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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Daniel 3

 

 


Verses 1-30

Daniel 3:1. An image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits. As the breadth of this image was only six cubits, which is four short of the human proportion, it is conjectured that the pedestal was twenty four cubits high: then the image itself was only thirty six. This nearly agrees with Diodorus Siculus, who says that Xerxes found an image of gold in the temple of Belus forty feet in length.—But why did Nebuchadnezzar make this idol? Some think, to represent Bel-baal or Belus, which is the name of the same idol differently written. Others think that he intended a new divinity, and to introduce himself as an object of national worship after death. This is the most likely sense, as he was more intent on having homage paid to this idol than on all his former conquests. So Isaiah personates him as saying, “I will be like the Most High!” Nebuchadnezzar also said, Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Daniel 3:2. The princes. Literally, those who stand before the king; the satraps, the viceroys, the consuls, or the captain-generals of the army. But here the readings vary so much, that it is doubtful whether we can distinctly gather more from these names than a general view of the great officers of state, and of the provinces.

Daniel 3:5. The sound of the salpingos, the suringos, and kitharas, sambuces, and psaltery. These are the names of the instruments, as in Theodotian’s version of Daniel, from which the English is translated almost word for word. The sambuca was of a triangular figure: the psaltery was a portable species of the harp. See on Psalms 150.

Daniel 3:6. A burning fiery furnace. The burning of criminals alive was an ancient punishment in the east. The Philistines menaced the wife of Samson and her father’s house with this kind of death. Some of the Ammonites were made to pass through the brickkilns, probably in retaliation for burning some Hebrews; and Nebuchadnezzar had already roasted a Zedekiah and an Ahab in the fire. Jeremiah 29:22. Of the family, and the case of those men, criticism is silent.

Daniel 3:25. I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire. The form of this furnace probably resembled those at our copperworks. The fire is at one end, and it passes over the copper under an oblong arch to the chimney. Our iron furnaces scarcely allow of room to walk; they are usually more than twenty feet deep, and two feet wide at the bottom, which widen to fourteen towards the middle; and then they narrow to about eight feet at the top where the flame is discharged.

The form of the fourth is like the Son of God. So is the original; so is Theodotian; and in the notes to my copy of this version I find Chrysostom has quoted the text in the same manner. This personage was doubtlessly the Messiah or Angel of the covenant, who made and who controuls the elements. Why then should the enemies of his Godhead and glory attempt to make him simply an angel? Heretics, as well as wicked men, may wrest the holy scriptures to their own destruction.

REFLECTIONS.

We here tread on tragic ground. We see a conflict before the universe; the weak against the mighty, the few against the many. Nebuchadnezzar, long accustomed to see the world bow at his feet, began no longer to rank himself on a level with mortal men. Ceasing to be grateful to Him who had made him monarch of the earth, he wishes in a tacit way to make a god of himself.— Let us be thankful for a cottage in humble life; for where is the head that can bear the highest pinnacle of honour, and not be giddy?

Let us be thankful also for the civil and religious liberties of our united kingdom. Our lives, our fortunes, and our privileges are placed under the protection of equitable laws, and a paternal king. But here is a monarch who had the lives of nations at his command; they had neither law, nor religion, nor existence, but at his pleasure. However just and happy this power might be in the hands of a patriarch, it is not adapted to enlightened nations. Truly the wrath of a king was as the roaring of a lion among the flock.

When the pride and arrogance of mortals become excessive, providence seems to take peculiar delight in their mortification. The misguided monarch intended this day to be the day of his highest glory and elevation. He had lavished his immense hoards of bloody gold to make a huge idol; he had spared no cost to give a grand fête to the empire, accompanied with all the enchanting powers of music. He awaited the most gratifying sight of a prostrate court and populace, adoring the vain work of his own heart. But ah, when about to taste this long-expected pleasure, behold all the serenity of his soul was convulsed, and all his smiles of majestic grace immersed in rage and fury by a paltry complaint that three jews would not worship his image. Oh how precarious is earthly bliss, when dependent on the humours of men and the incidents of life. The monarch conceived that these three men, faithful to their God, insulted his power, insulted his divinity; yea, insulted him on this high day before his court and empire. From the immensity of pride, impelled by strong passion, he stooped to meanness; he expostulated with worms; nay he almost begged them to adore his image. But denied this favour, anger overpowered his reason, for he did the men a kindness in heating the furnace seven times hotter than usual.

We next turn our wondering eyes to these three men, and admire the heroic character of their faith. Forced by office to attend in the royal train, they probably expected on this day the nuptial joys of a martyr’s crown. They therefore scorned to feign sickness, or plead infirmity with guile. This was a great day for the Lord, a great day for the empire, a day of confusion to the ministers of superstition.

The faith of the three Hebrew children embraced a God unseen, despised terror, vanquished the world, and scorned life spotted by a single crime. They relied on the promise, When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Isaiah 43:2. Hence they answered the king with a firmness becoming the witnesses and confessors of the Most High.

The Lord we see will never forsake his faithful servants in the day of trouble. He prepared these holy men for the fiery trial by interior grace; he armed them with fortitude before the angry king; and his presence accompanied them in the fiery furnace. So he will do to all his saints in the various toils and conflicts of life. May we be greatly comforted by the promises and by examples of this nature, to go on our way rejoicing.

Severe afflictions work for the good of those who are exercised thereby. This monarch was furious, and many perished in his wrath; but he was also generous, and often just. Though heaven had confounded his pride by interposing to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; yet he promoted them to considerable rank in the empire; and God inclined his heart so to do for the protection of his poor afflicted people. Had not providence inter posed in some special manner, how could they have retained the pure worship of their fathers God, in a land so full of superstition. On the whole, the greatness of this occasion, comprising the vanity of the king, the errors of the world, and the protection of the church, were objects of extraordinary regard; and the glorious events of the day powerfully tended to instruct and reform a misguided empire.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 3:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/daniel-3.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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