Why do we say "The writing is on the wall.

Well-Known Expressions

The writing is on the wall

Meaning:

Danger is imminent/doom is predicted

Background:

This expression originates from the Book of Daniel 5:1-31 which tells stories from the time of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

During a drunken feast, King Belshazzar of Babylon ordered that silver and golden goblets that had been removed from the Temple in Jerusalem by his father Nebuchadnezzar, be brought into the feast so that everyone could drink from them. As they drank their wine they "praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone."

No sooner had they done so than a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the wall, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin". The shaken king called for all the usual enchanters, diviners and astrologers but none could fathom the meaning of the words despite being offered the position of third highest ruler in the kingdom if they could do so.

Eventually, the queen suggested the exiled Jew, Daniel, who Nebuchadnezzar had appointed as "chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners."

Daniel rejected all offers of rewards and warned the King of the folly of his arrogant blasphemy, and then translated the words as follows:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres (the singular of parsin): Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

At the King's command, Daniel was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. Later that night Belshazzar was slain, and Darius the Mede became King.

(Quotations from the NIV Bible).

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Mrs. Parrish
    The Last Mrs. Parrish
    by Liv Constantine
    Amber has lived in poverty all her life, and she has had enough. Of course, wishing to have money ...
  • Book Jacket: Never Coming Back
    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee
    18 out of 23 reviewers gave Alison McGhee's Never Coming Back a rating of 4 or 5, with an average ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.