Daniel 3


The king of Babylon proves in this chapter what we observed at the close of chapter two. He viewed the God of Daniel as only one among many gods. He still is very much a pagan. God’s power will be demonstrated again, but Nebuchadnezzar still will not learn his lesson.

‘King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.’ Daniel 3:1

This colossal image of gold was no doubt an outgrowth of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Had not Daniel said that the king was the head of gold? Were not all the kingdoms described by Daniel to proceed from the head? Daniel had also said that God had given him a kingdom, power, strength and glory.

This great image then would set forth the majesty, glory and dominion of the king and his great kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was probably puffed up with vain pride. It is doubtful that this image was solid gold but rather was overlaid with gold. Much of the furniture of the Tabernacle was not pure gold but wood overlaid with gold.

‘He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So, the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.’ Daniel 3:2-3

When the image was completed the king called for all the dignitaries of the kingdom to attend the dedication. It must have been a large and costly affair.

‘Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’ Daniel 3:4-6

Amid all the festivities comes the command, “Fall down and worship the gold images that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.” Everyone refusing to do so would be cast into a fiery furnace especially heated to a high temperature. His was a common method of execution among the Assyrians and Chaldeans.

This threat would affect relatively few since almost everyone would think nothing of bowing to the king’s image. Even those opposed to paganism might think they could do so and no harm would be done.

‘Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.’ Daniel 3:7-12

There were a few who would not bow, however, these were the three friends of Daniel. But what about Daniel? He does not seem to be involved in any way? Why was not Daniel involved?

He may have been in some other part of the kingdom at the time or else he occupied such a position of power and strength he could not be attacked.

In fact, he may have wanted to see this acted out to demonstrate who the true God was. Not only did these three Jews refuse to worship the golden image but it seems that it was a well-known fact that they did not worship any of the pagan gods. No doubt the reason why these three were reported to the king was resentment over the fact they did not honour any of the pagan gods of the Babylonians.

‘Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’ Daniel 3:13-15

The reaction of Nebuchadnezzar was rage and fury. The three men are immediately brought before the king. However, he was willing to give them another chance. If they would change their minds and fall down and worship the image all would be well with them. If they continued to rebel and show insolence toward the king’s command they would immediately be placed in the furnace.

Surely, they would not dare to refuse him. He may have felt that in view of what Daniel had said about him, Daniel 2:37-38, to resist him would be to resist God since God had made him the head of gold. They should be subject to him because their God would not deliver them out of his hands.

‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ Daniel 3:16-18

We must admire the faith and courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their answer was blunt and to the point. Regardless of God’s actions on their part whether he would choose to rescue them or permit them to die they would not serve any of the gods of Babylon nor worship the gold image. There is but one true God and he only would they worship.

‘Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.’ Daniel 3:19-22

The king is so enraged that he commands that the furnace be heated seven times as hot as what was normal. So hot was the furnace that when the three men were thrown into the furnace the men responsible for casting them in were killed by the flames and intense heat.

Since we do not know the shape or form of the furnace we do not know exactly how these men were consumed by the heat. Probably because of the urgency of the king’s command in their haste they became careless. The fact that they perished served to illustrate the miraculous delivery of the three Jews.

‘And these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ Daniel 3:23-25

The three “fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” The furnace was such that it permitted the king to see into it and when he looked he observed them walking about evidently no longer bound and unhurt. Also, a fourth man is observed with them. Who was this person? The rendering, “Like the Son of God” by some versions is not a correct rendering. A more correct rendering would be “like a son of the gods” or a supernatural being. Who was this supernatural person? In verse 28 Nebuchadnezzar calls him an “angel.”

This is very likely the case. God has often sent his angels to minister to those in trouble. This would not be anything unusual.

‘Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.’ Daniel 3:26-27

The king calls out to the three men as “servants of the most high God.” He calls for all of them to come out. Obviously, he was greatly shaken by this turn of events. They came forth unhurt, without a hair singed and not even the smell of fire upon them. No doubt a complete examination was made to determine their condition. It was indeed incredible to all who had come for the dedication and had bowed to the image.

‘Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.’ Daniel 3:28-30

Nebuchadnezzar again goes into one of his elaborate speeches of praise of the God of the Jews. Obviously, God was able to deliver them out of the hand of the king and could have turned on the king for ordering the three to be executed. Such a god must not be antagonized in any way. He must be praised and honoured.

Nebuchadnezzar still is not converted but remains thoroughly pagan. To further offset any repercussions from his decree which backfired on him he has the three men promoted. A royal decree forbade any misrepresentation or speaking against the God of the Jews, “because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

God had overruled the king’s word. History is not in man’s hands, and the government is not on man’s shoulders. God is supreme and is in control of the fortunes and destiny of men and nations. Nor is the Calvinistic sense that man has no control over his destiny, but in the sense that God overrules to bring about His desires in His own way and in His own time.

Sometimes the Christian may feel that evil has the upper hand but God has not laid down His sceptre. He is still on His throne ruling the universe. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and His anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” Psalm 2:1-4 / Psalm 2:11-12.

Four observations

First, the example of these three Jews speaks loudly to Christians today. There is no place or set of circumstances in which it is too difficult to be faithful to God. We often invent excuses but every Christians can be faithful to God if they so will.

Second, God is our refuge in times of trouble. He is our only and real deliverer. When man puts his trust in himself he will always fail. Education, philosophy, wealth or fame cannot deliver us—only God. We have no other recourse but to surrender to His terms.

Third, when acting by faith trials can drag the Christian from obscurity into fame and then chase him up to glory.

Fourth, compromise has always been man’s way of getting out of difficult situations. But with God it is either, or. No man can serve two masters. He must make up his mind about who he will serve. Man is wise to put his trust in God and serve Him.

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