Daniel 5:3
Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
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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.

3. This act was not one of necessity, or for honor's sake, but in reckless profanity. No text from Poole on this verse.

Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem,.... That is, the servants to whom the orders were given fetched them from the temple of Bel, and brought them to the king's house; and though only mention is made of golden vessels, yet no doubt the silver ones were also brought, according to the king's command:

and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them; by which they were profaned, being dedicated to holy uses, but now put to common use, and that by such impious persons; and who did it, not on account of the value and antiquity of these vessels, and in admiration of them, and to the honour of their festival; but in contempt of them, and in a profane and scurrilous way, as follows:

Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
Verses 3, 4. - Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. The corresponding verses in the Septuagint differ in several points from those above; the Septuagint third verse contains, condensed, the Massoretic third and fourth verses, but adds new matter in its fourth verse: "(3) And they were brought, and they drank in them, and blessed their idols made with hands; (4) and the God the eternal, who hath dominion over their spirit ('breath,' πνεῦμα), they did not bless." In the introductory portion, which contains, as we think, marginal readings, we have the second and fourth verses brought into connection, "In that day Baltasar, being uplifted with wine, and boasting himself, praised in his drink all the gods of the nations, the molten and the carved, but to God the Highest he gave not praise." The reading of the latter portion of this seems better than the text, as it is briefer; the description of God as he that has power "over their breath," is a preparation for what we find in ver. 23, "and thy breath is in his hand." Theodotion is, as usual, much nearer the Massoretic text, but while the Massoretic only mentions the "golden" vessels being brought, Theodotion mentions the silver also, and the verb hanpiqoo is translated singular, as if it were hanpayq, and "Nebuchadnezzar" understood. A various reading adds, "and the God of eternity, who hath power of their breath, did they not bless," according to the Alexandrine and Vatican codices. In both these cases Jerome follows Theodotion. The Peshitta agrees only in the latter, putting the verb in the singular. Modern translators, as Luther and Ewald, the Authorized and Revised English Versions, retain the plural, but make the verb passive, as if it were written honpaqoo. Calvin alone preserves both number and voice. The French Version, which makes it impersonal, is probably as good as any. It is, however, not impossible that the true reading is huphal; that seems better than Calvin's suggestion, that what Nebuchadnezzar had done is now transferred to all the Babylonians. The praises of the gods being sung was especially natural, if this were a dedication of a palace. In such a case the various elemental deities would be invoked to bless the residence of the king. The fact that the vessels belonging to the temple of the God of the Jews were brought forward from the treasury of Bel would afford an occasion for praising Bel, the god who had given them the victory. While they praised these god, of the nations, they did not even mention Jehovah - an addition in the text of Theodotion and the LXX., both text and margin, and therefore one that, we think, ought, in some form, to lie in the text. It is singular that in the Cyrus Cylinder, 17, the overthrow of Nabunahid is attributed to Marduk, "whom Nabunahid did not fear." The reason of Belshazzar thus ostentatiously praising the gods might be to get over the reputation of unfaithfulness to the gods, which was weakening them, father and son, in their struggle with Cyrus. Belshazzar most likely was, at this very time, carrying on war against Cyrus. The object of this festive gathering of his nobles might be to hearten them in their struggle against the King of Persia. Daniel 5:3היכלא denotes the holy place of the temple, the inner apartment of the temple, as at 1 Kings 6:3; Ezekiel 41:1. אשׁתּיו for שׁתיו, with אprosthet., cf. Winer, chald. Gr. 23, 1.
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