Nebuchadnezzar’s Demand for Worship…the Furnace Daniel 3
Daniel 3:1-12-The Challenge to Faith…divided worship
Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of himself that was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide (:1). He gathered together all of the people who held positions of leadership in his government. This was going to be a test of loyalty. He then demanded that everyone bow down and worship the statue…that represented him. Failure to do so would be an act of treason (:6) and would be punished by being thrown into a “furnace” (pit) of fire. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so...and some of the other leaders, who were jealous of them, reported them (:8-12). They were not denied the right to worship their own God…but, they must also worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. Worship is an expression of faith that is reserved exclusively for God. To give worship to anyone, or anything else, would denigrate the uniqueness and worthiness of God.
Daniel 3:13-18-The Obedience of Faith…no strings attached
Nebuchadnezzar gave them another chance but they refused...saying that God could rescue them if He desired; but, even if He didn't, they would still worship Him. They would worship God, and Him alone. Their safety was not the determining factor of their faith. The glory of God was.
Daniel 3:19-25-The Substance of Faith…God is with them
This infuriated Nebuchadnezzar so much that he allowed it to show on his face. In other words, for a moment he lost his royal bearing in front of the crowd…something that a person who supposed himself to be a “god” should never allow to happen. He was so angry that he commanded that the fire be heated seven times hotter than normal. Then, he had them tied up and thrown into the fire. It quickly became evident that there was no possible way that they could survive this fire…because even the men who got close enough to throw them into the fire were killed by it. But when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace he saw four men, not three..."and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"
3:25 The fourth form Nebuchadnezzar saw in the furnace was like a divine being. It may have been an angel or possible a preincarnate appearance of Christ, though the king would not have known who He was.
The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote on Daniel 3:25, p. 1312
And while the ropes that he had had them bound with were gone…they were casually walking around like nothing had happened to them. Whether the individual in the fire was an angel, or Christ…he certainly was there as a divine sign that God was with them. This gave them confidence that they were not alone and that they were not acting on some kind of self-manufactured optimism, or hopefulness, that what they believed was true. This was the proof that God would walk with them in the midst of their trial.
Daniel 3:26-30-The Reward of Faith…brought through the fire
He commanded them to come out of the fire and saw that they had been completely unaffected by it. Not only were their clothes not damaged…they didn’t even smell like smoke (:27). Suddenly Nebuchadnezzar had a change of heart. He recognized that the God of these men was the one, true God…and that they should worship and put their trust in none other, but Him (:28). He even went so far as to make a decree that if anyone said anything bad about the God that they worshipped…they would be severely punished (:29). He then awarded them for their actions (:30).
Nebuchadnezzar’s Nightmare of a Tree…the Fall Daniel 4
Daniel 4:1-9-The Vision Announced
Daniel 4:1-3-Nebuchadnezzar makes a public decree of the greatness of God and his own personal experience with Him.
Daniel 4:4-9-Nebuchadnezzar had a vision, or dream and called upon the “wise men of Babylon” (:6-7) to interpret it…but they couldn’t. So, he called on Daniel to interpret it. Even though Nebuchadnezzar had previously (ch. 3; 4:2-3) expressed belief in the uniqueness of the God of Daniel…at this point he is still including Him in a pantheon of his gods and not identifying Him as the only, true God (“holy gods”-:8,9,18).
Daniel 4:10-18-The Vision Described
In the vision, Nebuchadnezzar sees a tree grow to great height and prominence. Then, it was chopped down and all that was left was the stump. Notice that in verse 15, the tree’s stump is referred to as “him”. Obviously, this tree represents an individual. This man is going to go through some form of transformation that will last for “seven periods of time”…probably meaning seven years. The purpose of this vision and what would later take place was to display the absolute sovereignty of the God of Daniel (:2,17,25-“Most High”) over all men.
Daniel 4:19-27-The Vision Explained
When Daniel hears the vision and realizes its meaning…he is “appalled” (:19). Perhaps by this time Daniel has developed a friendship with the king and because he realizes the seriousness of what is about to happen to him it causes him to be distraught. Daniel tells the king that the tree represents him and the great kingdom that he would develop (:20-22). But, that like the tree…for a while his greatness would be diminished. However, the kingdom, like the tree, would be preserved. Daniel told the king that there would come a time when he would be treated like an animal. This vision was being given to him so that he would know that what was about to happen was not a coincidence…but was caused by God. It’s purpose was to demonstrate that God is sovereign over all things (:25-26). Then, he would be restored and so would his kingdom.
Daniel 4:28-37-The Vision Fulfilled
Nothing happened immediately after Daniel gave his interpretation of the vision. But twelve months later, as Nebuchadnezzar was considering how great he was (:30)...he immediately began to suffer from a mental illness which today is called "boanthropy". He imagined himself to be an animal and began acting like it.
For more information on “boanthropy” see:
After a period of time he returned to his normal state of mind...and gave glory to God as the only and supreme God (:34-35). From that point, his kingdom was restored to him (:36). As a result, Nebuchadnezzar recognized the sovereignty of God (:37).
Prayer: Lord, I ask that You would give me faith that trusts in You, regardless of the circumstances. I realize that the substance of that kind of faith is the recognition that You are with me…no matter what is happening. Help me to keep my eyes, my faith, focused on You and not on what is going on. Help me to know Your presence with me even in the midst of trial.