Daniel Chapter 3

Daniel 3:1-6

It seems a bit strange that after just acknowledging Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of lords, he now builds a huge idol and commands that all should bow down to it. We are not told of any time interval between events of chapters two and three, so this may have been some years. Some have calculated this to be an 18-year interval.

One of the things that amaze us is the ability of these ancient civilizations to build such amazing structures, as well as massive city walls and other things mentioned in their writings. Archeological finds have shown advanced techniques for smelting, and refining had been developed in these early civilizations.

Nebuchadnezzar invited all the important people to come to see this great image. This may have been an event celebrating his many victories and the fact that he had never been made of gold.

There was quite a mixture of cultures, as Babylon had conquered many nations, and representatives of these nations were present. The text refers to “O peoples, nations and men of every language…” (v. 4). They all would have been worshippers of idols except for the Jews. So for most of them, there would have been no problem in bowing down to this idol.

Then the command was given that whoever did not bow down and worship the image after the music was heard would be cast into the furnace of fire. Execution by fire was practiced in various kingdoms. The Code of Hammurabi (an ancient Babylonian law code) did mandate burning for various crimes. Jeremiah mentioned that Nebuchadnezzar roasted two false prophets. History records other similar stories among other nations.

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and concerning Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying to you falsely in My name, 'Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes. And because of them a curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon, saying, "May the LORD make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, because they have acted foolishly in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and have spoken words in My name falsely, which I did not command them; and I am He who knows, and am a witness," declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 29:21-23).

Daniel 3:7

So, when the music was heard, “Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

Daniel 3:8-12

Although they are not mentioned until later in the chapter, it is obvious that Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were among those gathered on this occasion. Daniel is not mentioned and may have been left in the city to tend to some of the king’s business.

Now we see the envy or hatred some of the locals have against these Jewish “foreigners” upon whom Nebuchadnezzar has be-stowed certain honors and responsibilities in the kingdom. It is possible that they knew what these three would do, and stationed spies to watch them and then tattle on them to the king. The Chaldeans came to the king, and before making the charge, they remind the king of his command and the penalty for those who do not obey. He confirms the matter, and then they reveal who the culprits were — the “certain Jews” to whom he had given responsibilities — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.

The three were charged with two offenses — not honoring the king and not bowing down to worship the image. What sorry men these Chaldeans were. If it were not for the Jews, they would have all been dead. It was Jewish Daniel who spared their lives when he interpreted the king’s dream.

Daniel 3:13-15

Upon receiving the news, Nebuchadnezzar is enraged and asked the three if the accusation was true. They agreed it was true. To prove that he wants to be fair, he gives them a second chance. It is obvious that he does have some respect for these young men, or they would have perished without a second thought. Remember that they had faithfully served various government functions because he had placed them there.

Boastful words were common among heathen kings, as seen in Isaiah 36:15, 18-20.

"Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean and said, "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria…. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, Jehovah will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” "

Daniel 3:16-18

Then Daniel 3:16-18 records a strong message, with three words that have been spoken often through the ages.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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 your hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.

What resolute courage these men had. It was courage based on their strong faith in God. Even though they had been taken as boys to a foreign, idol-worshipping land, and probably had many incentives to becoming assimilated, their faith remained strong, and they would not be moved. We are reminded of the time when young Joseph was tempted by his master’s wife time and again to commit fornication with her, and he replied, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9) She could have his life much easier, but instead he ended up in prison.

Those three words, “but it not” played a huge role in the Battle of Dunkirk in WW II. Hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were surrounded by German soldiers and the waters of the English Channel with no hope for escape. Navy ships were too large to get close to the beach, and there was some fear that the German Luftwaffe would destroy those that did try. Robert Sloan wrote the following description of the event that changed the course of the war. Dunkirk lies on the coast in northern France near the Belgian border. Its name means “Church in the Dunes.”

“But if not.” What a poignant phrase. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were resolved to obey God, whether or not he chose to save them. They knew he wasn’t obligated to help them.

“In the summer of 1940, more than 350,000 soldiers — most of them British — were trapped at Dunkirk. The German forces were on their way, and they had the capacity to wipe out the British Expeditionary Force. When it seemed certain that the Allied forces at Dunkirk were about to be massacred, a British naval officer cabled just three words back to London: “But if not.”

“But if not.” These words were instantly recognizable to the people who were accustomed to hearing the scriptures read in church. They knew the story told in the book of Daniel. The message in those three little words was clear: The situation was desperate. The allied forces were trapped. It would take a miracle to save them, but they were determined not to give in. One simple three-word phrase communicated all that.”

The soldiers realized they were in a desperate situation; German planes were dropping leaflets urging them to surrender. They refused to surrender, and in the message sent back to England, they used those three words, and those three words galvanized the people, and they came across the Chanel in rowboats, sailboats, yachts, and whatever else would float, and rescued one-third of a million soldiers."

What else is remarkable is that the British people recognized those words and understood their significance. It is doubtful today if you find very many who would recognize them.

Daniel 3:19-23

Nebuchadnezzar was infuriated at their answer and then orders the furnace to be fueled so that the heat was seven times above normal, and the three men were tossed in while they were bound. The fire was so hot, that it killed those men who had to get near the fire to throw the three in. The “seven” was probably a figurative term. I don’t think they had thermostats then. He just wanted it extremely hot so as to “cool” his rage.

Some would have rationalized the situation and would have justified bowing down to the image by reasoning that they could do more good in living than in dying, or that just one time couldn’t be that bad, but their faith did not yield. Evidently, they didn’t even have to confer among themselves before making their decision.

Daniel 3:24-25

Evidently, the king is standing close enough to see what is transpiring, yet far enough away so as not to be burned. As he gazes into the fire, he is astonished at what he sees — and asks his counselors, “Didn’t we cast three men into the fire?” They agreed, and then he states that he sees four men walking about, and without harm, and the fourth was like “the son of the gods.” As a worshipper of many gods, this person must be one of them.

Daniel 3:26-27

Nebuchadnezzar then went near the furnace and called for the three t come out, and called them “servants of the Most High God.” Maybe it’s beginning to dawn on him that there may something special about the God of these Jewish men. While he still believes in his idols, he does seem to recognize that the God of these is above all other gods.

Daniel 3:28-29

Here Nebuchadnezzar pays tribute to the three and acknowledges that their God is greater than all the other gods. Furthermore, he warns that anyone who speaks against their God shall be torn apart, and their homes reduced to rubbish.

Daniel 3:30

Then the king promotes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to higher positions of authority than they already had. The treatment that the Jews received under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule was prophesied in Jeremiah 21:7-9 about the year 589 B.C.

"Then afterward," declares the LORD, "I shall give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword, and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes, and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion."' You shall also say to this people, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.” "

The following quote is from the American Tract Society Dictionary, and describes what happened to Zedekiah as had been prophesied by Jeremiah

“The twentieth and last king of Judah, son of Josiah and Hamutal, and uncle to Jeconiah his predecessor, 2Ki 24:17, 19; Jer 52:1. When Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, he carried Jeconiah to Babylon, with his wives, children, officers, and the best artificers in Judea, and put in his place his uncle Mattaniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah, and made him promise with an oath that he would maintain fidelity to him. He was twenty-one years old when he began to reign at Jerusalem, and he reigned there eleven years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, committing the same crimes as Jehoiakim, 2Ki 24:18-20; 2Ch 36:11-13. Compare Jer 29:16-19; 34:1-22; 38:5; Eze 17:12,14,18. In the ninth year of his reign, he revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, trusting to the support of Pharaoh-hophra king of Egypt, which proved ineffectual, and despising the faithful remonstrances of Jeremiah, Jer 37:2,5,7-10. In consequence of this the Assyrian marched his army into Judea, and took all the fortified places. In the eleventh year of his reign, on the ninth day of the fourth month, (July,) Jerusalem was taken, 588 BC. The king and his people endeavored to escape by favor of the night; but the Chaldean troops pursuing them, they were overtaken in the plain of Jericho. Zedekiah was taken and carried to Nebuchadnezzar, then at Riblah, in Syria, who reproached him with his perfidy, caused his children to be slain before his face and his own eyes to be put out; and then loading him with chains of brass, he ordered him to be sent to Babylon, 2Ki 25:1-30; Jer 39:1-18; 52:1-34; Eze 19:1-14. All these events remarkably fulfilled the predictions of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, in the chapters previously referred to. Compare also, with respect to Zedekiah's blindness, Jer 34:3; Eze 12:13.”

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