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.
The kings of Assyria, his predecessors, had been in the habit of erecting statues or other monuments to commemorate their conquests.
Probably the king was trying to outdo the great metallic image which he had seen in his dream some sixteen years previously. Nebuchadnezzar evidently resented the idea of deterioration in his dream image, so was determined to erect a statue made wholly of gold to indicate that his kingdom would stand for ever. Nebuchadnezzar in his pride forgot that supernatural circumstances overruled in regards to his dream image.
Made an image of gold
It was unlikely to be made of pure gold, for if it was made of solid gold it would require 2000 tons of that precious metal. It was possibly made of some other material overlaid with gold plates or gold leaf. The fact that it was 90 ft high by 10 ft wide indicates that it must have stood on a pedestal or base of considerable size. The average human body is less than 5 times as tall as it is broad; this statue would be 9 to 1 and out of proportion unless the pedestal made up the difference.
It possibly was an image of Bel-Marduk or Nabu or the king himself.
In the plain of Dura
This would be somewhere near Babylon.
A small river called the Dura flows into the Euphrates some six or seven miles below Babylon, and near this river about twelve miles southeast of the site of old Babylon, are a number of mounds carrying the name Dura.
One of these mounds has a large rectangular brick structure, 45 ft square at the base and some 20 ft high, which some have identified with the site of this ancient statue.
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.
This is quite an impressive list of all the high officials in the king's realm.
The fact that all these officials were ordered to come to this dedication of the great image shows that the king was determined that this was to be a very impressive ceremony. No one was left out but for some reason Daniel was absent, possibly in another country or distant place on business dealing with Babylon.
Verse 3. THEN THE PRINCES, THE GOVERNORS, AND THE 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 NEBUCHADNEZZARTHE KING HAD SET UP.
It seems strange that these names are all repeated but evidently this was the way they did it back in those times. However it does show that this gathering was very large, and nobody of any importance was left out.
Verse 4. THEN AN HERALD CRIED ALOUD, TO YOU IT IS COMMANDED, O PEOPLE, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES.
When all was ready, trumpeters announced the arrival of the king and every eye followed him as he ascended the royal dais erected near the foot of the statue.
Then an herald cried aloud
A public crier, or the one appointed to make public announcements.
Verse 5. THAT AT WHAT TIME YE HEAR THE SOUND OF THE CORNET, FLUTE, HARP, SACKBUT, PSALTERY, DULCIMER, AND ALL KINDS OF MUSIC, YE FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP THE GOLDEN IMAGE THAT NEBUCHADNEZZAR THE KING HATH SET UP.
The Babylonians evidently believed in doing things in a big way. They had a full symphony orchestra. There is listed six different kinds of musical instruments; some were stringed and others wind and possibly there were percussioninstruments as well. The Dulcimer was a bagpipe made out of a skin of a dog.
Ye fall down and worship the golden image
The invitation sent out to all the leading officials in Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom to gather in the plain of Dura, spoke only of the dedication of the image, although the people may have understood that the worship of the image would be demanded. The king through the forced worship of this great image was endeavoring to gain recognition that the gods of Babylon were supreme over all other gods.
Verse 6. AND WHOSO FALLETH NOT DOWN AND WORSHIPPETH SHALL THE SAME HOUR BECAST INTO THE MIDST OF A BURNING FIERY FURNACE.
Just in case anyone was in two minds about obeying the king, Nebuchadnezzar used the threat of being cast into the fiery furnace. Ancient peoples did not object worshipping idols. So if anyone refused they would be regarded as being against the king and his government.
Whether the king understood the difficult position of his loyal Jewish servants we do not know but the threat of the furnace indicates that he did.
Verse 7. THEREFORE AT THAT TIME, WHEN ALL THE PEOPLE HEARD THE SOUND OF THE CORNET, FULTE, 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.
The appointed day came and a vast concourse of people from all parts of the great empire came and assembled on the plain of Dura.
As the Herald directed, at the sound of the music the people fell down and worshipped the golden image.
verse 8. WHEREFORE AT THAT TIME CERTAIN CHALDEANS CAME NEAR, AND ACCUSED THE JEWS.
Certain Chaldeans came near
Nine years had passed since the dream of the great image, the Chaldeans smarting under the defeat and insult of having Daniel lord over them; they plotted revenge and schemed to regain their lost prestige with the king. The whole affair seems to have been cleverly staged from start to finish and apparently the only part of the plan that went astray was Daniel's unexpected absence. All the while the Chaldeans kept a wary eye on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They well knew that it would take a good pretext to convince the king to do away with able and trusted public servants whom he had personally elevated to high office.
Verse 9. THEY SPAKE AND SAID TO THE KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR, 0 KING, LIVE FOR EVER.
Slippery characters as they were, they were not trying to gain favour of the king in speaking this way, but this was the correct way to address the monarch in those times.
Verse 10. THOU, 0 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:
The wise men did not lose any time in reporting to the king what had happened. Their eyes must have been wide open when they were supposed to be closed. The whole thing was so obvious it is a wonder the king did not see through it immediately.
Verse 11. AND WHOSO FALLETH NOT DOWN AND WORSHIPPETH, THAT HE SHOULD BE CAST INTO THE MIDST OF A BURNING FIERY FURNACE.
The king hardly needed to be reminded of his order for the whole thing was his brain child. The Chaldeans however rehearsed the whole thing carefully knowing the violent nature of the king; at the same time being well assured that this would be the end of the Hebrews.
Verse 12. THERE ARE CERTAIN JEWS WHOM THOU HAST SET OVER THE AFFATIRS 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.
The Chaldeans now reminded the king that he was responsible for placing these Hebrews in positions of power.
Thou hast set over the affairs of the provinces of Babylon
Their words contained hidden insinuations against the king blaming him for lack of foresight by appointing these foreign prisoners of war to high positions.
They well knew that it would take a good pretext to convince the king to do away with able and trusted public servants whom he had personally elevated to high office.
Verse 13. THEN NEBUCHADNEZZAR IN HIS RAGE AND FURY COMMANDED TO BRING SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABEDNEGO. THEN THEY BROUGHT THESE MEN BEFORE THE KING.
As we have already noticed, it did not take very much to make Nebuchadnezzar angry. Absolute monarch that he was he could not tolerate the thought that anyone would dare to defy his orders.
Verse 14. NEBUCHADNEZZAR SPAKE AND SAID UNTO THEM, IS IT TRUE O SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND OBEDNEGO, DO NOT YE SERVE MY GODS, NOR WORSHIP THE GOLDEN IMAGE WHICH I HAVE SET UP.
Nebuchadnezzar must have been well aware that these Jewish officials did not worship the Babylonian gods. The Chaldeans knew this for they anticipated that the Hebrews would refuse to worship the image. That is why they were able to report the matter to the king. They had been peeping when they should not have been.
Because the king himself had recognized the God they served as “a God of gods, and a Lord of kings (chap. 2:47) there had previously been no valid reason to accuse these men.
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?
The king was convinced that these young Hebrews were men of quality, that they had something that the other wise men did not have. He knew that they had been faithful in the performance of their duties. So he would give them another chance.
Who is that God that shall deliver you
This almost seems like blasphemy against the God of the Hebrews; there have been some who have compared these words to those spoken by the Assyrian king Sennacherib "Let not thy God, in whom thou trusteth, deceive thee” Isaiah 37:10. However there is a difference; Sennacherib elevated his gods above Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, and defied the living God. Nebuchadnezzar declared that to deliver anyone out of the fiery furnace was more than any god could accomplish.
Verse 16. SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABEDNEGO ANSWERED AND SAID TO THE KING, 0 NEBUCHADNEZZAR, WE ARE NOT CAREFUL TO ANSWER THEE IN THIS MATTER.
Some have interpreted this reply as highly arrogant; that is because their statement has been misunderstood.
The R.S.V. renders it "We have no need to answer thee in this matter.'' What they were really saying is something like this "we have no defense or apology to make.”
Seeing that they could not deny the accusation, it was useless to make any defense.
They were well aware that their case rested in the hands of God. God had said, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything 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…”
They made their answer in complete submission to His will, whatever might be the outcome.
Verse 17. IF IT BE SO, OUR GOD WHOM WE SERVE IS ABLE TO DELIVER US FROM THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE, AND HE WILL DELIVER US CUT OF THINE HAND, 0 KING.
They had counted the cost and were ready to pay the supreme sacrifice if necessary, rather than be untrue to their God.
This word "if" has occasioned much debate among commentators.
If our God is able
Some have taken this to indicate that there is a possibility that God is not able to save them. That word "if" should not be taken as doubt in God's power to save but rather they were not sure if it was God's will to do so. They were prepared to accept God's will whatever it might be.
Verse 18. BUT IF NOT, BE IT KNOWN UNTO THEE, 0 KING, THAT WE WILL NOT SERVE THY GODS, NOR WORSHIP THE GOLDEN IMAGE WHICH THOU HAST SET UP.
What a test of the loyalty of these three companions of Daniel! They realized that they were not only in the presence of the richest and most powerful monarch of earth, but they were a spectacle to God, to angels and to the inhabitants of other worlds. The whole universe was watching to see what these men would do. They stood as witnesses for God and Christ.
The king’s threats were in vain, nothing he could say could turn them from their determination to serve God even if it meant death. They well knew that God would ultimately reward them with everlasting life.
Verse 19. THEN WAS NEBUCHADNEZZAR FULL OF FURY AND THE FORM OF HIS VISAGE WAS CHANGED AGAINST SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABEDNEGU: THEREFORE HE SPAKE, AND COMMANDED THAT THEY SHOULD HEAT THE FURNACE ONE SEVEN TIMES MORE THAN IT WAS WONT TO BE HEATED.
The fiery furnace was probably a brick kiln. Excavations show that ancient brick kilns were similar to modern ones, these kilns are ordinarily cone shaped structures built of bricks. The fuel consisted of a mixture of crude oil and chaff. A tremendous heat is thus produced, and through the opening the observer can see the fired bricks heated to a white glow.
When the king saw that the men were determined to resist his orders he was "full of fury"; his face took on the appearance of a demon and his rage was satanic.
Verse 20. AND HE COMMANDED THE MOST MIGHTY MEN THAT WERE IN HIS ARMY TO BIND SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABENEGO, AND TO CAST THEM INTO THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE.
The choice of military men of outstanding strength was probably to make sure there would not be any intervention on the part of the gods.
Verse 21. THEN THESE MEN WERE BOUND IN THE COATS, THEIR HOSEN, AND THEIR HATS, AND THEIR OTHER GARMENTS, AND WERE CAST INTO THE MIDST OF THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE.
As these men were high court officials they would be dressed in full court dress. The mention of their clothing which was of inflammable nature has a bearing on the miracle that followed.
Verse 22. 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.
King Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute despot; he had no regard for anyone not even his most loyal subjects, and those who carried out his command suffered death despite their innocence and loyalty. Although the whole thing worked out so well for the Hebrew youth, it is sad that these soldiers were allowed to suffer a horrible death.
Verse 23. AND THESE THREE MEN, SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABEDNEGO, FELL BOUND INTO THE MIDST OF THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE.
We can be very sure that these young men must have done a lot of praying as they knew that the king was determined to put them to death. It took a lot of courage to face up to that fiery furnace but God gave these men the courage they needed.
Verse 24. THEN NEBUCHADNEZZAR THE KING WAS ASTONIED, AND ROSE UP IN HASTE, AND SPAKE, AND SAID UNTO THIS COUNSELLORS, DID NOT WE CAST THREE MEN BOUND INTO THE MIDST OF THE FIRE? THEY ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO THE KING, TRUE, O KING.
The king was seated in an excellent position so he could see the victims as they were thrown into the fire.
The king was astonied “was alarmed" or "was afraid”
He certainly would be alarmed when instead of the three Hebrews being burned up by the savage flames they are seen to be walking around in the furnace.
Verse 25. 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 THEFOURTH IS LIKE THE SON OF GOD.
Some have asked how did this heathen king know what the Son of God would look like? In his dream of the great image described in chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar probably saw Christ for the stone cut out without hands represented Christ's everlasting kingdom.
Verse 26. 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.
To Nebuchadnezzar, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was not the only true God but simply the most high God, the chief of all gods.
Verse 27. 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.
What must have been the thoughts of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they calmly walked out of that blazing inferno? Perhaps they recalled the words of Isaiah 43:2 latter half "....when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
What a tremendous witness before the vast concourse of people and the great men of the realm. These young men stepped out of that furnace without even the smell of burning upon them. Never had there been a miracle like this before or since.
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 GCD, EXCEPT THEIR OWN GOD,
Nebuchadnezzar could not deny that a miracle had taken place right before his eyes and in the presence of all the assembled officials of his empire. Nor could he avoid a public acknowledgment of the fact. The miraculous deliverance of the three men made a deep impression on the king.
Verse 29. THEREFORE I MAKE A DECREE, THAT EVERY PEOPLE, NATION, AND LANGUAGE, WHICH SPEAK ANY THING AMISS AGAINST THE GOD OF SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABEDNEGO, SHALL BE CUT IN PIECES, ANDTHEIR HOUSES SHALL BE MADE A DUNGHILL: BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER GOD THAT CAN DELIVER AFTER THIS SORT.
Nebuchadnezzar had no right to threaten men with death for not worshipping God because God never compels the obedience of man. However there was no such thing as religious liberty in those days; you either carried out the kings whims or else you suffered death. Nebuchadnezzar is to be commended for not commanding his subjects to worship the God of the Hebrews.
Verse 30. THEN THE KING PROMOTED SHADRACH, MESCHACH, AND ABEDNEGO, IN THE PROVINCE OF BABYLON.
Their supreme act of loyalty elevated them to a more favorable position than before where they could bear a more effective witness to the superiority of the true God.
Today as in Daniel's day "the greatest want of the world is the want of men - men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for right - though the heavens fall." Education p.57.
The noble example of these three Hebrew men in refusing to yield their principles even when faced by death by fire has been an inspiration to uncounted numbers down through the centuries.
In the days that are ahead the people of God will go through a similar experience. When the “time of trouble such as never was” comes upon the world, the same God who walked in the fiery furnace will walk with His followers in whatever trial they may go through.