Daniel Chapter 3
Daniel’s friends are tested
3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made. It was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected. 3:3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
3:4 Then the herald made a loud proclamation: “To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given: 3:5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected. 3:6 Whoever does not bow down and pay homage will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire!”
3:7 Therefore when they all heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language groups began bowing down and paying homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
According to the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) this took place around 586BC when Daniel and his friends would have been in Babylon about 18 to 20 years. The statue Nebuchadnezzar had built was about 10 stories tall! The bible doesn’t tell us what it looked like other than it was made from gold (most likely overlaid, not solid gold), the same material that represented him in the statue of his dream from chapter 2. We don’t know if it was a likeness of himself, or one of the Babylonian gods, which they had several, or something else maybe representing his kingdom. With his ego it could well have been an image of him, however that would not have been normal for this time and culture. The Babylonians were polytheistic, meaning they worshipped multiple gods. All of the administrative government officials were required to attend the dedication of the great statue. When the band started, you had better hit the ground and worship the statue, otherwise you’d be thrown into the furnace. Similarly, during the tribulation period yet to come, the Antichrist will require people to worship him. Come soon Lord Jesus! So when the band started playing, people immediately dropped to the ground to worship the statue… except 3 Jews.
3:8 Now at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought malicious accusations against the Jews. 3:9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 3:10 You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. 3:11 And whoever does not bow down and pay homage must be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 3:12 But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — and these men have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don’t serve your gods and they don’t pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
Chaldeans were the people who lived in this region in which became Babylon. Among the people there were some tattle tales, described as “malicious” meaning intending harm. Maybe they were trying to make points with the King, maybe they just despised faithful followers of God. In 2020, there are people as you well know who despise God and Christianity so that’s nothing new. Verse 12 leads me to believe that the statue was one that represented the pagan gods. At any rate, these tattle tales likely felt they would benefit, maybe even get the government positions of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego if they could get them killed and make points with the King.
3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage demanded that they bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them before the king. 3:14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my gods and that you don’t pay homage to the golden statue that I erected? 3:15 Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the statue that I had made. If you don’t pay homage to it, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?” 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, “We do not need to give you a reply concerning this. 3:17 If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. 3:18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.
Wow, read that again. Their answer to the most powerful man in the world at the time was basically we will not worship your idol. If God choses to rescue us, ok, if not, ok, but we won’t do it! One of the books I read this year was “Early Christian Martyr Stories” by Bryan M. Litfin. It tells the stories of almost two dozen men and women who took the same stance as these 3 young men did and paid with their life for it. Amazing faithfulness.
What idols do we casually put before God these days without even realizing what we are doing? Do we sometimes put money, security, comfort, health, selfishness before God? We certainly have to guard against that when we live in a society and time in which we live where it’s common to do so. I feel like this is the most important time in American history for parents and grandparents to live and teach the truths of the bible to the children. There seems to be less of that happening than 50 yrs ago. We’ve lost a lot going from rural close knit communities to the busy isolated hi-tech families of today.
3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his disposition changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was normally heated. 3:20 He ordered strong soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 3:21 So those men were tied up while still wearing their cloaks, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, and were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 3:22 But since the king’s command was so urgent, and the furnace was so excessively hot, the men who escorted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the leaping flames. 3:23 But those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the furnace of blazing fire while still securely bound.
I get the feeling Nebuchadnezzar liked these young men, but his ego was such he could not stand for his decree to be ignored by anybody. When he got hot, he made the furnace hotter. The fact that the soldiers died just getting close enough to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace indicates how much these soldiers feared the King and just how hot it was. The fact that the these 3 men were fully clothed will testify later just how great a miracle was about to take place.
God Delivers His Servants
3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers, “Wasn’t it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied to the king, “For sure, O king.” 3:25 He answered, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He called out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire. 3:27 Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them!
Can you picture the look on Nebuchadnezzar’s face, with his eye’s squinting, wondering if he was seeing things or if there really was now 4 walking around in the flames of a superheated furnace with no harm coming to them? And the fourth one in there looked different, not just a man, but like a god. Maybe it was an angel of God, or maybe even the pre-incarnate Christ himself. Not only were they unharmed, but not a hair singed and they didn’t even smell like smoke!
3:28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God! 3:29 I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” 3:30 Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Seems the king spent all that gold on a worthless statue, because now the new edict said that anybody who blasphemed the true and only God would be the subject of the King’s wrath, with no one to rescue them. The King recognized that no other god could do what our God did. This is a heart warming story to me of a good God. Yes and faithful followers of his too. The older I get, the more I become aware and the more grateful I am that we serve such a good God. Do you recognize how good He is? Isn’t God good! May he bless you and your family this week.