The Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3)

The Apostle Peter said to his readers,

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

In Daniel 3, we learn about a literal “fiery trial” that Daniel’s three friends experienced.The events in this chapter occurred because of their resolute faith in the one true God.

Some time after having the troubling dream of the great image, Nebuchadnezzar made a large image out of gold. Its height was approximately 27 meters (90 feet) and its width around 3 meters (9 feet). It is interesting that in his dream the golden head was said to represent him and his kingdom. This act appears to be one of pride by making the entire statue golden. After setting it up, he called for his kingdom’s officials to attend the dedication of the gold image (Dan. 3:1-3). It was then announced to all the people, that when the music of various instruments and sounds plays, they are to all fall down and worship the image (Dan. 3:4-5). It was made clear that if anyone did not obey this command they would be punished by being thrown into a “burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:6). So when the music did play the people worshiped the image (Dan.3:7).

It was evident to some of the kingdom’s officials that not all obeyed the king’s command (Dan. 3:8). They approached the king by reminding him of his command (Dan 3:9-11) and then made known to him the fact that “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego” refused to worship the gold image (Dan. 3:12). This act of refusal on the part of Daniel’s[1] three friends was risky but resolute.

When Nebuchadnezzar heard about this, “in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego” (Dan. 3:13). He asked them if such an allegation was true, and then gave them the choice, fall down and worship at the playing of the music or be cast into the furnace. He then asked, “and who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Dan. 3:15). These three men responded by revealing their confidence in the God of Israel by saying,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18).

They did not know what the outcome would be, but they were ready to “suffer according to the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:19) because their confidence was in God. This courage turned into a bold courage as they faced their trial. Burning with fury, Nebuchadnezzar commanded that the furnace be heated to maximum intensity (Dan. 3:19). He commanded some mighty men in the army to bind them clothes and all and cast them into the furnace (3:20-21). The furnace was so hot that it instantly consumed the soldiers (3:23) and then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego “fell down bound into the midst of the fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:23). They displayed great courage that flowed from great confidence in their God.

Filled with confusion, the king looked and asked, “did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” (3:24). He then observed that there were four men loose in the fire without any harm. But the fourth he declared is “like the Son of God” (Dan. 3:25). Nebuchadnezzar immediately calls out to the three men to come out and then declares that they are “servants of the Most High God” (Dan. 3:26). All the government officials saw that the three men were not harmed, not even having the stench of fire (Dan. 3:27). Nebuchadnezzar gave public praise to the one true God (Dan. 3:28). He then is a command, that if anyone speaks against the one true God, they will be punished and killed (Dan. 3:29). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were then promoted (Dan. 3:30).

When it comes to trials, we need to know that they are inevitable (James 1:2). Furthermore, the earthly outcomes  of trials are not always going to be the same for God’s people. Some will be spared from difficult situation whereas others won’t (cf. Heb. 11:32-38). When we suffer according to the will of God, we are to entrust our “souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet. 4:19).

[1] Daniel is not mentioned in this chapter. It is assumed by most commentators that for reasons unknown to the reader that Daniel wasn’t present on this occasion. It is suggested that he may have been on business for the king. Daniel certainly would have had the same resolve as his friends if he was present (cf. 1:8)