Daniel 5:6

6. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

6. Tunc Regis vultus 1 mutatus est: et cogitationes ejus terruerunt eum, et ligamina lumborum ejus solvebantur, 2 et poplites ejus invicem collisi sunt.


Here Daniel shews how the king's mind was struck with fear, lest any one should think his fright without foundation. But he expresses, by many circumstances, how disturbed the king was, and thus the sufficiency of the reason would easily appear. It was needful for him to be so struck, that all might understand how God was seated on his throne, and summoned him as a criminal. We mentioned before how Daniel impresses us with the pride of this king, and his careless security is a clear proof of it. When the daily siege of the city ought to have rendered him anxious, he was celebrating his usual banquets, as if in profound peace. Whence he appears to be corrupted by a kind of spiritual drunkenness, so as not to feel his own calamities. This, then, is the reason why God roused him up and awakened him from his lethargy, because no ordinary means were effectual in recalling him to soundness of mind. The fear which he experienced might seem a convenient preparation for penitence. But we see the same thing in this case as we do in that of Esau; for he was not only touched with contrition when he saw himself cut off, but he uttered a loud and piercing' lamentation when seeking his father's "blessing," and yet he was too late. (Genesis 27:24.) A similar occurrence is related here of King Belshazzar, but we must remark upon everything in order. Daniel says. The king's countenance was changed; then, the joints of his limbs were loosened, and he was disturbed, or frightened, in his thoughts; and lastly, he adds, his knees smote together. The word properly signifies, to strike one against another. By these signs the Prophet shews how King Belshazzar was frightened by the vision already mentioned. Without doubt, as I have just said, God inspired him with this terror, for we know even when God has openly ascended to his own tribunal, how stupid the reprobate remain, and how immovable! But God wished to affect the mind of this impious king, and to render his ignorance without excuse.

Here we may remark, generally, in how many ways God touches men's hearts -- not those of the reprobate only, but also of his elect, for we see even the best men slow and slothful when God summons them to his judgment-seat. It becomes necessary to chastise them with rods, otherwise they never approach God of their own accord. He might, indeed, move their minds without violence; but he wishes to set before us, as in a glass, our slowness and slothfulness, since we do not obey his word with natural willingness. Hence he tames his children with cords when they will not profit by his word. With regard to the reprobate, he often chides their obstinacy, because, before he undertakes the office of judge, he kindly entices them; when they do not profit by this, he threatens; and when his threats are useless and devoid of efficacy, he then calls them to his tribunal. Respecting the fate of the King of Babylon, God had suffered Daniel to be silent, for his ingratitude and pride had closed the door, so as to prevent Daniel from undertaking the office of a teacher as he was prepared to do; hence the King of Babylon continued without one. But God suddenly appeared as a judge, by the writing of which we have shortly spoken, and of which we shall say more in the proper place. Whatever its meaning may be: we see King Belshazzar not only admonished by an outward sign of his approaching death, but inwardly stirred up to acknowledge himself to be dealing with God. For the reprobate often enjoy their own pleasures, as I have said, although God shews himself to be their judge. But he treats King Belshazzar differently: he desires to inspire him with terror, to render him more attentive to the perusal of the writing. This time was, as I have said, a preparation for repentance; but he failed in the midst of his course, as we see too many do who tremble at the voice of God and at the signs of his vengeance, as soon as he admonishes them; but these feelings are but evanescent; thus proving how little they have learnt of the necessary lesson.

The example of Esau is similar to this, since he despised God's grace when he heard himself deprived of the inheritance divinely promised him. (Genesis 25:33.) He treated the blessing as a fable, till he found it a serious matter; he then began to lament, but all in vain. Such also was the fright of King Belshazzar, as we shall soon perceive. Even when Daniel explained the writing to him, he was by no means moved by it, but adorned Daniel with royal tokens of regard. Yet the object and use of this was totally different, for when the nobles were moved, and the reality became manifest, God in this way demonstrated his glory: and Darius, who took the city, with his son-in-law Cyrus, understood how his own valor and perseverance were not the sole cause of his victory, and how the satraps, Gobryas and Gadata, would not have assisted him so materially unless the whole affair had been under God's auspices. Thus God shewed himself as in a glass to be the avenger of his people, as he had promised seventy years previously. It now follows: --

1 "The form or figure," verbally. -- Calvin.

2 "His hip-joints," for the Hebrews and Chaldees use roundabout expressions. -- Calvin.