115-104 Daniel Chapter 3
King Nebuchadnezzar determined to build the image of his dream as a monument to show the greatness of his empire. It is possible that the statue was solid Gold which would have fit King Nebuchadnezzar’s ego. Considering the measurements given the Colossus of Rhodes was not as big as the King’s statue. However, to build it out of solid gold would have been an extreme drain on the treasury. More likely the statue was gold plated as was customary in that day. (Isaiah 40:19 Jeremiah 10:4) The statue was over ninety feet high and nine feet across. This may or may not have been the actual height as part of that measurement may have included the base that the statue was placed upon.
The statue was placed on the Plain of Dura which was about 17 ¾ miles south west of Baghdad.
Upon the completion King Nebuchadnezzar called all the dignitaries of the land to come and admire the image that he had built. It is then and today that when marvels are presented that dedication honors are given and expected, such was the custom in ancient Babylonian rites. The word “Satraps” is an Old Persian word signifying kingdom guardians. Deputies and governors were Semitic terms which were common at the time Daniel wrote this book. These dignitaries were probably listed in the order according to their rank and grades.
It is likely that not all of the dignitaries of the empire were present. Some would be involved in duties that could not be interrupted while others were away on missions. But it is expected that all who could were there as to have ignored the invitation of the king would have been costly. Their attendance was an expression of their loyalty and submission to the king. Closest to the king would have been his most trusted counselors of the court. Daniel was there as he was the “Rab signin”, (chief overseer) of all the wise men of Babylon.
All possible members of the empire where there or their representatives. The list of instruments listed were either Semitic or Greek. Greece traded throughout the empires at that time in history. Babylon was an international empire and all the nations were there. The Babylonians were well known for their love of music. (Psalm 137:3 Isaiah 14:11)
All of the peoples were required to bow down and worship the god of Nebuchadnezzar. This worship of the god was part of the oath of loyalty that they all had taken. This was not an obstacle for the pagan beliefs of the day, as all gods had proven their worthiness. Worshipping another king’s god did not mean denying the god they commonly worshiped. But for the Israelites this worship of a foreign god was not possible. The Israelites worship one God and that was Yahweh. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Failure to do so was a fatal error and common in those days. Kings of the day maintained loyalty to their throne with a firm hand. If resistance was allowed rebellion could spread quickly throughout the kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar was ever aware of the possibility of failure in the kingdom and he was proud of the image that he had created from his dream.
Furnaces were common in the land of Babylon and used for their many building projects. They were used for the baking of bricks or the smelting of metals. It was not an unusual punishment for a man to be thrown into a furnace in that day as a Babylonian letter dating back to 1800 B. C. records. Also in the Assyrian court there was a regulation calling for such punishment in 1130 B. C. (Psalm 21:9; Jeremiah 29:22)
At the sound of the music all fell to their knees and worshiped the golden statue. Not one remained upright, or so it seemed.
The Chaldeans, who were the wise men that Daniel was in charge over may have had a secret grudge against him and his friends. They may not have liked being under the authority of men from Judah. Now they saw an opportunity to shame Daniel. How quickly they had forgotten that it was Daniel that had saved their lives. The failure of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down before the image had played into their hand.
The Chaldeans were within their rights to tell the king of the civil disobedience. But it was more than just telling the king but they did so in a mean minded way. They not only told that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow down but also added their opinion of the attitudes of the young Judeans as well. The Chaldeans said that they were ungrateful for the privilege that they had been given by their appointments to positions of importance in the court. By not bowing down to the image that the king had set up they were mocking his authority. The implication in their charge is treason. The three Jews showed no regard for the king’s authority and would not worship his god.
The Chaldeans showed more than just mere resentment as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not have involved themselves in the magical rites that the Chaldeans performed. Whatever the full reason for the action of the Chaldeans the charges they leveled against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was fatal. Failure to worship the golden statue was an act of open rebellion. The refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the king’s decree undermined it and the king could not allow this to happen or go unpunished.
The king in his anger and rage ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be brought before him. We must note here the courage that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in disobeying the order to bow to the statue. They knew full well that their disobedience would result in their deaths.
In spite of the kings anger Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had the respect of the king. They were given a second chance to obey the order and bow down and worship the Golden image that the king had erected. King Nebuchadnezzar also had high regard for the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego because their God could reveal the secrets of the king’s dreams. Still it is one thing to know the meaning of dreams of men and another to rescue men from the fires of a burning furnace. So with this second chance to obey the punishment was the same. To fail to bow down would result in being cast into the fiery burning furnace.
It was not so much a surprise for the king that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow down. King Nebuchadnezzar knew the reason for their objection to bow down before his god, but they had to remember that his god was the victor and therefore they must submit. Also note that it was a god that he had set up and a god that he had made. He was wanting Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down before a man-made god and not the true God/ (Isaiah 44:17)
With respect for the king Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego firmly stated that they would not bow down to the god of the king. They were willing to face whatever would come with a firm belief and trust in their God. Even with the doubts of the king they believed that their God would deliver them.
Some would thought their action and faith in their God was fanatical but it was not. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not expect to die in the fiery furnace. They knew their God and were willing above all else to obey Him and trust Him for their keeping. It was this very strong commitment that had impressed the king when he had first met them. (Daniel 1:20)
King Nebuchadnezzar had been patient with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego but now that they had refused his offer he became enraged. This is the king that before had vowed to kill all the wise men in his land and now again his rage was in full throttle. No man has defiled the king before his face and he had never before experienced such treatment.
Yet there must have been some doubt in his heart. The three exhibited confidence in their God that He would deliver them. The thought of their God gave him pause. Perhaps their God would deliver them and because of this the king made extra precautions. The king ordered the furnace to be heated up to the maximum possible. This may also be in reference to the divine judgement of his god that they should face the full fury. He would enlist the full power of his god against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
The king enlisted the mightiest of his men in the army to ensure that his god would be victorious. Now King Nebuchadnezzar would see what their God could do against the forces of his god and his mighty men. King Nebuchadnezzar was satisfied that all that could be done was done to show the people that his god was the greater.
Again we see that Nebuchadnezzar was a man who would go to the extremes and this behavior could also be seen as an indication of the mental illness we see of him later.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were bound and taken to the furnace and cast into it. There was no way of escape. For the mighty men who carried out the order of the king their fate also was set. As the heat of the furnace was so intense that they too were consumed by the heat. It was in the furnace that produced so much heart that those near it perished that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast.
As we picture this scene in our minds we find ourselves in silent awe. We can only be inspired by the courage and steadfast faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in their God.
It is obvious that the king in his rage was not satisfied to issue the order of execution but to also observe it being carried out. He himself peered in the side of the kiln to see the men burning. It was a portal that was used for the bellows to blow air into the fire to intensify the flames of the furnace as he had ordered. But what he saw when looking in amazed him and sought the advice of his counselors. He questioned them as to how many men had been thrown into the furnace and they concurred that there were three. In the king’s astonishment he proclaimed that he saw not three men walking around in the fire but four. The king reported that the forth man in the furnace was that of the son of god.
There has been argument as to whose god this figure was. But the truth of Nebuchadnezzar was that it was as the son of gods, meaning that it was a divine being. With the knowledge that the king had of these three men it could only be one conclusion that King Nebuchadnezzar meant the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was fulfilling His promise to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “ (Isaiah 43:2)
Then the king called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the furnace. When they came out all the officials of the land saw that the fire had no effect upon them. It is interesting to note that while the fire had no effect on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego the ropes that had bound them were burnt away.
In the king’s statement “You servants of the Most High” King Nebuchadnezzar did not recognize the true God as the only god, but a higher god than his.
Nebuchadnezzar cannot help but recognize the power and the faithfulness of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Neither can the king fail to recognize that faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in their God and their willingness to yield all to Him.
By the king’s words, “His supernatural agency” hold a meaning of greater than an angel but that of an angel of the Lord. The king also stated “They have changed the king’s word” which cannot be done to a sovereign lord. Once a king makes a decree it is law and not reversible. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had done that which no man can do, change the decree of the king. And finally the king said, “And have surrendered their bodies”. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had not hesitated to place their whole trust in their God and not worship any other god but their own.
King Nebuchadnezzar was still the all-powerful king who held the power of life and death over his subjects. Yet, he made a new decree that protected the name and reputation of the God of Heaven. The God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their God had proved that He was supreme over the gods of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. Now to speak amiss of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would result in a terrible death to the offender. It would also mean the destruction of the offender’s property.
As a result Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were promoted to higher positions in the province of Babylon.