King Belshazzar threw a wild and extravagant party for a thousand of his friends in the sixth century B.C. While inebriated, the king brought out the golden vessels that had been taken by his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, from the temple in Jerusalem. While the partygoers drank raucously from the holy temple vessels, they began to praise their idols.

The Handwriting on the Wall
"At that moment the fingers of a man's hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king's palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together" (Daniel 5: 5-6, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

Belshazzar was scared to death. He called in all of his wise men to read the handwriting on the wall. The king's perplexity and panic mounted as he realized that none of his wise men could read or interpret the inscription.

As a result of the outcry of the crowd, the queen entered the banquet hall and made this pronouncement:

"May the king live forever. Don't let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the diviners, mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Your own predecessor, the king, did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and perception, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation" (Daniel 5:10-12, HCSB).

The king summoned Daniel who was able to read the handwriting on the wall. That same night, Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede became king in his stead.

The Qualities of Daniel
One of the most intriguing parts of this story is the queen's description of Daniel. Let's look at how she described him.

  1. "A man who has the spirit of the holy gods in him." Although this queen reigned in a heathen land, she recognized the power of God in Daniel's life.
  2. "He was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods."
  3. Daniel "was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and perception, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems." Daniel's intelligence was useful - it helped others. He was able to apply the knowledge he had been given by God to the people around him, as well as to the problems and events that affected their world.
    Later we find that as Daniel distinguished himself in King Darius's service, his co-workers became jealous and plotted to discredit him. This story provides us with yet another description of Daniel's character:
    "Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him" (Daniel 6:4, NASB).
  4. From this account, we learn that Daniel's character was sterling: he was faithful - no corruption or negligence was to be found in him.
  5. We all know the story of Daniel's being thrown into the lion's den, and how God shut the mouth of the lions and delivered Daniel. Daniel was a man of great faith, who totally trusted in the power and goodness of God. 

Noah Webster — A "Daniel" of the 1800s
Noah Webster (1758-1843) exhibited many of the outstanding qualities that distinguished Daniel - in a vastly different time and place. Webster was an outstanding scholar who, during the course of his life, provided America with "the fundamental texts for spelling, grammar, reading history, geography, civics, literature, and an American dictionary."1  In 1833, he even published his own "American" translation of the English Bible.