For the young king, it was just another night of pleasure. His father, with all his conquests, had gathered great riches; now that the power was his, he intended to make the most of them. What was the point of having so much if it was just stuck away in storerooms? It was there to be used, and he used it. Besides, he had to impress his father’s nobles with his beneficence.
As the wine took hold and the night grew more intense, another thought took hold. He remembered the golden goblets of Jerusalem that his father had brought back from one of his conquests. They had been used in the service of some obscure tribal god, and for some reason his father had regarded them as special, even sacred. And he had not generally been a squeamish man. Well, his son would have none of it. This was a new reign, a new era, and it was time to be done forever with the old superstitions.
He ordered the vessels to be brought to him, and he and his nobles and his wives and concubines drank from them. But even that was not enough. He was King of Babylon, and the age of gods was over. He would kill them with mockery. He rose, a little unsteadily, to his feet, raised his golden goblet and his voice. “This is a time for new gods. Let us drink to the god of (he looked around for inspiration) … gold! Let us drink to the god of … silver!” And with shouts of drunken laughter, his friends took up the game.
But then silence fell. A disembodied hand had appeared, and, as they watched with mounting horror, it moved, and its outstretched finger wrote strange words upon the plaster, then vanished. There was no laughter now. The king’s bravado had vanished, like wine poured down the drain, and he ordered all the seers and wise men, old remnants of his father’s reign, to be brought. But none of them could tell him what the words meant, despite the most extravagant rewards he could offer.
And the king grew even more afraid, and the whole palace was in uproar.
Then the old queen, hearing the noise, entered the hall and approached him, and told him of a man who had been chief over all the wise men in his father’s day, one of the exiles from Jerusalem, a man called Daniel.
So the desperate king called for him, repeated his extravagant promises, and demanded an explanation. And the old prophet stood before him and told an old story of his father Nebuchadnezzar and his relationship to the God of the Hebrews, whom he insisted on calling the Most High God, a story of pride and repentance.
Then he looked at the king and accused him of a failure to repent, and told him that, that very night, he had sinned against the Most High God. He then read out the inscription on the wall, written by that supernatural hand, and explained it.
God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.
Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians
The king gave Daniel the gifts he had promised, but there was no joy in it.
That very night the kingdom was taken and the king was slain.
He never knew that one day there will be another feast, where every vessel and every guest is sacred to the Most High God, and God Himself will wipe away every tear, and all the kingdoms of this world will be no more