chapter 3: Bow or Burn

Notice the interesting question posed by Nebuchadnezzar. He didn't argue with the religious beliefs of these three Jews, but cast doubt on their validity in an effort to get his way.

This Babylonian king is a man who seeks power and control in all situations. In his effort to have his way here, it seems that the king has forgotten about the God of Daniel, the true God who has already proved Himself to the king earlier.

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter.

If we are thrown into the burning fiery furnace, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

But even if he doesn't, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up."

What great faith is shown here! These men do not even attempt to defend their faith or their right to believe in God. The NIV offers perhaps the most accurate translation here, by saying "we do not have to defend ourselves before you in this matter." They do not argue with the king or offer some kind of explanation. They humbly give the situation entirely to God. They are implying that He will deal with the king personally. Note too that they don't push God into a corner. While they are confident that He will rescue them, they give Him room to save them or not.

Daniel 3:19-23

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious, and his facial features were changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal.

And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

So these men were bound in their coats, pants, head gear and their other garments and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flames of the fire killed the men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, firmly bound, fell down into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Finally, the king snaps completely. He hates being powerless, and this humility and trust in someone greater than Nebuchadnezzar is too much for him. He becomes so enraged that his facial features contort and he flies completely out of control. A temper tantrum by a king.

Nebuchadnezzar orders the fire made seven times hotter than normal -- something quite impossible to do -- and then commands that the strongest and most valiant men in his military (probably from his personal guard) to bind the men and throw them into the furnace.

Seven Times Hotter?

How do you heat a brick-firing furnace seven times hotter than usual? The normal firing temperature is about 1000 degrees Celsius. The most they could have achieved was 1500º which is only 50 percent hotter. Nobody argues with the tyrant about this impossible command. They pretend to follow his orders, terrified that they might join the condemned in a moment of royal anger.