Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Baltassar. He is believed to be the same as Nabonides, the last of the Chaldean kings, grandson to Nabuchodonosor. He is called his son (ver. 2, 11, &c.) according to the style of the Scriptures, because he was a descendant from him. (Challoner; St. Jerome in Isaiah xiii.; Usher, &c.) — Some think that he was brother of Evilmerodac, ver. 11., and Baruch i. 11. But he seems rather to have been his son, Jeremias xxvii. 7. Profane authors place Neriglissor and Laborosoarchod between them. They were not of the royal family, and might be looked upon as usurpers, or reigned in some other place; or they did not meddle with the Jews. (Calmet) — It is wonderful that Josephus should prefer these authors; (Tirinus) yet he abandons the dates given by them. (Jewish Antiquities x. 12. & contra Apion 1.) They represent Nabonides as a simple Babylonian raised to the throne, defeated by Cyrus, and suffered to retire into Carmania; whereas, Baltassar was slain, ver. 29. (Calmet) — The others were of a different lineage, and are mentioned by Eusebius, &c. Evilmerodac certainly preceded him on the throne, and honoured Joachin in the 37th year of his captivity. (Worthington) — Thousand; or, “for his officers over a thousand men.” (Theodotion) — Every. Chaldean, “and drank wine before the thousand,” more than any, for this was deemed a great perfection; or he drank in their presence, but apart. (Calmet) — The Persian monarchs used to sit in a separate apartment, with a veil before the door, so that they could see the guests without being seen. A great chandelier was before them; (Athen. iv. 10.) probably on the outside, otherwise it would have defeated their purpose. Light sufficient would appear for Baltassar to see the hand-writing on his chamber wall, ver. 5. (Haydock) — According to the order of time, this chapter should be placed after the vii. and viii. (Calmet) — But those contain visions. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Loosed, so that he quaked for fear, Ezechiel xxix. 7. (Calmet) — He was not so drunk as to be deprived of sense. (Haydock) — This happened in the 17th and last year of his reign, when Daniel was about a hundred years old, (Worthington) though we have no certain account of his age. (Haydock) — He might be eighty-two when he died. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Purple. This and the chain were reserved for the highest nobility. — Third, or one of the three great officers, chap. vi. 1., and 2 Kings xxiii. 8, 19.
Ver. 8. Read. It was written in Samaritan characters; or, for want of vowels, could not be read or understood. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. The queen. Not the wife, but the mother of the king; (Challoner) Amyit, widow of Nabuchodonosor, and sister of Darius, the Mede; or (Calmet) Nitocris, the mother of Labynithus, (Herod. i.) whom many confound with Baltassar. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Father. So a grandfather might be styled, Jeremias xxvii. 7.(Worthington) —Daniel was not perhaps at the head of the wise men. (Calmet) — They were too jealous to mention him; and the intoxicated king and courtiers remembered not his merit, till an aged matron suggested that he should be consulted. He was probably (Haydock) in some office, at Susa, yet happened to be then in Babylon, (Calmet) which was besieged; and thither he might have retired at the approached of Cyrus.
Ver. 16. Difficult. Literally, “things which are tied,” or perplexing. (Haydock) — The Persians still use the like expressions, to imply an intelligent governor. (Chardin.)
Ver. 17. Another. He does not refuse the offers, but civilly replies that he will give satisfaction without regard to any recompense.
Ver. 19. Slew. He was an absolute monarch, and considered his subjects as so many slaves. (Calmet) — Xerxes having called together his nobles, that he might not seem to have resolved on the war with Greece alone, said: “Nevertheless, remember that you have to obey rather than to advise.” (V. Max. 9. 5. 2.)
Ver. 21. Beasts. His disordered imagination made him dwell with them. (Worthington) — It is strange that such an example should have been so soon forgotten, that Daniel is forced to repeat it so explicitly, chap. iv. 13.
Ver. 23. Vessels. Only part had been returned to Sedecias: (Chap. i. 2.) but they were taken again, and kept in the palace, or in the temple of Bel. (Haydock) — Breath, or soul, Genesis ii. 7. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Phares. These words consist of three letters, mona, thokol, pros, as we add o merely for pronunciation. Being unconnected and almost destitute of vowels, (Haydock) it is not easy even for the learned to read these words, or to ascertain their meaning. Thus d b r being placed in a similar situation, it would be impossible to determine the sense; as it may have ten different meanings, according as it is pronounced, ver. 8. (Calmet) — Mane is twice repeated, to shew the certainty and exactitude of the numbering. (Menochius) — Yet in the sequel each word occurs once and unconnected, as it is here in the Vulgate; not Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, (Protestants; Haydock) “He hath numbered, numbered, weighed, and the dividers or the Persians” are upon thee, (T.[Tirinus?]) as Dalila said to Samson. Only three words (Haydock) were written. (St. Jerome) — The rest contain the prophet’s explanation. The Chaldean empire had now attained its utmost height. Its king brought ruin upon himself by his wicked life. (Haydock) — He would soon be divided with the sword, and his kingdom shared between the Medes and Persians. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 28. Persians. Those who confound Baltassar with Nabonides, say that Cyrus made himself master of all the empire. How then was it divided? Darius rather took possession of the greatest part while Cyrus had Persia, (Calmet) till his uncle’s death. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Third, or over a third part. (St. Jerome; ver. 7.; Haydock) The honours were conferred without delay, and they would have been made public in the morning. But death prevented the king; and Daniel did not enjoy them till they were ratified by Darius, to whom he adhered. (Calmet) — The Medes then besieged the city, which they took that night, when most part were drunk. (Worthington) — It was a solemn festival, Isaiah xxi. (St. Jerome) — Cyrus rushed in by the channel of the Euphrates, and two of the king’s guards slew him to revenge themselves. (Xenoph. 7.; Beros.)
Ver. 31. Darius. He is called Cyaxares by the historians, and was the son of Astyages, and uncle to Cyrus (Challoner) as well as to Baltassar, by the mother’s side. He is styled Astyages, (Chap. xiii. 65.) or Artaxerxes. (Septuagint, chap. vi. 1.) He takes the title of king both of the Medes and Persians, chap. vi. 8., &c. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:Baltassar’s profane banquet: his sentence is denounced by a hand writing on the wall, which Daniel reads and interprets.
1 Baltassar, *the king, made a great feast for a thousand of his nobles: and every one drank according to his age.
2 And being now drunk, he commanded that they should bring the vessels of gold and silver, which Nabuchodonosor, his father, had brought away out of the temple, that was in Jerusalem, that the king and his nobles, and his wives, and his concubines, might drink in them.
3 Then were the golden and silver vessels brought, which he had brought away out of the temple that was in Jerusalem: and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
4 They drank wine, and praised their gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, and of wood, and of stone.
5 In the same hour there appeared fingers, as it were of the hand of a man, writing over-against the candlestick, upon the surface of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king beheld the joints of the hand that wrote.
6 Then was the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him: and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees struck one against the other.
7 And the king cried out aloud to bring in the wise men, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spoke, and said to the wise men of Babylon: Whosoever shall read this writing, and shall make known to me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with purple, and shall have a golden chain on his neck, and shall be the third man in my kingdom.
8 Then came in all the king’s wise men, but they could neither read the writing, nor declare the interpretation to the king.
9 Wherewith king Baltassar was much troubled, and his countenance was changed: and his nobles also were troubled.
10 Then the queen, on occasion of what had happened to the king, and his nobles, came into the banquet-house: and she spoke, and said: O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, neither let thy countenance be changed.
11 There is a man in thy kingdom that hath the spirit of the holy gods in him: and in the days of thy father knowledge and wisdom were found in him: for king Nabuchodonosor, thy father, appointed him prince of the wise men, enchanters, Chaldeans, and soothsayers, thy father, I say, O king:
12 Because a greater spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, and interpretation of dreams, and shewing of secrets, and resolving of difficult things, were found in him, that is, in Daniel: whom the king named Baltarssar. Now, therefore, let Daniel be called for, and he will tell the interpretation.
13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. And the king spoke, and said to him: Art thou Daniel of the children of the captivity of Juda, whom my father, the king, brought out of Judea?
14 I have heard of thee, that thou hast the spirit of the gods, and excellent knowledge, and understanding, and wisdom are found in thee.
15 And now the wise men, the magicians, have come in before me, to read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof; and they could not declare to me the meaning of this writing.
16 But I have heard of thee, that thou canst interpret obscure things, and resolve difficult things: now if thou art able to read the writing, and to shew me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with purple, and shalt have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third prince in my kingdom.
17 To which Daniel made answer, and said before the king: Thy rewards be to thyself, and the gifts of thy house give to another: but the writing I will read to thee, O king, and shew thee the interpretation thereof.
18 O king, the most high God gave to Nabuchodonosor, thy father, a kingdom, and greatness, and glory, and honour.
19 And for the greatness that he gave to him, all people, tribes, and languages trembled, and were afraid of him: whom he would, he slew: and whom he would, he destroyed: and whom he would, he set up: and whom he would, he brought down.
20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit hardened unto pride, he was put down from the throne of his kingdom, and his glory was taken away.
21 *And he was driven out from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses, and he did eat grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven: till he knew that the most High ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he will set over it whomsoever it shall please him.
22 Thou also, his son, O Baltassar, hast not humbled thy heart, whereas thou knewest all these things:
23 But hast lifted thyself up against the Lord of heaven: and the vessels of his house have been brought before thee: and thou, and thy nobles, and thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them: and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and of gold, and of brass, of iron, and of wood, and of stone, that neither see, nor hear, nor feel: but the God who hath thy breath in his hand, and all thy ways, thou hast not glorified.
24 Wherefore, he hath sent the part of the hand which hath written this that is set down.
25 And this is the writing that is written: Mane, Thecel, Phares.
26 And this is the interpretation of the word. Mane: God hath numbered thy kingdom, and hath finished it.
27 Thecel: thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.
28 Phares: thy kingdom is divided, and is given to the Medes and Persians.
29 Then by the king’s command, Daniel was clothed with purple, and a chain of gold was put about his neck: and it was proclaimed of him that he had power as the third man in the kingdom.
30 The same night Baltassar, the Chaldean king, was slain.*
31 And Darius, the Mede, succeeded to the kingdom, being threescore and two years old.
1: Year of the World 3466, Year before Christ 538.
21: Daniel iv. 22.
30: Year of the World 3466, Year before Christ 538.