on Daniel 5 :31
Darius the Median took the kingdom - This is supposed to be the same as Cyaxares, son of Astyages and maternal uncle of Cyrus, to whom he gave the throne of Babylon, after himself had had the honor of taking the city.
Daniel speaks nothing of the war that raged between the Babylonians and the Medes; but Isaiah speaks particularly of it, chap. 13, 14, 45, Isaiah 46:1-13, Isaiah 47:1-15.; and so does Jeremiah, chap. 50, 51. I need not add, that it is largely spoken of by profane authors. The Medes and Persians were confederates in the war; the former under Darius, the latter under Cyrus. Both princes are supposed to have been present at the taking of this city. Mandane, daughter of Astyages, was mother of Cyrus, and sister to Cyaxares.
on Daniel 5 :31
And Darius the Median took the kingdom - The city and kingdom were actually taken by Cyrus, though acting in the name and by the authority of Darius, or Cyaxares, who was his uncle. For a full explanation of the conquests of Cyrus, and of the reason why the city is said to have been taken by Darius, see the notes at Isaiah 41:2. In regard to the question who Darius the Median was, see the Introduction to Daniel 6, section II. The name Darius - דריושׁ dâreyâvêsh, is the name under which the three Medo-Persian kings are mentioned in the Old Testament. There is some difference of opinion as to its meaning. Herodotus (vi. 98) says, that it is equivalent to ἑρξίης herxiēs, "one who restrains," but Hesychius says that it is the same as φρόνιμος phronimos - "prudent." Grotefend, who has found it in the cuneiform inscriptions at Persepolis, as Darheush, or Darjeush ("Heeren's Ideen," i. 2, p. 350), makes it to be a compound word, the first part being an abbreviation of Dara, "Lord," and the latter portion coming from kshah, "king." Martin reads the name Dareiousch Vyschtasponea on the Persepolitan inscriptions; that is, Darius, son of Vishtaspo. Lassen, however, gives Darhawus Vistaspaha, the latter word being equivalent to the Gustasp of the modern Persian, and meaning "one whose employment is about horses." See Anthon's "Class. Dict.," and Kitto's "Cyclo.," art. "Darius." Compare Niehbuhr, "Reisebeschr.," Part II. Tab. 24, G. and B. Gesenius, "Lex." This Darius is supposed to be Cyaxares II.((Introduction to Daniel 6 Section II.), the son and successor of Astyages, the uncle and father-in-law of Cyrus, who held the empire of Media between Astyages and Cyrus, 569-536 b.c.
Being - Margin, "He as son of." The marginal reading is in accordance with the Chaldee - כבר kebar. It is not unusual in the language of the Orientals to denote the age of anyone by saying that he is the son of so many years.
About - Margin, "or, now." The word, both in the text and the margin, is designed to express the supposed sense of his "being the son of sixty years." The language of the original would, however, be accurately expressed by saying that he was then sixty years old. Though Cyrus was the active agent in taking Babylon, yet it was done in the name and by the authority of Cyaxares or Darius; and as he was the actual sovereign, the name of his general - Cyrus - is not mentioned here, though he was in fact the most important agent in taking the city, and became ultimately much more celebrated than Darius was.
This portion of history, the closing scene in the reign of a mighty monarch, and the closing scene in the independent existence of one of the most powerful kingdoms that has ever existed on the earth, is full of instructive lessons; and in view of the chapter as thus explained, we may make the following remarks.
(1) We have here an impressive illustration of the sin of sacrilege Daniel 5:2-3. In all ages, and among all people, this has been regarded as a sin of peculiar enormity, and it is quite evident that God in this solemn scene meant to confirm the general judgment of mankind on the subject. Among all people, where any kind of religion has prevailed, there are places and objects which are regarded as set apart to sacred use, and which are not to be employed for common and profane purposes. Though in themselves - in the gold and silver, the wood and stone of which they are made - there is no essential holiness, yet they derive a sacredness from being set apart to Divine purposes, and it has always been held to be a high crime to treat them with indignity or contempt - to rob altars, or to desecrate holy places. This general impression of mankind it was clearly the design of God to confirm in the case before us, when the sacred vessels of the temple - vessels consecrated in the most solemn manner to the worship of Jehovah - were profanely employed for the purposes of carousal. God had borne it patiently when those vessels had been removed from the temple at Jerusalem, and when they had been laid up among the spoils of victory in the temples of Babylon; but when they were profaned for purposes of revelry - when they were brought forth to grace a pagan festival, and to be employed in the midst of scenes of riot and dissipation, it was time for him to interpose, and to show to these profane revellers that there is a God in heaven.
(2) We may see the peril of such festivals as that celebrated by Belshazzar and his lords, Daniel 5:1 following. It is by no means probable that when the feast was contemplated and arranged, anything was designed like what occurred in the progress of the affair. It was not a matter of set purpose to introduce the females of the harem to this scene of carousal, and still less to make use of the sacred vessels dedicated to the worship of Jehovah, to grace the midnight revelry. It is not improbable that they would have been at first shocked at such an outrage on what was regarded as propriety, or what would have been deemed sacred by all people. It was only when the king had "tasted the wine" that these things were proposed; and none who attend on such a banquet as this, none who come together for purposes of drinking and feasting, can foretell what they may be led to do under the influence of wine and strong drink. No man is certain of not doing foolish and wicked things who gives himself up to such indulgences; no man knows what he may do that may be the cause of bitter regret and painful mortification in the recollection.
(3) God has the means of access to the consciences of men Daniel 5:5. In this case it was by writing on the wall with his own fingers certain mysterious words which none could interpret, but which no one doubted were of fearful import. No one present, it would appear, had any doubt that somehow what was written was connected with some awful judgment, and the fearfulness of what they dreaded arose manifestly from the consciousness of their own guilt. It is not often that God comes forth in this way to alarm the guilty; but he has a thousand methods of doing it, and no one can be sure that in an instant he will not summon all the sins of his past life to remembrance. He "could" write our guilt in letters of light before us - in the chamber where we sleep; in the hall where we engage in revelry; on the face of the sky at night; or he can make it as plain to our minds "as if" it were thus written out. To Belshazzar, in his palace, surrounded by his lords, he showed this; to us in society or solitude he can do the same thing. No sinner can have any security that he may not in a moment be overwhelmed with the conviction of his own depravity, and with dreadful apprehension of the wrath to come.
(4) We have in this chapter Daniel 5:6 a striking illustration of the effects of a sudden alarm to the guilty. The countenance of the monarch was changed; his thoughts troubled him; the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote together. Such effects are not uncommon when a sinner is made to feel that he is in the presence of God, and when his thoughts are led along to the future world. The human frame is so made that these changes occur as indicative of the troubles which the mind experiences, and the fact that it is thus agitated shows the power which God has over us. No guilty man can be secure that he will "not" thus be alarmed when he comes to contemplate the possibility that he may soon be called before his Maker, and the fact that he "may" thus be alarmed should be one of the considerations bearing on his mind to lead him to a course of virtue and religion. Such terror is proof of conscious guilt, for the innocent have nothing to dread; and if a man is sure that he is prepared to appear before God, he is "not" alarmed at the prospect. They who live in sin; they who indulge in revelry; they who are profane and sacrilegious; they who abuse the mercies of God, and live to deride sacred things, can never be certain that in a moment, by the revelation of their guilt to their own souls, and by a sudden message from the eternal world, they may not be overwhelmed with the deepest consternation. Their countenances may become deadly pale, their joints may be loosed, and their limbs tremble. It is only the righteous who can look calmly at the judgment.
(5) We may see from this chapter one of the effects of the terror of a guilty conscience. It is not said, indeed, that the mysterious fingers on the wall recorded the "guilt" of the monarch. But they recorded "something;" they were making some record that manifestly pertained to him. How natural was it to suppose that it was a record of his guilt! And who is there that could bear a record made in that manner of his own thoughts and purposes; of his desires and feelings; of what he is conscious is passing within the chambers of his own soul? There is no one who would not turn pale if he saw a mysterious hand writing all his thoughts and purposes - all the deeds of his past life - on the wall of his chamber at night, and bringing at once all his concealed thoughts and all his forgotten deeds before his mind. And if this is so, how will the sinner bear the disclosures that will be made at the day of judgment?
on Daniel 5 :31
5:31 Darius the Mede - This was he that with Cyrus besieged and took Babylon.