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And this is what was written: Mene, Mene, Teqel, and pharsin.

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And this is what the hand had written on the wall: numbered, numbered in full, weighed in the balance, and divided.



If you have seen it written or heard it pronounced “upharsin,” that is because the letter u at the beginning was their word “and.”  If you have seen or heard uparsin instead of upharsin, that is because the ph and the p were the same letter, the only difference was that if it had a dot in the middle of the letter it was p and if it did not have a dot in the middle it was ph. The norm was without the dot, thus ph was the primary letter and p was an alternate way to pronounce it.

Did the Chaldean Experts Recognize the Words?

There are two major ways to view the trouble the Chaldean experts experienced in interpreting what was written on the wall.

  1. Some scholars think that the words were written in characters that they did not recognize, i.e. not Aramaic characters but old Hebrew characters which only Daniel would know. (Old Hebrew had very rounded letters, but then Hebrew adopted Aramaic style lettering and what we now call Hebrew is actually Hebrew words and grammar expressed with Aramaic style letters which are very block-like.) They say this is the reason that the actual words that were written on the wall have not been given until this point in the narrative. They suggest that this means that only Daniel was able to read the letters that formed the words. If these scholars are correct, God was giving them an indication that they needed to look to the Jewish God for answers instead of ignoring Him or disrespecting Him.
  1. Other scholars think that wise men of Babylonia knew what those words meant, but they could not interpret the writing on the wall because they did not have the spiritual perception necessary to do so. Daniel knew the heart of God and because of spiritual insight accumulated over decades of following God, his human brain sensed the direction this was probably pointing. Then he prayed and asked God for a confirmation and God confirmed his first thoughts and probably clarified the message even more. That is why the actual message was just four words long (it used three words but one word was repeated). It was not intended to be super clear to everyone; it was designed to require spiritual discernment in order to understand it. Proponents of this view say that these three words appear in Ninevite inscriptions, so they were indeed known and used in that area. They say that the experts were not able to explain the message because these three words did not make much sense standing independently as they did on the wall. The pulpit commentary says it would be similar to saying in English: “A pound, a pound, an ounce and quarters.” If you heard or read such a statement you would likely say, “I understand the words, but I have no clue what is being said.”

I believe they could read the writing and understand the individual words but had no clue what the intended message was. They lacked the spiritual perception to discern the intended meaning.

The Basic Meaning of the Words on the Wall

The message was simply a set of measurements by which one designates weight (or value when applied to silver). The statement is arranged in two phrases of two words each, the first word being repeated a second time to make it appear balanced with the second phrase. Each component of the statement has a double meaning.

Mene meant “numbered” and was a unit of weight equal to 50 (or sometimes 60) shekels. Therefore it became a unit of money, which by New Testament times was called a Mina.

Teqel meant “weighed” and often pointed to something that was weighed and found to be overly “light” (i.e. a false weight in a scale). Keep “weighed” and “light” in mind as we move to the next three verses. Teqel corresponded to the Hebrew word Shekel, which was both a unit of weight and a designation for an amount of money.

Pharsin was the plural of Peres, and meant “divided.” As a measurement it was a half mina, or about 25 shekels instead of 50 shekels. The singular form was similar to the name Persia.