A Commentary on Daniel Chapter 3
The God of Fire
INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL CHAPTER 3
A large sum of money was spent in erecting an Image of gold on the plains of Dura. Everybody who was ‘somebody’ was invited to the dedication. It was a common thing for kings to erect images of themselves. At this state affair everyone was asked to bow and worship the image. Since the ten commandments forbade image worship the three Hebrew children (probably 46 years old) refused to give homage to the Idol. These men went all the way with God. They are not going to worship a graven image. Tied up with ropes they are cast into the furnace that was heated with extreme heat. Suddenly the king sees four men in the fire and they are unhurt. The real God appears in the very furnace from which he had made his god. The angry king now is forced to recognize the real and only god. This supernatural appearance cut the legs out from under the king. Read the whole story and see for yourself.
EXPOSITION ON DANIEL CHAPTER 3
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
The Colossus of Rhodes was 70 feet high. The Babylonian King had built a statue that was 20 feet taller than the lighthouse on the shore of Rhodes in the Mediterranean sea.
Nebuchadnezzars image of gold was ninety feet tall with a base of nine feet and could be seen on the plains for thirteen miles. It was a common practice for kings to erect images and ascribe laudicous titles to them. In all probability a foundry was built nearby and silica sand was used to make the molds in which the castings of gold would be poured and the image would be built in pieces and assembled in stages, thus requiring scaffolding for its erection. I estimate that this project cost billions and several years in building.
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
There are seven classifications of people invited to the dedication. All the important people in the kingdom received an invitation. It was mandatory that you be registered at this event.
3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
In this verse we see that everyone has assembled in a standing position before the image waiting for the Master of Ceremonies to make his opening remarks.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
The herald or as we prefer to call him, the master of ceremonies, lets the audience know that it is commanded of them to worship the image.
5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up
Prostration was a preparatory act for worship. These words make it clear that it was a religious act. I feel sure that everyone present knew that to disobey anything that the king commanded would bring about disastrous results. The king had been known to roast people in fire.
And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire. Jer. 29:22
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
What about “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The furnace was probably the one that had been used for the casting of the parts of the image. This worship was not from the heart but demanded of the King. From the same part of the world came the Mohammedans who forced worship on the citizenry by use of the sword. You either worshiped the false prophet Mohamed of you were beheaded.
7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
This was religion by coercion. A state religion enacted by the government. Persecution can neither convince the intellect nor secure allegiance of the affections. When the band played they were to fall prostrate and worship the Image.
8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
Probably this accusation was motivated by jealousy due to their position.
9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
This phrase was often used to denote a feeling of good will. We today use similar phrases as “your majesty.”
10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
They are reminding the King that he had already set forth a decree before the celebration began and now it must be implemented.
11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
If a law has no penalty then it has no teeth and is therefore useless. They were before the king encouraging him to make sure the edict was administered.
12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up
But the accusers lay stress on another side of the matter. Neabuchadnezzar had set up a golden image, there was thus an element of disrespect hinted at, made all the more heinous that the element of ingratitude was present.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king.
The possibility that these Jews would show such disrespect caused the King to fly into a rage. This was a “fly in his buttermilk.” He was not about to let them ruin this occasion. He was absolutely furious.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
They had been faithful in little things such as their food. Now it is to be learned if they will be faithful in big things—their worship. Religion is a refusal to do what is wrong. Nebuchadnezzar put the question directly to them is order to ascertain if the report was true.
15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Integrity is tested by fire. The king was willing to give them one last chance. It was god against god. We’ll see whose god will prevail. (I have not capitalized the word god because the heathen king used the word in the sense as applied to the gods of the heathen world.)
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
The NIV renders this verse “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” What they are really saying is that regardless of their defense, nothing is going to change the decree. However, they are going to stand by their decision not to bow down to any idol.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
We sometimes use the phrase “If God wills.” Which is the meaning here. They are sure of one thing, that no speech on their part will deliver them. They are willing to go all the way with God, knowing that he is capable of deliverance. How or under what set of circumstances that deliverance will come they are not aware.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
They gave their ultimatum they had hid the word of God in their heart and it was morally impossible for them to worship any Idol. Note: This was the very reason for the captivity. Their parents and grand parents were idol worshippers. They had dabbled in the heathen religions. But, these three men would have none of it.
19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated
The answer from shadrack, Meshach, and Abed-nego really ticked him off. He is enraged and the expression on his face has changed. He wants the furnace heated with intense heat. The king was so angry that he was “bent out of shape.”
20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
The king has the most stalwart men in his army tie up the prisoners and orders them to carry out the execution.
21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
The text informs us that they wrapped the rope around their body over top of their garments. They had come to the dedication fully dressed in their Babylonish garment. In modern terms they were dressed in tux and top hat. Keep in mind that they are at a state affair and dressed in their finest.
22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
There was no appeals court or delay in the execution. I worked in a steel mill where furnaces were heated hot enough to melt steel into a molten liquid state. If a furnace is overheated, seven times hotter than normal, and you open the door there is an explosion when the intense heat combines with oxygen and flames will leap out the door and if you are not careful you can get burned. The scenario would be as follows: There was an opening at the bottom of the furnace thru which it was stoked and from this door you could see inside the furnace, from the top of the furnace the soldiers were casting the bound prisoners. What a scene! They are now inside the furnace that has made Nebuchadnezzars god.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Now you see why I said they were thrown in from the top. Notice that the emphasis is on the fact that they were bound.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
The king is astonished at what he sees. He simply could not believe his eyes. So he asks his officers and they assured him that only three were cast into the fiery furnace.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Now the king is really alarmed, the three men are walking around inside this blast furnace. It burned the ropes loose but not their clothes. (Note: this was not some home heating furnace). The word of God says plainly that the king was astonied, which means that he was startled or perplexed. These men have been referred to as men who would not bend, budge or burn.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
Something divine, something supernatural has happened inside the furnace. So, the king summons the three men to come out of the furnace. What a scathing rebuke upon the king for his madness and folly. A higher power than any on earth had vindicated those who stood forth firm against idolatry and poured forth contempt against the worship and requirements of the king. And from the heat of the fire the three walk out of this huge blast furnace. The fourth person in the furnace evidently disappeared. Nebuchadnezzar had made his god in this furnace and now the real God appears as the fourth person walking amid the flames.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
And now the mighty and powerful in the kingdom are made witnesses of this event. The God who created fire can surely control fire for nothing is impossible with God.
Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: Jer. 32:17
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? Jer. 32:27
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
While Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the superiority of the God of the Hebrews there is no indication that he turns away from idolatry. But he does grant that the Hebrews have a right to worship their god and will not be compelled to worship any other god.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
The decree was against speaking anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. The decree said nothing regarding his subjects worshiping the God of Israel. Punishment for speaking ill of the God of Israel was that their house would be turned into a public restroom.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.
They already were over the affairs of Babylon, now they are to receive additional recognition and favors. Perhaps an increase in pay and housing and other benefits.