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The historical setting of Chapter 3 is discussed at Daniel. The relationship of Chapter 3 to the rest of the book, and to Chapter 6 regarding the den of lions in particular, is also discussed at Daniel. This chapter can be outlined as follows:
- C. The fiery furnace (Chapter 3)
- a. king commands worship of idol on pain of death (3:1-7)
- a. king commands three be cast into fire, but soldiers die (3:19-23)
In the first a passage (3:1-7) the people obey the king’s command, upon threat of death, to worship an idol (6-7). In the second a passage (3:19-23) the king commands his mighty men to cast the three friends (Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego) into the fiery furnace. But death instead takes the king’s own soldiers as they obey his command (3:20-22). Obedience to the world leads to destruction.
In the first b passage (3:8-12) the three friends are discovered refusing to serve the idol by Chaldeans, members of Babylon’s earthly empire. The three friends are individually named, but they are also identified as Jews and thus represent all who worship God. In the second b passage (3:24-27) the world’s most powerful man, Nebuchadnezzar, angrily sentences the three to death for refusing to serve the idol. But they are saved by an angel of God whose form, significantly, “is like the Son of God,” and the king recognizes that they are in fact “servants of the most high God.” Safety lies in obedience to God.
The climax of the first c passage (3:13-18) is the exchange in verses 16-17 between the king and the three friends about God’s ability to save:
- • king asks if friends are willing to serve the idol (14-15)
- • but we will not serve idols (18)
After the three friends are delivered, the king states the lesson in the second c passage (3:28-30) that “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort”.
At the opening of this episode the king commanded that everyone must worship the golden idol (3:4-6). At the conclusion he now commands that no one may speak ill of the God of the Jews (3:29). The king is not converted to monotheism, but he does acknowledge God as the most high God.
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