Fairview Baptist Church
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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Theme: Game Changer: How to Impact
What This Study Is About:
The focus for this
week’s study is on Daniel’s three friends who chose to face death
instead of disobeying God.
When Opposition Strikes
ready and willing to stand for God.
A Clash of Commitments (Daniel 3:13-15)
Immoveable Faith (Daniel 3:16-18)
All Your Life (Daniel 3:26-28)
fascination with Daniel’s God was short-lived (Dan. 2:47).
Though God had revealed the king’s dream and its interpretation,
Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue and at the dedication of it told the
people to bow down and worship it when they heard the music play.
The result of not bowing down to the statue was death by being
thrown into a furnace of fire (3:1-7).
is not mentioned in this passage—only his three friends, Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego. Speculations
abound concerning his absence. Some
believe he was ill. Others
believe he may have been excluded from the king’s demand.
Still others suggest that he was traveling out of town on state
business. While the text does
not state why Daniel is not mentioned, all would agree that it would have
been out of character for Daniel to bow down to the statue, so he must not
have been present on the day that his three friends refused to compromise.
location of “the plain of Dura” is unknown (v. 1), but it possibly
could have been a site 16 miles south of Babylon.
This could explain Daniel’s absence that day, as he may have
remained in the city. The odd
size of the statue is also a interesting feature of this passage—“90
feet high and nine feet wide” (v. 1).
That was one tall, skinny image!
Some have suggested the statue resembled a totem pole, while others
have suggested that the base of the statue made up most of the 90 feet and
then the image was proportionate that sat on the base.
While the visual of the image is unknown, its purpose was not.
The image was an idol that the people were commanded to
“worship” (vv. 5-6). This
demand created conflict with Daniel’s three Hebrew friends’
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; Nashville, TN.
society we tend to gravitate toward whatever is currently popular or
trending. However, not
everything that is popular and trending is good or right.
So what do we do? Will
we submit to the pressure of the culture, allow what is popular to hold
sway over us, and cower in fear because of the threats made to us?
Or, will we choose to resist the crowd, refuse to fall victim to
trends, and stand courageously for God?
As Christians we are to assimilate culture without compromising
conviction. As good witnesses
for Jesus Christ we are to know how to do this.
However, at times, we must stand courageously and refuse to
compromise our convictions.
SOURCE: The Herschel
Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
A Clash of
Commitments (Daniel 3:13-15)
13 Then in a furious rage
Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So
these men were brought before the king. 14
Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true
that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? 15
Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither,
lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the
statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be
thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue
you from my power?”
What comes to mind when you hear the word courage?
What do you think this statement implies for the
believer: “Be ready and willing to stand for God”?
event led to this display of rage and anger
on Nebuchadnezzar’s part (v. 13)?
do you think the king went into a rage
over the three lesser members of his council?
question did the king ask the three young Hebrews (v. 14)?
do you think these three young Hebrews may have felt when the king asked this
though filled with rage, what does it appear the king was willing to do in
regard to the three Hebrews (v. 15)
to verse 15, do you think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really had a choice?
Why, or why not?
forces do you think would have pressured the three Hebrews to change their
convictions in their hearing with the king?
did the king’s own words remind the three that bowing to the statue would
involve more than political compromise?
comment did the king make that gives evidence of his ignorance and arrogance (v.
Have you ever felt the pressure to conform?
Is so, how did it affect you? What
was the outcome?
How does our culture
pressure people into conformity?
What are some of the
issues in our society today that will cause Christians to take a stand for the
An Immoveable Faith
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the
king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this
question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can
rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the
power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not
rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or
worship the gold statue you set up.”
do you think Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego refused the legitimacy of the command to bow to the statue?
Based on verse 16, what do you think was the tone of
the statement Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave the king?
do you think the three did not feel a need to defend themselves before the king?
What might this tell you about the relationship these
three had with the king?
At this point, how would you describe their attitude
toward the king and his command?
Do you think actions are sometimes more important in
winning a debate that words? Why, or
on verse 17, what else did they go to say?
light does verse 18 shed on the conversation between Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the king?
What does verse 18 tell us about what they thought
about the king’s command at this point in their conversation?
Even in the face of certain death, what do you think
these three thought about God?
What risks might we face in standing firm for
our convictions, especially concerning the current issues in our society today?
What is the
connection between courage and faith?
What does it tell you
about a believer’s faith that no matter what God chose to do, he/she would not
compromise their faith.
Do you believe that kind of trust springs from a
heart that loves God more than one’s own life?
Why, or why not?
Lessons in Daniel 3:16-18:
faith is believing that God is fully able to deliver us from any threats
faith is believing in God even when He does not rescue us.
With All Your Life
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire
and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most
High God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the
fire. 27 When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the
king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on
the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes
were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego! He sent His angel and rescued His servants who trusted in Him.
They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than
serve or worship any god except their own God.”
What do you think Nebuchadnezzar saying about God by
referring to Him as the most high God
What signs did the king witness that God had been
protecting them from the effects of the furnace (v. 27)?
evidence is offered that what the king and all his officials had witnessed was
nothing less than a miracle?
did this event impact the king?
did the king acknowledge that God had done for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (v. 28)?
What had they been willing to do rather than deny God
What purpose did God fulfill in allowing the three
men to go into the furnace but sparing them in the middle of it?
Had you been a witness of this event, what would you
have thought about the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
How can we encourage each other to stand
courageously in the face of opposition?
What are some things
we can do to actively support Christians who are facing persecution?
Matt. 16:33 encourage you when you stand firm in the face of ungodly issues in
our society today? If so, how?
can standing faithful in the face of fiery opposition shed
the light of Christ for everyone to see?
Lessons in Daniel 3:26-28:
unlike any other.
sets out to do, He does like no other.
present with us in the most difficult of times.
to come between us and God.
The call to
faithfulness is a call to give our all.
The story of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego is a story of courage in the face of unjustified
persecution. The three men
refused to compromise their loyalty to God but placed their faith
completely in Him. They
refused to bow before the golden image because their hearts already were
humbled before God.
A review of the experience of the three Hebrews challenges us to
evaluate the depth of our personal commitment to God.
Are we willing to refuse to bow down to the gods of culture and
this world in order to stand for the Lord?
Do we have the kind of faith-filled courage that would lead us to
put our lives on the line? We
may answer boldly in the shelter of our homes, churches, and Bible study
groups, but will we answer in the crucibles of life?
On a scale of 1 (will bow down) to 10 (will stand strong), rate
where you stand and what it reveals about your commitment to God in the
face of cultural challenges that are contrary to Christ’s teaching and
bear witness to the world about my relationship to you!
How do you measure up? God
will help you if you truly want to improve your relationship with Him and
strengthen your stand for Him!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion
adapted from the following sources:
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study;
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
New King James Version:
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in
rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So
they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke,
saying to them, "Is it
true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that
you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now
if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and
psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the
image which I have made, good!
But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a
burning fiery furnace. And who is
the god who will deliver you from my hands?" 16 Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we
have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is
the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning
fiery furnace, and He will deliver us
from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O
king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which
you have set up."
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here." Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king's counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! (NKJV)
New International Version:
Furious with rage,
Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were
brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is
it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or
worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the
sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if
you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you
do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then
what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" 16 Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need
to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown
into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he
will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we
want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image
of gold you have set up."
approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!"
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the
satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw
that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed;
their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then
Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him
and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather
than serve or worship any god except their own God. (NIV)
New Living Translation:
Then Nebuchadnezzar flew
into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before
him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is
it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to
worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more
chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of
the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into
the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my
power?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O
Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If
we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save
us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if
he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never
serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came as
close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the
high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw
that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and
their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! 28 Then
Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He
sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the
king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God. (NLT)
Lesson Outline — “Stand
Courageously” — Daniel
A Clash of
Commitments (Daniel 3:13-15)
An Immoveable Faith (Daniel 3:16-18)
With All Your Life (Daniel 3:26-28)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“The New American Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament:
a show of zeal for the king, the Chaldeans quoted his edict word for word (vv. 10-11)
and then related how these three recalcitrant Jews had dared (v. 12) to
“pay no attention to” (la- samu alayk teem, lit., “They
have not paid regard to you”) the express command of “King Nebuchadnezzar”
(v. 9); they had refused to bow down and worship the golden image!
Nebuchadnezzar’s response was all the Chaldeans could have hoped for. He
became furious and ordered the offenders to be brought before him (v. 13).
He could not understand that they had defied him, after his many favors and in
the face of such a dreadful penalty. Half incredulously he stared at them and
asked whether they really had disobeyed his decree (v. 14). Then,
controlling his anger momentarily, he stopped questioning them and magnanimously
gave them an opportunity to save themselves. He would order the musicians to
play again so the three men might prove their loyalty and obedience by
worshiping the image then and there (v. 15).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego loved Yahweh more than life itself. Not only had
they learned to recite the Shema—“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD
is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your strength” (Deut 6:4-5)—but they made it the center of their
lives. For them the will and glory of Yahweh meant more than fame, position, or
security. Loving him with all their heart, they were ready to lay down their
lives for him. Such was the logic of genuine faith, somewhat as Paul the apostle
was later to say: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I
may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task
of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). So these three
refused to plead with Nebuchadnezzar to make an exception of them.
Nebuchadnezzar,” the three said, “we do not need to defend ourselves before
you in this matter [pitgam, which could also mean ‘decree,’
‘message,’ or ‘affair’].” The Aramaic word order of v. 16 places
an emphasis on the pronoun “we,” implying that it is the Lord himself who
will deal with this king who thinks he is sovereign on earth.
next statement of the three men has been variously interpreted. Its opening
clause is usually rendered thus: “If it be so, our God ... is able” (v. 17).
(NIV has “If we are thrown, ... the God we serve is able.”) But a more
appropriate rendering in this context would be “If our God exists [hen itay
elahana, in which itay, like its Heb. cognate yes,
means ‘there is’ or ‘there exists’], whom we worship, he is able to
deliver us from the furnace of burning fire; and from your hand, O king, he
shall deliver.” Nebuchadnezzar had made the mistake of defing Yahweh, saying,
“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (v. 15). Like
Sennacherib, who had derided Hezekiah’s trust in God by boasting that none of
the gods of the other nations had ever been able to save their people from the
might of Assyria (2 Kings 18:33), Nebuchadnezzar had converted his confrontation
with men into a contest with the Lord God Almighty. Nebuchadnezzar’s doom and
fall were sure, even though he had earlier served God’s purpose as a scourge
to chasten God’s apostate people (Jer 27:6-8). Ungratefully he had scoffed at
the very God who had granted him success in battle; therefore he was to undergo
one humiliation after another, till he groveled in the dust before Israel’s
the heroism of the three men went even further as they declared, “But even if
he does not [deliver us], we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve
your gods, or worship the image of gold you have set up” (v. 18). They
were ready to be burned up in the fiery furnace rather than betray the God they
had totally surrendered their lives to. Scripture contains few more heroic words
than “But even if he does not.”
this confrontation between Nebuchadnezzar and the three Hebrews, Ford says:
courteous but determined refusal of the Hebrews should be carefully observed.
They had obeyed “the powers that be” as far as conscience permitted. They
journeyed to the Plain of Dura. And right at the point where conscience shouted,
“No further!” they rejected the temptation to be arrogant in their
nonconformity. As Daniel before them had been courteous in his request to follow
his convictions, so these three verbally acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as king,
while committing their ultimate allegiance to the King of kings alone. (cf. Acts
5:29; Matt 22:21).
passing on to v. 19, we need to face the puzzling question of why Daniel
did not join his three companions in disobeying the king’s decree. Several
answers may be given.
Since Daniel is not mentioned in this chapter, he may have been absent from
Babylon at the time, perhaps on government business in some other part of the
He may have been closeted with other members of the king’s cabinet, working on
legislative or military plans.
He may have been (as Wood, p. 78, suggests) too ill to attend the public
ceremony; we know from 8:27 that sickness occasionally interfered with his
carrying on with government business (cf. also 7:28; 10:8).
It may simply have been assumed that as the king’s vizier (prime minister, for
his responsibilities amounted to that high status; cf. 2:48), he was not
required to make public demonstration of his loyalty by worshiping the image of
his god. After all, there is no indication that Nebuchadnezzar himself bowed
down to the image. It may have been that he simply sat on his royal dais
surveying the scene, with his closest friends and advisers at his side.
It is true that Daniel’s office as ruler over the capital province of Babylon
(2:48) was not specifically listed in the seven categories of public officials
(cf. 3:3, though of course, the rulers of subordinate provinces were
required to be on hand); and none of the “wise men” (hakkimayya),
over whom Daniel had been made chief were included in the call for this public
ceremony. As a type of accredited clergy serving under the state, they may have
been exempted from this act of allegiance; their religious commitment would be
presumed to be beyond question. In other words, Daniel did not belong to any of
the special groups of jurists, advisors, financial experts, or political leaders
included in the terms of the call.
Perhaps Daniel’s reputation as a diviner was so formidable that even the
jealous Chaldeans did not dare attack him before the king.
makes the following observation: “Had
the story been the invention that many have suggested; had it originated in the
days of the Maccabees to nerve the faithful against Gentile oppression, it is
unlikely that the chief hero would have been omitted. Reality transcends
fiction, and the very ‘incompleteness’ of this account testifies to its
fidelity.” It is hard to see how the force of this deduction can be
successfully evaded. There is no psychological reason for an idealizing romancer
to leave Daniel out of this exciting episode. The only way to account for this
omission is that in point of fact he was not personally in attendance at this
Sentence Imposed and Executed
been publicly defied in the name of the God of the Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar had
no recourse but to order the immediate execution of the three young Hebrews. In
his rage (v. 19), he went to absurd lengths, as if he were dealing with
asbestos figures rather than flesh-and-blood men. No mere mortal could have
survived an instant in the huge furnace, but the king insisted that additional
bellows be inserted under the blazing coals and that it be heated to maximum
intensity. So fierce was the fire that even to come near it was fatal (v. 22).
Equally absurd was Nebuchadnezzar’s command for the three to be fully dressed
with their hats on (v. 21) so as to make sure the flames would envelop
them. Finally, they were “firmly tied” (v. 23) and thrown like logs
into the furnace. In his fury Nebuchadnezzar had thought of everything.
there was no door or screen to hide the inside of the furnace from view. Judging
from bas-reliefs, it would seem that Mesopotamian smelting furnaces tended to be
like an old-fashioned glass milk-bottle in shape, with a large opening for the
insertion of the ore to be smelted and a smaller aperture at ground level for
the admission of wood and charcoal to furnish the heat. There must have been two
or more smaller holes at this same level to permit the insertion of pipes
connected with large bellows, when it was desired to raise the temperature
beyond what the flue or chimney would produce. Undoubtedly the furnace itself
was fashioned of very thick adobe, resistant to intense heat. The large upper
door was probably raised above the level of the fire bed so that the metal
smelted from the ore would spill on the ground in case the crucibles were upset.
So the text says (v. 23) that the three “fell down” (nepalu)
into the fire. Apart from the swirling flames and smoke, then, they were quite
visible to an outside observer, though, like the king, he would have to stand at
Deliverance and the Fourth Man
The dumbfounded Nebuchadnezzar saw the Hebrews walking upright in the flames
without their bonds (v. 24). Even more astounding, he saw a fourth person
walking with them (v. 25). Where had he come from? After his officials
confirmed the king’s impression that only three men had been thrown into the
furnace, he described the fourth one resembling deity—i.e., “like a son of
gods” (wereweh di rebiaya da-meh lebar- elahin, lit.,
“and the appearance of the fourth resembles a son of gods”). Pagan that he
was, Nebuchadnezzar probably meant the plural absolute ending In as an
indefinite plural rather than equivalent to the Hebrew elohim (which
is often taken as a singular, when referring to the one true God). All four
persons in the furnace were walking around freely (v. 25). The blazing fire
had no effect on them. Nebuchadnezzar stood face to face with a sheer miracle.
Their divine companion in the flames had delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego from all harm.
as near to the furnace as possible, Nebuchadnezzar shouted above the roar of the
furnace (v. 26). So the three climbed out—but not the fourth, who had
apparently disappeared—and allowed themselves to be inspected by the king and
his officials.. To their amazement, neither the clothing nor the bodies of the
three Hebrews showed any marks of the fire (v. 27). Their clothes did not
even smell of fire. Only their bonds were gone. Their God had indeed been able
to deliver them from the fiery furnace, just as they had affirmed (v. 17).
Yahweh had triumphed over the tryant who had defied him.
Second Submission to God
Before such an awesome display of God’s power, Nebuchadnezzar could only
acknowledge his defeat. He had come up against the God he had challenged (v. 15):
“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” He hastened to
praise Yahweh (v. 28) and thereby confess his admiration for the courage
and fidelity of the three Hebrews, who had been willing to die rather than
worship any god but Yahweh.
make amends Nebuchadnezzar decreed death and destruction for saying anything
against the God of Israel (v. 29). Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego to a higher office in Babylon (v. 30). It would be
interesting to know what happened to the great idol on the Plain of Dura;
presumably it was stripped of its golden covering and left to decay.
significant fact in the subsequent history of the Jews is that the sublime
courage of the three Hebrews and their faith in Yahweh greatly encouraged the
Jewish patriots at the time of the Maccabean revolt, whose leaders emulated it
in their own struggle against Antiochus Epiphanes. 1 Macc 2:59 tells how
the dying Mattathias of Modin recalled the heroism of David and Elijah and said,
“Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved out of the flame.”
His words show his conviction of the historicity of Daniel 3. In the NT Hebrews
11:34 refers to Daniel 3: “[They] quenched the fury of the flames”—an
allusion that appears in a long list of the heroes of the faith. Obviously the
author of Hebrews believed that the events in Daniel 3 took place in the
sixth century B.C. exactly as they are related.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s
Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
American Commentary; Daniel 3:13-18,26-28:
The Inquisition (3:13–18)
13Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 3:13. “Furious
with rage” is literally “in fury (rĕgaz) and rage (ḥămâ).” These two words form a hendiadys and give
the sense of “extreme anger.” Beside himself with rage, the Babylonian
despot immediately had the three Jews brought before him.
14and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true,
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the
image of gold I have set up? (NIV)
in disbelief, Nebuchadnezzar asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego if the report
was really “true.” Had these three foreigners
actually refused to worship the gods of Babylon (the gods who Nebuchadnezzar himself worshiped) and disobeyed the king’s
command to bow before the great image?
15Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute,
zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down
and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will
be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to
rescue you from my hand?” (NIV)
some reason Nebuchadnezzar was willing to grant these young men an opportunity
to change their minds. Possibly he had grown fond of them, or perhaps he felt
that it would be a pity to lose three capable men especially since he had made a
large investment of time and money in them. The king offered to have the
orchestra play just for them. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would bow down
before the image, all would be well; but if not, they would be thrown
immediately (lit., “in the moment”) into the blazing furnace.
Nebuchadnezzar added, “Then what god will be
able to rescue you from my hand?” Montgomery points out that the language is
emphatic, “What (at all) god is there?” The
question seems to reflect the king’s previous experience with Israel’s God
(cf. chap. 2). Yahweh had proven himself powerful by revealing the dream, but
even such a great god would not
be able to protect his followers from death in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar may
even have been deliberately challenging Yahweh. Only a short distance away the
fire blazed. If the young men did not change their minds and bow to the image,
no power (no god) could deliver them.
16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the
king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this
matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve
is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But
even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your
gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)
young men responded that they did not need to present a defense (lit., “return
[an answer]”) to the king concerning this decision (v. 16). No apology was to
be given for their stand. This was not a “proud reply” as Lacocque thinks; it was
a “firm” reply. Their
minds were made up.
the king’s threat of death in the furnace, they replied that their God was
able to deliver them. In the NIV the latter part of
the verse reads “and he [God] will rescue us from your hand, O king.” The
Aramaic verbal form (imperfect) rendered “he will
rescue” (yĕšêzib) also could be translated “he may rescue,”
which in this context would be better. Although no doubt existed in the minds of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego about the ability of their God to deliver them,
they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene
miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants. The
following verse also shows that the Hebrews understood death to be a
even if he does not” could be rendered more literally “but if not.” The
interpretation depends on how the previous verse is translated (see note on v.
17). According to the NIV and others, God was able to deliver them, but it might
not be his will to do so. Jerome comments: “Thereby they indicate that it will
not be a matter of God’s inability but rather of His sovereign will if they do
This latter interpretation is
best. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego previously had witnessed Yahweh’s power
over the false gods of Babylon in the matter of the
king’s dream (cf. chap. 2), and they are set forth in the book as pious saints
devoted to the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures. These Scriptures included the
accounts of the great wonders God performed for Israel, miracles that these
young men would have heard and believed. No question could have existed in their
minds that the God who divided the sea and performed other miracles in
delivering Israel from Egypt could do the same for them—if it was within his
will. Furthermore, miracles fill the Book of Daniel, and the author would surely
not have allowed his heroes to express doubts concerning the power of their God
here. Thus the Hebrews believed that their God could, but not necessarily
that he would, spare their lives.
Here is a pertinent lesson for believers today.
Does God have all power? Yes. Is God able to deliver believers from all problems
and trials? Yes. But does God deliver believers from all trials? No. God may
allow trials to come into the lives of his people to build character or for a
number of other reasons (Rom 5). The purpose for trials may not always be
understood, but God simply asks that his children trust him—even when it is
not easy. As Job, who endured incredible suffering, exclaimed, “Though he slay
me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Although God does not guarantee that
his followers will never suffer or experience death, he does promise always to
be with them. In times of trial the believer’s attitude should be that of
these young men (3:17–18).
Some of the most courageous words ever spoken
are recorded in v. 18. Christ told his followers: “Do not be afraid of those
who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can
destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). This explains the confidence
exhibited by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they declared, “But even if he
does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or
worship the image of gold you have set up.” Even if they had to suffer a
horrible, painful death in a burning oven, these three young men refused to
forsake their God and worship idols. Similar words have been uttered countless
times throughout the centuries as believers have suffered martyrdom for the
Lord. Lacocque thinks that the author of Daniel implied the resurrection in this
Certainly these Hebrews were convinced that even if they perished in the flames,
there was a better life beyond.
26Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the
blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the
Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came
out of the fire, 27and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal
advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their
bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and
there was no smell of fire on them. (NIV)
What impressed Nebuchadnezzar most of all was
that now the three Jews had been joined by a fourth man, and this one looked
like “a son of the gods.” Porteous and
the majority of Jewish scholars have identified this person as an angel. For
example, Slotki remarks, “The Talmud asserts that it was the archangel Gabriel
(Pes. 118a, b).”
According to Lacocque, “The expression is used in the inscriptions at Karatepe and Ugarit where it
designates the members of the divine court.” However, the expression “a
son of the gods” ascribes deity to the being, since an offspring of the gods
partakes of the divine nature. Young remarks:
is son of deity, i.e., a Divine Person, one of the race of the gods, a
supernatural being.” The
NRSV’s “the appearance of a god” seems to capture the idea well, for the
king believed that he had seen no less than a god in the flames with the three Hebrews.
The KJV renders this phrase “the Son of
God,” an apparent allusion to the second person of the Trinity. Either the NIV
or KJV translation is possible grammatically. In biblical Aramaic the plural
noun ˒ĕlāhîn may be assumed to have the same force as ˒ĕlōhîm in biblical Hebrew, which can be rendered as a
plural, “gods,” or as a singular, “God,” when denoting the true God, the
plural form being an attempt to express the divine fullness and majesty. In this context, however, the
translation of the NIV and most modern
versions is to be preferred, since Nebuchadnezzar was polytheistic and had no
conception of the Christian Trinity. Thus the pagan king only meant that the
fourth figure in the fire was divine.
From the Christian perspective, we know that the
preincarnate Christ did appear to individuals in the Old Testament. Most likely
the fourth man in the fire was the angel of the Lord, God himself in the person
of his Son Jesus Christ, a view held by many expositors (cf. comments on
6:21–22). It is
certainly true that when believers go through fiery trials Christ is with them.
The three Hebrews experienced literally the promise, “When you walk through
the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isa
in order to get a better look and so that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could
hear him, Nebuchadnezzar came near the opening of the furnace and shouted for
the Hebrews to come out of the fire and appear before him. The king was now
convinced that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was truly great, “the Most High
this faith in Yahweh was well within the scope of pagan, polytheistic religious
concepts, for the king merely considered Yahweh the great God (at least for the
present) among many.
the three came out of the fire, the other officials crowded around to examine
them. There was no evidence that they had been in the furnace, for their bodies
had not been burned (lit., “the fire had not had power over their bodies”),
their hair was not singed, their robes were not scorched (lit., “changed,”
“viz. for the worse, a sense which the word often has in Aramaic”), and
there was not even any “smell of fire on them.” All were convinced that they
had witnessed a miracle.
The Result (3:28)
28Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God
of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his
servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing
to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own
praised (bĕrak) the God of the Hebrews for such a great
demonstration of his power. The king also was quite impressed with the fact that
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had placed their trust (rĕḥaṣ) in their God, and he had “sent his angel”
to deliver them. Yahweh was faithful. “Angel” (or heavenly “messenger”)
could denote an angel or God himself (cf. Gen 18:1–2, 10ff.), and Montgomery
points out that “the term ‘angel’ was appropriate to common WSem. [West
Semitic] diction as expressing an appearance-form of Deity.” In this context it refers to a
divine being as the discussion at v. 25 shows. Nebuchadnezzar’s statement in
this verse displays a knowledge of
Then the pagan monarch
expressed his admiration for these young men because of their willingness to
defy a king’s command and suffer a horrible death in order to remain true to
their god. Although angered by their actions, he respected their commitment.
Even in today’s world unbelievers may not understand or appreciate Christian convictions, but usually they
respect those who are willing to take a stand for their God. Verse 28 confirms
that bowing before the statue was considered an act of worship.
New American Commentary; Volume 18; Daniel; Stephen R. Miller; ©
Copyright 1994 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Daniel
report that the governors of the central province of Babylon had not bowed down
put the king in a state of shock. He must have felt that their disobedience
would break down the loyalty of all the others. To him, they were striking at
him, at his gods and at the unity of the empire. Burning with rage and fury, he
sent for the three friends. His rage was a sample of the attitude we can still
expect of others if we stand true to God. According to Matt. 5:10, 12,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.... Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your
reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
3:14. Even in
the head of his rage, the king wanted to be fair and asked Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego if their action had been deliberate. The Hebrew indicates that he
thought their failure to bow down was a matter of misunderstanding and might
have been unintentional. He hoped it was not perverseness. As a polytheist who
freely worshiped many gods, Nebuchadnezzar surely had difficulty understanding
why the three friends would not bow down. We can be sure also that since he
considered himself at least semi-divine, he thought of worship as primarily a
matter of external acts and ritual and did not see why he did not have a right
to command it.
the king knew that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were doing excellent work as
governors of Babylon, the chief province of the empire, he did not want to
destroy them and lose their services. Instead, he gave them a second chance to
bow down to the image, hoping the other governors would be impacted by this
magnificent demonstration of the loyalty of Babylon’s three governors. But
true worship cannot be commanded or forced. As Jesus said, God seeks those who
will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). We worship Him because He
is worthy, and our worship is the willing response of our hearts.
The king’s pride showed itself when he added that if they did not bow
down they would be thrown into a blazing furnace, and no god would be able to
rescue them from his hand. Like most Assyrian and Babylonian kings, he thought
he was equal in power to all the gods (cp. Sennacherib’s threats in Isa.
36:18ff; 37:10-13). But in thinking this, he
was no different than all the rest of humankind who refuse to accept the One
True God and put “self” on the throne. As Rom. 1:21-25 says, “For although
they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful....
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of
the uncorruptible God into an image.... They exchanged the truth of God for a
lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator.” Indeed,
Nebuchadnezzar was not the only person who needed to learn that God is still on
3:16. The three friends refused to compromise. Without
any sign of fear and without hesitation, they declared they would neither excuse
their action nor attempt to defend themselves. They had no need to do so. Their
courage came from a fixed hope in God. Jesus expects us to take the same stand.
He told his disciples that when they were arrested and brought before governors
and kings, they were to be witnesses to them and to the nations. Instead of
worrying about what to say or how to say it, they were to expect the Spirit of
God their Father to give them the words to say and to speak through them (Matt.
Actually, Nebuchadnezzar was tempting the three friends to rationalize
and seek their own safety. He wanted them to feel it was useless to resist him.
Indeed, they could have reasoned that their refusal to bow would not destroy the
image or convert the king, so their witness would be meaningless, or they could
have thought that since the image had no real power, falling down to worship it
would be a mere form and would not hurt them. But we do not waste our lives when
we take a stand for God and for the truth. It is more important for us to
glorify God and spread the truth of the gospel than to seek our own safety. If
we remain filled with the Holy Spirit, we shall have power and boldness to face
the fires of enemy oppositions (Acts 1:8; 4:31). Christians in some parts of the
world today are being compelled to follow in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego, and some of us may have to face something of the same before the
Lord Jesus returns for his saints.
their hope and faith fixed in God, the three friends declared their stand. They
knew God’s way is best and that He was their refuge and strength (Pss. 46:1;
56:4). It is better to endure suffering for the Lord’s sake now than to fall
under the wrath and judgment of almighty God (see Matt. 10:28; Rev. 19:15).
Although they declared that God was able to rescue them from the fiery
furnace, they did not demand deliverance of Him nor did they have any definite
word or positive assurance that He would rescue them. Regardless of whether He
would rescue them, they still would not bow down to anyone or anything other
than the One True God. They were not questioning God’s ability to rescue them;
they knew how holy and just God is and that He had a plan, though they did not
know whether rescuing them would be part of his plan. Thus they committed
themselves into his hands, knowing that death is better than idolatry and
disobedience to God. God’s way is always the best way. It is better to have
this body destroyed than to spend eternity in the lake of fire. The wrath of
wicked men is as nothing compared to the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Their faith and loyalty to God was unconditional. It did not depend on
whether He let them live or not. Someone has said that faith is not the defiance
of facts but is trust in God regardless of the consequences. It means going
through, enduring whatever is necessary to obey Him and take our stand for Him.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego illustrate what Rom. 12:12 means. In the
worst of circumstances, they were “joyful in hope, patient in tribulations”
(NIV). By “patience” the Bible never means accepting trouble passively or
withdrawing into a shell. It is a positive, rugged determination to endure for
the Lord’s sake whatever affliction, pressures or tribulations come because of
our witness, our stand for Him. This kind of joyful abandonment to God’s will
has done much to spread the gospel around the world. It is the quality of joyful
persevering faith that made the Greek word for a witness (martus [GED #3116],
“martyr”) come to mean “one who died for his faith and testimony,”
because so many Christian witnesses stood true to the end in the midst of the
early persecutions of the Church.
Nebuchadnezzar called the three friends out of the furnace, the various
governors and officials gathered round and saw that the fire had burned the
ropes that bound them but that they came out without even the smell of fire or
smoke on them. God had indeed rescued them, but He did more than perform a miracle; He
sent a divine Person to protect them and to walk with them, giving them a
foretaste of the great joy and fellowship believers will enjoy throughout
eternity, a fellowship that is “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
Christ” (1 John 1:3). We share that fellowship now through the ministry of the
was so impressed with the miraculous, divine rescue of the three friends that he
praised their God and made a decree that anyone who said anything offensive
about their God would be cut in pieces and their houses destroyed (and made a
public privy). Then Nebuchadnezzar caused the three friends to prosper
(“promoted” is a less acceptable translation, since they were already
Notice too that he called the fourth man an angel. In this, he spoke more
truly than he realized. From what we see in many places in the OT, the Angel of
the Lord is a preincarnate manifestation of the Son of God. Remember too we have
an even greater example in that fourth Man, Who suffered in Gethsemane and on
Calvary for us. Furthermore, we have the assurance of the Resurrection, an
assurance that caused the Apostle Paul to risk his life every day for the
gospel’s sake (Rom. 8:36; 1 Cor. 15:3). Whether we live or die, we, like Paul,
can become “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). Let
us remember too that even dead fish can float downstream. It takes a live one to
fight the current and go upstream. Daniel’s three friends remind us that
following God means we do not follow the crowd.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Satraps (v. 27)—Satraps were the chief representatives of the king over large divisions of
the Babylonian Empire.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
(ssa’ trap ee): A political
office in the Persian Empire comparable to governor. A satrap’s territory was
called a satrapy. KJV translated the office, “lieutenants” (Ezra 8:36).
These officials aided the people of Israel in rebuilding Jerusalem and the
Temple. At the height of the Persian rule, there were at least twenty satrapies.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Prefects (v. 27)—Political or possibly military officials who were responsible to the
27)—Administrators of smaller regions within the empire.
Courage: Hebrew ḥāzaḳ, "to show oneself strong" (Numbers 13:20;
2 Samuel 10:12; 1 Chron. 19:13; 2 Chron. 15:8; Ezra 10:4; Psalm 27:14; Psalm
31:24; Isaiah 41:6); rūaḥ, "spirit," "animus" (Joshua
2:11 the King James Version); ʾāmaç, "to be alert" (physically and mentally),
"to be agile," "quick," "energetic" (Deut. 31:6-7,
23; Joshua 1:6, 9-18; Joshua 10:25; 1 Chron. 22:13; 1 Chron. 28:20); lēbhābh,
"the heart," and figuratively, "person," "spirit"
(Daniel 11:25); Greek thársos, "cheer" (Acts 28:15). A virtue
highly esteemed among all nations, one of the four chief "natural"
(cardinal) virtues (Wisd. 8:7 [Wisdon of Solomon]), while cowardice ranks as one
of the mortal sins (Sirach 2:12-13; Rev. 21:8).
(NOTE: The Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach are
both found in the Apocrypha. The
Apocrypha was not included in the Protestant Canonizing of the Bible.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
The Christian Term "Canon": The word "canon" is of Christian origin, from the Greek word κανών, kanṓn, which in turn is probably borrowed from the Hebrew word, קָנֶה, ḳāneh, meaning a reed or
measuring rod, hence, norm or rule. Later it came to mean a rule of faith, and
eventually a catalogue or list. In present usage it signifies a collection of
religious writings Divinely inspired and hence, authoritative, normative, sacred
and binding. The term occurs in Galatians 6:16; 2 Cor. 10:13-16; but it is first
employed of the books of Scripture in the technical sense of a standard
collection or body of sacred writings, by the church Fathers of the 4th century;
e.g. in the 59th canon of the Council of Laodicea (363 AD); in the Festal
Epistle of Athanasius (365 AD); and by Amphilochius, archbishop of Iconium (395
Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons
Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The King as god in the
Ancient Near East and Israel
By Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.
Joel F. Drinkard, Jr. is professor of Old Testament,
Hebrew, and archaeology, and the curator of the Joseph A. Callaway
Archaeological Museum, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville,
THE FOCAL PASSAGE for this article, Daniel 3, may be interpreted in at least two ways.
The text is clear: Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, set up a gold
statue and ordered all the people to bow down and worship the image.
The interpretative crux is that the biblical text never identifies the
image. It could be an image of
Nebuchadnezzar himself with the expectation that the people would pay homage to
or worship the image. As such
Nebuchadnezzar could be requiring the worship of the image (and of himself) as a
Nebuchadnezzar’s image could be that of his god with the expectation that the
people would pay homage to or worship his god.
The text does not specify which but does make clear that the Hebrew
youths refuse to bow down to the image. This
article assumes the image was of Nebuchadnezzar himself and that he was
requiring the worship of the image of himself as a god, thus the topic of divine
kingship (the idea that the king was a god).
Divine kingship was a definite issue in the ancient Near East.
In Egypt we find evidence of divine kingship from the earliest historical
periods.1 The kings of
the First Dynasty united Upper and Lower Egypt.
These kings worshiped the god Horus and were themselves considered to be
Horus incarnate. By the Fourth
Dynasty, the worship of the god Re became prominent.
The people eventually came to consider their kings (pharaohs) to be the
sons of Re. Pharaohs would even be
called “my Sun” or “my god” when the people addressed them (as seen in
the Amarna letters).2 The
names of several of the best-known kings reflect this understanding of king as
deity incarnate. Rameses as a name
literally means “begotten of Re” or “son of Re.”
Thutmose in the same manner means “begotten of Thoth” or “son of
Thoth.” Again, these kings were
not merely revered as being godlike—they were considered gods.
Nevertheless, the king was also recognized as
mortal. Kings died, but they were
still considered gods in death. At
death, the king was identified with Osiris, and his successor was the new Horus
incarnate.3 In the
Egyptian pantheon, for instance, Horus was the son of Osiris, hence the new
pharaoh was Horus and the deceased father was Osiris.
The relationship of the earthly king to his predecessor was the same as
that between the gods. We find
evidence of the divine status of the king in Egyptian inscriptions and artistic
representations. Reliefs often
depict the pharaoh as being far larger than other human figures.
He towers over his enemies, striking them down.
At times Pharaoh is depicted with the falcon head of Horus (or the god
Horus is depicted as the pharaoh, wearing the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt).
The biblical account of the plagues on Egypt in the
Book of Exodus shows a confrontation between two humans, Pharaoh and Moses, on
one level and a confrontation between two deities on another level, Pharaoh and
the God of Israel. The plagues
contrast the impotence of Pharaoh and Egypt’s gods by showing the power of
Israel’s God over Egypt and Egypt’s Pharaoh and deities.
Several of the plagues attacked the spheres of specific Egyptian deities;
for example, the death of the cattle showed the impotence of Hathor, the goddess
of cattle; the darkness showed the impotence of Re, the sun-god.
The Bible is demonstrating that Israel’s God is the true God.
He is not just a local deity but could wield His power over Egypt and its
Divine kingship was a different matter in
Mesopotamia. Although divine
kingship was also known there, it was never entrenched in the same manner as in
Egypt. In Ur the king was identified
as a god primarily during the Third Dynasty.
In cuneiform inscriptions, names had a sign attached (called a
determinative) that identified the category to which the name belonged (such as
persons, lands, mountains, rivers, and gods).
The king’s name during this period had appended the cuneiform sign for
deity (the dingir sign) rather than for human.4
In Mesopotamia, people at times considered the king to be the husband of
a goddess, thus he played that role in religious rituals.
In the ritual, the king played the role of a god but was not deified.5
In at least one instance, the art forms depicting a king indicate
something of divine kingship. The
image—on his Victory Stele—is of Naram-Sin.6
The stele, which is from Susa, illustrates Naram-Sin’s victory over the
Lullubians. Naram-Sin (ca. 2255-2219
BC), grandson of Sargon of Akkad, is depicted wearing a horned headdress like
the gods. He is larger than the other human figures, standing
above his soldiers while his enemies shrink away or plead for mercy.
All his soldiers have exactly the same stance as Naram-Sin, with weapons
in hands and left foot raised in stride. The
symbols of the gods are above Naram-Sin.
This stele is unique among Mesopotamian artistic
representations of the king as divine. More
importantly, the references to the king as a deity are most commonly associated
with areas conquered by the king rather than in the chief city of his deity.
So divine kingship was quite limited in Mesopotamia.
In contrast, the Hittites did deify some of their kings after their
deaths, but the evidence does not indicate these kings were considered to be
gods during their lifetimes.7
More commonly in Mesopotamia,
worshipers and worship leaders would set up statues of the king in temples or
shrines and would present offerings to the statue.
While this certainly represented a kind of homage or worship of the
statue (and probably of the king as well), this is not necessarily the same as a
deification of the king. The king
was a representative of the deity; he was appointed as king by the deity; but he
was not in any way equated with a god. His
reign was upheld and supported by the deity, but the king was a mortal human.
At death, the king was not deified.8
The actions of Nebuchadnezzar, however, evidently
went beyond this common practice. In
Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar seemingly was to be the object of worship.
Beliefs and practices were different, however, in Israel.
The king was never considered a deity and was never the object of
worship. Several Old Testament
passages do refer to the king as God’s son (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; Ps.
89:26-27), but never in the sense of the king’s divinity.
These passages all refer to David or the Davidic king and all use
adoption language well known from the ancient Near East.
When a person adopted a child, the adoption formula was: “You are my
son, today I have adopted you.”9
The language does indicate the special relationship that existed between
Israel’s king and God but certainly did not indicate that he king was a god.
Israel’s king was never venerated as
a deity—not in life, nor in death. The
context of the passage in 2 Samuel 7 clarifies this matter: in verse 12 the
mortality of the king is a given: “when your days are over and you rest with
your fathers” (NIV).
Throughout the ancient Near East, people associated
kingship with the deities. The high
gods were kings, often ruling over a large pantheon of lesser deities.
Furthermore, deities gave kingship to humans.
As mentioned above, the deities appointed the human king, they gave the
king the right to rule, and they supported his rule with their power.
In the understanding of kingship in Israel, however,
God alone was the true King. A
number of psalms indicate this with the recurring phrase “The Lord reigns” (Pss.
93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). This
understanding was felt so strongly by some that seeking a human king was seen as
rejecting God as King (1 Sam. 8). As
King, the Lord was seen as Israel’s King (“our King,” Ps. 47:6).
But Israel’s understanding was not just that the Lord was their King;
He was “King of all the earth” (v. 7), and “King above all gods” (95:3).
He is “the King of glory” (24:7-10).
As King, the Lord has “a throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over
all” (103:19). The doctrine of the
kingship of God is found throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament the issue
of God’s kingship continues to appear. Just
a couple of examples will suffice to demonstrate the biblical understanding.
In the trial of Jesus before Pilate, John recorded words of the chief
priests denying that Jesus was their king, but ironically in effect also denying
that God was their King: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15, HCSB).
However, the most notable passage related to divine kingship in the New
Testament is Revelation 19, immortalized by the words of the “Hallelujah
Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah: “For the Lord God omnipotent
reigneth. Hallelujah!…And He shall
reign forever and ever…King of kings and Lord of lords!”
Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press, 1948), 5-7.
deVaux, Ancient Israel Its Life and Institutions, John McHugh, trans.
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 112.
Stele of Naram-Sin, picture [online, cited 14 November 2006].
Available from Internet: www.bible-history.com/ancient_art/victory_stele_naram_sin.html.
O. R. Gurney, “Hittite Kingship” in S. H. Hooke, Myth, Ritual, and
Kingship (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1958), 117-121 (esp. 121).
NEBUCHADNEZZAR King of Babylon
By Claude F. Mariottini
F. Mariottini is professor of Old Testament, Northern Baptist Seminary, Lombard,
NEBUCHADNEZZAR II, the Neo-Babylonian Empire’s second king was the
most famous king of the Chaldeans, a people whom Jeremiah called “an ancient
nation” (Jer. 5:15, KJV). As king,
Nebuchadnezzar brought fame and prosperity to the Empire.
Of all the foreign kings the Old Testament mentions, this Nebuchadnezzar
is the most prominent and the one with which Bible students are most familiar.
Nebuchadnezzar reigned 605-562 B.C.
The Kingship of Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar had a reputation as a great builder.
He boasted that Babylon was a “great” city that he built to be his
royal city and the capital of his empire (Dan. 4:30).
Nebuchadnezzar built the Ishtar Gate,
a magnificent palace for himself; he rebuilt the ziggurat (a temple in the form
of a pyramidal tower); and he built a temple for Marduk, the chief god of the
Babylonian pantheon. His best-known
project was Babylon’s Hanging Gardens, which he built for his wife, Amytis,
the daughter of the king of Media.1
According to Babylonian texts, Nebuchadnezzar received praise as a
lawgiver, a judge, and a king who was devoted to justice and who opposed
injustice and corruption. His
motivation for fairness was to please his god, Marduk, and to thus enjoy a long
life: “O Marduk, my lord, do remember my deeds favorably as good [deeds], may
(these) my good deeds be always before your mind (so that) my walking in Esagila
and Ezida – which I love – may last to old age.”2
Nebuchadnezzar’s name appears in two different forms in the Old
Testament. In the King James
Version, “Nebuchadnezzar” appears 55 times – “Nebuchadrezzar” 33
times. Since the official Babylonian documents use “Nebuchadrezzar” to
designate the king of Babylon, this must be the name’s original and official
form. Traditionally, the name
Nebuchadnezzar has been translated “Nabu protect the boundary.”
Recent studies of Babylonian documents have produced another possible
translation, “Nabu protect the crown prince.”3
Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar, led a Chaldean revolt against
the Assyrians and in 626 B.C. founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
After establishing an alliance with the Medes, Nabopolassar and his
allies besieged Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
After a three-month siege of the city, they conquered it in 612 B.C.3
The remnant of the Assyrian army retreated to Haran where they were
defeated in 610 B.C. The Assyrians
made a last effort to stop the Babylonian army, retreating to Carchemish to
confront them one last time.
During the struggle between Assyria and Babylon, Neco ascended to the
throne of Egypt and became king in 609. In
an attempt to stop the advance of the Babylonian army, Neco prepared his army
and went up to the Euphrates River to aid Assyria in their struggle against
Babylon (2 Kings 23:29). On his way
to Carchemish, Neco was confronted at Megiddo by Josiah, king of Judah, who had
taken the side of Babylon. In the
struggle that ensued, Neco killed Josiah (v. 29; 2 Chron. 35:20-24).
Neco was detained at Megiddo long enough to allow the Babylonians to
defeat ht remnant of the Assyrian army at Carchemish.
In 605 B.C., Neco returned to the area with ambitions of extending his
rule in Mesopotamia. Nabopolassar,
unable to fight because of an illness that eventually killed him, sent his
oldest son Nebuchadnezzar to confront the Egyptians.
At Carchemish the decisive battle between Nebuchadnezzar and Neco took
place. Nebuchadnezzar soundly
defeated Neco and subjugated Sidon, Tyre, Philistia, and other countries in Syro-Palestine
(see Jer., 46:2; 47:2-7).
At this time Nebuchadnezzar received notice of his father’s death.
Nebuchadnezzar left the army in the hands of his field commanders and
returned to Babylon where he was crowned king of Babylon in 605 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Kings
The Old Testament writers presented more than one view of Nebuchadnezzar.
The Book of Kings presents him as Jerusalem’s conqueror.
After his victory against Egypt at the battle of Carchemish,
Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiakim, king of Judah, a vassal of Babylon.
Jehoiakim submitted to Nebuchadnezzar for three years (604-601 B.C.).
In 601 B.C., Egypt and Babylon met again with heavy losses on both sides.
Nebuchadnezzar returned home to reorganize his army.
Jehoiakim, counting on Egyptian help, revolted against the Babylonians (2
Nebuchadnezzar did not campaign against Palestine from 600-598 B.C.
Unable to fight against Judah, Nebuchadnezzar sent mercenary soldiers to
fight against Jehoiakim (vv. 2-3). In
598 B.C., Babylon advanced against Judah. Egypt
promised to help Jehoiakim, but Egypt’s military help did not materialize (v.
7). Jehoiakim died at this time;
Jeremiah 22:18-19 and 36:30 suggest that he was assassinated.
Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, was made the new king of Judah (597 B.C.),
but three months later he submitted to Nebuchadnezzar – who then deported to
Babylon the king of Judah, his mother, the royal family, the palace officials,
the army officers, fighting men, craftsmen, and smiths.
He also took all the men of substance and those who were capable of war.
According to 2 Kings 24:12-16, 10,000 people were taken into exile.
Nebuchadnezzar also took all the temple and palace treasures and broke
all the golden vessels used in temple worship.
Jehoiachin remained in a prison in Babylon for 37 years, until Evil-merodach,
Nebuchadnezzar’s son, freed him (25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34).
In 596 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on Judah’s throne as the
new king. Zedekiah served
Nebuchadnezzar eight years, but in his ninth, maybe hoping for military help
from Egypt *37:5), Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon.
In 588, Nebuchadnezzar came back to Jerusalem and once again besieged the
city. Archaeological evidence has
confirmed the scope of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah.5
Archaeology has revealed that many of Judah’s fortified cities were
destroyed. In March 586 B.C.,
Babylon conquered Jerusalem and burned the temple as well as the great houses of
the city. At this time a second
deportation took place. Judah’s
most important people were taken into exile; only the poorest were left behind.
Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah differs somewhat in its interpretation of
Nebuchadnezzar and his assault on Judah. Presenting
more than the mainly-historical account of the Book of 2 Kings, Jeremiah offers
an expanded interpretation that affirms the sovereignty of God and His guidance
in Judah’s destruction. In the
past, Jeremiah has proclaimed that God would send the “peoples of the north”
to bring judgment upon Judah (25:9, NIV). Now
for the first time Jeremiah proclaimed that the foe from the north was Babylon,
under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 1-9).
In the Book of Jeremiah, the Lord referred to “my servant
Nebuchadnezzar” three times (v. 9; 27:6; 43:10, NIV).
Old Testament writers generally used the title “servant of Yahweh” to
designate persons who had a special relationship with God and who were obedient
to God’s will in the life of His people.
Jeremiah designated Nebuchadnezzar the “servant” of God as a way to
present Babylon’s king as the individual God appointed to have dominion over
the nations and the one who would act as the instrument of God’s justice
(25:8-11). Because Nebuchadnezzar
was acting as God’s agent, Jeremiah declared to the people that rebellion
against Nebuchadnezzar was rebellion against God.
The Lord commanded Jeremiah to write his oracles on a scroll as a warning
to Judah (36:1-4). According to
Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest and subjugation of the nations would
happen with God’s approval:
I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him.
All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time
for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him (27:6-7,
In Jehoiakim’s fifth year (604 B.C.), the people of Judah held a fast
to avert a possible Babylonian invasion (36:9).
At the time of the fast Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, read the words of
the scroll to the people assembled in the temple (v. 10) and to the king (vv.
20-26). Jehoiakim refused to repent
and burned Jeremiah’s scroll. In
spite of the fast, Babylon invaded Judah and Jehoiakim submitted to
Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C. (2 Kings 24:1).
In the Book of Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar is God’s instrument to bring
divine judgment to Judah. In the
past, God sent His servants the prophets to warn the people to repent or their
evil easy, but they refused (25:4). How,
God was sending His “servants” Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah for their
wickedness. Judah and the nations of
Syro-Palestine had to submit themselves to Nebuchadnezzar.
Refusal to submit meant destruction (see 27:8).
Nebuchadnezzar and Yahweh
The picture that Jeremiah painted of Nebuchadnezzar
reflects the prophet’s understanding of God’s work.
Jeremiah understood that Yahweh had given Nebuchadnezzar the power and
the authority to subjugate kingdoms and nations.
As the instrument of God’s judgment, Nebuchadnezzar was God’s chosen
agent, God’s servant who brought judgment over God’s rebellious people.
In the end, the biblical tradition that the God of Israel was the supreme
God (Dan. 2:47; 3:28-29).
Jeremiah portrayed Nebuchadnezzar as the servant of the God of Israel –
a chosen individual who had “the responsibility of performing a designated
function in Yahweh’s behalf.”6
Yamauchi, “Nebuchadnezzar,” The New International Dictionary of Biblical
Archaeology, ed. Edward M. Blaiklock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1983), 333.
B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1969), 307.
van Selms, “The Name Nebuchadnezzar” in Travels in the World of the Old
Testament, ed. M.S. Heerma van Voss (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1974), 225.
Bright, A History of Israel, 4th ed. (Louisville: Westminster
John Knox Press, 2000), 316.
M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (Nashville: Thomas Nelson
Publishers, 1060), 304-305.
W. Overholt, “King Nebuchadnezzar in the Jeremiah Tradition,” Catholic
Biblical Quarterly 30 (1968) 46.
MESHACH, ABEDNEGO: All We Know
Moseley is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina.
CHURCH FATHER ATHANASIUS reportedly
used the Latin phrase contra mundum to describe the proper response of a
child of God when refusing to compromise commitment to God.
The phrase means “against the world.”1 At times one must
be against the world in order to be for God.
We know the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because at a crucial
times in their lives they were willing to take their stand contra mundum.
three “Hebrew children” were exiles in Babylon.
They and other Jews were deported from Jerusalem in 605 BC.
The siege of 605 was the first of three invasions of Jerusalem by the
Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The
second was in 597 and the third was in 587 BC.
was a strategy used by ancient Near Eastern monarchs to weaken conquered
peoples. If the leaders of the
people were taken away, the possibility of rebellion would be significantly
reduced. Also, if the brightest and
strongest were transported to the land of the conquering army and incorporated
into society, they could prove useful. This
was evidently the reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were taken to Babylon.
description of these youths in Daniel 1:4 is impressive.
“Without any physical defect, handsome” (NIV) refers to their
appearance. This was probably one
reason they were chosen to be trained as leaders.
Stature and beauty usually catch attention of those looking for leaders.
“Showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to
understand” (NIV) indicates that they had previously proven their intellectual
ability and academic potential.
these Jewish young men to be of service to Nebuchadnezzar and his court, it was
necessary to train them in Babylonian ways.
Nebuchadnezzar assigned the chief of his eunuchs, or court officials, the
task of teaching them the literature and language of the Babylonians (1:4,17).
The important documents of this culture were written in cuneiform
Akkadian and Sumerian. Mastering
those two languages would have been a challenging curriculum.
It would have involved becoming conversant in both religious and secular
texts. Daniel 1:5 indicates that
their training was for three years.
In some Near Eastern cultures during this period youths began their
education in their 14th year and finished in their 16th or
17th years.2 Perhaps this is some indication of the age of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It
was not uncommon for the covenant people to receive a secular, even pagan,
education. Such an education did not
corrupt the faith of Joseph, Moses, or these young men.
par of the compulsory assimilation of the young men was a change of names.
Their original names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Each of these names reflects their background as members of the covenant
community. Hananiah means “Yahweh
has been gracious.” Mishael means
“who is what God is?” Azariah
means “Yahweh has helped.” Their
new Babylonian names seem to be intentional reversals of these meanings.
Though the forms of the names are difficult to decipher and possibly have
been corrupted, their meanings can be ascertained with some degree of certainty.
“Yahweh has been gracious” was changed to Shadrach, or “command of
Aku” (the Sumerian moon god). “Who
is what God is?” was replaced with Meshach, or “who is what Aku is?”
“Yahweh has helped” was changed Abednego, or “servant of Nebu”
(the Babylonian god of wisdom).3 These young men could not have done
anything to affect this name change; they could not control what others called
the names of persons who were from a weaker or conquered nation was a common
practice and is illustrated in the Old Testament.
For example, when Joseph became a servant in the court of Pharaoh, he was
given the name Zaphenath-Paneah (Gen. 41-45).
When Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim king of Judah, he changed Eliakim’s name
to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34); when Nebuchadnezzar made Mattaniah king of Judah,
he changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17).
another part of the training of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the king
ordered that they were to be fed “from the king’s table,” or from his
private stores and the palace kitchen (1:5).
The youths refused to eat the Babylonian food and proposed a diet of
vegetables and water. Possibly such
a response to the king’s order put the young men in danger of expulsion from
the royal academy or even imprisonment, but they remained firm in their
Babylonians who selected and prepared the food for the palace probably were
unaware of the dietary laws of the Torah (see for example, Lev. 11; Deut. 14). Therefore,
much of the food from the king’s table would have been considered unclean, or
not kosher, to a religious Jew. Also,
probably many of the meat items on the menu were prepared from animals that had
been sacrificed to the patron gods of Babylon. The
wine from the king’s table also may have been used first as libations to those
deities. Therefore, even those foods
that were not specifically prohibited by the Law may have been tainted by
contact with pagan rituals.4
request of the young Jews was granted, and the result was that they “looked
healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal
food” (Dan. 1:15, NIV). Also, at
the conclusion of the time of instruction the king gave all the candidates the
equivalent of an oral exam. Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah proved to be superior to all of the magicians and
enchanters in Babylon (1:20).
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and none of his wise men could tell him the dream and
interpret it, he gave the order for all of them to be put to death.
Since Daniel and his friends were about to be executed also (2:13), they
evidently were numbered among Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men.
Terms such as “magicians,” “enchanters,” “sorcerers,”
“astrologers,” and “diviners” were used to describe this group.
These servants of the king sought to predict and affect the future by
means of reading inscribed charts, magical designs, the stars, or dreams.
Many people in the ancient world believed that dreams were portents of
events to come, so oneiromancy (the interpretation of dreams) was an attempt to
divine the future. The text never
states that these young men participated in the sorcery or divination techniques
of the Babylonians. Such activities
were specifically prohibited in the Law (see Deut. 18:10-12).
most famous event in the lives of the three Hebrew young men occurred when they
were commanded to bow down and worship the gold image of the king of Babylon.
Emperor worship was not uncommon in the ancient Near East.
Pharaohs were regarded as divine, as were some caesars and other kings.
When such worship was required, it was often a means to insure loyalty.
This seems to have been the case with King Nebuchadnezzar (3:8-15).
However, the First and Second of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2-6)
strictly forbade such worship. Therefore,
the faithful Hebrew youths refused to comply with the king’s decree.
As punishment they were to be thrown into a super-heated furnace, but God
miraculously kept them safe. Nebuchadnezzar
had asked them, “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
(3:15). The answer was the
One and only true God, the One in whom the three Hebrew youths had steadfast
Montgomery Boice, Joshua We Will Serve the Lord, (Old Tappan, New Jersey:
Fleming H. Revell, 1989) 37-38.
J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1949), 42.
T. Dahlberg, “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of
the Bible, vol. 4 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 302.
L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol.
7 (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1985), 35-36.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1995.
What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia
Question Found? (11/01/15)
Who was the first person to fall asleep during a sermon?
Answer Next Week.
The answer to last
week’s question: (10/25/15) Two-part question:
(1) Who went naked as a way of wailing over the fate of (2) what city?
Answer. (1) The prophet Micah; (2) Jerusalem; Micah 1:8-9.