Commentary on Daniel 3

Last updated: January 17, 2010

English Translation (ESV)

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of 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 cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Notes

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

Large statues are known to have existed in ancient Babylon.1 The statue was probably gold plated and not solid gold.2 Sixty cubits is about ninety feet. The only statue known to be taller than this in the ancient world was the Colossus of Rhodes (seventy cubits).3 Some scholars think it is odd that the statue is only six cubits wide. The statue may have been on a pedestal, which would allow the statue to have normal human proportions.4 Verses 12, 14 and 28 suggest that the statue was of a deity. The name Dura (“walled place”)5 was common in ancient Mesopotamia, but the exact location of the “plain of Dura” cannot be identified with certainty. A location around Babylon is implied.6 It has been suggested that Daniel does not appear in this passage because he needed to stay behind in Babylon to govern the city in the king’s absence (2:49).

2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Some of the titles in this verse are of Persian origin. For this reason, John J. Collins does not believe this chapter was written in the sixth century BC.7 John F. Walvoord finds it natural that the author of Daniel, who may have written or edited this passage after the Persians had come to power (539 BC), would use Persian titles. The ancient Greek translations of the passage, written between about 100 BC and AD 100, guess at the meaning of these titles and thereby indicate that the meaning of these words had been lost or forgotten by the Greek period.8

5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.

The “lyre,” “harp,” and “bagpipe” are Greek loanwords. Greek traders were common in western Asia from the seventh century BC onwards.9 Greek instruments were probably known in the ancient Near East by the Assyrian period and therefore these loanwords do not suggest a late date for this passage.10

6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Prostration was a standard posture for worship in the ancient Near East. Jeremiah 29:22 states that Nebuchadnezzar burned to death two men. It is likely that a furnace was near the statue to smelt metal for the gold plating and to manufacture bricks that were to make up the base of the statue and the inside of the statue.11

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.

John J. Collins takes the men’s response to mean that they had no intention of complying with the king’s command.12

17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

Verse 18 indicates that the men knew God may or may not save them. Therefore, the Aramaic phrase translated “he will deliver us” in the ESV should be translated “he may deliver us.”13

18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The men are determined to remain faithful to God regardless of whether he saves them or not.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.

“Seven times” is probably a proverbial expression (Proverbs 24:16; 26:16). In this context, it means that the furnace should be made as hot as possible.14

20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

Binding the men would make it easier for the executioners to throw them into the furnace.

22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The idea is that a flame leaps up and kills those standing at the opening on the top.15 If the flame could kill the executioners then certainly the three men in the furnace should die as well.

25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

The polytheistic “son of the gods” is appropriate on the lips of Nebuchadnezzar.16

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

The furnace must have had a door at ground level so the men could exit the fire.

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Although one would not expect to find a record of even a fraction of the countless numbers of government officials from ancient times, W. Shea has presented a rather strong case for identifying the three Hebrews in this story with names found among more than fifty officials listed on a Babylonian text from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Shea associates Hananiah (Shadrach) with Hanunu, designated “chief of the royal merchants”; Abednego (Azariah) with Ardi-Nabu, “secretary of the crown prince (i.e., Amel-Marduk)”; and Mishael (Meshach) with Mushallim-Marduk, one of the “overseers of the slave girls.” The last identification is the most tentative, but it is plausible. Hanunu and Hananiah have a clear correspondence, and Ardi-Nabu is an exact equivalent of Abed-Nabu (i.e., Abednego).17

Bibliography

Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel. InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Collins, John Joseph, Frank Moore Cross, and Adela Yarbro Collins. Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Goldingay, John. Daniel. Dallas Tex.: Word Books, 1989.

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Holman Reference, 1994.

Walvoord, John F. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation: A Commentary. Moody Publishers, 1971.

1Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 180-181; Miller, Daniel, 109.

2Goldingay, Daniel, 69.

3Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 181.

4Goldingay, Daniel, 69; Miller, Daniel, 110.

5Baldwin, Daniel, 101.

6Miller, Daniel, 110-111.

7Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 182-183.

8Walvoord, Daniel, 82-83; Baldwin, Daniel, 101.

9Walvoord, Daniel, 84.

10Miller, Daniel, 113.

11Ibid., 115.

12Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 187.

13Miller, Daniel, 119.

14Ibid., 121.

15Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 189.

16Walvoord, Daniel, 91.

17Miller, Daniel, 108.

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3 thoughts on “Commentary on Daniel 3

  1. Pingback: Was Sirach in the King’s Blazing Fiery Furnace? | Daniel Greatly Loved Is Mordecai

  2. Pingback: Was Sirach in the King’s Blazing Fiery Furnace? | Prophet Jeremiah's Golden Sword

  3. Pingback: Was Sirach in the King’s Blazing Fiery Furnace? | Mattathias And The Mighty Maccabees

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