The fire was not to consume the three Hebrews.
Daniel and his companions enjoyed honor among the king and his court, but they were also the object of the jealousy and resentment of others. Because of their sudden rise to power and favor with the king, they acquired some very influential enemies. These enemies had undoubtedly lost their positions and some of their influence as they were displaced by Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Daniel and his friends may or may not have been aware of their enemies as they continued their duties and the worship of their God. Nebuchadnezzar also may have not been aware of the growing animosity within his court, but he was most certainly aware that Daniel and his friends worshiped God.
In Daniel 2:47 Nebuchadnezzar gave a nod to God with a declaration because of a dream that Daniel had interpreted. but he still continued to worship idols and himself. After the elevation of Daniel and his friends to their new positions, Nebuchadnezzar made a very large idol of gold, which he set up in Babylon. He was certainly very proud of it as it stood threescore cubits in height and six cubits in width. A cubit is generally considered to be 18-21 inches.
Threescore means three units of twenty or a total of 60 cubits. Taking an average of 20 inches as a cubit, the idol was 60 cubits x 20 inches, which is 1200 inches or 100 feet in height. It was 6 cubits x 20 inches, which is 120 inches or 10 feet in width. It was not only a big idol at 100 feet tall by 10 feet wide, but that is a lot of gold as well!
Nebuchadnezzar was very happy with his new idol, which was probably a statue of himself. When it was finished, he made a kingdom-wide decree regarding the idol. In Daniel 3:2, he declared a state-sponsored dedication ceremony in which attendance by “the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces”, was certainly mandatory. A command also went forth regarding mandatory worship of this idol in Daniel 3:4-6.
Daniel 3:4-6 (NKJV)
4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up;6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
This decree demanded that everyone who could hear the music must worship the idol daily at that particular time. The penalty for disobedience was death.
However, the king did not fully consider the effect that his decree would have on Daniel and his friends because of their relationship with God. The king had only briefly acknowledged the presence of God because Daniel interpreted his dream. He did not commit his own thoughts and spirit to God.
Evil men, corrupted by greed and privilege, pervert power to accomplish their own agendas. The decree of the king regarding the idol made a way for the enemies of Daniel and his friends to trap them. These evil men seized the opportunity to further their own success and “take down” the Hebrews to whom the king had given favor. The displaced rulers brought an accusation against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abenego because they refused to obey the lawful decree of the king which would have forced them to worship the idol and dishonor God.
Even though they had previously been favored by the king, the king’s wrath was brought upon them. Because of his decree, they were thrown into a furnace.
Why was this punishment chosen? Where did the fiery furnace originate? There is no scriptural indication of its origin, however, the fiery furnace of Daniel 3:15 would have already been in place because of the construction of the idol. After all, to construct a 100 foot tall and 10 foot wide idol, there had to be a lot of molten gold! Not only was the furnace the chosen form of execution due to its terrifying consequences, but most likely it was also the birthplace of the idol. Executing the three Hebrews in the fires of this furnace would be tantamount to sacrificing them to the very idol that they refused to worship!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reveal the great power that faith in God expresses on the behalf of believers. The faith of these three Hebrew men is exemplified by their reply to the king’s direct orders to them in Daniel 3:16-18. The king was unrelenting in his demand that they worship his idol, but they refused and responded with words of faith.
Daniel 3:16-18 (NKJV)
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego 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.”
Literally, “they were without need” to even answer the king’s demand.
Another way to put it might be this, “King, there is really no need for us to even discuss this with you.” They went on to explain their faith in God by saying, “Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” This is a statement affirming that not only is God able, but He will deliver them. However, before they made that statement, they said, “If that is the case,” meaning that if the king were to carry out his punishment of throwing them into the furnace, God would deliver them. They were not doubting God.
Daniel 3:19-23 (NKJV)
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
The furnace was so hot that the king’s guards were themselves consumed by the fire at the opening. However, the fire was not to consume the three Hebrews. God honored their commitment to Him not to worship the idol and was with them in the furnace as described by Nebuchadnezzar. However, there was a fourth individual that Nebuchadnezzar saw with them in the furnace. They were all without any injury. The fourth person in the furnace was identified in Daniel 3:24-25 as having the form of the Son God, which would be Jesus!
They were saved from death without even a trace of the smell of smoke upon them.
You can learn more about this subject by reading Chapter 19, Deception, Destruction and Deliverance, in my book, Ideolatry.
Jesus will set you free if you let Him !
I hope my blog posts help you grow in your faith and Biblical understanding. I would like to invite you on a journey of further spiritual growth by purchasing the Ideolatry Book and Study Guide. Together, these tools will give you a strong Biblical foundation when life is difficult to understand.
May the Lord bless you and keep you... Dr. Rich Masek
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