The story of the “Finger of God” is in the Book of Daniel. It is an incredible story that fulfills biblical prophecy, including the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire, and the fall of the Babylonian Empire. Before we explore the fulfillment of these prophecies and the “Finger of God,” let us review what caused this pivotal change in world history. After the prosperous and peaceful years of King Solomon (1 Kings 3-10), the people of Israel worshiped other gods, sacrificed their children to those gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord. God sent Jeremiah and other prophets to the people of Israel to get them to repent and turn back to Him. However, the people did not heed the warnings of the prophets.
Jeremiah 25:3-7, “I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.’ Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the Lord, “that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt."
The people of Israel were in “full blown” rebellion against God and His commandments. Still, in His unconditional love and amazing grace, the Lord waited for the people to repent of their sins and turn back to Him. God is loving, long suffering, forgiving, and patient, however, He will not be mocked.
Psalm 145:8, “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will reap.”
After several years of sending His prophets to the people of Israel, to no avail, the Lord’s patience was exhausted. The punishment for their sin was prophesied from God to the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 25:8-11, “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
Wow, as we can see, the Almighty’s patience had reached its limit, and Jerusalem would be destroyed. God also told Jeremiah that the people of Israel would be captives in Babylon for seventy years. The Babylonian captivity started in 605 BC, and the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in 586 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar (Babylon). Interesting enough, we see that God told Jeremiah that Nebuchadnezzar was His servant. Nebuchadnezzar did not worship the God of Israel, however, the Almighty has ultimate control over everyone’s actions in order to fulfill His divine purpose, including world leaders.
Daniel 2:20-22, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us from the foundation of the world.”
Needless to say, God Almighty is in control of everything! After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, he carried God’s vessels and articles back to Babylon as prized possessions.
Daniel 1:1-2, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.” 2 Chronicles 36:7, “Nebuchadnezzar also carried off some of the articles from the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.”
As we continue, lets remember what God told Jeremiah in the conclusion of His prophecy.
Jeremiah 25:12-14, “Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation. So I will bring on that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations. (For many nations and great kings shall be served by them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and according to the works of their own hands.)”
Although God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and take His people captive, once the 70 years were complete, He was going to judge pagan Babylon according to their deeds. Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon for 43 years until he died in 562 BC (605-562BC). Evil Merodach, his son, ruled from 562 to 560 BC. His brother-in-law Neriglissar reigned from 560-556 BC. The reign continued through Nabonidus, who reigned from 556-539 BC with his son, Belshazzar (co-reigned). Belshazzar was in charge of the city of Babylon.
Daniel 5:1-4, “Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.”
As mentioned above, Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father. In those days, ancestors were called “father.” We can relate to this as we refer to the Patriarch Abraham as “Father Abraham,” because he is the father of many nations (Genesis 12). So, when Daniel states “his father Nebuchadnezzar,” it is interpreted as ancestor. As Belsahzzar was entertaining his people and drinking wine, he made a fatal error in judgment by requesting the Lord’s vessels in order to desecrate them at his feast. As the King of Babylon, Belshazzar knew Babylonian history and definitely understood how God had humbled his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 4). However, during that boastful, arrogant moment, Belshazzar sealed his fate, and the fate of the Babylonian Empire. After his servants brought the holy vessels of God to the feast, Belshazzar and his people desecrated the vessels by drinking wine from them while praising their pagan gods. However, the Almighty is not to be mocked. So, in the same fateful hour that Belshazzar desecrated the vessels, God sent him a message.
Daniel 5:5-9, “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.”
This is incredible! In the same hour that Belshazzar and the Babylonians desecrated God’s vessels, the “finger of a man’s hand” wrote on the wall. We can only imagine how the atmosphere of this feast changed! Once Belshazzar saw the “writing on the wall,” he knew that God Almighty’s judgment was at hand. Belshazzar’s entire countenance changed. His hips loosened, knees knocked, and his spirit became very troubled. As we discussed earlier, Nabonidus, Belshazzar’s father, was “first in command,” of the Babylonian Empire, and Belshazzar was “second in command.”(co-reigned). So, when “the finger of a man’s hand ” wrote on the wall in the king’s palace, Belshazzar stated that whoever could interpret the words would be the “third ruler in the kingdom.” All of Babylon’s wise men, soothsayers, astrologers and Chaldeans could not interpret God’s writing on the wall, regardless of the reward. However, there was one Godly man who could interpret it.
Daniel 5:10-12, “The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king--made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”
The Queen spoken of by Daniel was not Belshazzar’s wife, as his wives were at the “great feast” (Daniel 5:2). So, it very well could have been his mother, Nabonidus’ wife (The Queen). Whatever the case might have been, it is quite obvious the Queen knew of Daniel and his reputation for interpreting dreams for Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 2 & 4). With the Queen’s knowledge of Daniel’s reputation with Nebuchadnezzar, it would have seemed Belshazzar would have had Daniel in charge of all of the wise men, as Nebuchadnezzar did. (Daniel 2:48). We can only assume that having two predecessors (Merodach/Neriglissar) before them (Nabonidus/Belshazzar) and the transformation of the Babylonian Empire after Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was basically “forgotten,” as he was a man of God in a pagan society. Obviously, Daniel’s reputation and integrity proceeded him with the Queen’s eloquent words.
Daniel 5:13-17, “Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah (Babylonian captivity), whom my father, Nebuchadnezzar brought from Judah? I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you (Holy Spirit), and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing. And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.”
In Belshazzar’s time of trouble, he called on Daniel, a man of God. Belshazzar praised Daniel and spoke highly of his spirit, reputation, wisdom, and ability to interpret dreams. Do we only call on godly people in times of trouble, as Belshazzar did? The king told Daniel if he could interpret the writing on the wall, he would be the “third ruler” in Babylon, behind Nabonidus and Belshazzar. However, as inviting as that may have seemed, Daniel declined. Why? Daniel was interpreting the writing on the wall for God’s glory, and to let Belshazzar and the Babylonians understand that God’s judgment was imminent……extremely imminent. He was not interpreting this message for materialistic rewards and status. Daniel was a man of God, who understood the Scriptures extremely well, including the prophet Jeremiah’s timing of the 70 years in Babylonian captivity.
Daniel 9:1-2, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
Daniel knew exactly when the 70 years of Babylonian captivity was going to end, and he knew this was going to change world history forever. We see why God chose this man of faith to interpret dreams and write prophesies of the future! Daniel was loyal, faithful, humble, and obedient to God Almighty. Daniel got on his knees and prayed three time a day to the Almighty.
Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days."
God gave Daniel, not the Babylonian wise men, the wisdom to interpret the prophetic writing on the wall. Furthermore, Daniel wanted to give Belshazzar an unbiased interpretation of the dream, not motivated by anything at all. Daniel is a great example of a person who is doing God’s will, first and foremost. When we do God’s will first, as Daniel did, then He will bless us with His rewards, both earthly and eternally. Nothing can even come close to the magnitude of blessings God can bestow on His faithful children! Do we love God enough to give up our personal achievements and personal rewards on this earth for His glory? Before Daniel interprets the “writing on the wall,” he reminds Belshazzar of how God blessed Nebuchadnezzar, and how God judged him as well.
Daniel 5:18-21, “O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your ancestor a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. (Daniel 4:28-33). They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.” (Daniel 2:20-22).
Daniel explained to Belshazzar that all blessings come from God alone, and God humbles prideful people with an arrogant heart.
Matthew 23:12, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.“ Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor."
When Daniel stated that Nebuchadnezzar “could do whatever he wanted,” he is stating that God gave him the authority over the physical world and earthly kingdoms. However, God Almighty was still in complete control over ALL kingdoms and ALL kings.
Daniel 2:20-21, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings."
Sometimes we may feel like our world leaders are doing “whatever they want,” just as Nebuchadnezzar. However, in God’s overall divine plan, He is still in control!
1 Corinthians 8:6, “There is one God, the Father, of whom are ALL things."
As a nation, this is a great lesson for all of us to learn. Just as the people of Israel turned away from God in Jeremiah’s days, if we do the same in our days, God will allow ungodly leaders to be appointed and catastrophes to happen to our nation. God allows these harbingers so we will repent and turn our lives back over to Him, and then, on His divine timetable, He will judge the ungodly leaders, as He did with Nebuchadnezzar. As Daniel continues, he turns his attention to Belshazzar.
Daniel 5:22-23, ″But you, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”
As we discussed earlier, Belshazzar, like all Babylonian kings, would have known Babylonian history, including Nebuchadnezzar’s removal from his kingdom for a period of time (Daniel 4). However, pride goes before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Daniel bluntly told Belshazzar that his pride had reached its pinnacle by desecrating God’s holy and sacred vessels at his feast. Daniel let him know that the God of Israel holds the breath of all men, including that of Belshazzar. In Daniel’s days, and throughout world history, kings would put a person to death who spoke against them with such blunt and condemning words. (Daniel 2:12-13). However, Daniel knew that God Almighty would deliver him from any of the king’s commands of injustice.
Daniel 6:22, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you."
He knew that God controlled his destiny, not Belshazzar. When we are in God’s will, like Daniel, we are commanded to be bold and honest, knowing that God will deliver us too.
Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Amen
After Daniel summarized Nebuchadnezzar’s rise and fall, he told Belshazzar that his pride had lead him to desecrate the holy vessels. He explained that the “writing on the wall,” would change world history forever.
Daniel 5:24-30, “Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him (God), and this writing was written. “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; UPHARSIN: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.”
Daniel explained to Belshazzar that the writing on the wall was a message of judgement from God to Belshazzar and the Babylonian Empire. That night, Belshazzar was slain, and the Babylonian Empire fell! It was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire. The “Finger of God,” fulfilled numerous prophecies. First, it fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Israelites would be in Babylonian captivity for 70 years.
Jeremiah 25:11, “And these nations (Judah) shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
The 70 years were completed and fulfilled that very night. Secondly, the “writing on the wall” fulfilled God’s judgment on Babylon.
Jeremiah 25:12, “Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.”
That very night, King Belshazzar was slain, and the Babylonian Empire fell. Third, the “writing on the wall” fulfilled Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue which represented the 5 major kingdoms. ***(Daniel 2). Medo-Persia is the “chest and arms” of silver in Daniel’s interpretation of the dream. Daniel’s interpretation of the dream revealed that the Babylonian Empire would fall to the Medo-Persian Empire.
Daniel 2:36-39, “You, O king (Nebuchadnezzar), are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold (Babylon Kingdom). But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours (Mede-Persia).”
The Medes and the Persians joined forces to conquer Babylon. This is confirmed by Daniel when he explained UPHARSIN (divided), to Belshazzar. He told Belshazzar this meant his kingdom would be divided in two parts by the Medes and the Persians. When the Medes and Persians came together to conquer Babylon, Cyrus, the King of Persia, appointed Darius, the Mede, over Babylon, a province of Persia. Cyrus and the Persians were the leaders over the Medes, giving them more power and authority. We can confirm this because Cyrus gave the command to allow the captives of Israel to go back to Jerusalem, just as God had promised. Ezra, who wrote the Book of Ezra and both Books of Chronicles.
Ezra 1:1-4, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”
Cyrus not only commanded that the people of Israel return to Jerusalem (Judah), but he also commanded that they take the Lord’s holy vessels and articles back with them, just as God prophesied he would. As Ezra stated, “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia.” Also, Ezra 2 gives a detailed account of the the people who were held captive in Babylon and returned to Jerusalem to build the second temple.
The story of the “Finger of God” teaches us lessons on righteous living, judgment, redemption, and God’s sovereign and divine plan for world history. The “writing on the wall” is a prophetic message for our world today as well. It is a lesson of judgment to all who defy God, including World Empires and Kingdoms. The people of Israel lived in rebellion against God’s commandments and laws, and they were judged severely. However, as His chosen people, the Lord prophesied to Jeremiah that He would bring them back to Judah after 70 years of captivity. Furthermore, God judged Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and the Babylonians for destroying his holy city, Jerusalem. The Babylonian Empire, one of the largest empires in world history, could not withstand the judgment of God, no matter how wealthy or powerful it had become. The Babylonians were pagans who did not worship the God of Israel, and, when it was all said and done, they were destroyed. As was the case for Judah and Babylon, we too should understand that if we sin and live in defiance to the Almighty, we will be judged individually, as well as nationally. Amen, Amen, and Amen