Rereading the writing on the wall (Daniel 5)

Michael Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The court tales in Dan 1-6 present the interpreter with a number of interesting textual, exegetical, and literary issues. The current study reexamines one of these stories, the Writing on the Wall (Dan 5), through a careful analysis of the two primary versions of the story, the Aramaic MT and the Old Greek. A close reading of MT yields a novel understanding of the plot of this tale: Belshazzar was the only person privy to this revelatory writing, which explains why the Babylonian wise men were unsuccessful in their attempts to read and interpret the writing. Only Daniel, who was endowed with divine wisdom, was able to first read this mysterious writing and then to interpret it. This understanding yields an extremely close parallel with Dan 2. Both court tales demonstrate the superiority of divinely inspired knowledge over and above the extensive educational training of Mesopotamian scribes and scholars in Antiquity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)161-176
Number of pages16
JournalZeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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