After the great financial chaos of the last year, many people wonder why none of the brilliant financial minds saw “the writing on the wall.” This interesting and unique idiom, however, is an explanation in and of itself…for the “writing on the wall” is usually something that people misunderstand or attempt to ignore.

This famous expression is actually straight out of the Jewish Bible (Daniel 5) – here’s the story:

Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, made a great feast and served wine in the silver and gold vessels that his father, Nebuchadnezzer, had pillaged from the Temple in Jerusalem. While praising his false gods during the feast, Belshazzar became the first person to see “the writing on the wall.”

At the feast, a supernatural hand appeared and wrote upon the palace wall. Terrified, the king called for his wise men and astrologers and announced that whoever would read and interpret the writing would be “clothed with purple, have a chain of gold about his neck, and will rule as one of three in the kingdom.” But none of Belshazzar’s advisers had any clue as to the meaning of the words.

However, Daniel, who had come to Babylon with the exiles from Jerusalem and who was known for interpreting dreams and understanding riddles, explained the message. First, however, he accused the arrogant Belshazzar of knowing God’s power and ignoring Him. Then he read and explained the writing on the wall: “MENE MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN.

MENE MENE – God had numbered Belshazzar’s kingdom, and brought it to an end.
TEKEL – Belshazzar has been measured and was found wanting.
UPHARSIN (based on the root–peres) – The kingdom will be divided between the Medes and Persians.

Belshazzar rewarded Daniel as he had promised. On that same night, the king was assassinated and the kingdom overthrown.

This Treat was last posted on August 4, 2009.

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