Daniel Chapter 3

Daniel Chapter 3 - The Fiery Furnace
Class Notes
March 3, 2013

This chapter contains an incident that revolves around Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Daniel himself is absent from the scene – I speculate here that he could have been away on official business. This absence may even account for the event being planned and staged—possibly Daniel wasn't around to somehow deflect the plan.

Daniel 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 image from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the last lesson foretold Babylon’s eventual fall to kingdoms represented by silver, brass, iron, and a clay/iron mixture. Notice that instead of the statue being made from the different elements from the dream, Nebuchadnezzar made his image entirely of gold, in a manner that proclaimed his kingdom would never end or, “My Kingdom will outlast all others!”. This was a direct challenge to the G_d of heaven and His prophecy that was sent to Nebuchadnezzar via the dream. It is truly G_d that is in control of the nations of this world. Although we read that Nebuchadnezzar accepted the message from the One God of Heaven at the end of the previous chapter, he was obviously still a worshiper of many gods (polytheist) in his religious traditions as well as his daily practice.

A golden image set up to be worshipped. Babylon was full of idols already, yet nothing will serve this imperious prince but they must have one more; for those who have forsaken the one only living God, and begin to set up many gods, will find the gods they set up so unsatisfying, and their desire after them so insatiable, that they will multiply them without measure, wander after them endlessly, and never know when they have sufficient. Idolaters are fond of novelty and variety. They choose new gods. Those that have many will wish to have more. Matthew Henry

Isaiah 46 – Sparing No Expense
[6] They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.
[7] They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.

This image of gold was around 90-feet high and 9-feet wide. It was tall and skinny and otherwise out of proportion. It was probably overlaid with gold and located southeast of Babylon on the Plains of Dura.

Daniel 3
[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.

Notice that all of the public officials were required to attend the dedication of this image and not the common citizens. This guaranteed a large and enthusiastic attendance from political types whose jobs - and their heads - were at stake. It was therefore designed to have a strong bonding and unifying effect on the governing body of entire empire.

[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.

As easily predicted, all of the leaders throughout the realm came. The hotels of Babylon were full. It was time for the party to begin.

The word sheriffs, or ‘satraps’ (kingdom-guardian) is of later Persian origin. But Daniel was also around during the Medo-Persian reign and probably wrote the book toward the end of his life. This is not without precedence in the Bible, as Moses penned chapter 14 of Genesis and used terms that were not around at the time he was describing in that chapter.

[4] Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,

A herald was used as there were no PA systems back in those days. Worship of this image was required by everyone present. But the plan does not appear to be a negation of anyone's particular religion. Rather, the plan was for everyone to join in the worship of a national monument or shrine.

[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:

Everyone, when they are honest about it, has a music testimony—it can be used to lead you to either good OR bad.

[6] And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

The penalty for refusing to worship was clearly stated—quick delivery of your person to a burning, fiery furnace. And since no one had come for the purpose of premature cremation, everyone did as required and worshiped the image. The furnace may have also been used as a brick kiln. Most of the construction of that time period utilized baked-clay bricks.

[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.
[8] Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.

There were seven levels of provincial administrators present at the dedication of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The Babylonian society was accustomed to a veritable host of gods and many cult ceremonies, thus the only people who would have taken offense at bowing to an idol would have been the Jews. Couple this with the fact that the Chaldean advisors to the king were probably offended by the rapid advancement of Daniel and his young Jewish friends. Now they had a golden opportunity to redeem their status by eliminating them.

We can also speculate that it was very odd that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, would even be present at this ceremony, when, it is likely they already knew for what purpose it had been called for. Obviously they would obey the king’s command as far as they could, but at the same time they would be ready to take a stand in a public rebuke against this so-called ‘worship’ of an idol. They did not think it enough not to bow down to the image, but, due to their standing and position in the king’s court, also believed themselves to be obliged to stand up against it. They knew it was an image which the king (their master) set up as a result of the earlier dream; but they also understood that it would be a golden idol to those that worshipped it.

[9] They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
[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 musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
[11] And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

It was patently obvious to all involved that this was a law put in place by the king. The Chaldeans remind Nebuchadnezzar of this just in case he had forgotten. But whether a law is righteous or not should always be considered by those who are subject to it. We are reminded in the New Testament to respect authority and ‘honor the king’, yet sometimes a stand needs to be taken on the things that disrespect The Lord.

[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.

The Chaldeans repeated the exact same words of the herald spoken in verse 4. In case Nebuchadnezzar was thinking about something else or was by this point slightly inebriated, (it was a gala event, after all!) the evidence given against the three Jewish boys would not rely on his memory alone, but also on his ears.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, as young appointed governors (Daniel 2:49) still would not bow down to the image despite their positions, because the G_d of Heaven does not allow this. The first/second commandment states clearly with affirmation:

Exodus 20
[3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
[4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
[5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

The old saying "strike while the iron is hot" definitely applies to the hearts and minds of the Chaldean accusers in this instance. They have a perfect case to either vindicate the king and his law: Will Nebuchadnezzar keep his word? If the king does not, his ability to rule will be thrown into question. These worthless Chaldeans were quick to forget that is was Daniel who had saved their skins from Arioch in the precious chapter. (Daniel 2:24)

Jeremiah 18
[20] Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.

Our church leaders today would say that the problem with the Hebrew young men revolved around the fact that they did not have a proper ecumenical spirit. We are encouraged today even in our own churches to be diverse, avoid judgment, and accept the beliefs of others; instead of taking a stand on what we KNOW to be true and righteous.

[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 king was enraged by this challenge to his supreme authority. We see yet again that the monarch who ruled the world could not control his own short fuse. Note as well that the Chaldeans were busy acting as ‘thought police’ and were quick to bring the young Jewish rulers in before the king WHILE he was angry.

[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?

In a show of fairness, Nebuchadnezzar questions the three Jewish compatriots to get their side of the story as well as to be certain that this was not all some sort of a misunderstanding. Note the emphasis in his voice when he states that it was he who set up the golden image.

[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?

He did not want to lose valuable administrators, so he even gives them a second chance.

Because he knew they buoyed themselves up in their refusal with a confidence in their God, he insolently set him a defiance: ‘And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Let him, if he can.- Matthew Henry

Nebuchadnezzar seemed to forget that it wasn’t so long ago he himself had once proclaimed their G_d as “a G_d of gods” and a “Lord of kings”. (Daniel 2:47)

For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the ultimatum at this point was literally to “Turn or Burn”.

[16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

Notice that they do not attempt to change the king’s mind. There is no bold rashness in their words nor any dramatic passion. When someone is overwrought with anger, there is no use trying to reason with them.

Matthew 10
[19] But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak

Daniel 3
[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.
[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.

Nebuchadnezzar can but torment and kill the body, and after that, there is no more that he can do; then they are got out of his reach, delivered out of his hand. Note, Good thoughts of God, and a full assurance that he is with us while we are with him, will help very much to carry us through sufferings; and, if he be for us, we need not fear what man can do unto us; let him do his worst. God will deliver us either from death or in death. - Matthew Henry

They truly believed that Jehovah could deliver them, but even if he chose not to, they assured Nebuchadnezzar they still would not worship his idol. Notice here that they did not commit G_d to a self-perceived course of action.

In verse 14, Nebuchadnezzar had spoken of ‘my gods’. In their response, these men spoke of 'Our G_d'.

[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.

Such a challenge to the greatest ruler on earth in front of all of his political entourage could not go unpunished. In a show of power and a flair for the dramatic, Nebuchadnezzar commands that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than it was accustomed to be heated. In his rage, all he wanted was a chance to show everyone who was in charge.

[20] And he commanded the mightiest men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

After ordering a much hotter than normal furnace, he also chose the most powerful of his military men to throw the captive lawbreakers into it. Apocryphal additions to Daniel state that the flame ascended forty-nine cubits above the entrance to the furnace.

[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.

They were thrown in fully clothed, because their burning clothes would serve to make the pain of the fire even more intense.

[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.
[23] And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Although the furnace was heated a lot higher than normal, the king’s rage was even more intense. Because of his tepid rage, and the haste of his command to be carried out, the very men who delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to the mouth of the furnace died in the flames. The gate of the furnace was above the furnace, because we can note that they fell ‘down’.

[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 stuck around to see his orders carried out to the fullest, and was watching the whole thing. Obviously he had been seated, because as he looks into the furnace, he is next seen rising up in astonishment.

[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.

His astonishment came from seeing something that frightened him. The three captives were not on fire or burning to their deaths, but they were walking around in the fire in no pain or discomfort. The king also noted a fourth person in the fire that he thinks is not an angel (‘a’ Son of G_d), but an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. (‘The” Son of G_d”) Either Nebuchadnezzar understood this at the time, or possibly Daniel explained this to him later and recorded it as such. I chose to believe the former, as it was most likely divine inspiration much like Peter when he came to the knowledge that Jesus was ‘The Christ’. (Mark 8:29)

Jehovah had delivered the young men not from the fire, but through the fire. I think there is an obvious lesson for all of us stated here in this chapter.

Notice that they were not trying to get out of the fire. Some of the Apocryphal writings state that they were singing praises even while they were in the midst of the furnace.

[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.

Nebuchadnezzar could still only come ‘near’ to the mouth of the fiery furnace. Obviously the flames had not abated from earlier. This time his command is for them to ‘come out’ of the fiery furnace. Once again he quickly acknowledges their G_d as the Most High G_d.

This time they are obedient to the king and answer his command by coming forth out of the ‘midst’ of the fire.

[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.

All of the important and top-ranked officials of the land were on hand and they witnessed the miracle and experienced its evidence.

Daniel wants to be understood by his future readers that a large body of reliable witnesses satisfied themselves as to the perfect deliverance from certain death experience by these three Hebrew men. Deliverance was so complete and supernatural that their clothing did not even smell of fire or smoke. Under natural circumstances one who has been anywhere near a fire will bear the odor of smoke on his person or clothing. - Paul Butler

[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.

The formerly polytheist king now acknowledges G_d and confirms the miracle that everyone on the plains of Dura witnessed that day. Note that he also praises G_d by ‘blessing Him’.

Nebuchadnezzar also seems to finally understand that it is their trust (faith) in G_d that saved them from his wrath and the fiery furnace. And he also attributes their deliverance to their steadfast resolution not to break the first commandment of G_d’s law.

[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 king proclaims a new decree which raises the prominence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s G_d in a way. The new law in actuality is that no one can say anything derogatory against their G_d. But his use of the phrase ‘there is no other god that can deliver’ proves that despite the happenings in the furnace that day, he is still holding onto his polytheistic beliefs in many gods.

[30] Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.

The three Jewish young men were promoted due to their courage. Earthly fame and wealth is a good thing, but in their case they are also mentioned in the Heroes of Faith chapter (Hebrews 11) which is a much more important and higher honor:

Hebrews 11
[34] Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

By the ending of the chapter, we see a humbled Nebuchadnezzar (again), all honor, praise, and the glory is given to Jehovah, and a new law has been passed stating that the Hebrew G_d is significantly greater than any of the Babylonian deities. In addition, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego have been promoted to a higher position in the king’s court—which was probably a windfall to their people who were living as captives in Babylon at the time.

Note, It is the wisdom of princes to prefer and employ men of stedfastness in religion; for those are most likely to be faithful to them who are faithful to God, and it is likely to be well with them when God’s favourites are made theirs. – Matthew Henry

As we face our own trials, (fiery furnaces) God may not always deliver us from our troubles. Yet He promises to be with us when we go through those tough times:

Deuteronomy 4
[30] When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
[31] (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

Deuteronomy 31
[6] Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
[8] And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Mayger Minute Verse

Isaiah 43
[2] When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
[3] For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel…

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