Daniel: Chapter 3
Daniel 3:1-30 is an outstanding exhibit of Christian faith in action, where the belief in the Lord and obedience to His word cannot be compromised. During the seven years of tribulation, which occurs after the rapture of the church, the tribulation saints will be faced with similar temptations that the three Hebrews encounter in this chapter. For the Hebrews, they were forced, with the pain of a horrible death, to worship an idol rather than remain true to the only living God, the God of Israel. The tribulation saints will be given the choice to either worship the Antichrist, his image, or accept his number, or be beheaded, Revelation 15:1-4, Revelation 20:1-4. Daniel 3 provides an example of not only the conditions that existed during the days of Daniel, but also a typology of what will happen to the saints of God during the tribulation.
This is the only chapter in the book of Daniel where Daniel is not even mentioned. Some claim in this instance, that his absence, while his fellow Hebrews are persecuted, is indicative of the church being raptured from the world, which is followed by the great suffering that the tribulation saints would undergo through the ensuing seven years of tribulation. There is clearly a reason for associating the events in this chapter with those in the end time, since the dream the king had in Daniel 2:1-49 answered his concern on what would happen in the latter days, Daniel 2:28-30. This chapter further develops this thought that began in Daniel 2:1-49.
Before delving into the scripture, one question to ask is why is this event recorded in Daniel 3. What motivated King Nebuchadnezzar to create such a massive golden image to be worshiped by those in leadership positions that supported him. John Walvoord, in his book Daniel, provides insight on the possible reason for the king’s behavior. Walvoord indicated that there exists ancient documents that show a coup was attempted against King Nebuchadnezzar in about his 10th year of his reign. To also show the rationale of why the king chose the size and material the image was made of, he also highlighted that the king’s religion was steeped in pagan practices, and as shown in the next chapter of Daniel, he was a very proud man, Daniel 4:29-30, 37b.
Based on the above, it is likely King Nebuchadnezzar demanded the allegiance of all his top government officials, demonstrated by their worship of an immense, ornate statue of himself, not exceeded anywhere in his time, Daniel 3:1-3. The image was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide and set on a plain. Seven levels of King Nebuchadnezzar’s government were commanded to attend the dedication of the image. The location was strategic, in that the plain supported a large number of attendees, and allowed an unrestricted view of the image by the attendees and the king’s view of them.
In Daniel 3:1, King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold. The image was approximately 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide and set on a plain. One can only imagine the reason for this vanity, when he built a representation of what he dreamt, being made entirely of gold instead of a multi-metallic image, Daniel 2:31-35. By making the image entirely of gold, he may have attempted to influence the interpretation of the dream by Daniel in making it all gold. In a sense, he may have wanted to express the hope that his kingdom would be the only kingdom though time, not suffering its demise to a lesser kingdom as Daniel had prophesied, Daniel 2:39. It is not difficult to extend this line of thought from the dream he had in the previous chapter. The image the king dreamed was described as enormous and awesome in appearance, Daniel 2:31, the king was identified as the head of gold, Daniel 2:38, and since the king was a polytheist, Daniel 2:47, he may have been angling in his mind with his other false god's, to modify the dream interpreted by Daniel, who represented the only true God, Daniel 2:45. This line of thought is speculative, but as will be seen in Daniel 4:1-37, King Nebuchadnezzar's vanity is dealt with severely by the Lord.
In Daniel 3:2-3, King Nebuchadnezzar commanded seven levels of his government to attend the dedication of the image, which were:
- sheriffs, and
- rulers of the provinces
Having such a vast array of representation from across his kingdom, the king may have been attempting to coerce his entire realm to worship him as a god. His vanity was probably fed by part of the Daniel's interpretation of the dream, where every person, beast and fowl under heaven were placed under his rule, Daniel 2:38. Considering the high position that King Nebuchadnezzar gave to Daniel, it is surprising that he was not part of this group, Daniel 2:48. However, Daniel had his own personal test in faith with the lions as described in Daniel 6:1-28. Nonetheless, beginning the typology of describing the last days that appears in this chapter, Daniel would represent the church. It is the church that will be raptured to be with the Lord before the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. One reason for this belief is based on what the Apostle Paul wrote, that those in Christ are not reserved to receive the wrath of God, which the Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself, Romans 5:9-11, 1Thessalonians 1:8-10.
By setting the image in the plain, a large number of attendees would have an unrestricted view of the image and of the other attendees. In turn, the king and his enforcers would have a clear view of the people's obedience to the king's decree. The king's vanity apparently knew no bounds.
Daniel 3:4-6 begins the actual process for the worship of the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. There is also a stark similarity between these events as well as the part the false prophet plays during the latter half of the seven years of tribulation. During that time, the false prophet will do many things in support of worshiping the Antichrist, even to the point of having people killed for not following the worship process of the Antichrist, or beast, Revelation 13:11-18. The events during the days of King Nebuchadnezzar are a type of those future events in the tribulation period.
The process of worship to the golden image included an orchestra comprised of numerous instruments. Once the people in attendance heard the sound of the orchestra, they all were to obediently fall down to worship the image. Those who failed to follow the instructions were immediately thrown into the furnace. There were no allowances for alternative views of worship, such as the three Hebrews who were bound to the commandment of the Lord to not worship idols. In this case, the Lord had instructed the Israelites to never worship other gods or engage in idol worship. In Exodus 20:3-5 they were commanded by the Lord to have no other gods before the Him. In Deuteronomy 6:12-16, Israel was warned to not forget the Lord, and in Deuteronomy 12:28-31, they were not to adopt the worship practices of the nations.
Daniel 3:7 begins a repetitive pattern of listing the instruments, which will occur again in this chapter. The meaning for this repetition is not given, but it may relate to what the Lord had warned His disciples of, which was to not engage in vain repetitions, Matthew 6:7. It may have been that the orchestration used for this worship supported a highly repetitive cadence which was easy to learn, and to hear over a great expanse where the people had gathered. It may also infer the worship process that will be imposed on the tribulation saints who will not comply, Revelation 13:11-17. In the future this will be a simple process that is easily understood to follow, easy to observe the conformance of worship by the people, and easy to enforce punishment on anyone not following the program. They would be faced with immediate and capital punishment, much like what the Hebrews faced. The beginning of the worship process begins in this verse.
However, God gave Israel explicit warnings against idol worship, which would have motivated the three young Jewish men to take the action they did. They were commanded to have no other gods before the Lord, Exodus 20:3-5, that they were not to forge the Lord, Deuteronomy 6:12-16, and not to adopt the worship practices of the nations, Deuteronomy 12:28-31.
In Daniel 3:8-12, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are identified by the Chaldeans as those who do not serve or worship the golden idol. Again, Daniel is not present at this event. Though the church and the church age was unknown to the Old Testament saints, and not revealed until time of the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:1-12, the absence of Daniel may be a parallel to the rapture of the church. The church is not intended to suffer through the wrath of God that is to come during the tribulation period, Romans 5:8-11. Daniel may therefore indirectly represent the far future events relative to his day, where the church is raptured out of the world before the beginning of the tribulation, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Christians today are not immune from sufferings. In fact, throughout the world, many instances of persecution and suffering exist, which is unreported in the media. Nonetheless, the Lord is always with His own, and is faithful and will never leave them nor forsake them, John 14:16-21, Hebrews 13:5. Scriptures indicate what the sufferings in Christ produce, Romans 5:1-5:
- God’s love poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
James wrote that Christians are to consider it all joy when facing many kinds of trials, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance, James 1:2-4:
- Perseverance must complete its work so that the Christian will be mature and complete
- The Christian will then not lack anything
The new birth and inheritance of the Christian is kept in heaven, and through faith we are shielded through God’s power in which we are to rejoice, though now we go through trails of many kinds, 1Peter 1:3-7:
- Where, our trials have come so that your faith may be shown as genuine, and
- They will result in praise, glory, and honor with the appearing of Jesus Christ (the rapture)
The events that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are suffering through, as described in this chapter, are also a foreshadowing of the events that the tribulation saints will encounter, where the orchestra represents the false prophet who is the tool used to force worldwide worship of the beast, or Antichrist. Revelation 13:11-16. During the later half of the seven years of the tribulation, Satan indwells the Antichrist, giving him phenomenal powers in a natural sense. The false prophet who also appears on the scene at the beginning of the second half of the tribulation is there to provide the force of obedience upon those who willingly submit by either worshiping the beast, his image, or takes upon themselves his mark, Revelation 14:9-11. The false prophet (the orchestra) causes the world to worship the antichrist (or his likeness), and he will kill any who refuse to worship the beast, Revelation 13:15.
The Chaldeans are like those of the world during the seven years of tribulation, particularly the second half. As the Lord had warned during His Olivet Discourse, the saints during the tribulation will be delivered up to be killed, and they will be hated for the Lord's name's sake, Mathew 24:9-14. So the Chaldeans dutifully point out to the king the offense of the three Hebrews and the consequences for such gross disobedience. They were not only pointing the Hebrews out and their offense, but reminding the king that these were the same men that the king had set over the affairs of the province of Babylon. They further accused the Hebrews of not serving the king's gods nor worshiping the golden image that the king erected. In like manner, the reason for the mass killing of the tribulation saints during the tribulation will be for similar reasons, as seen with the opening of the fifth seal where the slain tribulation saints are described as those who had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony that they held, Revelation 6:9-11. They are also seen prior to the pouring out of the seven bowl judgments, as being in heaven before the throne of God, and having the victory over the beast, his image, and over his mark, Revelation 15:1-2.
In Daniel 3:13-15, the king is furious at this report, and commanded that these three Hebrews be brought before him. It may be that in remembrance to Daniel, that he softened to the point of granting them one more chance after having interrogated them on this matter. He read the charges against them, with no consideration for their belief nor the commandments that the Lord had given to Israel. At this time, the king was only aware of the Lord of Israel as it related to the dream he had of the multi-metallic image in Daniel 2:1-49. The king only recognized the God of Israel as one of many, and being the superior one, but not the only true God. So in his mind there was no conflict since he was not aware of God's law given to the Israelites through Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. He failed to recognize the great distinction of the Lord whom the Hebrews were being obedient too, and his own gods that were not real at all. His ignorance of the greatness of the Lord is demonstrated in the later part of Daniel 3:15, where he asked, who is that God who will deliver you out of my hands.
In Daniel 3:16-18, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego together answered the king, and offered no compromise with what they knew God had commanded them to do. Their answer was not a cleverly crafted one, as one sees with politicians as they spin or work their way out of an awkward position. The Lord had also warned of such instances during the tribulation, when the saints will be hauled before kings and rulers for His name's sake, but they are not to work out an adequate answer for the occasion, just as the three Hebrews experienced in this instance. Rather, the saints are to rely on the Lord, who will give them wisdom and the words to say, which cannot be refuted, Luke 21:12-15. So these three Hebrews behaved in a like manner. They did express the great faith that they had in the Lord, saying that He is able to deliver them from the fire. But if the Lord chose not to deliver them, they would still trust, believe, and serve the God of Israel and never regard the king's command to bow down to the his gods, nor worship the idol. The faith of these three men was not a stubborn or hard-headed faith, it was a living faith, just as describe by the prophets, Micah 7:8-10. And as Peter wrote, the Christian is to be prepared to give a reason for his faith in meekness and in fear, 1Peter 3:13-16. The parallel between this episode of the three Hebrews with that described of the tribulation saints, is just too great to ignore. For those living in those days, and who do worship the Antichrist, his image, or take his mark on themselves, they will be condemned for eternity in the burning sulfur of the lake of fire, Revelation 14:9-12.
In Daniel 3:19-23, the anger of the king became so great that you could visually see his anger in his face and body. He was not a person who respected life, since he was THE king of a mighty empire of the then known world. His anger knew no bounds, and he commanded to have the furnace heated seven times greater, and for the mightiest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego then cast them into the furnace. He had used this method of killing his enemies before, Jeremiah 29:21-23. The three Hebrews were bound with what they had on, which was all the ceremonial wardrobe that their position and status within the government structure determined. In the king's hast to bind and throw the three Hebrews into the fire, those who threw them into the furnace died. The heat from the furnace was so great that the mighty men of the king were slain, but the Hebrews were saved by the Lord while in the midst of this fiery furnace.
In Daniel 3:24-27, the king's demeanor suddenly changed to utter amazement as he leaped up from his throne. There was no mistake by the king that something extraordinary was occurring right in front of him. The God that he mocked to the three Hebrews did demonstrate that He indeed was that God who was delivering these three men from the hands of the king, Daniel 3:15c. Not only were they safe and walking about in the flames, according to the Septuagint, they were singing praises to God and blessing the Lord. To ensure that he was not hallucinating, the king asked those around for confirmation that not only did he see the three Hebrews loose and walking about the furnace, but that there was a fourth man who was like the Son of God, and none showed any signs of being hurt by the fire. Again, the Septuagint reveals that the king also heard them singing praises. It is curious at this point that the king only calls out to the three Hebrews to come out, and now calls them the servants of the most high God, and does not inquire of the fourth person he called the son of God. He neither asks anything of Him, nor asks Him to come out of the fire as well, possibly for fear of any consequences of what he did to the three Hebrews. Nevertheless, his knowledge of the one true God, the God of Israel is becoming more intimate and he is gaining an increased understanding of the difference of a true living God against those he worshiped, which were lifeless. As the king and others about him inspected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they discovered that these men suffered no harm, not even the smell of fire on their person or clothing. It was an incredible miracle that not only the king witnessed, but all those present as well.
In Daniel 3:28-30, the king only responds by praying to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (though still using their Babylonian names), and declaring how the Lord had saved these men from his hand. Their faithfulness toward God and His word, made them a witness of God to all of Babylon as well as to the world, Romans 12:1-2. The king further acknowledged their great faith in the Lord and their unwillingness to serve any other god. As a result, the king made a decree throughout his entire kingdom that:
- Every people, nation and language will not speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
- It is capitol punishment to anyone who breaks this decree and their houses made into a dunghill
- The king recognized that there is no other God who can deliver after this manner
The king further promoted these three men in the province of Babylon.
Throughout this chapter, every attempt was made to correlate the many elements described in this chapter with the events during the seven years of tribulation. The following tables further summarize these points.
|Daniel Chapter 3: A Microcosm of the Tribulation||Subject||People and items in Daniel 3||Type during the seven years of Tribulation|
|Place||Plains in Iraq||Jerusalem, and the world|
|People||Daniel||The raptured church|
|Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego||Remnant of Israel and the tribulation saints|
|Chaldeans||Followers of the Antichrist|
|The Son of God||The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God|
|Orchestra, herald||False prophet|
|Image||Image of the beast|
|Oven||Persecution and war against the saints|
|Action||Worship||Worshiping the beast|
|Faith and Obedience||Holding to the Word of God, and their Testimony|
The following table provides Biblical references to the above associations. The added dimension is the distinction of the events that occur on earth and those that occur in heaven, as described in the book of Revelation.
|Daniel Chapter 3: A Microcosm of the Tribulation||Subject||People and items in Daniel 3||References on Earth||References in Heaven|
|Place||Plains in Iraq||Zechariah 12:2||Revelation 4:1-6|
|People||Daniel||1Corinthians 15:51-52, 1Thessalonians 4:15-18, Revelation 4:1-2||Revelation 4:1-2|
|Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego||Revelation 12:13-17||Revelation 7:9-17|
|The Son of God||Revelation 19:11-16||Revelation 5:5-10, Revelation 14:1-2|
|Orchestra, herald||Revelation 13:11-13, Revelation 18:21-22||Revelation 5:8-12, Revelation 14:3|
|Objects||Crowd||Revelation 13:16-18||Revelation 7:9-11|
|Oven||Revelation 13:7||Revelation 20:4|
|Action||Worship||Revelation 13:15 Revelation 14:9-11||Revelation 14:2-3, Revelation 15:2-4|
|Faith and Obedience||Revelation 7:2-4||Revelation 14:12-13|