Daniel 3 - Outline of Daniel (MENU page)
I. Daniel's Chronicles of his Times under Gentile Kings (ch. 1-6)
B. Nebuchadnezzar's pride and conversion -
2. His image of gold (3:1-30):
  1. idolatrous worship refused
  2. the true God revealed through the fiery furnace
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.
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.
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.
...an image {idol} of gold...- What did this image depict?
-- Some suggest it was erected in honor of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar's father.
-- Others think it was an idol to Bel, the primary deity of Babylon.
-- However, it seems more likely that the image was inspired by Nebuchadnezzar's pride and self-deification. Rather than humbling himself before the God of Daniel, who had recently revealed to him "what shall be in the latter days," Nebuchadnezzar was filled with pride at the thought of himself as the head of gold (Dan 2:36-38).
     Unlike the image in his dream, this image was all of gold. He chose not to mar the picture of himself with inferior metals. (Of course, an image of this size could not have been solid gold. Rather, it was probably of wood or stone, covered with gold leaf. The glory was on the surface, to be seen of men. Beneath the thin skin, it was rather ordinary, just as the great king was merely a mortal man.)
...in the plain of Dura...- The location, uncertain today, was apparently chosen for visibility.
The plain was probably well populated, since "Dura" means "dwelling." An image, standing 60 cubits (approx. 90 feet) tall on flat ground, in a populated area, would have been visible to thousands of people, for many miles in every direction.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
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:
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth
shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
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.
to you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages...-
Nebuchadnezzar's empire had encompassed many diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Here is a call for unification around a common cause: the worship of the emperor whose benevolence overshadows the petty differences that might otherwise divide his subjects. Lacking a knowledge of the true God, gentile rulers, from the time of the tower of Babel onward, have often sought to stabilize their kingdoms around some universal religion (Gen 11:1-4). Nebuchadnezzar, and many gentile kings who followed him, made themselves the center of their false religions through self-deification (cp. Dan 6:7; Acts 12:21,22; and the later Roman emperors).
     The present day efforts of politicians and religious leaders, who embrace the common 'good' of all religions while minimizing essential doctrinal differences, will soon lead to a worldwide religion centered on the worship of the Beast (the anti-christ, Rev 13:11-15).
to you it is commanded...-
This command applied also to the people of Israel, living in captivity under Babylon's dominion. They had come to this circumstance because they had been unfaithful to the LORD their God. Despite His warnings, they had persisted in giving honor to false gods. Therefore, they had been carried away to serve strange gods in a strange land (in fulfilment of Deu 4:25-28; 28:36,64; Jer 16:13).
whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall... be cast into... the fiery furnace.
The severe penalty was intended to ensure universal compliance, just as it will be under the anti-christ (Rev 13:11-15).
the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar set up...-
During the Tribulation period, the image of the Beast will be in appearance as a man (Rev 13:14). However, the tall and narrow dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar's image do not mimic those of a human body. Therefore, his image was probably in the form of an obelisk, perhaps representing a phallus. Many false religions, including the worship of Bel (Baal), were obsessed with human sexuality, and viewed the reproductive organs as the source of life and prosperity. They "worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator..." (Rom 1:25)
     Nebuchadnezzar also had "changed the truth of God into a lie..." Through the dream that Daniel interpreted, Nebuchadnezzar had learned that "the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, strength, and glory... Thou art this head of gold" (Dan 2:37,38). But the king had corrupted the truth, turning it upside down. His golden image, rather that depicting a head crowned with glory by the Almighty God, exalted the sexual power and vitality of man.
     Such a sexual symbol, besides glorifying the king's prowess, would also emphasize something common to mankind. Regardless of cultural or religious differences, the process of human reproduction is a common denominator to the entire human family. The emphasis of this theme, in today's popular music, movies, and literature, gives them powerful cross cultural appeal, and conveys the message that we are really all one people.
     When self-worship is combined with sexual obsession, the result is pre-occupation with one's own sex. Certain passages may suggest that this will be the case with the anti-christ. (e.g., Dan 11:37,38. However, see the Book Notes at Daniel 11:37 for the primary meaning of that passage.)
when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick...-
Because some of the instruments have names of Greek origin, some critics have argued that the book must have be written much later than Daniel's lifetime. However, they forget that the languages and arts of many nations would have been heard in the courts of a king whose power dominated the known world. Furthermore, the employment of diverse instrumentation and "all kinds of music" correspond with the careful orchestration of the king's purpose of unifying his culturally diverse realm. This was an early version of "We Are the World."
therefore... all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down {prostrated themselves} and worshipped {did homage}...-
Although many were bowing under coercion, all were bowing as men in worship of man. Even those, who were reluctant to honor the king's image, were enthusiastic to honor their own lives.
     Although many people were caught up in 'worship,' only a few were worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Those few did not participate in the order of worship, and were unmoved by the 'worship music.' Instead, in refusing to conform, they presented themselves "to God as a living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1,2).
     When the antichrist reigns, he also will demand universal participation in compulsary worship (Rev 13:15-18). To avoid his wrath, such worshippers will receive a mark, identifying them with the Beast, the number of whose name is 6 6 6, which is "the number of a man." In scripture, the number six is often associated with man (whereas, seven, the perfect number, is associated with God). In the Revelation, the three "sixes" may form an unholy trinity (the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Dragon who inspires their worship). Here, in Daniel ch. 3, this number is foreshadowed, in the dimensions of the image (60 cubits by 6 cubits) and in the 6 named instruments. The dimensions are the measure of man's self-glorification, while the instruments inspire an atmosphere for man's self-worship. [See the Book Notes at Rev 13:18 for further discussion on 'the number of his name.']
     "All the people, the nations, and the languages" united in worship of a false god, and in identification with the antichrist (and also, in oppositon to God's true witnesses, Rev 11:9), stand in terrible contrast to those of "every kindred, tongue and nation" who will worship the Lamb on the Throne (Rev 5:9; 7:9,10).
8. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
10 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:
11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth,
[that] he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
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.
...certain Chaldeans...- The accusation was brought by a few.
Perhaps the accusers had been looking for an opportunity against these three men, due to jealousy for their positions. or, Perhaps they were Nebuchadnezzar's political correctness police.
...certain Jews...- Although the command and penalty were addressed to all the nations,
it was applied first to "all the rulers of the provinces" who would be responsible for enforcing the compliance of their people groups (v.2,3). The three accused Jews, being high officials, were among those called to this initial assembly. There probably were few, if any, other Jews in attendance. The absence of Daniel was probably due to official duties which required his presence elsewhere in the kingdom.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree...- The formal accusation presented before the king, included:
-- the names of the accused,
-- their crime through violation of a specific law,
-- the prescribed penalty for that crime,
-- and a summary statement:
these men, O king, have not regarded thee...- Despite the accuracy of every other portion of the accusation,
this statement was not true, since these men had served the king faithfully in all other matters. They were not disloyal to Nebuchadnezzar, but they refused to disobey a Higher Power. Ex 20:3-5; 23:13; Jer 25:6
they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.-
This small group of suffering believers foreshadows the believing remnant of the Tribulation period. Both groups will be delivered through the fires of tribulation. However, many in the latter group will suffer (temporary) severance of life from their bodies (Rev 7:14; 13:7,15; 20:4).
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury
commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Then they brought these men before the king.
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?
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?
Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury...- Again we glimpse the king's megalomania. Dan 2:12
Who would dare to disobey him?
Is it true...? - Despite his rage, the king offers these men
  • an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges (v.14),
  • an opportunity for compliance, in case they had misunderstood the command (v.15),
  • a final warning: of the penalty, and of his prevailing power:
who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? - The answer to this question
is the purpose for which the LORD allowed His servants to be tested.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king,
O Nebuchadnezzar, we [are] not careful to answer thee in this matter.
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] out of thine hand, O king.
18 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.
we are not careful to answer thee...- That is, 'We have no need to reconsider.'
'We are ready to answer you...' 1Pet 3:14,15
They had "counted the cost." cp. Luk 14:28-33
Likewise, during the Tribulation, "believers, in that day, like those of this chapter, will prefer death in a temporary fire (v.21) to torment in an eternal fire (Rev 14:9-11)." [GWms]
our God whom we serve is able to deliver us... but if not... we will not serve thy gods...-
Whether God chose to deliver them or not, they would obey Him. Psa 44:22; Rom 8:31-39; Mat 5:10-12; Joh 15:21; 16:2,3
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.
20 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.
21 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.
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.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury {hot burning rage}...- The furnace was heated according to the heat of his anger,
seven times hotter than normal or necessary for the total destruction of three men. The reality and lethality of the flames was demonstrated by the deaths of the soldiers who approached the edge of the fire to cast {ie., throw} the three believers into the midst {center} of the inferno.
24 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.
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 the fourth is like the Son of God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was astonied {ie., alarmed, terrified}... -
The literal preservation of the three men was totally beyond explanation apart from the supernatural intervention of their God.
Lo {behold}, I see four men loose, walking... they have no hurt...-
The fire had no power over these men, except to loose their bonds.
...the form of the fourth is like the Son of God {lit., like a son of the gods}.-
Nebuchadnezzar could know nothing about the Son of God who was revealed in the NT. He describes only what he saw with the eye of flesh. Looking upon the external appearance of the fourth man, he saw a glory that set Him apart from all mortal men. Of course, though Nebuchadnezzar did not know Him, it was the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a pre-incarnate manifestation.
     This historic event foreshadows the preservation of the Jewish remnant during the Great Tribulation, when the antichrist will seek to destroy all who refuse to worship him. In that day, the Son of God will walk through the fires of persecution with His people, just as He is with His own today, even though He has ascended into glory (Isa 43:2; Mat 28:20; Joh 16:33).
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.
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.
...come forth {ie., come out of the furnace}, and come hither {ie., approach unto me}.-
The three men, in fellowship with the Son of God while in the furnace of affliction, were probably not eager to leave. However, still being in this life, they remained subject to the earthly power. They came out of the fire only at the king's command.
ye servants of the Most High God...- Nebuchadnezzar is growing in his understanding of the true God.
He now acknowledges that there is One whose sovereignty exceeds and supercedes his own. (cf. v.15).
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
{ie., frustrated} the king's word, and yielded their bodies,
that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
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.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
there is no other God that can deliver {rescue, extricate} after this sort.-
-- The word for 'deliver' used here is stronger than that used in v.15. The former deliverence, from the king's power, would have kept them out of the fire. The latter deliverence kept them from the power of the flame, and brought them out alive.
-- The king now acknowledges "there is no other God" with such power. He has come to understand that this God is more than merely "Your God" (ie., the God of the Jews, Dan 2:47), rather, this God is superior to all other gods.
-- Is that also your conviction? Are you willing to entrust yourself to His keeping? Joh 10:27,28; 17:15; Heb 7:25; 2Tim 1:12; Rev 2:10
I make a decree...- This is the second decree recorded in this chapter.
The first decree imposed a penalty to compel exaltation of a false god.
This second decree imposed a penalty to deter defamation of the true God.
then the king promoted {ie., prospered} Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego...
The king, with new appreciation for their God, rewards these men for their faithful witness to Him (v.28). They had violated the king's command and given their bodies to the fire, in order to remain faithful to their God. They were prepared for promotion to glory, they were rewarded with prosperity in Babylon.
The Fivefold Testimony of the Three (see v.16-18) [GWms]
  1. Confession: "God..."
  2. Possession: "our God..."
  3. Consecration: "whom we serve..."
  4. Separation: "we will not serve thy gods..."
  5. Resolution: "we will not worship the image."
Result:
  • Confusion of the enemy (v.25)
  • Promotion of the three (v.30)

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