5 Deadly Mistakes Belshazzar Made that Christians Should Avoid
- Hope Bolinger SEO Editor
- 2021 6 May
Belshazzar was the grandson of the greatest king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. But unfortunately, he let that go to his head. His mistake cost him his life and his kingdom. With the Persians knocking at the doors of the gates of Babylon, he should've prepared for battle. Instead, he decided to throw a feast (Daniel 5). Because of this mistake, Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians that very night.
As Christians, it's often easy to see a story in the Old Testament and view it as just that ... a story. But many of the people in the Bible serve as cautionary tales. In the case of Belshazzar, what happens when your pride goeth before a fall. We'll explore the person of Belshazzar, what Babylon looks like before him, and his most deadly mistakes that made the greatest Empire in the world at the time fall.
Who Was Belshazzar in the Bible?
As mentioned before, Belshazzar was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. The Bible refers to him as his son (Daniel 5:2), but really the original language seems to hint they're family, or generationally Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar's father. Belshazzar's actual father was Nabonidus. After Nebuchadnezzar had a little wild animal stint in Daniel 4, where Daniel temporarily stood as a placeholder, Nabonidus took over. Nabonidus doesn't really appear to do anything of importance during his short reign over Babylon. Aside from a few religious reforms where he tried to turn the people back to pagan gods and tried to prevent others from taking over the throne. Perhaps, for the former, he'd grown annoyed that Nebuchadnezzar has a change of heart about Yahweh in Daniel 3 and Daniel 4.
As far as Belshazzar goes, we know he was a co-regent with Nabonidus. This happened often, where sons and fathers (sometimes mothers) would rule together until the father either died or deemed the son ready to rule the kingdom on his own. Nabonidus supposedly goes into exile in 550 BC, which leaves his eldest son in charge. So we can assume the co-regency mentioned in the Brittanica article likely was Belshazzar and his mother.
Enemies often strike kingdoms when the king has not yet proved himself. And the Persians rose to the challenge. Doesn't help that, according to Brittanica, famines had plagued the land late into his rule. He should've taken this as a warning sign to take his kingship seriously, be sparing with his supplies, and fortify his defenses against the Persian army.
Instead, he feasts.
We'll dive into why this led to his downfall in a moment.
What Did Nebuchadnezzar Do during His Reign?
Let's contrast his rule with Nebuchadnezzar's. To say Nebuchadnezzar ruled with an iron fist puts things politely. He sacked entire nations, took the Israelites into a 70-year captivity, de-throned kings from their thrones ... and that just tips the iceberg. Never before had the Ancient World seen a kingdom of this capacity, and they greatly feared the Babylonians.
For the longest time, many nations paid tribute to Babylon just so they wouldn't get sacked. And the ones who didn't ... watched their cities burn.
Now we need to add a caveat here that Nebuchadnezzar did not do the right thing by destroying and pillaging all these cities. The Bible talks multiple times about how God would judge Babylon for its actions against Israel:
Isaiah 14:4-6: "that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say, “How the oppressor has ceased, And how fury has ceased! “The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, The scepter of rulers Which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, Which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution."
So Babylon had it coming. But you can imagine the sadness the majority of the people, who were not invited to Belshazzar's feast, felt when Nebuchadnezzar died. And his grandson exploited the rest of their few precious resources.
Let's, then, take a look at the five deadly mistakes Belshazzar made, and why we should, as believers, take heed.
5 Deadly Mistakes of Belshazzar (and How We Can Avoid Them)
Mistake #1: Misusing the Temple Elements
Daniel 5:2: "While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them."
Belshazzar's grandfather already committed a serious infraction by taking these from the temple of God. After all, God set aside each part of the temple for a holy purpose. But Belshazzar ups the ante by having his people drink from them with a debase purpose. Drunken people used the elements of God to participate in further wickedness and sin. It also doesn't help that they end up praising their pagan gods in a drunken state during this event.
How we can avoid this mistake: We may not have golden cups lying around, but God has gifted us with talents, with funds, with families, etc. How often do we misuse the gifts of God to engage in sin?
Mistake #2: Pride
It takes some serious gall to throw a party when the kingdom of Persia knocks at your door. But Belshazzar doesn't care. One might expect someone in their teens or twenties to perhaps commit an act so foolishly, but according to Bible Q, he was most likely in his forties. Way too old to throw a rager (not that anyone should throw one of these at any age). And we know what they say about pride and falling ... and he fell hard.
How can we avoid this mistake: Sin stems from pride. It happens when we want to put our wants and needs first. When we want to make ourselves king of our own lives. Pride never leads to anything good (Proverbs 16:18-20).
Mistake #3: Placing Too Much Faith in Humans
Part of the reason he had so much pride was because he believed he could skirt off his father's strength and accomplishments. Babylon supposedly had an impenetrable wall—until the Persians figured out a way to divert the water source and sneaked their way into the city. Nebuchadnezzar ruled well, but this didn't phase the Persians. They knew that every king had to prove themselves, and Belshazzar had not yet done so.
How can we avoid this mistake: All sin and fall short of the glory of God. Man will fail if we place our trust in them. And no city is impenetrable. Have we placed too much hope in our nation, rather than in God? Because if so, we're going to find our foundation crumbles when another kingdom takes over.
Mistake #4: Abusing Resources
According to Brittanica, "During his coregency, Belshazzar administered the government, his own estates, and those of his father, though, according to the Book of Daniel, famine and economic setbacks occurred late in his rule."
Obviously, a famine is not the time to be throwing a feast, and yet he does so anyway. He doesn't have a care in the world.
How can we avoid this mistake: Think about the parable of the talents. To whom much is given, much is expected. Because Belshazzar could not handle the little amount God had given him, God took it away. How often do we abuse and neglect that which God has given to us?
Mistake #5: Consulting the Wrong People
As soon as Belshazzar sees the literal writing on the wall, he consults with his trusty advisors. Let's take a look at who these folks are.
Daniel 5:7: "The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners."
Not exactly the people you want to hear from when God's judgment is at hand. It takes his mother insisting that he talk to a man of God before he hears the words of the Lord. Think about how much better his reign could've been had he appointed Daniel in an adviser position, and heard from him about what to do as King. Babylon probably would not have fallen that day.
How can we avoid this mistake: When your world gets knocked out from underneath you, who do you turn to? Friends? Family? Coworker? Or do you turn to God and what he tells us in the Bible?
Belshazzar's story is a sobering reminder to not let our pride overtake us and to use the gifts God has given us well.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/g-stockstudio
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,100 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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