Daniel - 3:1-30

The Fiery Furnace

      1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits, and its breadth six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that whenever you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up; 6 and whoever doesn't fall down and worship shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and brought accusation against the Jews. 9 They answered Nebuchadnezzar the king, O king, live for ever. 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image; 11 and whoever doesn't fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in (his) rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered them, Is it on purpose, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't serve my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready whenever you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music to fall down and worship the image which I have made, (well): but if you don't worship, you 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? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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 your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. 19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his appearance was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: (therefore) he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain mighty men who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, (and) to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their pants, their tunics, and their mantles, and their (other) garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 These three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste: he spoke and said to his counselors, Didn't we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered the king, True, O king. 25 He answered, Look, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are unharmed; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace: he spoke and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the deputies, and the governors, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power on their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were their pants changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants who trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything evil against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other god who is able to deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of Daniel 3.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Section I. - Authenticity of the Chapter
The objections which have been urged against the authenticity of this chapter are much more numerous than those which have been alleged against the two previous chapters.
I. The first which deserves to be noticed is stated by De Wette (p. 383, under the general head of "improbabilities" in the chapter), and Bleek, p. 268, as quoted by Hengstenberg, "die Authentie des Daniel," p. 83. The objection is, substantially, that if the account in this chapter is true, it would prove that the Chaldeans were inclined to persecution on account of religious opinions, which, it is said, is contrary to their whole character as elsewhere shown. So far as we have any information in regard to them, it is alleged, they were far from having this character, and it is not probable, therefore, that Nebuchadnezzar would make a law which would compel the worship of an idol under severe pains and penalties.
To this objection the following reply may be made:
(1) Little is known, on any supposition, of the Chaldeans in general, and little of the character of Nebuchadnezzar in particular, beyond what we find in the book of Daniel. So far, however, as we have any knowledge of either from any source, there is no inconsistency between that and what is said in this chapter to have occurred. It is probable that no one ever perceived any incongruity of this kind in the book itself, nor, if this were all, should we suppose that there was any improbability in the account in this chapter.
(2) There is properly no account of "persecution" in this narrative, nor any reason to suppose that Nebuchadnezzar designed any such thing. This is admitted by Bertholdt himself (p. 261), and is manifest on the face of the whole narrative. It is indeed stated that Nebuchadnezzar demanded, on severe penalties, a recognition of the god that he worshipped, and required that the reverence should be shown to that god which he thought to be his due. It is true, also, that the monarch intended to be obeyed in what seems to us to be a very arbitrary and unreasonable command, that they should assemble and fall down and worship the image which he had set up. But this does not imply any disposition to persecute on account of religion, or to prevent in others the free exercise of their own religious opinions, or the worship of their own gods. It is well known that it was a doctrine of all ancient idolaters, that respect might be shown to foreign gods - to the gods of other people - without in the least degree implying a want of respect for their own gods, or violating any of their obligations to them.
The universal maxim was, that the gods of all nations were to be respected, and hence, foreign gods might be introduced for worship, and respect paid to them without in any degree detracting from the honor which was due to their own. Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, simply demanded that homage should be shown to the idol that "he" had erected; that the god whom "he" worshipped should be acknowledged as a god; and that respect should thus be shown to himself, and to the laws of his empire, by acknowledging "his" god, and rendering to that god the degree of homage which was his due. But it is nowhere intimated that he regarded his idol as the "only" true god, or that he demanded that he should be recognized as such, or that he was not willing that all other gods, in their place, should be honored. There is no intimation, therefore, that he meant to "persecute" any other men for worshipping their own gods, nor is there any reason to suppose that he apprehended that there would be any scruples on religious grounds about acknowledging the image that he set up to be worthy of adoration and praise.
(3) There is no reason to think that he was so well acquainted with the peculiar character of the Hebrew religion as to suppose that its votaries would have any difficulty on this subject, or would hesitate to unite with others in adoring his image. He knew, indeed, that they were worshippers of Jehovah; that they had reared a magnificent temple to his honor in Jerusalem, and that they professed to keep his laws. But there is no reason to believe that he was very intimately acquainted with the laws and institutions of the Hebrews, or that he supposed that they would have any difficulty in doing what was universally understood to be proper - to show due respect to the gods of other nations. Certainly, if he had intimately known the history of a considerable portion of the Hebrew people, and been acquainted with their proneness to fall into idolatry, he would have seen little to make him doubt that they would readily comply with a command to show respect to the gods worshipped in other lands. There is no reason, therefore, to suppose that he anticipated that the Hebrew exiles, anymore than any other people, would hesitate to show to his image the homage which he required.
(4) The whole account agrees well with the character of Nebuchadnezzar. He was an arbitrary monarch. He was accustomed to implicit obedience. He was determined in his character, and resolute in his purposes. Having once formed the resolution to erect such a magnificent image of his god - one that would correspond with the greatness of his capital, and, at the same time, show his respect for the god that he worshipped - nothing was more natural than that he should issue such a proclamation that homage should be shown to it by all his subjects, and that, in order to secure this, he should issue this decree, that whoever did "not" do it should be punished in the severest manner. There is no reason to suppose that he had any particular class of persons in his eye, or, indeed, that he anticipated that the order would be disobeyed by "any" class of persons. In fact, we see in this whole transaction just one illustration of what usually occurred under the arbitrary despotisms of the East, where, "whatever" is the order that is issued from the throne, universal and absolute submission is demanded, under the threatening of a speedy and fearful punishment. The order of Nebuchadnezzar was not more arbitrary and unreasonable than those which have been frequently issued by the Turkish sultan.
II. A second objection to the chapter is the account of the musical instruments in Daniel 3:5. The objection is, that to some of these instruments "Grecian" names are given, and that this proves that the transaction must have a later date than is attributed to it, or that the account must have been written by one of later times. The objection is, that the whole statement seems to have been derived from the account of some Greek procession in honor of the gods of Greece. See Bleek, p. 259.
To this objection, it may be replied:
(a) that such processions in honor of the gods, or such assemblages, accompanied with musical instruments, were, and are, common among all people. They occur constantly in the East, and it cannot, with any propriety, be said that one is borrowed from another.
(b) A large part of these instruments have undoubtedly Chaldee names given to them, and the names are such as we may suppose that one living in the times of Nebuchadnezzar would give them. See the notes at Daniel 3:5.
(c) As to those which are alleged to indicate a Greek origin, it may be observed, that it is quite uncertain whether the origin of the name was Greek or Chaldee. That such names are found given to instruments of music by the Greeks is certain; but it is not certain from where they obtained the name. For anything that can be proved to the contrary, the name may have had an Eastern origin. It is altogether probable that many of the names of things among the Greeks had such an origin; and if the instrument of music itself - as no one can prove it did not - came in from the East, the "name" came also from the East.
(d) It may be further stated, that, even on the supposition that the name had its origin in Greece, there is no absolute certainty that the name and the instrument were unknown to the Chaldeans. Who can prove that some Chaldean may not have been in Greece, and may not have borne back to his own country some instrument of music that he found there different from those which he had been accustomed to at home, or that he may not have constructed an instrument resembling one which he had seen there, and given it the same name? Or who can prove that some strolling Greek musician may not have traveled as far as Babylon - for the Greeks traveled everywhere - and carried with him some instrument of music before unknown to the Chaldeans, and imparted to them at the same time the knowledge of the instrument and the name? But until this is shown the objection has no force.
III. A third objection is, that the statement in Daniel 3:22, that the persons appointed to execute the orders of the king died from the heat of the furnace, or that the king issued an order, to execute which perilled the lives of the innocent who were entrusted with its execution, is improbable.
To this it may be said
(a) that there is no evidence or affirmation that the king contemplated "their" danger, or designed to peril their lives; but it is undoubtedly a fact that he was intent on the execution of his own order, and that he little regarded the peril of those who executed it. And nothing is more probable than this; and, indeed, nothing more common. A general who orders a company of men to silence or take a battery has no malice against them, and no design on their lives; but he is intent on the accomplishment of the object, whatever may be the peril of the men, or however large a portion of them may fall. In fact, the objection which is here made to the credibility of this narrative is an objection which would lie with equal force against most of the orders issued in battle, and not a few of the commands issued by arbitrary monarchs in time of peace. The fact in this case was, the king was intent on the execution of his purpose - the punishment of the refractory and stubborn men who had resisted his commands, and there is no probability that, in the excitements of wrath, he would pause to inquire whether the execution of his purpose would endanger the lives of those who were entrusted with the execution of the order or not.
(b) There is every probability that the heat "would" be so great as to peril the lives of those who should approach it. It is said to have been made seven times hotter than usual Daniel 3:19; that is, as hot as it could be made, and, if this were so, it is by no means an unreasonable supposition that those who were compelled to approach it so near as to cast others in should be in danger.
IV. A fourth objection, urged by Griesinger, p. 41, as quoted by Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," p. 92, is, that "as Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace already prepared ready to throw these men in, he must have known beforehand that they would not comply with his demand, and so must have designed to punish them; or that this representation is a mere fiction of the writer, to make the delivery of these men appear more marvelous."
To this it may be replied,
(a) that there is not the slightest evidence, from the account in Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace prepared beforehand, as if it were expected that some would disobey, and as if he meant to show his wrath. He indeed Daniel 3:6 threatens this punishment, but it is clear, from Daniel 3:19, that the furnace was not yet heated up, and that the occasion of its being heated in such a manner was the unexpected refusal of these three men to obey him.
(b) But if it should be admitted that there was a furnace thus glowing - heated with a view to punish offbnders - it would not be contrary to what sometimes occurs in the East under a despotism. Sir John Chardin (Voy. en Perse. iv. p. 276) mentions in his time (in the seventeenth century) a case similar to this. He says that during a whole month, in a time of great scarcity, an oven was kept heated to throw in all persons who had failed to comply with the laws in regard to taxation, and had thus defrauded the government. This was, in fact, strictly in accordance with the character of Oriental despotism. We know, moreover, from Jeremiah 29:22, that this mode of punishment was not unknown in Babylon, and it would seem probable that it was not uncommon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus Jeremiah says, "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."
V. A fifth objection is stated thus by Bertholdt: "Why did the wonders recorded in this chapter take place? It was only for this purpose that Nebuchadnezzar might be made to appear to give praise to God, that he is represented as giving commandment that no one should reproach him. But this object is too small to justify such an array of means." To this it may be replied,
(a) that it does not appear from the chapter that this was the "object" aimed at.
(b) There were other designs in the narrative beside this. They were to show the firmness of the men who refused to worship an idol-god; to illustrate their conscientious adherence to their religion; to show their confidence in the Divine protection; to prove that God will defend those who put their trust in him, and that he can deliver them even in the midst of the flames. These things were worthy of record.
VI. It has been objected that "the expression in which Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 3:28 is represented as breaking out, after the rescue of the three men, is altogether contrary to his dignity, and to the respect for the religion of his fathers and of his country, which he was bound to defend." - Bertholdt, p. 253. But to this it may be replied,
(a) that if this scene actually occurred before the eyes of the king - if God had thus miraculously interposed in delivering his servants in this wonderful manner from the heated furnace, nothing would be more natural than this. It was a manifest miracle, a direct interposition of God, a deliverance of the professed friends of Jehovah by a power that was above all that was human, and an expression of surprise and achniration was in every way proper on such an occasion.
(b) It accorded with all the prevailing notions of religion, and of the respect due to the gods, to say this. As above remarked, it was a principle recognized among the pagan to honor the gods of other nations, and if they had interposed to defend their own votaries, it was no more than was admitted in all the nations of idolatry. If, therefore, Jehovah had interposed to save his own friends and worshippers, every principle which Nebuchadnezzar held on the subject would make it proper for him to acknowledge the fact, and to say that honor was due to him for his interposition. In this, moreover, Nebuchadnezzar would be understood as saying nothing derogatory to the gods that he himself worshipped, or to those adored in his own land. All that is "necessary" to be supposed in what he said is, that he now felt that Jehovah, the God whom the Hebrews adored, had shown that he was worthy to be ranked among the gods, and that in common with others, he had power to protect his own friends.
To this it may be added
(c) that, in his way, Nebuchadnezzar everywhere showed that he was a "religious" man: that is, that he recognized the gods, and was ever ready to acknowledge their interference in human affairs, and to render them the honor which was their due. Indeed, this whole affair grew out of his respect for "religion," and what here occurred was only in accordance with his general principle. that when any God had shown that he had power to deliver his people, he should be acknowledged, and that no words of reproach should be uttered against hhn Daniel 3:29.
VII. A more plausible objection than those which have just been noticed is urged by Luderwald, Jahn, Dereser, in regard to the account which is given of the image which Nebuchadnezzar is said to have erected. This objection has reference to the "size" of the image, to its proportions, and to the material of which it is said to have been composed. This objection, as stated by Bertholdt (p. 256), is substantially the following: "That the image had probably a human form, and yet that the proportions of the human figure are by no means observed - the height being represented to have been sixty cubits, and its breadth six cubits - or its height being to its breadth as ten to one, whereas the proportion of a man is only six to one; that the amount of gold in such an image is incredible, being beyond any means which the king of Babylon could have possessed; and that probably the image here referred to was one that Herodotus says he saw in the temple of Belus at Babylon (I. 183), and which Diodorus Siculus describes (II. 9), and which was only forty feet in height." See the notes at Daniel 3:1. In regard to this objection, we may observe, then -
(a) That there is no certainty that this was the same image which is referred to by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus. That image was "in" the temple; this was erected on the "plain of Dura." See the notes at Daniel 3:1. But, so far as appears, this may have been erected for a temporary purpose, and the materials may then have been employed for other purposes; that in the temple was permanent.
(b) As to the amount of gold in the image - it is not said or implied that it was of solid gold. It is well known that the images of the gods were made of wood or clay, and overlaid with gold or silver, and this is all that is necessarily implied here. See the notes at Daniel 3:1.
(c) The "height" of the alleged image can be no real objection to the statement. It is not necessary to assume that it had the human form - though that is probable - but if that be admitted, there can be no objection to the supposition that, either standing by itself, or raised on a pedestal, it may have been as lofty as the statement here implies. The colossal figure at Rhodes was an hundred and five Grecian feet in height, and being made to stride the mouth of the harbor, was a work of much more difficult construction than this figure would have been.
(d) As to the alleged "disproportion" in the figure of the image, see the notes at Daniel 3:1. To what is there said may be added:
(1) It is not necessary to suppose that it had the human form. Nothing of this kind is affirmed, though it may be regarded as probable. But if it had not, of course the objection would have no force.
(2) If it had the human form, it is by no means clear whether it had a sitting or a standing posture. Nothing is said on this point in regard to the image or statue, and until this is determined, nothing can be said properly respecting the proportions.
(3) It is not said whether it stood by itself, or whether it rested on a basis or pediment - and until this is determined, no objections can be valid as to the proportion of the statue. It is every way probable that the image was reared on a lofty pedestal, and for anything that appears, the proportions of the "image itself," whether sitting or standing, may have been well preserved.
(4) But in addition to this it should be said, that if the account here is to be taken literally as stating that the image was ten times as high as it was broad - thus failing to observe the proper human proportions - the account would not be incredible. It is admitted by Gesenius (Ency. vonr Ersch und Gruber, art. Babylon, Thes vii. p. 24), that the Babylonians had no correct taste in these matters. "The ruins," says he, "are imposing by their colossal greatness, not by their beauty; all the ornaments are rough and barbarian." The Babylonians, indeed, possessed a taste for the colossal, the grand, the imposing, but they also had a taste for the monstrous and the prodigious, and a mere want of "proportion" is not a sufficient argument to prove that what is stated here did not occur.
VIII. But one other objection remains to be noticed. It is one which is noticed by Bertholdt (pp. 251, 252), that, if this is a true account, it is strange that "Daniel" himself is not referred to; that if he was, according to the representation in the last chapter, a high officer at court, it is unaccountable that he is not mentioned as concerned in these affairs, and especially that he did not interpose in behalf of his three friends to save them. To this objection it is sufficient to reply
(a) that, as Bertholdt himself (p. 287) suggests, Daniel may have been absent from the capital at this time on some business of state, and consequently the question whether "he" would worship the image may not have been tested. It is probable, from the nature of the case, that he would be employed on such embasies or be sent to some other part of the empire from time to time, to arrange the affairs of the provinces, and no one can demonstrate that he was not absent on this occasion. Indeed, the fact that he is not mentioned at all in the transaction would serve to imply this; since, if he were at court, it is to be presumed that he himself would have been implicated as well as his three friends. Compare Daniel. 6: He was not a man to shrink from duty, or to decline any proper method of showing his attachment to the religion of his fathers, or any proper interest in the welfare of his friends. But
(b) it is possible that even if Daniel were at court at that time, and did not unite in the worship of the image, he might have escaped the danger. There were undoubtedly manymore Jews in the province of Babylon who did not worship this image, but no formal accusation was brought against them, and their case did not come before the king. For some reason, the accusation was made specific against these three men - "for they were rulers in the province" Daniel 2:49, and being foreigners, the people under them may have gladly seized the occasion to complain of them to the king. But so little is known of the circumstances, that it is not possible to determine the matter with certainty. All that needs to be said is, that the fact that Daniel was not implicated in the affair is no proof that the three persons referred to were not; that it is no evidence that what is said of "them" is not true because nothing is said of Daniel."
Section II. - Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter, which is complete in itself, or which embraces the entire narrative relating to an important transaction, contains the account of a magnificent brazen image erected by Nebuchadnezzr, and the reslilt of attempting to constrain the conscientious Hebrews to worship it. The narrative comprises the following points:
I. The erection of the great image in the plain of Dura, Daniel 3:1.
II. The dedication of the image in the presence of the great princes and governors of the provinces, the high officers of state, and an immense multitude of the people, accompanied with solemn music, Daniel 3:2-7.
III. The complaint of certain Chaldeans respecting the Jews, that they refused to render homage to the image, reminding the king that he had solemnly enjoined this on all persons, on penalty of being cast into a burning furnace in case of disobedience, Daniel 3:8-12. This charge was brought particularly against Shadtach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Daniel escaped the accusation, for reasons which will be stated in the notes at Daniel 3:12. The common people of the Jews also escaped, as the command extended particularly to the rulers.
IV. The manner in which Nebuchadnezzar received this accusation, Daniel 3:13-15. He was filled with rage; he summoned the accused into his presence; he commanded them to prostrate themselves before the image on penalty of being cast at once into the fiery furnace.
V. The noble answer of the accused, Daniel 3:16-18. They stated to the king that his threat did not alarm them, and that they felt no solicitude to answer him in regard to the matter Daniel 3:16; that they were assured that the God whom they served was able to deliver them from the furnace, and from the wrath of the king Daniel 3:17; but that even if he did not, whatever might be the issue, they could not serve the gods of the Chaldeans, nor worship the image which the king had set up.
VI. The infliction of the threatened punishment, Daniel 3:19-23. The furnace was commanded to be heated seven times hotter than usual; they were bound and thrown in with their usual apparel on; and the hot blast of the furnace destroyed the men who were employed to perform this service.
VII. Their protection and preservation, Daniel 3:24-27. The astonished monarch who had commanded three men to be cast in "bound," saw four men walking in the midst of the flames "loose;" and satisfied now they had a Divine Protector, awed by the miracle, and doubtless dreading the wrath of the Divine Being that had become their protector, he commanded them suddenly to come out. The princes, and governors, and captains were gathered together, and these men, thus remarkably preserved, appeared before them uninjured.
VIII. The effect on the king, Daniel 3:28-30. As in the case when Daniel had interpreted his dream Daniel. 2, he acknowledged that this was the act of the true God, Daniel 3:28. He issued a solemn command that the God who had done this should be honored, for that no other God could deliver in this manner, Daniel 3:29. He again restored them to their honorable command over the provinces, Daniel 3:30.

Nebuchadnezzar, having erected an image, whose height (including probably a very high pedestal) was sixty cubits, and the breadth six, ordered a numerous assembly, which he had convened, to fall down and worship it; threatening, at the same time, that whosoever refused should be cast into a fiery furnace, Daniel 3:1-7; a punishment not uncommon in that country, (see Jeremiah 29:22.) Daniel's three companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who were present, being observed to refrain from this idolatrous worship, were accused before the king; who, in great wrath, commanded them to comply with his orders on pain of death, Daniel 3:8-15. But these holy men, with the greatest composure and serenity, expressed their firm resolution not to worship his gods or his images, whatever might be the consequence, Daniel 3:16-18. Upon which the king, unaccustomed to have his will opposed, in the height of his wrath, ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and these men to be cast into it, bound by the most mighty of his army, who were killed by the flame in the execution of this service, Daniel 3:19-23. On this occasion God literally performed his promise by Isaiah, (Isaiah 43:2 ): "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee;" for an angel of God, appearing in the furnace, protected these young men, and counteracted the natural violence of the fire; which, only consuming the cords with which they were bound, left them to walk at liberty, and in perfect safety, in the midst of the furnace. The king, astonished at this prodigy, called to them to come out of the furnace, and blessed God for sending an angel to deliver his servants; and commanded all his subjects, upon pain of death, not to speak irreverently of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who were promoted to great power and honor, Daniel 3:24-30. A striking example of the interposition of Providence in favor of true and inflexible piety.

In this chapter an account is given of a golden image made by Nebuchadnezzar; its size; and where placed, Daniel 3:1, a summons to all his princes, governors, and officers, to attend the dedication of it, Daniel 3:2, a proclamation commanding men of all nations to fall down and worship it, at hearing the sound of music, Daniel 3:4, an accusation of the Jews to the king, particularly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for not worshipping it, Daniel 3:8, the king's sending for them in rage, and threatening to cast them into a fiery furnace if they continued to disobey his will, Daniel 3:13, their answer, which showed an inflexible resolution at all events not to comply with it, Daniel 3:16 the king's order to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual, and cast them into it, which was executed; the consequence of which was, they that cast them in were destroyed through the vehement heat of the furnace, but the three Jews were unhurt, Daniel 3:19. Nebuchadnezzar's amazement at the sight of four persons, instead of three; and these loose, walking in the midst of the fire without hurt; and one of them like the Son of God, which he observed to his counsellors, Daniel 3:24, upon which he called to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to come out of the furnace, which they did in the presence of his princes, governors, and officers, having received not the least harm in their persons or clothes, Daniel 3:26 and then the king, praising the God of the Jews, published an edict that none should speak against him on pain of death; and restored the three men to their former dignity, Daniel 3:28.

(Daniel 3:1-7) Nebuchadnezzar's golden image.
(Daniel 3:8-18) Shadrach and his companions refuse to worship it.
(Daniel 3:19-27) They are cast into a furnace, but are miraculously preserved.
(Daniel 3:28-30) Nebuchadnezzar gives glory to Jehovah.

Daniel's Three Friends in the Fiery Furnace - Daniel 3:1-30
Nebuchadnezzar commanded a colossal golden image to be set up in the plain of Dura at Babylon, and summoned all his high officers of state to be present at its consecration. He caused it to be proclaimed by a herald, that at a given signal all should fall down before the image and do it homage, and that whosoever refused to do so would be cast into a burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-7). This ceremony having been ended, it was reported to the king by certain Chaldeans that Daniel's friends, who had been placed over the province of Babylon, had not done homage to the image; whereupon, being called to account by the king, they refused to worship the image because they could not serve his gods (Daniel 3:8-18). For this opposition to the king's will they were cast, bound in their clothes, into the burning fiery furnace. They were uninjured by the fire; and the king perceived with terror that not three, but four men, were walking unbound and uninjured in the furnace (Daniel 3:19-27). Then he commanded them to come out; and when he found them wholly unhurt, he not only praised their God who had so wonderfully protected them, but also commanded, on the pain of death, all the people of his kingdom not to despise this God (Daniel 3:28-30).
The lxx and Theodotion have placed the date of this event in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, apparently only because they associated the erection of this statue with the taking of Jerusalem under Zedekiah, although that city was not taken and destroyed till the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2-Kings 25:8.). But though it is probable that Nebuchadnezzar, after he had firmly established his world-kingdom by the overthrow of all his enemies, first felt himself moved to erect this image as a monument of his great exploits and of his world-power; yet the destruction of the capital of Judea, which had been already twice destroyed, can hardly be regarded as having furnished a sufficient occasion for this. This much, however, is certain, that the event narrated in this chapter occurred later than that of the 2nd chapter, since Daniel 3:12 and Daniel 3:30 refer to Daniel 2:49; and on the other hand, that they occurred earlier than the incident of the 4th chapter, in which there are many things which point to the last half of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, while the history recorded in the chapter before us appertains more to the middle of his reign, when Nebuchadnezzar stood on the pinnacle of his greatness. The circumstance that there is no longer found in the king any trace of the impression which the omnipotence and infinite wisdom of the God of the Jews, as brought to view in the interpretation of his dream by Daniel, made upon his mind (Daniel 2), affords no means of accurately determining the time of the occurrence here narrated. There is no need for our assuming, with Jerome, a velox oblivio veritatis, or with Calvin, the lapse of a considerable interval between the two events. The deportment of Nebuchadnezzar on this occasion does not stand in opposition to the statements made at the close of Daniel 2. The command that all who were assembled at the consecration of the image should all down before it and worship it, is to be viewed from the standpoint of the heathen king. It had no reference at all to the oppression of those who worshipped the God of the Jews, nor to a persecution of the Jews on account of their God. It only demanded the recognition of the national god, to whom the king supposed he owed the greatness of his kingdom, as the god of the kingdom, and was a command which the heathen subjects of Nebuchadnezzar could execute without any violence to their consciences. The Jews could not obey it, however, without violating the first precept of their law. But Nebuchadnezzar did not think on that. Disobedience to his command appeared to him as culpable rebellion against his majesty. As such also the conduct of Daniel's friends is represented to him by the Chaldean informers in Daniel 3:12. The words of the informers, "The Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon have not regarded thee, O king; they serve not thy gods," etc., clearly show that they were rightly named (Daniel 3:8) "accusers of the Jews," and that by their denunciation of them they wished only to expel the foreigners from their places of influence; and for this purpose they made use of the politico-national festival appointed by Nebuchadnezzar as a fitting opportunity. Hence we can understand Nebuchadnezzar's anger against those who disregarded his command; and his words, with which he pronounced sentence against the accused - "who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?" - are, judged of from the religious point of view of the Israelites, a blaspheming of God, but considered from Nebuchadnezzar's heathen standpoint, are only an expression of proud confidence in his own might and in that of his gods, and show nothing further than that the revelation of the living God in Daniel 2 had not permanently impressed itself on his heart, but had in course of time lost much of its influence over him.
The conduct of Nebuchadnezzar toward the Jews, described in this chapter, is accordingly fundamentally different from the relation sustained by Antiochus Epiphanes towards Judaism; for he wished entirely to put an end to the Jewish form of worship. In the conduct of Daniel's friends who were accused before the king there is also not a single trace of the religious fanaticism prevalent among the Jews in the age of the Maccabees, who were persecuted on account of their fidelity to the law. Far from trusting in the miraculous help of God, they regarded it as possible that God, whom they served, would not save them, and they only declare that in no case will they reverence the heathen deities of the king, and do homage to the image erected by him (Daniel 3:16.).
The right apprehension of the historical situation described in this chapter is at complete variance with the supposition of the modern critics, that the narrative is unhistorical, and was invented for the purpose of affording a type for the relation of Antiochus Epiphanes to Judaism. The remarkable circumstance, that Daniel is not named as having been present at this festival (and he also would certainly not have done homage to the image), can of itself alone furnish no argument against the historical accuracy of the matter, although it cannot be explained on the supposition made by Hgstb., that Daniel, as president over the wise men, did not belong to the class of state-officers, nor by the assertion of Hitz., that Daniel did not belong to the class of chief officers, since according to Daniel 2:49 he had transferred his office to his friends. Both suppositions are erroneous; cf. under Daniel 2:49. But many other different possibilities may be thought of to account for the absence of all mention of Daniel's name. Either he may have been prevented for some reason from being present on the occasion, or he may have been present and may have refused to bow down before the image, but yet may only not have been informed against. In the latter case, the remark of Calvin, ut abstinuerint a Daniele ad tempus, quem sciebant magnifieri a Rege, would scarcely suffice, but we must suppose that the accusers had designed first only the overthrow of the three rulers of the province of Babylon.
(Note: Kran.'s supposition also (p. 153), that Daniel, as president over the class of the wise men, claimed the right belonging to him as such, while in his secular office he could be represented by his Jewish associates, and thus was withdrawn from the circle of spectators and from the command laid upon them of falling down before the image, has little probability; for although it is not said that this command was laid upon the caste of the wise men, and even though it should be supposed that the priests were present at this festival as the directors of the religious ceremonial, and thus were brought under the command to fall down before the image, yet this can scarcely be supposed of the whole caste. But Daniel could not in conscience take part in this idolatrous festival, nor associate himself with the priests, nor as president of all the Magi withdraw into the background, so as to avoid the ceremony of doing homage of the image.)
But the circumstance that Daniel, if he were present, did not employ himself in behalf of his friends, may be explained from the quick execution of Babylonish justice, provided some higher reason did not determine him confidently to commit the decision of the matter to the Lord his God.
(Note: We have already in part noticed the arguments against the historical accuracy of the narrative presented by the opponents of the genuineness of the book, such as the giving of Greek names to the musical instruments, and the conduct of Antiochus Epiphanes in placing an idol-image on the altar of burnt-offering (pp. 34, 50). All the others are dealt with in the Exposition. The principal objection adduced is the miracle, on account of which alone Hitz. thinks himself warranted in affirming that the narrative has no historical reality.)

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