on Daniel 5 :1
Belshazzar the king made a great feast - This chapter is out of its place, and should come in after the seventh and eighth. There are difficulties in the chronology. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach his son ascended the throne of Babylon. Having reigned about two years, he was slain by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar. He reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod, who reigned only nine months. At his death Belshazzar the son of Evil-merodach, was raised to the throne, and reigned seventeen years, and was slain, as we read here, by Cyrus, who surprised and took the city on the night of this festivity. This is the chronology on which Archbishop Usher, and other learned chronologists, agree; but the Scripture mentions only Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, and Belshazzar, by name; and Jeremiah, Jeremiah 27:7, expressly says, "All nations shall serve him (Nebuchadnezzar), and his son (Evil-merodach), and his son's son (Belshazzar), until the very time of his land come;" i.e., till the time in which the empire should be seized by Cyrus. Here there is no mention of Neriglissar nor Laborosoarchod; but as they were usurpers, they might have been purposely passed by. But there remains one difficulty still: Belshazzar is expressly called the son of Nebuchadnezzar by the queen mother, Jeremiah 27:11 : "There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and in the days of Thy Father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him: whom the king Nebuchadnezzar Thy Father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians." The solution of this difficulty is, that in Scripture the name of son is indifferently given to sons and grandsons, and even to great grandsons. And perhaps the repetition in the above verse may imply this: "The king, Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king thy father." The king thy father's father, and consequently thy grandfather. If it have not some such meaning as this, it must be considered an idle repetition. As to the two other kings, Neriglissar and Laborosoarchod, mentioned by Josephus and Berosus, and by whom the chronology is so much puzzled, they might have been some petty kings, or viceroys, or satraps, who affected the kingdom, and produced disturbances, one for four years, and the other for nine months; and would in consequence not be acknowledged in the Babylonish chronology, nor by the sacred writers, any more than finally unsuccessful rebels are numbered among the kings of those nations which they have disturbed. I believe the only sovereigns we can acknowledge here are the following:
4. Belshazzar; and with this last the Chaldean empire ended.
To a thousand of his lords - Perhaps this means lords or satraps, that were each over one thousand men. But we learn from antiquity that the Persian kings were very profuse in their entertainments; but it does not follow that the Chaldeans were so too. Besides, one thousand lords and their appropriate attendants would have been very inconvenient in a nocturnal assembly. The text, however, supports the common translation. Literally, "Belshazzar the king made bread for his lords a thousand; and against the thousand he drank wine." That is, say some, he was a very great drinker.
on Daniel 5 :1
Belshazzar the king - See Introduction to the chapter, Section II. In the Introduction to the chapter here referred to, I have stated what seemed to be necessary in order to illustrate the history of Belshazzar, so far as that can be now known. The statements in regard to this monarch, it is well understood, are exceedingly confused, and the task of reconciling them is now hopeless. Little depends, however, in the interpretation of this book, on the attempt to reconcile them, for the narrative here given is equally credible, whichever of the accounts is taken, unless that of Berosus is followed. But it may not be improper to exhibit here the two principal accounts of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar, that the discrepancy may be distinctly seen. I copy from the Pictorial Bible. "The common account we shall collect from L'Art de Verifier les Dates, and the other from Hales' "Analysis," disposing them in opposite colums for the sake of comparison:
Comparison of Historical Accounts of Nebuchadnezzar From L'Art de Verifier From Hales's Analysis 605 Nebuchacnezzar, who was succeeded by his son. 604 Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son. 562 Evil-Merodach, who, having provoked general indignation by his tyranny and atrocities, was, after a short reign of about two years, assassinated by his brother-in-law. 561 Evil-Merodach, or Ilverodam, who was slain in a battle against the Medes and Persians, and was succeeded by his son. 560 Nerigilassar, or Nericassolassar, who was regarded as a deliverer and succeeded by the choice of the nation. He perished in a battle by Cyrus, and was succeeded by his son. 558 Neriglissar, Niricassolassar, or Belshazzar, the common accounts of whom seem to combine what is said both of Neriglissar, and his son opposite. He was killed by conspirators on the night of the 'impious feast,' leaving a son (a boy). 555 Laborosoarchod, notorious for his cruelty and oppression, and who was assassinated by two nobles, Gobryas and Gadatas, whose sons he had slain. The vacant throne was then ascended by. 553 Laborosoarchod, on whose death, nine months after, the dynasty became extinct, and the kingdom came peaceably to 'Darius the Mede,' or Cyaxares who, on the will-known policy of the Medes and Persians, appointed a Babylonian nobleman, named Nabonadius, or Labynetus, to be king, or viceroy. This person revotled against Cyrus, who had succeeded to the united empire of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus could not immediately attend to him, but at last marched to Babylon, took the city, b.c. 536, as foretold by the prophets. 554 Nabonadius, the Labynetus of Herodotus, the Naboandel of Josephus, and the Belshazzar of Daniel, who was the son of Evil-Merodach, and who now succeeded to the throne of his 538 father. After a voluptuous reign, his city was taken by the Persians under Cyrus, on which occasion he lost his life.
It will be observed that the principal point of difference in these accounts is, that Hales contends that the succession of Darius the Mede to the Babylonian throne was not attended with war; that Belshazzar was not the king in whose time the city was taken by Cyrus; and, consequently, that the events which took place this night were quite distinct from and anterior to that siege and capture of the city by the Persian king which Isaiah and Jeremiah so remarkably foretold.
Made a great feast - On what occasion this feast was made is not stated, but is was not improbably an annual festival in honor of some of the Babylonian deities. This opinion seems to be countenanced by the words of the Codex Chisianus, "Belshazzar the king made a great festival ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐγκαινισμοῦ τῶν βασιλείων en hēmera engkainismou tōn basileiōn) on the day of the dedication of his kingdom;" and in Daniel 5:4 it is said that "they praised the gods of gold, of silver, and of brass," etc.
To a thousand of his lords - The word thousand here is doubtless used as a general term to denote a very large number. It is not improbable, however, that this full number was assembled on such an occasion. "Ctesias says, that the king of Persia furnished provisions daily for fifteen thousand men. Quintus Curtius says that ten thousand men were present at a festival of Alexander the Great; and Statius says of Domitian, that he ordered, on a certain occasion, his guests 'to sit down at a thousand tables.' " - Prof. Stuart, in loc.
And drank wine before the thousand - The Latin Vulgate here is, "And each one drank according to his age." The Greek of Theodotion, the Arabic, and the Coptic is, "and wine was before the thousand." The Chaldee, however, is, as in our version, "he drank wine before the thousand." As he was the lord of the feast, and as all that occurred pertained primarily to him, the design is undoubtedly to describe his conduct, and to show the effect which the drinking of wine had on him. He drank it in the most public manner, setting an example to his lords, and evidently drinking it to great excess.
on Daniel 5 :1
5:1 Belshazzar - The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Made a great feast - After the manner of the eastern kings who shewed their magnificence this way. But this is prodigious that he should carouse when the city was besieged, and ready to be taken by Darius the Mede.