by Jerry Robinson

Daniel 3 Commentary: Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace

Daniel 3 Commentary Verse by Verse - Daniel 3 Bible StudyThe third chapter of the book of Daniel opens with another epic act of government tyranny committed by King Nebuchadnezzar. This time, instead of demanding an interpretation of his dream, he erects a golden “image” in the plain of Dura (just outside of his capital city of Babylon) and commands all officials within his government to bow in worship to this golden image or face an immediate fiery death.

While it is often assumed that this “image” was a towering statue of Nebuchadnezzar himself (as envisioned in his vivid dream interpreted by Daniel in chapter two), the dimensions are stunningly similar to an obelisk (phallic structure), which were common among ancient pagan societies. Regardless of the shape and contours of this structure, it serves as a flashpoint between pagan Babylon and the Hebrew faithful.

Enter Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three Hebrew men who are forever etched into scripture for their bold rejection of Babylon’s official command to offer worship to a god other than YHWH. This courageous act, as we shall see in the course of this study, leads to a direct conflict with Nebuchadnezzar, who orders their execution by fire. But once again, God has a plan to protect His chosen people. And yet again, Nebuchadnezzar beholds a mind-bending miracle at the hands of the Almighty.

Time: During King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign from approximately 605 B.C. to 562 B.C.


 

Daniel 3 Commentary – Verse by Verse

Simply click the arrows below each verse to reveal our notes and commentary


 

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

Commentary

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits”

– One of the first things we notice about Daniel chapter 3 is the heavy prophetic foreshadowings that it contains. The diligent student of the prophecies of the Bible will find all manner of gems in this chapter.

For example, we immediately notice that dimensions of the gold “image” set up by Nebuchadnezzar are filled with the number six: a number associated with sinful man and with the beast of Revelation 13.

It is tempting to assume that the “image of gold” set up by King Nebuchadnezzar was similar to the one envisioned in his dream in chapter two (especially considering that the same word “tselem” is used for the “statue” in chapter two). Indeed, the dimensions of this image (60 cubits H x 6 cubits W) are remarkably similar to that of an obelisk, which was an extremely common pagan symbol used in ancient religious rites and ceremonies. Compare, for example, the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden “image” of sixty cubits high and six cubits wide to the near exact proportion of the Washington Monument (555.5 feet high and 55.5 feet wide according to measurements by the National Park Service). Assuming the traditional view that one cubit represents eighteen inches, this 10:1 ratio would have made Nebuchadnezzar’s image approximately 90 feet tall by 9 feet wide.

So too, here in this first verse of chapter three, we see the actions of King Nebuchadnezzar foreshadowing the actions that will be later taken by the beast described in Revelation 13, whose “image” must be worshipped with something of a loyalty oath. In this way, the “image” set up by Nebuchadnezzar is similar to the “image of the beast” that all men must worship under threat of punishment. Those who refused to bow down in obeisance to Nebuchadnezzar’s image were threatened with the death penalty. The fiery furnace is a picture of the torment of the great tribulation. The three Hebrew youths represent those tribulation saints who overcome the beast by refusing to worship his image despite the most severe consequences.

“he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon”

– This massive gold statue was set up in the “plain of Dura”, which modern archaeologists have identified just outside the ancient city of Babylon.

 


 

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

Commentary

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces”

– After having this enormous image of gold constructed and placed in the plain of Dura, the king then summons all of his royal representatives from across the Babylonian empire to attend the grand dedication of this image. The king summons the “satraps” (a word derived from the Persian language meaning the protector of the realm, a prince, or a lieutenant), the “prefects” (meaning a provincial ruler or superintendent), the “governors”, the “counselors” (meaning those who were chief diviners or astrologers), the “treasurers”, the “judges” (derived from a Persian word referring to those skilled in the law), the “magistrates” (those who served as judicial overseers, or sheriffs), and “all the rulers of the provinces.”

It is noteworthy that the text does not imply that the common people were summoned by the king to this dedication event. Instead, Nebuchadnezzar only calls those who serve at his pleasure to attend.

In other words, the king has summoned all of those who served under his authority throughout his entire kingdom.

“to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up”

– All of Babylon’s elite citizens are summoned to the plain of Dura for the “dedication” of the image of gold. The word translated as “dedication” is a familiar word “chanukkah”, from which we derive the word “Hanukkah.” This word (the Hebrew version), which refers to an act of consecration or dedication is used eight times throughout the Old Testament, usually in reference to the dedication of the offering at the altar under the Mosaic Law. (Num. 7:10,11,84,88)

Through the use of this reverent word for “dedication”, we can truly see the religious aspect of Nebuchadnezzar’s dedication event, which likely included sacrifices, processions, and a feast, in addition to music. However, the dedication of this gold image is not made in God’s honor, but in man’s honor. Specifically, the glory is directed to the “image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
 


 

3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Commentary

“Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up;”

– This verse explains that all of those who were summoned by King Nebuchadnezzar indeed come and are gathered together (“assembled”) to faithfully appear at this dedication event. Many of those in attendance likely had long journeys as they came from various regions of the vast Babylonian empire.

“and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.”

– Once they arrived, all of those invested with power by the king stood in front of the massive gold image set up by the king.
 


 

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language

Commentary

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed:”

– Once all of the king’s men are in position before the gold image, the “herald” (the one who issues public proclamations) issued a loud command directly from the king.

“To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language”

– The herald informs the assembled Babylonian elites that the king has given them a directive. Because the Babylonian empire covered a vast territory, which included many lands of conquered peoples, it is understandable that this command is given to “peoples, nations, and men of every language.” In other words, the forthcoming royal command will apply to all who have gathered in the plain of Dura.
 


 

5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.

Commentary

“that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music,”

– All of the assembled leaders are standing before the gold image are instructed to listen for Nebuchadnezzar’s orchestra to play. Specifically, the assembled leaders are to listen for the sound of the “horn” (a wind instrument, likely a horn from an animal), “flute” (a whistling instrument), “lyre” (or harp), “trigon” (an ancient triangular-shaped Oriental harp that had four strings), “psaltery” (a stringed instrument of triangular shape), “bagpipe” (this could be an ancient dulcimer, a piped instrument, or even a drum) “and all kinds of music.”

Ultimately, the exact instruments that were used are difficult to discern as many of the words used for each of the instruments that appear in this verse appear nowhere else in their exact form within the Hebrew Bible. We can, however, be sure that the command was for the assembly to listen for the music from “Nebuchadnezzar’s orchestra” to commence.

“you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.”

– Nebuchadnezzar’s wicked edict is made plain in the latter half of this verse. Once the music began to play, the assembled rulers are commanded to “fall down and worship the golden image.” That is, the assembled rulers were to show their obedience to Babylon’s king and kingdom by bowing down (prostrating oneself) in an act, not just of homage, but of outright worship directed towards the golden image that “Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

That is, when the sound Nebuchadnezzar’s orchestra began to play, all of the elites of Babylonian society who had assembled in the plain of Dura at the king’s command were to fall to the ground and to bow down while worshiping the golden image constructed and established by the command of King Nebuchadnezzar.
 


 

6 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

Commentary

“But whoever does not fall down and worship”

– The king’s demand is bold. After gathering all of the top political rulers and leaders from the surrounding regions under Babylonian control, Nebuchadnezzar commands them to fall down (“nephal”) and prostrate themselves on the ground in the ultimate act of homage (“segid”) to his solid gold image.

“shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

– Not only is Nebuchadnezzar’s demand to worship his golden image extremely bold, but the penalty for those who failed to comply with his wicked edict is also even bolder. Namely, the king directly threatens all of the gathered elites with an immediate and excruciating death if they fail to fall to the ground and worship the king’s golden image at the sound of his orchestra.

If this threat of being cast into a fiery furnace sounds familiar, it should. After all, this is the same fate that awaits those who fail to obey and follow Christ. According to Matthew 13:49,50: “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

So too, the New Testament warns that those who worship the beast and his image will be cast into the fire, as described in the book of Revelation: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9b-11)

There is an interesting irony here as King Nebuchadnezzar (who in his madness will literally roam the earth as a beast himself as described in Daniel 4) threatens all who fail to worship his authority by paying homage to his “image” will face a fiery furnace. Inversely, God warns anyone who worships the “beast” or “his image” with a similar threat.

This conflict brings to memory Christ’s wisdom when He said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
 


 

7 “Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

Commentary

“Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music,”

– After the king’s bold threat, the orchestra begins to play. The king’s subjects have their orders. Will they comply?

“all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

– Indeed, “all” of the gathered rulers and elites from all nations and languages bowed themselves down to the ground and did acts of worship to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. It must have been an incredible scene as all under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule prostrated themselves at the orders of the king.

It should be stressed that there few other instances where a political ruler had so much power and authority that he could realistically threaten every elite ruler in his domain with a horrific death for failing to bow down to a mere object upon his orders. Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar was “the head of gold” as described in Daniel chapter 2 as his power and authority appear to be virtually unchallenged. But as we will discover soon, that is about to change.
 


 

8 “For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.”

Commentary

“For this reason”

– Due to the king’s command for all men to bow down and worship the golden image at the sound of the king’s orchestra.

“at that time”

– Presumably, at the time that the king’s orchestra began to play.

“certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.”

– The Chaldeans were fiercely intelligent in the arts and sciences including mathematics, astronomy, and religious philosophy. (For more about the Chaldeans, see our commentary notes on Daniel 1:4). As high-ranking officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s government, the Chaldeans had influence over the king. Therefore, they used this influence to accuse the Jews of not complying with the king’s commands to bow down and worship the king’s golden image, as we will see further as the chapter unfolds.
 


 

9 “They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever!”

Commentary

“They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king:”

– These “certain Chaldeans” successfully gain access to the king’s court.

“O king, live forever!”

– Their initial greeting before the king was common to the age and is one that often appears in the Old Testament (1 Kings 1:31; Daniel 2:4, 5:10, 6:6,21)
 


 

10 “You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image.”

Commentary

“You, O king, have made a decree”

– As these “certain Chaldeans” prepare to make their accusations, they appeal to the king’s own words and remind him that he has issued a “decree.”

“that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image”

– As if the king has forgotten his own decree, the Chaldeans remind him of all of its specific details as they prepare to lay their trap for the Jews.
 


 

11 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

Commentary

“But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

– Here, the accusers specifically remind the king of his bold threat towards anyone who dares to defy his edict. Specifically, that if anyone failed to “fall down and worship” the king’s golden image when the music began to play, he should be “cast into the midst” of a blazing fiery furnace.
 


 

12 “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

Commentary

“There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.”

– These “certain Chaldeans” now come to their charge against these “certain Jews.” Specifically, three Jewish men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who had been placed in charge to manage affairs in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. We were first introduced to these three Hebrews in our Daniel 1 commentary when they are given new names. According to Daniel 1:7, a Babylonian chief official gave them (and Daniel) new Babylonian names fitting of their new roles: “To Daniel he gave the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” As well, these three Hebrews were appointed by the king as we recall from Daniel 2:49: “And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.” For more, see our Daniel 2 commentary on verse 49.

“These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

– According to the accusers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego failed to comply with the king’s new edict to fall prostrate and pay homage to the king’s golden image when the orchestra began to play. As we will see, this ancient act of civil disobedience by these three brave Jewish men is instructive to God’s people. After all, God’s people are called to obey the civil authorities and to not rebel against them. (Proverbs 24:21; Jeremiah 29:7; John 19:11; Romans 13:1,2,5; 1 Timothy 2:1,2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13,17) However, there is no command in scripture to obey the civil authorities if and when they require us to violate God’s commands or to worship anyone or anything aside from the God of heaven. Like the Apostle Peter, when instructed by the Jewish authorities to stop publicly preaching the name of Jesus, we must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) See also: Exodus 1:17 and Acts 4:19.
 


 

14 “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?”

Commentary

“Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them,”

– The three Hebrews are brought in before the furious king. When they appear before them, he tests them.

“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?”

– There is almost a tinge of disbelief in Nebuchadnezzar’s tone, indicating that he seeks to avoid an embarrassing encounter where his own government appointees are flagrantly disobedient to his most recent command. Nebuchadnezzar’s “gods” include Marduk, Nabu and others.
 


 

15 “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Commentary

“Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well.”

– Here, we see the king, though furious, makes accommodation for the three Hebrews, condoning their previous actions while commanding them to fall into line at their next opportunity. It is likely that this dedication ceremony of the king’s golden image spanned several days. Therefore, there will certainly be another opportunity for these three Hebrews to show their allegiance to the empire they represent. When the music plays (again), the Hebrews are commanded to “fall down and worship the image.”

“But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire;”

– However, if Nebuchadnezzar’s offer of a second chance to prove their loyalty is refused by these three Hebrews, the king makes their fate crystal clear. They will not be spared and will “immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” Put simply, the three men have two choices: 1) Fall into line by bowing down to a false god or 2) fail to comply with the king’s command and face an immediate fiery death!

“and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

– Nebuchadnezzar concludes his threat with a particularly stinging statement that reveals the extent of his madness by placing his temporal authority above that, not only of his own gods but also above that of the God of the Hebrews. The clear presumption here is that no god (even the Creator God of heaven) is unable to overrule Nebuchadnezzar’s edicts and judgments. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzar’s proud statement will soon boomerang on him as the Hebrew God will indeed arise and defend His people from this pagan monstrosity. And He will do this not only before the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar himself but also before the watching eyes of all of Babylon’s government officials assembled at this ceremony.
 


 

16 “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.”

Commentary

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king,”

– The three Hebrews stand boldly before the king and issue their courageous reply with the full knowledge that it could cost them their lives.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.”

– Their reply implies no hesitation to obey God’s commands over those of the king. In fact, they begin by recognizing that there is no need for them to actually give a reply to the king in this matter.
 


 

17 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”

Commentary

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

– As their response to the king continues, the three Hebrews make their total and complete allegiance to their God crystal clear. Not even a hint of fear is evident in their reply as they inform the king that their God “is able to deliver” them both out of the fiery furnace and, ultimately, out of the king’s hand. Their confidence in the God of heaven, however, becomes even more evident as their reply continues in the following verse.
 


 

18 “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Commentary

“But even if He does not”

– Here, the defiant Hebrews display a remarkable faith similar to that shown by suffering Job in the depths of his trials when he said: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15). Like Job, these Hebrews are willing to face physical death in the event that their God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, chose not to deliver their physical bodies from the fiery furnace.


“let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

– The point here is clear. Faced with the king’s wrath and the threat of a quick, but gruesome, death, these Hebrews refuse to bow their knees to serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, including the “golden image” that the king has set up for all of his officials to worship. It is important to note that the absolute defiance to authority displayed by the Hebrews here is only due to the extreme nature of the king’s request. Under most other circumstances, these Hebrews have been compliant and willing to obey the king’s requests. After all, they serve as some of his top officials within the very heart of the Babylonian empire! However, when forced to choose between obedience to God or obedience to the king, they must choose God. This rare defiance of authority is found within the New Testament when the Apostles are ordered to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:28) The Apostle Peter’s response mirrors that of these three Hebrews when he exclaims: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Sadly, many Christians have greatly twisted this defiance to authority by applying it to other perceived injustices perpetrated by kings. For example, the American revolutionaries defied King George III over tax rates. These Hebrews, nor the Apostles, would have rebelled against the authority over tax rates or perceived governmental excesses. Instead, God’s people reserve their defiance to authority ONLY for when they are asked to directly disobey the specific commands of God. Paying taxes is not against God’s commands. Quartering soldiers or giving up property is not against God’s commandments. However, a command to bow down and worship a false god or to be silent about Jesus Christ both require defiance from God’s people.
 


 

19 “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.”

Commentary

“Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.”

– Enraged by the defiant response of the three Hebrews, the king’s countenance changed against them.


“He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.”

– In his wrath, the king abruptly ends the dialogue with the three Hebrews as it was clear from their reply that they had no plan of bowing to the king’s golden image. But Nebuchadnezzar was not content to simply toss the three Hebrews into the fiery furnace. Instead, to indicate his extreme wrath, and perhaps to make an example of the “rebels”, the king orders his officials to increase the heat of the furnace sevenfold. While the specifics of how this was done are not revealed, it is likely that the king’s officials added seven times more fuel to the flame. So too, the number “seven” in scripture carries the figurative idea of “completion” or “perfection.” Of course, this sevenfold increase in the heat of the fiery furnace will actually make the miracle that God is about to perform even more incredible to the onlookers. Ironically, if the king’s desire was to prolong the agony of the three Hebrews it would have been more effective to lower the temperature in the fiery furnace. This act of raising the temperature reveals that the king had lost his temper and was acting in an irrational manner. As a sidenote, death by fire was apparently a common form of capital punishment employed by the king of Babylon as evidenced by Jeremiah 29:22.
 


 

20 “He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.”

Commentary

“He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego”

– Amid his fury, the king ordered some of his most mighty soldiers to bind up the three Hebrews in preparation for their public execution. The text reveals that these “valiant warriors” were under the king’s power and part of his vast army. That the king gives this task into the hands of some of his most elite military officials perhaps suggests two things: 1) That the king feared divine reprisal from his action and wanted his most proficient warriors at hand and 2) that he trusted them to be able to carry out this execution despite the extreme (sevenfold) heat that was emitting from the furnace.


“in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.”

– Once these warriors had bound the three Hebrews, they were to hurl them into the fiery furnace.
 


 

21 “Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.”

Commentary

“Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes,”

– Here, we see the three fully-clothed Hebrews are bound by their captors. Perhaps the emphasis upon their garments here is to suggest that they were seized in haste. Of course, the fact that their bodies are covered in flammable clothing, including undergarments, trousers, stockings and shoes, and even their hats also serves to intensify the miracle that is about to occur.


“and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.”

– Once these warriors had bound the three fully-clothed Hebrews, they were cast into the blazing fiery furnace.
 


 

22 “For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.”

Commentary

“For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent”

– As this story unfolds, it is clear that the writer, Daniel, is making a strong point about the harsh (and even rash) nature of the king’s command towards these three Hebrews. The Aramaic word used here for “urgent” is the word “chatsaph,” which conveys the idea of showing insolence as well as acting in haste.


“and the furnace had been made extremely hot,”

– So too, the extraordinary heat emitting from the blazing fiery furnace is a perfect picture of the king’s wrath towards the disobedient Hebrews. It should be clear from this passage that the king is acting less out of wisdom and forethought and more out of foolish haste.


“the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.”

– Here, we see that the king’s foolish haste is the direct cause of death, not of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, but instead of his own elite warriors. Those who seek to obey the king are slain. Their blood is on his hands. This must have been quite a sight as these warriors died while casting these three fully-clothed Hebrews into the blazing fiery furnace.
 


 

23 “But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.”

Commentary

“But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire”

– Despite the deaths of their executors, the three Hebrews meet the fate intended for them by the hasty king as they “fell into the midst” of the burning fiery furnace.


“still tied up”

– It is noteworthy that the scripture does not fail to leave out this detail. As if the blazing inferno were not enough to destroy the three Hebrews, the writer includes the fact that they were still bound as they fell into the fire. This, of course, will further serve to highlight the miracle that is about to take place.
 


 

24 “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”

Commentary

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste;”

– After the three Hebrews fall into the blazing fiery furnace, the king is so startled by something that he sees in the furnace that he actually stands up “in haste.” Once again, note this singular emotion of “haste” that the Bible explains as driving the king’s actions.


“he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?”

– With the three Hebrews already in the blazing fiery furnace, there should be no further need for alarm or concern. Even Nebuchadnezzar’s own elite warriors could not survive being near the blazing inferno. Why then should it not be expected that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should have survived after falling into the flames? And yet, the alarmed king, after peering into the fiery furnace, asks his high court ministers to reaffirm the number of men that he himself had just condemned to death. “Was it not three men?” he asks.


“They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”

– The king’s faithful court ministers confirm to Nebuchadnezzar that indeed he had ordered exactly three men to be cast into the blazing fiery furnace. Clearly, something has gone awry with the king’s “hasty” plans as we will discover in the next verse.
 


 

25 “He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

Commentary

“He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm,”

– Suddenly, the story shifts in a dramatic way as the shocked king sees not three men, but four! These four men are not bound but “loosed” and, to the king’s amazement, they appear to be “walking about” in the middle of the blazing inferno without harm or injury. The moment must have been incredible, not only for the king but also for the other onlookers witnessing an incredible miracle. Many questions must have plagued those looking on, including: How are these men still alive? How are they walking around unharmed in the “midst” (or center) of the blazing furnace? And who exactly is this fourth man when only three men were ordered into the flames?


“and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

– Here, the king continues his epic description of what his mortal eyes are beholding in this seemingly impossible moment. He exclaims that the form (or appearance) of this mysterious fourth person walking about in the blazing furnace is like “a son of the gods!” In other words, he appears to be superhuman and no mere mortal.
 


 

26 “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.”

Commentary

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire;”

– Obviously in shock, the king approached the entrance to the blazing furnace to get a better look in case his eyes were deceiving him. This seems like the most obvious reaction anyone would have given the same circumstances.


“he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!”

– Once he had approached the entrance to the furnace, he cried out to the three Hebrews to “come out” and to “come here.” Interestingly, the king’s tone has now changed as he refers to them by name and appropriately refers to them as the “servants of the Most High God.” This phrase is derived from the original word, “Illay”, meaning “highest”, which is a name of God. His admittance that the God of the three Hebrews was the “Most High” or supreme God of gods reveals the work that God was doing in his heart through this incredible moment. Though Nebuchadnezzar had acted foolishly, in haste, he clearly knew that a miracle had taken place before his eyes and was quick to give credit not to men or to his own pantheon of gods, but instead to the “Most High God” of the Hebrew people.

“Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.”

– Here, the three Hebrews respond in obedience to the king’s command to “come out” of the blazing inferno. Though the king had called them “out” of the fire, this command was only issued after he had ordered them to be cast “into” the fire. Indeed, as Nebuchadnezzar knew, it was the “Most High” God that had delivered the Hebrews out of the fire, just as he had done in times past: “Yet the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of His inheritance, as you are today.” (Deuteronomy 4:20)

 


 

27 “The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.”

Commentary

“The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men”

– Not only does the king witness this miraculous event. So too, all of the king’s men, including the “satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials” (see commentary note on Dan. 3:2) assembled around the three Hebrews that had emerged from the blazing fiery furnace.


“that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men”

– The scene must have initially been one of disbelief. After all, the three Hebrews, that had been cast into the fire — the same fire that had killed the king’s elite officials who were tasked with executing the Hebrews — emerged apparently unscathed: “the fire had no effect” on their bodies.

“nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.”

– Miraculously, after being inside the blazing inferno, likely for several minutes, not even their hair, or their clothes, showed any evidence of damage. The observers did not even smell fire coming from what should have been their roasted bodies.

Indeed, God, in his incredible faithfulness, had once again saved His people in a dramatic and mighty way. The God of the Hebrews made a public display of His power in front of the mightiest king in the world, and before all of his officials. This divine act of grace and mercy is recalled in Hebrews 11:34 in reference to those faithful men who “quenched the raging fire.”

So too, the prophet Isaiah beautifully portrays God’s act of mercy when he reminds His readers of God’s promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

 


 

28 “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.”

Commentary

“Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego,”

– Upon witnessing the miraculous deliverance of the three Hebrews, King Nebuchadnezzar responds with vocal praise to the Hebrew God. “Blessed” is translated from the Aramaic word “berak,” literally meaning to kneel and bless. Whereas the king had previously insisted that others bow (or kneel) to his golden image, Nebuchadnezzar now uses a similar word in application to “the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.”


“who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, “

– While we are given no further information about the fourth person who was in the midst of the fiery furnace along with the three Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar suggests that it was an angel sent by the God of the Hebrews to deliver them. This Aramaic word for angel (“malak”) is the same word later employed by Daniel himself in reference to the “angel” sent by God to deliver him out of the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:22)

Finally, note that Nebuchadnezzar connects the dots on why God delivered the three Hebrews. Specifically, because they chose to “put their trust in Him” instead of placing their trust in the false god erected by the king.

“violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.”

– This is perhaps one of the most important phrases uttered by Nebuchadnezzar for our own edification today. Notice that the trust in God shared by Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego led them to violate the king’s command. (In the Aramaic, this word is “shena” and usually means to change or to alter.) This is one of just a handful of examples we have from the Bible of God’s people defying the command of a supreme authority. Under almost all circumstances, God’s people are directed to “fear”, “submit to”, “pray for”, “obey” and “honor” the king. (Proverbs 24:21; Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13,17) This is because they are empowered by God Himself. (Proverbs 8:15; Daniel 2:21, 4:17; John 19:11; Romans 13:2)

However, in this extremely rare case, the appropriate action was to “violate the king’s command.” Why? Because the king’s command directly clashed with God’s own command of reserving worship for Him alone.

So too, when the Apostles were instructed by the Jewish authorities to no longer teach in the name of Jesus, they had to “violate” that command because they must “must obey God rather than men.”

However, it should be noted that rebellion to the king in ALL other circumstances is prohibited by the scriptures as it is no different than rebellion to heaven’s divine agenda. (See Romans 13:1-7, especially 1,2)

In more recent times, misguided Christians have attempted to use all manner of reasons for rebelling against the king. Most notably, the early Americans revolted against British monarchical rule while blaming high tax rates and violations of “natural rights.” These accusations, however, do not pass the muster of Scripture. Rebellion to kings and other authorities is not a virtue, though sometimes it is required. However, the only Biblical precedent for civil disobedience is when we are asked to bow or pledge allegiance to a false god (Daniel 3) or when we are asked to cease our work of the Great Commission (Acts 5:29). Any other reason for rebellion should be carefully weighed against Scripture and considered suspect. After all, fallen man’s heart is naturally rebellious towards authority. Christians should not cater to such rebellion but instead, to seek “to lead a quiet life” as the Apostle Paul commands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

 


29 “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Commentary

“Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego”

– The king responds to the miraculous event he has witnessed with a new decree, or command, that will apply to any people or tribe of any language that speaks any word of offense, even in negligence, against the God of these three Hebrews.


“shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap,”

– Anyone who violates the king’s command to refrain from speaking evil of the Hebrew God will face severe judgment. Specifically, they shall be “torn limb from limb” (likely by being tossed to the lions) and their house(s) shall be leveled (“reduced to a rubbish heap.”) Here again, we are witness to another hasty proclamation by Nebuchadnezzar. Initially, he ordered any who failed to worship his golden image to be executed in the fiery furnace. Now, anyone who speaks evil of the Hebrew God will also be annihilated in the most gruesome fashion.

“inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

– The king’s reasoning for his new decree is rooted in the obvious reality of the Hebrew God. After all, the king had never witnessed any other so-called god deliver his adherents in the way that the Hebrew God had been able to deliver his own people. Nebuchadnezzar was awestruck by the power of deliverance displayed by the Hebrew God and sought to prevent anyone from provoking Him again, as he himself had among Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

 


29 “Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.”

Commentary

“Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper”

– In an incredible turn of events, God’s intervention on the behalf of his chosen people turns the heart of the king of Babylon. So much so that the same three Hebrews he had previously condemned to death are now permitted to live and “prosper” (i.e. to enjoy success and to advance in their calling).


“in the province of Babylon.”

– The three Hebrews are not sent away to live in exile due to their extreme act of civil disobedience. Instead, they are allowed to remain in Babylon and to live out their callings right in the heart of the most powerful kingdom on earth at the time. In this way, God maintains a witness to His power, even in Babylon during the time of Jewish exile.

 


 

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