The writing on the wall
1King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father#Or ancestor; or predecessor; also in verses 11, 13 and 18 had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
7The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers#Or Chaldeans; also in verse 11 and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, ‘Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed round his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.’
8Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
10The queen,#Or queen mother hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. ‘May the king live for ever!’ she said. ‘Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. 12He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.’
13So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, ‘Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed round your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.’
17Then Daniel answered the king, ‘You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
18‘Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendour. 19Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
22‘But you, Belshazzar, his son,#Or descendant; or successor have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honour the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
25‘This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
26‘Here is what these words mean:
Mene#Mene can mean numbered or mina (a unit of money).: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27Tekel#Tekel can mean weighed or shekel.: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28Peres#Peres (the singular of Parsin) can mean divided or Persia or a half mina or a half shekel.: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’
29Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed round his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
30That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians,#Or Chaldeans was slain, 31and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.#In Aramaic texts this verse (5:31) is numbered 6:1.