Setting Date Overview Commentary
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The political situation in Jerusalem following Nebuchadnezzar's 605 B.C. invasion left King Jehoiakim subject to Babylon. In 601 B.C., however, Nebuchadnezzar was defeated by the Egyptians, and it was 18 months before he could go out to battle again. With Nebuchadnezzar thus subdued, Jehoiakim reverted his loyalty back to Egypt. Because of his disloyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, Jehoiakim was later captured by Babylonian forces, and died in early December, 598 B.C.
Upon Jehoiakim's death, his son, Jehoiachin, became king. Jehoiachin had been on the throne only three months and ten days when Nebuchadnezzar made his second invasion of Jerusalem on March 16, 597 B.C. The young king was carried away to Babylon, along with 10,000 other captives, among whom was the prophet Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar then set up Zedekiah, a third son of Josiah and uncle of Jehoiachin, as king of Judah. In accepting the appointment, Zedekiah was to acknowledge the authority of Babylon and remain loyal to Nebuchadnezzar.
Zedekiah was a weak ruler who was easily influenced by the people. A strong anti-Babylonian party continually exerted pressure on him to shake off the Babylonian yoke. Jeremiah made it clear that submission to Babylon was essential to Judah's welfare (Jeremiah 27). Yet Zedekiah appeared to prefer the messages of false prophets such as Hananiah who predicted the overthrow of Babylon (Jeremiah 28).
While Judah's loyalty to Babylon was obviously in question, Nebuchadnezzar faced a more serious threat right in Babylon itself. The Babylonian Chronicle informs us that in the tenth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign a rebellion arose in Babylon during which the king had to personally engage in fighting to squelch the revolt. That uprising lasted from December of 595 B.C. to January of 594 B.C.
Certainly under such circumstances it would be important to Nebuchadnezzar that his subjects maintain their loyalty to him and his rule. Perhaps this was what prompted Nebuchadnezzar to assemble on the Plain of Dura all his officers and the rulers of the various provinces of his kingdom as recorded in Daniel chapter 3. It may have been designed as an opportunity for the governors and other officials to publicly affirm their loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar and his administration.
If we have correctly identified the setting of chapter 3, we may have a pretty good hypothesis as to the date of the chapter. We referred to Jeremiah chapters 27 and 28 above. Those events occurred in the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign (Jeremiah 28:1), which corresponds to the year 594/593 B.C. of our dating system. According to Jeremiah 51:59, Zedekiah made a trip to Babylon that same year. It is very likely that, along with the governors and rulers of all the other provinces, Zedekiah, whose personal loyalty was indeed in question, was called to affirm his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar by bowing to the golden image erected to his honor. This would suggest the date for this chapter to be the year 594/593 B.C. If Zedekiah was in fact present at this event, he must have bowed to the image, for only three Hebrews remained on their feet.
In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar had received a dream of an image composed of several metals. The head of gold on the image represented Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian kingdom. The inferior metals making up the rest of the image indicated that inferior nations would succeed Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, of course, never wished for that to happen, so in chapter 3 he erected an image entirely of gold, signifying his determination that Babylon should last forever.
To the dedication of the image Nebuchadnezzar called all the officials in the realm. They were to demonstrate their loyalty to Babylon by bowing to the image at the appropriate time.
Such an act of worship was contrary to the convictions of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would bow to none but the God of heaven. Consequently they were cast into a furnace of fire.
Not only did God miraculously preserve them in the flames, but Jesus Himself joined the three Hebrews in the furnace. As a result of this miracle, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled, and the three young men were promoted in the province of Babylon
Verse 1 Text
"An image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits"
An 18-inch cubit would make this statue 90 feet tall. Some commentaries use a half-meter Babylonian cubit (about 19.6 inches). In that case the image would be 98 feet tall.
"The plain of Dura"
The word dura means "the wall" in Aramaic. So Nebuchadnezzar set up this image on "the plain of the wall." There were two sets of double walls surrounding the city of Babylon. The inner set, about a mile long on each side, surrounded the central part of the city. The outer set of walls, several miles in length, surrounded the eastern half of the city about a mile to the north and east of the city. This left a large open area between the two sets of walls and bordered by the Euphrates River on the west. This vast area was probably "the plain of the wall" spoken of in this verse.
Verse 2 Text
"All the rulers of the provinces"
It appears that each nation subjugated by Babylon constituted a province in the larger empire. Of the many provinces in the Babylonian empire, the book of Daniel names two: the home province of Babylon (verse 1), and the province of Elam (8:2). Of the 127 provinces of the Persian period (Esther 1:1), the province of Judea (Ezra 5:8) and the province of the Medes (Ezra 6:2) are mentioned in the Bible.
Verse 5 Text
"Fall down and worship the golden image"
Paying homage to Nebuchadnezzar's image would indicate both a subjection to Nebuchadnezzar and an acknowledgment of the superiority of the gods of Babylon over all local gods.
Verse 6 Text
"Whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace"
Those gathered before the giant statue now realized that worship was mandatory and that death was the penalty for noncompliance. This placed the Jewish delegates in an extremely difficult situation. To declare loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar was no problem, but the religious implications of the required act were unacceptable to God's servants. God had commanded them to have no other gods before Him and had prohibited the worship of any graven image (Exodus 20:3-5). To bow would be a violation of both the first and second commandments.
Encapsulated in this story is the great controversy of all ages. The contest on the plain of Dura was over which God the Hebrews would serve. Notice the language of the chapter:
This is the issue in God's first commandment: "I am the Lord thy God. . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:2, 3. God requires our exclusive worship. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24. In the judgment many professed Christians will discover too late that the thing which they cherished more than God, had been their real god all along. To be a Christian is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37.
God's second commandment was also at stake on the plain of Dura. The accusation laid against the Jews (verse 12) was twofold: "They serve not thy gods (first commandment), nor worship the golden image (second commandment)." An image is a reproduction of the appearance of something or someone, a visible representation of another object or being. The second commandment provides limitations concerning the use of such visual representations. More on the second commandment
Verse 8 Text
"Certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews"
When God's people, through obedience to God's commandments, find themselves out of harmony with the requirements of man, there is usually someone ready to accuse them.
Verse 16 Text
"We are not careful to answer thee in this matter"
In other words, "It is not necessary for us to make a defense." They did not deny the charges. The facts could speak for themselves.
Verse 17 Text
"Our God . . . is able to deliver us . . . and he will deliver us . . ."
Here is an expression of total confidence in God's ability to save them, and a belief that He indeed would do so.
Verse 18 Text
"But if not"
This was not a doubt of God's ability, but a recognition that in the providence of God, more good might be accomplished by their death. They would leave the matter entirely in God's hands. Nevertheless, even if it meant that they should be killed, they would not violate the commandments of God.
Verse 19 Text
"Heat the furnace one seven times more"
The furnace might be made seven times hotter by the addition of chaff and crude oil. Open oil wells were in abundance throughout the region.
Nebuchadnezzar's furious reaction, prompted by Satan, indicates a recognition that he was wrestling against more than human power. And because of that, he must do everything possible to make sure the Hebrews could not escape. But the increased heat only made their deliverance more spectacular.
Verse 25 Text
"Walking in the midst of the fire"
Here was a fulfillment of the promise given in Isaiah 43:2, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
"The Son of God"
There are two possible ways of translating the Aramaic here: (1) "a son of the gods," or (2) "the Son of God." The word for "God" in this case is elahin, the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew elohim which is used many hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Although plural in form, this word is in nearly every case translated singular. Thus the KJV translation here is correct and appropriate.
Undoubtedly, the Hebrew captives had often told Nebuchadnezzar of the true God, and of Christ, the Redeemer to come. Their lives also had reflected His image. And now, as the heathen king gazed into the furnace, he recognized the Son of God.
Verse 27 Text
"These men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power"
"Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly. . . ." Isaiah 33:14, 15.
Verse 29 Text
"There is no other God that can deliver after this sort"
In verse 15, that very king had gloated, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Defying the authority and power of God is the very spirit of Satan. But now Nebuchadnezzar declared among all people the greatness and omnipotence of Jehovah.