Relevant Verse: Daniel 3
Theme: “Our God is able!”
Leading Question: When should Christians obey the authority of the state? When should they resist?
This is often cited as a great example of divine victory over paganism. But what was really God wishing to communicate?
In Daniel 3, king Nebuchadnezzar seems to believe that size will achieve his goal of reinforcing his power and strengthening his kingdom. He builds a colossal statue made entirely of gold. At 90 feet (27 meters) high and 9 feet (2.7 meters) wide, the size of the idol matches Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.
Question: Do we see trust in size in our society today?
Questions: What is the significance of the repetitions in Daniel 3 (seven groups of people, seven types of musical instruments)? Why is the whole machinery of the state assembled to deliver a uniform response?
Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar believed that power would achieve his goal.
Question: Do we see trust in power in our society and church today? Why was Nebuchadnezzar so set on compliance?
A suggested date for Daniel 3 is the tenth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, 594 B.C.E. Two texts shed light on the main event that may have taken place in that year. The first comes from official Babylonian records recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles (British Museum):
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.
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 king 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 prevent any future uprising against him. 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 king. The second text 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, Zedekiah hosted an anti-Babylonian conference for the countries located in Syria-Palestine (Jeremiah 27).
The stories in Daniel 2 and 3 are closely related. There are several points of similarity tied to the image in the dream and the golden statue, but the differences between the two are obvious: One, the statue in Daniel 3 is in its entirety made of gold, while in Daniel 2 only the head was of gold. Then, there is a difference between the person who “sets up” the lasting kingdom. While in Daniel 2, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (2:44), in Daniel 3 it is repeatedly stated (six times, twice in verse three) that King Nebuchadnezzar “set up” the statue to symbolize his enduring kingdom.
The refusal of the three Hebrews to bow down and worship the king’s image indicates that they saw this as pagan/emperor worship. They would worship no false God or proud man. The humbling of the king’s false vision and worship of a false god (himself) shows that God is still working with him, providing Nebuchadnezzar with confirmation that the Hebrews had the truth about God.
Questions: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego exhibited great courage in the face of extreme suffering. What made them able to choose such courage? Where do you think they found the strength?
Questions: Why didn’t God rescue them before they went into the furnace? Is there a situation in your life you wanted God to intervene before it happened, but He allowed you to go through it anyway?
Questions: What is the significance of the fourth man in the fire? What role does “deliverance” play in the book of Daniel?
The three friends of Daniel, despite being bound in their clothes and tossed into the fire, survive the overheated furnace and come out unbound and physically unharmed. In the midst of the fire’s damaging flames, there is a fourth person who looks like a man but has “the appearance of a god” (Daniel 3:25) or, literally, “a son of a god.” Although the Hebrew text does not tell us exactly who this figure is or what he does in the furnace, he seems to have come to protect and deliver the three friends. In some medieval interpretations, this fourth figure is an angel or Michael. For many Christian interpreters, the language of “a son of god” suggests that the fourth figure is the incarnate Christ.
Nebuchadnezzar’s horror at seeing “one like the son of man” with the three unbound “captives” in the fire is easy to understand. God got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. The king’s response? He praises God for having preserved His followers. He exalts the faithfulness of the three Hebrews. Then he orders that anyone who speaks against this God is to have his house torn down and themselves chopped to pieces. He speaks of God’s salvation but misses the irony in his actions on behalf of the almighty God.
The story of Daniel 3 has inspired resistance for communities facing unspeakable injustice. Jewish activist and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, reminds readers that we live in a world where our neighbors continue to face the threat of eradication through fire and violence. Wiesel describes seeing the fires of the crematoriums as he and his fellow Jews, crowded into train cars, approached the concentration camp. His life reminds readers that while Daniel’s friends survived the fiery furnace, the gas chambers and crematoriums claimed millions more. For him and others who lived through and resisted injustice, Daniel and his friends offered hope for survival. What is more, the story serves as a reminder that we are all called to the work of faithful resistance.
Question: How do you experience the presence of God in the midst of suffering?