This study was given by pastor Barry Forder on 9th May 2021 at Calvary Chapel Portsmouth’s online family service.
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.
As we move into this chapter most scholars place these events about 15-23 years after the events of Chapter 2. This would make Daniel and his Hebrew friends around 33 years old, and the year would be around 587 B.C. Although it is only conjecture, the following is provocative:
587 B.C. was the year Nebuchadnezzar laid the final siege against Jerusalem and carried Israel’s last king – Zedekiah – away to Babylon in chains. But back at the end of chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar was shown that the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah, the God of Israel, was not only a God who answers dreams, He was the one who appoints kings and is Sovereign over all. But 17 years had past and king Neb’s fear of the Almighty God had no doubt waned. Time has a way of dulling the senses. Jerusalem had been a thorn in his side and despite that niggling voice that told him to leave God’s people alone, he boldly marches to Jerusalem in 587 B.C., lays siege to it, then overthrows and destroys both the city and the Temple of God within it. Bolstered by this success his mind may well have turned to consider the dream of the statue he had had 17 years earlier, where he was depicted as the head of gold. But if he had now defeated the Jews and destroyed the temple to their God, why couldn’t Nebuchadnezzar be the whole image, not just the head? What nation could defeat the might of his Babylon? Why couldn’t his kingdom be an everlasting one?
But how would you celebrate a success like he had just had in Jerusalem – the city that even the Assyrians had failed to conquer! Maybe the answer would be to build a huge 90ft tall statue overlooking Babylon, completely overlaid with gold to show the world that he was the king of kings, and there was no-one who could defeat him? Nebuchadnezzar had been greeted with ‘O king live forever’ (Dan 2:2:4 / 3:9). Maybe to immortalise his greatness in a golden statue would be a way of doing just that?
As we go through this chapter, whether it was his own idea or not, it would appear that Nebuchadnezzar had been encouraged to do this by the wise men of Babylon who, even after 17 years, were still bitter that that they had been totally upstaged by these Hebrews men. They were clearly looking for an opportunity to exact revenge on the Jews who had humbled them in chapter two. If this is the case it is very much like the events that we will study in chapter 6 where Daniel’s enemies conspired against him and duped king Darius into signing a decree that would entrap Daniel.
Whatever the reasons, this was an act of defiance against the God of Heaven.
It is amazing that people are so insecure and jealous of others achievements that they will seemingly stop at nothing to remove the competition, and this is compounded when the ‘competition’ is morally upright. Those who stand for truth are seen as an irritant to a society that wants to be free from moral constraints. Jesus Himself confirmed this: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:18-25) Paul reiterated this in 2 Tim 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
A cubit is the measurement from the tip of your finger to your elbow. Although this measurement varies among ancient cultures, it is usually regarded to be about 18 inches. This would make the image approximately 90ft tall, 9ft wide (Nelsons Column in London is about 150ft in comparison). Notice the use of the number 6! 6×10 cubits high, 6 cubits wide. The number six in scripture is ‘the number of man’.
It maybe that the image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was of similar proportions, but it is an unusual ratio (height to width) for a human. The usual ratio for man is 5:1 or 6:1 (some of us are a little wider than we should be!). The dimensions of this statue are more like the Obelisks of Egypt, and it may well have been that on one of his expeditions Nebuchadnezzar would have seen these erected to immortalise Egyptian Pharaohs and deities and thus became part of the inspiration for him wanting to build one himself. However, unlike an Obelisk, we can be fairly sure that this was still an image of a man.
Interestingly, archaeologists have unearthed a 45ft square & 20ft high ‘base’ in the plain of Dura which many now believe could have been the base for this image, and would have been clearly visible from the walls of Babylon.
If the image was made of solid gold it would be approximately 4320 cubic ft. of gold. With 1200Lbs of Gold per cubic ft. it would equate to 5,184,000 Lbs. of Gold = £30 Billion of Gold! It is not out of the question that this could be solid gold for archaeologists have also discovered a 40ft table in the ruins of ancient Babylon made from solid gold and 15ft high solid gold statues were found in the Temple of Mardoch.
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.
The king is obviously impressed with his creation so calls for all the leaders and chief people of the land to come. There were about 100 provinces in Babylon at this time meaning that anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 people would have gathered for this ‘grand unveiling’.
From the end of chapter two we know that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were promoted to oversee the affairs of the province of Babylon, hence the reason they were invited. Daniel on the other hand we are told was “ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon”. Thus it would appear that Daniel was second only to the king. If this is so and Daniel has so much influence before the king, then why, we may ask, did Daniel not object to this gross act of idolatry? And why does Daniel not appear to attend this event?
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.
The fact that we have the same phrase repeated here suggests that as Daniel is recording this event, he is copying the decree that had been written by the king (or maybe a decree that was written for the king!).
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
Notice that this is a command from the king and to people, nations and languages – this is a diverse and mixed crowd from the known world.
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:
Six instruments mentioned – the number of man.
Music and idolatry have long been close companions. The root of this problem may well be that Satan appears to have been the worship leader in heaven (see Ezekiel 28:13-15). It would seem that he has a great understanding of how powerful and manipulative music can be. Music is a gift from God and is intended to accompany our praise to Him (as even a casual reading of the book of Psalms can confirm), yet in the wrong hands, it can be used for evil with devastating results. Consider the lust, violence and immorality that is communicated to young people through music. Satan always distorts what God has made good.
From what we know of history, the Babylonians had a love for music. This is prophetically seen in Psalm 137:1-4: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?”
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
Two things are out on the plain of Dura. The Image and a fiery furnace – possibly used for melting / moulding the metal for the construction of the image.
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.
…that is, all except three men who stood out like a sore thumb!
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
Notice that it’s the Chaldeans again who had been humbled in ch 2.
‘Accused the Jews’ is literally: ‘chewed them up’ by their words.
They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
This is the greeting that the king wants to hear, especially today.
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.
The fact they repeat to the king his decree leads some to conclude that they were the ones who had been responsible for getting the king to write this decree in the first place as a way of trapping these Jews. As we will mention later, Daniel is not present at this time, and it may well be that, knowing Daniel was away on business, they seized this opportunity to entrap his friends. Given the fact that this is some time after chapter two, they may well have been plotting and planning this event for years.
As an aside, ‘Furnace’ is mentioned 30 times in the Bible (KJV), and always in connection with tribulation and/or judgment. Certainly, there is a definite model here of the coming Tribulation, with a world ruler setting up an image to be worshipped, any who do not bow to that image and worship it will be put to death. We also find Jews who are persecuted yet supernaturally protected.
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.
We have mentioned that the arguments of the critics regarding the accuracy and legitimacy of the people, names, places and events in the book of Daniel have been thoroughly refuted by competent research and archaeological discoveries. One such example is in regard to Daniel’s three friends. An archaeological dig in the area of ancient Babylon unearthed a five sided clay cylinder now in the Istanbul museum with the names: Hananunu – which is the Aramaic for Hananiah, Mishael-Mardach – obviously a reference to Mishael, and Abou-Nebo, the Aramaic for Abed-nego; these men are mentioned on the cylinder as having a prominent place in the government, thus clearly identifying these men as Daniel’s three friends as recorded in the Bible.
They are accused not just for refusing to bow today, but for not worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s gods in the past – which the Chaldeans suggest is defying the king himself. This was not an impulse thing for these three men, but a predetermined purposing of heart that was made from the moment they got to Babylon – they will not be defiled!
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king.
Now the king had already said that whoever would not bow to the image would be thrown into the furnace, yet he calls these men before him to ask them personally. This would suggest that the king was keen to give these men a second chance. We already know from the end of chapter two that these men were in prominent governmental positions in the province of Babylon (Dan 2:49), and no doubt the king wanted to avoid having high ranking officials commit a public act of defiance against him, particularly on this day when all the people were gathered together on the plain of Dura.
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?
The fact that the king addresses them by name and the manner in which he does so again suggests that up until this time they had had a good relationship with the king. The idea in the Aramaic is ‘did you intend to do this, was it on purpose?’ The king is hoping that it was just a misunderstanding and was not going to be something that would spoil his special day. But as we will see, these men had purposed in their hearts….(cf Dan 1:8)
“Purpose is something that comes through meditation, you have to think about what you’re going to do if you face this circumstance or that circumstance. And when you are prepared and the circumstance happens, you react to that which you have meditated on. So if you meditate on that which will not be helpful, then when you are in that potentially compromising situation you will do that which you have meditated on”. (Ron Matsen)
This is precisely why we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2), and to ‘think on these things’ (see the list in Phil 4:8), setting our affection on the things above (Col 3:2).
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?
So the king reiterates the decree and offers them a way out of this situation. How many of us would have had second thoughts at this time? After all, to be given a second chance may be God providing a way of escape. How easy it would have been to rationalise that Idols are not real gods; surely it would have been better to give in to king Neb’s command and ‘live to fight another day’? Would bowing be such a bad thing? As long as they didn’t mean it in their hearts?
What about us? Often we sing our songs in church on Sunday about being completely abandoned, surrendering all, serving God with a whole heart etc. etc. yet on Monday when we are asked questions by the world, how do we answer? Do our lives bring forth fruit ‘worthy of repentance’ (Luke 3:8)? We have all been there, backed into a corner with no apparent way out, and we start to reason to ourselves: “It’s not really lying, the truth would do more harm than good” …. “it’s not really theft, just ‘borrowing’” …. “.It’s not really wrong, it’s just…(fill in the blank)”… it’s not really worshipping an idol to bow down and pretend…is it?
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115:4-9)
Of course we know that bowing was not an option to these three men, nor could it be. The reputation of the God of Israel was on the line. The king’s statue was a public act of defiance against their God and the Chaldeans were just waiting for them to crumble. Yet these men knew the law which clearly stated: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 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: 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; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)
“Everyday God will find a way of asking you ‘Do you trust Me?” Chuck Missler
In scripture, those who have made great professions of faith have often had that profession tested to breaking point. It is the heating up and subsequent hammering of steel that gives it its strength.
The king asks: ‘and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?’ Great question O king! Remember “He who seeks finds”! (Luke 11:10)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
The Aramaic word that the KJV translates as ‘careful’ is ‘chashach’ (khash-akh’) meaning to ‘have need of’. In other words they were saying to the king ‘we have no need to answer you, we are not accountable to you but to God’. It also implies that they were not anxious about this situation.
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.
This is an incredible statement of faith that comes from a life deeply rooted in God. “Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever. I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Psalm 118:4-9) Jesus said “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28)
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen….(Hebrews 11:1)
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.
Thus they make is clear, they will not bow down to this image or worship any other foreign god. There is only one God for these men and they will not compromise regardless of the cost. Remember that these men lived before the cross and without knowing all that Jesus suffered and endured to purchase our freedom.
It is amazing the lengths that some people will go to, to worship false gods and follow false religions. All the effort that was put into making this statue, all the hours spent in rituals and practices that have no eternal value. How much more should we, who know the Truth, refuse to worship false gods, whatever form they come in, and seek to serve our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
In World War II when the British and allied forces had been pushed back by the German army to the beaches of Dunkirk, France, being trapped by the English Channel on one side and the approaching German’s on the other, they sent a simple three word message back home: “But if not”. Immediately this was recognised as being a quote from the book of Daniel and was understood to mean that the trapped British troops would wait to be saved, but if not, they would die fighting and standing up for their cause. This then led to the famous Dunkirk evacuations where hundreds of military, merchant and private fishing boats set sail across the Channel and dramatically rescued in the region of 350,000 British and allied soldiers.
It has been said that if such a message were to be sent today, the soldiers would perish, as no one knows what the Bible says anymore.
In October 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless. Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. Spafford was a lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate and consequently had lost a great deal to the fire. Also about this time his only son had died leaving him with his wife and his four daughters. For two years Spafford, who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody, assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken that had been ruined by the fire. Eventually Spafford decided to take his family away for a holiday to Europe with the intention of meeting up with his friends Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey who at that time were on one of their evangelistic crusades.
At the last minute Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business so decided to send his family on ahead; he would catch up with them on the other side of the Atlantic. Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with another ship, the Loch Earn, and sank in a matter of minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, were killed. Horatio received a telegram from his wife in England informing him of this terrible tragedy; all it said were two words: “saved alone.” Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife. As his own ship passed by the area where his daughters had died he was moved to write a song – the now famous ‘It is well with my soul’. He met up with his wife and they went on to meet up with Dwight Moody. “It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,
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 fact that only now do we read that Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury and his face changes shows that prior to this point he wanted to see these men escape from this. But now he really is cross and any compassion gives way to rage.
We have already noted that Furnace speaks of tribulation, so it is interesting to note that use of ‘7 times’! There is a Tribulation coming upon this world soon that will last for ‘7 times’ (7 years).
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.
At this point we know the story and are expectantly awaiting for the victory. However Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael did not; they must have thought that this is it! Maybe God wasn’t going to deliver them, maybe their lives were to be ended at this point. Maybe their minds were drawn to the words of Solomon in Proverbs: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts” (Prov 17:3), if so they could be confident that their hearts were clean before God. They would also no doubt have been aware of the story of Job who said in faith: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” (Job 13:15) Later in the book of Romans Paul was to say: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom 9:20-21)
What right do we have to question God’s judgment when God is infinite in knowledge and understanding and we so limited and finite? James hits the problem of our suffering head on James 1:2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”. This is beautiful to know, that God wants to make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
If He has to knock off some rough edges here and there He is doing it out of love and compassion. Yes these things can be painful at the time; consider Mary and Martha: Jesus let their brother (Lazarus) die, not just so He could do a miracle (John 11:40), but so that they would believe in Jesus and therefore they themselves would never die (John 11:25) – an infinitely greater gift than seeing their brother raised.
In Hebrews we read: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby”. (Heb 12:5-11).
Even Jesus said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) so we should expect ‘tribulation’ from the world and chastening from the hand of God. It is the former that is the case with these three men, but like Peter and the apostles in Acts 5 (where we read: “…and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:40-41)), Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael counted it an honour to stand for the name of the Most High God, for He alone is the One who rules in the kingdoms of men.
“Beloved, think it not strange (lit; stop thinking it strange) concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
When a metal smith is refining gold in a refining pot, he keeps skimming off the dross (the impurities) that are brought to the surface by the heat. The way of knowing when it is pure is when he can look into the pot and see an unblemished refection. We are the pot, He is the Refiner.
“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15)
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.
Usually victims were stripped to humiliate them, yet here the king is so cross he just wants them thrown in. Hosen = undergarments, Hats = a turban of some description; other garments = robes of office; coats = usual outer garments.
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.
This give us an idea just how hot this furnace may have been. From the furnaces that have been found in this region, it would probably be that the opening was at the top with a viewing area to the side, thus as the ‘lid’ is lifted, the intense heat was just too much for these mighty men who were overcome by the flames.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
This verse would lend support to the idea just stated that the opening was at the top.
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 word translated in the King James as ‘Astonied’ is ‘tevahh’ in Aramaic and conveys the idea of ‘sweeping to ruin’, to ‘take alarm’. We might say that the rug was pulled from under him, that he was well and truly knocked sideways! The answer from his counsellors would suggest that they were looking the other way and were not seeing what the king was. Imagine their surprise when the king then says……
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt…..
By going through this furnace the only thing that was burnt up was what was binding them! How precious that is to us, when in our own furnaces to realise that all that gets burnt is what was binding us before we went in.
…..and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God
The Aramaic actually says ‘the son of the gods’ – Plural. But we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the real author of scripture. In Genesis 1:1 we read: ‘In the beginning God’ – singular, and we are comfortable with that, except the word in Hebrew is ‘Eloheim’. Whenever a Hebrew word ends with an ‘im’ ending it is plural meaning more than one (eg. Cherub – singular, Cherubim – plural). Thus Genesis 1:1 should read “ In the beginning the Gods”, this is the same throughout the Old Testament whenever ‘Eloheim’ is used. Yet it is always taken as singular in the Hebrew and hence it is translated so. Thus we have in the first verse of the Bible a subtle hint of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit. The same is also true in this verse in Daniel; what we have is what scholars call a ‘theophany’ – an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. (See also Joshua 5:13-15 and compare with Exodus 3:4-6).
Note: The Aramaic word used is equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Eloheim’ and is not the same as ‘Bar-Eloheim’ (sons of God) usually translated ‘angels’.
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.
King Neb gets as close as he can and spake – not shouted ! ‘Hey guys, why don’t you come on out?’ All the people who had gathered on the plain of Dura are now watching something completely different than they were expecting to watch – yet this was what God had gathered them all there to see. Nebuchadnezzar thought they were gathered to worship him, but God had a different idea!
You just have to wonder if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego just delayed coming out for a little while. After all, how many times do you find yourself standing around talking to the Son of God in the midst of a furnace. There is a reality here also, that other people may look in at us in the midst of our time of tribulation and see that we are ‘not harmed’ by the flames. They may observe the peace and comfort we have in our suffering and wonder how we are able to cope. But as surely as He did with these three young men, God will bring us out of the furnace to glorify His name.
In verse 15 Nebuchadnezzar boasted: ‘and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?’ yet now, somewhat swayed by recent events, says: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God. Slowly king Nebuchadnezzar is getting the picture, but as we will see in chapter 4, he still has some way to go!
But what a testimony to these young men, that because of their faith and trust in God, the most powerful ruler on the face of the earth declares that their God is the Most High God!
Only three come out of the furnace. Where’s the forth one? He stays in there waiting for you, so that you know that when you find yourself in the furnace, He will be with you.
‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5)
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.
God’s deliverance is complete – not even the smell of smoke!
We think so small yet our God is so big. Oswald Chambers, commenting on the occasion when Peter walked on the water to meet Jesus says: The wind was actually boisterous, the waves were actually high, but Peter did not see them at first. He did not reckon with them, he simply recognised his Lord, and stepped out in recognition of Him and walked on the water. Then he began to reckon with the actual things, and down he went instantly. Why could not our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves as well as on the top of them? Neither could be done saving by recognition of the Lord Jesus. We step right out on God over some things, then self-consideration enters in and down we go. If you are recognising your Lord, you have no business with where He engineers your circumstances. The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognise Jesus, and the rebuke comes: Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognising Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.
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.
Peter & Paul both taught that we should obey the government, yet they were both put to death for civil disobedience. In Acts 5 Peter and the Apostles openly defy the Jewish leaders and kept publicly preaching in the name of Jesus despite being warned not to. In 1 Peter 2:13-14 Peter says: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” So how are we to understand this? Quite simply, we should obey and submit ourselves to every law of man unless it contradicts the higher law of God. Peter himself confirmed this in Acts 5:29“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did just that here, and what do we find? that the unbreakable and eternal law of God (Exodus 20:3-5) has caused the fallible word of the king to be changed!
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.
He still hasn’t quite got it! He recognised that God can interpret dreams, now he recognises that God can deliver; but he still has not understood that God is in complete control – it is He alone that rules in the kingdoms of men. At this stage he is really impressed with the signs and wonders (like so many in the church today) but has not truly sought after the source of those things.
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.
They had already proven themselves 10 times better than their contempories (Dan 1:20), now these three Hebrew men, led away as captive from Jerusalem, are promoted to some of the most powerful positions in the most powerful Empire on earth at that time! “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
May the example and faith of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah encourage and bless you as you stand for Jesus Christ.