DANIEL - Chapter 3 Commentary


This chapter describes a gigantic statue or idol (image) that is made for the people to worship. If one did not worship he image they would be killed in a furnace. As soon as certain noise was made in the city, all people should bow down and worship the image. This is the chapter that documents the famous story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace.


Events that produced the next crisis for the Hebrew captives are not clear. The crisis itself, however, was spawned through the effort of Nebuchadnezzar to produce greater unity in Babylon through the erection of a colossus. This could have been as immense image of himself or something like an obelisk. It was probably not an image of Nebuchadnezzar. The proportions of 90 feet to 9 feet would make a very distorted image of the king. Therefore, it was probably something long with a circular or other shaped base. It was put on the plain of Dura. Nebuchadnezzar required the people to worship the image. "Dura" was near the capital, Babylon, and should not be identified with other locations on the Tigris and near Assyria which go by the same name. The enormous image was 60 cubits in height by 6 cubits wide. A cubit is just less than 18 inches; therefore, the image was a height of approximately 90 feet by 9 feet wide. Within the height of the image is probably included a pedestal. Also, most likely it was only covered with plates of gold, not a solid mass of that precious metal. That amount of gold would have been hard even for Nebbie. It would not have been unusual to have a pedestal type structure with a statue of Bel or some other god. The statue could have been gold.


It is not known when the image was built. There is no absolute answer. However, the scholars differ from about 18 years into Nebuchadnezzar's reign to 40 years in. we know it was after the interpretation of the dream. Shortly, scripture will state that Daniel's friends were administrators at this time. As you recall, the end of chapter 2 puts Daniel at the head of a province and his friends were made administrators. Nebbie now calls all his leaders together to dedicate the image and to tell them what is expected of them in relation to the image. The following in a listing of possible people with leadership roles for the king one could see in various Bible versions :

  • A satrap held a political office in the Persian Empire comparable to governor. A satrap’s territory was called a satrapy. At the height of the Persian rule, there were at least twenty satrapies.
  • A prefect was generally considered slightly higher in rank than a sat rap. Pontius Pilate was an example of a prefect.
  • Princes (usually thought to be referring to the satraps)
  • Governors or lieutenants or viceroys (Hebrew High Priest deputy)
  • Captains (put over provinces added to the kingdom by war take-over)
  • Judges (nobles who were the assistants to the king in making laws, statutes, etc)
  • Treasurers (those who take care of money)
  • Counselors (assist in understanding the true meaning of laws).

Dan 3:4-5

A herald, which is usually a loud public crier (makes general announcements and reads decrees), proclaimed all the requirements to be followed when music was played. The program prescribed for the dedication included a musical (actually, more like noise) salute which became the signal for universal worship of the image. The "horn" or "cornet" was an instrument similar to the ram's horn or shophar (Heb.) used by the Hebrews. The "flute" refers to an instrument consisting of reeds of varying thicknesses and lengths bound together. The "harp" or "lyre" was a four-stringed musical piece with a sharp, clear tone; much like a zither, The "trigon" or "sackgut" is a triangular instrument with four strings that played high notes. The "psaltery" was similar, differing in the construction. The Strings were beneath the sounding board. The "dulcimer" is sometimes translated as a bagpipe-type instrument. However the modern "dulcimer" is a musical instrument in which wire strings, in courses of two to five per note, are stretched across a shallow, trapezoidal sound box and are sounded by light, spoon-shaped beaters, producing a vibrant, undamped, metallic sound. The dulcimers can also be strummed with the fingers or pick. The dulcimer, one of the ancestors of the piano, originated in the Middle East, possibly as the Persian santir. The zither family includes psalteries and hammered dulcimers.

When all these instruments were sounded together, which really would be a cacophony of sound, the people were supposed to fall down and worship the image. The babylonians' love for song is attested in Ps. 137:3. Some say since some instruments have Greek names, this is evidence that Daniel could have been written later. The fact that some of these instruments have Greek names is no argument for a late date for Daniel because Greek products and trading cities existed through much of the western Asia as early as the sixth century B.C.


The command to worship shows that this act had not only a political significance but a religious one as well, requiring the recognition of Nebuchadnezzar's gods. This certainly is not freedom of religion as we know it. But this was nothing unusual in those days. It was a uniform religion showing dedication to the king and to his gods. One has to realize that not only was this not unusual but they did not see any conflicts with a god you might have. Giving homage to the king's god did not mean one could not continue worshipping their own god(s). In general, the people there had no problems with the worship decree. It is obvious then the direction of this "worshipping" was toward the Jews. It was known they worshipped only one God. To make them go against their God would be a power move for Nebbie. The penalty for NOT bowing down and worshipping was to be burned to death in a very hot furnace. The furnace was probably the one or one similar to a furnace used the in the manufacture of bricks.


Here comes the first test of the people. When the instruments were sounded all persons were supposed to worship the image. It should be very obvious to the reader that the only way for the king to know if anyone did NOT worship was to have "look-outs". The Chaldeans were tattle-tails of first order. They were always trying to get in the good eyes of the king. So, The Chaldeans noted certain Jews did not adhere to the decree of worshipping the image. The Chaldeans went to Nebbie and, of course, praised him.


Now the Chaldeans go to Nebuchadnezzar and tell about the Jews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who would not bow down and worship the image. They said when the sound came the Jews did not bow down and therefore they should be put into the furnace. They did not obey the king.


The furious king calls the three to him and asks them if it were true that they did not worship the image. He asks them if they understand what they were supposed to do and what would happen if they did not worship properly. They did not even think it was necessary to give an answer. The king knew they could not worship the image. The Jewish Law strictly forbids the worship of the idol. The matter is put straight, turn or burn. Nebuchadnezzar was, in effect, saying, "Who is the Lord, that Is should fear his power?" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not hesitate whether they should comply or not. Life or death was not to be considered. They did not contrive an evasive answer, when a direct answer was expected. They felt if He be for us, we need not fear what man can do unto us. If God wills, God will deliver us, either from death or in death. They must obey God rather than man; they must rather suffer than sin; and must not do evil that good may come. Therefore, none of these things moved them. The saving them from sinful compliance, was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace, as the saving them out of the fiery furnace was in the kingdom of nature.


This is one of the most powerful voices of faith in God in the Bible. The Jews know the ramifications of not following the king. But they knew very well what God wanted them to do. So in the strongest words possible, they said if God wished there is nothing Nebuchadnezzar could do to burn them if God did not want it done. However, if God did NOT see to preserve the Jews through the fire they were not going to worship the image in defiance of their God. The Jews knew that God could protect them if he chose to do it.


The king was not very happy. In fact he was so mad he told them to stoke the furnace to seven times the normal temperature. Of course the higher temperature was not needed to burn the Jews. He did it because he was furious. It was very important for the Jews to know what Nebbie wanted. After all he had spent a lot of time and training on them. In addition, he had a lot of respect for them and their close friend Daniel. He really did not want to kill them. But he had to if they did not "repent" to Nebuchadnezzar.


The furnace, perhaps some type of kiln, had an opening at he top through which the disobedient were to be dropped. There were openings at the bottom for refueling and through which the flames could be observed. The tremendous heat ordered by the king was scarcely essential (7X normal), but it does cast light on the abusive temper of the monarch. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were bound with all their clothing and cast into the furnace.

An interesting part of this scripture is that the king was in such a hurry that he had the Jews bound by their own clothes. The dress of the day was something similar to what Herodotus, who lived about one hundred years after Daniel, says, “the dress of the Babylonians consisted of a tunic of linen reaching down to the feet; over this a tunic of woollen; and over all a white short cloak or mantle. On their heads they wore turbans.” This could be translated to “Then these three men were bound in their CLOAKS, their TURBANS, and in their UPPER (woollen) TUNICS, and their UNDER (linen) TUNICS.” We see the propriety with which it is observed at verse 27 that these were not changed by the fire.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were ordered to be thrown into the fire and they were thrown in. The king was so much in a hurry, he was not considering safety or anything else to stop this execution. The furnace was so hot that his own executioners who were throwing the Jews in the furnace were killed by the heat.


Nebuchadnezzar's astonishment at counting four living and unharmed figures in the furnace was heightened by the remarkable appearance of the stranger. Nebuchadnezzar described him as being "like the Son of God." The precise identification of this heavenly guest cannot be known. It could have been an angel sent by God to deliver the three Hebrews. It also could have been a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ) in which the Lord Himself joined the three to provide a rescue so thorough that the clothing was not even burned, and the smell of smoke was undetectable on the men. Nebuchadnezzar recognized the obvious and concluded that no god he had known would be able to accomplish such a feat. It is interesting to note this did not convert Nebbie to a monotheistic belief. He did acknowledge the power of Daniel's God but he was actually saying Daniel's God was the strongest and best of all the gods.

Now was fulfilled in the letter that great promise (Isa. 43:2) when thou walkest through fire, thou shalt not be burned. Leaving it to that God who preserved them in the fire, to bring them out, they walked up and down in the midst, supported and encouraged by the presence of the angel or Son of God. Nebbie says the fourth figure was "like a son of the gods" (in KJV, "like the Son of God"). I believe the more correct transliteration is "like a son of the gods" because that was what he knew. He did not know of any Son of God that we know. He probably was aware of some kind of a Messiah to come in the future because he was associated with the Jews. This also tracks his next statements of the Jews God being strongest of the gods.


Nebuchadnezzar goes to the furnace and calls out for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to come out in the name of the Most High God.. They come out. The officials that Nebbie called together originally Dan. 3:2 were there to see what was happening. How could these men come out of the furnace not burned with the slightest singed AND not even smell like they were in the furnace?


Nebuchadnezzar blessed the God of the Jews who sent an angel to protect them. The Jews had put all their faith into this God and He preserved them. Nebbie now makes a decree that no one can speak negatively about the Jews God. Those that do will be torn apart (this could be literally torn apart. Tying limbs to 4 horses and having the horses run could do it). Now Nebbie acknowledges that God was the most powerful of the gods. The king rewards these three Jews generously. In the KJV, the three were promoted, probably over all the Jews with Daniel. Other versions say the three were prospered. Either way, they were probably a little higher than the administrators they were before but still be under Daniel. He would not move Daniel because he knew Daniel's God was the same as the three Jews God. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) says “And he advanced them to be governors over all the Jews that were in his kingdom.”

What God did for these His servants would help to keep the Jews to their religion while in captivity and would cure them of any thought of idolatry. The miracle brought deep convictions on Nebuchadnezzar. However, no abiding change then took place in his conduct. God, who preserved these pious Jews in the fiery furnace, is able to uphold us in the hour of temptation, and to keep us form falling into sin.

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