Fiery Furnace

Three Jewish exiles are cast into the fiery furnace for refusing to render homage to the great image set up by the king - Daniel 3:8-30. 

Fire Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
In the second chapter, the “
Chaldeans” are demoted because of their failure to reveal the king’s dream. But in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s construction of his “great golden image,” they exploit the opportunity to inflict vengeance on three of the Jewish exiles for their earlier loss of face. Although loyal to the king, these three men cannot bow before the king’s idolatrous image - [Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash].

As a group, the “Chaldeans” include the “wise men,” astrologers, and soothsayers of Babylon. Although skilled in the arts of divination, they are incapable of explaining the dream that troubled the king.

In contrast, Daniel is well able to reveal the contents of the dream and its meaning. In doing so, he saves the lives of the “Chaldeans,” for, in his enraged state, the king threatened to execute the entire group. No doubt, that fact has added to the jealousy of the “Chaldeans” toward Daniel and his companions.

THE EXILES


Once they learn that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refuse to prostrate themselves before the king’s “great image,” they take the opportunity to inform Nebuchadnezzar.

In a fit of anger, the king offers the three men a stark choice - “Fall down and worship the image…or be cast into the fiery furnace.” Thus, his rage that was directed against the “Chaldeans” is redirected against Daniel’s friends - (Daniel 3:13-18).

And the king continued to rant, “Who is the god able to deliver you out of my hand?” This is a challenge to the God of Israel who previously “gave the king of Judah and the vessels of the Temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.” But the Babylonian monarch will soon discover his inability to do anything to thwart the purposes of God.

Because they refuse to pay homage to the king’s idol, the Judean exiles are cast into the super-heated furnace. It is so hot that the men who throw them into it are themselves consumed by the heat.

DELIVERANCE


Nevertheless, while in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar sees the three companions walking about accompanied by a fourth figure that he describes as “like a son of the gods.” While quite possibly an angel, the passage never so identifies him - (Daniel 3:20-25, 8:15-17, 9:20-23, 10:13, 10:21).


Lava Flow - Photo by Tanya Grypachevskaya on Unsplash
[Photo by Tanya Grypachevskaya on Unsplash]


With trepidation, the king summons the three men to exit the furnace.  He addresses them respectfully as the “servants of the Most-High God.” He has witnessed how the fire did not harm them, and therefore, Nebuchadnezzar “blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.”

Thus, Yahweh “changed the king’s word” by delivering His servants “out of his hand.” In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar had raged, “Who is able to deliver out of my hand?”  God has answered his challenge.

Next, Nebuchadnezzar issues a decree to “all peoples, nations, and tongues.” Anyone who disparages the God of the Judean exiles will be “cut in pieces and his house turned into a dunghill.”

This is a verbal link to the preceding chapter where Nebuchadnezzar warned the Chaldean “wise men” that if they failed to make known his dream, he would “cut you in pieces and turn your houses into a dunghill.” Chapters 2 and 3 present two halves of the same story.

Once again, the highest praise for Yahweh is heard on the lips of the mighty pagan king. The presumptive ruler over the World Empire has acknowledged the supremacy of the “God of Heaven.” The machinations, purposes, and even the rage of the most powerful king on the earth are no impediment to God’s plans.

In the book of Revelation, the burning fiery furnace” becomes the model for the “lake of fire burning with brimstone,” only, in an ironic fashion.

The followers of the “Lamb” are preserved from the “second death, the Lake of Fire,” but the “Beast and the False Prophet” that threaten to destroy the “saints” are themselves “cast into the Lake of Fire” where they experience the “second death” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 19:17-21, 20:11-15).



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