Daniel 3 – “The Fiery Furnace”

Oberon-Studios-Inferno-68068Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Nebucchadnezzar creates a golden statue, but Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) refuse to bow before it. The three are thrown into a fiery furnace, but they emerge unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar is impressed; he promotes the three to important public positions and emphatically praises their God.

II. Photo
The furnace that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are thrown into is described in v. 19: “Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that his visage was distorted, and he gave an order to heat up the furnace to seven times its usual heat!”

III. Important Verses
vv. 4-6: The herald proclaimed in a loud voice, “You are commanded, O peoples and nations of every language, when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, psaltery, bagpipe, and all other types of instruments, to fall down and worship the statue of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever will not fall down and worship shall at once be thrown into a burning fiery furnace.”
vv. 16-18: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego said in reply to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter, for if so it must be, our God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will save us from your power, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue of gold that you have set up.”
vv. 24-25: Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and, rising in haste, addressed his companions, saying, “Did we not throw three men, bound, into the fire?” They spoke in reply, “Surely, O king.” He answered, “But I see four men walking about unbound and unharmed in the fire and the fourth looks like a divine being.”
vv. 31-33: “King Nebuchadnezzar to all people and nations of every language that inhabit the whole earth: May your well-being abound! The signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to relate. How great are His signs; how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion endures throughout the generations.”

IV. Outline
1-7. Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue, and all must bow down
8-12. Chaldeans inform the king that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah will not bow
13-18. The three refuse the king’s command to bow
19-27. The three men survive a trial by fire and emerge unscathed
28-29. Nebuchadnezzar blesses their God
30. The three are promoted
31-33. Nebuchadnezzar’s hymn to God

V. Comment
Like the chapters before it, Daniel 3 relates how piety prevails in the face of danger. Yet, we are also told that the three friends do not expect to be saved: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego said in reply to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter, for if so it must be, our God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will save us from your power, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue of gold that you have set up.’” (vv. 16-18) In regards to composition, Scholars note that Daniel does not play a significant role in chapter 3, and the three friends are almost non-existent in chapter 2. This has led some to believe that there was once two stories – one of Daniel and one of the three friends – that were eventually combined.

Collins notes a significant difference between the Greek and Hebrew versions of the text: “In Daniel 3, of course, the heroes are delivered unscathed. The king sees a fourth person in the furnace who has the appearance of a god. The Greek edition of the story has a fuller text at this point: ‘the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace… and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it.’ The Greek version also contains two long prayers, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, which have no counterpart in Hebrew.” (559) Indeed, the Greek version is much longer. While the Masoretic text has 33 verses, the embellished LXX has 98 (!).

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).

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