Study Notes

Daniel 3:1-30


So far in the book of Daniel, we have observed the circumstances by which Daniel, Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O were captured, educated, then employed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

When we left off in chapter two, Daniel had interpreted the king's disturbing dream of a massive image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. Daniel revealed its prophetic meaning, that these represented kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, and each section after it was a kingdom that would follow him.

The king's response to the amazing revelation was,

Dan. 2:47 ..."Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery."

Had this been the end of our account, we might believe that the king became a believer. Unfortunately, the narrative continues, revealing Nebuchadnezzar's true heart.

3:1 The Image Of Gold

In Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he had been the head of gold. But the breast and arms of silver, the Medo-Persian Empire, would replace his Babylonian Empire. Personally, I think that the king had other plans. I believe that he was defying God's vision of the future by making this statement: here's a massive image, and it's ALL gold. Not just the head, but the entire thing.

Nebuchadnezzar had it set up on the plain of Doo-RAW, so that it would be visible for miles around. At sixty cubits, the image was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide - over twice as tall as the Lincoln Head Monument on I-80!

3:2-7 The Command To Worship

Once the image was in place, he sent mandatory invitations to all the political leaders in his empire. They were requested (and required) to attend the dedication ceremony of the new image. When they all arrived, they were told that when the band played, they were to worship the image. If they did not worship it, they would be burned alive. They did as they were told.

Now, if this scenario sounds familiar, it is simply because satan doesn't have that many original ideas. If you studied the book of Revelation with us, you know that the antichrist will be following the same game plan.

The apostle John wrote in Revelation 13 of his vision of the antichrist and his false prophet - the first beast and another beast. Speaking of the false prophet, John writes,

Rev. 13:12-15 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Death unless you worship the image of this man who is your leader. Same old story. The only difference, really, is that when this happens in the future, the image will not be inanimate as Nebuchadnezzar's was. The antichrist's image will speak.

3:8-12 Charges Against The Jews

Some of the Chaldeans approached Nebuchadnezzar with accusations against the Jews - "They don't bow down like you have commanded!" Interestingly, as you go through the Scriptures, you will see that another one of satan's plans is to level charges against God's people for being different, not going along with the world's ways.

The devil still has the same old trick up his sleeve today, and he keeps using it - probably because it works so effectively! The mentality of mankind is to reject that which is different. Skin color, clothing style, customs, language - in our flesh, we instinctively fear differences and despise them. The devil takes advantage of that by drawing attention to Christians' differences from the world and spiritually amplifying them in his own children's hearts.

After all, if we are walking right with God, we are obeying Romans 12,

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The more we are like God, the less we are like the people of the world. The less we are like them, the more they ostracize, reject, and hate us. We must not be surprised when the world does this. We've been warned far in advance.

Jesus said that the world would hate us because they hated Him (John 15:18-20). And Paul wrote,

2Tim. 3:12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

If we're not noticed as different from the world, we're doing something wrong. On the other hand, if we are having charges leveled at us for failure to conform to unrighteousness, we can remember that Jesus said,

Matt. 5:10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Allowable Insubordination?

The Jews as a group had been accused to Nebuchadnezzar, but the Chaldeans specifically mentioned three men: Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O. As you recall, they had been placed in the king's personal service because of their wisdom in chapter one (1:19). Then, in chapter two, they were appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon (2:49). These were guys high up in the ranks, and they were being insubordinate by not practicing the religion or obeying the command of the king.

Now this brings up an interesting point: is it ever okay to break the law, and if so, when?

We know that the Scripture says over and over, emphatically, that we are to obey the law of the land in which we live.

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed...

1Pet. 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

So, if we are to be in subjection to the authorities, to obey the laws of the land, then were Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O sinning by refusing to participate? No. They were committing the act of what is called "civil disobedience." They non-violently refused to obey the command of the king, and for a very good Biblical reason: to obey the law would be to commit sin. That is the key: if a law forces you to commit sin, then you must not obey it. You must follow the higher call of God.

You may recall that Peter and John had been arrested for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. They were called to appear in front of the authorities.

Acts 4:18-20 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard."

Soon after, the apostles were arrested again. But God sent an angel to release them and told them to keep preaching the gospel. When it was discovered that the jail was empty, and that they were preaching publicly again, they were again brought before the authorities.

Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered and said, "We must obey God rather than men.

In other words, the Bible allows and even commands us to commit civil disobedience when the authorities command us to commit sin.

We read of another example of this in 1Kings. Queen Jezebel hated the Lord and His prophets. She had the prophets put to death. But Obadiah, a high ranking official in the palace...

1Kgs. 18:4 ...took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.

It would have been sin to obey the queen's orders, as it would have been sin for Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O to obey Nebuchadnezzar's decree.

3:13-18 The God Who Delivers, Or Not

The three men took a stand for righteousness, knowing that God was with them. Notice that they trusted the Lord implicitly, even knowing that they might die.

This is an important thing to understand. While God miraculously delivers, it is also true that sometimes good people die when doing God's will.

I remember that when the Lord called us to Cheyenne, my daughter wanted to know what natural disasters occurred here (she's special that way). When we told her that tornadoes were prominent in this area, she didn't know what they were. We described to her that they were circles of wind, kind of like the dust devils she'd see on the playground sometimes. That satisfied her until she looked up a book on tornadoes at the library. Upon seeing a massive tornado behind a relatively tiny farmhouse, she said, "Hey, those are big!" She began to worry and fret that we'd come to Cheyenne and be killed by a tornado. Our son, always the questionable Bible scholar, reassured her, "God wouldn't call us to Cheyenne and then let us be killed in a tornado." I had to intercede at that point, not to add comfort, but to bring doctrinal correction. I reminded them that although John the Baptist was doing God's will and following God's calling, he ended up in jail and then had his head cut off.

You see, we don't know what God's plan is - only that He is with us. Whether Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O were delivered or dead, they trusted God, and remained faithful.

Dan. 3:17-18 "If it be {so,} our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But {even} if He does} not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

3:19-25 Burned Ropes

Nebuchadnezzar was not amused. He commanded that the furnace be super-heated. The three men were tied up and thrown in. But miraculously, they did not burn up - they stood up! The only thing burned was the ropes that had tied them.

I have discovered something amazing about trials - they're hot, but if you're responding to them with faith, then the only thing they burn up are your bonds. When we as a church were being persecuted unjustly, we simply prayed and responded in faith. Yes, the trial was difficult, but God carried us through. The neat thing was that because of the trial, our circumstances became known to the entire city. As a result, we were being offered many blessings. One of those offers ended up saving us thousands of dollars in engineering costs! The fire was hot, but the only thing it burned was our bonds!

A Fourth Like A Son Of Gods

Something equally amazing was that there were no longer three men in there - but now four! The king said,

Dan. 3:25 ...the appearance of the fourth is like a son of {the} gods!"

Nebuchadnezzar had it mostly right - he was seeing the Son of God. Jesus was with them in the midst of the fiery furnace. Saints, we must never forget that. As David prayed,

Ps. 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me...

Are you in a fiery furnace tonight? Rest assured, the Lord is with you.

3:26-27 The Fire Had No Effect

The king called Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O to come out of the furnace, and when they exited, there was no evidence that they had been in the fire.

The truly victorious man comes out the other end of his trial without smelling like smoke. In other words, he is not embittered by his difficulties. He is not angry over his circumstances. He is not holding a grudge against those that caused him trouble. He simply comes out purified and free.

Paul wrote,

Rom. 5:3-4 ...we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

3:28-29 A Godly Decree?

Nebuchadnezzar blessed God because of what he saw. And he made another decree - although this one was a bit different. He commanded that no one could speak anything offensive against the Lord. The penalty was death. This is what we might call zeal without knowledge! The king had seen the power of God, but obviously had not come to understand the grace and mercy of God!

3:30 Prosperity For The Faithful

These three guys had been faithful to the Lord, and righteous in their walk. As a result, they prospered. Although the Scripture does not teach that every faithful Christian will be healthy and wealthy, we are told,

Ps. 1:1-3 HOW blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Go to next study

Go to previous study