Writing on the Wall
Bible Class 5
Common Bible Phrases #3
‘The writing on the wall’, ‘the handwriting on the wall’ or ‘Mene Mene’,
also sometimes referred to as ‘the finger points’ or the ‘finger on the
Meaning: The phrase "the writings on the wall" is now a popular idiom for "something/someone is about to fail."
The phrase comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel chap 5. In which the fingers of a supernatural hand write a mysterious message in the presence of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, who was drinking and eating at a major feast. It is revealed by Daniel (a prophet and advisor to the previous king Nebuchadnezzar) that the writing foretells the demise (end) of the Babylonian Empire.
To set the scene and explain a little about this phrase. Let’s look at the Bible story.
After King Nebuchadnezzar died his son* took over the throne. Unfortunately, he was not a ‘good’ king. He loved to party and did not look well to the affairs of his kingdom. God had used the previous king to fulfil His purpose, but now, things needed to change. (*It is believed by many scholars that it was actually his grandson)
This change had been a while coming, but Belshazzar didn’t see the ‘signs of the times’. The same night that the hand wrote the mysterious message, in the Hebrew language, on the wall, the Persian armies were already invading and that was the end for Belshazzar and the Babylonian empire.
From the story we can see that this phrase means not only that something serious, a judgement is about to happen, it tells us that it is the end or failure of whatever person/ situation had been prevailing. If you would like to read the story from the Bible follow this link
Famous Quote: In Robert Louis Stevenson's book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll explains that his experience as Mr. Hyde was "like the Babylonian finger on the wall, to be spelling out the letters of my judgment."
Here are a couple of famous songs that include this phrase:
From the James Bond movie, Spectre
The following link is to an animation full of Biblical imagery, presented with a rock music song called ‘The writing on the Wall’. It depicts an interpretation of the Bible’s book of Revelation.
If you’d like to see the lyrics for this song, here’s a link