Scripture Verse

The king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Daniel 5:5


Belshazzar Sees the Writing on the Wall
Rembrandt van Rijn

Words & Mu­sic: Knowles Shaw, in The Morn­ing Star (Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio: Cen­tral Book Con­cern, 1877). Ar­ranged by Ira D. San­key (🔊 pdf nwc).

Knowles Shaw


At the feast of Belshazzar
And a thousand of his lords,
While they drank from golden vessels,
As the Book of Truth records,
In the night, as they reveled
In the royal palace hall,
They were seized with consternation—
’Twas the Hand upon the wall!


’Tis the hand of God on the wall!
’Tis the hand of God on the wall!
Shall the record be Found wanting!
Or shall it be Found trusting!
While that hand is writing on the wall?

See the brave captive, Daniel,
As he stood before the throng,
And rebuked the haughty monarch
For his mighty deeds of wrong;
As he read out the writing—
’Twas the doom of one and all,
For the kingdom now was finished—
Said the Hand upon the wall!


See the faith, zeal and courage,
That would dare to do the right,
Which the Spirit gave to Daniel—
’Twas the secret of his might,
In his home in Judea,
Or a captive in the hall,
He understood the writing
Of his God upon the wall!


So our deeds are recorded—
There’s a Hand that’s writing now:
Sinner, give your heart to Jesus,
To His royal mandates bow;
For the day is approaching—
It must come to one and all,
When the sinners’ condemnation
Will be written on the wall!




In royal splendor sat the King
His courtiers before;
In festive merriment they sing
Round him, the conqueror;
Till bacchanalian echoes ring
Through court and corridor.

Chaldea’s bravest men are up
To wait his royal pleasure!
Each lifts above a golden cup
In merry, maudlin measure,
And dares in sacrilege to sup
From Judah’s stolen treasure.

And now upon their gods they call
Their favor loud inviting;
When lo! the glare of burnished hall
The mystic letters lighting,
Belshazzar sees upon the wall
A phantom finger writing!

The heathen monarch quakes with fear!
He feels the fatal warning:
He sees the finger disappear;
Then to his vassals turning:
Bring quickly here the wisest seer
In oriental learning.

In vain Chaldea heeds the call—
The sages of the nation!
Alike to magi, king, and all
Who seek an explanation,
The vivid letters on the wall
Defy interpretation!

And now a queenly voice is heard
Before the banquet table:
Now trouble not, my king and lords,
For there is one full able
To read and tell to thee these words,
O mighty king of Babel!

A youthful captive in the land
Forthwith the princes summon,
Who, while before him trembling stand
His God’s and Judah’s foemen,
Unfolds the writing of the hand,
And tells the fearful omen!

O mighty king, Belshazzar, heed!
This the interpretation:
This night the Persian and the Mede
Divide thy father’s nation;
For thou art in the balance weighed,
And this thy condemnation!

Next morning’s sun arose and shone
On Babylon’s faded glory!
Her haughty princes stood alone,
Their monarch dead and gory—
A Persian sat upon the throne
To tell the captor’s story!

Salathiel C. Kirk
Musings Along the Way, 1900