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Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Introduction to the Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3


There are several purposes shaping the Expository Readers Guide. Pride of place goes to helping
readers understand Daniel 3 as expositors of the text. Specifically, the guide to Daniel 3 is sent out in the
hope that expository preaching and expository teaching of Daniel 3 will be enhanced. Moreover, the reader
who wants to go more deeply into the structure and linguistics of Daniel should benefit from the Expository
Readers Guide to Daniel 3.
Another purpose is to help the reader with some acquaintance with the original languages of
Daniel, Hebrew and Aramaic in this case, derive maximum benefit from reading the original languages. To
this end, the Expository Readers Guide offers lexical data from the major Hebrew and Aramaic lexicons,
including Kohler-Baumgartner, Brown-Driver-Briggs, William Holladay, and David Clines. Moreover,
the Expository Readers Guide cites relevant lexical data from the New International Dictionary of Old
Testament Theology and Exegesis, the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, and the Theological
Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Readers who know Hebrew and Aramaic should benefit from the Expository Readers Guides
attention to the grammar and syntax of the text. To this end, the Guide will cite relevant information
from the Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Waltke and OConnor, from Davidsons Introductory
Hebrew Grammar-Syntax by Gibson, from the standard Hebrew syntax of Wilhelm Gesenius, from A
Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar by Van der Merwe, from Hebrew Syntax by Ronald Williams, from
the Introduction to Biblical Hebrew by T. O. Lambdin, from Drivers Hebrew Tenses, from An
Introduction to Biblical Hebrew by Allen Ross, and from A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew by Paul Joon.
Four Aramaic guides to grammar and syntax are offered, one by Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical
Aramaic, and the more comprehensive German grammar of Bauer and Leander, the Grammatik Des
Biblisch-Aramischen, as well as An Introduction to Aramaic by Frederick Greenspan, and the Basics of
Biblical Aramaic by Miles Van Pelt.
For the reader without knowledge of the original languages, the Expository Readers Guide will
nuance this lexical and syntactical information so that it will be easily understood. More to the point, the
expository preacher, the Bible school teacher, and the leader of a home Bible study should benefit from this
data. Particular attention is given in syntax to verbal aspect and stem formation as elements of meaning.
The expositor of Daniel 3 will be helped to understand the paragraph sense of each paragraph in
Daniel 3. This attention to paragraph sense is a way of appreciating the context in which each verse is set.
For the expository preacher, teacher, or reader, the subject of each paragraph as well as the structure of
each paragraph helps define the context of each line of the text. The delineation of paragraph sense in the
Guide is intended to prime the pump for the development of expository preaching and teaching outlines of
Daniel 3.
The Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3 offers the reader guidance to the genre of the text.
The paragraph units will be identified in terms of genre, which, in turn, helps the reader know what to
expect content-wise from the paragraph. For example, it is useful to know that a paragraph contains history
as opposed to, say, prophecy. For in either case, the rules of the reading game differ; we expect to hear
different kinds of messages from different genres, and these must be preached, taught, and read
accordingly.
Finally, the Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3 will offer relevant reflections on some, but not
each and every, paragraph in Daniel. The author of the Guide reads the Book of Daniel as apocalyptic
discourse. This genre is revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is
mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality, which is both
temporal, in that it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, in that it involves another, supernatural
world.1 Of immediate relevance, the transcendent reality that the Book of Daniel discloses is the
1

Rolf Knierim and Eugene M. Tucker, The Forms of Old Testament Literature, volume XX,
Daniel by John J. Collins (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 105.
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Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

sovereignty of God over the national and international political power-players in this world.
Accordingly, reflections will be offered at relevant points in the Guide to comport with the transcendent
reality of the Book of Daniel as a whole.
Table of Contents
Introduction ..1-2
General Introduction to Daniel 3......3
Outline of Daniel 3...4
Daniel 3:1-7 Prelude: The Idolatry of Politics Becomes the Norm.5-21
Daniel 3:8-12 Witness: Paying No Heed to the Idolatry of Politics...21-30
Daniel 3:13-18 Resistance: Defying the Idolatry of Politics..30-41
Daniel 3:19-23 Retaliation: Paying the Price for Resistance.42-51
Daniel 3:24-30 Deliverance: God Exercises Sovereignty..51-65
Concluding Reflections on Daniel 3.66-73
Reflections on Daniel 3:1-766-68
Reflections on Daniel 3:8-12..68-70
Reflections on Daniel 3:13-1870-71
Reflections on Daniel 3:19-23.72
Reflections on Daniel 3:24-30.73

Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

General Introduction to Daniel 3


Daniel 3 is the narrative of the three Jews mentioned at the conclusion of Daniel 2 and their
resistance to the imposition of political idolatry by Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 3:1-7 sets up the challenge to be faced by the three monotheistic Jews. The challenge is
Nebuchadnezzars attempt to unify his political realm through the imposition of idol worship. As we shall
note, in this opening paragraph the issue at stake is the use of religion to bolster Nebuchadnezzars hold on
power.
The challenge opens with the principle actor, Nebuchadnezzar, creating a statue [3:1]. Then,
Nebuchadnezzar dedicates the statue [3:2-3]. At this point, the principle actor changes to an unnamed
herald who proclaims the order to worship the statue [3:4-7]. The subject of Daniel 3:1-7 is the temptation
of the idolatry of politics.
Daniel 3:8-12 is a report, what amounts to an indictment, of the three Jews who pay no heed to
this idolatry of politics. This paragraph is demarcated by a change in subject: certain unnamed Chaldeans.
These come forward to accuse the Jews [3:8]. The substance of the indictment is announced by these
Chaldeans in a speech delivered to Nebuchadnezzar [3:9-12]. The subject of Daniel 3:8-12 is the
indictment of the resisters: witnesses note that these three pay no heed to the political idol.
Daniel 3:13-18 is arguably the centerpiece of the account. Having been accused by
Nebuchadnezzar of paying no heed to his idolatrous use of religion, the three Jews state, in no uncertain
terms, their refusal to bow down to worship this politician.
This centerpiece is demarcated by the dialogue between Nebuchadnezzar [3:13-15] and the three
Jews [3:16-18]. In the opening dialogue, Nebuchadnezzar interrogates the Jews concerning the charge
leveled against them [3:13-15]. In the second part of the dialogue, the Jews respond, affirming their
resistance to the demand that they worship this king via the idol [3:16-18]. The subject of Daniel 3:13-18
is resistance to the idolatry of a political power-player.
In Daniel 3:19-23, the resistance pays the price the sentence of death. The paragraph is
demarcated by the return to Nebuchadnezzar as the principle actor. The paragraph reports
Nebuchadnezzars response to the resistance of the three Jews [3:19], his command to execute the three
Jews [3:20-21], the death of the Jews executioners [3:22], and the throwing of the victims into the furnace
[3:23]. The subject of Daniel 3:19-23 is the inevitability of retaliation for those who resist the idolatry of
politics.
Finally, in Daniel 3:24-30, these three are miraculously delivered from their fate and thoroughly
untouched by the kings presumptuous sentence of death. Indeed, in a stunning turnaround, the would-be
idol Nebuchadnezzar reverses himself and utters a doxology to Yahweh.
This paragraph is demarcated by the reemergence of Nebuchadnezzar as the principle actor, this
time in his astonishment, especially at what Nebuchadnezzar sees in the furnace [3:24-25].
Nebuchadnezzar continues to dominate the paragraph, ordering the three Jews to step forth out of the
furnace [3:26]. The writer then reports what the eyewitnesses saw when the three emerged from the
furnace [3:27]. Then, Nebuchadnezzar has the final say in the paragraph, his doxology to Yahweh [3:28]
and a decree concerning Yahweh [3:29]. The paragraph ends with a report of the successes enjoyed by the
three Jews. The subject of Daniel 3:24-30 is deliverance. Yahweh exercises his sovereignty over the worst
this power-politician has to offer.

Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Outline of Daniel 3
I.

Run-up: The Idolatry of Politics Becomes the National Norm [3:1-7]


A.
Creation of a Golden Statue [3:1]
B.
Embracing the statue [3:2-3]
C.
Proclamation: Political Idolatry Becomes the National Norm [3:4-7]

II.

Refusal: Paying No Heed to the Idolatry of Politics [3:8-12]


A.
Witness: the Indictment [3:8]
B.
The Substance of the Indictment: Refusal to Pay Heed [3:9-12]

III.

Resistance: Defying the Idolatry of Politics [3:13-18]


A.
Interrogation [3:13-15]
B.
Resistance [3:16-18]

IV.

Retaliation: Paying the Price for Resistance [3:19-23]


A.
Rage [3:19]
B.
Sentenced to Execution [3:20-21]
C.
Death of the Executioners [3:22]
D.
Execution of the Sentence upon the Resisters [3:23]

V.

Release: Yahweh Exercises Sovereignty over this Political Power-Player [3:24-30]


A.
Astonishment Comes to Nebuchadnezzar [3:24-25]
B.
Deliverance Comes to the Accused [3:26-27]
C.
Doxology Comes to Yahweh [3:28-29]
D.
Success Comes to the Accused [3:30]

Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Daniel 3:1-7 The Idolatry of Politics Becomes the National Norm


Translation
(3:1) King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold, its height 60 cubits, its width 6
cubits; he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
(3:2) Then, king Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the provincial governors, prefects, and
district superintendents, counselors, treasurers, judges, police chiefs, and all the high officials of the
province; to come to the dedication of the statue that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (3:3) So, then,
provincial governors, prefects, and district superintendents, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates were
assembled and all the high officials of the province, for the dedication of the statute that king
Nebuchadnezzar had set up; so, they stood before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
(3:4) Then, a herald proclaimed loudly: To you, it is commanded, people, nations, and tongues.
(3:5) When you hear the sound of a horn, a flute, lyre, trigon, a harp, a panpipe and all sorts of music; you
will fall and worship the statue of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (3:6) But, whoever does not
fall and worship; at that very moment he shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.
(3:7) Therefore, at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, the flute, the lyre,
the trigon, harp, and every sound of music; all the people, nations, and tongues fell and worshiped the
statue of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Subject of the paragraph
The subject of Daniel 3:1-7 is the challenge for three monotheistic Jews of the idolization of
political power in the nation of Babylon. The focal point of this paragraph is the proclamation in Daniel
3:4-6. The repetition of the command fall and worship the statue [3:5-6] signals the main topic of the
unit. As far as the rest of Daniel 3 is concerned, this proclamation sets up the conflict, the resistance, and
the punishment to follow. For now, the reader of Daniel 3 should focus on the directive.
Paragraph sense2
Creation of a Golden Statue [3:1]
(i)
(ii)
(iii)
(iv)

[Assertive, 3:1a] King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold,


[Apposition/elaboration (i) 3:1b] its height 60 cubits,
[Apposition/elaboration (i-ii), 3:1c] its width 6 cubits;
[Apposition/elaboration (i-iii), 3:1d] he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
Embracing the Statue [3:2-3]

(v)

(vi)
(vi)
(vii)
(viii)
(ix)
(x)
(xi)
(xii)

[Temporal succession (i-iv), 3:2a] Then, king Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the
provincial governors, prefects,, and district superintendents, counselors, treasurers, judges,
magistrates,
[Addition to (v), 3:2b] and all the high officials of the province,
[Reason for (v-vi), 3:2c] to come to the dedication of the statue,
[Elaboration of (vi), 3:2d] that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up;
[Consequence of (v-vii), 3:3a] So, then, assembled were provincial governors, prefects,
district superintendents, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates,
[Addition to (viii), 3:3b] and all the high officials of the province,
[Reason for (ix), 3:3c] for the dedication of the statue,
[Elaboration of (x), 3:3d] that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up;
[Consequence of (viii-xi), 3:3e] they stood before the statue king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

The expository preacher/teacher/reader may use the paragraph sense to prime the pump for
sermon outlines and lesson plans.
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Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Proclamation: Political Idolatry Becomes the National Norm [3:4-7]


(xiii)
(xiv)
(xv)
(xvi)
(xvii)
(xviii)
(xix)
(xx)
(xxi)
(xxii)
(xxiii)

[Succession to (i-iv, v-xii), 3:4a] Then, a herald proclaimed forcefully:


[Directive elaborating (xiii), 3:4b] To you, it is commanded, people, nations, and tongues.
[Elaboration of directive in (xiv), 3:5a] When you hear the sound of a horn, a flute, lyre, trigon,
a harp, a panpipe,
[Elaboration of (xv), 3:5b] and all sorts of music;
[Directive, 3:5c] you will fall and worship the statue of gold,
[Elaboration of (xvii), 3:5d] that king Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
[Adversative to (xvii-xviii), 3:6a] But, whoever does not fall and worship;
[Elaboration of (xix), 3:6b] at that very moment, he shall be cast into the midst of a furnace
of blazing fire.
[Consequence of (xv-xx), 3:7a] Therefore, at that time, when all the people heard the sound of
the horn, the flute, the lyre, the trigon, harp and every sound of music;
[Elaboration of (xxi), 3:7b] all the people, nations, and tongues fell and worshiped the statue
of gold,
[Elaboration of (xxii). 3:7c] that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Daniel 3:1
Creation of a Golden Statue
King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold, its
height 60 cubits, its width 6 cubits; he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
3:1a
King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold is punctuated after gold with a zqp qtn,
indicating a slight pause in the reading of the line.
The main verb in the sentence, made [ (Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms)], holds no real surprises.
The Aramaic verb is usually translated to make or create.3 The verb is used in Daniel with God, the gods,
and people as the subject.
There are three terms in this brief line that also appear in Daniel 2 king [2:31, 45], statue [2:31,
32], and gold [2:32, 38] in the same general context, a report of Daniels interpretation of the kings
dream [Daniel 2:31-45]. The interpretation includes the fact that he, the king, was the head of gold that sat
atop the colossal statue in his dream. This back reference in Daniel 3:1a to Daniel 2:31, 32, and 38 may be
intentional. That is, having been told by Daniel that the king was the head of gold on the statue, what more
personally advantageous move could he make that to create an entire statue of gold?4
Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar creates an image as was often done in the Ancient Near East of the
time. John Collins notes, There are numerous reports of huge statues from the ancient world.5
The term translated statue [] is surely of a three dimensional form, since we are told in
the next line that it has height and width. Kohler-Baumgartner translate the noun with statue;6 BDB
prefers image for the noun [];7 and Holladay opts for statue.8 The fact that the writer of Daniel
uses this term [] to depict an image or a statue suggests that, in some way, the had a
human resemblance.9 At the same time, one must take Daniel 3:14 into account where Nebuchadnezzar
identifies the statue in terms of my god.10

Ludwig Kohler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old
Testament, revised by Walter Baumgartner and Johann Stamm, translated and edited by M.E.J. Richardson,
vol. II, - (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 1942 [hereafter, vol. I, -, will be abbreviated KB1, and vol. II, -,
will be abbreviated KB2]; see also Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The New BrownDriver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1979; reprint), 1104
[hereafter BDB].
4

For this thought, see D.J. Wiseman, ed., Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Daniel by Joyce
Baldwin (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 99; John D.W. Watts and James W. Watts, ed., The
Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30, Daniel by John Goldingay (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1989), 72;
Terry Muck, ed., The NIV Application Commentary, Daniel by Tremper Longman III (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1999), 97; and Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980;
reprint), 84.
5

John J. Collins, Daniel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 180.

KB2, 1964.

BDB, 1109.

William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 418.
9

W.F. Albright and David Noel Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible, vol. 23, The Book of Daniel by
Louis Hartman and Alexander Di Lella (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 160-61.
10

On this point, see Goldingay, 70; and James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989; reprint), 193-95.
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3:1b
Its height 60 cubits, its width 6 cubits is a nominal line that is punctuated with an `atnach,
indicating the major pause in the line.
The sentence unpacks the general physical dimensions of the statute. Based upon the SumerianAkkadian number system, the statue was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. 11 Overall, the reader will appreciate
that this figure was oddly proportioned, to say the least. The commentators are more or less divided on
what these grotesque proportions mean. Collins simply notes that, when all is said and done, the
measurements cannot be taken realistically.12 Montgomery, on the other hand, affirms that these numbers
depict a stele partly sculptured where the stone is decorated at the top with the relief of a bust of the
human body.13
Be all of this as it may, the reader is left with the text as we have it. In the final analysis, the
writer of Daniel 3:1b may not have been excessively fixated on the physical dimensions of the statue, but
rather on its spiritual and political influence.
3:1c

He set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon is the final sentence in Daniel 3:1.

He set it up [ (Haphel, perfect, 3rd, ms, with a 3rd, ms, suffix)] is written in the
Haphel stem of the Aramaic root []. The Haphel stem of the verb underscores active causative
action on Nebuchadnezzars part.14 Regardless of the physical appearance of the stele, the author intends to
place responsibility for this foray into national political idolatry with the initiative of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the plain of Dura [ ] is a prepositional phrase, using the preposition []
to underscore location in space.15 The precise coordinates of Dura are not known. Montgomery cites
sources that locate Dura about 12 miles south of Babylon.16 Slotki is close to this, noting, According to
some authorities, it was near Tulul Dura on the river of the same name which flows into the Euphrates
about six miles south of Babylon.17 As the next phrase tells us, the statute was in the vicinity of Babylon.
Daniel 3:2-3
Embracing the Statue
(3:2) Then king Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble, to the
provisional governors, prefects, and district superintendents, counselors, treasurers, judges, police chiefs,
and all the high officials of the province; to come to the dedication of the statue that king Nebuchadnezzar
had set up. (3:3) So, then, provincial governors, prefects, and district superintendents, counselors,
treasurers, judges, magistrates were assembled and all the high officials of the province for the dedication
of the statute that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up; so they stood before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar
had set up.
3:2a
Then, king Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble is a sentence that is punctuated with a legarmeh
indicating a brief pause in the line. Daniel 3:2a includes the list of invitees.
11

Baldwin, 101.

12

Collins, Daniel, 181.

13

See Montgomery, 196, for details in support of this point.

14

On this stem, see Miles Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Aramaic (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011),
150; see also Hans Bauer and Pontus Leander, Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramischen (Hildesheim: Georg
Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1962), 36 a-e.
15

KB2, 1830; Bauer-Leander 69 b; and Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic


(Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983), 77.
16

Montgomery, 197; see also Young, 85.

17

Judah J. Slotki, Daniel-Ezra-Nehemiah, revised by Rabbi Ephraim Oratz and Ravshalom


Shahar, (New York: Soncino Press, 1993), 21; see also Baldwin, 101; Montgomery, 197; Collins, Daniel,
182.
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Daniel 3:2a uses the connective waw on the first word of the line then Nebuchadnezzar
indicating that the author is carrying forward the thread of the discourse, pointing to the next key event. 18
Sent word [ (Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms)] is literally translated to send; the verb may be used
absolutely to communicate to send an order.19 C. John Collins notes that this verb, when used with an
infinitive, conveys a degree of authority on the part of the subject of the verb.20 F.-L. Hossfeld notes that
when a direct object is omitted, as it is here, the meaning becomes send messages/messengers. 21
Hossfeld further notes that this use of is understood as a process of communication taking place
exclusively between the subject and the addressee, which serves to signal a goal- or result-oriented
contact.22 The net effect is that the message that is sent is one thing; the crucial matter is who sent it. The
reader should appreciate the implied authority and implicit threat in the construction. Indeed, the reader
will note how the writer signals complete and immediate obedience via repetition of the invitees who
dutifully attend in 3:3.
The two lists of officialdom in Daniel 3:2-3 are ranked by status, from the most powerful to the
less powerful. Montgomery writes, To the festival are summoned all the grandees of the empire, and a list
of these classes in order of precedence is given. 23
Provincial governors [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article] are listed first.
Rosenthal lists this term as coming from the sphere of Persian political and legal administration. 24 KB
concurs, translating the noun in the sense of a protector of the empire.25 S.R. Driver notes that the
provincial governor would be the chief ruler of a province. 26 Pter-Contesse and Ellington note that this
position identifies those who were in charge of the main divisions of the empire. 27 The Septuagint
translator uses a noun [] that means highest, uppermost and may be translated consul.28 Most of
the English versions translate with satraps or princes. In any event, this man would have been the chief
representative of the king within his province.29
18

See Bauer-Leander 106 a; KB2, 1862.

19

KB2, 1995; also Holladay, 423.

20

Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and
Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001; C-D ROM], C. John Collins, [hereafter abbreviated
NIDOTTE].
21

F.-L. Hossfeld, , in TDOT, vol XV, 50.

22

Ibid., 51.

23

Montgomery, 197; see also Baldwin, 101; but note Goldingay, 65.

24

Rosenthal 189.

25

KB2, 1811.

26

S.R. Driver, The Book of Daniel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1901), 36.

27

Ren Pter-Contesse and John Ellington, A Handbook on The Book of Daniel (New York:
United Bible Socities, 1993), 73.
28

H.G. Liddell, Robert Scott, and H.S. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1968), 1854 [hereafter abbreviated LSJ].
29

Robert Johnson, , in NIDOTTE [H7068].

Expository Readers Guide to Daniel 3

Loren Lineberry, 2014

Prefects [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article] refer to a deputy level administrative
position in the empire. Rosenthal identifies this noun as an Akkadian loanword used in political and
financial administration and means a prefect.30 KB translates the noun with prefect or governor;31 BDB
simply goes with prefect.32 The Septuagint translator goes with a noun [] that means in general
a leader, commander, or a governor.33 Gordon Johnson notes that these prefects were administrative
officials governing vassal states.34 Most of the English versions translate with prefect.
District superintendent [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] refers to an administrative
position in which one is the superintendent or governor of a district.35 BDB simply goes with governor.36
The Septuagint translator uses a term [ ] that references a governor of a district.37 Once more,
the term refers to administrative officials who were in charge of vassal states. However, if an annexed
province proved to be overly resistant to Babylonian rule, the province was placed under the administration
of a district superintendent who could utilize military actions as well as deportations to settle things
down.38 Slotki refers to this position as a governor of a conquered province. 39 Hartman and Di Lella point
out that the district superintendents [] were heads of divisions within the overall governance of
the empire.40 Most of the English versions go with governor.
These first three positions are reasonably powerful. They are the political, administrative, and
military leaders immediately under the king. They rule independently, while doing so at the behest of
Nebuchadnezzar.

Counselors [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] were among the political and legal
administrators of the era; 41 they functioned as advisors or counselors within the royal court.42 Johnson

30

Rosenthal 188.

31

KB2, 1937; also Holladay, 414.

32

BDB, 1104.

33

LSJ, 1652.

34

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE; see also Driver, Daniel, 32.

35

KB2, 1955.

36

BDB, 1108; also Holladay, 417.

37

LSJ, 1805.

38

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE.

39

Slotki, 21; see also S.R. Driver, The Book of Daniel (Cambridge: The Cambridge University
Press, 1901), 36.
40

Hartman and Di Lella, 156.

41

Rosenthal 189.

42

KB2, 1807; so BDB, 1078; Holladay, 396; Bauer-Leander 15 d; Van Pelt, 222.

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identifies these as royal advisors.43 The Septuagint translator uses a participle [ (accusative, ms, pl,
present participle)] to render the Aramaic noun. The meaning of this participle varies: [1] guide, [2] to be
ones leader in some way defined by the context, [3] to conduct.44 The writer is silent on the specific area
of counsel, if there was one, which these people provided. They are simply identified as counselors
attached to the royal court.
Treasurer [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] is clear enough. As part of the legal
and administrative leadership, the treasurer could refer to the chief treasurers from around provinces. 45
Other lexicons translate the noun with treasurer.46 Johnson goes with royal treasurer.47 C.F. Keil notes
that the noun means master of the treasury or superintendent of the public treasury.48 There is a Septuagint
tradition that uses a noun [] that means a treasurer, or a chief financial officer [Egypt].49
Judges [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] is also fairly straightforward. The noun
depicts one who is well versed in the law, a lawyer, or a judge.50 BDB notes that the noun is a Persian loan
word that represents a law-bearer or a judge.51 The Septuagint translator unites this noun, judge, with the
next, police chief, into a single phrase; not much help. Johnson identifies these as judges.52 Most of the
English versions render the noun as judges.

Police chiefs [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] is a term that is a bit more dicey,
admitting of two plausible translations. KB affirms that the noun [] may refer either to [1] a police
officer or [2] a magistrate, thus setting the stage for the two options.53 Johnson opts for magistrate, as do
several others.54 At the same time, others go with police chief,55 or sheriffs.56 As already noted, the
43

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE.

44

LSJ, 763.

45

KB2, 1842.

46

BDB, 1086; Holladay, 401.

47

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE.

48

C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, vol. IX, Ezekiel,
Daniel, Three Volumes in One, vol. 3, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, by C.F. Keil, translated
by M.G. Easton (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids: 1991, reprint), 121.
49

LSJ, 432.

50

KB2, 1856.

51

BDB, 1089; similarly Holladay, 403.

52

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE.

53

KB2, 2008; Holladay, 425, follows suit.

54

Johnson, , in NIDOTTE; Baldwin, 101; Keil, 121; Montgomery, 198.

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Septuagint is not much help. The English versions oscillate between magistrate and officer; take your pick.
The reader should not get too fussy here. We may conclude that these last two nouns, judges
[] and police chiefs/magistrates [], represent what we might call the justice
department of Babylon.
With these four terms, we come to the end of the formally identified political and legal powerplayers in Babylon. The next depiction, all the high officials of the province, rounds out the laundry list of
the political and legal administrative functionaries in Babylon.
All the high officials of the province [ (noun, fm, sg, definite article)
(noun, ms, pl, construct) (noun, ms, sg, construct)] top off the list of invitees. The
operative term here is high official []. KB renders this term in the sense of an official of high
standing or simply a provincial administrator.57 There are Ancient Near Eastern cognates to this term that
shed some light. In Nabataean, the term depicts one who is in command; in Jewish Aramaic, the noun
describes a ruler; in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, the term represents a prefect. Overall, in the Ancient
Near East, the term is used for either [1] an official of high standing or [2] a provincial administrator. 58
Rosenthal renders the noun [] with authority or official; Rosenthal further notes that the
adjectival form of this noun [] depicts one who is in control, one who is authorized, or simply a
powerful official.59 Philip Nel notes that this Aramaic noun [] denotes one who has power.60
While the noun does signal power over or control over, there is no necessarily negative connotation
implicit in the term such as domineering.61 Slotki is surely correct when he translates the term in the
sense of minor provincial administrators.62 Most of the English versions go with either [1] all the rulers of
the province or [2] all the provincial officials. The upshot is that all the high officials of the province
amount to what we would call the bureaucracy.
The net effect is that in Daniel 3:2 Nebuchadnezzar commands that the three layers of his own
administrative outreach: the political, administrative, and military leaders immediately under the king
[provincial governors, prefects, and district superintendents] and the lesser administrative and legal
officials [counselors, treasurers, judges and police chiefs] and finally, the ubiquitous bureaucracy [all the
high officials of the province] present themselves for the dedication of this statue. To anticipate a bit,
Nebuchadnezzar will demand that all of these officials as well as people, nations and tongues will
collectively fall and worship the statue of gold [3:5]. Accordingly, Daniel 3:2 is the opening gambit in this
power-politicians attempt to use religion to bolster his own hold on power. This gambit will be resisted by
three Jews who refuse to be a party to the subordination of their faith to the self-serving mandates of a
power-hungry political-military leader.
3:2b
To come to the dedication of the statute that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up is the last sentence
in Daniel 3:2. There is a slight pause in the reading of the line after to come to the dedication [pause is
indicated by zqp qtn].

55

Rosenthal 189.

56

Slotki, 22; Young, 86.

57

KB2, 1995; see also Holladay, 423, to the same effect.

58

Ibid.

59

Rosenthal, 98.

60

Philip J. Nel, , in NIDOTTE [H8948].

61

Ibid.

62

Slotki, 22.
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Syntactically, the sentence tells us that the invitees knew why they were summoned. Daniel 3:2b
uses the infinitive construct [to come to ()] to clarify the purpose of the command performance.63
Dedication [ (noun, fm, sg, construct)] is the operative term in the sentence. The noun
[] is a loan word from Hebrew [] and means dedication.64 In Aramaic, the noun is used
to signify the inauguration of a religious structure.65 The noun appears four times in the Aramaic portions
of the Hebrew Bible. In Ezra 6:16, 17, the noun [] is used in reference to the dedication of the
house of God; while here in Daniel 3:2, the noun [] is used in reference to the dedication of the
statute that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Both are used to signify the inauguration of a religious
structure, as noted above. W. Dommershausen notes that Daniel 3:2ff describes the dedication of a divine
image. The ceremony includes the presence of numerous invited guests, the playing of various music
instruments, and prostration in worship.66
The use of the term in Daniel 3:2c points to a religious ceremony. The participants would have
understood that they were assembling to celebrate the inauguration of the worship of this statue.67
Montgomery attests the widespread use of liturgies connected with these religious rites of dedication.68
Collins concurs, writing, Obeisance to the idol at the kings command would, no doubt, imply an
affirmation of loyalty to the king. 69 With loyalty to the king being expressed by means of worship of this
statue, Nebuchadnezzar would have been solidifying his hold on power. The upshot is this: Daniel 3:2
depicts the humanistic use of religion to boost the power of the rulers of this world. 70 Nebuchadnezzar
was not the first, nor would he be the last, to make religion the handmaiden of politics. He has had many
successors.
3:3a-b These lines essentially repeat the thrust of 3:2. The reader may consult above for the gory details
of this more or less identical line. At the same time, the line is valuable for noting the immediacy and the
thoroughness of the obedience to the command of the political sovereign. This obedience is in marked
contrast to the three Jews.
At the same time, the rank and file of the politically powerful depicted in 3:2-3 represent the sum
total of the political power against which the three resisters will respond. In spite of the odds, they listen to
their consciences.
Daniel 3:4-7
Proclamation: Political Idolatry Becomes the National Norm (3:4) Then, a herald
proclaimed loudly, To you a commandment people, nations, and tongues: (3:5) At the time that you hear
the sound of a horn, a flute, lyre, trigon, a harp, panpipe and all sorts of music, you are to fall down and
worship the statue of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (3:6) But, whoever does not fall and
worship, at the same moment, shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.

63

On this function of the infinitive, see Bauer-Leander 85 a; Van Pelt, 108.

64

KB2, 1878; also BDB, 1093; Holladay, 406.

65

Jackie A. Naud, , in NIDOTTE [H2852].

66

Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, ed., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament,
15 volumes; vol. V, translated by David Green (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1968), 21 [hereafter abbreviated
TDOT].
67

See Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 73.

68

Montgomery, 197; see also Hartman and Di Lella, 161.

69

Collins, Daniel, 183.

70

Baldwin, 99.
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(3:7) Therefore, at the time, when all the people heard the sound of a horn, a flute, a lyre, a trigon, harp and
every sound of music, all the people, nations, and tongues fell and worshiped the statue of gold that king
Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
3:4a
Then, a herald proclaimed loudly is punctuated with an `atnach, indicating the major pause in the
sentence.
A herald [ (noun, ms, sg, definite article)] is a noun that is used only here in the
Aramaic section of the Hebrew Bible. The noun is not a Greek loan word from kryx [preacher,
announcer],71 but rather is a Persian loan word for one who is a caller or simply a herald.72 Collins notes
that this term [] may also include couriers spreading the news. 73
Proclaimed loudly is actually written as a participle [ (Peal, participle, ms, sg)] followed
by a prepositional phrase [ + (noun, ms, sg)]. The preposition [] may be read here
instrumentally in the sense of with force, with strength, or with power.74 The noun translated loudly
[] means strength or better yet for this phrase power or might.75 H. Eising notes, concerning Daniel
3:4, that is merely used adverbially in the sense of crying strongly, i.e., aloud. 76 The
modifier tells the reader that the herald made his point clearly and unambiguously; everyone will know
what is expected of them.
The author now reproduces the edict making political idolatry the national norm [Daniel 3:4b-6b].
The reader of this proclamation can appreciate its four parts: [1] the order (3:4b), [2] the scope of the
order (3:4b), [3] the signal (3:5a), [4] the edict (3:5b-c), and [5] the penalty for ignoring the edict (3:6ab).77
3:4b

The Order

To you it is commanded

The order front loads those impacted by the demand. The syntactical function of this front loading
is to clearly identify those to whom this proclamation applies. The prepositional phrase that opens the line
to you [plural] is fleshed out more fully via the vocative of address people, nations and tongues.
It is commanded [ (Peal, participle, ms, pl)] is written with a participle. The
syntactical function of the participial form of the main verb is to signal present aspect to you, it is
herewith commanded.78 The listeners would pick up on the import: Obedience is expected immediately.
Command [] is normal use for this root [].79 Obviously, the command element in
this word is dependent upon the authority figure that stands behind it king Nebuchadnezzar. The listeners
71

Bauer-Leander 51 z.

72

KB2, 1902r.

73

Collins, Daniel, 183.

74

For this use of this preposition, see Rosenthal 77.

75

KB2, 1875.

76

H. Eising, , in TDOT, vol. IV, 349.

77

Hopefully, this break down will help the expository preacher and the teacher.

78

See Bauer-Leander 81 a.

79

KB2, 1816; BDB, 1081; Holladay, 397.

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would know that the force of this public announcement is law; it is an ultimatum. S. Wagner notes that
when is used in the sense of command, a person forces his own will on someone else with the
expectation that the person will do what he wills.80
3:4b

The Scope of the Order

people, nations, and tongues

People [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] is a term that is used of both Israelites and
non-Israelites in the Aramaic OT.81 Holladay understands the term as an ethnic designation.82 Daniel
Block notes that the term, people [], designates a sense of ethnic community based upon blood
relationships.83 E. Lipiski demurs, noting, that frequently suggests the notion of totality, of the
people as a whole, like the Arabic mma. It is used in connection with political, civil, and religious
institutions: levy of troops, popular assembly, populace, congregation of the faithful, and religious
community. 84 At the same time, Montgomery identifies people [] as the political unit within the
empire.85
Nations [ (noun, fm, pl)] is a term that signifies a community of people, a nation.86
Block claims that nation [] signifies a clan or a nation descended from a common ancestry.87The
corresponding term used in the Hebrew Bible [] does have tribal connotations.88
Tongues [ (noun, ms, pl, definite article)] indicates linguistic distinctions within the
empire. The practice of identifying national identity on the basis of language was alive and well in the
Ancient Near East.
It seems obvious that the master politician, Nebuchadnezzar, intended to cast the net of his power
and worship over a wide area. Ethnicity, ancestry, and language coalesce into a collective designation for
the residents of this leaders empire. Longman summarizes the scope of this order, The various categories
of people in the list are the political officials from around the empire, which may signal that this was
Nebuchadnezzars attempt to solidify control over the diverse elements of his vast empire [emphasis
mine].89
3:5a
The Signal
At the time that you hear the sound of a horn, a flute, lyre, trigon, a harp,
panpipe and all sorts of music

80

S. Wagner, , in TDOT, vol. I, 333.

81

KB2, 1950.

82

Holladay, 416.

83

Daniel I. Block, Nations/National Theology in NIDOTTE.

84

E. Lipiski, , in TDOT, vol. XI, 174.

85

Montgomery, 202.

86

KB2, 1815.

87

Block, Nations/National Theology in NIDOTTE.

88

KB1, 62.

89

Longman, 98.

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The sentence announces the signal for the worship of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar demands of
his political leadership and the population. The general drift of the line is that worship is signaled by
musical fanfare, wherever and whenever that may be.
At the time [( preposition + noun, ms, sg, definite article)] is a prepositional phrase. This
temporal indication of the signal stresses immediacy as soon as the music sounds. The temporal marker
at the time90 indicates that the response is to be virtually instantaneous, thus verifying ones sincere
devotion to the king and his statue.
Concerning the musical instruments, this may be noted: The various instruments are both winds
and strings. The horn [ (noun, fm, sg, definite article)] probably points to the curved rams horn,
used as a musical instrument.91 The flute or pipe [ (noun, fm, sg, definite article)] is a
wind instrument of some sort, 92 perhaps a whistle or shepherds pipe.93 The lyre [ (noun, ms,
sg)] is probably a stringed instrument, something like a zither.94 The trigon [ (noun, fm, sg)]
amounts to a harp, a four stringed musical instrument in a triangular shape. 95 Finally, the panpipe
[ (noun, fm, sg)] may refer to a musical instrument, perhaps a double-flute,96 or it may be
a more general term, referring not to an instrument per se, but to harmonious playing.97 The point to be
gleaned from this laundry list of wind and string instruments is this: The general picture in the list is
accentuates the fanfare attached to the royal worship. As Longman notes, the list emphasizes the flourish
surrounding the ceremony and heightens the tension, focusing on the moment of obedience or
disobedience.98
3:5b-c Demand to Worship
Nebuchadnezzar has set up

You will fall down and worship the statue of gold, that king

The immediate response to the musical fanfare is spelled out you will fall and worship.
Syntactically, Daniel 3:5b is a directive, even though both verbs, fall [ (Peal, imperfect, 2nd, ms,
pl)] and worship [ (Peal, imperfect, 2nd, ms, pl)] are written in the imperfect aspect. Strictly
speaking these verbs are not imperatives. However, the imperfect aspect of the Aramaic verb, like the
imperfect of the Hebrew verb, may have a jussive sense.99 The jussive communicates Nebuchadnezzars
will in this matter;100 the call for worship is not an invitation; it is a demand. Yet, as noted, the edict is
90

The noun [] may be rendered as soon as [KB, 1944r]; Holladay, 415r, at the time when;
Bauer-Leander 109 s opts for as soon as. All in all, the temporal construction communicates immediacy.
91

KB, 1973r; see also Montgomery, 202; Michael L. Brown, , in NIDOTTE.

92

See Rosenthal 57; KB, 1924r.

93

Goldingay, 65; see also Montgomery, 202.

94

KB, 1970r.

95

Ibid., 1984r.

96

Ibid., 1938r; Goldingay, 65.

97

Goldingay, 65; Baldwin, 102.

98

Longman, 99.

99

See Bauer-Leander 78 r; see also Van Pelt, 96.

100

Paul Joon, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, translated and revised by T. Muraoka, 2 vols.,
(Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1966), 114 g-h [hereafter abbreviated J-M].
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communicated in moderated directive forms, the jussive, possibly to retain the sense of demand but in more
politely diplomatic language.
This collocation of verbs, fall and worship, appears in Daniel 3:5, 15 in the Aramaic OT. No
similar collocation with these roots appears in the Hebrew Bible.
There is a syntactical-semantic matter in this collocation. That is, Hebrew utilizes a construction
called hendiadys; verbal hendiadys uses two verbs connected by a simple waw to express a single but
complex idea. In many cases, the first verb, fall in this case, serves to qualify the second, worship.101
Indeed, the first may be translated as an adverb modifying the second verb. 102 The point syntactically is
that these are not two separate actions, but rather fall and worship is part and parcel of the same package.
We shall have to leave the translation until the senses of the verbs are teased out.
Fall [] in a worship context stresses the falling on ones face as an indication of selfhumiliation.103 Allan Harman notes that this verb [] is used to communicate an act of selfhumiliation when one falls on his or her face before a superior.104 H. Seebass concurs with the humility
theme, noting that is used to express humility. Indeed, one falls [] before one of higher
rank or status.105 In other words, vis--vis the one who falls there is admission of deference; and vis--vis
the one before whom one falls there is an admission of superiority. The net effect is this:
communicates deference, submissiveness, servility. Moreover, if we translate this opening term in the
hendiadys as an adverb, then we may render: submissively worship, compliantly worship, or subserviently
worship. The act of falling [] is a visible sign of capitulation, of compliance, of surrender, and of
assent to what the statute represents.
Worship [] is a term that means to pay homage to.106 BDB adds do homage (by
prostration).107 Terence Fretheim observes that this verb reinforces the idea of obeisance. 108 There is,
therefore, a psychological sense of veneration, of profound honor, attached to paying homage to; it seems
to connote devotion to an admitted superior.
The Septuagint translator uses a Greek verb [] that means to make obeisance to the
gods or their images, especially in reference to the Oriental custom of prostrating oneself before kings and
superiors.109 In the Hebrew Bible, the root [] is used exclusively in Isaiah and exclusively of idol
worship.
Later in this section, Nebuchadnezzar will use this root [] in parallel with another root
[]. This latter root may shed light on the former. Basically, in Aramaic implies to serve and

101

Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (Charles Scribners Sons: New York,

1971), 238.
102

Ibid.

103

Holladay, 414; see also BDB, 1103.

104

Allan Harman, , in NIDOTTE [H5877].

105

H. Seebass, , in TDOT, vol. IX, 491.

106

KB2, 1937; see also Holladay, 414.

107

BDB, 1104.

108

Terence Fretheim, , in NIDOTTE [H6032].

109

LSJ, 1518.

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is so used in parallel with in Daniel 3:12, 14, 18, and 28.110 The verb is used of Daniels serving
Yahweh in 6:17, 21; 7:14, 27. Accordingly, the parallelism suggests that submissively showing veneration
[] also takes concrete form in actively serving or doing the bidding of []. It is noteworthy
that this additional nuance comes out later via Nebuchadnezzar. More than likely veneration demonstrated
in servitude was the intent all along, but it might be politically expedient to divulge the full intent of the
edict a bit at a time.
So, the net effect of fall and worship is this: first, this act symbolizes loyalty, devoutness,
consecration and commitment to the object of worship. Second, the psychological dimension discloses
compliance, subservience, submission. The translation may reflect the hendiadys, therefore, with
compliantly pay homage to or submissively show veneration for the statute. Third, this veneration is
considerably more than an intellectual belief state; indeed, veneration issues forth in servitude and
obedience to the crown, as will be made clear later. The upshot is that the king intends to determine once
and for all that his subjects, leaders and followers alike, acknowledge a concentrated regard for what is
truly ultimate in their lives and show the same with unquestioned obedience.
The statue of gold has already been considered in Daniel 3:1. Provisionally, we concluded that the
statue of gold as an effigy of one of Nebuchadnezzars gods [see Nebuchadnezzars statement in 3:14].
3:6a-b Penalty: On Threat of Death
But, whoever does not fall and worship; at the same moment
shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.
Daniel 3:6a-b concludes the proclamation of the herald with the proclamation of the penalty.
Whoever [] is a relative pronoun that may be translated whoever.111 Kohler-Baumgartner
translate with whomsoever.112 The indefinite relative pronoun113 seems to be used to make the sanction
inclusive; Nebuchadnezzar will brook no rivals to his acknowledgment of unquestioned obeisance.
Does not fall and worship114 is the gist of the infraction; resisting the masters demand for
submissive veneration, for compliant commitment, for concentrated regard for what is truly ultimate invites
summary execution.
At that same moment [] clearly indicates immediate execution. The phrase uses a
prepositional phrase [] followed by a definite noun in apposition []; literally, we have: in it
[], the very moment []. Holladay notes that the noun [] references a short space of
time, at the same moment, or at once in Daniel 3:6b.115 Rosenthal goes with at this very time or at this
very moment or at this very hour.116 Driver notes that the collocation denotes any small interval of
time.117
110

KB2, 1957; see also BDB, 1108 and Holladay, 417 for the sense of serve.

111

Holladay, 412.

112

KB2, 1918; see also Bauer-Leander 108 n.

113

Rosenthal 37.

114

The language used here for fall and worship is the same in 3:5; see the notes there to fill in the
gaps on the infraction.
115

Holladay, 424; see also BDB, 1116; KB2, 1006.

116

Rosenthal 89.

117

Driver, Daniel, 40.

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Shall be cast [ (Hithpeel imperfect, 3rd, ms)] applies to whomsoever does not show
their submissive regard for the statue. The Hithpeel stem is passive in nuance;118 resisters have no choices.
Into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire is a phrase that depicts execution by cremation.
Specifically, into the midst of [ (preposition, , + noun, ms, sg, construct)] is a prepositional
phrase that begins a construct chain. That is, the prepositional phrase is followed by a furnace of fire
[ (noun, ms, sg, construct) (noun, common, sg, definite article)], which is further
clarified as blazing [ (Peal, participle, fm, sg, definite article)].
Into the midst [] is obviously a locational use of the preposition.119 Into the midst of a
furnace is where they are headed. Kohler-Baumgartner and Holladay translate the noun [] in the
sense of interior or inner part.120 Rosenthal goes both ways, translating midst and inside.121 Either way,
not much in the way of meaning is lost; resisters wound up inside a blazing furnace.
Furnace [] is a noun that develops from an Akkadian term [utnu] that describes a brick
furnace; the term has cognates that go back to Sumerian [udun] and even pre-Sumerian.122 The burning of
victims in furnaces as a means of punishment was known in the Ancient Near East of this time. 123 Indeed,
the practice was known in the Greek period prior to the time of Christ. 124
The precise shape of these furnaces cannot be pinned down with any exactitude. A good guess,
based upon archeological data, is that the furnace would have resembled a lime kiln, with a vertical shaft
and an opening at the bottom. 125 Joyce Baldwin, citing the work of R. J. Forbes offers a description of such
a kiln discovered in Mesopotamia and dated to 2000 B. C.:126

The furnace resembles a railway tunnel blocked at one end but with an
entrance at the other. Uprights at frequent intervals support the dome
and serve as ventilation shafts also. Charcoal provides the heat, and it
is estimated that the temperature would have been 900-1000.
The men would have been dropped into the furnace from the top of the vertical shafts; there would
have been doors or openings on the side through which the executions could be watched. Under normal
circumstances, death would have been instantaneous.
118

Van Pelt, 125.

119

Rosenthal 79; BDB, 1098.

120

KB2, 1843.

121

Rosenthal, 81.

122

KB2, 1829.

123

See the following discussions: Collins, Daniel, 184-85; Goldingay, 70; Montgomery, 202.

124

See 2 Maccabees 7; 13.

125

Slotki, 23; see also on this point Goldingay, 70; Baldwin, 103; Montgomery, 202.

126

Baldwin, 103 n 3.

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Blazing [ (Peal, participle, fm, sg)] fire almost seems to be a redundancy. The
participle may be translated burning.127 The same root is used in the Hebrew Bible to symbolize the wrath
of God.128 Joyce Baldwin speculates that the apparent redundancy may be a way of expressing a
superlative.129
3:7a-b Immediate Compliance Therefore, at the time, when all the people heard the sound of a horn, a
flute, a lyre, a trigon, harp and every sound of music; all the people, nations, and tongues fell and
worshiped the statue of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
The sentence records the immediate consequence among the populace. Human nature being what
it is and the power of fear doing what it does; the masses fall in line. What is more, we may assume that
Daniel and his friends were fully aware of the edict and the universal conformity. At this point, the stage is
set for what comes next.
Genre of the paragraph
The demarcation between the first paragraph [Dan 3:1-7] and the next [Dan 3:8-12] is the shift in
key players between the two paragraphs. In paragraph one [3:1-7], Nebuchadnezzar and his minions are
the key players: Nebuchadnezzar creates a statue [3:1]; king Nebuchadnezzar assembles his minions [3:23]; then, one of his minions, a herald, relays Nebuchadnezzars edict [3:4-6], which all the people dutifully
obey [3:7].
The next paragraph [Dan 3:8-12] has new players: astrologers [3:8a] who witness to the fact that
the Jews resist the edict of paragraph one [3:8b]. These astrological snitches unveil the charge against the
resisting Jews [3:9-12].
Obviously, there is a plot line beginning to develop here. Daniel 3:1-7 serves to launch the
problem soon to confront the heroes of Daniel 3. Accordingly, this opening gambit in the plot is an
introductory narrative: report of the veneration of a statue. 130 As a report, the reader may assume that
the writer intends that 3:1-7 be read as a narrative concerning this single event that occurred at some time in
the past.
The function of this report is to unleash the challenge soon to be faced by the three heroic Jews in
the narrative. This challenge, initiated by the political leader of the nation and acknowledged by his
administration and population, is idolatry, specifically, the idolatry of politics. Clearly, the idolatry of the
political-military leader of Babylon was intended to be and in fact had become the national norm.
Daniel 3:8-12 Witness: Paying No Heed to the Idolatry of Politics
Translation
(3:8)
Because of this, at that time, certain Chaldeans drew near; and maliciously
accused the Jews. (3:9) They spoke and said to king Nebuchadnezzar: O King, live forever! (3:10) You,
O King, made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of a horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp and bagpipe,
and all kinds of music; is to fall and worship the statue of gold. (3:11) And, whoever does not fall and
worship; is to be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. (3:12) Now, there are certain Jews whom
127

KB2, 1893; also BDB, 1096; Holladay, 408.

128

For this use of the root [] in the Hebrew Bible, see Robin Wakely, , in
NIDOTTE [H3678].
129

Baldwin, 103; for the superlative expressed via synonyms in Hebrew, see Christo H.J. van der
Merwe, Jackie A. Naud and Jan H. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 2000), 236.
130

Collins, FOTL, 53.


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you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men do not show proper respect to you O king, your god they do not serve, nor the statue of
gold that you set up, they do not worship.
Subject of the paragraph
The subject of Daniel 3:8-12 is the witness against the three resistant Jews. The first paragraph
launched the challenge to their faith: The national demand for and favorable response to the idolatry of
politics. Nebuchadnezzar was intent on solidifying his hold on power via wedding religion fall and
worship the statue with his regime. Between the event reported in that paragraph and the events narrated
in 3:8-12, the three Jews resisted. Naturally, there were those who noticed and witnessed to their
resistance. In the course of witnessing to the Jewish resistance, the Chaldeans make explicit what was
surely implicit in the decree to begin with: Worshiping the statue really is the idolatry of political power;
the witnesses affirm: Your god they do not serve. One must conform to the idolatrous use of religion to
boost political power or resist it.
Paragraph sense
The Witnesses
(i)
(ii)

[Back reference to paragraph one, 3:8a] Because of this, at that time, certain Chaldeans drew near
[effect of (i), 3:8b] and maliciously accused the Jews
The Witness: Paying No Heed

(iii)
(iv)

[clarification of (ii), 3:9a] They spoke and said to king Nebuchadnezzar:


[hortatory honorific] O King, live forever!
Witness: The National Obsession with Political Idolatry

(v)
[assertive, 3:10a] You, O king, made a decree
(vi)
[elaboration of (v), 3:10] that every man who hears the sound of a horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp
and bagpipe, and all kinds of music is to fall and worship the statue of gold
(vii)
[Contrast to (vi), 3:11] But, whoever does not fall and worship is to be cast into the midst of a
furnace of blazing fire
Witness: Paying No Heed
(viii)
[assertive: naming the resisters, 3:12a] Now, there are certain Jews whom you appointed over the
administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
(ix)
[elaboration of (viii): the charge, 3:12b] these men do not show proper deference to you, O king
(x)
[further elaboration of (ix), 3:12c] your god they do not serve nor the statue of gold that you set up
they do not worship.

Exposition
Daniel 3:8
The Witnesses
maliciously accused the Jews.

(3:8) Because of this, at that time, certain Chaldeans drew near; and

3:8a
Because of this, at that time, certain Chaldeans drew near is a sentence that carries the report
forward. Dan 3:8a links the current paragraph with the preceding paragraph that reports the legalization of
political idolatry, thus setting up the conflict for those who would resist.
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Because of this [ ] pinpoints the reason behind that these witnesses to


resistance are about to say.131 The narrator wants the reader to understand that the basis for what the
witnesses more or less accurately report is based in the law of the land as decreed by executive order in
Daniel 3:1-7.
At that time [] is a prepositional phrase that may indicate that these witnesses
wasted no time in communicating with Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, Rosenthal translates this phrase: at this
very moment.132 At the very moment when these men determined that the Jews had not done their duty, the
Chaldean informants were off to the authorities. It might be well to note that it took informants to make the
king aware of this resistance to the law of the land. The three Jewish lads did not draw attention to
themselves, nor did they make a public issue of their defiance. They simply and quietly followed the
dictates of their consciences informed by their faith in Yahweh.
Certain Chaldeans uses a noun [] that is translated in the English versions with either
Chaldeans or astrologers. Kohler-Baumgartner goes with Chaldeans in 3:8a,133 as does Holladay.134
BDB adds the interesting note here that the noun [] points to Chaldeans, by race.135 Malcolm
Horsnell notes that this term [] mainly depicts Chaldeans as dwellers in Babylon.136 There may
be a deeper point here. If we take Youngs suggestion to the effect that Chaldeans in contrast to Jews 137
is in view, then some level of ethnic tension may well be in play. These foreign upstarts138 were outsiders
who were already in positions of considerable power in distinction to the insiders.
Maliciously accused the Jews teases out what they did in drawing near to Nebuchadnezzar. The
main verb, maliciously accused [ (noun, ms, pl, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)
(Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms, pl)], is interesting. Literally, the idiom is: eat the pieces of, which
amounts to slander or backbiting in Dan 3:8b.139
Kohler-Baumgartner takes a different point of view. Drawing upon an Akkadian cognate, the
noun [] points to an accusation or possibly an unfounded accusation; in Imperial Aramaic as well as
Egyptian Aramaic, a similar cognate [] also describes an accusation; in Syriac, a qarts is an
accuser.140 Moreover, analyzing the collocation we have here [ ], KB affirms that the
idiom in Dan 3:8b means: to take legal proceedings against or simply to accuse.141 BDB opts for to accuse
maliciously.142
131

For this phrase as causative, see Bauer-Leander 69 q; BDB, 1110.

132

Rosenthal 89.

133

KB2, 1903.

134

Holladay, 409.

135

BDB, 1098.

136

Malcolm Horsnell, , in NIDOTTE [H4169].

137

Young, 88.

138

Slotkis designation, 23.

139

Holladay, 420.

140

KB2, 1974.

141

Ibid.
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The Septuagint translator uses a verb [] that is employed in Classical Greek in the sense
of [1] to create quarrels among people, and then [2] to accuse, attack [a persons character], slander; the
Septuagint sense of this verb suggests to denounce.143 This is the only occurrence of this phrase in the
Aramaic OT.
Montgomery goes with the denunciation notion, rendering the phrase with calumniate.144 Driver
and Porteous note that the phrase denotes to accuse maliciously; Porteous notes, The accusation was not a
false one, since the men had undoubtedly refused to conform to the kings order, but it was definitely
malicious.145
The upshot is that the phrase does signify denunciation, an attack on the character of these Jews.
Daniel 3:9-12
The Charge: Paying No Heed
(3:9) Then, they spoke and said to king
Nebuchadnezzar: O King, live forever! (3:10) You, O king, made a decree that every man who hears the
sound of a horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp and bagpipe, and all kinds of music is to fall and worship the
statue of gold. (3:11) But, whoever does not fall and worship is to be cast into the midst of a furnace of
blazing fire. (3:12) Now, there are certain Jews whom you appointed over the administration of the
province of Babylon, (namely) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men do not show proper
deference to you; your god they do not serve, nor the statue of gold that you set up, they do not worship.
Daniel 3:9-12 carries forward the denunciation reported in Dan 3:8. Daniel 3:9-12 teases out the
gory details of the denunciation, including its basis in the law of the land [Dan 3:10-11] and the indictment
[Dan 3:12].
Daniel 3:10-11 has already been discussed and the reader is referred to those notes; the language is
the same. We pick the report up at the point of the indictment of the Jews by the Chaldean witnesses.
3:12
The Indictment: Resistance Paying No Heed
Now, there are certain Jews whom you
appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, (namely) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men do not show proper deference to you; your god they do not serve, nor the statue of gold
that you set up, they do not worship.
Daniel 3:12 consists of two elements: [1] the publication of those who are named in the indictment
[3:12a] and [2] the charges contained in the indictment [3:12b]. The reader will appreciate that it takes
these Chaldean witnesses to denounce the resistant Jews. The three heroes of the story quite clearly resist
in solitude; they do nothing to protest legally or publically; they do nothing to call attention to the affront
that results from Nebuchadnezzars use of executive privilege. They simply resist.
3:12a Now, there are certain Jews whom you appointed over the administration of the province of
Babylon is a sentence that is punctuated with a zqp qtn after the proper noun, Babylon. This
punctuation mark indicates a slight pause in the reading of the line.

142

BDB, 1111.

143

Moiss Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, 5
vols., vol. 1, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2014), 691 [hereafter abbreviated NIDNTTE].
144

Montgomery, 204; similarly Young, 88; Keil, 125; Slotki, 23; Pter-Contesse and Ellington,
79; Baldwin, 103.
145

Norman W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965), 59; see
also Driver, Daniel, 40.
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There are certain Jews [ ] is an assertive line, opening


with a nominal predicator of existence: there are []. The term simply means existence and takes
on the sense of there is.146 Bauer-Leander notes that the particle means is existing and underlines the
reality or the actuality of the assertion in the context.147
Certain Jews [ ] is very interesting, especially the noun, certain
[ (noun, common, ms, pl)]. First, the noun [] may be translated male or
adult.148 At the same time, it may be used more idiomatically in the sense of certain149, or some150, as it is
here. Second, the same noun, certain [], is used of the Chaldeans who bring the indictment
in Dan 3:8. The repetition of the noun is suggestive: certain Chaldeans [3:8] certain Jews [3:12]. At
the very least, the repetition heightens the tension of all parties to this episode. What is more, and this is
speculative, there may be a hint here of ethnic tension as well: certain Chaldeans certain Jews. Finally,
since the repetition of certain serves the purpose of heightening tension, it is unwise for the reader to draw
further conclusions. Specifically, it is unwarranted to speculate one way or another as to whether other
Jews worshiped the statue. The fact is that we simply do not know. The focus of the account is on those
who did not worship.
Whom you appointed [ ] is a relative clause, designed to give
more complex background information on those who are named in the indictment.
You appointed [ (Pael, perfect, 2nd, ms)] is written in the Pael stem of the verb, which
is a causative stem.151 These Jews are where they are because Nebuchadnezzar installed them. The verbal
root [] means to appoint or install.152
Over the administration of the province of Babylon is the task to which these resisters were
appointed. The noun translated administration [ (noun, fm, sg, construct] points to service or
administration.153 The upshot is this: The task for which these men were appointed indicates a high office
in the ranks of political and governmental administration. So far, there is nothing particularly remarkable
here; the Chaldeans are simply rehearsing what everyone in the room knows.
The interesting point is that this sentence in Dan 3:12 appointed over the administration of the
province of Babylon is almost word-for-word for what we read in Dan 2:49. In 2:49, Nebuchadnezzar
appoints the three Jews to their post at Daniels request. We have speculated, and speculation is all that it
is, that these certain Chaldeans were racially incensed at certain Jews being appointed to such elevated
administrative positions. Baldwin notes that the Chaldean accusers are well aware of the circumstances
in which these Jews were appointed and they resent the kings promotion of foreigners over their heads. 154

146

KB2, 1812.

147

Bauer-Leander 98 t-u; see also Rosenthal 96.

148

KB2, 1841.

149

BDB, 1086.

150

Bauer-Leander 93 h.

151

Van Pelt, 131; Rosenthal 99; Bauer-Leander 76 i.

152

KB2, 1920; BDB, 1101.

153

KB2, 1942; see also Rosenthal, 92; BDB, 1105.

154

Baldwin, 103-04.
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Tremper Longman also sees professional jealousy at work.155 There is nothing in these speculations that
is denied by the context; they may well be true.
3:12a (namely) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego rounds out the naming of those charged in the
following indictment.
3:12b These men do not show proper deference to you is the first charge in the indictment of the
witnesses; 3:12b is the second: Your god they do not serve, nor the statue of gold that you set up, they do
not worship. The first charge is political in nature: They do not show proper deference; the second charge
is more religious in nature: Your god, they do not serve the statue they do not worship. Both charges
are opposite sides of the same coin: The union of politics with religion; the net effect is intended to be the
idolatry of politics, which these three Jews resist on penalty of death.
3:12b These men do not show proper deference to you is the opening charge in the indictment; the
substance of the indictment is surely true; these Jews actually did resist the idolatry of politics.
Do not show proper deference [ ] is both the heart of the charge vis--vis
the military-political leader of Babylon, and at the same time, the witness as to how these monotheistic
Jews resisted this idolatry. The charge is a collocation of a negated verb, do not show [
(Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms, pl)], followed by the noun that completes the thought of the verb, proper deference
[ (noun, common, ms, sg)].
Do not show proper deference is written in the perfective aspect. The action is viewed as a whole
and probably signifies a state of being:156 The context supports reading this perfect aspect verb as a perfect
of persistent situation; these three Jews at some point in the immediate past began to resist showing proper
deference to the king and they are still doing so. 157
Do not show proper deference [ ] means: that these Jews [1] are not
concerned about the decree or [2] they have no regard for it in Daniel 3:12.158 BDB goes with pay due
regard to.159 Holladay opts for: take into consideration.160 Robert OConnell notes that this collocation
means that these three Jews paid no attention to what the king had decreed.161 J. Schpphaus notes that
this collocation denotes careful perception or the lack of it in Daniel 3:12 in the sense of direct attention to
or pay heed to.162
The Septuagint tradition varies. One Septuagint tradition has:
they do not stand in awe of your decree. Another Septuagint tradition has:
they do not obey [or possibly attend to or give an ear to] your public decree.
As far as the commentaries go, there is variability here too. Pter-Contesse and Ellington suggest:
[1] pay no heed to, [2] have disobeyed, [3] have paid to respect to, [4] have disregarded, and [5] have
155

Longman, 100.

156

Van Pelt, 82.

157

Comrie, 60.

158

KB2, 1986.

159

BDB, 1113.

160

Holladay, 407.

161

Robert H. OConnell, , in NIDOTTE [H3247].

162

J. Schpphaus, , in TDOT, vol. V, 346.


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ignored.163 Collins opts for: have paid no attention to you.164 Goldingay translates: they have not taken
any notice of you.165
So, what exactly have these three Jews done? What is the charge being leveled by those who
witnessed their behavior? For openers, the charge deciphers the Jews attitude toward the king [ (to
you)] and this has a bearing on how the collocation [ ] may be read. That is, we
could go with [1] have no regard for you, [2] do not pay due regard to you, [3] do not pay heed to you, or
possibly [4] do not stand in awe of you.
Accordingly, the indictment is this: the Jews are resistant to the imperial authority as he oversteps
his boundaries, at least from their theologically informed point of view. The decree, forcing idolatry upon
them, leaves them unaffected, unreceptive, defiant, resistant. Do not show proper deference to is another
way of saying there are limits to the demands the king can make upon us. As far as Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego are concerned, this royal power-player, like any tyrant, has reached his cutoff point, his
threshold; there is a stage beyond which blind obedience to an idolatrous demand collides with Biblically
informed conviction and spiritually vigilant conscience. Assent to a decree, no matter how widespread and
fashionable, how majestic and stately, how authoritative and controlling, any decree that prompts violation
of the first commandment forces these three to quietly but firmly resist. Consequently, the charge is that
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego discount the power and authority of Nebuchadnezzar, and thus refuse
to abide by his decree. At the political and governmental level, the authority of the state of Babylon is
restricted in terms of its influence over them. They know where and when to draw a line.
3:12b Your god they do not serve, nor the statue of gold that you set up, they do not worship is the
second half of the indictment as brought by the witnesses.
As noted, the first element of the charge [Dan 3: 12b] is directed toward defiance of the political
leader of the state of Babylon; now, this second component of the indictment [3:12b] is more religious in
its nature, focusing as it does on resistance to serving and worshiping the kings god. When put together,
Daniel 3: 12b and 3:12b is an attempt to put religion [3:12b] in the service of politics [3: 12b].
Indeed, the reader will observe the subtle intermingling of your god [the deity, religion] and the statue of
gold [Nebuchadnezzar, the politician]. Nebuchadnezzar has had many successors.
The parallelism between these lines is telling:
(participles) (front-loaded)
(front-loaded)

(participles)
your god,

they do not serve

the statue of gold they do not

worship

that you set up

In the Hebrew lines, the objects of the verbs are both front-loaded and introduced with a
preposition [], which functions to mark off the accusative case or the direct object of the two verbs.
Accordingly, in the first line your god is parallel to the statue of gold that you set up. Then, the verbs in
both lines are Peal participles. Accordingly, they do not serve [Peal participle] is parallel to they do not
worship [Peal participle].
The function of this parallelism is to emphatically second the statement in the first line with the
statement in the second line. The net effect is that the first line your god they do not serve is defined or
163

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 81.

164

Collins, Daniel, 186.

165

Goldingay, 65.
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carried further or clarified by the second line the statue of gold they do not worship.166 The import of
this parallelism is to forge a close unity between the deity and the statue, between religion and politics.
3:12c Your god they do not serve is part of the witnesss indictment; they begin with the Jews
dismissive attitude to the deity. What is more, in 3:12c the connection between religion and politics is made
explicit, since the correlation is made between a deity - your god - and the king himself - the statue of gold
that you set up.
Your god [] uses a term for the deity [] in Biblical Aramaic that is used of [1]
Yahweh, or [2] heathen deities, as it is here.167 In particular, the deity [] in question is a Babylonian
deity.168
The Old Testament does mention some of these Babylonian gods. In Jeremiah 50:2, the prophet
mentions two of them: Bel [] and Marduk []. Of these two, pride of place goes to
Marduk [] who the god of the city of Babylon and the chief god of the empire.169 To be sure,
Marduk [] was considered to be the active head of the pantheon. 170 Indeed, the other name
Jeremiah mentions, Bel [], became a second name for Marduk [], originally a term that
meant Lord.171
Isaiah 46:1 mentions another Babylonian god, Nebo []. The Theological Wordbook of the
Old Testament tells us this about Nebo:172
Nabu was the protector of the sciences (which were in the realm of
Enki-Ea), the patron of the scribal art, and a god of wisdom (as was Ea
and Marduk). His spouse was Tashmeturn ("hearing") and he was
known to be "wide of hearing" (ready to hear). His popularity grew
steadily until ezidas (his temples) could be found in every major city of
Babylon and Assyria.
Finally, regarding Nebo [], this name is contained within the name of the king,
Nebuchadnezzar. Kohler-Baumgartner translate the name, Nebuchadnezzar []
with Nabu has protected the son who will inherit. 173 Nabu as protector is significant for the king, since
in the Babylonian pantheon, Nabu presided over the records of fate [emphasis mine], of which he is the
announcer.174 If the statue contained some image of Nebuchadnezzars god, then one might give serious
consideration to Nabu. TWOT notes that Nebos symbol was a wedge on a pole, representing either the
166

For the concept of emphatic seconding, see James L Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 51-52.
167

BDB, 1080.

168

KB2, 1813.

169

KB1, 632.

170

William Foxwell Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns,

1990), 125.
171

KB1, 132; see also BDB, 1078.

172

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed., R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr.,
and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1279 [hereafter abbreviated TWOT].
173
174

KB1, 660.
Alfred S. Geden, Studies in the Religions of the East (London: Charles Kelly, 1913), 173.

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cuneiform script or a sighting instrument used in astronomy.175 This symbol would not appear to be very
difficult to reproduce.
2 Kings 17:30 mentions two Babylonian deities: Succoth-benoth [ ] and
Nergal []. The former, Succoth-benoth [ ], refers to a Babylonian deity.
Evidently, the name develops from Tsarpanitu, a name that means the shining one and then develops into
Zer-bnitu, which means the creator of seed.176 The latter name, Nergal [], refers to a god of
the city of Cuth. Nergal [] was a god who was a personification of death, and became lord of
the world below.177
The net effect is that Daniel 3:12c references a god, unidentified, of the Babylonian pantheon.
Just as the writer of Daniel was sparing in his details of the statue in Dan 3:1, so here, he is economical in
his depiction of the god. The point is less with the details and more with the theology, unpacked in the two
main verbs of Dan 3:12 serve and worship.
Serve [ (Peal, participle, ms, pl)] comes from a root [] that means either [1] to
venerate, fear, respect, or [2] to serve.178 The Septuagint traditions translate with the Greek verb
. In Classical Greek, the verb means [1] to be in the servitude of, [2] to be subject to or enslaved
to, [3] to serve, [4] to obey, [5] to be devoted to.179
This verb is used elsewhere in Daniel to describe Daniels unswerving and uncompromising
devotion to God [Dan 6:17, 21]. The verb is also used in reference to One like a son of man [Dan 7:14]
as well as the kingdom of the saints of the Most High [Dan 7:26]. In the first passage [Dan 7:14],
has the sense of submission to the dominion, glory, and kingship of this Son of Man figure. To be sure,
there is veneration here, but, at the same time, veneration would seem to issue forth in across-the-board
devotion of ones life to this Son of Man figure.
So, the sum of the matter is this: service [] implies unquestioned and supreme commitment
to this god and none other. Service [] includes loyalty that is undivided and devoutness that is
obvious and animated. When the witnesses charge, in the indictment, that these three Jews do not serve
[] Nebuchadnezzars god, they are indicting them for indifference to this god, for disdain for this
god, for defiance of this god, and for ungodly irreverence for this god; these Jews neither revere nor fear
nor respect nor work for this proxy for one mans unquenchable thirst for power.
3:12c Nor the statue of gold that you set up, they do not worship is the clarification, the emphatic
seconding of the statement in the first line. The net effect is that 3:12c your god they do not serve is
defined or carried further or clarified by 3:12c nor the statue of gold that you set up, they do not
worship.
The striking point about these two lines is the elaboration of your god [3:12c] via the statue of
gold [3:12c ]. The challenge for the Jews rested in identifying this statue of gold as a deity, a god. The
ordeal represents the conflict between worship of the true God and the humanistic use of religion to boost
the power of the rulers of this world.180 The statue of gold was to be worshiped.

175

TWOT, 1279.

176

KB1, 753.

177

Geden, 173; see also Albright, 139.

178

KB2, 1957; BDB, 1108.

179

LSJ, 1032.
Baldwin, 99.

180

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Worship [ (Peal, participle, ms, pl] has already been used in Daniel 3:5 and points to
paying homage to.181 BDB adds do homage (by prostration).182 Terence Fretheim observes that this verb
reinforces the idea of obeisance.183 There is, therefore, a psychological sense of veneration, of profound
honor, attached to paying homage to; it seems to connote devotion to an admitted superior. The net effect
is that worship [] is directed toward what is ultimate in ones life.
Accordingly, the elaboration of 3:12c your god they do not serve is defined or carried further
or clarified by the three Jews refusal to nominate Nebuchadnezzar and his god and his kingdom as an
object of worship []; these three resisted appointing this god as that which was decisive or
definitive; they resisted designating this god as final and absolute; they resisted taking this god for what
was supreme, uppermost or dominate to them. In a nutshell, this charge in the indictment is the accusation,
true on the face of it, that these three monotheistic Jews resisted embracing this god, and, by implication,
this political power-player and the kingdom for which he stood, as ultimate.
Genre of the paragraph
The demarcation of this paragraph [Dan 3:8-12] is signaled by the change in key players. In Dan
3:1-7, the key players are Nebuchadnezzar and his henchmen who publish his decree. Then, in the
following paragraph, Dan 3:13-18, Nebuchadnezzar once more is front and center. What is more, the three
heroes in the account make their first appearance and deliver their monumental statement of resistance
[Dan 3:16-18]. Accordingly, Daniel 3:8-12 is a discreet paragraph in the plot line of Daniel 3.
Overall, Daniel 3:8-12 is a narrative, a report, on events that occurred in the wake of the state
decree in Dan 3:1-7. Beginning with Dan 3:9-12 the report discloses an accusation against the Jews. That
is, Dan 3:9-12 is a speech alleging that someone has broken the law or otherwise done wrong. 184 The net
effect is that Daniel 3:8-12 may be read as an historical report of an accusation or indictment that was
actually published.
The function of the report of the indictment is to advance the plot line, building tension as the
resisters confront the legal authority of their nation state [Dan 3:16-18]. The challenge of idolatry [Dan
3:1-7] is resisted head on by pure resistance of the law of the land.

Daniel 3:13-18 Resistance: Defying the Idolatry of Politics


Translation
(3:13) Then, Nebuchadnezzar, in raging fury, commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego be brought; immediately, these men were brought into the presence of the king. (3:14) Then,
Nebuchadnezzar spoke to them: Is it true Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that my god you do not
181

KB2, 1937; see also Holladay, 414.

182

BDB, 1104.

183

Terence Fretheim, , in NIDOTTE [H6032].

184

Collins, FOTL, 105.


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serve nor the statue of gold that I set up, you do not worship? (3:15) Now, if you are ready, at the time
when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every sort of music, you will fall
and worship the statue that I made (it is well and good); but, if you do not worship, at this very moment,
you will be cast into the midst of a furnace blazing with fire, and who is the god who can rescue you from
my hand? (3:16) So, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king: O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do
not need to defend ourselves before you. (3:17) If our God whom we serve decides to rescue us from the
furnace of blazing fire, then from your hand, O king, He will deliver! (3:18) But if not, let it be known to
you, O king, that your god we will not serve, nor the statue of gold that you set up, we will not worship.
Subject of the paragraph
The subject of Daniel 3:13-18 is resistance. To be sure, the resistance is now public and directed
to the creator of the law of national idolatry. In the first paragraph [Dan 3:1-7], the stage was set for this
resistance by the state launching the confrontation with the monotheism of these Jews. Then, in the second
paragraph [Dan 3:8-12], we learn, through witnesses, of the silent and private resistance to this law of the
land. Now, the plot thickens; the resisters are publically and directly confronted by the ultimate power in
the state [Dan 3:13-18]. And, in this paragraph that is surely the centerpiece of Daniel 3, the resisters
directly, unambiguously, and publically resist and defy the states demand that they idolize the realm of
Nebuchadnezzar.
Paragraph sense
Official response: unbridled rage
(i)
(ii)

[Temporal continuation of narrative] Then, Nebuchadnezzar in raging fury commanded that


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego be brought;
[Temporal sentence; immediacy in light of (i)] immediately, these men were brought into the
presence of the king.

Interrogation
(iii)

[Temporal sequencing in light of (i-ii)] Then, Nebuchadnezzar spoke to them:


Review of the indictment

(iv)

[Interrogative opens (iii)] Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that my god you do
not serve, nor the statue of gold that I set up, you do not worship?
Opportunity to recant

(v)
(vi)

(vii)
(viii)
(ix)

[Temporal/conditional line; now in light of (iv)] Now, if you are ready,


[the condition/terms of readiness] at the time when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre,
trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every sort of music, you will fall and worship the statue that I
have created (it is well and good);
[Adversative to (v-vi)] but, if you do not worship,
[Consequence of (vii)] at this very moment, you will be cast into the midst of a furnace blazing
with fire,
[Veiled assertion in light of (vii-viii)] and who is the god who can rescue you from my hand?

Resistance: defying the idolatry of politics


(x)

[Temporal line; next event in report] So, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king:
Defiance

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Loren Lineberry, 2014

[Assertive following (x)] O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.
[Conditional statement advancing (xi)] If our God whom we serve decides to rescue us from the
furnace of blazing fire, then from your hand, O king, He will deliver!
Resistance

(xiii)
(xiv)

[Adversative line following (xii)] But if not, let it be known to you, O king,
[Statement of resistance, clarifying (xiii)] that your god we will not serve, nor the statue of gold
that you set up, we shall not worship.

3:13
Official response: unbridled rage Then, Nebuchadnezzar, in raging fury, commanded that
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego be brought; immediately, these men were brought into the presence of
the king.
This brief set-up to the confrontation offers some background on the kings state of mind [3:13a]
as well as the speed with which the noncompliant Jews are brought before him [3:13b].
3:13a Then, Nebuchadnezzar, in raging fury, commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego be
brought is a line that is punctuated with an `atnach, signaling the major break in the verse.
In raging fury [ (conjunctive waw, noun, fm, sg) (preposition, noun, ms, sg)]
is the writers assessment of the kings state of mind. We have in this collocation two nouns united into a
single concept, a hendiadys. The reader must, therefore, understand these terms as a unified appraisal of
the royal state of mind.
In raging fury [ ] may be translated as a single idea with: [1] in impassioned
anger, [2] in furious anger, or [3] in furious rage.185
The noun translated rage [] identifies rage at such an intensity that one trembles. Thus, the
rage of Nebuchadnezzar is visible in his physical shaking. Van Pelt and Kaiser affirm that this noun, rage
[], expresses the type of fierce anger that is often accompanied by shaking. 186 The reader may
infer that the raging fury or the impassioned fury could be seen in the kings physical demeanor: he was
trembling with rage.
Fury [] is a substantive that is associated with venom or poison in Semitic cognates.187 G.
Sauer, commenting on the Aramaic noun [] in Daniel 3:13, notes that its meaning is excitement,
wrath and is derived from a term that means venom, foam. 188 K.-D. Schunck claims that the notion of
being hot (through the action of poison, wine, or excitement) probably furnishes the point of departure
for the various meanings of the noun. As far as the origin of this level of rage, we may reasonably
speculate that Nebuchadnezzar was incensed at being defied.
3:14
Interrogation
So, Nebuchadnezzar spoke to them: Is it true Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that my god you do not serve nor the statue of gold that I set up, you do not worship? This sentence
opens the review of the indictment and the opportunity to recant.
Review of the indictment

185

KB, 1978.

186

Miles Van Pelt and Walter Kaiser, Jr., , in NIDOTTE [H8074].

187

KB2, 1877.

188

G. Sauer, , in TLOT I, 435.

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3:14c-d Review of the indictment Is it true Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that my god you do not
serve nor the statue of gold that I set up, you do not worship?
This review of the indictment seems to be marked by amazement mingled with disbelief on the
part of the king. As we shall note, the sense of the line is: Can this actually be true? Perhaps this powerpolitician is not accustomed to such resistance on the part of his subjects.
Is it true [ (interrogative particle, noun, ms, sg)] is an idiomatic expression for: is it
really the truth that?189 That Nebuchadnezzar seems to be asking about the facticity of their behavior
seems to underline his incredulity, his sheer amazement that anyone would resist his edict. One does not
wantonly disregard the law of the land.
The reader may consult previous treatments of the remainder of the verse, since the language does
not change.
Opportunity to recant
3:15
The opportunity to recant
Now, if you are ready, at the time when you hear the sound of
the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every sort of music, you will fall and worship the statue that
I made (it is well and good); but, if you do not worship, at this very moment, you will be cast into the midst
of a furnace blazing with fire, and who is the god who can rescue you from my hand?
This verse presents the three resisters with the opportunity to recant their defiance of the royal
edict. If they do as the law states, then they may still avoid execution. In any event, they are in the
jurisdiction, and therefore the power, of Nebuchadnezzar. He informs them that they really have no other
option.
3:15a Now, if you are ready [ (adjective, ms, pl) (noun, ms, sg,
construct with a 2nd, ms, pl suffix) (conjunction) (particle, adverb)] dangles the way of escape
before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Now [] is an adverb that may be translated now or at this moment.190 The temptation to
cave in to the kings offer must have been intense. He is saying to them, It really isnt too late; at this
moment, you may elude execution.
If [] introduces a conditional clause: if you are ready.191 Obviously, the operative term, the
hook if you will, is ready.
Ready [] is an adjective that describes one who is prepared to accept some course of
action.192 H.G.L. Peels notes that in Aramaic this adjective [] depicts one who is prepared or
willing to undertake some activity.193 Moreover, this adjective is located among a semantic field of Hebrew
terms for acceptance.194 The Septuagint traditions translate the Aramaic adjective with a Greek adverb
[]. When this adverb is used in Classical Greek to describe persons, it designates one who is
ready, active, zealous for a thing, one who is ready to do a thing; when used to describe the human mind, it
189

KB2, 1963; see also Holladay, 418.

190

KB, 1901; or, now, at this time, BDB, 1107.

191

On this point, see KB, 1955; Bauer-Leander 111 a.

192

BDB, 800; KB, 1955.

193

H.G.L. Peels, , in NIDOTTE [H6961].

194

See Acceptance in NIDOTTE.

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portrays one who is resolved to do a thing.195 The adjective form of this root in Classical Greek may signal
one who is immediately available or at the disposal of another.196
Ready [] seems to be used in Dan 3:15a in the sense of willing to accept serving the
kings gods and worshiping at the kings statues. This is the last opportunity these three will have to recant.
Nebuchadnezzar is appealing to their pragmatic side; if they are disposed to accept his offer, all will be
well.
3:15b Fall and worship the statue that I made (it is well and good) is the consequent of the conditional
clause. In other words, this is part of the final offer to recant; this is the way out. Rosenthal notes that the
positive alternative is left unstated in 3:15 and suggests supplying - it is well and good.197
Daniel 3:15a-b is intended, it seems, to give pause to the three resisters. On one level, the
authority figure appeals to their pragmatic side: if you are willing to accept; on another level, he appeals to
their self-preservation instinct: it is well and good; you avoid execution.
3:15c-d But, if you do not worship, at this very moment, you will be cast into the midst of a furnace blazing
with fire is the flip side of opportunity to recant: if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refuse to recant
their principled and defiant stand against worshiping and serving the god and the statue, then execution is
the last option available to them. The reader may reasonably assume that Nebuchadnezzar intends this
statement of the facts to nudge them in his direction. To this end, he gives them one final inducement to
recant.
3:15e Who is the god who can rescue you from my hand is a rhetorical question that presumes a positive
answer: There is no god who can snatch you from my power.198 In a sense, this sentence summarizes the
arrogance of the idolatry of politics. For some men in this world, and the political classes seem to be filled
with them, power is all there is to work for, seize, and retain.
Rescue [ (Shaphel, imperfect, 3rd, ms, with a 2nd, ms, pl, suffix] is written
in the Shaphel stem of the Aramaic verb. This stem is an active causative stem in Aramaic.199 The stem
tells the reader that, as far as the king is concerned, there is no power, excepting his own, which can cause
the deliverance of these three resisters. Moreover, the imperfect aspect of the verb signals simple
futurity.200 In so many words, there is no real hope available to these resisters.
Rescue [] is an Aramaic root that is conjectured to have developed from an Akkadian
word [ezbu] which means in this stem to save or rescue.201 If this is the case, then the sense of rescue

195

LSJ, 704.

196

NIDNTTE, vol. 2, 303.

197

Rosenthal 86; Bauer-Leander 111 f. The name of this kind of construction is aposiopesis,
the suppression of an entire sentence that is necessary to complete the sense of the conditional [GKC 167
a].
198

On the syntax of the question, see Bauer-Leander 103 a.

199

Van Pelt, 151; see also Frederick Greenspan, An Introduction to Aramaic (Atlanta: Society of
Biblical Literature, 2003), 142-43.
200
201

Bauer-Leander 78 f.
Ibid., 45 m.

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[] is the saving intervention of God.202 Kohler-Baumgartner translate the root with rescue.203
BDB opts for deliver.204 Holladay adds save.205
The net effect is this: Nebuchadnezzar issues a defiant challenge to them, born of his own
megalomania; he denies that there is any power on the face of this earth that can cause their deliverance.
The sentence is a direct challenge to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Slotki notes the
arrogance in the rhetorical question and adds a comment from Rabbi Maayenei Hayeshuah, more or less
paraphrasing what Nebuchadnezzar is implying here: 206
Dont trust in your God for I razed His Temple and exiled His nation.
If He could not stand up against me on His home ground, can He even
venture to stand up against me in my land?
The thrust of the challenge to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is declared, quite openly, in the
language of power.
Resistance: defying the idolatry of politics
Defiance
3:16b-17
Defiance
O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need in this matter to reply to you. If
our God whom we serve decides to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, then from your hand, O king,
He will deliver!
In these statements [Dan 3:16b, 17a-b], there is defiance [Dan 3:16b] based upon trust in Yahweh
[Dan 3:17a-b]. Daniel 3:16b implies indifference to the political power of Nebuchadnezzar as he beat his
chest in Dan 3:13-15. What is more, the flip side of the trust issue is stated in no uncertain terms in Dan
3:17a-b.
3:16b O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need in this matter to reply to you is a statement of audacity
mingled with some defiance. The reader should recall the royal brazenness in 3:15e [who is the god who
can rescue you from my hand?]. The verb translated rescue in 3:15e is repeated by the three Jews and
ascribed to Yahweh [Dan 3:17a (the God whom we serve)]. Thus, the three heroes in the report openly defy
the kings rash claim to power in Dan 3:15.
We do not need to reply to you [
] is a line that generates some divergent translations. Collins has: we have no need to
give you an answer;207 Hartman and Di Lella choose: there is no need for us to give you an answer to that
question;208 Pter-Contesse and Ellington go with: we will not try to defend ourselves; 209 Montgomery
202

H.-P. Sthli, , in TLOT II, 867; see also E. Gerstenberger, , in TDOT, vol. X,

203

KB2, 1993.

204

BDB, 1115.

205

Holladay, 421.

206

Slotki, 25.

207

Collins, Daniel, 187.

208

Hartman and Di Lella, 155.

209

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 84.

585.

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opts for: there is no need for us to make a defense before you;210 and Goldingay has: we do not need to
make any response regarding this.211
It may be useful, if not somewhat wooden, to follow the punctuation in the Aramaic text and chew
on the line in small bites as indicated by the accents. This breakdown yields: do not need // we in this
matter // to reply to you.
Do not need [ (Peal, participle, ms, pl) (negative particle)] uses the verbal
root []. In the Peal, this root may be translated to be in need of with the content of the need
indicated by a term with the prefixed preposition [ (to reply to you in this case)].212 BDB translates
need.213 Rosenthal affirms that this root [] developed under Akkadian influence and means needed
or necessary.214
The Septuagint traditions use a noun [] that means: [1] a need in the sense of a something
lacking, or want in the sense of poverty, [2] a request of necessity, [3] then, business or purpose, as in to
what purpose(?) [4] in general, business, employment, function, duty.215 In Classical usage, NIDNTTE
affirms that the term points to the condition of lacking something that is necessary. 216
The sense of do not need then becomes: it is not necessary or, following the Septuagint, it is to no
purpose.
We in this matter [ ] functions to provide the subject, we
[], for the participle that is unmarked for person. 217 At the same time, the personal pronoun,
we [], may be performing double duty here. That is, this personal pronoun, we
[], is used only twice in the Aramaic section of Daniel, here and in Dan 3:17a [our God
whom we [] serve]. Accordingly, the personal pronoun [] in 3:16b [we in this
matter] anticipates the use of the pronoun [] in 3:17a [the God whom we ()
serve]. The function of this anticipatory use is to draw the readers attention to the Jews trust in Yahweh
[Dan 3:17a] as opposed to the empty threat from Nebuchadnezzar [what god can rescue you?].
This observation is also justified based upon the repetition of rescue [] in Dan 3:15 and
3:17. The royal narcissist has claimed that no god can rescue [] these resisters from his juridical
power [Dan 3:15e]; but, the resisters defy him and affirm that that God whom they serve is fully able to
rescue [] them [Dan 3:17a].
The net effect is that the matter [Dan 3:16b] that is in view is the matter of rescue [Dan 3:15e,
17a]. This in turn tells us why it is not necessary to reply to Nebuchadnezzar: God is fully able to rescue.
Case closed!

210

Montgomery, 206.

211

Goldingay, 64.

212

KB2, 1881.

213

BDB, 1093; similarly, Holladay, 406.

214

Rosenthal 188.

215

LSJ, 2002.

216

NIDNTTE, , vol. 4, 681.

217

On this point, see Van der Merwe 36.1.2(i).


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To reply to you [ ] is a clause that fills in the detail concerning that


which is not necessary. Since the God whom these men serve is fully capable of rescuing them, it is
absolutely unnecessary to even respond to the king.
To reply to you [ ] is literally: a word/account [ (noun, ms,
sg)] to answer/return to you [ (Haphel, infinitive construct with a 2nd, ms, suffix)]. The
collocation of this verb [] and noun [] is translated in the sense of give an answer or
simply to respond.218 Holladay opts for to reply for the collocation.219 Rosenthal notes that this noun
[], which he translates with message or word, comes from Persian legal and administrative
language.220 The use of the noun [] in Ezra confirms this legal/administrative usage [Ezra 4:17;
5:7, 11; 6:11]. The only other use of the collocation of this verb [] with this noun [] is
Ezra 5:11, where the sense is simply to make a reply.
The Septuagint translators use a verb [] that means [1] to give answer to, [2] to reply
to a question, [3] to answer the question, [4] then, to answer charges, to defend oneself.221
The net effect is this: Dan 3:16a may be read with equal suitability in either of two ways. First,
the resisters mean to say that we have no need to answer you [in regard to your rhetorical question (who is
the god who can rescue you?). Second, if we take Classical Greek meaning [4] above, then the resisters
intend to say that we have no need to defend ourselves [in regard to your charges (you do not serve nor
worship)]. The immediate context seems to tip the scales in the direction of the first option. After all, in
3:15e, Nebuchadnezzar does ask a question; accordingly, Dan 3:16b reasonably affirms no need to answer
the question. In this reading, a suppressed premise, probably the chief reason for their reticence, is asserted
in the next line: God Himself will, if He chooses, answer for us. Finally, if this reading is conceded, then
the resisters are affirming their defiance of in the form of their indifference to Nebuchadnezzars petty
threat in 3:15e.
3:17a-b If our God whom we serve decides to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, then from your
hand, O king, He will deliver! is a sentence that hangs together as a conditional clause: If then. The
contingency, which the resisters fully accept, teases out the faith behind their defiant indifference in 3:16b.
3:17a If our God whom we serve decides to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire is introduced by
the subordinating conjunction [ (if)], signaling the protasis of a conditional sentence.222 J-M affirms
that the protasis, the condition [if] in this sentence, may be real or unreal.223 In the first case, the real
conditional would be: If our God decides to rescue; in the second case, the unreal conditional would
mean: If our God were to decide to rescue us. The second is more conjectural; the first assumes the
reality of the premise: Our God is able to decide to rescue us. The first option, the real option, relieves
the apparent tension, the intimation of doubt, in the condition, the if our God decides element in the
sentence. Even faithful resisters fully acknowledge the sovereignty of God in this matter. The reality is
that the decision is with Him alone.

218

KB2, 1961.

219

Holladay, 418.

220

Rosenthal 189.

221

LSJ, 204.

222

Rosenthal 86; Bauer-Leander 111 a-b.

223

J-M 167 f.

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Once more, we have a translation conundrum in Dan 3:17a. 224 Many English versions open Dan
3:17a with some variation of if it be so or words to that effect. Evidently, many translators of English
Bibles are intent on ridding the condition, the iffy element in the sentence [see the paragraph above].
Other English versions opt for if our God whom or some variation thereof. If we go with the first variation
if it be so then the sentence opens by focusing on the threat: If the threat becomes reality. However, if
the second variation is accepted, then obviously the focus is on God if our God. But, there is a problem
here also.
The Aramaic text of Dan 3:17a opens with the subordinating conjunction: if []. So far, so
good; but, the next word in the line is a nominal form that is a predicator of existence [], which
literally can be translated exists. The reader can detect the dilemma: the first three words in the Aramaic
text of Dan 3:17a, translated literally, read if exists our God. Back to the drawing board!
The problem is solved by noting that the aforementioned nominal form [] may be used
in Biblical Aramaic as a copula, a connecting word, and may be translated is.225 What is more, the
nominal form [ (is)] is used with the following participle [ (to be able/decides)], giving
the sense: Our God whom we serve is able/decides.226
So, here is the premise, the if portion, that the resisters assume to be true: the God whom we
serve decides to deliver us [Dan 3:17a]. Following the punctuation in the Masoretic text, there are two
clauses here: [1] whom we serve and [2] decides to deliver us.
Whom we serve [ ] is a relative clause, signaled by the relative
marker [] and refers to the God [].
We serve [ (Peal, participle, ms, pl) (pronoun, 1st, pl)] is a participial
clause. The participle indicates, in this case, the ongoing and habitual nature of the resisters service to
God.227
Serve [] has already been used by the writer in Dan 3:12, 14. At that time [see 3:14], we
observed that service [] implies unquestioned and unqualified commitment to God and none other.
Service [] includes loyalty that is undivided and devoutness that is evident and functioning. To
make a long story short, the God whom we serve [] means that their God has the exclusive status in
the lives of the resisters; this God is the ultimate authority in the lives of the resisters; this God has
complete jurisdiction in the lives of the resisters.
Decides to deliver us [ ] is a different translation from most of the
English versions. Many have is able or some variation. Drawing upon the nature of the real conditional
clause [see above], the sense of the premise, embedded in the conditional clause, is: Our God is able (to
decide) to rescue us. We must justify the translation: able (to decide) to rescue us.
The operative verb here [] means in the Peal to be able.228 J.A. Soggin concurs, noting
that the root [] in Biblical Aramaic means to be able.229 The Septuagint traditions use an adjective
224

The expository preacher/teacher/reader must begin with a good reading, an accurate and clear
translation of the text. These matters we are discussing do indeed have relevance for the preacher who
stands behind the pulpit or the teacher in the classroom or house church.
225

Rosenthal 95.

226

On this connection in Dan 3:17, see Bauer-Leander 111 b; for the point, see Baldwin, 104-5;
Collins, Daniel, 187; Young, 91-92.
227

Rosenthal 177.

228

KB2, 1891; also BDB, 1095; Holladay, 408.


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[] to render the Aramaic root []. The Classical Greek adjective [] when used
with an infinitive means: [1] to be able or [2] to be mighty.230 Thus, the Septuagint translators amplify the
power of God by using the adjective []. Robin Wakely affirms that, when God is the subject of the
verb [] followed by an infinitive [ (to deliver)], the collocation in Dan 3:17
promises that if it were in accordance with the divine will and purpose [emphasis mine], the God whom
they served would deliver them. 231 C.F. Keil concurs, noting this about the verb []:
denotes the ethical ability, i.e., the ability limited by the divine holiness and righteousness. 232 The drift is:
Let him do according to his own will. 233
Now, it would seem that Wakelys and Keils recourse to the divine will in this verb [] is
not a matter of its semantic content. Rather, the divine will may be discerned as a result of the verb
[] plus the infinitive complement [] being embedded in a real conditional
clause. Remember, real conditional clauses identify conditions that are real, realized or realizable
[emphasis mine].234 Thus, we may translate thus: If the God whom we serve is able to deliver us (and He
is!). This translation takes into account the realizable nuance of the conditional clause. Accordingly, the
above translation may be smoothed out to respect the reality in the conditional clause as well as the
aforementioned divine will: If the God whom we serve decides to deliver us. This translation avoids the
problem of implied doubt in Gods ability to deliver; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are not risking
their lives and their faith on a doubt, rather, they are frankly admitting the truth of Gods personal
sovereignty in deciding this matter.235
Deliver [] was used in Dan 3:15 in Nebuchadnezzars impertinent challenge to the God
of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: Who is the god who can rescue [] you from my hand? The
repetition is intentional: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are throwing back at this self-important
political power-player his own words. In other words, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are defying
Nebuchadnezzars politically powerful idolatry.
The net effect is this: In Dan 3:17, three Jews are defying the idolatry of politics with its hollow
attempt to exert political power over their consciences. Nebuchadnezzar had presumed the power to dictate
the idolatrous worship of his regime on penalty of death [Dan 3:14-15]; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defy this presumption; there are limits. D.S. Russell summarizes the point:236
There must be a limit to the demands the state can make. It can claim
loyalty and sacrifice on the part of its subjects. But is cannot demand
worship and love. This is to commit sacrilege, to replace the Creator

229

J.A. Soggin, , in TDOT, vol. VI, 72, 74.

230

LSJ, 453.

231

Robin Wakely, , in NIDOTTE [H3523].

232

Keil, Daniel, 127.

233

Ibid.

234

C.L. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987), 259.

235

Again, we have belabored the syntactical point regarding the real conditional clause for a
reason. The expository preacher/teacher/reader, at least among Western readers of conditional sentences,
must communicate that the word if does not necessarily imply intellectual and emotional doubt about the
content of the condition. The phrase, if God is able to deliver, neither doubts nor denies that God has the
ability to deliver; rather it respects the truth that the decision to deliver is His.
236

J.C.L. Gibson, ed., The Daily Study Bible, Daniel by D.S. Russell (Louisville: John Know
Press, 1981), 63.
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with the creature and to bow down before the work of mans hands. it
matters not whether the idol is a potentate or an institution. When it
goes beyond its God-given sanction and claims from its subjects what
God alone can claim, it must stand condemned.
Resistance
3:18
Resistance
But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that your god we will not serve, nor the
statue of gold that you set up, we will not worship
With Dan 3:18, the defiance becomes formally stated by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
God may or may not decide to rescue them. That is up to Him; but, as for these three men, their course was
firm and clear. They would join the resistance: The subordination of religion to politics is worthy only of
resistance; the worship of the regime, regardless of how such veneration is camouflaged, the worship of the
regime is pointblank resisted. The limits of Nebuchadnezzars state are reached and Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego publically inform him of same.
But if not [ ] is set off from the remainder of the line by a punctuation mark [zqp
qtn] signaling a brief pause in the reading of the line. The line is an adversative,237 indicating a contrast
with the preceding statement [Dan 3:17]. In Dan 3:17, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had confessed
their faith in Gods ability to deliver them from Nebuchadnezzars threat. However, they had also
admitted, via the real condition hovering over the entire matter, that the decision was Gods. He may or He
may not decide to deliver them. Regardless but if not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are set to
resist come-what-may.
Let it be known to you [ ] is a modal construction that conveys a
volitional nuance.238
In other words, let it be known signals the speakers intention, their will, to state publically their resistance
to the kings political idolatry.
Known [] is a passive participle. The passive sense of this participle is quite simply be
known.239 More to the point in Dan 3:18, W. Schottroff notes that this use of the verb [] points to
knowledge that results from realization. 240 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are transmitting
knowledge by means of their announcement. 241 The upshot is this: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
expect that Nebuchadnezzar realizes what they have no intention of doing.
The net effect is this: Let it be known is a way of bidding Nebuchadnezzar to recognition, to
awareness, to comprehension of what they intend not to do. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego intend
that realization wedges its way into the kings mind; indeed, they are emphatic in what they are saying.
3:18b Your gods we shall not serve is a sentence that uses its verb in such a way as to underline most
emphatically their absolute resistance to serving the kings god.

237

Bauer-Leander 70 p.

238

On the modal/volitional use of the Aramaic imperfect, see Van Pelt, 96 and Greenspan, 79.

239

KB2, 1888; see also Bauer-Leander 45 d, i, j.

240

W. Schottroff, , in TLOT II, 512.

241

Ibid.

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We shall not [ ] uses the predicator of existence [], or nonexistence in this case, to make the resistance emphatic. Rosenthal notes that originally was
used for emphasis; and so it is here, we shall not worship.242
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego nuance their language in such a way as to leave
Nebuchadnezzar with the realization of their determination to resist: We shall not serve your gods.
Evidently, they are not interested in his accepting their stand; they simply intend that he realizes it. And,
the not-too-subtle point is nuanced with resolve, with tenacity, with steadfastness: we have no intention
whatsoever of serving your gods [Dan 3:18b] nor the statue that you set up [Dan 3:18c].243
3:18c Nor, the statue of gold that you set up, we shall not worship is a sentence that carries forward the
hoped for realization in the mind of Nebuchadnezzar.
With equal emphasis, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego resist every aspect of
Nebuchadnezzars attempt to make a religion of his regime. As noted at 3:5, the verb glossed worship
implies obeisance, deference, submissiveness, compliance, servility. The resistance of these three takes the
form of a refusal to defer to Nebuchadnezzar, his gods, and his state powers. The things that are to be
rendered to God shall not be rendered to Caesar.
Genre
The demarcation of Dan 3:13-18 is signaled by the key players in the paragraph. The key players
in the previous paragraph [3:8-12] were the witnesses. The key players in the paragraph following Dan
3:13-18 are Nebuchadnezzar and the executioners who carry out the sentence of death on Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego [Dan 3:19-23].
What is more, the dialogue between Nebuchadnezzar [Dan 3:14-15] and Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego [Dan 3:16-18] dominates the paragraph in ways that set off this paragraph from those around it.
Indeed, this confrontation between the scion of the state and those who resist makes this paragraph the
centerpiece of Daniel 3. As the showpiece of Daniel 3, the response of the resisters is especially crucial for
reading the chapter correctly.
Overall, Daniel 3:13-18 is a narrative report of two dialogues between the king [Dan 3:13-15]
and the resisters [Dan 3:16-18].
More specifically, the opening dialogue by Nebuchadnezzar fits the genre of interrogation [Dan
3:13-15]. The reader should grasp that this paragraph is an examination of a person on trial by the
presiding judge.244 The reader should attempt to understand what the charges are. The truth or falsity of
the charges remains to be deciphered by the surrounding context. But, the reader must understand just what
the accused is being indicted for.
Then, the accused have their opportunity to speak [Dan 3:16-18] in an address. In this genre, a
religious speech is made in which the addressee is named.245 The reader may appreciate the element of

242

Rosenthal 95.

243

The expository preacher/teacher/reader must communicate the uncompromising stand this


verse communicates. This decision not to bow before the idol of the state is categorical, clear-cut,
unconditional, unqualified, firm. After, this, there is no turning back.
244

Collins, FOTL, 111.

245

Rolf Knierim and Eugene Tucker, ed., The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, vol. XI, 1
and 2 Chronicles by Simon De Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 427 [hereafter abbreviated FOTL, 1
and 2 Chronicles].
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direct confrontation by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego of Nebuchadnezzar. What is more, the
address is characterized by resistance to the politicized religion of the regime.
To be sure, the address is characterized by defiance of the regime in favor of God [Dan 3:16-17]
and by unqualified and unmistakable resistance to the political power-player they were addressing and his
regime [Dan 3:18]. This final statement in the address is one of the finest examples of godly resistance to
an ungodly regime in the book.
Daniel 3:19-23 Retaliation: Paying the Price for Resistance
Translation
(3:19) Then, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and so, his expression was altered on
account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; and so, he gave orders to heat the furnace seven times
more than it was customary to heat it. (3:20) And so, he commanded the mightiest men of his army, to
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; in order to cast them into the furnace with a blazing fire. (3:21)
Immediately, these men were bound in their trousers, their shirts, their hats and other garments; and were
thrown into the midst of the furnace blazing with fire. (3:22) Because the kings decree was so harsh, and
the furnace was heated to excess; the flame from the fire killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego. (3:23) So then, these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; fell into the midst of
the furnace of blazing fire, still bound.
Subject of the paragraph
The subject of Daniel 3:19-23 exposes the consequences of resistance. Retaliation from the state
authority that is snubbed is the price to be paid for resistance. Every line in the paragraph calculates the
cost of resistance. The chief executioner is contorted with a paroxysm of rage [Dan 3:19a], so much so that
the means of execution is markedly grotesque [Dan 3:19b]. Furthermore, disproportionate precautions are
taken to insure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego do not escape their execution [Dan 3:20]. No time
is wasted in the execution, and at the same time, there is a hint of humiliation in the manner of execution
[Dan 3:21]. The harshness of the execution is so severe that those who carry out the sentence are
themselves swept into its inferno [Dan 3:22]. Finally, the paragraph tells the reader that there is no doubt:
these men were thrown, alive, into the crematorium [Dan 3:23].
The paragraph is highly descriptive of the human dynamics accompanying this execution. That is,
the intense rage that fuels it; the excessive cruelty that accompanies it; the desperate speed that discharges
it; the humiliation that attends it; the harshness that drives it; and the inescapabilty that binds it. The reader
can well grasp the unavoidable, the inexorable, and the unpreventable consequences of resistance: the price
must be paid, so count the cost.246
Paragraph sense
Rage
(i)
(ii)
(iii)

[Consecution: the next event in the plot] Then, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage
[Immediate result of (i)] and so his expression was altered against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
[Further consequence of (ii)] so, he gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was
customary to heat it
246

As will be pointed out, Daniel 3:19-23 is a narrative genre. This means, among other things,
that it is a descriptive account of events as they occurred. The expository preacher/teacher/ reader must
read the paragraph with this bit of authorial intent in mind. The writer intends that we as readers grasp the
appalling consequences of resisting the dominion of a megalomaniacal political power-player. The reader
should, therefore, shy away from embellishing this paragraph with criticisms of its morality; the rightness
or wrongness of these executions is not in view. Rather, the inevitability of retaliation, at once grotesque,
outrageous, and monstrous, is the subject of this paragraph. This is one of those count the cost
paragraphs in the book of Daniel.
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Passing sentence
(iv)
(v)
(vi)
(vii)
(viii)

[Consecution: next event in the plot] And so, he commanded the mightiest men of his army
[Substance of the command in (iv)] to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
[Purpose of (v)] in order to cast them into the furnace with a blazing fire
[Immediate consecution of (vi)] Immediately, these men were bound in their trousers, their
shirts, their hats and other garments
[Result of (vii)] and were thrown into the midst of the furnace blazing with fire
Death of the executioners

(ix)
(x)
(xi)

[Reason for (xi) below] Because the kings decree was so harsh
[Further reason for (xi) below] and the furnace was heated to excess
[Assertive sentence] the fire killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
Execution of the sentence upon the resisters

(xii)

[Consecution: next event] Then, these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego fell
into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire, still bound

Daniel 3:19
Rage
Then, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and so, his expression was altered
on account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; and so, he gave orders to heat the furnace seven times
more than it was customary to heat it.
3:19a Then, Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage is a sentence that lays bare the effect upon
Nebuchadnezzar of the resistance by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. When they defied the king and
said in 3:18: Let it be known to you your gods we will not serve nor the statue of gold that you set up we
will not worship; then, the authority figure is filled with rage with those who dare defy him.
Then [] is an adverb that tells us what the kings immediate reaction was to the
resistance in Dan 3:18.247 The defiance in Dan 3:18 triggers an immediate, enraged, response.
Filled with rage [ ] describes the kings immediate reaction. Filled
[ (Hithpeel, perfect, 3rd, ms] is written in the Hithpeel stem, which is passive.248 More than
likely, the passive simply tells us that the king was transformed into a state of intense anger, with no
particular agent in mind. We might turn around the translation and get the sense of the collocation: rage
filled Nebuchadnezzar.
Filled [] in the Hithpeel stem simply means to be filled with followed by the object, rage
in this case.249 L.A. Snijders makes the interesting point that the Hithpeel of filled [] in Dan 3:19
may be translated become filled.250 Furthermore, the sense of becoming filled does convey a nuance of
satiety,251 implying that there is no room for more. The reader may infer that Nebuchadnezzar was
overwhelmed, overpowered, engulfed in rage.

247

For this sense of the adverb, see Rosenthal 89; Bauer-Leander 68 a.

248

For the passive nuance of this stem, see Van Pelt, 125; Bauer-Leander 76 r.

249

KB2, 1915; similarly, Holladay, 411; BDB, 1100; M. Delcor, in TLOT II, 664.

250

L.A. Snijders, , in TDOT, vol. VIII, 297.

251

Ibid., 298.

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Rage [] obviously describes an intense emotion. This noun may be translated as either
rage or fury.252
The term was used in Daniel 3:13. In Dan 3:13, the noun is part of a collocation that describes
raging fury [ ] and is translated as a single idea: [1] in impassioned anger, [2] in
furious anger, or [3] in furious rage. At the time, we noted that the noun translated fury [] in Dan
3:13 identifies fury at such an intensity that one trembles. Thus, the rage of Nebuchadnezzar is visible in
his physical shaking. Moreover, we noted that this noun, rage [] is a substantive that is associated
with venom or poison in Semitic cognates.253 G. Sauer, commenting on the Aramaic noun [] in
Daniel 3:13, notes that its meaning is excitement, wrath and is derived from a term that means venom,
foam.254 K.-D. Schunck claims that the notion of being hot (through the action of poison, wine, or
excitement) probably furnishes the point of departure for the various meanings of the noun.
Rage [] tells us that, once more, the king is boiling with rage. Pter-Contesse and
Ellington read the state of mind of the king as being uncontrollably angry.255 Yet, one cannot avoid
thinking that this uncontrollable rage masks an inner powerlessness when defied by the resistance of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Dan 3:18. Walter Lthi notes in this regard, The man of violence
stands so weak and helpless before the witness of the believing community that he entirely loses his kingly
bearing and speech: The form of his visage was changed. 256
3:19b And so, his expression was altered on account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is a
sentence that describes a consequence of the despots intense and uncontrollable rage: his expression was
altered.
His expression [ (noun, ms, pl, construct, with a 3rd, ms, suffix) (noun, ms,
sg, construct)] is a genitive construction and the verb, was altered [ (Ithpaal, perfect, 3rd, ms)],
is an Ithpaal perfect.
His expression [ ] is literally the image of his face. This is the only
appearance of this phrase in the Aramaic Old Testament. Most translators treat the collocation as an idiom:
[1] facial expression or facial features,257 [2] his expression,258 or [3] his features.259 H. Wildberger
translates this phrase in Dan 3:19 with his facial expression.260 Likewise, F.J. Stendebach translates the

252

KB2, 1877; see also BDB, 1095; and Holladay, 406.

253

KB2, 1877.

254

G. Sauer, , in TLOT I, 435.

255

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 87.

256

Walter Lthi, The Church to Come, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939), 48.

257

KB2, 1964.

258

BDB, 1109.

259

Holladay, 418.

260

H. Wildberger, , in TLOT III, 1080.

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phrase in Dan 3:19 with the image of his face, the expression of his face. 261 Pter-Contesse and
Ellington translate, his face turned red with anger. 262
The lead noun in the phrase [/image] is used in the Aramaic section of Daniel seventeen
times; all but one, Dan 3:19, refers to the image/statue that Nebuchadnezzar made. This juxtaposition of
uses is probably intentional.
Could there be a touch of irony here? G.B. Caird defines irony this way: In its simplest form
irony consists in saying one thing and intending the opposite, usually with sarcasm both in tone and in
intent to hurt or ridicule.263 The sarcasm hinted at may take the form of ridiculing the almighty image the
king attempted to set up as in truth the creation of a petulant, weak, and powerless buffoon. Longman
notes, The one who in his pride has created an image with the purpose of assuring uniform loyalty finds
his own image provoked beyond his control.264
Was altered [ (Ithpaal, perfect, 3rd, ms)] uses the root [] in the Ithpaal stem.
The Ithpaal stem is a variant of the Hithpaal, which as we have seen is passive. The sense of this root
[] in this stem is: to be changed.265
On account of [] is a preposition that is all too often translated against. But, to say that the
kings facial expression was altered against these three is a bit confusing. The translation problem may be
solved by using another perfectly legitimate translation for this preposition [], on account of.266 We
might translate this entire clause more idiomatically: His facial expression altered on account of (at the
very sight of) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
3:19c And so, he gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was customary to heat it is a
sentence that teases out the immediate consequence of Dan 3:19b. The uncontrollable rage [Dan 3:19b]
leads to frenzied orders [Dan 3:19c].
Seven times more [ ] is obviously central to the sense of the line. The first
term [] is an adjective used as a multiplicative, 267 or a multiplier, this time by seven. At once, the
reader gets the idea that there is something feverish and hyperactive in this order. The hysterical idiom
continues with the cardinal numeral [], seven. This numeral is very common in communicating an
action that is unreserved, out-and-out, absolute [Gen 4:15, 24; Prov 6:31]. So it is here in Dan 3:19c. It is
doubtful that this is to be taken literally. Rather, the heat in the furnace was as great as the king could
possibly make it.268
Daniel 3:20-21 Passing sentence And so, he commanded the mightiest men of his army, to bind
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; in order to cast them into the furnace with a blazing fire.
261

F.J. Stendebach, , in TDOT, vol. XII, 391.

262

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 86.

263

G.B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1980;
reprint, 2002), 134.
264

Longman, 100.

265

KB2, 2000; also Holladay, 424; BDB, 1116.

266

BDB, 1106.

267

KB2, 1869.

268

See Baldwin, 105.

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Immediately, these men were bound in their trousers, their shirts, their hats and other garments; and were
thrown into the midst of the furnace blazing with fire.
3:20a And so, he commanded the mightiest men of his army is a sentence that depicts the next event in
the story line. Of particular interest is the fact that Nebuchadnezzar enlists the mightiest men from his
standing army.
The mightiest men [ ] is written as a superlative; these topnotch men continue to signal the unreserved manner in which Nebuchadnezzar is prosecuting this
execution.
Mightiest [] is a genitive construction, literally mighty ones of strength. In
this case, the genitive signals a superlative notion: mightiest men.269 This construction is used in apposition
to the lead noun [] men.270 Robin Wakely notes that the entire phrase, the mightiest men
[ ] in Dan 3:20, points to military men who have acquired a
reputation for outstanding bravery. 271 H. Kosmala concurs noting that this phrase in Dan 3:20 hardly
means anything more than powerful men of his army. 272
The question is: Why such overkill? The text is silent, and any assertions must remain speculative.
At the same time, given the feverish and violent tone to the paragraph thus far, the assignment of the
mightiest men from his standing army may have been little more than an fanatical and impulsive reaction to
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-negos resistance. At the same time, Hartman and Di Lella make a valid
point, especially in light of the ridicule noted above [see image in Dan 3:19]: the need of muscular soldiers
is used by the storyteller both to ridicule the impotence [emphasis mine] of the pagan tyrant and to
emphasize the miraculous [emphasis mine] nature of the martyrs deliverance.273 Beyond this, it is
possible that these precautions were taken to forestall any possible evasion by the Jews of their
punishment.274 Young speculates that the choice of the heftiest men in his army was intended to forestall
any intervention, human or Divine.275
3:21a Immediately, these men were bound in their trousers, their shirts, their hats and other garments is
a sentence that continues the story line, unpacking the next key event in the narrative. Immediately
[] is a construction we have noted in 3:19a. The king and his men are wasting no time.
Were bound [ (Peil perfect, 3rd, ms, pl] is written in the Peil stem of the verb [].
The Peil stem is passive in nature.276 They were acted upon and overpowered. The root [] in the Peil
stem means to be bound.277
Their trousers, their shirts, their hats and other garments is a statement that narrates just how
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into the crematorium: fully clothed. Now, the expository
269

Bauer-Leander 89 i.

270

KB2, 1841.

271

Robin Wakely, , in NIDOTTE [H1504].

272

H. Kosmala, , in TDOT, vol. II, 374.

273

Hartman and Di Lella, 162; see also Porteous, 60.

274

On this point, see Baldwin, 105; Montgomery, 210.

275

Young, 92.

276

Van Pelt, 124; see also Bauer-Leander 80 d.

277

KB2, 1901.
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preacher/teacher/reader may notice if she/he consults a commentary that just what these garments were is
far from certain. At the very least, the reader can appreciate how this statement sets up the miracle
regarding their clothing in Dan 3:27. We can conclude that this much is certain, but there may be more in
play here, as we shall see.
Their trousers [ (noun, ms, pl, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] is taken
from a noun [] that may be translated as an item of clothing, either [1] trousers or a [2] coat.278
BDB opts for mantle.279 Rosenthal affirms that the Aramaic noun [] is derived from Persian and
refers to trousers.280 The Septuagint traditions vary. The Septuagint uses ; Theodotion uses
. The former noun [] refers to an outer garment, an oblong piece of cloth worn
outside the shirt or tunic, a knee-length under shirt.281 The second noun [] refers to a
completely different piece of clothing, loose trousers worn by Scythians, as used in Dan 3:21, 27.282
S.R. Driver notes the uncertainty concerning the Aramaic term []. He opts for mantle, a
long and flowing outer robe extremely susceptible to flames. Driver also acknowledges the Persian sense,
trousers.283
Collins prefers trousers, citing the Talmud, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and the Persian background of the
noun.284
C.F. Keil opts for under-clothing which would be worn next to the body as our shirt. 285
Porteous286 and Young287 simply identify the entirety of their garments as their court or
ceremonial dress.
The upshot is this: we simply are not able to say definitively what article of clothing the writer has
in mind when he writes . Even the Septuagint translators are divided. The Guide chooses
trousers largely on the basis of the Persian influence noted by Rosenthal, an impact noted quite often in the
Aramaic of Daniel.
Shirts [ (noun, ms, pl, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] is also a noun which an
ambiguous pedigree. The term [] is translated by Rosenthal as shirt and is possibly derived from
Persian articles of clothing.288 Kohler-Baumgartner offer a variety of possible cognates, ultimately
278

KB2, 1940; see also Holladay, 415.

279

BDB, 1104.

280

Rosenthal 189.

281

LSJ, 829; see also NIDNTTE, vol. 2, 542.

282

LSJ, 1583.

283

Driver, Daniel, 42.

284

Collins, Daniel, 188; Hartman and Di Lella take a similar position, 158; Goldingay, 66.

285

Keil, 128.

286

Porteous, 60.

287

Young, 93.

288

Rosenthal 189.

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concluding that is an item of clothing which cannot be precisely identified. 289 BDB simply
translates the term [] as garment, citing either tunic or leggings as possible meanings. Holladay
takes the same position.290 The Septuagint traditions both use a noun []291 that means a Persian
head-dress, especially on solemn occasions. 292 This translation mirrors a Syriac term [pet] that is used
in the sense of head covering.293 The Codex Venetus has another term [] that means
trousers.294
Collins cautiously goes with shirt, citing Rosenthal, above.295
Hartman and Di Lella simply translate the noun [] as shirt, but admit that the term is of
uncertain origin.296
The net effect is that this term [] is even more doubtful than the first. The Guide follows
Rosenthal, but frankly, one cannot be dogmatic about this article of clothing.
Hats [ (noun, fm, pl, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] uses a noun
[] that means a cap.297 BDB goes with either helmet or cap.298 Rosenthal opts for hats, as an
article of Persian dress.299 Collins follows suit, translating hat or head covering.300
Other garments [ (noun, ms, pl, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] is the final
item in the list of clothing. The noun [] simply means garment.301 Montgomery notes that this
final piece of clothing can refer to their other garments.302
So, what do we make of this list of clothing? First, at the very least, it would seem that our
previous observation that clothing burns easily should be taken into account. If this is the case, then
narrating that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the crematorium fully clothed may
imply that cruelty was a motivation. Second, if the execution was for public consumption, then naturally,
289

KB2, 1956.

290

Holladay, 417.

291

KB2, 1956.

292

LSJ, 1780.

293

KB2, 1956.

294

Ibid.

295

Collins, Daniel, 189.

296

Hartman and Di Lella, 158.

297

KB2, 1902; see also Holladay, 409.

298

BDB, 1097.

299

Rosenthal 189.

300

Collins, Daniel, 189.

301

KB2, 1907; also BDB, 1098; Holladay, 409; Rosenthal, 88.

302

Montgomery, 213; similarly, Keil, 129.

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these men would be fully clothed. If this is the case, then the chief executioner was intent on making a
public display of these men, possibly as a deterrent. Third, if this list of clothing included their royal court
dress,303 then personal humiliation could well have been an intended outcome.
Daniel 3:22
The death of the executioners
Because the kings decree was so harsh, and the
furnace was heated to excess; the flame from the fire killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego.
3:22a Because the kings decree was so harsh is a statement of the reason for the execution of the
executioners. The operative concept in the line is harshness.
Because [ ] signals causation,304 with the causative
pointing forward to the death of the executioners. 305
Harsh [ (Aphel, participle, fm, sg)] is written as a participle, which may be used in
Aramaic as a simple narrative tense. 306 This tells the reader that the author intends to record a simple
matter of fact.
Harsh [] is translated by most of the English versions with urgent or some other term
amounting to the same thing. The reader may accept this nuance as a possible way of translating the root,
as we shall note presently. At the same time, there is another way of translating the term that has the effect
of diagnosing the quality of this maniacal decree.
Harsh [] `is written in the Aphel stem, which is active and causative.307 The action in the
root is brought into play by the royal despot. The root [] in the Aphel means to be harsh in Dan
3:22.308 Some of the Ancient Near Eastern cognates of the root shed light. For instance, there is a Jewish
Aramaic term that means to behave insolently; there is a Syriac cognate that also points in the direction of
insolence; and there is a Mandaean cognate that is used in the sense of shamelessness or insolence.309 BDB
follows suit, offering for the root []: to show insolence or harshness, or to be overbearing.310
Holladay also goes with to be harsh or severe.311 On the other hand, Rosenthal supports most of the
English versions, offering the sense of to be urgent.312 The net effect is that the royal power-player shows
contempt and cruelty toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

303

See Montgomery, 210 and Young, 93.

304

Bauer-Leander 70 i; see also Rosenthal 86 and Van Pelt, 179.

305

On this point, see BDB, 1110.

306

Rosenthal 177.

307

Van Pelt, 150.

308

KB2, 1879.

309

Ibid.

310

BDB, 1093.

311

Holladay, 406.

312

Rosenthal 115.

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Driver affirms that the king was sharp with them, but this seems a bit benign.313 Pter-Contesse
and Ellington claim that the root [] means that the kings edict was strict and uncompromising. 314
The sum of the matter is this: the cause or better yet the motive that drives Nebuchadnezzar in his
frenzy to realize maximum punishment on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is contempt toward them,
merged with cruelty.
3:22b and the furnace was heated to excess may be read as a further reason for the execution of the
executioners. The key idea in this line is the furnace being heated to excess. This line carries forward the
heavy-handedness of the tyrant.
Excess [ (adverb, fm, sg)] is an adverb that may be translated excessively.315 The root
[] has an Ancient Near Eastern cognate, Mandaean [iatira], that means much too much; in Dan
3:22b, the root [] means exceedingly.316 Holladay translates the adverb with extremely.317 T.
Kronholm notes that the Aramaic term [] primarily means extra, exceptional; and in Dan 3:22
the term means that the furnace was extremely overheated.318
3:22c the flame from the fire killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is a
sentence that unveils the unintended consequence of the tyrants ham-fisted brutality.
Those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is actually written first in this
sentence, so that this direct object of the verb killed is front loaded. It may be the case that, by fronting
the direct object this way, the writer intends to emphasize the fact that these men who carried (and no one
else!) were killed.319 This may well be another case of irony on the part of the writer. As noted in
connection with Dan 3:19b, a writer may use irony to ridicule some event. In this case, the despots power
of life and death seems to backfire: those men who throw the martyrs into the crematorium are themselves
its only victims.
Daniel 3:23
Execution of the sentence
Then, these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell into the midst of the furnace blazing with fire, still bound.
The reader will note that three men are cast into the furnace; this sets the stage for the miracle of
the fourth person present in Dan 3:24. Furthermore, the fact that Dan 3:23 notes specifically that they are
bound sets the stage for the miracle in Dan 3:25a, where they are unbound with no other injuries
whatsoever.320
Genre

313

Driver, Daniel, 43.

314

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 89.

315

Rosenthal 88.

316

KB2, 1895; see also BDB, 1096.

317

Holladay, 408.

318

T. Kronholm, , in TDOT, vol. VI, 490-91.

319

On the semantic import of front-loading, see Van der Merwe 47.2(i)b.

320

The expository preacher/teacher/reader may use this verse to set up the events in the next.

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The unit [Dan 3:19-23] is demarcated by the shift to the king after the resistance of the three Jews.
Overall, the unit reads like a narrative, recounting the key events in sequential form. 321
Deliverance: Yahweh Exercises Sovereignty over this Political Power-Player
Translation
(3:24) Then, king Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed and stood in haste and said to his
companions: Did we not cast three men in the midst of the fire, bound? They answered, Certainly, O
king! (3:25) Then, he said: Behold! I see four men, unbound, and walking in the midst of the fire, and
there is no injury with them; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of (the) gods! (3:26) Then,
Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire, and he said: Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego servants of the Most High God, come out and come here; immediately, Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego came out from the midst of the fire. (3:27) After gathering around, the provincial
governors, prefects, governors, and high officials of the king, looked at these men, seeing (that) the fire had
no power over their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, nor was their clothing altered, nor had the
smell of the fire come upon them. (3:28) So, Nebuchadnezzar said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego, who sent his angel, who rescued his servants, who placed their trust in him;
frustrating the command of the king, giving up their bodies, so as not to pay reverence to nor worship any
other god, except their own God. (3:29) By my authority a decree is made, that any people, nation, or
tongue who speaks negligently against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego will be
dismembered, and their houses reduced to rubble; in view of the fact that there is not another god who is
able to deliver like this one. (3:30) From that time on, the king brought success upon Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon.
Subject of the paragraph
The subject of Daniel 3:24-30 is obviously deliverance, along with the events surrounding the
deliverance. To begin with, there is royal astonishment when Nebuchadnezzar peers into the crematorium
to view his handiwork [Dan 3:24-25]. The deliverance becomes a matter of public record [Dan 3:26-27]
when the king orders Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to come front and center [Dan 3:26] for a brief
inspection [Dan 3:27]. Then, the deliverance becomes the occasion for a doxology to the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego [Dan 3:28] followed by an order concerning their God [Dan 3:29]. The net
effect of the deliverance is briefly noted: success comes to the accused [Dan 3:30].322
Paragraph sense
Astonishment comes to Nebuchadnezzar
(i)
(ii)
(iii)

[Consecution: the next event in the report] Then, king Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed
[Consecution, following (i)] and stood in haste
[Consecution: opening dialogue] and said to his companions:

Dialogue
The question
(iv)

[Interrogative] Did we not cast three men in the midst of the fire, bound?

321

Collins, FOTL, 114.

322

The reader will note that the Guide ends Daniel 3 at verse 30. The reader may encounter some
sources that note that the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible continues with Dan 3:31-33. These verses
typically open Daniel 4 in most English versions and the Guide places them in Daniel 4 also.
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The answer
(v)

[Consecution: answer to (iv)] Certainly, O king!


An astonishing observation

(vi)
(vii)
(viii)
(ix)

[Consecution: response to (iv-v)] Then, he said: Behold! I see four men, unbound
[Further elaboration of (vi)] and walking in the midst of the fire
[Further elaboration of (vi-vii)] and there is no injury with them
[Climactic elaboration of (vi-viii)] and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of (the) gods
Deliverance comes to the accused

(x)
(xi)

[Consecution: next event in the report] Then, Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace
of blazing fire,
[Consecution: next event; open speech] and he said:
Order

(xii)
(xiii]

[Speech/order] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out
and come here
[Consecution: next event after (xii)] immediately, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came out
from the midst of the fire
Public confirmation of deliverance

(xiv)
(xv)
(xvi)
(xvii)
(xviii)

[Consecution: next event following (xii-xiii)] After gathering around, the provincial governors,
prefects, governors, and high officials of the king looked at these men
[Elaboration of (xiv)] seeing (that) the fire had no power over their bodies
[Next elaboration of (xiv)] nor was the hair of their head singed
[Next elaboration of (xiv)] nor was their clothing altered
[Final elaboration of (xiv)] nor had the smell of the fire come upon them

Doxology comes to Yahweh


The doxology
(xix)
(xx)
(xxi)
(xxii)
(xxiii)
(xxiv)
(xxv)
(xxvi)
(xxvii)

[Consecution: open the doxology] So, Nebuchadnezzar said:


[Doxology to Yahweh] Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
[Elaboration of (xx)] who sent his angel
[Elaboration of (xx)] who rescued his servants
[Elaboration of (xxii)] who placed their trust in him
[Consequence of (xiii)] frustrating the command of the king
[Elaboration of (xxii)] giving up their bodies
[Purpose of (xxv)] so as not to pay reverence nor worship any other god
[Elaboration of (xxvi)] except their own God

An order
(xxviii) [Consecution following (xx-xxvii)] By my authority, a decree is made
(xxix) [Elaboration of (xxviii)] that any people, nation, of tongue who speaks negligently against the
God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego will be dismembered
(xxx) [Elaboration of (xxviii)] and their houses reduced to rubble
(xxxi) [Reason for (xxviii)] in view of the fact that there is not another god who is able to deliver like
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this one
Success comes to the accused
(xxxii) [Consecution following (xix-xxxi)] From that time on, the king brought success upon Shadrach,
Meshach and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon.
Daniel 3:24-25 Astonishment comes to Nebuchadnezzar
Then, king Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed
and stood in haste and said to his companions: Did we not cast three men in the midst of the fire, bound?
They answered, Certainly, O king! (3:25) Then, he said: Behold! I see four men, unbound, and walking
in the midst of the fire, and there is no injury with them; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of
(the) gods!
3:24a Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed [ (Pel, perfect, 3rd, ms)] and stood in haste [ (Peal,
perfect, 3rd, ms) (preposition, noun, fm, sg)] serves to arouse the readers attention to a
dramatic turn in the story; the kings emotional reactions are now to the fore, more or less depicting the
onset of fear.
Was alarmed [] is a very strong term; the king was somewhere between mystified and
horrified. There are Ancient Near Eastern cognates of this verb [] that shed considerable light. For
example, the Arabic cognate points to what is confusing; the Jewish Aramaic cognates suggest fear,
anxiety, horror.323 In Dan 3:24a, the verb signifies that the king was amazed, frightened, horrified.324 BDB
opts for startled or alarmed.325 What is more, the verb [] in Aramaic is used for Hebrew verbs for
trembling [] and fearing, or even shivering with excitement []. The first term []
depicts panic;326 the second describes one who feels dread and shows it with trembling.327
Keil says that the king was astonished and terrified. 328 Porteous refer to alarm and
excitement.329 Goldingay has an excellent translation, noting that the tyrant was startled. 330
The net effect is that, for reasons not entirely clear from the text, the despot becomes alarmed; he
is amazed, frightened, horrified. The Aramaic term the writer uses seems to imply that the dictator was
panic stricken, perhaps overcome in an instant with dread.
In/with haste [ (preposition, Hithpeel, infinitive construct, used more or less as a
noun331)] is the way the author describes the kings movement. The sense of the construction is simply: in
a hurry.332 Kohler-Baumgartner translates the construction in Dan 3:24a with in a hurry.333 Holladay
323

KB, 2005.

324

Ibid.

325

BDB, 1117.

326

A. Baumann, , in TDOT, vol. V, 166-67.

327

H.-P. Mller, , in TDOT, vol. XI, 518.

328

Keil, Daniel, 130.

329

Porteous, 60.

330

Goldingay, 64.

331

Bauer-Leander 85 h.

332

Ibid.

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follows suit, affirming that the term signifies haste or hurry.334 Van Pelt and Kaiser note that this form
[] in Dan 3:24 describes hasty or urgent actions.335 B. Otzen notes that the root [] has
two meanings: to hasten and to be terrified, in both Hebrew and Aramaic. 336 Otzen speculates that the
common origin of both meanings is to be breathless. 337 As far as Dan 3:24 is concerned, Otzen notes,
the substantival infinitive in Biblical Aramaic, hithbehalah, (means) in haste.338
It is difficult to avoid speculating that in haste is in fact infused with alarm, terror, or profound
and frightening confusion []. The fact that the executioner was in a hurry must have been fueled by
disconcertedness, by being rattled and flustered.
The reason behind this sudden frenzied activity on the tyrants part is not made explicit in the
Aramaic text. The Septuagint tradition specifies that the king heard them singing from within the furnace
and then acts as outlined in Dan 3:24. This bit of detail is added by the translators, and should not be given
much historical weight.339 The reader should appreciate the fact that the writer intends to focus on what the
despot sees and how he evaluates it.
Companions [] is used in the Aramaic text of the Hebrew Bible only in Daniel and here
for the first time. The noun [] seems to be a general term for high royal officials.340
Rosenthal notes that the noun [] is a Persian loan word from the political and official vocabulary
of the time.341 To be sure, the noun refers to high ranking royal officials, and amount to the general
category of state officials.342 Evidently, these were the men who conducted the affairs of state during
Nebuchadnezzars debilitating madness as mentioned in Dan 4:33.

The question
3:24b Did we not cast three men in the midst of the fire, bound? The sentence is a rhetorical question
that presumes a positive answer.343 In Aramaic, as well as Hebrew for that matter, the rhetorical question
may be used to make a positive assertion in an impassioned way. So it is here; the chief executioner knows
full well how many men he sent to the crematorium, three. This number will contrast decidedly with the
333

KB2, 1862.

334

Holladay, 399; also BDB, 1084.

335

M. Van Pelt and W.C. Kaiser, Jr., , in NIDOTTE [H987].

336

B. Otzen, , in TDOT, vol. II, 3.

337

Ibid., 4.

338

Ibid.

339

The Daniel text found in the Dead Sea Scrolls reads pretty much like the Biblical text of Daniel
3, that is, without this addition.
340

Holladay, 403.

341

Rosenthal 189.

342

KB2, 1857.

343

See Bauer-Leander 103 f.

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actual number, four, that the evidence of his senses will reveal to him. What is more, how these men were
cast into the crematorium, bound, will clash with what the executioners senses show him, unbound.
Evidently, something extra-sensory is happening here.
The answer
3:24c Certainly, O king The answer is communicated with an adjective [] that signals a
positive affirmative answer: yes, of course.344 This affirmation is the lead-in for the dictators astonishing
observation.
An astonishing observation
3:25a Then, he said: Behold! I see four men, unbound. This is the first sentence the chief executioner
utters, relating the astounding divergence from Dan 3:23.
Behold [] is an interjection that may be translated with a certain emphasis: behold here.345
Kohler-Baumgartner captures the emphasis with Look! See!.346
Unbound [ (Peal, passive participle, ms, pl)] is a passive participle.347 As a passive
form, the reader may assume that the unbinding was accomplished by some agent, not mentioned in the
sentence. Accordingly, the line is silent on whether the fire or the fourth person is the agent of liberation.
The verb means that those who were formerly bound are now observed as liberated from fetters or free.348
3:25b

Walking in the midst of the fire is an elaboration of what these four were doing.

Walking [ (Aphel, participle, ms, pl)] is a plural participle, telling us that all of
the four were walking about.349 This walking about may contribute to the liberation motif.
3:25c And, there is no injury with them continues the elaboration of the condition of the four who are
causally walking about in the midst of the fire.

No injury [] is a noun that is front loaded in the sentence for emphasis. The noun
[] means either hurt or damage.350 BDB opts for hurt or injury.351 J. Gamberoni notes that this
root [] in a non-theological sense refers to violence, and in Dan 3:25, the root refers to physical
violence, or the absence of it, in the sense of the absence of bodily injury. 352
344

KB2, 1893; see also Bauer-Leander 100 d and Rosenthal 88.

345

Rosenthal 91; see also Bauer-Leander 71 c.

346

KB2, 1857.

347

Van Pelt, 116.

348

KB2, 2002; also Holladay, 424; BDB, 1117.

349

KB2, 1860; see also BDB, 1090; Holladay, 403.

350

KB2, 1868.

351

BDB, 1092; also Holladay, 404.

352

J. Gamberoni, , in TDOT, vol. IV, 185.

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3:25d And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of (the) gods is the climactic elaboration
concerning what the tyrant saw. This line is obviously the crux of what utterly flabbergasts the chief
executioner.
Appearance [] points to visible appearance.353 The Septuagint traditions use a noun
[] that means: [1] seeing or simply the act of sight, then [2] a vision, and finally, [3]
appearance.354 The upshot is that, based upon the kings words, he is telling us what he observed, the
physical manifestation that was presented to his sight.
Like [ (Peal, participle, ms, sg)] a son of [ (preposition, noun, ms, sg, construct)]
(the) gods [ (noun, ms, pl)] is obviously the crux of Dan 3:25.
Like [] is a masculine, singular participle that modifies the masculine, singular noun,
appearance. The participle may be translated resembles.355 Ancient Near eastern cognates shed light on
the sense of the root []: resemblance or similarity in both Egyptian and Imperial Aramaic. 356
Similarly, A.H. Konkel notes that the Aramaic verb [] is found in Palmyrene as a participle
meaning be similar.357 H.D. Preuss writes concerning the verb in Dan 3:25 that it means to look
like.358
Thus far, in describing what he sees as he looks into the midst of the crematorium, the king says
that the appearance of the fourth being resembles a son of (the) gods. What appears to the king has
similarities to a divine being. Keil notes that there was something in what Nebuchadnezzar saw that was
worthy of commanding veneration.359 If so, then whatever it was that triggered this veneration is not
made explicit by Nebuchadnezzar or our writer. However, there was something, unexplained and left
hidden, that moves the king to ascribe divinity to the fourth being in the crematorium.
A son of (the) gods is how the chief executioner finally describes what the appearance resembles;
this is how the tyrant labels what he assumes to be divine. The collocation is: a son of [
(preposition, noun, ms, sg, construct)] gods [ (noun, ms, pl)], more or less woodenly
translated.
A son of gods is a genitive construction, probably a genitive of association.360 The upshot is that,
from where Nebuchadnezzar is standing, the son [] belongs to the class of gods []. This
phrase occurs only here in the Aramaic of the OT.
A son of gods is a genitive construction that is not definite; there is no definite article in the
construction. Therefore, translations such as The son of gods will not work. What is more, the noun gods

353

KB2, 1979; see also BDB, 1112; Holladay, 421.

354

LSJ, 1244.

355

Holladay, 402; see also Rosenthal, 82; KB2, 1854.

356

KB2, 1854.

357

A.H. Konkel, , in NIDOTTE [H1947].

358

H.D. Preuss, , in TDOT, vol. III, 252.

359

Keil, Daniel, 130.

360

Bauer-Leander 89 a.

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is plural. Indeed, this plural noun [] is used fifteen times in the Aramaic Old Testament361,
and in none of these instances is the plural of this noun used as a plural of majesty, referring singularly to
Yahweh; this plural [] is a true plural.362 The net effect is this: the reading The Son of God is
not a translation that accurately represents the Aramaic as written. What is more, to the extent that The Son
of God is code for the second member of the Trinity, Jesus, then the grammar of Dan 3:25 does not permit
this association.
A son [] uses a noun that indicates a more distant relationship and in this case in Dan 3:25
can mean an angel.363 BDB follows suit, translating the noun [] with a divine being or an angel.364
Holladay notes that the noun [] may be used of remote and metaphorical relationships.365 H. Haag
notes, concerning the general sense of the noun [], that it is the normal word for son in
Aramaic.366 Beyond this normal usage, the noun can depict a relationship or membership of some sort. 367
Furthermore, when these relational uses spin off into relationships with divine beings, Haag notes that these
connections are a matter of dispute, including the connection in Dan 3:25.368 At the same time, given the
contextual fact that a pagan king is speaking in Dan 3:25, then the following observation must be assumed
as a starting point, namely, these phrases are to be seen in connection with the ancient Near Eastern ideas
concerning the assembly of divine or heavenly beings. 369 Thus, in Dan 3:25 the upshot is that our phrase,
a son of gods, points to undoubtedly an angel. 370

Gods [] is from a root [] that, when used in the plural, references the gods of
other nations (in Daniel always Babylonian gods).371 In Dan 3:25, the reference is either to a divine
being or an angel.372 BDB translates the term [] as a heathen deity, a god.373 Collins affirms

361

Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:11, 47; 3: 12, 14, 18, 25; 4:5, 6, 15; 5:4, 11(twice), 23.

362

On this noun as a plural, see Bauer-Leander 87 f; and Driver, Daniel, 44.

363

KB2, 1839.

364

BDB, 1085.

365

Holladay, 400.

366

H. Haag, , in TDOT, vol. II, 148.

367

Ibid.

368

Ibid., 157.

369

Ibid.

370

Ibid., 159.

371

KB2, 1813.

372

KB2, 1814; similarly, Holladay, 397.

373

BDB, 1080.

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that Nebuchadnezzar identifies a Divine Being.374 Slotki opts for a divine being or an angel.375
Baldwin suggests something god-like, despite his apparent humanity. 376
The sum of the matter is this: the chief executioner looks into the crematorium and sees what he
identifies as a divine being. He does so as a thorough-going polytheist. Something about the visible
appearance [] resembled [] a divine being [ ]. We are not told in the
report that the comrades of the king saw the being and it is noteworthy that he disappears from the
narrative as immediately as he is introduced.377 Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar attributes this deliverance in
Dan 3:25 to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego [Dan 3:28] who delivered them through His
angel [ (3:28)]. Rather than becoming fixated on the precise identity of this son of gods, it may
be more germane to the context to admit what everyone who was there acknowledged: God was behind this
miraculous deliverance in some manner. We shall have to leave the details of this incident to Him.
Deliverance comes to the accused
Daniel 3:26-27 Deliverance comes to the accused (3:26) Then, Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of
the furnace of blazing fire, and he said: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego servants of the Most High
God, come out and come here; immediately, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came out from the midst
of the fire. (3:27) After gathering around, the provincial governors, prefects, governors, and high officials
of the king, looked at these men, seeing (that) the fire had no power over their bodies, nor was the hair of
their head singed, nor was their clothing altered, nor had the smell of the fire come upon them.
3:26b Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego servants of the Most High God, come out and come here is
the sentence that reports the order that the king gave to the three Jews. Of particular interest in Dan 3:26b
is how Nebuchadnezzar addresses Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that is as servants [
(noun, ms, pl, construct, with a 3rd, ms, suffix)] of [ (relative particle)] the Most High [
(definite article, adjective, ms, sg)] God [ (definite article, noun, ms, sg)].
Servants is literally servants of him [ (noun, ms, pl, construct, with a 3rd, ms,
suffix)]. Then, the relative marker [] picks up the plural noun, literally, who is the Most High God.378
Servants [] is a common term in the Hebrew Bible and appears thirty six times in the
Aramaic Bible [both noun and verb], eighteen times in Daniel and six times in Daniel 3. The noun occurs
eight times in the Aramaic Bible with six of these in Daniel. 379 The servant [] in Aramaic has the
same range of meanings as the Hebrew term []. In both languages, the term is used of the position
of men in relation to God, either [1] a slave of God or [2] a dependent of God, holding a position of trust. 380
Servant [] is defined by Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 3:28 in terms of putting ones trust
[] in God. Later, another pagan politician would disambiguate servant [], this time as
applied to Daniel, in terms of Daniels unquestioned and supreme commitment to God and none other, his
undivided and uncompromising loyalty [] to Yahweh.381
374

Collins, Daniel, 190.

375

Slotki, 27.

376

Baldwin, 106.

377

Montgomery, 214.

378

For tis construction, see Bauer-Leander 90 j.

379
380

Daniel 2:42, 7; 3:26, 28; 6:21.


KB1, 774-5; similarly, BDB, 1105; Holladay, 415; CDCH, 306.

381

The term for service in Dan 6:17 is , a term we have already seen in Dan 3:12ff.
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Servant [] in Dan 3:26b comes from the lips of a pagan politician. Even at that, the term
does seem to have the sense of a subordinate to God, a dependent who places his trust in God and who does
so with on-going, unquestioned, and uncompromising loyalty to God. This much Nebuchadnezzar seems to
acknowledge.
Most High God is a designation that would not be foreign to a pagan. The noun, God [], is
both definite and singular, which means that the noun references a god in the general sense.382 BDB
affirms that the noun may reference [1] a heathen deity or [2] the God of Israel.383
The phrase, Most High God [ ], is used in the Aramaic portions of the Old
Testament in four passages in Daniel, twice by a pagan [Dan 3:26; 4:2 (Nebuchadnezzar)] and twice by
Daniel [Dan 5:18, 21]. The question is: How does Nebuchadnezzar use this phrase?
On the lips of a pagan, it would seem that he is identifying a deity who is superior or highest
among deities.384 In the Babylonian pantheon, there were three great gods who oversaw the pantheon.
Saggs writes, At the head of the pantheon stood, across the whole three millennia of Sumero-Akkadian
religion, the god Anu.385 Anus right hand man was his son Enlil; the relationship between the two was
this: just as Anu was king of heaven, so was Enlil king of the earth. 386 Both were considered by
Babylonians as leaders among the gods. There is a third god, known either as Enki or Ea. This god was
the god of wisdom who unfailingly displayed favor to the human race and indeed to other gods. 387
The sum of the matter is this: our brief survey justifies the claim that, for Nebuchadnezzar,
monotheism would have been a foreign idea. Even addressing three Jews, the reader should understand the
kings use of Most High God in the context of his polytheistic worldview. Young puts it this way,
Nebuchadnezzar does not acknowledge that the Lord alone is God, but merely that the God of the
Confessors is the highest of Gods.388
3:27b-e seeing (that) the fire had no power over their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, nor
was their clothing altered, nor had the smell of the fire come upon them is a sentence that teases out the
public confirmation of the miracle.
3:27b the fire had no power over their bodies is the summary statement with some details to follow
concerning: [1] the hair of their head (Dan 3:27c), [2] their clothing (Dan 3:27d), and [3] the smell of the
fire was not upon them (Dan 3:27e).
Had no power over [ (negative adverb, Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms)] seems to be the
stunning fact in this public confirmation. This verb [] when followed by a noun with the
preposition means: [1] to rule over, [2] to have power over.389 Rosenthal concurs, citing such meanings

382

KB2, 1813.

383

BDB, 1080.

384

For this sense of Most High [], see KB2, 1948.

385

H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), 328.

386

Ibid., 329.

387

Ibid., 330.

388

Young, 95; see also Keil, Daniel, 131.

389

KB2, 1995; similarly, BDB, 1115; Holladay, 423.


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as [1] to rule, [2] to have power over, and [3] to overpower.390 M. Sb 391remarks that the meaning of
the word family is always associated with power; usually it denotes the possession and especially the
exercise of power, rule. Moreover, in Dan 3:27, the use of the verb is in an extended sense, referencing
the power of fire.392
This verb [] is used seven times in Daniel [2:38-39, 48; 3:27; 5:7, 16; 6:25]. Of these
seven uses, five of them [Dan 2:38-39, 48; 5:7, 16] refer to human political power over some territory or
people. To be sure, in the case of Dan 3:27, the tyrants power to execute these three in the crematorium
meets its match; there are, it would seem, limits to human political power, especially when for all intents
and purposes it seems as if God intervenes. What happens to the power of the fire is a subtle hint that there
is another far greater authority in this universe and that power has tipped His hand.
The sum of the matter is this: the outstanding feature of Dan 3:27 is the miracle that unfolded right
before the eyes of the pagan politicians. That is, people who should have been incinerated escape
untouched. The evidence of their eyes was that the fire had no power to cremate these three Jews. The
theological undertone is that there are limits to human political power and those limits surface when
Yahweh chooses to intervene.
Genre
This unit [Dan 3:24-27] is demarcated by the internal complexity of the paragraph. It has
dialogue [Dan 3:24b-25b], an order [Dan 3:26], and a rather stunning conclusion to the narrative [Dan
3:27].
Overall, then, Dan 3:24-27 is once more narrative; events are teased out in sequential form, but
the reader is drawn to the dialogue and the denouement of the paragraph.
Doxology comes to Yahweh
The doxology of Nebuchadnezzar
3:28
The doxology
So, Nebuchadnezzar said, Praiseworthy their God, [the God] of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego, who sent his angel, who rescued his servants, who placed their trust in him;
disregarding the command of the king, giving up their bodies, so as not to pay reverence to nor worship
any other god, except their own God.
3:28b Praiseworthy their God, [the God] of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is the doxology
proper.
Praiseworthy [ (Peal, passive participle, ms, sg)] their God [ (noun,
ms, sg, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] is actually a nominal clause; it is not a directive. Thus,
translations that read as if there were a wish or a strong desire in the sense of a blessing [Blessed be]
possibly overstate what the king actually says. Syntactically, the passive participle functions as a predicate
adjective in the nominal clause.393 Bauer-Leander translate the passive participle with praiseworthy.394

390

Rosenthal, 98.

391

M. Sb, , in TDOT, vol. XV, 83.

392

Ibid., 86.

393

Van Pelt, 118.

394

Bauer-Leander 82 c.

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Accordingly, if the sense of the noun clause is praiseworthy their God, then this may be a somewhat
moderated endorsement of Yahweh.395
Praiseworthy [] is normally translated as blessed by the lexicons.396 However, as noted
above, Bauer-Leander translates with praiseworthy. This notion is seconded by Michael Brown in terms of
the Hebrew Bible. That is, bless [] when addressed to God signals a spontaneous
acknowledgment of the Lord's goodness, faithfulness, power, or grace.397 Thus, the kings words suggest
an admission that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is indeed praiseworthy for this
manifestation of power. G. Wehmeier similarly notes that in Daniel 3:28, the passive participle is a
spontaneous expression in everyday life immediately after the experience of divine assistance; sometime
they are spoken not by the person who experienced Gods deed but by deeply moved observers [emphasis
mine].398
Praiseworthy their God is a doxology in the sense of a short hymn of praise to God.399 The
statement of praise acknowledges the impressive display of Divine power on Yahwehs part. Baldwin
summarizes, Impressed by the absence of any sign of burning, the king is forced to acknowledge that their
God has delivered them and brought Nebuchadnezzars decree to nothing.400
Their God [] may be noteworthy. That is, the third person plural suffix, their God,
may indicate that Nebuchadnezzar is acknowledging the obvious: the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego, their own personal God, is depicted as praiseworthy. The expositor of this passage should
weigh and consider carefully the notion that Nebuchadnezzar singles out God for praise. Again, this may
be granting more credit to the tyrant than he deserves.
3:28c who sent His angel is the first of the justifications for the praiseworthiness of the God of these
three Jews.401
His angel [ (noun, ms, sg, construct with a 3rd, ms, suffix)] is a back reference to the
fourth occupant of the crematorium [Dan 3:25a]. The Aramaic noun [] refers to an envoy,
possibly a messenger from God or simply an angel.402 D.N. Freedman and B.E. Willoughby note
concerning the noun [] in Dan 3:28 that the term refers to an angel who rescues the innocent
from unjust punishment.403 Collins allows that this term [] may refer to an agent of God.404
We should take care not to over-read this statement from a pagan king. At best, what Nebuchadnezzar
395

Accordingly, the expositor may want to resist the tendency to credit Nebuchadnezzar with a
turn-around he does not carry out. On the contrary, given what just happened before his very eyes, his
response is surprisingly low-key.
396

Thus, KB2, 1839; BDB, 1085; Holladay, 400.

397

Michael Brown, , in NIDOTTE [H1385].

398

G. Wehmeier, , in TLOT I, 381.

399

Collins, FOTL, 108.

400

Baldwin, 106.

401

For the syntax of the relative clause as stating a reason for the statement of praise, see BauerLeander 109 u.
402

KB2, 1915.

403

D.N. Freedman and B.E. Willoughby, , in TDOT, vol. VIII, 310.

404

Collins, Daniel, 191.

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reports that he presumed he saw was an envoy or an agent of their God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego.405
3:28d who rescued his servants is the second justification for the praiseworthiness of their God. Once
more, the clause provides the reason for the statement of praise.
Rescued [ (Shaphel perfect, 3rd, ms)] is written in the Shaphel stem, a stem that is
active/causative in Aramaic.406 The evidence of what the king actually saw does not elude him: the God of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, through his envoy or agent, caused this miraculous deliverance.
Rosenthal affirms that this verb [] is an Akkadian loan word that means to save. KohlerBaumgartner opt for to rescue.407 BDB goes with to deliver.408
As the reader will eventually note, this miraculous deliverance will not always be the case in the
Book of Daniel. Later, in Dan 11:33, faithful covenant teachers will enlighten those around them, only to
fall to the flame. The miracle of rescue in Daniel 3 cannot be disputed; yet, the expositor must make it
clear that such deliverance, in physical terms anyway, may not always be the case.
3:28e

who placed their trust in him is an accolade directed to the three Jews.

Placed their trust [ (Hithpeel, perfect, 3rd, ms, pl)] is written in the Hithpeel stem,
which is a reflexive stem.409 However, some verbs in this stem are virtually identical with the Qal stem in
Hebrew.410 The verbal root [] in this stem means to trust in;411 to set ones trust upon;412 or to rely
on.413 This is the only place where the root [] is used in the Aramaic Old Testament. The root
[] does appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Aramaic Translation of the Book of Job. In 11Q32:10
and 11Q35:2, the root is used pretty much the way Daniel uses it, that is, in the sense of rely upon or to
trust in.
3:28f disregarding the command of the king is the first of two statements that Nebuchadnezzar views as
outcomes of the three Jews trust in Yahweh.
405

The notion that this angel or the fourth being in the fire in Daniel 3:25 was Jesus goes back to
the early Church Fathers. For example, in about 207 A.D., Tertullian in Anti-Marcion made this
connection. Later, Athanasius in about 355 A.D. made the same connection in Against the Arians. In
both of these cases, the writers simply affirm that the fourth being was Jesus, without further ado. No
sifting of the evidence is evident. Accordingly, the expositor should have excellent reasons for claiming
that the fourth being is the Second Person of the Trinity. While it may make a compelling
preaching/teaching point, one has to wonder if a pagan observer would associate the fourth person with any
comrade of the God of the Old Testament.
406

Van Pelt, 151; Bauer-Leander 28 f, i, k; Rosenthal 53.

407

KB2, 1992.

408

BDB, 1115.

409

Van Pelt, 125; Bauer-Leander 76 o-u.

410

Bauer-Leander 76 r [refers to this form in Dan 3:28 ()].

411

KB2, 1981.

412

BDB, 1113.

413

Holladay, 421.

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Disregarding [ (Pael, perfect, 3rd, ms, pl)] is usually translated with some term
describing disobedience. Indeed, Kohler-Baumgartner render the root [] with to violate an
order.414 BDB prefers the sense of frustrate.415 T. Kronholm observes that, in general, this root []
signals change in some sense.416 Initially, the reader is confronted with a term that implies something
slightly different from sheer disobedience; in some sense, the Jews changed things for the kings decree.
Kronholm further notes that, at least in the Hebrew Bible, the root [] can mean to pervert,
especially justice.417 The Septuagint translator uses a verb [] that means to set at naught, as well as
to refuse ones assent to.418 Collins opts for defy or disregard.419 Montgomery suggests, among other
options, to contradict.420
The net effect is that these three Jews, from the kings standpoint, simply ignored or discounted
the edict to worship the statue; the edict, which was intended to shape the worship behaviors of the kings
subjects, is changed for and by the Jews in the sense of setting it at naught. In the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar,
these Jews treated his edict as if it were not there; they refused assent to it; they disregarded it; they
discounted it. From the standpoint of the state, these three dealt treacherously with the law of the land.421
The reader should observe that even a pagan king understands that trust in their God [Dan 3:28e] has
consequences for those who take this trust seriously [Dan 3:28f]. Just how seriously is teased out in the
next line [Dan 3:28g].
3:28g giving up their bodies is the second outcome of placing trust [Dan 3:28f] in God; these three
would prefer to surrender their lives than yield to a law that crosses the line into idolatry.
Giving up [ (Peal, perfect, 3rd, ms, pl)] is from a root [] that means to
surrender.422 The Septuagint translator nicely captures the sense of the root [] by rendering it with
a Greek verb [] that means: to hand over to another, to give a person into anothers hands, to
deliver up or surrender.423 As the tyrant sees things, these three Jews were willing to hand over their lives
to him for the sake of conscience, for the sake of their trust in their God.
Their bodies [ (noun, ms, sg, construct with a 3rd, ms, pl, suffix)] is from a root
[] that in its Syriac cognate means not only ones physical body but also ones self.424 PterContesse and Ellington capture this sense, rendering what Nebuchadnezzar understands: they put their lives
on the line.425
414

KB2, 1999; see also Holladay, 424.

415

BDB, 1116; also Driver, Daniel, 45.

416

T. Kronholm, , in TDOT, vol. XV, 317.

417

Ibid., 318.

418

LSJ, 31.

419

Collins, Daniel, 178.

420

Montgomery, 218; similarly, Slotki, 28.

421

For this sense of the Greek verb [], see LSJ, 31.

422

KB2, 1889; similarly, BDB, 1095, and Holladay, 407.

423

LSJ, 1308.

424

BDB, 1086.

425

Pter-Contesse and Ellington, 95.

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3:28h so as not to worship any other god is the tyrants clear understanding of what motivated the three
Jews [for the language of these words, see the notes above on worship ()]. To be sure, we have
seen this verb before [Dan 3:5, 6, 7] used to indicate where ones ultimate loyalties lay. When it comes to
matters of absolute allegiance, political idolaters tend to want the scales tipped decidedly in their direction.
Our Jewish friends were not willing to do so, choosing instead the threat of death, upholding their
maximum loyalty for God alone.
3:28i
except their own god is the stand that Nebuchadnezzar realizes the Jews actually took. The
sentence implies the exclusivity of Yahweh in contrast to the political idolization of Nebuchadnezzar and
his regime. The king seems to realize this.
The order
Daniel 3:29
The order
By my authority, a decree is made, that any people, nation, or tongue
who speaks negligently against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, will be dismembered, and
their houses reduced to rubble; in view of the fact that there is not another god who is able to deliver like
this one.
3:29a

By my authority, a decree is made is the statement of the royal decree issued by the king.426

By my authority [ (preposition with a 1st, cs, suffix)] is literally by me. The construction,
when used with a decree is made [ ], points to the agent behind the decree.427 In fact,
Rosenthal translates 3:29a an order has been given by me.428
Decree [] is a noun we have already seen in Dan 3:10, 12. As noted at that time, the
decree [] is essentially a command.
3:29b that any people, nation, or tongue once more teases out the scope of the command. For these
terms, see the notes on Dan 3:4. As we noted with the use of this language in 3:4, the terms indicate that
there are to be no exclusions to this edict.
3:29c who speaks negligently against their god opens the gist of the decree; as Nebuchadnezzar fashions
the edict, this is the essential prohibition.
Negligently [ (noun, fm, sg)] is a term, that as the reader of the English Versions will note,
is a bit tricky to pin down. The versions range from blaspheme to speaking amiss. The noun is a cognate
of the Akkadian term [l] for negligence; Jewish Aramaic has a cognate [] that means
mistake or error; Kohler-Baumgartner translate negligence.429 BDB more or less follows suit, offering
neglect or remiss.430 Philip Nel observes that this noun [] can mean inattentive; furthermore, a
negative meaning be negligent is also visible in instances where obligations and responsibilities of people
are at stake.431 K. Grnwaldt notes that the sense of the root revolves around the concept of rest,
426

Collins, FOTL, 108.

427

Rosenthal, 80.

428

Ibid.

429

KB2, 1994.

430

BDB, 1115; see also Holladay, 423.

431

Philip J. Nel, , in NIDOTTE [H8921].

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ease.432 From this, in the Aramaic, the noun may mean laxity, carelessness (or even transgression). 433
The Septuagint traditions opt for a form of the term, blaspheme []. However, in the other uses
of this Aramaic noun [] negligence or laxity certain fits the context, not blasphemy. When this noun
[] is used in the Targums, the Hebrew reads it with mistake [] or error, something done
inadvertently []. Montgomery settles on the notion of speaking anything amiss against the God
of the three Jews.434
The net effect is that blasphemy is too precise for this noun []; rather, the king has set the
bar rather low. Anyone who says something erroneous, amiss, mistaken; anyone who speaks carelessly
about the God of these three Jews is in for annihilation; even something said inadvertently courts the
maximum penalty. One suspects that by prohibiting untoward speech toward the God of these Jews, the
king is recognizing their faith as a true religion and providing protection for its followers. 435
3:29d will be dismembered is language that is fairly common as a form of capital punishment for defying
the edict of a king.
Will be dismembered [ ] is an official phrase, drawn from the legal and
political language of Persian administration. 436 As a matter of fact, being hacked to pieces was an oriental
form of capital punishment by slow death.437 Montgomery notes that this is a common penalty for
disobedience to the royal command.438
3:29e

and their houses reduced to rubble is likewise par for the course as Persian punishment goes.

Rubble [] is a very descriptive term. Holladay observes that rubble []


means that the personal property of these hapless miscreants would have been turned into a public privy or
a garbage heap of ruin and debris.439 The element of humiliation seems obvious, while the net effect
would surely be to erase the memory of these men from the face of the earth.
3:29f in view of the fact that there is not another god who is able to deliver like this one stipulates the
reason for this last edict. The tyrant is impressed with this Gods power.
In view of the fact that [ ] is a marker of causation.440
There is not [ ] is literally, there does not exist.441
Another god [ ] uses a very general term for god [], referring either to a
pagan deity or to Yahweh.442 This is the noun Daniel uses to refer to the God of heaven in Dan 2 [2:18-20,
432

K. Grnwaldt, , in TDOT, vol. xv, 10.

433

Ibid.

434

Montgomery, 216.

435

Slotki, 29; see also Collins, Daniel, 191; Hartman Di Lella, 164; Porteous, 61-62.

436

Rosenthal 189.

437

KB2, 1858r.

438

Montgomery, 146.

439
440

Holladay, 413.
See Rosenthal 86; Bauer-Leander 109 o.

441

KB2, 1812; see also Bauer-Leander 98 u.

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23, 28, 37, 44). Moreover, when Nebuchadnezzar uses the noun [] to refer to the God Daniel has
just revealed to him, the king understands this god [] to be little more than the God among other
gods [Dan 2:47]. Montgomery notes that the Jewish God does not become the kings God.443
3:30
From that time on, the king brought success upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the
province of Babylon.
Genre
The unit [Dan 3:28-30] is demarcated by the speeches of Nebuchadnezzar. In the wake of the
admission in the dialogue in Dan 3:24b-25b, the king opens with a doxology, of sorts. While God is
described as praiseworthy, the doxology does seem to be somewhat moderated. The reader might want to
exercise some caution in attributing to Nebuchadnezzar a blinding flash of theological insight he does not
possess.
The order is communicated in language familiar to the era. The expectation is that the substance
of the command becomes the law of the land.

Reflections on Daniel 3:1-7


For openers, Daniel 3:1-7 sets up the challenge faced by three monotheistic Jews. The challenge
takes the form of a politically powerful ruler attempting to unify his regime by making an idol out of his
political governance. Currently, while the reader knows full well that there are many forms of idolatry in
this world; the function of Daniel 3 is to alert us to one specific, ubiquitous form of idolatry: the idolatry of
political power.
For the modern reader of Daniel 3, this is precisely the ordeal encountered some 2600 years later;
there are patterns in history. The modern reader of Daniel 3 is hereby alerted to the surfacing of the idolatry
of political power. Daniel 3 is a piece of spiritual warning concerning [1] the pragmatics recommending
the idolatry of politics, [2] the scope of political idolatry, [3] the essence of the idolization of political
power, and ultimately [4] the implicit necessity to resist at all costs.

442

BDB, 1080.

443

Montgomery, 216.
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Modern readers of Daniel 3 are confronted by the allure of the pragmatics that arouses the idolatry
of political power. It is for pragmatic reasons that, in Daniel 3:2-3, we watch Nebuchadnezzar gather
virtually every political power-player in his regime. First, the fact that the list of the politically connected
in Dan 3:2-3 is presented as inclusive, ranging from top to bottom, indicates that comprehensiveness in
worship, on the part of the powerful, directed to this statue is intended. The implication is that
Nebuchadnezzar is attempting to unite his kingdom in this manner. As a practical matter, surely no one
would doubt the benefit of a nation that is united.
Second, the fact that each member on the list comes from the political and legal-administrative
ranks of society indicates that, whatever religious ritual is proposed, the attempt is to have religion support,
or bring unity to, the political and legal administration of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar. As Joyce
Baldwin notes, The incident represents the conflict between worship of the true God and the humanistic
use of religion to boost the power of the rulers of this world. 444 Now, from the point of view of the
politician, Nebuchadnezzar in this case, this outcome too is eminently practical. But, monotheistic readers
of Daniel 3:2-3 should begin to detect the emergence of idolizing political power.
Third, the list of dignitaries is mentioned three times in this chapter [3:2, 3, 27]. The function of
this repetition is to rhetorically underline this group - the political and legal administrative ranks of society
- as a realm of evil that must be resisted. To put the same thing another way, the tension that will be played
out in the chapter is between conformity and resistance; one may conform to the idolatrous use of religion,
endorsed by the most powerful members of society, to boost political power, or one may decide to resist
what passes for the national consensus, the idolization of political power. Resistance often has to defy the
popular, the prevalent, the fashionable, the politically correct, the widely held ideology that oozes from the
masses in power. This pragmatic, populist ideology may be boiled down into a sentence: politics is
everything!
Modern readers of Daniel 3 are forewarned about the temptation to be sucked into the scope of
political idolatry. In Daniel 3:4-7, the proclamation ordering worship, the scope of the pronouncement is
well-nigh universal, no one is excluded. Such is the import of people, nations, and tongues. As noted, the
first noun indicates people from an ethnic point of view; the second noun points to nations as people groups
united by a common ancestry; and the last word covers people groups as identifiable through language.
Taken as a whole, no exclusions to the edict are permitted. The upshot is this: the expositor is tipped off to
the hardship contained in this broad based idolatry, that is, one is forced to resist not only the reigning
political ideology of the day, but also one must cope with the ordeal of resisting ones culture as a whole.
More to the point, the value of Daniel 3:1-7 is to forewarn the reader as to the essence of the
idolatry of political power. The thrust of the political idolatry is unpacked in the edict: fall and worship;
this says it all.
To fall and worship may be read as part and parcel of the same package; it is the essence of
political idolatry. Taken together, the directive is code for self-denial or self-humiliation leading to
deference. This falling and worshiping is a way of showing acquiescence to the person, and therefore the
political authority, of Nebuchadnezzar, the consummate politician; it is a way of showing intractable
submissiveness to him through capitulation to his authority. The net effect is to endorse his preeminence
through falling and worshiping his statue.
In falling and worshiping, Nebuchadnezzar demands unchallenged allegiance to his position
and his power. This is the soul of political idolatry: servitude is reserved only for this political power-player
and the state he represents; every sanction for what citizens do in life emanate from his all-mighty
governance; conversely, neither man nor no woman may seek any higher authority to govern their lives;
accordingly, devotion, loyalty, sacrifice, and service are reserved for the regime, alone. The net effect is
that in the web of competing loyalties, be they work, family, or religion, the ideology that is political

444

Baldwin, 99.

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idolatry requires that the scales always be tipped in its direction, in the direction of the commonwealth of
Babylon, in the direction of the state, in the direction of political power-players.
In falling and worshiping, at yet another level, the essence of idolatry concerns this: the blending
of politics and religion. The idolatrous element is as Goldingay notes, God is acknowledged not because
he is God, but because this helps to undergird the state. 445 Is this not the value of the Christian faith to a
large extent for a significant number of people in the United States? We glibly refer to this nation being
founded on Christian principles. But in light of Daniel with his caution about falling and worshiping,
for those who hold to such a position the question is this: which is the greater? The Christian principles?
Or, the nation which these principles are alleged to undergird? In actual practice, blending politics and
religion is a subterfuge, a counterfeit, for, we all know that when push comes to shove, religion will be
shaped by the priorities and demands of the political order.446 When all is said and done, the essence of
this level of political idolatry is this: the political order functions as the god; Christian principles,
whatever these are, are the underling to the god, called upon, invoked, when suitable.
Now, not only does Daniel 3:1-7 introduce the expositor to the problem, the idolatry of political
power, the paragraph also hints at the response: the necessity of resistance.
First, we have in Daniel 3:4-6 the establishment of what amounts to the law of the land and along
with it a sanction for resisting the law. To resist this law, as the Jews soon would, is to be regarded as
equivalent to treason against the state.447 Evidently, there are limits to the loyalty one owes the state. As
we shall note presently, the Jews quietly and unobtrusively resist this law; presumably, this resistance is
understood to be a logical outcome of being a monotheist.
Second, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar has to resort to law and punishment to help secure his
throne testifies to the tentative hold he really has on the allegiance of the populace. D. S. Russell cites
Walter Lthi to the effect that the Nebuchadnezzars of all ages can only maintain his throne if an altar
stands near the throne and lends him the security and strength which he lacks. 448 This intrinsic insecurity
demands Biblical propping up and throws the three Jews into resistance mode.
Third, there is the element of fear that is intended by Nebuchadnezzar to motivate loyalty to him.
Nebuchadnezzar forces a fidelity he cannot muster on his own character and resorts to the power of fear to
keep the people allied to him. As worshipers of Yahweh, these Jews already have One whom they know
they must fear and serve and do His bidding.
Reflections on Daniel 3:8-12
Daniel 3:8-12 moves the storyline a bit further down the road. In this paragraph, the principle
actors are the witnesses who indict Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego for paying no heed to the national
edict to worship the political regime.
One of the key points in this paragraph is that it took informants to make the king aware of this
defiance. The three Jewish lads did not draw attention to themselves, nor did they make a public issue of
their defiance. They simply and quietly followed the dictates of their faith in Yahweh, thus leaving
whatever outcome may emerge in the hands of God.

445

Ibid.

446

Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 127.
447

Young, 88.

448

Russell, 63.

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The other key point concerns what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego actually did: they simply
ignored the edict to worship the political regime. In so doing, the three Jews defy the law of the land and
do so intentionally.
In Daniel 3:8, the author reports that certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. As
noted, it takes snitches to report the defiance of the Jews. Regardless of the Chaldeans motives, the larger
point is this: the resisters did not make a public case out of their resistance. They seem to have privately
resolved to ignore the edict and let the chips fall where they may. Modern readers of Daniel 3 should
reflect on what this means.
First, these men did not seek public sanction for their actions. Indeed, one is justified in assuming
that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were content to leave the sanctioning to Yahweh. However,
modern resistance to unscriptural laws of the land takes a completely different tack, bombarding the public
media with all manner of disgruntlement. We use social media, televised media, print media to seek social
endorsements of our moral discontent with such laws as same sex marriage, abortion, and the like. Mind
you, the reader should discriminate between seeking public endorsement for moral discontent and making a
public case for our vexations. There is every justification for making a reasoned, scriptural defense in the
public square for our resistance. But, once these are made, then we do not require to the crowd to
countersign our resistance.
Second, these men did not seek to change the legislation. They did not lobby the head of state or
any of his minions to re-write the law. Their resistance did not take a legislative form. Rather, they simply
ignored the law and left the consequences in the hands of God. To be sure, re-writing abortion laws or
same sex marriage statutes is outside the recommendation of God. A case in point concerns same sex
relationships. In Leviticus 18, which surveys all manner of sexual perversions including same sex
relationships, Moses directs the people in two ways. First, Moses bans the covenant community from
adherence to the laws of Egypt, where they had just left, and, second, to the laws of Canaan, where they
were going. Both nations had quite flexible laws concerning same sex relationships. The Mosaic point is
this: regardless of the content of the law of the land concerning same sex relationships, the covenant
community would be expected to live by Gods jurisprudence alone. Furthermore, there is no Mosaic
warrant for marching into the land of Canaan and re-writing their laws on same sex relationships. Moses,
like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, simply ignored those laws and lived by Gods law exclusively.
Ultimately, how these Jews resisted is a paradigm for modern resistance to unscriptural laws.
In Daniel 3:12, the author reports that, according to the eye witnesses, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego neither showed proper deference to Nebuchadnezzar, nor did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worship and serve the statue, in other words, the regime. The expositor of Daniel 3 must, at this
point, make the matter completely clear: there are limits to the adherence to the laws of the land. Where
there is a clear violation of Gods will, the first commandment in this case, the member of the covenant
community must adhere to the covenants constitution. There just are limits.

Accordingly, the limit emerges thus: the Jews are resistant to the imperial authority as he
oversteps his boundaries, at least from their theologically informed point of view. The decree, forcing
idolatry upon them, leaves them unaffected, unreceptive, defiant, resistant. Do not show proper deference
to is another way of saying there are limits to the demands the king can make upon us. As far as
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are concerned, this royal power-player, like any tyrant, has reached his
cutoff point, his threshold; there is a stage beyond which blind obedience to an idolatrous demand collides
with Biblically informed conviction, the first commandment in this case, and a spiritually vigilant
conscience. Assent to a decree, no matter how widespread and fashionable, how majestic and stately, how
authoritative and controlling, any decree that prompts violation of the first commandment forces these three
to quietly but firmly resist. At the political and governmental level, the authority of the state is restricted in
terms of its influence over them by Scripture. Accordingly, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego know
where and when to draw the line; there are times when indifference to what the regime decrees is a moral
option.

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In Daniel 3:12, the author reports, again on the strength of eye witnesses, that Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abed-nego neither worship or serve the statue, in other words, the regime. Obviously, worship and
serve are terms that go well beyond simply being a good citizen of the realm. The gist of the challenge for
these three Jews is to acknowledge a controlling power in their lives more influential and more immediate,
more real, than Yahweh.
When the eye witnesses charge that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego do not serve the statue,
the proxy for the regime, they mean this: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego eschew unquestioned and
supreme commitment to this god, the regime, and none other. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego disdain
an undivided devotion that is as animated as it is obvious. When the witnesses charge, in the indictment,
that these three Jews do not serve Nebuchadnezzars god, the regime, they are indicting them for
indifference to a god that ordains a behavior that is anathema to Jews, for disdaining a regime that decrees a
direct violation of the first commandment, for defying an administration that dictates a wholesale
replacement of God with a non-God , and for ungodly irreverence toward this government that wishes to
prescribe a morally reprehensible behavior; these Jews neither revere nor fear nor respect nor pursue the
interests of this proxy for one mans unquenchable thirst for power.
When the eye witnesses charge that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego do not worship the
regime, they mean this: they resisted identifying this statue of gold, the regime, as a deity, a god. Simply
put, by accepting this statue into the category of a deity, they would inevitably reduce the ultimacy,
authority, and jurisdiction of the true God and demote him in such a way that will make him out to be no
more than one of the deities of the polytheistic world.449 This they could not do, and for two reasons.
First, there is the matter of divided loyalties. These Jews knew that it simply was not possible to
serve both the God of the Bible and the regime with equal devotion. Today, we know that this myth is
denied by both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament tells us - You shall have no
other gods before me. The philosophy that allows one to serve the state along with Yahweh has the net
effect of placing Yahweh on the same level as the regime. However, this diminishment of Yahweh
amounts to a denunciation of the ultimacy of Yahweh. The New Testament denial of the myth of co-equal
ultimate loyalties is expressed by Jesus - No man can serve two masters. In other words, no man can have
two ultimate loyalties in life.
Second, there is the closely related matter of syncretism, the idea that one can fuse competing
loyalties. It would seem that our Jewish heroes rejected the notion that they could serve the deity through
serving the interests of the state. The modern form of this pernicious idea is that one serves the God of the
Bible by serving the interests of the nation.

As an example of how malignant this principle can be, the notion that whoever serves the state
also serves God would come to have chilling effects during World War II. In July of 1936, Baldur von
Schirach wrote this in The Times of London:450
One cannot be a good German and at the same time deny God, but an
arousal of faith in the eternal German is at the same time an arousal of
faith in the eternal God. If we act as true Germans we act according to
the laws of God. Whoever serves Adolf Hitler, the Fhrer, serves
Germany, and whoever serves Germany serves God.
I cite this extreme example for a reason. The reader of Daniel 3:8-12 must confront the modern
penchant, especially in the United States, to equate patriotism with faith, nationalism with loyalty to God.
449
450

Longman, 107.
See Goldingay, 73, for details.

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No one can follow the exploits of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in Daniel 3 and make this equation a
matter of faith. The expositor of Daniel 3:8-12 should weigh and consider pointing out the potential for
tragedy as long as this calculation is made. When the charge of being unpatriotic raises more ire than the
charge of being heretical, then something is surely cockeyed value-wise.
Reflections on Daniel 3:13-18
Daniel 3:13-18 is arguably the centerpiece of Daniel 3. This paragraph reports the moment when
the crisis for these believing Jews reaches its tipping point. Having been accused by eye witnesses and the
man in charge, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego affirm in no uncertain terms their resistance to the
idolatrous demands of the regime of Nebuchadnezzar. In so doing, they resist his power, his narcissism,
his presumption, and his life-death control.
In Daniel 3:14, Nebuchadnezzar himself confronts Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He
rehearses their refusal to bend their faith to venerate his regime. At stake in Dan 3:14 is the power of
Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout this challenge to these Jews, the issue concerns just who is the final
authority in their lives - Yahweh or this political figure, Nebuchadnezzar and his regime. Most of this
mans energy in life would have been directed toward amassing power and then using it to his own
advantage. The real currency is the currency of power for him and for those who imitate him. So it is
today, power has become and remains one of our most prevalent idols. We talk about power and those who
have it; we strive for power and cater to those who possess it; we exercise power and lust to increase it.
The will to power is one of the strongest narcotics in our civilization. In terms of Dan 3:14, the will to seize
and to use political power is the precise idol the text places before us. To be sure, the resistance of these
three Jews represents a threat to the political power of Nebuchadnezzar, the political power-player; if these
can successfully defy him, might not others?
In Daniel 3:15, after the tyrant has made the penalty for resistance all too clear to Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego and after giving them an opportunity to recant, he lays bare his narcissistic
megalomania in a bizarre attempt to motivate them to disavow their resistance: who is the god who can
deliver you from my power? The power-drunkenness, the self-absorbed overbearingness in this statement is
shrill testimony to his narcissism. Rabbi Maayenei Hayeshuah summarizes this self-important outpouring
thus: Dont trust in your God for I razed His Temple and exiled His nation. If He could not stand up
against me on His home ground, can He even venture to stand up to me in my land? 451 The expositor of
Daniel 3:15 might consider displaying the connection between the will to power and human selfcenteredness, between the worship of power and human conceit, between the lust for more power and
unrestrained human self-regard.
In Daniel 3:16, the Jews speak for themselves, confronting the tyrants monumental presumption
with: we have no need to defend ourselves before you. If nothing else, when Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abed-nego do finally speak, they dont spare the chutzpah. With sparse and lean simplicity, they counter
the power-players presumption with simple trust in God.
In Daniel 3:16, the resisters state that we have no need to answer you [in regard to your rhetorical
question (who is the god who can rescue you?)]. Read this way, the suppressed premise, probably the chief
reason for their reticence is asserted in the next line: God Himself will, if He chooses, answer for us. The
upshot is that the resisters are affirming their indifference to the tyrants unbounded presumption owing to
their complete trust in God. To make a long story short, their ultimate trust in the power of God to rescue
them is clear, making the tone of the statement one of supreme confidence.
In Daniel 3:17-18, we have one of the great testimonials in the Bible. In Dan 3:17, the Jews
submit to the sovereign will of God: if our God whom we serve decides to rescue us, then He will; in Dan
3:18, they spell out their firm intention to resist: but if not, let it be known to you, your gods we will not
serve. The presumptive life-death control of Nebuchadnezzar is soundly resisted.
451

Slotki, 25.

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Daniel 3:17 is the resisters spelled out and underscored statement of submission to the regnant
will of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. There is no higher court of appeal for these three heroic
Jews. The resisters do not doubt Gods absolute power, rather it acknowledges His sovereignty to act as He
sees fit in the circumstances. The extent of their faith in God is immeasurable; that is, they know full well
that God is able to deliver them while, at the same time, acknowledging the possibility that He might not
intervene. Their lives are in His hands, come what may. These three are willing to defy a tyrant and trust
in God, regardless of what He may or may not do. It is better to die a martyr than to die an apostate.
Daniel 3:18 is the Jews statement of resistance; in no uncertain terms, the tyrant in charge is to
know beyond any conceivable doubt and regardless of whether he understands their motives or not, that
these Jews will not idolize the despots political power nor the regime in which it holds sway. The
statement is unequivocal, unambiguous, explicit, and final; there is no turning back. As we have noted, the
term glossed serve denotes that which one both venerates and trusts; one is compelled to serve ones
ultimate loyalty in life. Will this be the religion of the state? Or will it be Yahweh? For these three Jews, to
ask these questions is to answer them. When men like Nebuchadnezzar make a god, an idol, out of the
state, the implicit assumption is that no citizen will have any other god beyond the state. Such tyranny
must be resisted, as these three men do without splitting hairs.
The expositor of Daniel 3:17-18 should point out the necessity to resist governance that makes
claims to adoration and adulation, to ultimacy and finality. When human governance exchanges the Creator
with a humanly created system of governance, then this governance must be resisted in precisely the way
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did: quietly, passively, unobtrusively, and faithfully. D.S. Russell
summarizes the occasion for this kind of resistance of the state: When it goes beyond its God-given
sanction and claims from its subjects what God alone can claim, it must stand condemned. 452 Such
governance must also stand resisted.

Reflections on Daniel 3:19-23


The drift of Daniel 3:19-23 is plain enough resisters pay the price. In this case, the reward for
their sin is the crematorium. The expositor should be clear and consistent when preaching or teaching from
this paragraph: retaliation is inevitable when men and women of conscience resist a states attempt to deify
itself. It is pointless, if not an evasion, to wax eloquent on the injustice of such retaliation; the subject of
the paragraph is the inevitability of paying the price for resisting the tyranny of god-like governance, not
the inequities in such penal overkill. The text lays bare the tyrants intention to eliminate this kind of
affront to his power [Dan 3:19] and to do so with no small degree of humiliation [Dan 3:21].
In Daniel 3:19, the resisted tyrant blows his stack. The verse tells us, with underscoring, that
Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage and took steps at once to eliminate these resisters. The challenge
presented by these three Jews amounted to their effort to elevate God above the political power and
personal authority of Nebuchadnezzar. As Goldingay observes, Nebuchadnezzar is enraged at the rights
452

Russell, Daniel, 63.


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of God being at any point exalted over his own. 453 So it is today; those who intend to resist human
governance or even society at large will face the likelihood of elimination in one form or another.
The reaction of Nebuchadnezzar to those who challenged him - rage - is similar to the response to
those who challenge modern idolatries. I refer to the militancy of modern defenders of agnosticism or
atheism. What Cornelio Fabro wrote in 1968 on this subject has only become exacerbated today: 454
Whereas the old kinds of atheism were predominantly theoretical in
nature and operated in clandestine fashion, atheism today is coming
right out into the open in its operations and organization, with the
professed aim of eliminating Christianity as the chief bulwark of
resistance [emphasis mine]. Present day atheism affirms that man will
take possession of his own being to the extent that he expunges from
himself and society all awareness of God.
In modern dress, the militant eliminationist agenda of contemporary atheists, particularly powerplayers in human governance, takes the form of the privatization of Christian witness. Generally speaking,
our society, including our government, is quite content to allow matters of faith to remain a private matter.
As long as one keeps ones religious opinions to oneself, then all is well. But, when resisters take a stand
publically on a political-social matter, then the hounds of militant atheism are hot on the trail. When
people like Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are forced, by a conscience taken captive by
Scripture, to exalt the rights of God over the law of the land, and do so publically, then the typical
accusation is: you are trying to push your religion down my throat. Translation: what you are saying
and what you are doing are reserved for your private life; so, keep it there! The expositor of this
paragraph might consider communicating ways that modern, militantly atheistic antagonists seek to
eliminate the Christian voice in the public square.
In Daniel 3:21, the reporter tells us that the three traitors were cast into the furnace in what
amounts to their royal dress. Why include this rather obvious bit of information? Naturally, they would
have appeared before the king in their full court dress. At the same time, the writer puts this detail here for
a reason. Possibly, the author wants the reader to appreciate the speed with which all of this was done.
Also, there is some level of personal humiliation implied in executing these men in the uniform they had
accepted and, from the kings point of view, disgraced. So it is; the expositor of this paragraph should take
pains to communicate the potential for humiliation when witnesses cross swords with atheistic minions in
human governance.
Reflections on Daniel 3:24-30
In Daniel 3:24-30, the author arrives at the denouement of his story: the miraculous deliverance of
these three men who resisted the megalomania of a political power-player. The paragraph spells out in no
uncertain terms that the political power of this particular tyrant is no match for the power of God. In this
clash of Titans, Yahweh comes out on top [Dan 3:25]. At the same time, the miraculous deliverance has
consequences in its own right. That is, there is the matter of the doxology to the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego [Dan 3:28], and there is the legitimization of their faith [Dan 3:29].
Daniel 3:25, the account of the fourth man, is obviously the centerpiece of the paragraph. The
expositor should signal in unambiguous terms that we are in the world of miracle here. It is the case that
this fourth personage is responsible for the deliverance of the three Jews who are in the fire. There are four
points to note here. First, this divine intervention to preserve and deliver these three comes on the heels of
their unequivocal commitment to Yahweh and their defiance of the idolatrous state government. Second,
453

Goldingay, 74.

454

Cornelio Fabro, God In Exile: Modern Atheism, translated and edited by Arthur Gibson (New
York: Newman Press, 1968), 6.

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this divine intervention comes in the furnace, not in being preserved from it. 455 And third, the fact that
these three were suffering shows that not all suffering is due to divine wrath. Some suffering is not
deserved, from the standpoint of righteousness and justice. As Qoheleth says in Ecclesiastes, the righteous
are treated as if their deeds were wicked.456 To be sure, much suffering is endured as a result of our
commitments to Yahweh. The fact that the state is a source of evil toward those who are very serious about
their commitment is a key theme in the book of Daniel, especially prevalent in Daniel 7. And fourth, as we
shall see in Daniel 11, not every instance of resistance is blessed with deliverance. Indeed, Daniel 11:33
mentions witnesses who fall by the flame along with other forms of capital punishment as well. The
expositor should not go overboard in this paragraph. Even the three Jews acknowledged that, when push
comes to shove, deliverance is the prerogative of Yahweh, alone [Dan 3:17].
Daniel 3:28 is the account of Nebuchadnezzars doxology to Yahweh. There seems to be some
grounds for doubting the depth of this doxology. As noted in the exposition, all that the tyrant is granting is
their God is praiseworthy; this scarcely seems to be a ringing endorsement. Moreover, one may seriously
doubt that Nebuchadnezzar is here affirming a strict monotheism, a monotheism of the sort espoused by
these three Jews. Indeed, the edict concerning this praiseworthy god [3:29] is spoken in the same language
that a previous edict was pronounced [2:5], to a polytheistic audience. The upshot is that in this context,
Nebuchadnezzar does not seem to move much beyond the polytheism of his culture. This god, whom he
sees as praiseworthy, is one among many gods, from Nebuchadnezzars point of view.
There is also pluralism implied in Dan 3:28. That is, the master politician offers kudos to their
God. As noted in the exposition, the suffix is suggestive: the tyrant, a polytheist to his core, is simply
acknowledging the emergence of a God/god with which he had not been familiar. This unfamiliarity is all
the more astounding in light of the praise heaped upon Yahweh in Dan 2:47 [your God is the God of gods
and the Lord of lords]. Again, there are reasons for doubting the depth of this doxology.
Finally, Dan 3:29 records the legitimization of the faith of the three resisters. There is certainly a
kind of poetic justice here. The faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is afforded royal protection.
As noted in the exposition, anyone who says something erroneous, amiss, mistaken; anyone who speaks
carelessly about the God of these three Jews is in for annihilation; even something said inadvertently courts
the maximum penalty. Color me cynical, but sounds more like a master politician currying favor with three
favored men and the deity they serve.

455

See Goldingay, 75 for an excellent discussion of these points.

456

Ecclesiastes 8:14; there are times when the righteous man or woman receives what is opposite
to what he or she actually deserves.

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