Netflix's The Society: The meaning of "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" explained

11 May 2019, 11:44 | Updated: 11 May 2019, 12:01

Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Before getting on the bus for their school trip, Grizz and some of the others discover graffiti that says "mene mene tekel upharsin" on a brick wall. Here's what it means and how it connects to the bigger story on The Society.

The Society on Netflix tackles some pretty big themes. The new drama arrived on Netflix May 10 and depicts the lives of a group of teenagers living in the fictional New England town of West Ham, Connecticut. Early in episode 1, Grizz, Jason, Clark, and Luke come across some graffiti on the wall: "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin". What does the writing mean and how does it connect to the larger story being told on The Society?

"Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" meaning

As Grizz notes in the scene, "mene mene tekel upharsin" is literally the writing on the wall. In the book of Daniel from the bible, Daniel translates these words for the king, which have also appeared on a wall during a great feast.

The phrase is taken from Daniel 5 and here is the King James translation of the verses:

"And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

mene mene tekel upharsin on The Society Netflix
mene mene tekel upharsin on The Society Netflix. Picture: Seacia Pavao/Netflix

Grizz has a similar translation on The Society, which the others dismiss as "nonsense".

To be "weighed in the balances" and "found wanting" in this context likely mean that the town has been judged and condemned because of a failure or great sin.

It's no coincidence that the students see this before they get on the bus out of town. The phrase, "the writing on the wall" often means a warning of doom or bad things to come.

The idea that the town is being "punished" for something comes up later in the series as the teens struggle to understand why they have been taken from the real West Ham.

On The Society, religion is subtly woven into the context of the town. For example, Helena's role as a religious leader and a town leader are deeply intertwined. She even does sermons for the other students. The show is also set in New England, a region of the United States with historical ties to the deeply religious Puritans.

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What do you guys think of The Society on Netflix so far?