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Archive for February 12th, 2019


Daniel 5The Writing on the Wall

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

This famous scene of Daniel interpreting the writing on the wall is familiar to all of us. So familiar that the phrase is part of our idiom catalog. How many times have we seen “the writing on the wall,” or wished that someone else would!

This book is full of ideas and stories that we have assimilated fully into our North American thinking. This particular chapter is a mini-drama which comes to a full meaning if you have a study Bible with good notes. The three letters of the alphabet which are written by an unseen hand on the wall of the Babylonian court where the wild partying is happening with the vessels from the Jerusalem temple are: mene, tekel, and peres. They are the Aramaic names of Middle Eastern measures, weights and monies: the mina, the shekel (a 60th part of a shekel), and the parsu (a half-shekel). Daniel interprets them in the following manner: mene, connecting with the verb “to number,” tekel, the verb “to weigh,” and peres, with the verb “to divide.” And the New American Bible footnotes also tell us that peres is a further play on the word for Persians.

Rembrandt: Belshazzar’s Feast

Daniel warns the Babylonians that their days are numbered, that they have been measured and found wanting, and that they will be divided. All bad news. And this prophecy is fulfilled swiftly at the end of the chapter. Looking forward into Chapter 6, we can see that Daniel, who has been elevated to a place of high standing because of his closeness with God and his ability to understand and interpret God’s message, is brought down by jealous courtiers. He is subjected to a trial in the den of lions but is saved by God. And this trial makes him all the more valuable to the new king, Darius. Once again we see the theme of reward through suffering. Once again we see that God’s discipline, to which we subject ourselves through obedience and fidelity, serves to transform us in a mystical way. Once again we hear that when we trust in God and follow his call, all will be well. In fact, it will be better than well . . . it will be more than we could have imagined. We are not only restored to a former self, we are amplified many times over.

We must let go of the tiny things of this world, and we must let go of our ego with which we trick ourselves into thinking that we are in control. We must let go of any worldly idea or object which we worship more than God. We must see that we are wanting if we do not walk in total concord with God’s request that we love one another, even those who attack us. We must put aside our anxiety, our worry, our willfulness, and our pride-of-self in order to best receive The Word which saves and restores.

And so we pray, heavenly Father who guides and protects us. Listen to our prayer. Number our days with you in eternity as infinite ones, measure our intention rather than our actions so that when you measure us we may not be found wanting, and bring us union with all members of your Mystical Body. We ask this through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Images from: http://www.thepropheticscroll.org/home/index.php/component/content/article/50-general/172-edition-71.html and http://www.thepropheticscroll.org/home/index.php/component/content/article/50-general/172-edition-71.html 

To learn more, click on the images and follow the links or go to: http://www.bibleinsight.com/menep1.html or the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and the Faithless page on this blog.

A re-post from February 12, 2012. 

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