so high and great, such was the insolence of this king, that he dared to lift up himself against him, as if he was above him, and greater than he; and indeed so it may be rendered, "above the Lord of heaven" (x); which showed his great pride and vanity, his want of knowledge, both of himself, and of the true God. This name of God is the same with Beelsamen (y); by which the Phoenicians used to call him:

and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee; that is, his servants by his orders had brought the vessels of the temple at Jerusalem, which Nebuchadnezzar had took from thence, and set them upon his table for him and his company to drink out of; which is an instance of the pride of his heart, and of his daring boldness and impiety; see Daniel 5:2,

and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drank wine in them; even that very day or night: this Daniel had knowledge of by some means or another; and his intelligence was so good that he could with great certainty affirm it:

and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone; see Daniel 5:4,

which see not, nor hear, nor know; no more, than the various metals and materials of which they are made; and therefore it must be great madness and folly to praise such as gods that are below men, and even brutes; have neither the sense of animals, nor the knowledge of men; see Psalm 115:4,

and the God in whose hand thy breath is; who gave it to him at first, and as yet continued it in him, and could take it away when he pleased: and whose are all thy ways; counsels and designs, works and actions; under whose direction and control they all are; the events, issue, and success of which all depend upon him; see Jeremiah 10:23,

him hast thou not glorified; by owning him as the only true God; ascribing all he was and had unto him, and giving due worship, adoration, and honour to him; but, on the contrary, setting up his idol gods above him, and treating him, and everything belonging to him, with ignominy and contempt.

(x) "super Dominum coeli", Montanus; "super Dominum scelorum", Michaelis. (y) Sanchoniatho apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. c. 9. p. 34.

But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. and they have brought, &c.] See Daniel 5:2-4.

which see not, nor hear, nor know] Cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalm 115:5-6; Psalm 135:16-17.

in whose hand thy breath is] who is the author of thy life and being. Cf. Genesis 2:7; Job 12:10.

thy ways] i.e. thy destinies. Cf. Jeremiah 10:23.

Daniel 5:23Daniel now turns to Belshazzar. The words: forasmuch as thou, i.e., since thou truly knowest all this, place it beyond a doubt that Belshazzar knew these incidents in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, and thus that he was his son, since his grandson (daughter's son) could scarcely at that time have been so old as that the forgetfulness of that divine judgment could have been charged against him as a sin. In the דּי קבל כּל, just because thou knowest it, there is implied that, notwithstanding his knowledge of the matter, he did not avoid that which heightened his culpability. In Daniel 5:23 Daniel tells him how he had sinned against the God of heaven, viz., by desecrating (see Daniel 5:2 and Daniel 5:3) the vessels of the temple of the God of Israel. And to show the greatness of this sin, he points to the great contrast that there is between the gods formed of dead material and the living God, on whom depend the life and fortune of men. The former Belshazzar praised, the latter he had not honoured - a Litotes for had dishonoured. The description of the gods is dependent on Deuteronomy 4:28, cf. with the fuller account Psalm 115:5., Psalm 135:15., and reminds us of the description of the government of the true God in Job 12:10; Numbers 16:22, and Jeremiah 10:23. ארחת, ways, i.e., The destinies. - To punish Belshazzar for this wickedness, God had sent the hand which wrote the mysterious words (Daniel 5:24 cf. with Daniel 5:5).
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