III. The Superhot Furnace (Ch. 3)
The next event recorded was a confrontation between the emperor with his idols and three Hebrew men who worshiped the God who could not be represented by an idol or identified with an earthly ruler no matter how powerful.
Since all officials and subjects of the emperor were required to worship the image of gold, it clearly was an idol representing some high god, probably Marduk, a favorite of the emperor. A royal decree demanded the worship of this image. Any who refused would die.
Nebuchadnezzar was told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow to the image. In a rage, Nebuchadnezzar demanded to know whether the report was true. The three admitted as much and declared boldly that their God was able to save them. If God chose not to, they would die rather than worship idols.
Ordinarily the temperature of Babylonian furnaces was controlled by bellows. Instead of one bellows, seven were attached to this one. The men were tossed into the flames.
Nebuchadnezzar, who was watching the execution, was startled. The three men did not die, and he saw beside them another who looked like a son of the gods. The men were ordered to step out of the furnace, and three did, having suffered no harm. The emperor announced that an angel from God had protected the men, and he began to praise God. Then he promptly issued a decree prohibiting anyone from speaking against the God of the Jews. In effect, this decree provided protection for all Jews in the empire, for the penalty was a horrible death. The one true God had dramatically shown his reality and his power to save his followers from death.