The Fiery Furnace
The Fiery Furnace
Dramatic Reading taken from Daniel 3
Narrator: King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made. It was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected. So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
Then the herald made a loud proclamation:
Herald: To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down to the ground and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected. Whoever does not bow down and worship will immediately be thrown right into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire!
Narrator: Therefore when they all heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language-groups began bowing down to the ground and worshiping the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
In light of this, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought malicious accusations against16 the Jews.
Chaldean: O king, live forever! You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down to the ground and worship the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. And whoever does not bow down and worship, must be thrown into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire. But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-and these men have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don't serve your gods and they don't worship the golden statue that you have erected.
Narrator: Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage demanded that they bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them before the king.
Nebuchadnezzar: Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't serve my gods and that you don't worship the golden statue that I erected? Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and worship the statue that I had made. If you don't worship it, you will immediately be thrown into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?
Shadrach: We do not need to give you a reply concerning this. If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will deliver us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don't serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden statue that you have erected.
Narrator: Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his disposition changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was normally heated. He ordered strong soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then those men were bound, while still wearing their mantles, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, and were thrown into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire. But since the king's command was so urgent, and the furnace was so excessively hot, the men who escorted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the fiery flame. But those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell right into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire while securely bound.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers,
Nebuchadnezzar: Wasn't it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
Minister: For sure, O king.
Nebuchadnezzar: But I see four men, untied and walking around in the middle of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!
Narrator: Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire.
Nebuchadnezzar: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!
Narrator: Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and counselors of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them!
Nebuchadnezzar: Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has delivered his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or worship any god other than their God! I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that utters slander against the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble. For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.
Narrator: Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Relation to Chapter 2
In 3:1 Nebuchadnezzar builds an image of gold and in 2:38 Daniel describes the king himself as the head of gold of the image he saw in his dream. Chapter 3 is the king's reaction to the prophecies of chapter two. Now the head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar--and the head was the shortest/smallest part of the statue (assuming the statue was relatively realistic). Further, the chronological sequence that the statue represented moved from top to bottom, from head to toes. Therefore, the conclusion seem evident that Nebuchadnezzar built this statue of himself, and he made it out of gold--from head to toe--in defiance of Daniel's God. He is saying by this statue, in effect, "I will reign forever! And you better bow down and acknowledge this or you will get fired!" In very graphic terms, then, Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to thwart the divine will.
In light of such a possibility, we would have no problem suggesting that this is a political statement, not a religious one. At the same time, the political statement is a religious one in that by this statement Nebuchadnezzar is declaring that he, not God, is omnipotent! History will never get to the fifth kingdom unless it gets past the first kingdom. And Nebuchadnezzar wanted to stop the whole process before it began.
Where was Daniel?
Certainly Daniel would not have bowed to Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Why wasn’t he thrown into the fire with his three friends? We aren’t told in the passage, so we don’t know for sure. Daniel, however, did hold a high rank in the empire
Daniel 2:48 through Daniel 2:49 (NIV)
48Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
It seems that they named not Daniel, because he was greatly in the king's favor, thinking if these three had been destroyed, they might have had better occasion to accuse Daniel. And this declares that this policy of erecting this image was invented by the malicious flatterers who sought nothing but the destruction of the Jews, whom they accused of rebellion and ingratitude. (Geneva Notes)
The dimensions of this image may raise some questions. The text says that the image was “ninety feet high and nine feet wide.” Those dimensions would produce a very grotesque statue. It would be comparable to a person who was six feet tall and seven inches wide! It’s most probable that the image stood on a base and that the total height (base + statue) was ninety feet. Archaeologists have discovered a brick pedestal just six miles south of the site of ancient Babylon in a place called Tolul Dura (“mounds of Dura”). The pedestal ruin is forty-five feet square and twenty feet high. The French archaeologist who discovered it, Julius Oppert, believed that it was the base of the image described in Daniel 3.