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Bible passage: Daniel 5

Background: Exiled in Babylon, Daniel is about to meet King Belshazzar, the son of King Nebuchadnezzar. Like his father, Belshazzar swaggers about as if his immense power is of his own making, not a gift from God, but Belshazzar doesn’t know that this is to be the very last night of his reign and his empire. God intends to snatch away his power, and Babylon is about to be conquered by his enemies, the Persians.



5 minutes

As the children arrive, welcome each one by name. Spread out some party food in the middle of your circle and share a small feast together (remembering to be aware of food hygiene and allergy issues). Invite children to chat about their week and talk about other feasts they have enjoyed.



5 minutes

You will need: verbal, logical and visual puzzles (search online for riddles, number puzzles, matchstick puzzles and picture puzzles. CBBC is a good source)

Show the group the puzzles you have brought. Invite them to have a go at solving some of them individually, in pairs or as a group. As you work, chat about which puzzles they like best and how it feels when they solve a puzzle.



10 minutes

You will need: four white cards, each with a word written in white crayon (‘MENE’ ‘MENE’ ‘TEKEL’ ‘PARSIN’); newspaper; a paintbrush; watercolour paint; water; a marker pen

Make sure you have your props close at hand and gather the children together for the story:

This story starts with a feast. We’ve had a small feast today, but this was something else. The host was King Belshazzar of Babylon, and he invited 1,000 lords! Imagine how much they ate and drank!

They drank so much wine that King Belshazzar thought it would be fun to fetch the treasure his father had stolen from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He and his 1,000 lords and all their wives guzzled their wine out of God’s gold and silver goblets! To make matters worse, they cheered for all their made-up gods!

Suddenly, a ghostly hand appeared! Pale fingers began writing on the wall right behind the king’s head. Spread the four white cards out on the newspaper and invite the children to wash watercolour paint over the surface to reveal the words.

The king shivered and shook. He turned as pale as the wall and started to sweat. “Help!” he shouted. “Fetch someone who can tell me what these words mean. The reward is a royal cloak, a gold chain and a top job in my kingdom!” All the king’s magicians, wise men and fortune tellers tried, but they didn’t have a clue. Guess together what the words might mean.

Then King Belshazzar’s mum said: “I know who you need: Daniel. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, thought he was the wisest man in the kingdom. Daniel’s God is special and has given him the power to understand dreams, riddles and puzzles of all kinds. He’s the only man for the job. Send for Daniel!”

The king sent for Daniel, pointed at the words on the wall and said: “I hear that you have the power to understand dreams, riddles and puzzles of all kinds. I need someone who can tell me what these words mean. The reward is a royal cloak, a gold chain and a top job in my kingdom!”

Daniel said: “You can keep your rewards, they’re not for me. But I will tell you what these words mean.” Daniel looked hard at the words and prayed for God to reveal their meaning. Carefully turn over the four cards in turn – ‘MENE’, ‘MENE’, ‘TEKEL’ and ‘PARSIN’ – and use the marker pen to write a symbol on the back of each: ‘+’, ‘+’, ‘kg’ and ‘÷’. Now identify the symbols together and guess what they might mean.

Daniel said to the king: “You have forgotten who is in charge here. God has given you everything you have: your power, your palace, your lords and even your life! It’s all God’s, yet you used the goblets from God’s temple for your wild party, and you cheered for all your made-up gods instead!”

He continued: “The ‘+’ and ‘+’ symbols mean that God has finished adding up the days of your reign: it’s over! ‘Kg’ means that he’s weighed your worth and you’re not good enough! And ‘÷’ means that he’s going to divide your kingdom and share it out between your enemies!” Point to each of the symbols as Daniel explains them.

King Belshazzar duly gave Daniel his reward: a royal cloak, a gold chain and a top job in the kingdom. But that night Daniel’s warning came true. The Persian army took the city of Babylon by storm and killed King Belshazzar. Babylon and its empire fell into enemy hands.



5 minutes

Chat about the Bible story using these questions. Try to involve all the children in your discussion:

  • Which bit of the story did you enjoy imagining?
  • How do you think the king felt during these events?
  • I wonder how Daniel felt when he realised what the mysterious message meant.
  • What questions would you like to ask God about this story?
  • How do people get to be powerful today?



5 minutes

You will need: pictures of people in power today (locally, nationally and internationally); paper and pens

Identify the people in authority and talk about who or what they are in charge of today. Think about the warning God gave King Belshazzar. What warnings would we like to give these leaders? Children can draw or write their messages (in code if they prefer!).



5 minutes

You will need: a cross; pictures from ‘Creative response’

Spread out the pictures of people in power and place the cross in the middle. Invite the children to take turns praying for people in power today, aloud if they wish. Then close by saying:

“God, all the greatness, power and glory in the world are yours. We pray for people who hold power today, whether or not we support them and whether or not they honour you. Amen.”

Supporting documents

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