on Daniel 5 :5
Fingers of a man's hand - The fingers were collected about the style or pen as in the act of writing.
on Daniel 5 :5
In the same hour - On the word "hour," see the note at Daniel 4:19.
Came forth fingers of a man's hand - Not the whole hand, but only the parts usually employed in writing. Not a man writing; not even an arm, but fingers that seemed to move themselves. They appeared to come forth from the walls, and were seen before they began to write. It was this that made it so impressive and alarming. It could not be supposed that it was the work of man, or that it was devised by man for the purpose of producing consternation. It was perfectly manifest to all who were there that this was the work of some one superior to man; that it was designed as a Divine intimation of some kind in regard to the scene that was then occurring. But whether as a rebuke for the sin of revelry and dissipation, or for sacrilege in drinking out of the consecrated vessels, or whether it was an intimation of some approaching fearful calamity, would not at once be apparent. It is easy to imagine that it would produce a sudden pause in their revelry, and diffuse seriousness over their minds.
The suddenness of the appearance; the fingers, unguided by the hand of man, slowly writing in mysterious characters on the wall; the conviction which must have flashed across the mind that this must be either to rebuke them for their sin, or to announce some fearful calamity, all these things must have combined to produce an overwhelming effect on the revellers. Perhaps, from the prevalent views in the pagan world in regard to the crime of sacrilege, they may have connected this mysterious appearance with the profane act which they were then committing - that of desecrating the vessels of the temple of God. How natural would it be to suppose - recognizing as they did the gods of other nations as real, as truly as those which they worshipped - that the God of the Hebrews, seeing the vessels of his worship profaned, had come forth to express his displeasure, and to intimate that there was impending wrath for such an act.
The crime of sacrilege was regarded among the pagan as one of the most awful which could be committed, and there was no state of mind in which men would be more likely to be alarmed than when they were, even in the midst of scenes of drunken revelry, engaged in such an act. "The pagan," says Grotius, "thought it a great impiety to convert sacred things to common uses." Nuerous instances are on record of the sentiments entertained among the pagan on the subject of sacrilege, and of the calamities which were believed to come upon men as a punishment for it. Among them we may refer to the miserable end of the Phocians, who robbed the temple of Delphos, and whose act was the occasion of that war which was called the Holy War; the destruction of the Gauls in their attempt upon the same temple; and of Crassus, who plundered the temple of Jerusalem, and that of the Syrian goddess. - See Lowth, in loc. That a conviction of the sin of sacrilege, according to the prevalent belief on the subject, may have contributed to produce consternation when the fingers of the hand appeared at Belshazzar's feast, there is no good reason to doubt, and we may suppose that the minds of the revellers were at once turned to the insult which they had thus offered to the God of the Hebrews.
And wrote over against the candlestick - The candlestick, or lamp-bearer, perhaps, which had been taken from the temple at Jerusalem, and which was, as well as the sacred vessels, introduced into this scene of revelry. It is probable that as they brought out the vessels of the temple to drink in, they would also bring out all that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Two objects may have been contemplated in the fact that the writing was "over against the candlestick;" one was that it might be clearly visible, the other that it might be more directly intimated that the writing was a rebuke for the act of sacrilege. On the probable situation where this miracle occurred, the reader may consult Taylor's "Fragments to Calmet's Dictionary," No. 205. He supposes that it was one of the large inner courts of the palace - that part of the palace which was prohibited to persons not sent for. See the note at Daniel 5:10.
Upon the plaster of the wall - The Chaldee word means "lime," not inappropriately rendered here "plaster." The "manner" of the writing is not specified. All that is necessary to suppose is, that the letters were traced along on the wall so as to be distinctly visible. Whether they seemed to be cut into the plaster, or to be traced in black lines, or lines of light, is not mentioned, and is immaterial. They were such as could be seen distinctly by the king and the guests. Compare, however, the remarks of Taylor in the "Fragment" just referred to.
And the king saw the part of the hand that wrote - It is not necessary to suppose that the others did not see it also, but the king was the most important personage there, and the miracle was intended particularly for him. Perhaps his eyes were first attracted to it.
on Daniel 5 :5