Daniel 5:25-28

25. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

25. Et haec est scriptura quae notata est, 1 Mene, Mene, numera-tum est, numeratum est, Tekel, appensum est, 2 Upharsin, et dividentes.

26. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

26. Haec interpretatio est ser-monis: Mene, numeravit Deus regnum tuum et complevit. 3

27. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

27. Tekel, appende, vel, appensum est, appensus es in trutina, 4 et inventus es deficiens.

28. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

28. Peres pro upharsin, divisum est regnum tuum, et datum Medis et Persis.


Daniel here explains these four verses which were written upon the wall. The king could not read them, either through stupor, or because God blunted all his senses, and blinded his eyes, as was formerly said. The same thing must be said of the magi and the soothsayers, for they could have read, had they not been rendered blind. First of all, Daniel recites the four words, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsn, and then adds their interpretation. he repeats the word Mene twice. Some conjecture this to apply to the numbering of the years of the king's life, and also to the time of his reign; but the guess seems to be without any foundation. I think the word is used twice for the sake of confirmation; as if the Prophet meant the number to be completed, since men usually allow calculations to be liable to error. To impress upon Belshazzar that his 'life and kingdom were at stake, God affirms the number to be complete, meaning, not a moment of time can be added to the boundary already determined. So also Daniel himself interprets it: God, says he, has numbered thy kingdom; implying, God has appointed and prescribed a fixed end to thy kingdom; hence it must necessarily come to an end, since its period is fulfilled.

Although God here addresses but one king by the writing set before his eyes, we may still gather this general instruction -- God has prescribed a certain time for all kingdoms. (Job 14:5.) The Scripture bears the same witness concerning the life of each of us. If God has prescribed to each of us the length of his life, surely this applies more forcibly to public empires, of so much greater importance. Hence we may know how not only kings live and die according to God's pleasure, but even empires are changed, as we have formerly said. He fixes alike their origin and their destiny. Hence we may seek consolation, when we see tyrants rushing on so impetuously, and indulging their lust and cruelty without moderation. When, therefore, they rush on, as if they would mingle heaven and earth, let us remember this instruction, Their years are numbered! God knows how long they are to rage; He is not deceived; He knows whether it is useful to the Church and his elect, for tyrants to prevail for a time. By and bye he will surely restrain them, but since he determined the number of their days from the beginning, the time of his vengeance is not yet quite at hand, while he allows them a little longer to abuse without restraint the power and the sway which he had divinely granted them.

The exposition of the word Tekel, to weigh, now follows: -- Since thou hast been weighed in the balance, or scale, and found wanting. Here Daniel shews God so moderating his judgments, as if he was carrying a balance in his hand. The emblem is taken from the custom of mankind; for men know the use of the balance for accurate measurement. So also God is said to treat all things by weight and measure, since he does nothing with confusion, but uses moderation; and, according to ordinary language, nothing is more or less than it should be. (Wisdom 11:21.) For this reason, Daniel says God weighed Belshazzar in a balance, since he did not make haste to inflict punishment, but exacted it with justice according to his own uniform rule of government. Since he was found deficient, that is, was found light and without weight. As if he had said, Thou thinkest thy dignity must be spared, since all men revere thee; thou thinkest thyself worthy of honor; thou art deceived says he, for God judges otherwise; God does not use a common scale, but holds his own, and there art found deficient; that is, thou art found a man of no consequence, in any way. From these words there is no doubt that the tyrant was greatly exasperated, but as his last end was approaching, he ought to hear the voice of the herald. And God, without doubt, restrained his fierceness, that he should not rise up against Daniel.

The word orp, Pheres, is added, for the word Phersin, meaning his kingdom was divided among the Medes and Persians. I have no doubt that by this word God signified the dispersion of the Monarchy which was at hand. When, therefore, he says Upharsin, and they shall divide, it signifies the instability of the Monarchy, since he wished to destroy or utterly abolish it. But the Prophet alludes very appositely to the division made between the Medes and Persians; and thus his disgrace was increased by the Babylonians being compelled to serve many masters. This is indeed a grave and serious disgrace, when a people has obtained a wide and extensive empire, to be afterwards conquered and subjected to the yoke of a single master; but when it suffers under two masters, then the indignity is greatly increased. So Daniel here shews how God's wrath was complicated in the destruction of the monarch of Babylon, since it added to the severity of their punishment, to be subdued by both Medes and Persians. The city, indeed, was truly taken by the valor and industry of Cyrus; but since Cyrus admitted his father-in-law to the great honor of allowing him to partake of the royal authority, hence the Medes and Persians are said to have divided the kingdom, although there was properly no division of the kingdom. Cyrus afterwards engaged in other expeditions, as he was led away by his insatiable avarice and ambition. But Darius, as we shall afterwards see, died at the age of sixty years, dwelt quietly at home, and it is very well known that he was a Mede; and if we may believe the majority of historians, his sister, the mother of Cyrus, had been banished to Persia, in consequence of the oracle concerning the fortune and greatness of Cyrus. Since his grandfather had exposed him, he afterwards avenged the injury, yet, not so cruelly as to take his life,-for he desired him to retain some dignity, and hence appointed him a satrap. But his son afterwards reigned over the Medes, with the full permission of Cyrus, who next married his daughter; and thus, on account of this relationship, and through the influence of this new alliance, he wished to have him as a partner in the empire. In this sense, then, Daniel narrates the division of the Monarchy to be at hand, since the Medes and the Persians should divide it among them. It follows, --

1 Or, engraved. -- Calvin.

2 Some translate, number, number, weigh. -- Calvin.

3 Or, finished. -- Calvin.

4 Or, in a balance. -- Calvin.