Nebuchadnezzar's Idolatrous Image; Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego Are Delivered from the Furnace.
Between the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in the second
chapter and that of Daniel in the seventh, four narratives of Daniel's
and his friends' personal history are introduced. As the second and
seventh chapters go together, so the third and sixth chapters (the
deliverance from the lions' den), and the fourth and fifth chapters. Of
these last two pairs, the former shows God's nearness to save His
saints when faithful to Him, at the very time they seem to be crushed
by the world power. The second pair shows, in the case of the two kings
of the first monarchy, how God can suddenly humble the world power in
the height of its insolence. The latter advances from mere
self-glorification, in the fourth chapter, to open opposition to God in
the fifth. Nebuchadnezzar demands homage to be paid to his image (Da 3:1-6), and boasts of his power (Da 4:1-18). But Belshazzar goes further,
blaspheming God by polluting His holy vessels. There is a similar
progression in the conduct of God's people. Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego refuse positive homage to the image of the world power
3:12); Daniel will not yield
it even a negative homage, by omitting for a time the worship of
6:10). Jehovah's power
manifested for the saints against the world in individual histories
(the third through sixth chapters) is exhibited in the second and
seventh chapters, in world-wide prophetical pictures; the former
heightening the effect of the latter. The miracles wrought in behalf of
Daniel and his friends were a manifestation of God's glory in Daniel's
person, as the representative of the theocracy before the Babylonian
king, who deemed himself almighty, at a time when God could not
manifest it in His people as a body. They tended also to secure, by
their impressive character, that respect for the covenant-people on the
part of the heathen powers which issued in Cyrus' decree, not only
restoring the Jews, but ascribing honor to the God of heaven, and
commanding the building of the temple (Ezr 1:1-4) [Auberlen].
1. image—Nebuchadnezzar's confession of
God did not prevent him being a worshipper of idols, besides. Ancient
idolaters thought that each nation had its own gods, and that, in
addition to these, foreign gods might be worshipped. The Jewish
religion was the only exclusive one that claimed all homage for
Jehovah as the only true God. Men will in times of trouble
confess God, if they are allowed to retain their favorite heart-idols.
The image was that of Bel, the Babylonian tutelary god; or rather,
Nebuchadnezzar himself, the personification and representative
of the Babylonian empire, as suggested to him by the dream (Da 2:38), "Thou art this head of
gold." The interval between the dream and the event here was about
nineteen years. Nebuchadnezzar had just returned from finishing the
Jewish and Syrian wars, the spoils of which would furnish the means of
rearing such a colossal statue [Prideaux]. The colossal size makes it likely that
the frame was wood, overlaid with gold. The "height," sixty cubits, is
so out of proportion with the "breadth," exceeding it ten times, that
it seems best to suppose the thickness from breast to back to be
intended, which is exactly the right proportion of a well-formed man
[Augustine, The City of God,
15.26]. Prideaux thinks the sixty cubits
refer to the image and pedestal together, the image being
twenty-seven cubits high, or forty feet, the pedestal thirty-three
cubits, or fifty feet. Herodotus [1.183]
confirms this by mentioning a similar image, forty feet
high, in the temple of Belus at Babylon. It was not the same
image, for the one here was on the plain of Dura, not in the city.
2. princes—"satraps" of provinces [Gesenius].
sheriffs—men learned in the law, like
the Arab mufti [Gesenius].
3. stood before the image—in an attitude
of devotion. Whatever the king approved of, they all approve of. There
is no stability of principle in the ungodly.
4. The arguments of the persecutor are in
brief, Turn or burn.
5. cornet—A wind instrument, like the
French horn, is meant.
flute—a pipe or pipes, not blown
transversely as our "flute," but by mouthpieces at the end.
sackbut—a triangular stringed
instrument, having short strings, the sound being on a high sharp
psaltery—a kind of harp.
dulcimer—a bagpipe consisting of two
pipes, thrust through a leathern bag, emitting a sweet plaintive sound.
Chaldee sumponya, the modern Italian zampogna, Asiatic
fall down—that the recusants might be
the more readily detected.
6. No other nation but the Jews would feel
this edict oppressive; for it did not prevent them worshipping their
own gods besides. It was evidently aimed at the Jews by those
jealous of their high position in the king's court, who therefore
induced the king to pass an edict as to all recusants, representing
such refusal of homage as an act of treason to Nebuchadnezzar as civil
and religious "head" of the empire. So the edict under Darius (Da 6:7-9) was aimed against the Jews by
those jealous of Daniel's influence. The literal image of
Nebuchadnezzar is a typical prophecy of "the image of the beast,"
connected with mystical Babylon, in Re 13:14. The second mystical beast there causeth
the earth, and them that dwell therein, to worship the first beast, and
that as many as would not, should be killed (Re 13:12, 15).
furnace—a common mode of punishment in
Babylon (Jer 29:22).
It is not necessary to suppose that the furnace was made for the
occasion. Compare "brick-kiln," 2Sa 12:31. Any furnace for common purposes in the
vicinity of Dura would serve. Chardin,
in his travels (A.D. 1671-1677),
mentions that in Persia, to terrify those who took advantage of
scarcity to sell provisions at exorbitant prices, the cooks were
roasted over a slow fire, and the bakers cast into a burning oven.
7. None of the Jews seem to have been present,
except the officers, summoned specially.
8. accused the Jews—literally, "ate the
rent limbs," or flesh of the Jews (compare Job 31:31; Ps 14:4; 27:2; Jer 10:25). Not probably in general, but as Da 3:12 states, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego. Why Daniel was not summoned does not appear. Probably he was
in some distant part of the empire on state business, and the general
3:2) had not time to reach
him before the dedication. Also, the Jews' enemies found it more
politic to begin by attacking Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who
were nearer at hand, and had less influence, before they proceeded to
9. live for ever—A preface of flattery
is closely akin to the cruelty that follows. So Ac 24:2, 3, &c., Tertullus in accusing Paul
12. serve not thy gods—not only not the
golden image, but also not any of Nebuchadnezzar's
13. bring—Instead of commanding their
immediate execution, as in the case of the Magi (Da 2:12), Providence inclined him to command the
recusants to be brought before him, so that their noble
"testimony" for God might be given before the world powers "against
10:18), to the edification of
the Church in all ages.
14. Is it true—rather, as the
Margin [Theodotion], "Is it
purposely that?" &c. Compare the Hebrew, Nu 35:20, 22. Notwithstanding his "fury," his
past favor for them disposes him to give them the opportunity of
excusing themselves on the ground that their disobedience had not been
intentional; so he gives them another trial to see whether they
would still worship the image.
15. who is that God—so Sennacherib's
18:35), and Pharaoh's (Ex 5:2).
16. not careful to answer thee—rather,
"We have no need to answer thee"; thou art determined on thy
side, and our mind is made up not to worship the image: there is
therefore no use in our arguing as if we could be shaken from our
principles. Hesitation, or parleying with sin, is fatal; unhesitating
decision is the only safety, where the path of duty is clear (Mt 10:19,
17. If it be so—Vatablus translates, "Assuredly." English
Version agrees better with the original. The sense is, If it
be our lot to be cast into the furnace, our God (quoted from
De 6:4) is able to deliver us (a reply to
Nebuchadnezzar's challenge, "Who is that God that shall deliver you?");
and He will deliver us (either from death, or in death,
4:17, 18). He will, we
trust, literally deliver us, but certainly He will do so
18. But if not, &c.—connected with
Da 3:18. "Whether our God deliver us, as
He is able, or do not, we will not serve thy gods." Their service of
God is not mercenary in its motive. Though He slay them, they will
still trust in Him (Job 13:15).
Their deliverance from sinful compliance was as great a miracle in the
kingdom of grace, as that from the furnace was in the kingdom of
nature. Their youth, and position as captives and friendless exiles,
before the absolute world potentate and the horrid death awaiting them
if they should persevere in their faith, all enhance the grace of God,
which carried them through such an ordeal.
19. visage … changed—He had shown
forbearance (Da 3:14, 15) as a favor to them, but now that they
despise even his forbearance, anger "fills" him, and is betrayed in his
seven times more than it was
wont—literally, "than it was (ever) seen to be
heated." Seven is the perfect number; that is, it was made as
hot as possible. Passion overdoes and defeats its own end, for the
hotter the fire, the sooner were they likely to be put out of pain.
21. coats … hosen …
hats—Herodotus [1.195] says
that the Babylonian costume consisted of three parts: (1) wide, long
pantaloons; (2) a woollen shirt; (3) an outer mantle with
a girdle round it. So these are specified [Gesenius], "their pantaloons, inner tunics
(hosen, or stockings, are not commonly worn in the East), and
outer mantles." Their being cast in so hurriedly, with all their
garments on, enhanced the miracle in that not even the smell of fire
passed on their clothes, though of delicate, inflammable material.
22. flame … slew those men—(Da 6:24;
23. fell down—not cast down; for
those who brought the three youths to the furnace, perished by the
flames themselves, and so could not cast them in. Here follows
an addition in the Septuagint, Syrian, Arabic, and Vulgate
versions. "The Prayer of Azarias," and "The Song of the Three Holy
Children." It is not in the Chaldee. The hymn was sung
throughout the whole Church in their liturgies, from the earliest times
[Rufinus in Commentary on the
Apostles Creed, and Athanasius]. The
"astonishment" of Nebuchadnezzar in Da 3:24 is made an argument for its genuineness,
as if it explained the cause of his astonishment, namely, "they walked
in the midst of the fire praising God, but the angel of the Lord came
down into the oven" (vs. 1 and vs. 27 of the Apocryphal addition). But
Da 3:25 of English Version explains
his astonishment, without need of any addition.
24. True, O king—God extorted this
confession from His enemies' own mouths.
25. four—whereas but three had been cast
loose—whereas they had been cast in
"bound." Nebuchadnezzar's question, in Da 3:24, is as if he can scarcely trust his own
memory as to a fact so recent, now that he sees through an aperture in
the furnace what seems to contradict it.
walking in … midst of …
fire—image of the godly unhurt, and at large (Joh 8:36), "in the midst of trouble" (Ps 138:7; compare Ps 23:3, 4). They walked up and down in the fire,
not leaving it, but waiting for God's time to bring them out, just as
Jesus waited in the tomb as God's prisoner, till God should let Him out
27). So Paul (2Co 12:8, 9). So Noah waited in the ark, after
the flood, till God brought him forth (Ge 8:12-18).
like the Son of God—Unconsciously,
like Saul, Caiaphas (Joh 11:49-52), and Pilate, he is made to utter divine
truths. "Son of God" in his mouth means only an "angel" from
heaven, as Da 3:28
proves. Compare Job 1:6; 38:7; Ps 34:7, 8; and the probably heathen centurion's
exclamation (Mt 27:54).
The Chaldeans believed in families of gods: Bel, the supreme
god, accompanied by the goddess Mylitta, being the father of the gods;
thus the expression he meant: one sprung from and sent by the
gods. Really it was the "messenger of the covenant," who herein
gave a prelude to His incarnation.
26. the most high God—He acknowledges
Jehovah to be supreme above other gods (not that he ceased to believe
in these); so he returns to his original confession, "your God is a God
of gods" (Da
2:47), from which he had
swerved in the interim, perhaps intoxicated by his success in taking
Jerusalem, whose God he therefore thought unable to defend it.
27. nor … an hair—(Lu 12:7;
fire had no power—fulfilling Isa 43:2; compare Heb 11:34. God alone is a "consuming fire" (Heb 12:29).
nor … smell of fire—compare
spiritually, 1Th 5:22.
28. In giving some better traits in
Nebuchadnezzar's character, Daniel agrees with Jer 39:11;
changed the king's word—have made the
king's attempt to coerce into obedience vain. Have set aside his word
(so "alter … word," Ezr 6:11)
from regard to God. Nebuchadnezzar now admits that God's law should be
obeyed, rather than his (Ac 5:29).
yielded … bodies—namely, to the
not serve—by sacrificing.
nor worship—by prostration of the
body. Decision for God at last gains the respect even of the worldly
29. This decree promulgated throughout the
vast empire of Nebuchadnezzar must have tended much to keep the Jews
from idolatry in the captivity and thenceforth (Ps 76:10).