The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Daniel 3

Dan 3:1

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" (Deff).

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 predicted!']

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).

Dan 3:2

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.

Dan 3:3

"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 happened.

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).

Dan 3:5

"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)" (Const).

Dan 3:6

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 brick-kilns.

Dan 3:7

The "pipes" ("dulcimer": AV), omitted here only, in ct vv 5,10,15. This is the only place where the instruments are actually played.

Dan 3:12

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 music.

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 him.

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 did.

Dan 3:17

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.

Dan 3:19

SEVEN TIMES: Meaning much, much more: Pro 24:16; 26:16.

Dan 3:21

"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).

Dan 3:22

As Haman, caught and slain in his own trap: Est 7:9n. "Whoever curses you I will curse" (Gen 12:3).

Dan 3:25

"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' " (Isa 43:1,2).

Dan 3:28

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 served.

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".

Previous Index Next