Humility vs Humiliation – Daniel 5

What is humility?  I have heard many good definitions for the word.

Humility is NOT humiliation, which is a forced and usually painful lowering of one’s standing or social position through some embarrassing mistake or misfortune.  The unhappy experience of humiliation may LEAD to humility, but that would perhaps be its only positive by-product.

For purposes of this meditation, humility can be regarded as a healthy appreciation of our place in the world in the eyes of God.  It is not putting ourselves down or belittling our accomplishments.  Rather, it is an appreciation of our ongoing need for God’s love, care, and favor in our lives.  And recognizing that we as a person are no better or worse than any other people in God’s world.

When Daniel was called before the Co-Regent Belshazzer to explain the mysterious writing on the wall left by the disembodied hand, he reminded him that King Nebuchadnezzar before him had gone through a humiliating experience sent from God.  Due to his excessive pride and faithlessness after being especially blessed by the Lord, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to live among the wild animals for seven years before finally coming to his senses and gaining a true sense of humility.  When he finally acknowledged God’s sovereignty and goodness, he was restored to the throne. 

22 Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have risen up against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives, and your concubines have been drinking wine out of them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, nor hear, nor understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified. 24 Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.  Daniel 5:22-24 (NASB)

Now, decades after Nebuchadnezzar, it was Belshazzar’s turn to face God’s judgement.

Daniel went on to explain the writing on the wall:

25 “Now this is the inscription that was written:

‘Menē, Menē, Tekēl, Upharsin.’

26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘Menē’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 ‘Tekēl’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 ‘Perēs’—your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”  Daniel 5:25-28 (NASB)

29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.

Despite Belshazzar’s appreciation for Daniel in clearing up the mystery, God’s time had come for the transition from the Babylonian empire to the Medo-Persian empire.  The head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 was coming to an end, and the chest and arms of silver were about to take over.  King Cyrus had united the Medes and the Persians, and now his sub-king Darius had his armies outside Babylon, looking for a way into the city.  By diverting a portion of the river that ran beneath the wall, they were able to enter in through what had been an underwater tunnel.

30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.  Daniel 5:29-30 (NASB)

God’s judgement of Belshazzar was now at hand, and unlike Nebuchadnezzar before him, there would be no restoration to the throne this time around.  Belshazzar had insulted the Lord in just about every possible way until finally God’s patience ran out for both him and his empire. 

God is longsuffering with us, wishing all to come to repentance.  But if we pridefully taunt Him and act with sacrilege day after day, continually rejecting His generous offer of love and forgiveness for us, we may one day find ourselves near the end of our rope in a desperate situation.  The time is now for spiritual clarity and humility, recognizing our true place in God’s universe.  When we realize that God and His power are real and that He is for us, not against us, we can turn to the Him, even from a place such as this, and He will forgive us.  Nebuchadnezzar’s story is testimony to the great lengths God will go to for our salvation.


Am I practicing humility today?  Where and how can I give more credit and honor to the Lord for the successes in my life?

Lord, You are so good and the source of all blessing and favor in my life.  I am so grateful for all that You have done for me, even dying on a cross so that I will be able to experience eternal life with You.  Help me to walk with You and to express divine humility to all.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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