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Daniel 3

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

In the last episode, “King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel” after just being told “Thou art this head of gold” and then made him “a great man, and gave him many great gifts . . .” (Daniel 2: 46, 38). The king, as requested by Daniel, also “set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon.”

A quick scan of this chapter shows Daniel’s three friends to be the heroes of this story with nothing said about Daniel himself who wrote the story. It is also well to remember this chapter, as well as the previous and the succeeding four chapters, are all in the Aramaic language, suggesting they were originally intended to be read by a Babylonian audience, in contrast to chapters 1, and 8-12.

The date for the incident of chapter 2 is well established as three years after the initial siege of Jerusalem around 602 B.C. The year 580 BC, some 22 years later, has been suggested[1] for this chapter. Whether or not the date is exact, inspiration tells us that “In time [Nebuchadnezzar] ceased to honor God, and resumed his idol worship with increased zeal and bigotry.”[2] So, we can assume a significant period of time had elapsed after Daniel had told the king “Thou art this head of gold” (Daniel 2:38).

But, regardless of his resumption of heathen worship and rejection of his assertion that Daniel’s “God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Daniel 2:47) he found it impossible to forget about the “great image . . . whose brightness was excellent . . . and the form thereof was terrible” (Daniel 2:31). Consequently, in spite of it being explained and interpreted, it continued to haunt him.

Several things had been happening in the interval between the story of chapter 2 and this chapter. For one thing, the remnant of the Judean kingdom, who had been left behind after the first siege of Jerusalem, were deep into nationalism with the pro-Egyptian party strongly agitating in favor of rebellion against their Babylonian conquerors. Jehoiakim, who had sworn allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar and remained loyal for “three years . . . turned and rebelled against him” (2 Kings 24:1). From that point onward, Judea was headed for extinction at the hand of the Babylonians. Ultimately, all of its inhabitants were taken into captivity by the year 586 B.C. So, the 19 years between 605 and 586 B.C. was proof in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind that the God who had revealed the secret of his dream, was really powerless and unable to protect his professed people. Besides that, in contrast to Daniel’s integrity, the kings he depended upon to preside over the affairs of Judea, proved, weak, treacherous and unreliable.

So, who could blame the king, who being an idolater from birth, began to think his god Bel, was stronger than Daniel’s and he began to lapse back into his customary manner of worship.

There is another side to the story that propelled the king deeper into his personal apostasy. In spite of the fact that Nebuchadnezzar, some years before, had become “very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:12), it appears his anger toward them had cooled and he had retained their services.[3] Likewise the terror aroused in the hearts of the wise men must have subsided, and they sought to re-ingratiate themselves into favor with the king. They, noting the recent change in the king’s habit of worship, yet referring frequently to his dream of the multi-element image, “proposed that he make an image similar to the one seen in his dream, and set it up where all might behold the head of gold, which had been interpreted as representing his kingdom.”[4]

Quite likely, the wise men, who were consummate schemers, had a secret agenda in mind. They were jealous over the fact that “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” had been “set . . over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49). Besides, the Hebrews “. . . were beautiful singers, and the Chaldean wanted them to forget their God, and accept the worship of the Babylonian idols”[5] which they refused to do. Here was an opportunity to force compliance and they enthusiastically encouraged the king to move forward with his project. It may have been at this time that the wise men appointed “certain Chaldeans” (Daniel 3:8) to keep the three Hebrews under surveillance.

The dimensions of the proposed image being “threescore cubits” by “six cubits”[6] suggest some parallel to the mysterious number “Six hundred threescore and six” of Revelation 13:18. Even though only two dimensions are specified in the size of the image, the symbolic “image to the beast” of Revelation 13 is strikingly similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s literal image, for in both settings, worship is compelled.

But, just a “head of gold” wasn’t good enough and “he determined to carry it out, and to go even father . . . His image should not deteriorate in value . . . but should be entirely of gold . . .”[7] So, in spite of the lapse of time, and the events militating against Daniel’s God being “a God of gods, and a Lord of kings . . .” (Daniel 2:47) he could not erase the memory of his dream. Consequently he decided to modify it to suit his egocentric fantasy. However, the destroying “stone . . . cut out of the mountain without hands . . .” (Daniel 2:45), which was equally impressive, had to be totally ignored. But, as we shall see, God was soon to destroy Nebuchadnezzar’s image anyway in a very impressive, unanticipated manner!

So, the symbol in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that was “designed of Heaven to unfold to the minds of men important events of the future” was now being “used to hinder the spread of the knowledge that God desired the world to receive.”[8] But, Satan’s effort was about to be frustrated through the witness of only three men out of the thousands who went along with the scheme.

“History will be repeated. False religion will be exalted. The first day of the week, a common working day, possessing no sanctity whatever, will be set up as was the image at Babylon. All nations and tongues and peoples will be commanded to worship this spurious sabbath. This is Satan’s plan to make of no account the day instituted by God, and given to the world as a memorial of creation.”[9] But, God’s name will again be vindicated by those who “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4) even to the point of being numbered with “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands;” (Revelation 20:4). Their testimony, like that of the three Hebrews who were instrumental in nullifying Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, will forever destroy the great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that symbolized the rule of Satan for thousands of years.

Now, the time had come for the dedication of Nebuchadnezzar’s image:

Verse 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.

So, this was no small affair. The king, so to speak, pulled out all the “stops” to make this a most impressive occasion. But, it was not just an occasion to show off the beauty of the image, it amounted to a direct challenge to the God he had formerly declared to be the “God of gods, and a Lord of kings.” He was boasting, by the fact the image was all “gold,” that no kingdom would ever replace his. Instead it would last forever, the fond hope of every ruler of every kingdom who has followed.

Among this throng of nobles, of course, were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who, for all we know, were still presiding “over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49) and were therefore required to attend this august assembly and manifest proper reverence for the king’s golden image. So, for them, this occasion was much like “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10) during the last days of history. Like them we will be required to bow before “the image of the beast” (Revelation 13:15) if we wish to preserve our lives.

Verse 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.

Up to this time, the occasion presented no problems for the three Hebrews. They were cooperating as far as they could even to the point of standing “before the image” like all the others. None of them protested that their rights were being violated but went along with it as far as conscience allowed. So, like them “When the practices of the people do not come into conflict with the law of God, you may conform to them. If the workers fail to do this, they will not only hinder their own work, but they will place stumbling blocks in the way of those for whom they labor, and hinder them from accepting the Truth. . . While laboring to introduce the truth, we must accommodate ourselves as much as possible to the field, and the circumstances of those for whom we labor.”[10]

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

At the time of this incident, Babylon was in control of all parts of the “then-known” world while vast sections lay outside of what was known. For example, Asia, China, Japan, North and South America and even the major portion of Africa were yet to be discovered.

Soon, in the near future, “all that dwell upon the earth [as a whole] shall worship [the beast except] those whose names are . . . written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revevelation 13:8). These brave Hebrew men are worthy examples of those whose “names” are written in that book. “Situation ethics” was not a part of their thinking.

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

Although the three Hebrews probably anticipated this requirement, still we are not told if they had been given information on that point before hand and decide what they would do. Doubtless, they spent a great deal of time praying that God would be with them and help them make the right decision.

As it was, a musical signal had been decided upon to notify the vast congregation of the requirement to bow down before the image “and worship.” At that point, the second commandment of the Decalogue flashed into their minds: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, . . . “ (Exodus 20:4,5).

Note that “all kinds of” music was played by an orchestra composed of many instruments. Why did they use such and elaborate organization just to give the signal?

It seems that the Babylonians understood the effect of music. It can be used to by-pass judgment and common sense. Just take a look at the ridiculous behavior of people who, with reckless abandon, dance and gyrate, things they would never do without the sound and repetitive rhythm of some kinds of music. If the music were to cease suddenly, so would their behavior. So, music can be hypnotic. Evidently that was its purpose here.

This parallels our day for “the Lord has shown . . . [what] would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions.”[11]

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

Apparently, the sound of a fierce fire in the nearby furnace was, even at that time, resounding in the ear. One wonders why the king made such a point of this. While bowing down before an image was far from an unusual thing to ask of this heathen crowd, but to make obeisance to Nebuchadnezzar’s unusual image may have been very offensive to a number of the other “nations and languages” represented there who worshiped other gods. So, a “little” compulsion was necessary to insure compliance.

Evidently, the king knew this was going to push some of his subjects too far. Whether or not he was concerned about the three Hebrews, many of his other officials were captives from many other nations just like the Hebrews. He knew that bowing down to his image would not only offend the Hebrews, but the Egyptians, Syrians, etc. as well. While oriental music sounds discordant to the western ear, a variety of music played in a manner pleasing to an oriental audience was apparently intended to placate the senses and make compliance easier.

This order of magnitude, with a little bowing being sufficient to avoid maximum punishment, is equivalent to the future scenario when merely receiving a “mark” either on the “right hand, or in the forehead” will be sufficient evidence of compliance to allow buying and selling and even avoid being “killed”! (Revelation 13:15 – 17).

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

Note in this verse and the following verses, nothing is said about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” standing up while everybody else “fell down and worshipped . . .” But, judging from the accusation leveled against them that “they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image . . .” (verse 12) we assume that they did not fall down.

This draws attention to another parallel to “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10) when, at the end of time the question is asked in heaven: “who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17) when everybody else has fallen.

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

So, the king’s plan to insure compliance worked except for “certain Jews” (verse 12) who were accused by these “certain Chaldeans.”

These particular “Chaldeans” may or may not have been native Babylonians. In view of the fact that the king chose men who composed his cabinet, called “Chaldeans,”[12] from the “children of Israel” (Daniel 1:3, 4), it stands to reason he selected choice men from other nations as well. Therefore, the accusation may not have stemmed from racial or nationalistic antagonism, but from professional jealousy. These may even have been saved by Daniel’s testimony from the king’s decree to have them killed two decades ago! It is also possible they may have been other captives from “the children of Israel” who were bested by Daniel’s three companions when the king “found them ten times better than all the [other] magicians and astrologers . . .!” (Daniel 1:21).

So it will be. “Already preparations are advancing, and movements are in progress, which will result in making an image to the beast. Events will be brought about in the earth’s history that will fulfill the predictions of prophecy for these last days. . . Satan will have control of all who finally refuse to be controlled by the law of God. He will inspire parents to war against their children, and children to war against their parents,–to betray and deliver those of their own household to enemies. Coming events are casting their shadows upon our pathway.” [13]

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

This is the second and last time the Chaldeans are noted to express this phrase to the king. They preceded their request, that the king tell them his dream before given their “interpretation” some twenty years ago (Daniel 2:4) with the same phrase. Interestingly, Daniel himself, when replying to king Darius’ question at the mouth of the lion’s den, also said “O king, live for ever” (Daniel 6:21). So this was a term of respect, not necessarily of worship. “He who obeys the divine law will most truly respect and obey the laws of his country. He who fears God will honor the king in the exercise of all just and legitimate authority.”[14] Note in the next few verses, the three Hebrews did not precede their replies to the king with this phrase. Nevertheless, we should not conclude they were being disrespectful or arrogant.

Verses 10, 11: 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 musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

Recounting all this seems unnecessary unless we take the context into consideration. Obviously, the king did not need to be reminded of all these things. So, why did these “certain Chaldeans” think it expedient to go into all this detail? Probably, it was to add as much force to their forth- coming accusation as possible. Quite likely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who had been “set . . . over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49), had been very faithful in the exercise of their duties and were highly valued for their services. Therefore, realizing that the king would likely give them some “slack” in this matter, they felt it necessary to make it as difficult as possible for the king to exercise mercy.

Verse 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.

So, verses 10 and 11 depict the “set up.” This verse depicts the “trap.” It seems likely the “certain Chaleans” had far less respect for the king’s command than those they were accusing.

Those who did bow down to the image were supposed to “worship the golden image” and not be looking around to see what the others were doing. Consequently, these accusers were using the king’s command for their own purpose: to exterminate the men they had hated for the last twenty years! Note, upon giving the actual names of the offenders, they knew who they were as individuals, not merely as “Jews.”

When they saw them standing up instead of bowing, they were jubilant and made haste to come “near and accuse the Jews,” obviously after the “musick” had ceased!

Verse 13: Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.

Hearing the names of the offenders, may have been a shock to the king. Up to this point they had given no evidence ofmalfeasance to king or kingdom. In other words, they were law abiders. So, shock added to his anger which mounted to “rage and fury.” Note that the three men came only when compelled. Knowing the feelings against them, possibly by those who had been reprimanded by these men for past misdeeds, it is likely they were fully aware of what would happen, still they had no intention of unnecessarily calling attention to themselves by remaining erect during the ceremony.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrated God’s plan of salvation, not by any aggressive action on their part, but by passive noncompliance. They simply stood erect while the vast multitude bowed down. The report of their daring enraged the king and he demanded they be brought forward.

The same applies to the daring of the future noncompliars. Their daring, in the face of economic sanctions ( when “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark” Revelation 13:17) even life itself, will come to the notice of “all the world [who] wondered after the beast . . . saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:3, 4).

Verse 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?

The question “is it true,” in spite of his “rage and fury,” once again indicates the king’s fair mindedness. He did not depend on hearsay. He wanted to know from the men themselves if the accusation against them could be verified. If these men, whom the king himself had “set . . . over the affairs of the province of Babylon” had denied the accusation, the “certain Chaleans” who accused them would have quickly found themselves thrust into the furnace! Certainly, the three Hebrews were fully aware of this. But to do so would be a violation of the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). While many of their forefathers would not have considered the Chaldeans to be their “neighbor,” obviously they did not follow suite. For them, lying against the Chaldeans would be just as sinful as lying against another Jew! For them, keeping God’s law was more important then saving their own lives!

The king, who was enraged at first and possibly forgot the exact identity of the “certain Jews,” may have been surprised that they were Daniel’s companions. So, he did a little back-peddling. So, not accepting the word of the “certain Chaldeans” whom he knew to be schemers of first order, the king asked them directly by name “is the report true?” In other words, he wanted a confession from their own mouths before executing sentence.

Their call to give answer to the king is much like the call many will be obliged to give in the last days. “Many will have to stand in the legislative courts; some will have to stand before kings and before the learned of the earth, to answer for their faith.”[15] “Those who have only a superficial understanding of truth will not be able clearly to expound the Scriptures, and give definite reasons for their faith. They will become confused, and will not be workmen that need not to be ashamed. Let no one imagine that he has no need to study, because he is not to preach in the sacred desk. You know not what God may require of you.”[16]

Verse 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 musick, 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?

Just as those “certain Chaldeans” anticipated, the king wanted to be merciful. He would offer the Jews a second chance. But his last question “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” showed he had just about reached the limit of his patience. But, the question was far more profound than that. It was a direct challenge against God Himself.

Perhaps the three Hebrews recalled at this time the challenge lodged by Sennacherib, king of Assyria back in 710 BC, who declared much the same thing. He tried to intimidate the Jews into surrendering the city of Jerusalem saying “who shall be able to deliver you out of [my] hand”? (2 Kings 19:36; 18:28-36). Long before that king Pharaoh also challenged “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice . . .? (Exodus 5:2). In both occasions, God answered the challenge very decisively and both kings lost their lives. Now, except for sparing the life of the king, God was again, about to vindicate His power.

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

The king’s arrogant challenge “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” appears to be answered in a somewhat arrogant manner, although the answer could be rendered “it is not necessary for us to attempt a defense in this matter.” Consider that these men had already tasted of God’s power having witnessed the marvelous manner in which He saved them from the king’s death decree twenty years before. Undoubtedly, many other incidents in their lives while being Jewish captives placed in high position and protected time-after-time among jealous, envious subordinates, served to solidify their faith so that they could not be moved. In effect, they were truly “sealed in their foreheads.”

The three Hebrews did not become confused. Their answer even seems arrogant when they declared “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” But, it really was not egotistical, for arrogance would imply they were depending on a favorable outcome. Such was not the case. They declared that God may or may not “deliver us from the . . . furnace” and, even if He did not “we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (verse 18).

So, instead of arrogance, they were simply admitting the truth of the accusation, declaring themselves guilty as charged. It would be pointless to plea innocence.

So it is with all of God’s people today. Whether we know it or not, our faith is being weakened or strengthened every day depending on how we face the big or little trials of everyday life. “There is a spirit of desperation, of war and bloodshed, and that spirit will increase until the very close of time. Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads,–it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved,–just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming.”[17] “In our character building we must build on Christ. He is the sure foundation–a foundation which can never be moved. The tempest of temptation and trial cannot move the building which is riveted to the Eternal Rock.”[18]

Verses 17 & 18: 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. 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.

In other words, there was no trace of doubt in their minds that God was fully able to deliver them out of the king’s hand if He so chose. Notice the twice use of the word “deliver.” They did not allow the indeterminate, the uncertainty of the outcome to intimidate them. Their attitude was much like Job’s who declared in the midst of his incredible troubles: “Though he slay me yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15)!

So, even though they had, up to this point, served the king faithfully, they had not nor would they ever “serve [the king’s] gods” let alone, “worship the golden image.” They were forced to chose loyalty to the God of heaven or a god of the earth. They chose the former.

The prophet John was shown a host of people in the last days of this earth’s history who will not be spared the death penalty for refusing worship. In fact, they will be “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4). What a deal that will be! Exchanging a few paltry years on the earth for a “thousand” in heaven! That was the kind of exchange Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were more than willing to make. They were wise indeed!

Verse 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.

The king was not charmed with their frankness nor awed by their fearlessness. He had given them a second chance and this was the last straw. Their audacity seemed to him nothing more than brash disregard for his authority and for this reason he commanded the furnace to be made even hotter. This was an overreaction that would kill instantly and actually cause less suffering than a cooler fire. But his response was more than a temper tantrum for he was driven by fear coming from the heart of Satan himself who was far more frustrated with the Hebrews than his agent Nebuchadnezzar.

In verses 13 to 15, with the king already “in . . . rage and fury,” he still retained an element of good sense when he offered the men a second chance. Now, with his face contorted, he really losses it! His command to heat up the furnace “seven times more” makes no sense if his desire was to punish insubordination. A cooler fire would have been far more punishing!

Later, in Daniel’s life, he was shown another king who will “go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many” (Daniel 11:44) of God’s people who will challenge his authority just like Nebuchadnezzar in this situation.

Verses 20-22: 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. 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. 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.

Consider the two groups of “men” being depicted in these verses: Nebucadnezzar’s “most mighty men . . . in his army,” and the three Hebrews who were “bound” up by the king’s soldiers.

Both groups exhibited extraordinary obedience. Both were focused on complying with the commands of their ruler regardless of consequences. Neither group were assured of the outcome. Both suffered terribly. One perished, the other survived. The commands they were guided by were given in order to demonstrate which ruler was the most powerful.

The command obeyed by the soldiers was from an earthly king they could see. The command obeyed by the three Hebrews was from the heavenly king they could not see except by faith.

The soldiers were forced into a rigorous training program for an extended period of time being taught the importance of implicit, unquestioning, automatic obedience. They were expected to behave like robots.

But, the three Hebrew men, like Daniel, had “purposed in” their heart to serve God by choice, unlike that of the soldiers whose power of choice had long since been subverted to the authority of another human who had just been seized with a fit of temporary insanity.

The three Hebrews had just said “we will not” while the soldiers silently carried out their orders then were slain by “the flame of the fire” because it was “exceeding hot.”

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

Evidently they had been pitched bodily into the furnace before the soldiers succumbed to the heat of the fire. Note that such demonstration of abject loyalty does not appear to have called forth any expression of appreciation from the king. Evidently, he took little note of what they had done.

Verses 24 & 25: 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. 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.

So, the king could hardly believe his eyes and had to ask his assistants if what he saw was real. After they assented, he concluded “the fourth” to be “like the Son of God.” Uriah Smith suggests “This language is by some supposed to refer to Christ. A more literal rendering according to the Revised Version, and other good authorities, is ‘like a son of the gods,’ that is, He had the appearance of a divine being.”[19] In other words, the king interpreted what he saw in terms of his polytheistic belief system.

Ellen White asks “How did that heathen king know what the Son of God was like?” She answers: “The Hebrew captives . . . had in life and character represented before him the truth.”[20] So, the king knew what He was like character wise, rather than being familiar with his exact appearance. Her answer also suggests his polytheism had nothing to do with his perception.

Verses 26 & 27: 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. 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.

The king forgot himself and shouted above the roar of the fire to the three men plus one, who were supposed to be dead. Note he did not say “servants of his [polytheistic] gods.” The “God” he was referring to was the “God” he had just challenged by saying “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15). Now he had his answer. He believed what he saw, exclaiming, in verse 29 “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.” That statement confirms he was exalting “the God of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego” far above any of his other “gods.”

At this very moment, the king lost all interest in the golden image. The miraculous deliverance not only captured the king’s attention but all “the princes, governors, and captain, and the kings counselors” crowded around the three Hebrew men as they emerged unscathed from the fiery inferno.

In effect, therefore, the one item left out of the king’s plans to recreate his dream, which was the “stone” that destroyed it, was now fulfilled. Possibly, the king could well have had the image dismantled and may even have had the gold melted down right in the very furnace the three captives just came out of!

Will there be a parallel to that extraordinary event in the future? I think so! Consider the scenario in Revelation where “heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come;. . .” (Revelation 6:14-17).

In this context, the “stone” is represented by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who destroyed, as it were, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. In other words, as we noted in Daniel 2, God used these men because He approved of their character and behavior.

They are representative of the “remnant” of the woman’s “seed” in Revelation 12:16, 17 who will “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” during the final moments of earth’s history. Their courage and faithfulness in “the face of the serpent” who will desperately “cast out of his mouth water as a flood” to exterminate their witness will give God the opportunity to swallow “up the flood.”

In the context of Daniel’s three friends, the faithfulness of God’s people in the time of crises, will “brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold” of the great image representing the serpent’s oppressive rule throughout history. Then, “the God of heaven [will] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed . . . but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).

Verse 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.

We might think Nebuchadnezzar had no other choice but to “believe what he saw,” but he could have ignored the evidence. He could have chosen to believe his “gods” performed the miracle rather than the “God of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego.” But, this king was different. Although “an idolater by birth and training, and at the head of an idolatrous people, he had nevertheless an innate sense of justice and right, and God was able to use him . . . for the fulfillment of the divine purpose.”[21] “On that eventful day the powers of darkness seemed to be gaining a signal triumph; the worship of the golden image bade fair to become connected permanently with the established forms of idolatry recognized as the state religion of the land. Satan [also] hoped thereby to defeat God’s purpose of making the presence of captive Israel in Babylon a means of blessing to all the nations of heathendom.”[22] If the king did not have “an innate sense of justice and right,” Satan could, in spite of the evidence, have defeated “God’s purpose.” In this case, because Nebuchadnezzar was a man willing to be convinced by evidence, not ideology, God could use him.

Verse 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.

“And God was pleased with the effort of the king to show Him reverence, and to make the royal confession of allegiance as widespread as was the Babylonian realm . . . to make public confession, and to seek to exalt the God of heaven above all other gods; but in endeavoring to force his subjects to make a similar confession of faith and to show similar reverence, Nebuchadnezzar was exceeding his right as a temporal sovereign. He had no more right, either civil or moral, to threaten men with death for not worshiping God, than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image. God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve.”[23]

So, out of the thousands who attended the dedication of the king’s image, only three men who chose to remain faithful in spite of consequences, undid all of Satan’s plan to install himself as the “god of gods” in Babylon.

So it will be at the end of time. God will use the witness of only a few faithful people represented by the “stone . . . cut out of the mountain” (Daniel 2:45) of an intimidated multitude and bring to naught the intended effect of the “image to the beast” (Revelation 13:15). That beast image will also represent the effort of Satan to change the meaning of God’s prophecies about the future of the world. Whereas men have always planned and predicted permanence for their earthly kingdoms, God, through the “stone . . . which smote the image upon his feet” and ground it into “chaff,” shows clearly that God has other plans. Things will not always continue as they were.

“If you are called to go through the fiery furnace for His sake, Jesus will be by your side even as He was with the faithful three in Babylon. Those who love their Redeemer will rejoice at every opportunity of sharing with Him humiliation and reproach. The love they bear their Lord makes suffering for His sake sweet.”[24] “’The wrath of man shall praise Thee,’ says the psalmist; ‘the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.’ God means that testing truth shall be brought to the front and become a subject of examination and discussion, even if it is through the contempt placed upon it. The minds of the people must be agitated. Every controversy, every reproach, every slander, will be God’s means of provoking inquiry and awakening minds that otherwise would slumber.”[25]

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

This is the last we hear of these three men in the book of Daniel. Undoubtedly, however, they must have been around, at least until the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Whether or not they were given positions of trust in the Persian empire after Babylon was captured, we will never know until heaven.

Even though their deliverance was extraordinarily marvelous, that was no guarantee they would remain faithful even though we certainly hope they did! Often, however, worldly greatness that was heaped upon these men, even more than before their promotion, could have caused their eventual downfall. And, that could account for Daniel’s silence about them from this point on.

In order to defeat the purpose of Satan to permanently establish the golden image in all the nations of heathendom and to make the presence of captive Israel in Babylon a means of blessing, God was dependant on the cooperation of His people, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It took enormous faith and courage on their part to say to the king “we are not careful to answer thee 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 thine hand, O king. 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.”

“Shaddrach, Meshack, and Abednego” were only three men out of all the other Israelite captives. They were “cut out, selected out, chosen out” of the other members of God’s professed people to bring defeat to the golden image of Satan’s plan. So, all the captives, including the heroes of our story, could be seen to be represented by the first “mountain”[26] out of which the “stone” was selected while the “stone” itself, in the case of this story, symbolizes such people as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whom God used to bring down the golden image during Nebuchadnezzar’s time. But during the end time of the “feet,” it represents people of our age who will bring ultimate defeat to Satan’s hope of establishing his form of world government which today is known by such terms as “globalism” or “new world order.”

Summary of chapter 3: Approximately two decades of time separated the events of chapter 2 from those of this chapter. During those twenty or so years, many things took place of which Daniel says nothing. But, it is plain to see that the king who expressed great admiration to Daniel’s God at the end of chapter 2, has, by this time, lapsed into his old ways of thinking that his kingdom would last forever in spite of the knowledge he received when Daniel, through the providence of God, interpreted his dream. As if to prove the interpretation false, he appointed the construction of an image made entirely of gold and set a time for all to render it homage. Everybody, even his captured enemies acquiesced except for the three Hebrews. Their rectitude, in effect, represented what the king could not, and did not desire to duplicate…the stone that struck the dream image on its feet. Therefore, there lies within this narrative deep meaning and relevance to the great dream image of chapter two, and most importantly to the “image” of Revelation 13, 14, 15, 16, 19 and 20. It is a graphic representation of the great test that will come to God’s people in the final hours of earth’s history when His name will be vindicated through their loyalty to His law.

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[1] “The date 580 B.C., long given in the margin of the KJV, is derived from Ussher’s chronology and has no adequate historical basis.” SDA Bible Commentary Vol.4 page 779 (beginning of right column)

[2] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White page 504 (italics mine)

[3] see Prophets and Kings by E.G. White page 504 first paragraph where “the wise men of his realm” is spoken of.

[4] Ibid

[5] The Youth’s Instructor 04-07-08 pr.04

[6] or 103 feet by 10 feet according to Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.4, page 780

[7] Ibid (ellipses supplied)

[8] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White page 505

[9] Signs of the Tiimes Vol.3, 381; Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.7, page 976

[10] Spaulding and Magan Collection pages 20, 21 (ellipse supplied)

[11] Manuscript Releases Vol.21 page 128 (bracket & ellipse supplied)

[12] reference to the “Chaldeans” is found eleven times in the book of Daniel. It refers, not only to those of the nation of Chalea, but to those who understood and learned their language and philosophy, and became members of what we might call the king’s “cabinet” or his counselors.

[13] Review and Herald 4-23-89

[14] Great Controversy by E.G. White, page 277

[15] Review and Herald 12-14-93

[16] Our High Calling page 355

[17] Manuscript Releases Vol.1, page 249; Vol.10 page 252 (underlining supplied)

[18] Child Guidance by E.G. White page 166

[19] The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith page 75 (italics mine)

[20] Prophets and Kings page 509

[21] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White pages 514, 515 (ellipse mine)

[22] Ibid 506 (bracket mine]

[23] Ibid 510, 511 (ellipse mine)

[24] Mount of Blessings by E.G. White page 30

[25] Testimonies for the Church Vol. 5 page 453

[26] Daniel 2:45 Remember, there are two mountains at the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The “first” mountain, even though depicted in verse 45, comes before the second “mountain” even though it is mentioned in verse 35. It is the second “mountain” that becomes “great” and fills “the whole earth,” and by implication, displaces the first “mountain.”