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

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...
  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins

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

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

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.

 
Modal popup -