Top 10 Horrifying Moments in the Bible

The Hand Writing on the Wall

Daniel 5

Belshazzar, Rembrandt, Pub Dom

1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. 5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lamp stand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

Belshazzar was king of Babylon until 539 BC, when the Persians conquered Babylon and killed him. The Bible explains that this was God’s punishment against Belshazzar for his wanton blasphemy, especially his drinking from the goblets that his father had stolen from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Thus, God ruins his festivities when his fingers appear out of thin air and in perfect silence begin drawing Aramaic words on the wall. Only Belshazzar can see the fingers, and he is instantly horrified. Party’s over.

He calls his wise men, who cannot read the language because God has written it in Aramaic. The king’s wife recalls that this language is spoken by Daniel, whom the king summons. An annoyed Daniel refuses all the king’s gifts and translates and interprets the writing for him: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin;” “Numbered. Numbered. Weighed. Divided.”

Thus, Belshazzar’s days are numbered (the origin of this phrase), he has been weighed and found wanting; and his kingdom will be divided among the Medes and Persians. The king rewards Daniel with clothing, jewelry, and authority, and that very night Belshazzar is killed in his sleep by Persians invading Babylon, and Darius the Mede crowns himself king.

This entry was the inspiration for this list, in terms of the pure horror, as good as any movie or ghost story, involving a disembodied hand, the hand of God no less, appearing out of nowhere and bringing God’s terrifying justice.

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