Daniel 5:7
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
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(7) The astrologers.—It is worthy of notice that on this occasion the magicians (the chartummim) do not appear. We must either suppose that they are included under the general term “Chaldeans,” or that the king in his terror forgot to summon them. The “wise men” spoken of (Daniel 5:8) were the body over which Daniel was president—a post which it appears. from Daniel 8:27, he held at this time. It is needless to discuss why Daniel did not come in at first.

The third ruler.—See Excursus C. Those who adopt another view of Belshazzar maintain that a triumvirate existed at this time similar to that in the days of Darius the Mede (Daniel 6:2), and that the king promises to raise to the rank of “triumvir” the person who could interpret the vision successfully. It may be noticed that the form of the ordinal “third,” both here and in Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29, is very peculiar, and that in the last two passages it resembles a substantive rather than an adjective.

Daniel 5:7. The king cried aloud — Manifesting at once great fear and great impatience; to bring in the astrologers, &c. — In this he imitated Nebuchadnezzar his grandfather: it seems indeed to have been the general practice of these heathen kings, in all unexpected emergencies, to apply to these their wise men for help. But the ill success of Nebuchadnezzar, in such applications, might have taught Belshazzar a better lesson. The king said, Whosoever shall read this writing, &c. — To engage these wise men to exert the utmost of their skill in this matter, he promises that whosoever would give him a satisfactory account of this writing should be dignified with the highest honours of the court; and be the third ruler in the kingdom — “Grotius considers the king as the first, the king’s son as the second, and the interpreter of the vision to be the third. Or it may mean, that there should be a triumvirate appointed to govern the kingdom, as was the case in the beginning of the reign of Darius, and the interpreter should be one of these. Mr. Bruce (vol. 4. p. 32) speaks of a person who was suddenly advanced to a command, the third in the kingdom of Abyssinia for rank, power, and riches; and that, at his public investiture, he had a circle of gold put upon his head, was clothed with a white and blue mantle, and made the king’s lieutenant-general in the provinces allotted to him.” — Wintle.

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.And the king cried aloud - Margin, as in the Chaldee, "with might." This indicates a sudden and an alarming cry. The king was deeply terrified; and, unable himself to divine the meaning of the mysterious appearance of the hand, he naturally turned at once to those whose office it was to explain dreams and supernatural appearances.

To bring in the astrologers ... - See the note at Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7.

And said to the wise men of Babylon - Those just referred to - the astrologers, etc. Having the power, as was supposed, of interpreting the indications of coming events, they were esteemed as eminently wise.

Whosoever shall read this writing - It would seem from this that even the characters were not familiar to the king and to those who were with him. Evidently the letters were not in the ordinary Chaldee form, but in some form which to them was strange and unknown. Thus there was a double mystery hanging over the writing - a mystery in regard to the language in which the words were written, and to the meaning of the words. Many conjectures have been formed as to the language employed in this writing (compare the note at Daniel 5:24), but such conjectures are useless, since it is impossible now to ascertain what it was. As the writing, however, had a primary reference to the sacrilege committed in regard to the sacred vessels of the temple, and as Daniel was able to read the letters at once, it would seem not improbable that the words were in the Hebrew character then used - a character such as that found now in the Samaritan Pentateuch - for the Chaldee character now found in the Bible has not improbably been substituted for the more ancient and less elegant character now found in the Samaritan Pentateuch alone. There is no improbability in supposing that even the astrologers and the soothsayers were not familiar with that character, and could not readily read it.

And show me the interpretation thereof - The meaning of the words.

Shall be clothed with scarlet - The color worn usually by princes and by persons of rank. The margin is "purple." So the Greek of Theodotion - πορφύραν porphuran. So also the Latin Vulgate - "purpura." On the nature and uses of this color, see the note at Isaiah 1:18.

And have a chain of gold about his neck - Also indicative of rank and authority. Compare Genesis 41:42. When Joseph was placed over the land of Egypt, the king honored him in a similar manner, by putting "a gold chain about his neck." This was common in Persia. See Xen. "Cyrop." I. 3, 2, II. 4, 6, VIII. 5, 18; Anab. I. 5, 8. Upon most of the figures in the ruins of Persepolis the same ornament is now found. Prof. Stuart renders this, "a collar of gold."

And shall be the third ruler in the kingdom - Of course, the king was first. Who the second was, or why the one who could disclose the meaning of the words should not be raised to the second rank, is not stated. It may be, that the office of prime minister was so fixed, or was held by one whose services were so important to the king, that he could not be at once displaced. Or the meaning may be, that the favored person who could interpret this would be raised to the third "rank" of dignity, or placed in the third class of those who held offices in the realm. The Chaldee is, "and shall rule third in the kingdom," and the idea would seem rather to be that he should be of the third rank or grade in office. So Bertholdt understands it. Grotius understands it as the third person in rank. He says the first was the king; the second, the son of the king; the third, the prince of the Satraps.

7. He calls for the magicians, who more than once had been detected in imposture. He neglects God, and Daniel, whose fame as an interpreter was then well-established. The world wishes to be deceived and shuts its eyes against the light [Calvin]. The Hebrews think the words were Chaldee, but in the old Hebrew character (like that now in the Samaritan Pentateuch).

third ruler—The first place was given to the king; the second, to the son of the king, or of the queen; the third, to the chief of the satraps.

To bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the sooth-sayers, to read the hand-writing, with promise of scarlet clothing, gold chains, and honours. This is the old trade, and the last refuge this poor heathen prince had, which yet failed him; for how can the devil help when God is against him? 1 Samuel 28:16, &c. Moreover, he had his father’s experience, Daniel 2:27 4:7. Twice he tried them, and they could do nothing, and yet he will go to the devil’s oracle. Men naturally leave God and go to refuges of lies, and God gives them up to strong delusions to believe their lies.

The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers,.... Or, "with strength" (n); with a strong voice, as loud as he could; which is expressive of the fright he was in, and of his eagerness and impatience of information; laying aside all decency, and forgetting his royal majesty, like a man out of his senses, quite distracted, as it were: of the "astrologers", &c. See Gill on Daniel 1:20, Daniel 2:2, this was the usual course the kings of Babylon took, when they had matters of difficulty upon them, as appears from Daniel 2:2 and though they found it oftentimes fruitless and vain, yet still they pursued it; so besotted and addicted were they to this kind of superstition:

and the king spake and said to the wise men of Babylon; who were presently brought in from the several parts of the city where they dwelt, and probably many of them might be at court at that time; and being introduced into the hall where the king and his nobles were, he addressed them in the following manner;

whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof: pointing to the writing upon the wall, which continued; and which neither the king nor any about him could read or interpret, and therefore both are required to be done:

he shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck; or "with purple" (o); the colour wore by persons of rank and figure; and the chain of gold was an emblem of honour and dignity, and more to be regarded for that than for the value of the gold of which it was made:

and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom; not rule over the third part of the kingdom, as Aben Ezra; but be the third man in the kingdom; next to the king and the queen mother, or to the king and the heir apparent; or one of the third principal rulers; or one of the three presidents of the kingdom, as Daniel afterwards was.

(n) "cum virtute", Vatablus; "in virtute", Montanus; "fortiter", Cocceius; "cum robore", Michaelis. (o) "purpura", Vatablus, Pagninus; Montanus; Grotius, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis.

The king cried aloud to bring in {g} the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.

(g) Thus the wicked in their troubles seek many means, which draw them from God, because they do not seek for him who is the only comfort in all afflictions.

7. aloud] lit. with might, as Daniel 3:4, Daniel 4:14. Not simply ‘commanded,’ but ‘cried aloud’: the king’s alarm was reflected in the tones of his voice.

the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the determiners (of fates)] Cf. Daniel 4:7; and see on Daniel 1:21, Daniel 2:2; Daniel 2:27.

spake] answered (Daniel 2:20). So Daniel 5:10.

the wise men of Babylon] Daniel 2:12; Daniel 2:14, &c.

shew me] declare to me (Daniel 2:4; Daniel 2:6, &c.).

scarlet] purple (R.V.), as Exodus 25:4; Jdg 8:26, &c. So Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29. Purple was a royal, or princely, colour among the Persians (Esther 8:15; Xen. Anab. i. Daniel 5:8), the Medes (Cyrop. i. iii. 2, ii. iv. 6), and also (it may be inferred) among the Seleucidae (1Ma 10:20; 1Ma 10:62; 1Ma 10:64; 1Ma 14:43 f.; cf. Daniel 8:14).

a chain of gold about his neck] Cf. Genesis 41:42, where Pharaoh decorates Joseph similarly. A golden necklace was worn also by Persians of rank (cf. Xen. Anab. i. Daniel 5:8, viii. 29); and was given sometimes by the Persian kings as a compliment or mark of distinction: in Hdt. iii. 20 Cambyses sends ‘a purple garment, a golden necklace, bracelets,’ with other presents, to the Ethiopians; and in Xen. Anab. I. ii. 27 the younger Cyrus gives one to Syennesis. (The word, hamnuk or hamnik, occurs in the O.T. only here and Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29. It is probably of Persian origin [hamyânak], a diminutive from hämyân ‘girdle.’ It is found in the Targums, in the form měnîk and in Syriac as hamnîk and hemnîk (see Genesis 41:42, Onk. and Pesh.); and it made its way into Greek as μανιάκης, LXX. Theod. here, Polyb., &c.).

and shall rule as one of three in the kingdom] So R.V. marg. The expression (which recurs Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29) is difficult. The rendering of A.V. is however certainly not tenable. The word rendered ‘third’ in A.V. is not that which is used anywhere else (either in the Targums or in Daniel) to denote the ordinal; but resembles most closely the word (tiltâ or tûltâ) which both in the Targums and in Syriac means. a third part (e.g. 2 Kings 11:5-6, ‘a third part of you’). Hence the literal rendering appears to be, ‘shall rule as a third part in the kingdom,’ i.e. have a third part of the supreme authority in the country, be one of the three chief ministers, ‘rule as one of three.’ Cf. LXX. δοθήσεται αὐτῷ ἐξουσία τοῦ τρίτου μέρους τῆς βασιλείας.

Verse 7. - The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. The Septuagint here also differs from the Massoretic text, "And the king cried out with a great cry to call in the enchanters (ἐπαοιδοὐς) and sorcerers (φαρμακοὺς), and Chaldeans, and soothsayers, to announce to him the interpretation of the writing, and they came in for inspection (ἐπὶ θεωρίαν), to see the writing, And they were not able to make known to the king the interpretation of the writing. Then the king made commandment, saying, Any man who shall show the interpretation of the writing, he shall put on him a purple robe, and shall put round his neck a golden chain, and authority shall be given him over a third part of the kingdom." Theodotion is an exact rendering of the Massoretic text in the sense represented by the English versions, save that it wholly omits the conjunctions between the various classes of wise men, so that Ξαλδαίους might be an adjective qualifying either μάγους or γαξαρηνούς, and the article is also omitted, which is represented in the Massoretic text by the status emphaticus. The Peshitta has four classes of wise men called in; as the Septuagint has, otherwise it agrees with the Massoretic text. It is a matter of some interest to observe that the position of the Chaldeans is somewhat precarious here, as in the second chapter. They disappear wholly from the list in the next verse, which really seems to be another version of this. It is a marginal gloss that has crept into the text. If we accept the reading of the Septuagint here, so far at least as to assume the entrance of the wise men before the king's declaration of the reward, the succession of events becomes more natural. The king calls for the presence of these interpreters of omens, and then, when they fail to interpret the writing to him, he proclaims his offer of a reward to whoever can do so. It is to be noted that there is in the Septuagint no question of ability to read the writing, but simply to interpret it. It has been pointed out to me by a friend that if these words were written in cuneiform, the signs that would represent them might have a great variety of possible sounds, and with these differing sounds, differing meanings. Sometimes a sign was phonetic and a syllable, sometimes it was idiographic and might represent a whole word. There is this to be said for this view - the Assyrian was the writing expected in inscriptions. Still, from the fact that the Septuagint omits the demand that the inscription should be read, we may regard the matter as doubtful. Assuming that the wise men were required to read the inscription, some of the Jewish interpreters, as Jephet-ibn-Ali, think that the letters of the word were inverted; others have it that the letters were arranged in columns. Even, however, if the words were written correctly enough as Aramaic words, it would be a difficult matter to put any meaning in them as they stood, as we shall see when we consider Daniel's interpretation. The reward promised is of special interest. The word argvana, translated "scarlet," appears in Assyrian as argmamm; hamneeka, the word rendered "necklace," is of doubtful origin. We find in the Ninevite sculptures and on the cylinders from Babylon many instances of splendid robes (vide Rawlinson, 'Five Great Monarchies,' 560); the rich necklace is also to be seen (ibid., 2. 497,499). The great difficulty has arisen over the rank given to Daniel, "the third ruler in the kingdom." The difficulty is that the ordinal here is not in its usual form, although Petermann gives taltu as one of the forms of the ordinal. There is, further, the unusual position of the numeral in relation to the verb, though the abnormality is less than Professor Bevan represents it, as the Peshitta follows word for word the arrangement of the Massoretic text. The truth seems to be that the word really was toolta, as in the Syriac, and the difficulty has risen in not recognizing the transference from one dialect of Aramaic to another. It is used in the Peshitta (2 Corinthians 10:2) of the third heaven. Professor Bevan's interpretation, that it means "every third day,') may be dismissed as absurd. Ewald (in loc.) regards the title as one of a board of three - not an in,possible meaning, in the light of what we find in the following chapter. Yet his reasoning, that it cannot be third in rank, because the queen-mother could not be counted in, is inept now, when we learn that Belshazzar was colleague with his father, and so the third place was all he had to give. On this question Behrmann takes the view discarded as impossible by Ewald, and holds that Daniel was placed third because of the queen-mother. It is one of the commonplaces of the criticism of this book that the history ascribed to Daniel is borrowed from the history of Joseph: why was the position offered not made "second," as was that of Joseph? We have the reason in what we know of the history of Babylon at the time. The Septuagint and Josephus were unaware of the facts, and translated as they did. Daniel 5:7Since there are in this verse only three classes of wise men named as ordered to come to the king, to whom he promised the reward for the reading and the interpretation of the writing, and in Daniel 5:8 it is first stated that all the king's wise men came, the probability, is, that at first the king commanded only the three classes named in Daniel 5:7 to be brought to him. On this probability Kranichfeld founds the supposition that the king purposely, or with intention, summoned only the three classes named to avoid Daniel, whom he did not wish to consult, from his heathen religious fear of the God of the Jews. But this supposition is altogether untenable. For, first, it does not follow from Daniel 8:27 that under Belshazzar Daniel was president over all the wise men, but only that he was in the king's service. Then, in the event of Daniel's yet retaining the place assigned to him by Nebuchadnezzar, his non-appearance could not be explained on the supposition that Belshazzar called only three classes of the wise men, because the supposition that מלכּא חכּימי כּל (all the king's wise men) in Daniel 5:8 forms a contrast to the three classes named in Daniel 5:7 is not sustained by the language here used. But if by "all the wise men of the king," Daniel 5:8, we are to understand the whole body of the wise men of all the classes, and that they appeared before the king, then they must all have been called at the first, since no supplementary calling of the two classes not named in Daniel 5:7 is mentioned. Besides this, the words, "the king spake to the wise men of Babylon," make it probable that all the classes, without the exception of the two, were called. Moreover it is most improbable that in the case before us, where the matter concerned the reading of a writing, the חרטמּים, the magicians Schriftkenner, should not have been called merely to avoid Daniel, who was their רב (president) (Daniel 4:6 [Daniel 4:9]). Finally, it is psychologically altogether very improbable, that in the great agitation of fear which had filled him at the sight of the hand writing, Belshazzar should have reflected at all on this, that Daniel would announce to him misfortune or the vengeance of the God of the Jews. Such a reflection might perhaps arise on quiet deliberation, but not in the midst of agitating heart-anguish.

The strange circumstance that, according to Daniel 5:7, the king already promised a reward to the wise men, which presupposes that they were already present, and then that for the first time their presence is mentioned in Daniel 5:8, is occasioned by this, that in Daniel 5:7 the appearing of the wise men is not expressly mentioned, but is naturally presupposed, and that the first two clauses of the eighth verse are simply placed together, and are not united to each other by a causal nexus. The meaning of the statement in Daniel 5:7 and Daniel 5:8 is this: The king calls aloud, commanding the astrologers, etc., to be brought to him; and when the wise men of Babylon came to him, he said to each of them, Whoever reads the writing, etc. But all the king's wise men, when they had come, were unable to read the writing. As to the names of the wise men in Daniel 5:7, see under Daniel 2:2. יקרה for יקרא, from קרא, to read. As a reward, the king promises a purple robe, a gold chain for the neck, and the highest office in the kingdom. A robe of purple was the sign of rank worn by the high officers of state among the Persians, - cf. Esther 8:15 with Xenophon, Anab. i. 5. 8, - and among the Selucidae, 1 Macc. 10:20; and was also among the Medes the princely garb, Xen. Anab. i. 3. 2, ii. 4. 6. ארגּון, Hebr. ארגּמן, purple, is a word of Aryan origin, from the Sanscrit râga, red colour, with the formative syllables man and vat; cf. Gesen. Thes. Addid. p. 111f. וגו' דּי והמנוּכא does not depend on ילבּשׁ, but forms a clause by itself: and a chain of gold shall be about his neck. For the Kethiv המנוּכא the Keri substitutes the Targum. and Syr. form המניכא (Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:16, and Daniel 5:29), i.e., The Greek μανιάκης, from the Sansc. mani, jewel, pearl, with the frequent formative syllable ka in the Zend, whence the Chaldee word is derived; it signifies neck- or arm-band, here the former. The golden neck-chain (στρεπτὸς χρύσεος) was an ornament worn by the Persians of rank, and was given by kings as a mark of favour even to kings, e.g., Cambyses and the younger Cyrus; cf. Herod. iii. 20; Xen. Anab. i. 1. 27, 5. 8, 8. 29.

It is not quite certain what the princely situation is which was promised to the interpreter of the writing, since the meaning of תּלתּי is not quite clear. That it is not the ordinale of the number third, is, since Hvernick, now generally acknowledged, because for tertius in Aram. תּליתי is used, which occurs also in Daniel 2:39. Hvernick therefore regards תּלתּי, for which תּלתּא is found in Daniel 5:16 and Daniel 5:29, as an adjective formation which indicates a descent or occupation, and is here used as a nomen officii corresponding to the Hebr. שׁלישׁי. Gesenius and Dietrich regard תּלתּי as only the singular form for תּליתי, and תּלתּא as the stat. abs. of תּלת, third rank. Hitzig would change תּלתּי into תּלתּי, and regard תּלתּא as a singular formed from תּלתּאין, as triumvir from triumvirorum, and would interpret it by τρίτος αὐτός, the third (selbst-dritt): as one of three he shall rule in the kingdom, according to Daniel 6:3. Finally, Kranichfeld takes תּלתּי to be a fem. verbal formation according to the analogy of ארמית, אחרי, in the sense of three-ruler-wise, and תּלתּא for a noun formed from תּלתא, triumvir. Almost all these explanations amount to this, that the statements here regard the government of a triumvirate as it was regulated by the Median king Darius, Daniel 6:3 (2); and this appears also to be the meaning of the words as one may literally explain תּלתּי and תּלתּא. Regarding the Keri עלּין see under Daniel 4:4, and regarding פּשׁרא, under Daniel 4:15.

As all the wise men were unable to read the writing, it has been thought that it was in a foreign language different from the usual language of Babylon, the knowledge of which could not legitimately be expected to be possessed by the native wise men; and since, according to Daniel 5:17, Daniel 5:24., Daniel at once showed his acquaintance with the writing in question, it has from this been concluded that already the old Babylonians had handwriting corresponding to the later Syro-Palmyrenian inscriptions, while among the Hebrews to the time of the Exile the essentially Old-Phoenician writing, which is found on the so-called Samaritan coins and in the Samaritan Scriptures, was the peculiar national style of writing (Kran.). But this interpretation of the miracle on natural principles is quite erroneous. First, it is very unlikely that the Chaldean wise men should not have known these old Semitic characters, even although at that time they had ceased to be in current use among the Babylonians in their common writing. Then, from the circumstance that Daniel could at once read the writing, it does not follow that it was the well-known Old-Hebrew writing of his fatherland. "The characters employed in the writing," as Hengstenberg has rightly observed (Beitr. i. p. 122), "must have been altogether unusual so as not to be deciphered but by divine illumination." Yet we must not, with M. Geier and others, assume that the writing was visible only to the king and Daniel. This contradicts the text, according to which the Chaldean wise men, and without doubt all that were present, also saw the traces of the writing, but were not able to read it.

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