Corresponds with Sabbath School Study Guide: Oct 9-15
Unlike the previous chapter, this one is not dated even though we can safely assume that it also comes from the first phase of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. A suggested date is the tenth year of his reign, or 594 B.C. Two pieces of historical evidence shed light on the main event that took place in that year. The first comes form the official Babylonian records:
In the tenth year the king of Akkad (was) in his own land; from the month of Kislev to the month of Tebet there was rebellion in Akkad …with arms he slew many of his own army. His own hand captured his enemy. (Emphasis added)
This text supports the claim that Nebuchadnezzar’s fear and suspicion mentioned in the previous story was not unfounded. The attempted coup that is described here, must have been very serious, because the leader of the rebellion was able to make his way as far as the throne room and may have engaged the emperor in a hand to hand combat. There is a good chance that immediately following this most serious threat to his reign, Nebuchadnezzar decided to do something that will make a lasting impression on his subjects and thus hopefully prevent any future uprising against him. So an imposing statue was erected that would visibly represent his long lasting reign. At its inauguration all high ranking officers of the empire will solemnly pledge their loyalty to the emperor. The second piece of evidence dating to the same year comes from Jeremiah 51:59-61.
This is the message Jeremiah gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon-all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud…”
Zedekiah was the only king of Judah that made a trip to Babylon and came back to Judea safe and sound. Jeremiah also tells us that upon his return home, this king hosted an anti-Babylonian conference for the countries located in Syro-Palestine (Jeremiah 27).
There is no doubt that the stories found in this and the previous chapters are closely related. There are several points of similarity and they are tied to the concept of a statue, but the differences between the two are obvious: One, the image in this chapter in its entirety was made of gold, while in the previous story only the head was of gold. Then, there is a difference between the persons who “sets up” the lasting kingdom. While in the previous chapter Daniel said that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (2:44), here in this chapter it is repeatedly stated (six times, twice in verse three) that King Nebuchadnezzar “set up” the statue.
Again a concentric-chiastic plan may be proposed for this chapter, in which there is a clear reversal from the king’s pride in the beginning of the story, to his confession and praise found at the end:
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Daniel 3:8-12. After the royal officers have all gathered in the plain facing the golden statue a proclamation is made that they must bow down and worship that idol. The three friends of Daniel refuse to do it and they are immediately denounced before Nebuchadnezzar by the Chaldeans. Why does the text specify that the Chaldeans reported the Hebrews to the king? Who had saved their lives according to the previous story? What is the significance of their words “some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (cf. 2:49)?
- Daniel 3:16-18. To the king’s words that have challenged the power of their God (“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”), the young men answer with clarity and determination. Why is it that at this point they do not address Nebuchadnezzar as king? How do they reverse his words? Through the words “even if he does not [save us] …” the three young men have inspired countless speeches and sermons. How does a person get that type of trust in God?The two parallel statements found at the end of verse 19 suggest that the statue was shaped in the form of god Marduk. Some interpreters, however, suggest that it may have been made in the likeness of Nebuchadnezzar.
- Daniel 3:24-27. The king, who only moments ago was furious, suddenly gets amazed and excited. The word “advisers” here is different from the terms used to describe the satraps and other officials in the beginning of the chapter. This word probably describes his entourage. Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes see a triple miracle: (1) The young men are “unbound” i.e. the ropes were burned by fire; (2) They are “unharmed”; (3) They are no longer three, because a fourth person has joined them. The word “son” functions here as “a noun of relation” and it should not be taken as literal, but its meaning is rather “a member of …” On what basis did the king conclude that the fourth person was more than a human being? The text tells us that this miracle did not happen in a dark corner, but in a plain for all to see. When the satraps and all the other officials returned home didn’t they have an exciting story to tell their people?
- Daniel 3:28-30. The story ends with another praise to God by the king recorded in the book. The savior is identified as God’s “angel” or better as “his messenger.” The king’s behavior is remarkable. He now praises the young men for their open disobedience to his command, and also he answers his previously asked question “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” by saying “no other god can save in this way.” In the last verse, everything falls back in its place when the king promotes the three Hebrews “in the province of Babylon” (cf. 2:49).
Lessons for Life
The most striking part of this story is the triple miracle that takes place for all to see. Did miracles take place on a regular basis in Bible times? Why don’t we witness some miracles of this kind nowadays? Can miracles “create” faith and turn an unbeliever into a believer?