Daniel 5:8-9

8. Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.

8. Tunc ingressi sunt omnes sa-pientes regis, et non potuerunt scripturam legere, et interpreta-tionem ejus patefacere regi.

9. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

9. Tunc rex Beltsazar multum territus fuit, et vultus ejus mutatus fuit super eum, in eo: et principes ejus fuerunt obstupefacti. 1


Here Daniel relates how deceived the king was in his opinion, in hoping for any interpretation of the writing from either the magi or the astrologers, the Chaldeans or the soothsayers; for none of them could read it. Hence he pays here the punishment of his ingratitude in passing over God's Prophet, while he knew he had predicted truth to his grandfather just as it. had happened, as well as Daniel's general excellence in wisdom, Hence the proofs of his calling were sufficiently numerous and trustworthy. Since, then, he had so despised God's unparalleled benefit, he is destitute of counsel:, and sees himself call in vain upon all the Chaldeans and astrologers. For Daniel says, There was no one who could read the writing or reveal its interpretation to the king. Because this seems absurd, many Rabbis have hazarded various conjectures. Some think the letters were transposed; others guess that they were changed into their counterparts and equivalents; and others think the char-actors were changed. But we have elsewhere shewn how bold the Jews are in their conjectures, whenever they have no certain guide. We do not require their guesses, because, very probably, the writing was visible to the king and concealed from all the Chaldeans, or else they were so blind that they could see nothing; just as God denounced against the Jews a stupor of this kind. We see what he pronounces, by Isaiah, (Isaiah 29: 11,) "Your law shall be like a. sealed book: If it shall be said to any one, 'Read it,' he shall say, 'The book is sealed, I cannot:' or the book may be opened and ye shall all become blind: even those who seem to be sharper than all others, shall say they are ignorant and unlettered men." Whatever God threatened against the Jews we know was fulfilled, and is fulfilled to this day, since a veil is put before their eyes, as Paul says. (2 Corinthians 3:14.) Hence they were blind in the midst of the brightest light. What wonder then if the same thing happened to the Chaldeans, so flint they could not read the writing? There is no necessity to conjecture any transposition of letters, or any inversion of their, order, or any change of one into another; for the word lqt, tekel, went first, and afterwards anm, anm Mena, Mena. These guesses then are frivolous; and thus much is certain, God wished the king to be made aware of his approaching destruction; next, his soul was moved, not with repentance, but only enough to render his sloth without excuse; and hence, whether willingly or not, he was compelled to send for some remedy, since he knew himself to be dealing with God.

Now, with regard to the writing itself, God could not be a free agent unless he possessed the power of addressing one man at one time, and a number of men at another. He wished King Belshazzar to be conscious of this writing, while the magi were all as unable to read it as if they were blind. And then, with reference to the interpretation, their perplexity need not surprise us. For God spoke enigmatically, when he said Mene, Mene, and then Tekel, that is weighed, and Peres, divided. If the magi could have read these words a hundred times over, they could never either conjecture or comprehend their true meaning. The prophecy was allegorical, until an interpreter was divinely ordained for it. So far as the mere letters are concerned, there is no reason why we should be surprised at the eyes of the magi being blinded, since God pleased it to be so, and wished to cite the king to his tribunal, as we have already said. The Prophet says, The king was frightened, his countenance was changed, and the princes also were disturbed. The publicity of the event ought to have increased the sense of God's judgment, for, as we shall afterwards see, King Belshazzar himself was slain that very night. Cyrus entered while the Babylonians were feasting, and enjoying their luxuries in security. So remarkable an example of God's justice might have been instantly buried in that drunken revel, had it not been rendered conspicuous to many bystanders. Hence Daniel repeats, The king was disturbed, after he saw no prospect of either aid or advice from his magi and astrologers. He says also, his princes were astonished, because not only the king ought to be troubled but the whole Court, and the report ought to flow forth not only through the city, but to foreign nations, since there is no doubt that Cyrus was afterwards informed of this prophecy; for he would not have courted Daniel so much, nor honored him so remarkably, unless this occurrence had been made known to him. It afterwards follows:

1 Or, anxious. -- Calvin.