Bible Study
Book of Daniel
Chapter 3, Part 9

Some people ask me, “How can man see the miracles of God and still not believe?” I tell them it’s because the devil has them blinded and that, although he allows them a glimpse of truth, they never see the entire truth. King Nebuchadnezzar is a perfect example of this. He saw the hand of God through Daniel when he recited the king’s dream and interpreted it. Nebuchadnezzar was so excited he fell to his face, worshipped Daniel as if he were a god, commanded everyone else to do the same, and declared, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and the revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” And yet, we read on.

V. 1 – What is the first thing King Nebuchadnezzar did with the information Daniel revealed to him about his dream? He became filled with pride, rebelled against God (Leviticus 26:1), and had a gold statue erected to honor himself. He wasn’t satisfied with being the head of gold in the dream image; he wanted an entire image that represented himself made with gold overlay.

In this chapter, the word worship is used seven times in reference to worshipping the image (5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, and 18). To me this indicates the formation of a cult, a one-world religion, if you will, with all the worship going to Nebuchadnezzar. J. Vernon McGee likens it to the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4). I agree and cite the attempt at a one-world order demonstrated in Revelation 13:11-14 where the people are ordered to build an image to the beast and worship it in the temple (Matthew 24:15).

This statue also demonstrated the extreme wealth of the kingdom Nebuchadnezzar had built. I assume the image was fashioned according to the image Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. After all, Daniel said he was the head of gold ( 2:37 , 38) so why not? Some say its dimensions could indicate it was an obelisk. The Random House Dictionary says an obelisk is “a tapering four-sided shaft of stone with a pyramidal apex.” In other words, it is tall and comes to a point. Whichever design was used, it made a definite statement.

The plain of Dura is said to be to the southeast of worshipping the image just below Tekrit on the left bank of the Tigris River. Dura is a very flat plain around Babylon. This allowed for masses of people to gather there to worship the statue. Does the worship of this image sound ridiculous to you? Me too; yet there are several religions (cults) that have their congregants bowing down and paying homage to statues made by man’s hands. Let’s see what God said about it in Leviticus 26:1, “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.” That's pretty specific, and yet, Nebuchadnezzar did it anyway.

On the mound of Dowair in Dura was found a huge column made of a brick that’s said to be the pedestal for the enormous statue of gold Nebuchadnezzar had erected. The statue was ninety feet tall, approximately the equivalent of an eight-story building, and nine feet wide. The sun glinting off the image would have made it visible for many miles around. Finding the pedestal is another proof that Scripture is accurate and correct.

V. 2, 3 – King Nebuchadnezzar was impressed with his image. In reading verses 2 and 3, we see that the king ordered eight classes of leaders to join him on the plain of Dura.

In Walvoord’s and Zuck’s commentary we are given the definition of each class:

The satraps were chief representatives of the king, prefects were military commanders, governors were civil administrators, advisers were counselors to governmental authorities (like our own presidential advisers), treasurers administered the money of the kingdom, judges were administrators of the law, magistrates passed judgments in keeping with the law, and other provincial officials were probably subordinates of the satraps.

Some estimates I’ve seen of the number who attended the dedication say several hundred thousand and as many a million were there. We have no way of knowing for sure, but we know the plain was large enough to hold them.

V. 4-6 – Nebuchadnezzar wanted this dedication to be special. He surrounded himself with all his political and military leaders, fully expecting each one to bow down and pledge allegiance to the king. Did you all notice which official position was not mentioned? It is the position of chief adviser to the king. That means Daniel wasn’t at the ceremony. Commentators speculate that Daniel was away on state’s business, therefore, not available to attend.

When everyone was organized, the king made his appearance. I can see him being set down before the image in all his kingly splendor and attire. As soon as they were in their proper place according to importance of title, the herald (official messenger for the king) shouted to everyone, “To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 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: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” I’d say that was good motivation for bowing.

Walvoord/Zuck say, “In demanding that these officials fall down before the image of gold … Nebuchadnezzar was demanding a public display of recognition and submission to his absolute authority in the kingdom.” They go on to say that since the officials were not only commanded to “fall down”, which would be to give honor to, but also to “worship” indicates the image was religious and political. He wanted political and religious unity in his kingdom. That doing this was a form of brain washing is obvious. Hitler demanded his people run around shouting Sieg Hiel (which means for the win) to bring each one into one mind, his. Nebuchadnezzar used music and a statue to accomplish the same thing.

When the leaders bowed before this image, they, in essence, pledged the allegiance of the people they were rulers over as well. “O people, nations, and languages…” There is an old adage that says, “As the leaders go, so go the people.” This is what Nebuchadnezzar was counting on.

My mind cannot wrap around the fact of tossing someone into a fiery furnace. The reference to the person who disobeyed being thrown into the furnace within the hour meant the furnace was already prepared for anyone who might rebel. But that was the penalty the king came up with for disobedience to his command to worship the substitutionary image of himself.

V. 7 – At the appointed hour, Nebuchadnezzar gave the command, the instruments were raised and were played. Have you ever been in a meeting with a few hundred people and had worship break out? If so, you know the incredible intensity of sound that was going forth to Nebuchadnezzar and his statue. It must have tickled ever pride receptor in his body.

Let me say this here: True worship in a congregation of believers is poured out from the heart of man to the heart of God. The worship taking place before this statue was one of self-preservation. We born-agains don’t praise and worship from fear of losing our lives, but from love. That’s the one thing despotic leaders never receive. They long for love and admiration and all they get is fear and trembling.

Bible Study
Book of Daniel
Chapter 3, Part 10

V. 8-12 – “Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans (AKA astrologers) came near, and accused the Jews.” This is not the first time the Jews had been wrongly accused of being rebellious and of disobeying a king. Let me cite two examples.

“And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries” (Esther 3:8,
“Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations” (Ezra 4:12).

There has always been opposition to God’s people from the jealous Gentiles of the world. This case is no different. Apparently Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had a reputation for honoring God. The Chaldeans were so irked that the foreign boys had been given places of such high honor above them in the kingdom that they positioned themselves so they could watch to see if they bowed down when the choir began playing. The Chaldeans already knew these three men would never do such a thing. I believe these guys were standing in close proximity to the king so they could run to him with their accusation as soon as the music stopped and everyone stood back up. Can you just see them rubbing their hands together and patting each others’ backs as they headed for the throne to report this rebellious behavior to the king?

Here’s my interpretation of what went on in verses 9-12. “Hey, Nebu, live long and prosper. Guess what? When the choir started up and everyone was supposed to bow down before your image according to the unchangeable decree you made, the three Jews YOU placed in higher positions in the business of running Babylon than us didn’t bow! Remember, King, you said that whoever didn’t bow would burn! These guys don’t bow to your gods or before your image, but they bow to their God. Such disrespect! You can’t let them get away with this.”

Let’s see how this “bow or die” action is repeated in Revelation.  “And he (the dragon) had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Revelation 13:
V. 13 – Nebuchadnezzar was in a rage of fury. In other words he became hysterical with furious anger! The dictionary says hysteria is an “exaggerated form of emotion like excitement or panic.” I’d have to say the king was in a panic! His decree was disobeyed by three exiles from Judah who had proved themselves worthy and whom he has set in places of honor in the kingdom. Now he had to cook them! But, wait! Is it possible that he might talk them into bowing? He would give them one more chance.

V. 14 – By the time the men had been fetched and brought to him the king had calmed down a bit. He favored these men and did not want them killed, so he asked them if it was true that they refused to worship the king’s gods and his image.

V. 15 – Nebuchadnezzar is going to give the men a second chance. Maybe the report was false, or maybe the guys had time to think about it and changed their minds. Here is his king’s ultimatum. “If you bow before my image, you’ll live; if you refuse, we will toss you into the fiery furnace that has already been prepared.” Understand that their refusal to bow at first honored God. If they were now to change their minds and bow before that image it would be a worse insult to the Father than if they had whimped out at the first sounding.

Now look at Nebuchadnezzar’s ridiculous challenge at the end of verse 15. “…who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Can you remember another leader who asked that foolish question? Let’s look at a couple.

Egypt ’s Pharaoh asked Moses, “Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

“Who are they among all the gods of these lands that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” (Isaiah 36:20)

As with these Gentile leaders Nebuchadnezzar considered himself a god and better than God. He knew the God of Daniel because he had heard the dream revelation and interpretation from Daniel’s lips knowing only God could have revealed it, yet he believed that he had the supreme power of life and death over these men in his hands. He thought that if he ordered the men to be placed in the furnace, no God could deliver them out. He is about to be shown the power and might of the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

V. 16 – “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” What these faithful men were telling the king was, we don’t need to defend God, He can defend himself. They also did not need to defend themselves (Matthew 10:19). They had considered the cost of not bowing to the idols and decided that they would rather burn then bow. They knew that the punishment of God would be much harder to bear than the furnace would be.

V. 17, 18 – Daniel’s three countrymen knew the Law. They knew that the first thing God said in the Law was that they have no other gods before Him. They knew the commandment against graven images of any kind. They knew that their God was jealous and demanded complete obedience.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

Look at their confident reply to Nebuchadnezzar’s taunt. “If it be so, (that you cast us into the furnace) 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.” This was not defiance, it was truth; it was faith in action! It was their trust in the Tanach that taught them, “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:8).

Not many of us will be asked to lay our lives down for the Lord, but I remember Steven, the first martyr for the faith. But some have been asked to do just that. I recall Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian who spent the last 20 years of his life in jail because he would not renounce the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. I remember the bravery of Cassie Bernall who was shot in the head and killed during the Columbine High School massacre for saying she believed in God.

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah assured the king that even if God didn’t deliver them out of the fire, they would not bow to the false-gods of the king or to this man-made image of gold. They would not bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s ego.

Let’s read verse 18 to get the impact of what they declared to the 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, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Job 13:15a).

Notice something different about how these men addressed the king. Everyone else began their conversation by saying, “O King, live forever.” These men simply said, “O Nebuchadnezzar…” They did not give honor to his title of king nor did they bless him with long life. Their worship was for God alone.

Let me remind you of a great lesson to be learned in this part of Daniel. Got did not save Daniel’s friends from being tossed into the fire, He saved them from being destroyed by the fire. Trials will come to the lives of Christians, probably more so than others, but we have a Deliverer. God has a purpose for every “fiery furnace” He allows us to be thrown into. Notice though, they did not blame God for their situation. They trusted Him through it. We should too. Difficult situations that come to us tempt us to compromise our faith. Those who stand strong, continue to worship God, and don’t bow down to the trouble are overcomers. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5).

Bible Study
Book of Daniel
Chapter 3, Part 11

V. 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 furnace referred to here was the kiln used to bake bricks. The fire was built with charcoal so that it could become hot enough to make the brick hard throughout. In Babylon there were no rocks with which to erect buildings, so the need for bricks was great. The furnace would have been very large with an opening in the front. The bricks are baked normally at 1,800 – 2,000 degrees F*. Multiply 2x7 and the furnace was as hot as 14,000 degrees. They accomplished this level of heat by constantly forcing air into the firebox with a bellows of some kind and adding more charcoal. See a depiction of this portion of Scripture at Daniel Study Helps in the web site.

Nebuchadnezzar went from gently giving the three men a second chance to bow down at the sound of the music, to a furious rage. At their refusal to bow, the king’s anger became so hot he commanded the fire to be made seven times hotter than his own temper. He didn’t just want these guys killed by the fire, he wanted them vaporized! But remember verse 17. These guys went in there without fear because they knew that, one way or the other, God would deliver them from the fire. If they came out alive, praise the Lord. If they died and went to be with the Lord, praise the Lord. They took the Shema, the Jewish confession of faith in Deuteronomy 6:4 seriously, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD…

V. 20- 23 – The Chaldeans used “roasting” as a form of execution. They had furnaces just for that purpose. They kept the fire at a low temperature so that it took a long time to kill the person being executed. These furnaces had an opening in the top through which the bodies were dropped and an opening in the front for cleaning out their ashes. The person set to be executed was stripped of all his clothing and bound hands and feet before being lowered into the furnace. I don’t believe this is what was used for our heroes. Nebuchadnezzar respected these guys and, although he was extremely angry at them, it bothered him to have to kill them. He didn’t want them tormented, just dead, so he had them thrown into a larger furnace that could be heated hotter so their deaths would be instant. Verse 22 says that the king’s command was “urgent.” Nebuchadnezzar wanted this over and done with. That’s why they went contrary to their regulations for roasting a victim and allowed the men to be bound with all their clothes on, even their hats and coats.

Normally when the furnace was being filled, the temperature in the firebox was kept at about 300 degrees. This allowed the people to be able to walk the bricks into the furnace, or kiln, and get them stacked. Once that had been done, the guy operating the bellows would begin to fill the fire chamber with air causing the charcoal to begin to glow hotter and hotter. At the “seven times hotter” temperature, there was no “cool” spots as the men carrying Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah found out. The heat was so intense that as soon as they walked into the kiln to toss in the three men who were bound, they were burnt up and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah fell to the furnace floor. Amazingly, the only things to be burned up after the soldiers were the ties binding the hands and feet of these three men.

V. 24 – “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied (astonished; amazed; flabbergasted; speechless)…” and jumping up off his portable throne, he spoke out to his counselors, and said, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They assured him they had.

V. 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.” There is meat in them there words! The men were bound, now they are loose. They had fallen into the furnace, now they are standing up, walking around talking with a fourth guy. The fire that was so devastatingly hot that it instantly killed the men who threw Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the furnace had not consumed these men. This is divine protection of the extreme kind.

Nebuchadnezzar said there was a fourth man in the furnace like the “son of a god.” Scripture reads like the “Son of God”, but the real Aramaic says “son of a god”. I believe he actually meant “Son of God” because he had already had an experience with the God of heaven and of Israel with Daniel. He knew these three were from the same town as Daniel and they were very close. He had to know they worshipped the same God. Also, this fourth man had a supernatural appearance that no human can ever have. He didn’t know of the preincarnate Jesus, but he knew this man was of God.

V. 26 – “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace (I’m sure the king approached the blazing fiery furnace cautiously. (He knew his gods could not save from fire as God had these three), and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.” Notice what he said about these men. He called the “servants of the Most High God.” He acknowledged that of all the gods he knew, their God was the highest. “Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.” Even after he attempted to fry them, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah came out when he called. Now they were out of the furnace walking testimonies of the power of the only true God.

V. 27 – Notice that in this verse it says Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the men with all his highest government officials. I’m sure they checked 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” out to make sure of what they saw before agreeing before the king that they indeed were protected by the Most High God.

V. 28-30 – “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.” Nebuchadnezzar had to admit that God sent an angel to rescue His sons from the fire. Notice the phrase “and have changed the king's word.” That word was death to anyone who did not bow down to the king’s gods and his image. Now the king changed his word and made a new decree that said if anyone speaks against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they would be cut into pieces and their property destroyed. Remember this. The people at this meeting were all in some position in the government of the Babylonian kingdom. They were not ordinary men. These had wealth and possessions of varying degrees. None of them would want to lose their lives or the possessions that were an inheritance for their families.

And once again, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were promoted within the province of the kingdom of Babylon.

Let’s take some meat from this study today. This wonderful saga of three valiant heroes of the faith is very encouraging to our own faith. We can learn from their solid stance against worshipping false gods and use it in our own lives. We all know that false religions have false gods and idols to which they bow down and worship. Born-again, Spirit-filled Christians would never bow down to those gods, right? Right! But do they bow down to any false gods? Yes, they do. Those gods are money, fame, possessions, position in life, etc… Some people spend more time talking to their animals than they do God.

How many of us can say we keep the Sabbath each week? Do we even remember what the Sabbath is? “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) the Bible says, but do we know what that means? It means taking a day of rest from physical labor to worship God and do good things. I won’t get into all that with you this time.

The real lesson to be learned from this story is, God is in control. God saved those men, not from the fire, but out of the fire. He kept them safe in the fire and, when things cooled down, He brought them out. God never promises that we won’t be tried by fire in our lifetimes. He promises that if we maintain our faith in Him, trust Him to make a way out for us, and lean on Him till the time comes for escape, He will make us winners. We will be promoted from glory to glory and sometimes to better jobs or positions on earth.

We live in a society now that claims God is simply a good story that people use as a crutch because they can’t face life on their own. He is systematically being removed from all school books, libraries are destroying books that mention God, and I recently heard that the salvation message in the book Robinson Crusoe has been removed.

Some of the attacks against God now is trying to take His name off our legal tender and out of the Pledge of Allegiance. We are, always have been, and as far as I’m concerned, always will be an indivisible nation (one not able to be separated into parts) and a nation that is under the guidance, authority, and protection of God. Those who believe otherwise better wake up soon or live their eternity in the Lake of Fire.

Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor
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