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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 3

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Verse 1


In the book of Daniel two themes are dealt with. The first theme is the history of the four empires during “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). These times began when Israel was no longer the people of God. They last until the moment that Israel will again be God’s people. That time is spoken about in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. That is the time of the fifth empire, the empire over which the Son of man, the Lord Jesus, will reign. Then Israel will be the center of the earth, which is in the kingdom of peace.

The second theme is what the people of God will experience at a time when God cannot openly recognize His people as His people. At that time the nations will rule over His people and they will be oppressed by the nations. This will happen in the great tribulation in the most intense way (Matthew 24:21). The faithful remnant of Israel will then be purified, while the wicked mass of the people will be judged. In Daniel and his friends, we see the faithful remnant. We see that especially in Daniel 3-6. There we have to do not only with history, but also with the prophetic events of the end time during the fourth empire.

We could say that we too live in the end times. The character of the rulers of the world empires show features that we increasingly see around us in the leaders of the world and in men in general. From the very beginning when God placed dominion into the hands of the nations, it has been clear that man does not take Him into account and fails in the responsibility that God has given him.

We see the increase of wickedness in Daniel 3-6:
1. In Daniel 3 we see idolatry and the putting aside of God.
2. In Daniel 4 we see the glorification of man.
3. In Daniel 5 the ridicule of God comes to the fore.
4. In Daniel 6 the highest point is reached when man takes the place of God.

These histories with their prophetic implication warn us that we live in times of supreme wickedness. All boundaries given by God are crossed and erased. Nothing is sacred anymore. Man has taken the place of God. At the same time, it is also the time for us to be able to show more clearly than ever, what God’s rights are. Anyone who does this can at least expect misunderstanding on the part of mankind, but more often experience outright hatred. Those who do this, however, can count even more on the appreciation and assistance of God. He wants to glorify Himself in those who recognize Him, as a small and faithful remnant, standing against the renegade mass.

In short, we have in
1. Daniel 1 obedience of the remnant.
2. Daniel 2 the insight of the remnant.
3. Daniel 3 the suffering and persecution of the remnant in the great tribulation.
4. Daniel 4 the judgment of the ruler.
5. Daniel 5 the end of the Babylonian empire.
6. Daniel 6 the preservation of the remnant from the power of the devil.

The Golden Image

Nebuchadnezzar makes an image of gold, possibly inspired by his dream. In his dream he saw himself as a head of gold. Now he no longer only sees a head of gold, he only sees himself. He does not take into account the loss of his kingdom. That is why it is an image all of gold. He makes this image in order to have one object of worship for his entire empire with so many different cultures and religions.

There is nothing that so disturbs and destroys relationships between families and peoples as much as a difference in religion. At the same time, the opposite is also true: the best way to unite people is through a common religion. Religious unity also brings about political unity. Thus, the unity of Europe is also shaped by a common idolatry, that of the antichrist, in which the world ruler himself is glorified (Revelation 13:12).

The measures of the image revolve around the number six. The number six is characteristic of this image. The number six is also characteristic for man. In the history of man there have been three absolute rulers. All three are characterized by the number six. Adam was the first. He was created on the sixth day. The second is Nebuchadnezzar. Here he is linked to the numbers sixty and six. The third will be the dictator of the restored Western Roman empire, the beast that rises from the sea. “The number of his name” is “the number of the beast”, which is the number “of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:17-Job :).

Verses 2-7

The Dedication of the Image

All those who bear responsibility in the empire are called upon to come to the dedication of the image. All these different authorities represent the nations they come from. This is how they are addressed (Daniel 3:4). We read that “all peoples” throw themselves in front of the image (Daniel 3:7), whereas in reality this is only done by the authorities present.

What Nebuchadnezzar invented is man’s religion. It is at the same time a world religion through which he wants to merge all the people he rules into one entity. He places a magnificent golden image before the attention of man and orders him to worship it.

To make the whole even more attractive, the inauguration is complemented by a musical contribution using a variety of musical instruments. No special sacrifice or monetary contribution is requested. The religion of Nebuchadnezzar is easy and pleasant for the flesh. You don’t have to do anything, just fall down and worship. It doesn’t have to take long and happens under the sound of deafening music.

It is clear that music plays an important role in this whole event. The whole orchestra is mentioned no less than four times (Daniel 3:5; Daniel 3:7Daniel 3:10; Daniel 3:15). Music works on the emotion. Deafening music brings people into a state of trance and apathy. The mind and conscience are eliminated. Thus, people are an easy prey for the devil, for whom they actually fall down.

The worship of the image is not a voluntary matter, but is enforced. Whosoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire, so without trial and without any recourse. Therefore, we see that all peoples, represented in their leaders, fall down and worship the image.

Verses 8-12

The Three Friends Charged

There are three men who remain standing when all have fallen down. Some watchdogs of Nebuchadnezzar see this and bring charges against them to the king. The friends are charged for not worshipping the gods of Nebuchadnezzar. Their indictment is also a wonderful testimony about the three friends. They worship only the true God, the God of Israel, and no other god.

Verses 13-15

The Ultimatum

Nebuchadnezzar sees himself offended in his absolute authority. He let the friends come to him and gave them another chance to submit to him by obeying his order. If they don’t do that, they will unrelentingly and directly enter the burning fires. He adds to it, with contempt, who may be the god who will deliver them from his hands.

To him, the God of the three friends is nothing more than an idol. His earlier confession (Daniel 2:47) appears to have been only of a temporary nature. He was impressed for a while, but that impression has faded and disappeared. This is the case when conscience has not been touched and there has been no true conversion.

Verses 16-18

Fearless Testimony

The young men are confronted with the choice: bow down for the image or die. It would not be difficult to consult with oneself: “Everyone does it, let us not be an exception.” Or: “Let us do it for the sake of appearances, but not in our hearts, for God sees the heart.” Or: “We can’t do anything about this situation, we are here because of the unfaithfulness of our ancestors, we have to fall down.” However, we do not read anything about such considerations, which easily arise in us in often much less difficult situations.

The friends do not defend themselves, but make a brief, clear statement: “We will not fall down.” Their testimony is impressive. We know the outcome, but they do not know it. They have no doubt that God can deliver them. They only don’t know if He will do that by delivering them before the fire or through the fire. Faith trusts that God is able to forego them entering the fire, but also that He can deliver them out of the fire.

Whatever it may be, it is clear to them that He will deliver them from the hand of the king. They are not in the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but in the hand of God. As for them, the outcome is certain. Therefore, they will not bow to the image, not even in form, nor worship it. Their attitude is a wonderful illustration of “the perseverance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10).

There is no rebellion with them against the king. They recognize him in his dignity as king. But they cannot obey his order to worship his gods. In this they must and want to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They speak in the spirit of the Lord’s disciple, for they are “not … afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). For the Christian it is not a question of how the king rules, but of what the king asks and how he should behave as a Christian in these matters (Romans 13:1-Judges :).

Verses 19-22

Cast Into the Midst of the Fire

Their obedience to God did not prevent them from being cast into the oven. On the contrary. Nebuchadnezzar is so furious, that he lets the oven be heated seven times more intense. However, this only makes the miracle of salvation seven times greater.

Their faith “quenched” – not the fire, but – “the power of the fire” (Hebrews 11:34). The power of the fire is so great, that Nebuchadnezzar orders the strongest men from the army to cast the three friends into the oven. But even though they are still considered so strong, they are losing out to the power of the fire. While the strongest men cast the friends in the oven, these powerhouses are killed by the fire.

The friends do not firstly quench the power of the fire when they are inside the furnace of blazing fire and the fire does not affect them. They have already quenched the power of the fire when they stand before Nebuchadnezzar and he points them to the furnace of blazing fire. He has threatened to cast them in it if they would not kneel before his image. With the fires in mind, the friends have said in faith that they trust in God for the outcome and have remained firm in their refusal to kneel before the image.

In this way, many who died as martyrs at the stake in the fire quenched the power of the fire. They have not revoked their confession of the true God and have remained faithful to Him, despite the fire. The threat of fire has had no hold on them. They have “taken up the shield of faith” and thus extinguished “all the flaming arrows of the evil [one]” (Ephesians 6:16).

Verses 23-25

The Fourth Man in the Fire

As soon as the men have fallen into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire, Nebuchadnezzar sees something that frightens him enormously. He gets to see something a man normally does not get to see: he sees a fourth man who has “the appearance … like a son of [the] gods”. This is the Son of God Who is in the furnace with friends (cf. Isaiah 63:9). The result of Nebuchadnezzar’s actions is that he brings the three friends into the company of the Son of God.

Before he comes to his exclamation, we read that he stands up in haste. That is, he comes down from his throne. As an application it can be said that if someone comes face to face with the Lord Jesus, he must come down from his throne. Man, without God sits on the throne himself. He will come down from it as soon as the Lord Jesus shows Himself to him.

It can still happen voluntarily now that someone comes from his own throne, so that the Lord Jesus can take His place on the throne of his life. When He sits on the throne, it means He has authority. Do we give him that, even if we already know him?

The men are cast bound into the midst of the fire of the furnace. The description “in the midst of fire” makes us extra aware of the enormous test for these men. They are in the center of the fire. Nebuchadnezzar is bewildered at what he sees and asks in his despair whether it has happened, as he ordered. After the affirmative answer he tells what he sees. He sees the men who were thrown into the furnace bound, now walking around loose.

He wanted to kill them by the fire, but God made a change to the fire. What was meant by Nebuchadnezzar for evil is used by God for good. The only effect of the fire is that the men’s bonds are consumed and that they now walk around loose. He also notes that there is no injury to them. Finally, he tells us that he sees a fourth Person and what this One looks like. As already said, it is an apparition of the Lord Jesus.

In this scene we see something encouraging for everyone in a trial. Those who are in difficult circumstances can know that God does not watch the suffering of His own from on high, but comes to them in their suffering. He is not indifferent, but is with them in the trial (Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 43:5). The Lord Jesus is with the disciples in the ship when it is in the storm (Mark 4:35-:).

We also see this in the scene of the burning bush, where the LORD appears to Moses “in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush” (Exodus 3:2). God is with His people in the bush, He dwells there; He is not only there to visit. The bush is a picture of Israel that is unfaithful to Him and therefore burns. The fire is so to speak necessary to remove the thorns. At the same time, the bush is not consumed, for God is always with His people when they suffer, even when they suffer because of their own sins.

The fire of the trial serves to purify the faith (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:12). God allows it or even sends it. It is to take away what is not His honor. The fire cleans. With Daniel’s friends it is not about cleansing away anything, but about showing the faith to the outside world. Faith is brought to light through this trial. It makes clear what God can do in His own people for consecration and decision.

Usually God does not take away the fire of the trial in the life of a believer. He does not take away the suffering, but adds something to it and that is His own presence. In the Spirit, God the Son comes to us. The Spirit of the Son is with us and supports us as we are in the trial. The result of the fire of the trial is to walk in freedom. Nebuchadnezzar literally notices this with the three friends.

The picture of fire with regard to God’s earthly people is also seen in Zechariah 13:
“7 Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
And against the man, My Associate,”
Declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered;
And I will turn My hand against the little ones.
“8 It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the LORD,
“That two parts in it will be cut off [and] perish;
But the third will be left in it.
“9 And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:7-1 Samuel :).

First, we read in Daniel 3:7 about the cross, where God strikes His Messiah with the sword of His righteousness. Then it is about the remnant, “the little ones” who are scattered as a result of the rejection of the Messiah, but to whom He turns. Then, in Daniel 3:8-1 Samuel :, a jump is made to the future. In the end time, “two parts [= two thirds] of it will be cut off”. The remnant, “the third”, is refined in the fire. Of them God says: “They are My people,” and from them He builds His people in the kingdom of peace.

Verses 26-27

Out of the Fire

Nebuchadnezzar has already risen from his throne, but is now moving on. He goes as close as possible to the door of the furnace of blazing fire to speak to the young men. He starts by naming their names. It is striking how often the names of the friends are mentioned in this history. The Spirit of God finds His joy of always mentioning the names of people who have made God great. He honors those who honor Him.

Nebuchadnezzar then addresses them as “servants of the Most High God”. This is an open testimony of the faithfulness of the friends. All those who in the course of the centuries until the end of time have ever persecuted the faithful will be forced to give this testimony (cf. Revelation 3:9). Persecuted believers who have remained faithful to their confession of the living God are given this testimony.

Nebuchadnezzar commands them to come out. They would have been able to leave through the door before and to place themselves triumphantly in front of the king. However, they only leave the furnace on the king’s orders. Additionally, the company of the Son of God will have filled them with so much joy and peace that they would have gladly stayed with Him in the midst of the fire.

But by order of the king they come out of the furnace and stand in front of him. There they stand before Nebuchadnezzar, as faithful to him after they have been in the furnace of blazing fire as before. The fire has not changed their appearance, nor their behavior.

Then all those who charged them before Nebuchadnezzar come to the king. They do not come up with a new charge. That is not possible, because the verdict has been executed. What they observe is that the fire has had no effect on the young men, yes, that there is not even a smell of fire on them.

Here is also an important application to make. Believers who have been in a severe trial because of their faithfulness to the Lord will not make a fuss of their salvation from it. They will not boast about it and will not spread great stories about it. There will be no self-glorification. If they say anything about it, it will only be to make the Lord great, but upon themselves there will be “no smell of fire”. Their faithfulness to the Lord after the trial will be as great as before.

Verses 28-30

The Testimony of Nebuchadnezzar

The testimony of the friends brings Nebuchadnezzar to a praise of God, whom he calls “the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego”. God rejoices when His own are connected with Him in this way through the world and “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16). The behavior of the friends has shown Who God is.

The king recognizes deliverance through God. He acknowledges that they have trusted Him and that in their trust they have not been ashamed. They have resisted his word, the word of him as king, the most powerful man on earth, out of faithfulness to God. He has seen that their faithfulness to their God is so great that they have even surrendered their bodies. The greatest threat, and even the execution of the sentence, has not been able to induce them to unfaithfulness to their God by glorifying or worshipping another god. They have only glorified and worshipped their God.

After this remarkable statement, Nebuchadnezzar goes even further. He sends an order through his entire empire that there must be general respect for the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He who speaks anything offensively against God will be severely punished personally, while his house will also suffer. His house is the place where the defamation could have happened, so that that place has become unclean and may no longer be inhabited. That house becomes a memorial as a warning.

This judgment is the lot of anyone who speaks anything offensive. To speak offensively is speaking evil against better judgment. Anyone who, after this clear proof from God that He is a redeeming God, and speaks evil of Him, cannot be excused. And everyone in the whole empire of Nebuchadnezzar will hear about it. All those in authority have looked attentively at it (Daniel 3:27) and will be able to witness this great salvation in the countries from which they have come and to which they will soon return.

Nebuchadnezzar forbids only to speak anything offensive against God. Unfortunately, he does not go so far as calling upon his people to worship and serve that God. He needs to learn an even deeper lesson. This is shown in the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Daniel 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/daniel-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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