These accounts are about Daniel and his companions. They were the brightest of their community. They were the best educated. They were impacting their nation and getting prophetic insight from God. So, we might make the mistake of thinking God is only interested in kings and the elite, but Jesus didn’t pick his disciples this way, in fact people said of them, these are Galileans which was a derogatory statement. We can learn from the dedication Daniel and his companions display toward God. This is the way we all should live. The same favor Daniel and his companions received, we may also experience, but remember, they were captives that had been taken by military conquest. It wasn’t all perfect or easy for them. There is much to say in these chapters but it all leads to this end point in Daniel 4:26 “when you acknowledge that heaven is sovereign”.
A Statue of Gold
Some years have gone by and the king has settled his kingdom. The vision explained by Daniel was still in his mind “as suggested to him by the dream (Da 2:38), “Thou art this head of gold.” The interval between the dream and the event here was about nineteen years. Nebuchadnezzar had just returned from finishing the Jewish and Syrian wars, the spoils of which would furnish the means of rearing such a colossal statue”1
Now, the king not only makes the statue, but also a decree in Daniel 3:6 that all should worship or “be thrown into the midst of the furnace”.
Worship the Statue
Then there is a comment, it seems almost as an after thought, that, in Daniel 3:8 “some astrologers … denounce the Jews”. But this is how the accusers work, and they very likely were the ones pushing the king to make this decree so they could get rid of these Jews that had been promoted above them all (see Daniel 2:48).
Daniel 3:10-11 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, the flute, the lyre, the trigon, the harp and the drum and all kinds of music, he shall fall down and shall worship the statue of gold. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.
Daniel has been with the king so the accusers don’t raise his name, but his companions have been out of sight, so in Daniel 3:12 the accusers say, “these men, O king, pay you no heed”. These manipulators know the king will defend any challenge to his authority, and this is what he perceives in this accusation.
The three, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respond, we will not worship the statue. In Daniel 3:16-18 they say God will deliver us, and if not, “we will not worship”.
Tell The King His Dream
Here in Daniel 2:1 we see the king is troubled. And it makes sense that “Each year in the early part of his reign Nebuchadrezzar’s expeditionary force went to the extremities of the empire to ensure that subjugated lands paid their taxes. In 604 Ashkelon had put up stiff resistance and had had to be reduced to rubble; in 603 an extra large army, siege towers and heavy equipment are mentioned, and Babylonian troops were in the field for several months. Such a show of prestige hid a fear of inadequacy: his spirit was troubled.2
Then in Daniel 2:2 “the king said to call …” all the wisest and best. As the king presents is concern about this dream, the all respond, in Daniel 2:4 “tell the dream … and we will reveal the explanation”. But the king has dealt with these people before and he knows how they twist words so in Daniel 2:6 he says “If you tell me the dream … you will receive gifts … and great honor from me”. And there response is not any surprise, in Daniel 2:10-11 the answer “There is not a man on earth that is able … except the gods”. The king knew that these he depended on for answers, didn’t have any answers and, in Daniel 2:12 “he became very enraged, and said that all the wise men of Babylon are to be destroyed”.
Daniel Responded Prudently and Discreetly
The decree was issued in Daniel 2:13 “and they searched for Daniel and his companions to be executed”. Daniel responded to “Arioch, the commander of the imperial guard of the king, who had gone out to execute … “. In Daniel 2:14-16 Daniel gets an audience with the king and asks for time. Daniel is not in the “in crowd” because he had not been included in the earlier request by the king. And no one thought to call on Daniel at the kings earlier request so it is amazing that Daniel was able to get an audience and even more amazing that the king gave him time after refusing any more time to his inner circle of advisors. In Daniel 2:16, Daniel had favor.
In Daniel 2:17-18 he gathers his companions and explains, asking them to “seek mercy from God” but not only for themselves, but also for all “the wise men of Babylon”. And in Daniel 2:19 “in a vision of the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel”. So Daniel blesses God in Daniel 2:20-23.
Heat Up The Furnace
The king had met these companions of Daniel and expected compliance from them as from all of his subjects. But their response in Daniel 3:18 was “we will not worship”. The king, in Daniel 3:19 “was filled with anger and the image of his face was changed toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so he ordered and said to heat up the one furnace seven times what was usual to heat it up”. It probably wasn’t literally seven times hotter, more likely this means make it as hot as it can be made!
No one would walk voluntarily into a flaming furnace and the king was angry and wasn’t waiting a minute so in Daniel 3:20 ”he commanded the strongest men of the guards who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace”. As the soldiers carried them close, in Daniel 3:22 “the flame of the fire killed these men”, these soldiers were burned up, and in Daniel 3:23 God’s three, who were bound “fell down into the midst of the furnace”.
Suddenly, the king reacts in
Daniel 3:24-26 ”Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and he rose up in haste and he asked, saying to his advisers, “Did we not throw three men, bound, into the midst of the fire? They answered, saying to the king, “Certainly, O king!” 25 He answered, saying, “Look, I see four men unbound walking in the midst of the fire and there is no damage to them, and the appearance of the fourth man resembles the son of a god.” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire, and he called out, saying, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Servants of the Most High God, come out and come here!
The king, being a king, was still exercising control over them even though they were in no hurry to get out of the flames. And all of them, including the accusers, in
Daniel 3:27 “were assembling, and they saw these men, that the fire had no power over their bodies, and the hair of their heads was not singed, and their garments were not harmed, and the smell of fire did not come from them.“
Blessed Be Their God
This was nothing less than a miracle and in
Daniel 3:28 “Nebuchadnezzar responded, saying, “Blessed be their God, … who sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him”.
And this experience has abated the Kings anger so that he sets this decree in
Daniel 3:29 “any people, nation, or language that may utter criticism against their God—the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—will be broken into pieces and their house will be made like ruins. For there is not another God who is able to rescue like this God.”
Then in Daniel 3:30 ”the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon” which actually was the position they had previously held (see Daniel 2:49). But there is one more thing, Nebuchadnezzar has not yet accepted the Lord as his God.
Tell Me The Visions
A shift is coming for the king, everything was going smoothly as it says in
Daniel 4:4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was content in my house and prospering in my palace.
And then he has this dream. The dream wasn’t a horror but he sensed that it wasn’t good. It unsettled him and he sought an explanation from all of the wise men. None of them were able to explain its meaning. Please note here that God is communicating with a Gentile king, one that we would call ungodly. And God is using Daniel, his servant to explain the message. We may find ourselves in similar circumstance because we are, like Daniel, in the world among the ungodly. And in
Daniel 4:8-9 “Then at last Daniel came before me whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom was the spirit of the holy gods, and I related the dream to him.
9 “ ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I myself know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Now tell me the visions of my dream that I saw, and its explanation.
I have included these two full verses here because they illustrate the thinking of the king. He addresses Daniel using the name given by their gods. Then he recognizes only that “the spirit of the holy gods is in you”. He sees some influence in Daniel that is greater than in others, but for him, it is just one of many gods, maybe one that is above some others (see Daniel 2:47).
In Daniel 4:10-12 the king told Daniel the dream as he had told it to all of the wise men of the land. The dream is of a tree and the very natural environment around it. Birds in its branches, animals under its shade.
Then, in Daniel 4:13 the king sees a spiritual being that he calls a watcher, a being we might call an angel. And this watcher speaks out a decree in Daniel 4:14-16 “cut down the tree … ” then says “let his mind be changed”. And the reason for the sentence is explained in the dream in
Daniel 4:17 “in order that the living will know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of humankind, and to whomever he wills he gives it, and he even sets the humblest of men over it.”
Daniel 4:17 also shows us that “the sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the decision by the command of the holy ones”. The decision is made in heaven by God and his angels carry out the sentence.
The Most High is Sovereign
Daniel is very careful in his response and in Daniel 4:19 the king senses his hesitation. Daniel goes ahead and says the king is the tree in Daniel 4:22. Then in Daniel 4:24 “it is a decree of the most high” and in Daniel 4:25 “you will be driven away from humanity”. But there is a chance for redemption in Daniel 4:26 “your kingdom will be restored for you when you acknowledge that heaven is sovereign”. Then Daniel offers one more bit of advise, in Daniel 4:27 “have mercy on the oppressed, in case there might be a prolongation of your prosperity.”
- Daniel 3:19–27 Heat Up The Furnace
- Daniel 4:4–9 Tell Me The Visions
- Daniel 4:19–27 The Most High is Sovereign
- Daniel 3:1-30
- Daniel 4:1-27
- 1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 626). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.