Dan 3: Nebuchadnezzar's golden image: (1) The worship of
Nebuchadnezzar's statue (vv 1-7); (2) The charge against Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego (vv 8-12); (3) The response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (vv
13-18); (4) The execution of the king's command (vv 19-23); (5) God's
deliverance of His servants (vv 24-27); (6) The consequences of God's
deliverance (vv 28-30).
"The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is a story we
all know well. Who does not know how these three Hebrews were cast into the
fiery furnace and came out alive? Familiarity with the story of the fiery
furnace is one of two major obstacles which prevents us from benefiting from
this passage as we should.
"We are told automobile accidents often happen close to home.
Because we are so familiar with the area, we pay less attention. In the same
way, familiar passages of Scripture may receive less of our attention.
Christians, and many others, know the stories of David and Goliath, Samson and
Delilah, and Jonah and the 'whale.' We may fail to grasp the meaning and message
they were intended to convey because of our superficial understanding of the
characters and events.
"A second barrier is our mentally filing the story of these
three Hebrews under the category of 'fairy tale' or 'myth.' Some commentators
candidly admit, even advocate, that this story is merely a myth, and not
history. They, at least, are conscious of their perspective on this passage. But
many of us have heard this story so often in Sunday School that we may have
lumped Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego with Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and
Goldilocks and the Three Bears...
"We must see this event as history, not fairy tale. We must
feel the heat of that fire and smell the smoke of that ancient furnace"
AN IMAGE OF GOLD, NINETY FEET HIGH AND NINE FEET WIDE:
This great golden image, representing the Gentile "beast" and his successors,
was "threescore cubits" tall and "six cubits" broad (Dan 3:1). Here are two of
the three numbers allotted to the last Gentile oppressor of Israel, the
beast/man of Rev 13 (see Rev 13:18). Is this merely a coincidence?
This was no mean feat -- but quite a financial proposition, as
well as a fairly amazing technical accomplishment, since gold is not a strong
metal. The image could have been solid gold, or wood overlain with gold (Exo
37:25,26; 39:38; Isa 40:19; 41:7; Jer 10:3-9).
Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the head of gold
(Dan 2:38) but that he would be followed by "another kingdom inferior to you"
(Dan 2:39) made of silver (Dan 2:32). Rejecting now the idea that any kingdom
could follow his own, he may have determined to show the permanence of his
golden kingdom by having the entire image covered with gold. [The dimensions
suggest a phallic symbol. Possibly this was Nebuchadnezzar's way of saying,
'Behold my power to procreate! My dynasty will continue from one generation to
the next, and will never be replaced by any "inferior" kingdom -- as Daniel has
Possibly, the gold with which Nebuchadnezzar constructed the
great idol was the same gold that he had confiscated from the Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem. Shortly before this time, his army had conquered the city, destroyed
the Temple, and carried much gold back to Babylon, breaking it down for other
uses (Dan 1:1,2; 2Ki 24:13; 2Ch 36:10).
THE IMAGE HE HAD SET UP: Nebuchadnezzar "set up" his
image (cp vv 2,3,5,7,12,14) in opposition to Yahweh's assertion that he would
"set up" a kingdom (Dan 2:44). The repetitious indicators of Nebuchadnezzar's
pride are designed to mark this contrast. This also explains why Daniel would
not bow down to the image that had been "set up" (see v 18). Certainly, it would
be reason enough that the Law of Moses prohibited such worship. But especially
here, Daniel would know that Nebuchadnezzar was trying to replace the word of
Yahweh with his own plans; Daniel could never assent to that.
"Some of the titles of the officials named in the text are
Persian and some are Babylonian. Daniel may have updated some of these
Babylonian titles with modern Persian equivalents when he wrote the book in its
final form. Perhaps they were already common when the events of this chapter
The satraps were the highest political officials in each
province. The prefects (princes) were military chiefs. The governors (captains)
were heads of sections of the provinces. The counselors (advisers, judges) were
high ranking judges. The treasurers were superintendents of the treasury. The
judges (counselors) were secondary judges, and the magistrates (sheriffs) were
lower level legal officials. The rulers (officials) [provincial officials: NIV]
were subordinates of the satraps. These groups represented all the
administrative government officials of the wide-ranging empire, and they spoke
many different languages (v 7)" (Const).
"The musical instruments referred to (vv 5,7) also have
Persian names [as do some of the rulers: v 3]. Some of these instruments were
Greek as well. The Greeks had an influence on Babylonia earlier than Daniel's
time. These were various wind and stringed instruments. The Babylonians seem to
have been an almost music crazed culture (cp Psa 137:3; Isa 14:11)"
Cit Rev 13:15: the beast shares the same characteristics as
Nebuchadnezzar -- he wanted to usurp the authority of God, and to kill those who
refuse to worship his image.
A BLAZING FURNACE: There were great brick-kilns outside
the city, where the bricks required for certain purposes in the vast building
projects of Nebuchadnezzar were baked. Some of these great ovens have been found
in archaeological excavations. There are also written records suggesting that
disobedient slaves might be executed by being cast into such
The "pipes" ("dulcimer": AV), omitted here only, in ct vv
5,10,15. This is the only place where the instruments are actually
THERE ARE SOME JEWS... WHO PAY NO ATTENTION TO YOU:
Picture the scene. On a huge plain Nebuchadnezzar had set up a huge statue of
Gold 27 meters high. This great image was imposed upon the landscape so that
people from miles around could see it. Then the people were gathered into the
plain and told to fall down before that image when they heard the
As the music began, the mass of standing people on the plain
would suddenly fall down to the ground, leaving three men still standing in the
midst of the crowd. With all the people down around their knees, these three
would have stood out like great trees in a pasture, or like ships' masts on a
smooth sea. What courage to stand apart in a situation like that!
It might have seemed to them like a good compromise, at that
point, to have fallen simply down with the rest of the people, whilst telling
themselves that they were not REALLY worshipping the image. But God does not
want compromises. He wants all of us. With God it is all or nothing. These young
men gave their all to God and were prepared to give their lives for
Let us not compromise our stand with God, but rather take our
stand for Him and Him alone.
The absence of reference to Daniel here raises questions. Had
he worshiped the image? Was he away on government business, was he occupied with
pressing matters, or was he ill and unable to attend the ceremony? Did he enjoy
such an exalted position or such favor with the king that these Chaldeans dared
not accuse him? The writer did not explain this mystery. It was the response of
Daniel's three Hebrew friends that he wanted to stress. It seems safe to assume
that if Daniel had been present he would have responded as his three friends
Vv 17,18: They said they believed the Lord could deliver them
from any fiery furnace and that He would deliver them. However, they also
acknowledged the possibility that it might be God's will not to deliver them.
God does not always save the lives of His children when they face martyrdom.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego knew this, but they had no question about God's
ability to save them (cf Mat 10:28). Whether God would deliver them or not, they
refused to serve idols or to bow before the king's image (Exo 20:3-5).
The quiet, modest, yet very positive attitude of faith that
these three men display is one of the noblest examples in the Scriptures of
faith fully resigned to the will of God. These men ask for no miracle; they
expect none. Theirs is the faith that says: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope
in him" (Job 13:15).
It is said that "Every man has his price!" -- but these young
men did not! Their allegiance and worship could not be bought at any price and
by any threat.
SEVEN TIMES: Meaning much, much more: Pro 24:16;
"Judging from bas-reliefs, it would seem that Mesopotamian
smelting furnaces tended to be like an old-fashioned glass milk-bottle in shape,
with a large opening for the insertion of the ore to be smelted and a smaller
aperture at ground level for the admission of wood and charcoal to furnish the
heat. There must have been two or more smaller holes at this same level to
permit the insertion of pipes connected with large bellows, when it was desired
to raise the temperature beyond what the flue or chimney would produce.
Undoubtedly the furnace itself was fashioned of very thick adobe, resistant to
intense heat. The large upper door was probably raised above the level of the
fire bed so that the metal smelted from the ore would spill on the ground in
case the crucibles were upset" (Archer, "Daniel" 115).
As Haman, caught and slain in his own trap: Est 7:9n. "Whoever
curses you I will curse" (Gen 12:3).
"This is what the LORD says -- he who created you, O Jacob, he
who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you... When you walk
through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze' "
THEN NEBUCHADNEZZAR SAID, "PRAISE BE TO THE GOD OF
SHADRACH, MESHACH AND ABEDNEGO, WHO HAS SENT ANGEL AND RESCUED HIS
SERVANTS": His question, asked only moments before, "What god is there who
can deliver you out of my hands?" (v 15), is now answered by the king who asked
it. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the God of these three Hebrews, as the God who had
delivered them from death. He praised them for their faithfulness in obeying
their God, even unto death. Significantly, the king praised these men for their
exclusive (monotheistic) worship of their God. Unlike the rest, they were not
willing to serve any other god in addition to the one God they worshipped and
THEY TRUSTED IN HIM AND DEFIED THE KING'S COMMAND AND WERE
WILLING TO GIVE UP THEIR LIVES RATHER THAN SERVE OR WORSHIP ANY GOD EXCEPT THEIR
OWN GOD: The AV has "...and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve
nor worship any god, except their own God." This seems to be echoed in Rom 12:1:
"I urge you, brothers... to offer [present] your bodies as living sacrifices..."
The example of the three friends should be our example when we are confronted
with trials and temptations to cause us to compromise our faith. Such action as
they manifested was a "living sacrifice", by contrast to the sacrifices under
the law of Moses -- which were usually dead animals.
And here, even before the great "idol" of the Babylonian king,
the young Jews could offer themselves as the ultimate sacrifice to their faith!
It is fascinating, then, to note that even the very presence of the "false god"
was holy ground, because it was witness to a holy "sacrifice".