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Daniel 3

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Image of Gold The Three Youth in the Fiery Furnace Nabuchadnezzar Commands Everyone to Worship a Golden Statue Nebuchadnezzar Sets a Golden Statue
3:1-7 3:1-7 3:1-7 3:1-7
Daniel's Friends Disobey the King   Daniel's Three Friends Are Accused of Disobedience The Denunciation and Condemnation of the Jews
3:8-15 3:8-12 3:8-12 3:8-23
  3:13-15 3:13-15  
3:16-18 3:16-18 3:16-18  
Saved in the Fiery Trial   Daniel's Three Friends Are Sentenced to Death  
3:19-23 3:19-23 3:19-23 The King Acknowledges the Miracle
3:24-25 3:24-30 3:24a 3:24-29
    3:24b  
    3:25  
Nebuchadnezzar Praises God   The Three Men Are Released and Promoted  
3:26-30   3:26-27  
    3:28  
    3:29  
    3:30 3:30
      Nebuchadnezzar's Proclamation
      3:31-30
(in other translations, 4:1-3)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter shows that the faith of Daniel is equally shared by his three exiled friends.

B. This chapter is characterized by

1. lists

2. the repeating of these lists

a. names of government officials (cf. vv. 3,24,27)

b. names of musical instruments (cf. vv. 5,7,10,15)

c. names of people groups (cf. vv. 4,7; 4:1; 6:25)

d. the three Hebrew youths (cf. vv. 12,13,14,16,19,20,22,23,26[twice],28,29,30)

C. The theological issue of God's sovereignty continues. He is God and He rewards those who trust (cf. v. 28) Him.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:1-7
 1Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4Then the herald loudly proclaimed: "To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. 6But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire." 7Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

3:1 "an image of gold" The image (BDB 1109 - statue, form) may have been similar to the vision of a human person made of four metals from chapter 2. It is either (1) an elongated human form or (2) a tall obelisk of uncertain shape. The Aramaic term can mean "obelisk." The normal physical proportions of the human body is five to one, but the image's height and width would be ten to one. A large platform has been found six miles from the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, which measures forty-five feet by forty-five feet by eighteen feet. This could have been the base of this image.

▣ "of gold" This seems to mean overlaid with gold and we have biblical examples of this, such as (1) Aaron's golden calf (Exod. 32); (2) Isaiah 40:19; 41:7; 44:10; (3) Jeremiah 10:4,14; and also (4) Herodotus 1.183.

"sixty cubits and its width was six cubits" This would make the image about ninety feet tall by nine feet wide if we base our measurements on a cubit (BDB 1081) as being eighteen inches, which denotes the distance from the longest finger to the elbow of a normal sized human being of that period. The Colossus of Rhodes was seventy cubits high (i.e. 105 feet), so this was not out of the realm of ancient technology.

"the plain of Dura" The term (BDB 1087) seems to come from the "duru" which means "an enclosing wall" or "fortress" (Akkadian). We have found several documents from Babylon which mention the Plain of Dura. However, its exact location is uncertain. With the finding of the large base several miles from Babylon, this is a possibility.

3:2 "the king sent to assemble" We have, from Sargon II's records, examples of this same type of royal assembly.

3:3 The repetitive nature of this chapter, both in the listing of the government officials and the musical instruments, is characteristic of (1) Hebraic writing; and (2) obelistic writing.

"satraps" This Aramaic governmental term (BDB 1080) reflects a Median word which means "protector of the land." In the later Persian Empire it referred to the twenty governors (Herodotus) of the provinces (cf. Ezra 8:36; Esther 3:12; 8:9; 9:3), but its exact meaning in the earlier neo-Babylonian Empire is uncertain, possibly "prince" (cf. TEV).

"prefects" The meaning of this Aramaic governmental term (BDB 1104) is uncertain, possibly an Akkadian term for those who report directly to the satraps. Daniel was appointed to this position over all the wise men of Babylon in 2:48.

"governors" The meaning of this Aramaic governmental term (BDB 1108) is also uncertain. The related Hebrew term denotes "governors" (cf. I Kgs. 10:15; 20:24; II Kgs. 18:24; often in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; Isa. 36:9; Jer. 51:23,28,57; and several times in the post-exilic prophets).

"counselors" This is another Aramaic governmental term (BDB 1078) of uncertain meaning. The typical translation is "counselor," but some scholars think it refers to (1) a military position (BDB 1078) or (2) "treasurers" (cf. Ezra 7:21).

"magistrates" This Aramaic governmental term (BDB 1118) is also uncertain. William Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, says it refers to a police official (p. 425) from a Persian loan word.

"the rulers of the provinces" This refers to lesser governmental officials (BDB 1097). This event was a gathering of all governmental workers of all levels (cf. vv. 4,7).

3:5,7,10 "at the moment you hear the sound of" This list of musical instruments refers to the Babylonian national orchestra. This may have been the Babylonian national anthem (cf. 10). We have a record from Babylonian documents of a similar party where 150 musicians played. It is obvious that the neo-Babylonians enjoyed music and included it in all of their festive occasions.

3:5

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, NJB,
JPS, NIV, NEB"horn"

In Daniel 7:7-8,11,20,21,24 this Aramaic word (BDB 1111) refers to an animal horn. Here it refers to a musical instrument, possibly made from an animal horn.

NASB, NKJV,
NIV"flute"
NRSV, NJB,
JPS, NEB"pipe"

The Aramaic term (BDB 1117) refers to some type of wind instrument.

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"lyre"
NKJV"harp"
JPS, NIV,
NEB"zither"

This is a Greek loan word (kitharis), which denotes a stringed instrument (harp).

NASB, NRSV"trigon"
NJB"zither"
JPS, NIV,
NEB"triangle"

This reflects another Greek loan word (sambukē), which denotes a stringed instrument with four strings.

NASB, JPS"psaltery"
NRSV, NJB,
NIV"harp"
NEB"dulcimer"

This (BDB 1108) denotes a triangular shaped stringed instrument with a sounding board (William Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 418).

NASB, NJB"bagpipe"
NRSV"drum"
NEB"music"

There is confusion in the English translation as to how many musical instruments are listed. The Masoretic Text and the Septuagint have only five in v. 7, but this sixth one is listed in vv. 5 and 10. It may refer to a double pipe similar to a Pan flute.

It is also possible that this last term means "in unison" (cf. NKJV, TEV).

"Fall down and worship" Both VERBS are Peal IMPERFECT (BDB 1103 and 1104). This shows the religious and political significance of this object (cf. v. 12). This is the reason that the three Hebrew children refused to participate. It is uncertain if the Neo-Babylonian rulers claimed deity (the image as a representative of Nebuchadnezzar, cf. 2:38), as did the Pharaohs of Egypt and some later Caesars of Rome.

3:6,15 "immediately" Literally this is "same hour" (BDB 1116). This is the first use of the term "hour" in the OT. There is some discussion if the term and concept began with the Babylonians or the Greeks. We must remember that this does not refer to our precise sixty minutes because they were using more crude timing instruments.

▣ "cast into the midst of the furnace of flaming fire" Because of the description found in chapter 3 and also because of archaeology discoveries, it seems that this was a large, domed kiln with an opening at the top and an earthen ramp leading up to it. It also had a door on the bottom for putting in charcoal and taking out ashes. This was a common form of capital punishment during this period (cf. Code of Hammurabi 110,157 and Jer. 29:22).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:8-12
 8For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. 9They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: "O king, live forever! 10You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

3:8 "certain Chaldeans" It must be remembered that Chaldeans can be (1) a racial group of the southern Tigris-Euphrates River Valley (cf. 5:30) or (2) a group of wise men and priests (cf. Dan. 2:2).

"brought charges against the Jews" This is literally "chewed up the pieces of" (cf. 6:25). This is a very strong phrase (BDB 1080, Peal PERFECT and BDB 1111) which shows the vehemence of the charges. From the text it is obvious that there was jealousy involved because these Jewish young men had a place of leadership (cf. v. 12; 6:4). Also, there was a racial prejudice because of the mention of their origin (cf. v. 12).

3:9 "O king, live forever" See note at 2:4.

3:12 "namely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego" It is uncertain where Daniel was at this time. It could be that he was sick or on a governmental assignment. This would be unusual because all the other government officials were present.

For a summary of the possibilities related to Daniel's absence see The Expositors' Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 55-56.

▣ "have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up" Imagine the peer pressure that there must have been on these young men who were so far from home and who were placed in such important places of leadership.

Nebuchadnezzar must have forgotten his praise of YHWH from 2:46-47.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:13-15
 13Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"

3:13 "in rage and anger" Nebuchadnezzar was prone to anger (cf. 2:12; 3:19). Oriental kings were not accustomed to people disobeying their orders!

This phrase (BDB 1112 and 1095) is called a hendiadys, which is characteristic of Daniel writing style. See note at 2:12.

3:14 Nebuchadnezzar II tries to give them a second chance (cf. v. 15, they were excellent administrators), but their refusal just proves to intensify his anger. He took their rejection of his gods as a personal rejection.

3:15 "what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands" This is theologically similar to II Kgs. 18:33 and 19:12. YHWH is openly challenged to demonstrate His existence, power, and compassion to those who trust Him (cf. v. 28). YHWH reveals Himself to the nations by showing His sovereignty and love for His covenant people.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:16-18
 16Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

3:17 "if it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire" Nebuchadnezzar II had made this a contest between the gods of Babylon and the God of Judah by asserting that no one could deliver them out of his hand (cf. v. 15). The descriptive title, "the God who is able," is also in v. 29 and in the NT at Rom. 16:5; Eph. 3:20; Jude 24.

The NET Bible translates this phrase as "If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire." The Anchor Bible, vol. 23, also has a translation that tries to employ the Aramaic word "exist"—"If there is a God able to save us, such as our God, he will save us from the white-hot furnace" (p. 155).

3:18 "but even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." They believed that God was able, but they were not being presumptuous by demanding a miracle. They had faith in God, not in circumstances.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:19-23
 19Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

3:19 "seven times more than it was usually heated" This is an obvious use of figurative language (cf. v. 22). It simply means that the brick kiln was heated as hot as it possibly could be heated.

3:20

NASB"valiant warriors"
NKJV"mighty men of valor"
NRSV"some of the strongest guards"
TEV"the strongest men"
NJB"certain stalwarts from his army"

The construct (BDB 1086 and 1093) implies his strongest military guards. Nebuchadnezzar's anger will result in the death of these servants (cf. v. 22).

3:21 "their trousers, their coats, their caps, and their other clothes" This was their official attire showing the high governmental level they had attained in the neo-Babylonian empire.

3:22 "the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried them in" This is a graphic detail of the extreme heat into which the three Hebrew boys were thrown. The fall itself should have killed them, much less the temperature.

3:23 After this verse is the place where the Septuagint inserts two Apocryphal writings, "The Song of the Three Youths" and "The Prayer of Assariah." These two Apocryphal writings assert that the dew of heaven brought by the angel of the Lord kept the Hebrew youths from death.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:24-27
 24Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." 25He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" 26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

3:24 Notice that Nebuchadnezzar, talking to his counselors, says, "did not we cast?" He wants to spread the blame.

3:25 "I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire" There has been much discussion about how Nebuchadnezzar could see. It seems that the brick kiln was a domed structure with a place at the bottom for the removal of ashes. Apparently, he looked through the hole in the bottom and saw the young men walking about.

"the fourth is like a son of the gods" A considerable amount of speculation has been made about this fourth personage. He is an angel of the Lord (cf. v. 28 also 6:22). It is humorous to note that when Nebuchadnezzar calls the boys out by name, he makes no mention of that fourth person!

3:27 In the presence of all his civil, military, and police officials Nebuchadnezzar is forced to acknowledge the God of Judah (cf. vv. 28-29) for the second time.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:28-30
 28Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." 30Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

3:28-29 This statement is very similar to 2:46-48. It is an outburst of a fearful polytheist in the face of the power of God. It is not Nebuchadnezzar's confession of faith.

3:28 "who put their trust in Him" Not only is the One True God emphasized, but also the need for personal, active trust in Him (cf. Isa. 26:3-4)!

3:29 "shall be torn limb from limb" This was an ancient form of execution, as was being burned (cf. Dan. 2:5: I Sam. 15:33).

"their houses reduced to a rubbish heap" This was also an ancient form of punishment and shame (cf. 6:11).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why were the Chaldeans of verse 8 out to get the Hebrew youths?

2. Was the image political or religious?

3. What are the implications of verses 17 and 18 for our lives?

4. Who was the fourth person in the flames?