Daniel, Chapter 3
“In chapter three, five, and six we have a historical demonstration of the central truths of the apocalyptic sections. In the apocalyptic sections we are assured of God’s sovereignty and the triumph of the saints. It is told to us in symbols. In these chapters we have actual demonstrations of the accuracy of the pictures painted for us in the symbolic sections. In each of them we are told of bragging and tyrannical rulers who decree things against the saints or attempt to dishonor the God of the saints. It is important to acknowledge that God is not suggesting His saints will always be remarkably delivered. Just the same, He is assuring us that we will be delivered in accordance with His purposes and will. The captive Jews are being assured (and so are we). Those who lorded it over the Jews will be taken care of by God, ultimately. In the meantime, to make that clear, God gives these thrilling illustrations of His power and might. No God of this sort can be successfully opposed and no people loved by such a God can be losers!” (McGuiggan p. 61).
3:1 Here we find the “birth of a god”. “So another god is born made in the likeness of man. Should not God make men? Some make their gods in the shape of statues; others in the shape of dollars, houses…” (p. 63). If a cubit is around 18 inches then this image was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. The dimensions of the image would be fitting for an obelisk. This 10 to 1 ratio of height to width does not fit an image in human form. However, the Babylonians often distorted the human figure in constructing their images. 90 feet is about the height of a present-day eight-story building. “The plain of Dura”: The term “Dura” was a common name in Mesopotamia for any place that was enclosed by mountains or a wall. This image was set up in the “province of Babylon”, that is probably close to the city itself. Archeologists have uncovered a large square made of brick some six miles southeast of Babylon, which may have been the base for this image.
3:2 Eight classes of officials are summoned to the dedication of this image. Satraps were chief representatives to the king; that is “kingdom-guardians”, or men who ruled large provinces. Prefects were military commanders. Governors were civil administrators.Advisors were counselors to those in governmental authority. The Treasurers administered the funds of the kingdom. TheJudges were administrators of the law. And the Magistrates passed judgment in keeping the law. All of this may suggest that the image was intended to symbolize the empire and its unity under the king.
3:3-6 This image also had religious significance and it appears that the king was instituting a new form of religion that would unify his empire. In verse 5 we find an early orchestra or symphony. Some critics argue that since the names of some of these instruments were Greek, the book was written later, in the time of the Grecian Empire, yet communication between Greece and the Near East had been carried on for years before the Greek conquest by Alexander. Failure to comply with the command was penalized by sudden death. The furnace was probably a furnace used commercially as a lime-kiln, or brick-kiln. “Here is religious conformity with a vengeance. The furnaces are nearly all gone today but there is the sneering which sometimes burns and there is the isolation from peers and many of our young people are having to endure” (McGuiggan p. 64).
3:7-12 Apparently, Daniel and his friends were not popular with everyone in Babylon. There are always “certain Chaldeans” around ready to bring accusations against God’s men. Has it ever been different? Notice that the accusers are left nameless, as they should be. We are not told why Daniel is not mentioned here, he may have been away on some sort of foreign business. Subjugated peoples, such as the Jewish captives, were normally relegated to positions of servitude, not elevated to authority in a realm. So the high positions of “some Jews” were resented. Notice that everyone else bows down to the image without reservation or question (Exodus 23:1; Romans 12:1-2).
3:13-14 There is a double test here for the three. This was not only a furious king, he was also the one who had honored them by giving them exalted positions. “I know it is true from personal experience that it is often harder to oppose one who has been kind to you than the one who is terribly angry with you. Was it not Goethe who said: ‘Most men can oppose their enemies but it takes a special person to oppose his friends!’ This is only one more reason why our young people who are weak in faith must not make close friends with the ungodly” (McGuiggan p. 64).
3:14-15 The king can hardly believe that such men would oppose his orders that he is willing to give them a second chance. “And what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” 1. What has happened to the king’s confession recorded in 2:47? How quickly people forget their promises or statements of conviction! “It would seem that Nebuchadnezzar had already seen sufficient evidence of the power of God so that he would have spoken with some restraint, but it is easy to forget if one does not believe with all the heart in the first place” (Butler p. 119). 2. The world is often amazed at what Christians will not do! (1 Peter 4:4 “And in all this, they are surprised”).
3:16 “We do not need to give you an answer”: This is not an answer of insolence. It is an answer of reality. Sometimes we can have the problem of giving an answer that never gets to the heart of the matter. There are times that we cannot satisfy people and there are times that there is no middle ground.
3:17 “If it be so”: Notice their humility. They believe that God can deliver them, but they also leave that decision to God. They do not demand that God deliver them in this case. They are prepared to serve God in the face of death even if God does not deliver them. “If it fits into the purposes of God to deliver us then He is able to do just that” (McGuiggan p. 65). Their words, our God whom we serve show that they recognized that God’s authority was greater than the authority claimed by the king. Though they were employed by the king, they “served” the true God. Nebuchadnezzar tries to intimidate them but as someone noted, “when you’ve lived constantly in the presence of the KING other little kings do not frighten you”. “A preacher told of his great fear of dogs and how it was cured. He was in the Smokey Mountains and spied a baby bear. Out of the car he jumped and lined up his camera. Suddenly a mother bear was standing alongside her baby and the preacher thought: Great! What a picture. As he looked through his viewfinder he found the figure of the mother bear was getting bigger she was coming at him with a growl like only a bear can make. He raced back to the car with the bear in hot pursuit; slammed the door shut just as the bear came crashing into it! It frightened him nearly to death but, said he, ‘It cured me of my fear of dogs, for once you’ve met a furious bear, dogs are a mere nuisance. I think that’s something like the experience of the three in Babylon” (p. 65).
3:18 “But even if He does not”: We need to be impressed with the convictions of these three young men. “How they might have excused themselves: 1. We are only three. What can we do? 2. We are young. What can the young do? 3. We are away from home. How can this be expected of us? 4. Everyone is doing it. Why should we dissent? 5. If we do not we will die, but if we do we can live long and useful lives to God. 6. We know it is only an idol so why shouldn’t we just go through the motions! All the Devil’s lies! All nobly repudiated!” (McGuiggan p. 66).
3:19 The world never has liked the answers from God or His people. Instead of trying to avoid making people angry, we need to give plain speech and then allow our lives and example to convict them of the unreasonableness of their anger. “Not rude or insolent, but plain. Somewhere down the line we are going to have to make up our minds that plain speech beats ‘almost saying something’” (p. 66). “Seven times more”: A figure of speech like our, “ten times as much”.
3:20-22 The king ordered some of this strongest soldiers to tie up the three and cast them into the furnace. In their anxiety to serve and please the raging king those who were throwing the three Jews into the fire got too close. “Is there no lesson here for us? Is philosophy not showing us the bankruptcy of philosophy? Is science not showing us the limitations of both the scientific method and science itself? Is not the race for humanity after more and more varied pleasures telling us of the ultimate emptiness of these? Are not these weapons, which have been used to undermine the faith of the believer, turning against those who would use them to destroy our faith?!” (pp. 66-67).
3:23-25 Notice the irony. The fire has no power over them but it has eaten away their bonds. When the king says that the fourth is like a “son of the gods”, he apparently means an angel or some heavenly being. The king is amazed that he sees not three but four people in the furnace. They are not bound, but free. They are not lying down or standing still but walking about. They are not being consumed by the fire, but are unhurt. The appearance of the fourth individual is that of heavenly or divine splendor.
3:26 You can rest assured that the king’s tone has changed. “Before this he was undoubtedly screaming in his fury. Now he is asking. You do not dictate to people like this!” (p. 67). “Servants of the Most High God”: Apparently, the king remembered what he had learned previously (2:47). This is an admission that the God of these three men was higher and more powerful than the supposed gods that he worshipped or the image that he had constructed; yet, he does not acknowledge Him as his God.
3:27 As they stood before the king a great company of the king’s officials gathered around them and were utterly amazed that not a hair on their head was singed and there was not even the slightest smell of smoke upon them. The shoes with which they walked upon the while hot coals were not scorched at all. Daniel wants to be understood by his future readers that a large body of reliable witnesses satisfied themselves as to the perfect deliverance from certain death by these three Hebrew men. Deliverance was so complete and supernatural that their clothing did not even smell of fire or smoke.
3:28 “His own invention is now forgotten. The golden image; the offended deity; the silent offended deity; the lifeless and powerless offended deity is now out of the picture” (p. 68). Be impressed that the king now praises these three men for defying his command and remaining true to their God. I know many people now think that Christians are foolish for holding true to their convictions, but at the judgment day people will realize the wisdom of refusing to compromise. Think how foolish the other leaders felt for going ahead and bowing down to such an image. Think how foolish and afraid the accusers of these three men felt.
3:29-30 Note in his decree the king does not deny his own national gods but simply makes a decree in a negative way that no one should speak any thing false in regard to the God of these three men. He does not decree, in a positive sense, that God is to be worshiped as the one and only God.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017