Daniel Chapter 3

Daniel had revealed the meaning of the dream of the “great image” and the interpretation that the “head of gold” referred to the Babylonian king excited the ego of Nebuchadnezzar. He had been told that he was a king of kings and was made ruler over people and the nations of the world by God. He felt important and powerful. Next he ordered the people to make a large “image of gold”, which “people, nations” were supposed to worship. Clearly the image was to be the symbol of his power, and the supremacy of the kingdom of Babylon, over the nations.

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits[1]: he set it up in the plain of Dura[2], in the province of Babylon.

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, 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 princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, 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.

After the image was built, completed, and the ceremony was convened, attended by high ranking dignitaries of different nations, it was time for the decree to go in effect.

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

5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:

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

This image was so important to the Babylonian king that disrespecting it amounted to disrespecting his person. But in reality the image was mere dead matter but to which the Babylonian king had attached his personality. Such odd behaviour manifests daily in people’s lives.

Revering images

Just like Nebuchadnezzar, there are men and women today who have erected adorable public images of themselves. Their opulent image may be a display of “success”, “achievement”, “peace”, and “wealth”, however, often a different reality exists within their personal lives. Away from the image, there is a real person. Inside him or her is the same perishable flesh and blood. Yes, inside him or her is the fragile life that pulsates with emotions of fear, anxiety, and all such tendencies of mortals. When the fate of sickness and death falls upon the person then the people look and behold the vanity. But the lesson only lasts for a few seconds of staring at the beautiful framed picture of the deceased. One sobs and bids farewell as the casket is lowered to the ground. Afterwards the routine cycle of vanity continues!

Very few people in this world live above the insanity of the masses. Like it was on that fateful day when the decree was issued to bow to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar, only three men resisted the command. They were determined to devout their faith only to Yahweh! As happens to any man who takes a stand for what he believes in, this got them into trouble.

Daniel’s friends charged with Treason

The cordial relation Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego enjoyed with the king was at stake. Rumours of the Jewish men’s doctrine not to worship any god besides Yahweh of the Hebrews had gone round. People were displeased with the attitude, and an occasion was found to accuse them. The information finally reached the king.

7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

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

9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.

10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, 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.

12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Nebuchadnezzar was not happy with the news. He knew how respectful, prudent, and wise these men were, and so, despite his fury, he still decided to have an audience with them to give them another chance to reconsider.

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 spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, 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?

It is important to remember here that the nation of Jews had previously revolted against the Babylonian king. It was this revolt that led to the captivity of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego in Babylon. After this sad incident King Nebuchadnezzar had devoted resources towards a strategy that would train and give royal-treatment to some selected young captives. These were to later be appointed leaders to preside over nations under Babylonian rule.

Clearly, apart from imparting skills into the students, Nebuchadnezzar’s strategy worked to instil loyalty in the learners. However, in the case of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, despite having been young, passing through all the years of training and favourable royal treatment, and ultimately receiving the promotion to serve as rulers, they remained faithful to their Jewish faith. Even so, everything had remained calm and peaceful as long as their conduct never altercated with the king or his administration. But the incidence in Dura seemed to have squandered all the dividends of loyalty they had accumulated in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar! Of great importance to note here is that the ceremony in Dura wasn’t merely a religious one; it had much to do with displaying, reaffirming and consolidating Nebuchadnezzar’s influence and political power over the nations. The various leaders and dignitaries from the nations had been summoned to show their allegiance and reverence to the king of Babylon. What an unfortunate time and place then to have exhibited insubordination! The three men were immediately charged with treason and they were to be executed.

Where was Daniel?

At this point of events, one strange thing cannot go unobserved – the silence of Daniel in the whole ordeal of the three men! Just where was he?

It is ofcourse quite absurd to suggest that Daniel had complied to bow to the image. The record of Daniel’s life lets us know that he was a fearless and devout man who had never compromised his faith in the face of grave danger.

The answer to this question seems to express itself in the event that had happened previously, after Daniel had been greatly honoured and promoted by the Babylonian king after interpreting the dream of the great image. He had requested for his three friends to be also considered. The end of Chapter 2 ends with stating that whilst the three men worked elsewhere, Daniel remained in the gate of the king – “Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Dan.2:49). It is immediately after these words that the figure of Daniel becomes silent in the narration of the ordeal of the three men.

The question to ask is, why is Chapter 2 ending with the emphasis of “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king”? This sentence strongly indicates the reason why Daniel was a silent figure in the events that followed. He had remained (“sat”) in the gate of the king.[3] We may not know all the details about how the political administration of Babylon operated, but various descriptions in the book of Daniel – such as “the whole province of Babylon”, “sat in the gate of the king”, “the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, …the counsellors, the sheriffs”, and “all the provinces” – suggest a huge, complex, and multi-levelled structured administration. It goes without saying that whilst Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were positioned to preside over provincial affairs of Babylon, the statement “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” indicates that he enjoyed the privilege of being stationed in the vicinity of the king (whether at a residence, administration office, or as part of an entourage of dignitaries during an important function) to attend to his important matters.

“We are not careful to answer thee in this matter”

The danger was quite imminent, but the men were bold.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

What a defiant response to the mighty king of Babylon! A Babylonian would not have had the courage to speak to Nebuchadnezzar in that manner. The three Jews did not mince their words in order to sound diplomatic and try to save themselves from death. The faith of Hannania, Mishael and Azariah was far greater than man’s threats. These were men of conviction, willing to die for what they believed. Such is the way of people who know their stand in God.

Whether God delivers us or not…

The next words the men spoke were even more astounding:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Clearly the faith of the three men never depended on what God could do for them. This was not a ‘faith’ of wanting to serve God because of the material reward that comes with that. Sadly, there are many people who desire to go to heaven, not because they love God but simply because they don’t want to be in hell. But heaven is not some kind of fire insurance. Heaven entails experiencing the revelation of the Word and Love of God, for Christ will come only unto “them …that love his appearing” (2 Tim.4:8, Heb.9:28).

When Hannania, Mishael and Azariah stood their ground, the king was furious and had them thrown into an intensely heated furnace.

19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.

20 And he commanded the most mighty men that 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 coats, their hosen, and their hats, 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 slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

The fire of the furnace was so hot that the “most mighty men” who had bound them to throw them into the furnace got burned and killed by its fire. But out of this persecution came a great testimony of the living God of the Jews.

Faith triumphed!

When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames of the fire, he beheld an amazing thing:

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.

25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God[4].

A shocked Nebuchadnezzar, realising that there was a supernatural phenomenon of the mighty God whom the men served and had protected them, approached the mouth of the furnace calling out to the men. This was not a mere calling out; it is something that came out of fear and trembling, beholding the power of the supernatural!

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, 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.

What had started as a persecution ended into a great testimony which made the Babylonian king acknowledge the power of Yahweh. This is an important lesson for believers: never allow bad circumstances to crash or wound your spirit. No matter the test, no matter the temptation, rest your heart in God! He “will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psa.121:3-8).When life throws you into a fiery furnace be able to say, like the three men, that your faith will never be shaken even to the point of death. Welcome tests as stepping stones to greater heights with God, knowing that “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jam.1:2-4).

You are in a school

Your life in this world is like a school in which challenges are tests. Each student is uniquely called and equipped for his or her tests. The good thing to remember is that no test or temptation can come but that for which you have been measured up to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13). Greater is He that is in you than he which is in the world (1 Joh. 4:4). In the end you will triumph. In the end you will be lifted up by the Lord! That is what happened to Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego:

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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.

29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss 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 that can deliver after this sort.

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

Endurance overcame the fiery furnace. In the end the three men were promoted to serve in higher capacities of authority. And although it is the king who promoted the three men, it is actually God who made the way. As in the words of the psalmist, “promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psa. 75:6). Nebuchadnezzar was merely a tool in the hands of God. He was a mere mortal, and not God. Sadly, despite the strange experience he had on this day of seeing the fourth man in the fire, there was still pride that was deeply rooted in his heart. God now would let him learn the hard way to know that he was only a mere mortal.


Notes

[1] A cubit  is  0.457 metres. So, 60 cubits = 27.432 metres, and 6 cubits is about 2.743 metres. Thus the golden image was about 27.4 metres high and 2.7 metres wide.

[2] The word “Dura” means “circle.” This was the name of the place where Nebuchadnezzar built the golden image. Some researchers believe this place is located somewhere on the left bank of the River Tigris where the name Dur has been found. Julius Oppert (1825-1905), a French Assyriologist, places Dura in the south east of Babylon where a mound of Duair and a pedestal of a huge statue were found. Oppert’s view carries greater evidence of both the name and remains of the statue.

[3] Please note that in the original Hebrew manuscripts there are no chapters (Chapters were added by editors for referencing pruposes). Thus, Daniel Chapter 2 runs continuously with Chapter 3, thus making the “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” a good background to why the prophet is silent in the events of Chapter 3, he sat in the gate of the king.

[4] “The Son of God” is a mistranslation which has had some theologians conjecture that this was Jesus the Son of God. This interpretation  implies that Jesus had pre-existed as the Son of God before being born in Bethlehem in 4 BC. This doctrine, although widely held by Trinitarians is not consistent with Scriptures. For details on this subject read LOGOS: The Beginning of God’s Creation by Richard Gan (available on www.propheticrevelation.net).

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