|@October 12, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image
- The Fiery Furnace
The chapter opens with King Nebuchadnezzar making an “image of gold” and setting it up in the “plain of Dura”. The gold statue was not likely solid gold but was instead overlaid with it. Nebuchadnezzar probably decked the entire thing in gold to negate the message conveyed by the statue of his dream, wherein only the head was gold and signaled that the Babylonian Empire would only be temporary. The location of the plain of Dura has not been conclusively identified.
In Dan. 3:2-7, the king gathers the Babylonian officials for the dedication of the image and the decree that, when every kind of music is heard, the people are to fall down and worship the image. This is proclaimed by “the herald” (or “crier) which is one who makes official and royal announcements to the public. He was likely stationed above the crowd and shouted instructions to them.
Dan. 3:8-12 is the report by “certain Chaldeans” to the king that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego paid no attention to the king’s decree of image worship. They first recounted the king’s decree (Dan. 3:9-11) and then reported their non-compliance (Dan. 3:9-12).
Dan. 3:13-15 is of the king’s response of “furious rage” and commanding of Daniel’s companions be brought before him. Nebuchadnezzar confirmed the truthfulness of the report that they did not serve his gods (Dan. 3:14). The king gave them an opportunity to comply to his decree and the consequence of continued rebellion: being cast into a burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3:15).
In Dan. 3:16-18, the three told the king that they had “no need to answer” the king in this matter. The three men would rather die than obey Nebuchadnezzar’s command. Their statement here shows that they did not need to make a defense before the king; they had already made up their minds as to whom they would serve. Compliance was unthinkable to them. They acknowledged God’s ability to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3:17), but even if He didn’t, they would still remain faithful to Him and no serve the king’s gods (Dan. 3:18).
Dan. 3:19-23 describes the king’s fury and ordering of the furnace to be heated “seven times” more than usual (Dan. 3:19), an idiomatic Aramaic phrase that the furnace was to be made as hot as possible. The three men were bound while still fully clothed, a detail included to contrast how the furnace had no effect in Dan. 3:27. The furnace was so hot that the men who threw the three in were killed as well (Dan. 3:22). The three “fell bound into the burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:23).
In Dan. 3:24-25, the king is “astonished” (amazed, but also frightened and horrified) that not only were the three unbound but that there was a fourth with them whose appearance was “like a son of the gods”. This may have been an angel or even a preincarnate appearance of God the Son.
The final section (Dan. 3:26-30) describes the king’s command for the three to come out of the furnace and come to him. The officials all gathered together and saw that the fire “had not had any power over the bodies of those men”. The furnace had zero effect and they didn’t even smell of fire (Dan. 3:27). Nebuchadnezzar spoke a blessing over the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who had “sent his angel” to deliver his servants (Dan. 3:28). He also fully acknowledged the disobedience of the three who “set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” (Dan. 3:28). The king made another decree that anyone who speaks against their God would be “torn from limb to limb” and “their houses laid in ruins”. The king admits that “no other god” is able to rescue in this way (Dan. 3:29). This speaks to how Nebuchadnezzar was not fully devoted to the one, true God but instead ascribe Him to be the most powerful among the pantheon of gods. The king then promoted the three “in the province of Babylon”, a typical feature in these types of stories (see. Dan. 2:48; Dan. 5:29; Dan. 6:28).
The king of Babylon sets up a massive statue (image) to be worshipped. All are gathered and told to fall and worship at the sound of every kind of music. Some Chaldeans “maliciously accused the Jews” and brought report to the king that they were not complying in image worship. He confronts Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego who tell the king that they have no need to answer him and that their allegiance is with God alone. In furious rage, the king orders them to be cast into a “burning fiery furnace”, turned as hot as it could be. The king witnesses that they are not only unbound in the fire but joined by a fourth with the appearance of “a son of the gods”. They king calls them out and they emerge completely untouched. The king admits God’s supremacy to rescue and promotes the three in the Babylonian province.
Many have spoken about the steadfast faith of Daniel’s companions but it really is astonishing. There was no questioning of whether God could save them and, even if He didn’t, they would not waver in their resolve. There is no honest reading this chapter without examination of our own heart and willingness to follow Christ at all cost. It reveals our threshold for sacrifice. What lengths are you willing to go? What pain are you willing to endure? Are you willing to give up everything, even your own life, for the mission to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)