Cambridge Bible Driver
1. Nebuchadnezzar] Sept., Theod., Pesh. prefix ‘In the eighteenth year,’ which would be the year before Jerusalem was finally taken by the Chaldaeans (2Ki_25:8). Sept. also has an addition stating the occasion on which the image was erected: it was while he was ‘organizing (διοικῶν) cities and countries, and all the inhabitants of the earth, from India to Ethiopia.’ The addition is probably nothing but a Midrashic embellishment: we at least know nothing from any other source of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire as extending to the limits named, or of his conducting military expeditions except in the direction of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt (exclusive of Ethiopia).
made an image of gold, &c.] The expression does not mean necessarily that it was of solid gold; it might be used of an image that was merely (in the ancient fashion) overlaid with gold: the ‘altar of gold’ of Exo_39:38 was in reality only overlaid with gold (Exo_30:3). It is not expressly stated what the image represented; it is not however described as the image of a god, so in all probability it represented Nebuchadnezzar himself. It was a common practice of the Assyrian kings to erect images of themselves with laudatory inscriptions in conquered cities, or provinces, as symbols of their dominion, the usual expression in such cases being ṣa-lam šarrû-ti-a (šur-ba-a) ipu-uš, “a (great) image of my royalty I made”; see KB i. 69, l. 98 f.; 73, l. 5; 99, l. 25; 133, l. 31; 135, l. 71; 141, l. 93; 143, l. 124; 147, l. 156; 155, l. 26, &c. (all from the reigns of Asshur-naṣir-abal, b.c. 885–860, and Shalmaneṣer II., b.c. 860–825). Jastrow (Relig. of Bab. and Ass., 1898, p. 669) remarks that, inasmuch as in the inscriptions the victories of the armies were commonly ascribed to the help of the gods, a homage to some deity would be involved in the recital, though no instance is at present known of divine honours being paid to such statues.
 B. Eb. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (transliterations and translations of Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions), 1889–1900.
threescore cubits, &c.] The image was thus some 90 feet high, and 9 broad. The disproportion of height and breadth—in the human figure the proportion is commonly 5–6 to 1—has not been satisfactorily explained. The dimensions themselves, also, are greater than are probable: but the ‘India House Inscription,’ by its descriptions of the decorations of temples, testifies to the amount of gold that was at Nebuchadnezzar’s disposal; and Oriental monarchs have always prided themselves on the immense quantities of the precious metals in their possession.
set it up] “ ‘to set up an image’ (the same words in the Aram.) is the usual phrase in the heathen inscriptions of Palmyra and the Ḥaurân” (Bevan); see e.g. de Vogué, Syrie Centrale (1868), Nos. 4, 5, 7, 10, 11.
plain] properly a broad ‘cleft,’ or level (Isa_40:4 end) plain, between mountains (see on Amo_1:5).
Dura] An inscription cited by Friedrich Delitzsch (Paradies, p. 216) mentions in Babylonia three places called Dûru. According to Oppert (Expéd. en Mésopotamie, i. 238 f.; cf. the chart of the environs of Babylon in Smith, DB., s.v. Babel), there is a small river called the Dura, flowing into the Euphrates from the S., 6 or 7 miles below Babylon; and near this river, about 12 miles S.S.E. of Ḥillah, there are a number of mounds called the Tolûl (or Mounds of) Dûra. One of these, called el-Mokhaṭṭaṭ, consists of a huge rectangular brick structure, some 45 ft. square and 20 ft. high, which may, in Oppert’s opinion, have formed once the pedestal of a colossal image.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
Between the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan_2:1-49, and that of Dan_7:1-28, four narratives of Daniel’s and his friends’ personal history are introduced. As Dan_2:1-49; Dan_7:1-28 go together, so Dan_3:1-30; Dan_6:1-28 (the deliverance from the lions’ den), Dan_4:1-37; Dan_5:1-31; of these last two pairs, the former shows God’s nearness to save His saints when faithful to Him, at the very time they seem to be crushed by the world power. The second pair shows, in the case of the two kings of the first monarchy, how God can suddenly humble the world-power in the height of its insolence. The latter advances from mere self-glorification, in the fourth chapter, to open opposition to God in the fifth. Nebuchadnezzar demands homage to be paid to his image (Dan_3:1-30), and boasts of his power, (Dan_4:1-37.)
But Belshazzar goes further, blaspheming God by polluting His holy vessels. There is a similar progression in the conduct of God’s people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refuse positive homage to the image of the world-power (Dan_3:1-30); Daniel will not yield it even a negative homage, by omitting for a time the worship of God, (Dan_6:1-28) Yahweh’s power, manifested for the saints against the world in individual histories (Dan_3:1-30; Dan_4:1-37; Dan_5:1-31; Dan_6:1-28), is exhibited, in Dan_2:1-49; Dan_7:1-28, in world-wide prophetic pictures; the former heightening the effect of the latter. The miracles performed in behalf of Daniel and his friends were a manifestation before the Babylonian king, who deemed himself almighty, of God’s glory in Daniel’s person, as the representative of the theocracy, at a time when God could not manifest it in his people as a body. They tended also to secure, by their impressive character, that respect for the covenant-people, on the part of the pagan powers, which issued in Cyrus’ decree, not only restoring the Jews, but ascribing honour to the God of heaven, and commanding the building of the temple (Ezr_1:1-4). (Auberlen.)
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image – Nebuchadnezzar’s confession of God did not prevent him being a worshipper of idols besides. Ancient idolators thought that each nation had its own gods, and that, in addition to these, foreign gods might be worshipped. The Jewish religion was the only exclusive one that claimed all homage for Yahweh as the only true God. Men will in times of trouble confess God, if they are allowed to retain their favourite heart-idols. The image was that of Bel, the Babylonian tutelary god; or, rather, Nebuchadnezzar himself, the personification and representative of the Babylonian empire, as suggested to him by the dream (Dan_2:38), “Thou art this head of gold.” The interval between the dream and the event here was about nineteen years. Nebuchadnezzar had just returned from finishing the Jewish and Syrian wars, the spoils of which would furnish the means of rearing such a colossal statue (Prideaux). The colossal size makes it likely that the frame was wood, overlaid with gold.
Whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits. The “height,” 60 cubits, is so out of proportion with the “breadth,” exceeding it ten times, that it seems best to suppose the thickness from breast to back to be intended, which is exactly the right proportion of a well-formed man (Augustine, ‘Civitas Dei,’ 15: 26). Prideaux thinks the 60 cubits to refer to the image and pedestal together, the image being 27 cubits high, or 40 1/2 feet, the pedestal 33 cubits, or 50 feet. Herodotus (1: 183) confirms this by mentioning a similar image, 40 feet high, in the temple of Belus at Babylon. It was not the same image, because the one here was on the plain of Dura, not in the city.
Cambridge Bible Driver
8. certain Chaldeans] probably, though not here necessarily, the learned class among the Babylonians (as Dan_1:4, Dan_2:2 &c.). See p. 12 ff.
accused] The figure in the original is a peculiar one, lit. ‘ate the (torn) pieces of the Jews.’ The expression has commonly in Aramaic the sense of falsely accuse, or slander, as Psa_15:3 in the Targ., and in Syriac (e.g. Luk_16:1 for διαβάλλειν; and ’âkhçl ḳarzâ for ὁ διάβολος, the false accuser, or, ‘devil,’ Mat_4:1, and regularly): here and Dan_4:24 it is used at least in the sense of accuse maliciously.
9. This was the regular form of address, found in hundreds of inscriptions.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree … – See Dan_3:4-5. As the decree included “every man” who heard the sound of the music, it of course embraced the Jews, whatever religious scruples they might have. Whether their scruples, however, were known at the time is not certain; or whether they would have been regarded if known, is no more certain.
12. The charge is that these Jews who had been such favorites of the king had now disobeyed him in a most flagrant and open way, refusing worship to the gods and to their images. (Compare notes Dan_3:1; Dan_6:13). The plot which the priests had laid for Daniel and his friends is now revealed, and proves most successful. (Compare Dan_6:8-17.) It is a curious circumstance that Daniel is not mentioned in this interesting episode.
Cambridge Bible Driver
12. whom thou hast set, &c.] See Dan_2:49. The ‘Chaldeans’ were, no doubt, jealous of the Jewish captives being promoted to high positions; and accordingly took advantage of their refusal to conform to Nebuchadnezzar’s edict, in order to represent them as ungrateful and disloyal to their royal master.
regarded] The Aram. phrase, which is peculiar, recurs in Dan_6:13 (14).
Now, if ye be ready, that at what time … – At the very time; on the very instant. It would seem probable from this that the ceremonies of the consecration of the image were prolonged for a considerable period, so that there was still an opportunity for them to unite in the service if they would. The supposition that such services would be continued through several days is altogether probable, and accords with what was usual on festival occasions. It is remarkable that the king was willing to give them another trial, to see whether they were disposed or not to worship the golden image. To this he might have been led by the apprehension that they had not understood the order, or that they had not duly considered the subject; and possibly by respect for them as faithful officers, and for their countryman Daniel. There seems, moreover, to have been in the bosom of this monarch, with all his pride and passion, a readiness to do justice, and to furnish an opportunity of a fair trial before he proceeded to extremities. See Dan_2:16, Dan_2:26, Dan_2:46-47,
And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? – That is, he either supposed that the God whom they worshipped would not be “able” to deliver them, or that he would not be “disposed” to do it. It was a boast of Sennacherib, when he warred against the Jews, that none of the gods of the nations which he had conquered had been able to rescue the lands over which they presided, and he argued from these premises that the God whom the Hebrews worshipped would not be able to defend their country: “Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” Isa_36:18-20. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have reasoned in a similar manner, and with a degree of vain boasting that strongly resembled this, calling their attention to the certain destruction which awaited them if they did not comply with his demand.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king – They appear to have answered promptly, and without hesitation, showing that they had carefully considered the subject, and that with them it was a matter of settled and intelligent principle. But they did it in a respectful manner, though they were firm. They neither reviled the monarch nor his gods. They used no reproachful words respecting the image which he had set up, or any of the idols which he worshipped. Nor did they complain of his injustice or severity. They calmly looked at their own duty, and resolved to do it, leaving the consequences with the God whom they worshipped.
We are not careful to answer thee in this matter – The word rendered “careful” (חשׁח chăshach) means, according to Gesenius, “to be needed” or “necessary;” then, “to have need.” The Vulgate renders it, “non oportet nos” – it does not behove us; it is not needful for us. So the Greek, ου ̓ χρείαν ἔχομεν ou chreian echomen – we have no need. So Luther, Es ist Nicht noth – there is no necessity. The meaning therefore is, that it was not “necessary” that they should reply to the king on that point; they would not give themselves trouble or solicitude to do it. They had made up their minds, and, whatever was the result, they could not worship the image which he had set up, or the gods whom he adored. They felt that there was no necessity for stating the reasons why they could not do this. Perhaps they thought that argument in their case was improper. It became them to do their duty, and to leave the event with God. They had no need to go into an extended vindication of their conduct, for it might be presumed that their principles of conduct were well known. The state of mind, therefore, which is indicated by this passage, is that their minds were made up; that their principles were settled and well understood; that they had come to the deliberate determination, as a matter of conscience, not to yield obedience to the command; that the result could not be modified by any statement which they could make, or by any argument in the case; and that, therefore, they were not anxious about the result, but calmly committed the whole cause to God.
If it be so – Chaldee, איתי הן hên ‘ı̂ythay – “so it is.” That is, “this is true, that the God whom we serve can save us.” The idea is not, as would seem in our translation, “if we are to be cast into the furnace,” but the mind is turned on the fact that the God whom they served could save them. Coverdale renders this whole passage, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we ought not to consent unto thee in this matter, for why? our God whom we serve is able to keep us,” etc.
Our God, whom we serve – Greek, “our God in the heavens, whom we serve.” This was a distinct avowal that they were the servants of the true God, and they were not ashamed to avow it, whatever might be the consequences.
Is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace – This was evidently said in reply to the question asked by the king Dan_3:15, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” They were sure that the God whom they worshipped was able, if he should choose to do it, to save them from death. In what way they supposed he could save them is not expressed. Probably it did not occur to them that he would save them in the manner in which he actually did, but they felt that it was entirely within his power to keep them from so horrid a death if he pleased. The state of mind indicated in this verse is that of “entire confidence in God.” Their answer showed
(a) that they had no doubt of his “ability” to save them if he pleased;
(b) that they believed he would do what was best in the case; and
(c) that they were entirely willing to commit the whole case into his hands to dispose of it as he chose. Compare Isa_43:2.
But if not – That is, “if he should “not” deliver us; if it should “not” occur that he would protect us, and save us from that heated oven: whatever may be the result in regard to us, our determination is settled.”
Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods … – This answer is firm and noble. It showed that their minds were made up, and that it was with them a matter of “principle” not to worship false gods. The state of mind which is denoted by this verse is that of a determination to do their duty, whatever might be the consequences. The attention was fixed on what was “right,” not on what would be the result. The sole question which was asked was, what “ought” to be done in the case; and they had no concern about what would follow. True religion is a determined purpose to do right, and not to do wrong, whatever may be the consequences in either case. It matters not what follows – wealth or poverty; honor or dishonor; good report or evil report; life or death; the mind is firmly fixed on doing right, and not on doing wrong. This is “the religion of principle;” and when we consider the circumstances of those who made this reply; when we remember their comparative youth, and the few opportunities which they had for instruction in the nature of religion, and that they were captives in a distant land, and that they stood before the most absolute monarch of the earth, with no powerful friends to support them, and with the most horrid kind of death threatening them, we may well admire the grace of that God who could so amply furnish them for such a trial, and love that religion which enabled them to take a stand so noble and so bold.
Then, Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied – The word “astonied,” which occurs several times in our translation Ezr_9:3; Job_17:8; Job_18:20; Eze_4:17; Dan_3:24; Dan_4:19; Dan_5:9, is but another form for “astonished,” and expresses wonder or amazement. The reasons of the wonder here were that the men who were bound when cast into the furnace were seen alive, and walking unbound; that to them a fourth person was added, walking with them; and that the fourth had the appearance of a Divine personage. It would seem from this, that the furnace was so made that one could conveniently see into it, and also that the king remained near to it to witness the result of the execution of his own order.
And rose up in haste – He would naturally express his surprise to his counselors, and ask an explanation of the remarkable occurrence which he witnessed. “And spake, and said unto his counselors.” Margin, “governors.” The word used here (הדברין haddâberı̂yn) occurs only here and in Dan_3:27; Dan_4:36; Dan_6:7. It is rendered “counselors” in each case. The Vulgate renders it “optimatibus;” the Septuagint, μεγιστᾶσιν megistasin – his nobles, or distinguished men. The word would seem to mean those who were authorized to “speak” (from דבר dâbar); that is, those authorized to give counsel; ministers of state, viziers, cabinet counselors.
Did not we cast three men bound … – The emphasis here is on the words “three,” and “bound.” It was now a matter of astonishment that there were “four,” and that they were all “loose.” It is not to be supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had any doubt on this subject, or that his recollection had so soon failed him, but this manner of introducing the subject is adopted in order to fix the attention strongly on the fact to which he was about to call their attention, and which was to him so much a matter of surprise.
Cambridge Bible Driver
25. loose] the fire had burnt away the fetters, but left the bodies of the three youths untouched.
form] aspect, appearance, as Dan_2:31.
is like the Son of God] is like a son of (the) gods, i.e. a heavenly being or angel: cf. the ‘sons of God’ (or, of the gods) in Gen_6:2; Job_1:6 (where see Davidson’s note), Job_38:7. The rendering ‘the Son of God’ cannot stand: ’ĕlôhim is, indeed, used with a singular force in Hebrew, but the Aram. ’ělâhîn is always a true plural (Dan_2:11; Dan_2:47, Dan_3:12; Dan_3:18, Dan_4:8; Dan_4:19; Dan_4:18, Dan_5:4; Dan_5:11; Dan_5:14; Dan_5:23), ‘God’ being in the Aram. of Ezra and Dan. denoted regularly by the sing. ’ĕlâh. The meaning is simply that Nebuchadnezzar saw an angelic figure (LXX, ὁμοίωμα ἀγγέλου Θεοῦ) beside the three youths (cf. Dan_3:28, ‘his angel’).
Between Dan_3:23 and Dan_3:24 LXX, and Theodotion, and following them the Vulgate (but with notes prefixed and added to the effect that Jerome did not find the passage in the Heb. text, but translated it from Theodotion), have a long insertion (Dan_3:24-30), which, after describing how the three youths walked in the midst of the fire, praising God (Dan_3:24), narrates the confession and prayer of Azarias (Dan_3:25-30), and then, after another short descriptive passage (v. 46–50), represents the three as uttering a doxology (v. 52–56), which leads on into the hymn known familiarly as the Benedicite (v. 57–90). This insertion constitutes the Apocryphal book called the ‘Song of the Three Children.’
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose – From the fact that he saw these men now loose, and that this filled him with so much surprise, it may be presumed that they had been bound with something that was not combustible – with some sort of fetters or chains. In that case it would be a matter of surprise that they should be “loose,” even though they could survive the action of the fire. The “fourth” personage now so mysteriously added to their number, it is evident, assumed the appearance of a “man,” and not the appearance of a celestial being, though it was the aspect of a man so noble and majestic that he deserved to be called a son of God.
Walking in the midst of the fire – The furnace, therefore, was large, so that those who were in it could walk about. The vision must have been sublime; and it is a beautiful image of the children of God often walking unhurt amidst dangers, safe beneath the Divine protection.
And they have no hurt – Margin, “There is no hurt in them.” They walk unharmed amidst the flames. Of course, the king judged in this only from appearances, but the result Dan_3:27 showed that it was really so.
And the form of the fourth – Chaldee, (רוה rēvēh) – “his appearance” (from ראה râ’âh – “to see”); that is, he “seemed” to be a son of God; he “looked” like a son of God. The word does not refer to anything special or peculiar in his “form” or “figure,” but it may be supposed to denote something that was noble or majestic in his mien; something in his countenance and demeanour that declared him to be of heavenly origin.
Like the son of God – There are two inquiries which arise in regard to this expression: one is, what was the idea denoted by the phrase as used by the king, or who did he take this personage to be? the other, who he actually was? In regard to the former inquiry, it may be observed, that there is no evidence that the king referred to him to whom this title is so frequently applied in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is clear
(1) because there is no reason to believe that the king had “any” knowledge whatever that there would be on earth one to whom this title might be appropriately given;
(2) there is no evidence that the title was then commonly given to the Messiah by the Jews, or, if it was, that the king of Babylon was so versed in Jewish theology as to be acquainted with it; and
(3) the language which he uses does not necessarily imply that, even “if” he were acquainted with the fact that there was a prevailing expectation that such a being would appear on the earth, he designed so to use it.
The insertion of the article “the,” which is not in the Chaldee, gives a different impression from what the original would if literally interpreted. There is nothing in the Chaldee to limit it to “any” “son of God,” or to designate anyone to whom that term could be applied as peculiarly intended. It would seem probable that our translators meant to convey the idea that ““the” Son of God” peculiarly was intended, and doubtless they regarded this as one of his appearances to men before his incarnation; but it is clear that no such conception entered into the mind of the king of Babylon. The Chaldee is simply, לבר־אלחין דמה dâmēh lebar ‘ĕlâhı̂yn – “like to A son of God,” or to a son of the gods – since the word אלחין ‘ĕlâhı̂yn (Chaldee), or אלהים ‘ĕlohı̂ym (Hebrew), though often, and indeed usually applied to the true God, is in the plural number, and in the mouth of a pagan would properly be used to denote the gods that he worshipped.
The article is not prefixed to the word “son,” and the language would apply to anyone who might properly be called a son of God. The Vulgate has literally rendered it, “like to A son of God” – similis filio Dei; the Greek in the same way – ὁμοία ὑιῷ θεοῦ homoia huiō theou; the Syriac is like the Chaldee; Castellio renders it, quartus formam habet Deo nati similem – “the fourth has a form resembling one born of God;” Coverdale “the fourth is like an angel to look upon;” Luther, more definitely, und der vierte ist gleich, als ware er ein Sohn der Gotter – “and the fourth as if he might be “a” son of the gods.” It is clear that the authors of none of the other versions had the idea which our translators supposed to be conveyed by the text, and which implies that the Babylonian monarch “supposed” that the person whom he saw was the one who afterward became incarnate for our redemption.
In accordance with the common well-known usage of the word “son” in the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, it would denote anyone who had a “resemblance” to another, and would be applied to any being who was of a majestic or dignified appearance, and who seemed worthy to be ranked among the gods. It was usual among the pagan to suppose that the gods often appeared in a human form, and probably Nebuchadnezzar regarded this as some such celestial appearance. If it be supposed that he regarded it as some manifestation connected with the “Hebrew” form of religion, the most that would probably occur to him would be, that it was some “angelic” being appearing now for the protection of these worshippers of Jehovah. But a second inquiry, and one that is not so easily answered, in regard to this mysterious personage, arises. Who in fact “was” this being that appeared in the furnace for the protection of these three persecuted men?
Was it an angel, or was it the second person of the Trinity, “the” Son of God? That this was the Son of God – the second person of the Trinity, who afterward became incarnate, has been quite a common opinion of expositors. So it was held by Tertullian, by Augustine, and by Hilary, among the fathers; and so it has been held by Gill, Clarius, and others, among the moderns. Of those who have maintained that it was Christ, some have supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had been made acquainted with the belief of the Hebrews in regard to the Messiah; others, that he spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, without being fully aware of what his words imported, as Caiaphas, Saul, Pilate, and others have done. – Poole’s “Synopsis.” The Jewish writers Jarchi, Saadias, and Jacchiades suppose that it was an angel, called a son of God, in accordance with the usual custom in the Scriptures. That this latter is the correct opinion, will appear evident, though there cannot be exact certainty, from the following considerations:
(1) The language used implies necessarily nothing more. Though it “might” indeed be applicable to the Messiah – the second person of the Trinity, if it could be determined from other sources that it was he, yet there is nothing in the language which necessarily suggests this.
(2) In the explanation of the matter by Nebuchadnezzar himself Dan_3:28, he understood it to be an angel – “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, etc., “who hath sent his angel,”” etc. This shows that he had had no other view of the subject, and that he had no higher knowledge in the case than to suppose that he was an angel of God. The knowledge of the existence of angels was so common among the ancients, that there is no improbability in supposing that Nebuchadnezzar was sufficiently instructed on this point to know that they were sent for the protection of the good.
(3) The belief that it was an angel accords with what we find elsewhere in this book (compare Dan_6:22; Dan_7:10; Dan_9:21), and in other places in the sacred Scriptures, respecting their being employed to protect and defend the children of God. Compare Psa_34:7; Psa_91:11-12; Mat_18:10; Luk_16:22; Heb_1:14.
(4) It may be added, that it should not be supposed that it was the Son of God in the peculiar sense of that term without positive evidence, and such evidence does not exist. Indeed there is scarcely a probability that it was so. If the Redeemer appeared on this occasion, it cannot be explained why, in a case equally important and perilous, he did not appear to Daniel when cast into the lions’ den Dan_6:22; and as Daniel then attributed his deliverance to the intervention of an angel, there is every reason why the same explanation should be given of this passage. As to the probability that an angel would be employed on an occasion like this, it may be observed, that it is in accordance with the uniform representation of the Scriptures, and with what we know to be a great law of the universe. The weak, the feeble, and those who are in danger are protected by those who are strong; and there is, in itself, no more improbability in the supposition that an “angel” would be employed to work a miracle than there is that a “man” would be.
We are not to suppose that the angel was able to prevent the usual effect of fire by any natural strength of his own. The miracle in this case, like all other miracles, was wrought by the power of God. At the same time, the presence of the angel would be a pledge of the Divine protection; would be an assurance that the effect produced was not from any natural cause; would furnish an easy explanation of so remarkable an occurrence; and, perhaps more than all, would impress the Babylonian monarch and his court with some just views of the Divine nature, and with the truth of the religion which was professed by those whom he had cast into the flames. As to the probability that a miracle would be wrought on an occasion like this, it may be remarked that a more appropriate occasion for working a miracle could scarcely be conceived. At a time when the true religion was persecuted; at the court of the most powerful pagan monarch in the world; when the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, and the fires on the altars had been put out, and the people of God were exiles in a distant land, nothing was more probable than that God would give to his people some manifest tokens of his presence, and some striking confirmation of the truth of his religion.
There has perhaps never been an occasion when we should more certainly expect the evidences of the Divine interposition than during the exile of his people in Babylon; and during their long captivity there it is not easy to conceive of an occasion on which such an interposition would be more likely to occur than when, in the very presence of the monarch and his court, three youths of eminent devotedness to the cause of God were cast into a burning furnace, “because” they steadfastly refused to dishonor him.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach … – On the characteristic of mind thus evinced by this monarch, see the notes and practical remarks at Dan_2:46-47.
Who hath sent his angel – This proves that the king regarded this mysterious fourth personage as an angel, and that he used the phrase Dan_3:25 “is like the son of God” only in that sense. That an angel should be employed on an embassage of this kind, we have seen, is in accordance with the current statements of the Scriptures. Compare “Excursus I.” to Prof. Stuart “on the Apocalypse.” See also Luk_1:11-20, Luk_1:26-38; Mat_1:20-21; Mat_2:13, Mat_2:19-20; Mat_4:11; Mat_18:10; Act_12:7-15; Gen_32:1-2; 2Ki_6:17; Exo_14:19; Exo_23:20; Exo_33:2; Num_20:16; Jos_5:13; Isa_63:9; Dan_10:5-13, Dan_10:20-21; Dan_12:1.
And have changed the king’s word – That is, his purpose or command. Their conduct, and the Divine protection in consequence of their conduct, had had the effect wholly to change his purpose toward them. He had resolved to destroy them; he now resolved to honor them. This is referred to by the monarch himself as a remarkable result, as indeed it was – that an Eastern despot, who had resolved on the signal punishment of any of his subjects, should be so entirety changed in his purposes toward them.
And yielded their bodies – The Greek adds here εἰς πῦρ eis pur – “to the fire.” So the Arabic. This is doubtless the sense of the passage. The meaning is, that rather than bow clown to worship gods which they regarded as no gods; rather than violate their consciences, and do wrong, they had preferred to be cast into the flames, committing themselves to the protection of God. It is implied here that they had done this voluntarily, and that they might easily have avoided it if they had chosen to obey the king. He had given them time to deliberate on the subject Dan_3:14-15, and he knew that they had resolved to pursue the course which they did from principle, no matter what might be the results Dan_3:16-18. This strength of principle – this obedience to the dictates of conscience – this determination not to do wrong at any hazard – he could not but respect; and this is a remarkable instance to show that a firm and steady course in doing what is right will command the respect of even wicked men. This monarch, with all his pride, and haughtiness, and tyranny, had not a few generous qualities, and some of the finest illustrations of human nature were furnished by him.
That they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God – They gave up their bodies to the flame rather than do this.
28, 29. This sounds like the speech of a Hebrew, not a Babylonian, and the decree (Dan_3:29; compare Dan_6:25-28) is very unlike those uncovered at Babylon; but see note Dan_3:26; Dan_4:1-3. Nebuchadnezzar’s anger now blazes as hot as his furnace against the accusers of the Hebrews (Dan_3:12) — who had, as the king now thinks, so nearly made this mighty God an enemy of the empire — and therefore those who shall hereafter say “anything amiss” (“any slander,” Kautzsch) against this God shall themselves perish. The doom pronounced here is not unnatural. Assurbanipal says, “I threw them into the pit, I cut off their limbs and caused them to be eaten by dogs, bears, eagles, vultures, birds of heaven and fishes of the deep.” (See also Dan_2:5.)