Who was Belshazzar in the Bible?


Belshazzar, a prominent figure in the Bible, is a name that echoes through the corridors of ancient history. Mentioned primarily in the Book of Daniel, his narrative unfolds within the grand tapestry of Babylonian rule. This evil king plays a pivotal role in the biblical account.

Historical Context

To understand Belshazzar’s significance, one must delve into the historical context provided by the Book of Daniel. The events surrounding Belshazzar occurred during the Babylonian Empire’s zenith, around the 6th century BCE. This era witnessed Babylon as a formidable power under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II, a ruler whose exploits are extensively chronicled in the Bible. Daniel was captured by King Nebuchadnezzar, who had conquered Judah and carried away its sacred temple vessels and most of its inhabitants as captives (Daniel 1).

Belshazzar’s Lineage

The Babylonian name Bêl–shar–uṣur means “Bel, protect the king!” The Bible presents this king as the first-born son of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Although Belshazzar calls Nebuchadnezzar his “father” he was actually his grandfather (Daniel 5:13). Nebuchadnezzar, is recognized as a king known for his conquests and the grandeur of the Babylonian Empire during his reign.

The Feast of Belshazzar

The pinnacle of Belshazzar’s biblical narrative unfolds during a lavish feast documented in Daniel 5. The king, in a display of opulence and arrogance, commands the vessels of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem to be brought into the banquet hall. This act is not only an affront to the sacred but also a demonstration of Belshazzar’s disregard for the divine.

NKJV Reference: Daniel 5:2-4

“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.”

The Handwriting on the Wall

The turning point in Belshazzar’s story is the mysterious handwriting on the wall during the extravagant feast. A disembodied hand appears, writing cryptic words that none of the wise men of Babylon can decipher. Disturbed and desperate, Belshazzar seeks the counsel of Daniel, renowned for his wisdom and interpretation of dreams.

NKJV Reference: Daniel 5:5-6

“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.”

Daniel’s Interpretation

Daniel, brought before the troubled king, provides an interpretation of the mysterious writing. The words “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” are decoded by Daniel, conveying a divine message of judgment upon Belshazzar and his kingdom. The weight of these words is profound, signifying the impending downfall of the Babylonian Empire.

NKJV Reference: Daniel 5:25-28

“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; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

The Fall of Babylon

The biblical account climaxes with the fulfillment of Daniel’s interpretation. That very night, Belshazzar is slain, and Darius the Mede takes over the kingdom. This abrupt end to Belshazzar’s reign serves as a stark reminder of the transient nature of earthly power and the consequences of pride and impiety.

NKJV Reference: Daniel 5:30-31

“That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.”

Legacy and Reflection

Belshazzar’s role in the Bible is a cautionary tale, illustrating the perils of arrogance and the inevitability of divine judgment. His story serves as a sobering reminder that earthly kingdoms, no matter how mighty, are subject to the sovereign will of God. The narrative of Belshazzar invites readers to reflect on the implications of their actions and the importance of acknowledging the divine in the midst of worldly pursuits.


In the biblical narratives, Belshazzar emerges as proud defiant figure whose actions and fate are etched into the annals of history. His pagan feast, the mysterious handwriting on the wall, and the subsequent fall of Babylon contribute to a narrative that transcends time. Belshazzar’s story invites readers to contemplate the consequences of their evil choices and underscores the overarching theme of divine sovereignty in the unfolding drama of human history.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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