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The Handwriting's on the Wall

Posted by ESC on March 15, 2004

In Reply to: The Handwriting's on the Wall posted by Sax on March 15, 2004

: Hi! Can you please tell me what this means and where it came from? Thanks, Sax

From the archive:

What Biblical scripture is the "hand writting on the wall" from?
: : Daniel 5:25

: Handwriting on the wall -- Meaning a threat of impending doom. "I see the handwriting on the wall."

: In the Old Testament, Daniel, Chapter 5, (paraphrasing greatly here) Belshazzar and his buddies were on a drunken toot and used golden vessels from the temple of God to drink wine. The disembodied hand writing on the wall meant bad news for Belshazzar.

: "Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father 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 out 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..." Then comes the writing on the wall. "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..." The king called on his wisemen to interpret the writing and they could not. He finally called on Daniel, " whom is the spirit of the holy gods..." Daniel told him, "And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighted in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel in scarlet...In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain."

: "...Religious dramas of the Middle Ages often included vivid interpretations of events in the ancient banquet hall. Viewers of such pageants sat enthralled as they watched the writing of the strange warning to a king. As a result, any threat of impending doom is still known as 'handwriting on the wall.'" From Why You Say It: The Fascinating Stories Behind over 600 Everyday Words and Phrasesby Webb Garrison, Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn.

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