writing on the wall, the

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writing on the wall, the a warning of impending disaster; the phrase is biblical, and comes from the story in Daniel 5 of writing that appeared on the palace wall at a feast given by Belshazzar, last king of Babylon, foretelling that he would be killed and the city sacked.

The words written were said to be Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin; Daniel interpreted this as Mene ‘God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it’, Tekel ‘Thou are weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’, and Peres ‘Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’ (See also weighed in the balance and found wanting.)