Verses 1–7: The Golden Image
When Babylon was the world’s superpower, the nation was prosperous and the buildings were magnificent. In dedication to his mighty empire, the king made a statue that stood 60 cubits (90 feet) high and 6 cubits (9 feet) wide. Instead of using gold, silver, brass, and iron to make this massive image, Nebuchadnezzar made it all of gold. The golden image was the king’s outward repudiation of the dream he received in Daniel chapter two. Instead of accepting the divine interpretation that his kingdom of gold would be followed by a kingdom of brass, the king made the bold assertion that his kingdom would last forever.
The leading men of the empire met with the king to assemble every nation to the dedication and worship of the golden image. The penalty for not worshiping the golden image was death in a fiery furnace.
How do you get all the nations to worship the same thing? First, you must have authority such as Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the world’s mightiest nation. You would create something magnificent that overwhelms the senses. In this case, it was an image of glittering gold. You would sway them with music. You would impress them with pomp and display. In short, you would do everything you could to attract them through their senses. But if the people are not drawn by all these attention-getting appeals, then you would plan to use force. In this case, the threat was a fiery furnace for all dissenters. More on this later.
It is interesting to note that the number six is prominent in the description of Babylon. We know that the apostate image stood sixty cubits high and six cubits wide. In verse 5, we find that six instruments are played to draw the people to worship the image. In Daniel 5:4, we discover that the Babylonians worshipped six different gods. In
Revelation chapter seventeen, we find spiritual Babylon, the harlot church, mentioned as a woman six times. See Revelation 17:3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 18. There are six things associated with her dress or attire. See Revelation 17:4. We are told that the number for spiritual Babylon is 666. See Revelation 13:18.
Verses 8–15: The Arrest
The king’s counselors coveted the positions of Daniel and his friends. Their covetousness led to envy; their envy led to hatred; and their hatred led to attempted murder.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were found refusing to worship the image they were brought in before the king. The king endeavored to change their decision by the threat of death. With outstretched arms, he questioned, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15). But the Hebrew youth remembered the promise of God, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43:2.
Verse 16–30: They Remained Faithful
Their decision was final; they would not worship that apostate image. These three Hebrew youth, would not even allow the threat of death to sway them from the right. God was in control and they trusted in Him.
The king was furious at their decision and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. The heat was so hot that the executioners perished by throwing the three Hebrew youth into the flames.
Nebuchadnezzar thought that he had the last word. But he was shocked to find four individuals in the fiery furnace, and the fourth was like the Son of God.
How did the king know that the fourth was like the Son of God? Had he ever seen the Son of God before? The king recognized the Son of God because of the testimony of these Hebrew youth. They not only spoke of the Son of God, they lived godly lives.
In this real-life situation, we learn that God in His providence chose not to take the three Hebrew youth from the fiery flames. Instead, He chose to strengthen them in the midst of this most severe test. This life experience would prepare them for future tests and trials.
In the end, the king saw not the burning of the youth, but the burning off of the shackles. He declared that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego alone can deliver so mightily. Yet, the king fell short of accepting the God of heaven and earth as his own personal Lord and Savior.
So what happened to the golden image? We do not know, except that we never hear about it again.
In the providence of God, sometimes He allows things to take place that are evil. For example, God permitted the building of the golden image. God also permitted the passing of an unjust law. The penalty for not obeying this unjust law was death in the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar tried to intimidate the young Hebrews into submission to worship the golden image. He tried to sway them by his stature. He tried to influence them by rudeness. He tried to force them into obedience by threats. It is obvious that God did not cause these things to happen, but He permitted them. Was God able to bring good results out of these evil acts? Yes.
Let us consider some of them:
• The three Hebrew youth were able to place all their confidence in the hands of God.
• They had the opportunity to love those who sought their destruction.
• They had the opportunity to witness before the whole known world.
• They had the opportunity to make a firm decision for truth.
• It was shown to the world that the God of the Hebrews was the true God.
• The golden image was proven to be false.
• Can you think of other benefits?
Today, we serve that same wonderful God who is able to bring good out of evil. Through the many trials we face in life, we can come out better, not bitter. We can learn to become more loving, understanding, and more forgiving.