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 of
Daniel, the “Chaldeans” were demoted because of their failure to reveal the king’s dream. In the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s construction of his “great golden image,” they exploited the opportunity to inflict vengeance on three Jewish exiles for their earlier loss of face. Although loyal to the king, the three could not bow before the king’s image - [Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash].

As a group, the “Chaldeans” included the “wise men,” astrologers, and soothsayers of Babylon. Though skilled in the arts of divination and in possession of all the literary treasures of Mesopotamia, they were incapable of explaining the dream that had so troubled the king. In contrast, Daniel was well able to reveal the contents of the dream and its interpretation. In doing so, he saved the lives of the “Chaldeans,” for, in his enraged state, the king had threatened to execute all of them. No doubt, that fact only added to the jealousy of the “Chaldeans” toward Daniel and his companions.

Once they learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to prostrate themselves before the “great image,” they took the opportunity to inform Nebuchadnezzar. In a fit of anger, he gave 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 previously against the “Chaldeans” was redirected against the friends of Daniel - (Daniel 3:13-18).

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

The Judean exiles were cast into the super-heated furnace. It was so hot, the men who threw the Jewish exiles into the furnace were themselves consumed by its heat. While in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar saw the three companions walking about accompanied by a fourth figure that he described as “like a son of the gods,” possibly an angel - (Daniel 3:20-25, 8:15-179:20-2310:13, 10:21).

With trepidation, the king summoned the three men to exit the furnace.  He addressed them respectfully as the “servants of the Most-High God.” He had witnessed how the fire did not harm them, and therefore, Nebuchadnezzar “blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.” Yahweh had “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 had answered his challenge.

Next, Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree to “all peoples, nations, and tongues.” Anyone who disparaged the God of the Judean exiles would be “cut in pieces and his house turned into a dunghill.” This is a verbal link to the preceding chapter when Nebuchadnezzar warned the Chaldean “wise men” that if they failed to make known his dream, that he would “cut you in pieces and turn your houses into a dunghill.”

Once again, the highest praise for Yahweh was heard on the lips of the mighty pagan king. The presumptive ruler over the World-Power acknowledged the supremacy of the “God of Heaven.” The machinations, purposes, and even the rage of the most powerful king on the earth were no impediment to the plans of God.

In 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 threatened 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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