Q. In Daniel 5:9-12, who spoke to the king? What was her relationship to the king?
Daniel 5:9-12 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father,[i] made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.
A. The Aramaic word מַלְכְּתָ֕א malketa/malkah means and is properly translated “queen.”[ii] A few modern Bible versions have changed here from a translation to an interpretation. It is “the queen mother” in the Good News Translation, New English Translation, New Living Translation, and The Living Bible. It is “the king’s mother” in the Easy-to-Read Version, International Children’s Bible, New Century Version.[iii] These glossators seem to think the word “queen” must be limited to a reigning king’s wife.
However, the English word “queen” has a broader semantic range than that. For example, it can mean a female monarch/sovereign (the female equivalent of a king), the wife of a king, or the widow of a king (and quite a few other things not relevant to this text in Daniel [iv]).
“Queen” is the correct translation – with the meaning in the sense of a widow of a king, derived from the context. Belshazzar’s wives and his concubines were already present at the feast (5:2-3). The person mentioned came into the banquet house (v. 10). Therefore, this queen was not already present; she was not one of the kings wives (who were already present). That she just came in and began to speak to the king (v. 11) suggests she is a person of high respect. That she knew the facts about Daniel and Belshazzar did not indicates a person of an older generation – either Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter or his widow. My opinion (and this is just an opinion) is this queen is the widow of Nebuchadnezzar.[v] Describing this woman as the queen is correct, since “widow of a king” is within the range of meaning of the English word “queen” (and the Aramaic word means “queen”). However, based on the context of Daniel chapter 5, she was not Belshazzar’s wife.
[ii] This word מַלְכְּתָ֕א malketa/malkah is translated βασίλισσα in the Septuagint. βασίλισσα also means queen.
[iv] Such as a chess piece, playing card, a female insect, or effeminate male homosexual.
[v] Josephus calls her Belshazzar’s grandmother: “Now when the King’s grandmother saw him cast down at this accident, she began to encourage him…” Josephus, Antiquities Book X, Chapter 11, Section 2.