The Graffiti of Judgment
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
When Bible-believing Christians who hold to creation are discriminatorily "expelled" from the academic arena, they can look to the Book of Daniel for encouragement. Why? Because Daniel was excluded, unjustly, from a government-sponsored conference of experts, and Daniel's God was the real reason for the discrimination.
In Daniel's case, when God's truth was excluded, God decided to "crash" the party. In doing so, God taught an unusual lesson about mankind's accountability for extra-biblical truth. The lesson requires a bit of Aramaic philology (word study), but it sheds light on the academic and governmental politics of today's creation science controversies.
Daniel 5 recounts how an incumbent government wrongly rejected Daniel's well-documented expertise. Yet Daniel was later proven right and the government was proven wrong. Ironically, the condemning proof used to judge that humanistic leadership was not Scripture--it was forensic evidence. And although Daniel's experience occurred in a completely different culture from ours, the kind of discriminatory exclusion that Daniel encountered is shared today by some Bible-believing creationists.
A Royal Hedonistic Romp
It began with a lavish celebration, a royal party, hosted by ancient Babylon's King Belshazzar. (As we shall see, it is important that Belshazzar was a grandson of the famous King Nebuchadnezzar.)
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father [literally "male ancestor"] Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. (Daniel 5:1-4)
Belshazzar was serving as regent on behalf of his father, Nabonidus, who was taking an extended vacation to escape Babylon's pesky imperial politics. Belshazzar knew that holy vessels taken from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem were stored in Babylon, because those vessels had been captured by his maternal grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. He decided to make sport of God's holy vessels, and to thereby mock the God whom those holy vessels were dedicated to serving.
Interestingly, he would soon make sport of another one of God's holy vessels: Daniel, a godly servant known for his righteousness.1 In doing so, Belshazzar mocked Daniel's God. However, God interrupted his blasphemous party with an unusual message of judgment:
In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. (Daniel 5:5-6)
The handwriting on the wall, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, spelled judgment to Belshazzar, both politically and personally.
Excluding the Magicians to Keep the Chief Magi "Out"
Belshazzar’s reaction, calling for "experts," is what proves his bias against Daniel and Daniel's God:
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers [ashephin], the Chaldeans [kasda'in], and the soothsayers [gazerin]. (Daniel 5:7a)
This is a telltale verse in this incident, a forensic "smoking gun" of sorts. Notice that Belshazzar did not call for another category of "wise men" who repeatedly appeared earlier in the Book of Daniel. Belshazzar excluded the magi (hartûmmin; the King James Version says "magicians"). The reason why the magi are excluded is apparently revealed when the queen mother arrives at the blasphemous party. The uninvited Daniel should be called, she informs Belshazzar:
There is a man in thy kingdom…whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy [fore]father, the king, I say, thy [fore]father, made master of the magicians [rab + hartûmmin], astrologers [ashephin], Chaldeans [kasda'in], and soothsayers [gazerin]. Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel...now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. (Daniel 5:11-12)
Why had Daniel been excluded when he was "master of the magicians"? The queen mother's words agree with Daniel 4:9, where Nebuchadnezzar himself called Daniel "master of the magicians" (rab + hartûmmin). The basic word for "magician" (hartûm) appears earlier in Nebuchadnezzar's reign, in Daniel 2:2, 2:27, and 4:7. The queen mother's listing of four categories of "wise men" in Daniel 5:11 is exactly the same four categories listed by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:7.
In other words, King Belshazzar did an unusual and intentional thing by excluding the "magi" (hartûmmin) when he wanted an explanation for the divine graffiti. And as Belshazzar's attitude shows later that fateful evening (e.g., talking down to Daniel in 5:13-16), he was not eager to invite the master of the magicians. Why? Because Belshazzar already knew about Daniel's God and he did not welcome Daniel's message:
And thou his son [literally "male descendant"], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knew all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified. (Daniel 5:22-23)
Rejecting God's Truth
So why was Belshazzar divinely judged? He had rejected truth about God, which left him without excuse, even though that truth does not appear to have been from the Bible itself. Rather, Belshazzar had both the general revelation truth of God's creatorship (as everyone does, Romans 1:20 informs us) and also the forensic evidence of God working in the life of his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, whose life displayed God's truth as a kind of "living epistle" (see 2 Corinthians 3:1-3).
In other words, although Belshazzar never saw the invisible God empirically (empirical science is all about "sight"--i.e., direct, sense-based observations), he did have sufficient notice of God's existence and glory--e.g., the irrefutable logic-based proof of God's divine character demonstrated through His creation, and also by the proof of God working in human lives. Belshazzar ignored and mocked God "without excuse."
How does this compare to the political exclusion of biblical creationists today who oppose the humanistic doctrine of origins-by-accident evolution, who have been subjected to the same exclusionary politics recently documented in Ben Stein's movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed?2
The academic viewpoint discrimination and hostility against creation science is not based on scientific merit, as the real history of science has repeatedly proven.3 Rather, the political exclusion of creationist scientists and creationist science educators, either by marginalizing creation science--or by expelling creation science altogether--is routinely traceable to efforts to keep an inconvenient Truth out.4
As with the prophet Daniel's exclusion, the God of modern-day biblical creationists is the real reason for anti-creationist discrimination, ostracism, and exclusion. While Expelled-style discrimination has come to be expected in the academic politics of our Darwin-idolizing society, maybe we should pray for the Truth to come crash the evolutionary establishment's Creator-mocking "party."
- Regarding human "vessels," see Acts 9:15; Romans 9:21-23; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Peter 3:7; Revelation 2:27.
- Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed can be ordered on DVD at www.icr.org/store.
- See generally Henry M. Morris, Men of Science, Men of God (Master Books, 2000); Duane Gish, in Bill Cooper's Paley's Watchmaker (New Wine Press, 1997); Christine Dao, Thinking God's Thoughts After Him: Great Scientists who Honored the Creator (ICR, 2009); Terry Mortenson, The Great Turning Point: The Church's Catastrophic Mistake on Geology Before Darwin (Master Books, 2004). Real scientific achievement, long before Darwin, is illustrated in such empirical science benchmarks as John Ray's The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation (England, 1691), which preceded Linnaeus by several decades, and Konrad Gessner's five-volume Historiae Animalium (Swiss, 1551-1558), which founded modern zoology as a science.
- In this phrase, the "inconvenient" Truth is the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus, whom we know through the written Word of God, the Holy Bible. (See John 1:1-18; 14:6; and 17:17.)
* Dr. Johnson is Special Counsel at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2009. The Graffiti of Judgment. Acts & Facts. 38 (4): 4.