3 One day King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his craftsmen to make a statue plated with gold that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide.
This giant idol clearly is meant to intimidate.
When finished, it was set up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, 2-3 and King Nebuchadnezzar planned an elaborate ceremony to dedicate the statue. He sent out invitations to his officials. At the appointed time, his officers, prefects, governors, trusted advisors, treasury officials, judges, magistrates, and all the rest of his provincial leaders arrived and gathered near the statue for the dedication ceremony.
The Babylonian Empire has a complex governmental structure. At the top is the king, a man descended from Nabopolassar, the Babylonian who wrested the region from Assyrian control about 612 b.c. A resident of the Chaldean region of the Babylonian Empire, he brings his friends with him to the top, making the Chaldeans the most powerful group of people in the empire. As the empire grows, the king needs friends under him to rule the far-flung provinces, so he appoints satraps, guardians of large portions of the empire and representatives of the king in his absence. Within each large portion, prefects rule the conquered cities and report to the satraps. In every part of the empire, the power of the king is felt through his servants who administer justice, protect the lands from invasions, and collect hefty taxes.
Herald (shouting): 4 People of all nations and languages: by order of the king, you are commanded 5 to bow down and worship the golden statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar every time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, lute, harp, pipe, and all the other musical instruments. 6 Anyone who does not obey the king’s command and refuses to bow and worship will be taken immediately and thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.
7 So, on cue, the moment all the people in the crowd heard the sound of the musical instruments—horn, flute, lyre, lute, harp, pipe, and all the rest—all of the people, regardless of their heritage, nationality, or language, bowed down and worshiped the golden statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar.
8 Meanwhile, certain Chaldean leaders stepped forward to make accusations against the Jews.
Chaldeans: 9 Long live the king! 10 You, good king, have made a decree that every person who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, lute, harp, pipe, and all the other musical instruments is supposed to bow down and worship the golden statue you erected. You have also decreed that 11 anyone who does not obey the king’s command and refuses to bow and worship will be taken immediately and thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 It has come to our attention that certain Jews whom you appointed to govern in the province of Babylon are ignoring your order, O king. They refuse to serve your gods, our gods, and they do not fall and worship the golden statue you erected. Their names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
13 When Nebuchadnezzar heard this, he flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego be brought in for questioning; so his officials went out, found them, and brought these men before the king.
Nebuchadnezzar: 14 It is reported to me that you, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, refuse to serve my gods and do not bow and worship the golden statue I had set up. Is that true?
Before they have a chance to answer, Nebuchadnezzar decides to see for himself what they will do.
15 If you are ready to comply with my order and fall down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, lute, harp, pipe, and all the other musical instruments, then things will go well for you from here. But if you refuse to worship, you will be taken immediately and thrown in a furnace of blazing fire. What god could possibly rescue you from my hands then?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: 16 Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to defend our actions in this matter. We are ready for the test. 17 If you throw us into the blazing furnace, then the God we serve is able to rescue us from a furnace of blazing fire and release us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if He does not, O king, you can be sure that we still will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue you erected.
Daniel’s friends are men of conviction. They are ready for anything the king throws at them and know that God can release them from the king’s angry grip. They just don’t know if He will. That line—“But even if He does not”—resonates with faith. Everyone wants to follow a God who does miracles-on-demand. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego know the one True God does not always rescue His martyrs. Still they will not back down; they will not compromise. They will follow Him and not serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods.
19 At this Nebuchadnezzar flew into such a rage at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that onlookers saw his face twisted and distorted. With fury burning in his eyes, he ordered the furnace heated up seven times hotter than usual. 20 He commanded some of his strongest soldiers to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego so they could be thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So the Jews were taken and tied up so quickly that they were still wearing the clothes they had on when they arrived—pants, cloaks, hats, and all.[a] Then they were picked up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 The furnace was so hot and the king’s command carried out so quickly, without any precautions, that the soldiers who took Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego up to the furnace were themselves killed by the heat of the raging fire. 23 And the three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, tied and bound, fell into the furnace of blazing fire.
24 Nebuchadnezzar could hardly believe his eyes. Shocked, the king jumped up and asked his advisors,
Nebuchadnezzar: Didn’t we tie up and throw three men into the heart of the fire?
Advisors: Yes, O king.
Nebuchadnezzar: 25 Then why do I see four men, completely unbound, walking around in the middle of the fire? They don’t appear to be hurt at all. And the fourth . . . he appears to be like a son of the gods.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar moved as close to the door of the furnace as he dared without being scorched. He shouted over the roar of the blazing fire.
Nebuchadnezzar: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, right now. Come here!
So the three men made their way out of the fiery furnace.
27 The officers, prefects, governors, and king’s advisors moved closer to see what had happened to these men. They, too, could hardly believe their eyes. The fire had done nothing to harm these men. Their hair was not singed. Their clothes were not scorched. They didn’t have the faintest smell of smoke on them.
Nebuchadnezzar: 28 Praise is certainly due the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego today. He sent His heavenly representative and rescued His servants who put their trust in Him. They had the audacity to disobey the king’s order and surrendered their bodies to the fire rather than serve and worship any god other than their own God. 29 Therefore, I decree that any people—regardless of their heritage, nationality, or language—who speak against the God worshiped by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shall be torn apart, limb from limb, and their houses reduced to rubble; for no god I have ever heard of is able to rescue as this God has rescued His servants today.
30 Afterward the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
- 3:21 Meaning of the Aramaic is uncertain.