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Daniel 3:1, 812, 15b18, 2425, 28 comment (0)

July 31, 2014

By Douglas K. Wilson

Related Scripture: Daniel 3:1, 812, 15b18, 2425, 28

Explore the Bible 
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile


Daniel 3:1, 8–12, 15b–18, 24–25, 28     

The story of the three Hebrew men — this is a familiar one found in many Bible storybooks. Daniel chapter three has 97 verses in the Septuagint, in which Jewish scholars added “The Prayer of the Three Hebrew Men” when translating the original Aramaic to Greek. The Latin Vulgate includes a chapter three with 100 verses.  

Their Hebrew names meant Grace of Yahweh (Hanaiah), Who is Like God (Mishael) and Help of Yahweh (Azariah). Upon entering the “Babylon Royal Academy for Reprogramming Hebrews,” they are renamed Command of Aku (Shadrach), Who is Like Aku (Meshach) and Servant of Nego (Abednego). Their names are changed but their commitment to the God of Israel remains firm.

Imagine the Muslim call to prayer being offered in Mecca. All the men surrounding the Black Stone face it, bowing down in worship — all except for three members of the Saudi royal court. Their unwillingness to submit would be a serious religious and legal offense. Consider this word picture and you will have some idea as to the boldness (or perceived insanity) of Shadrach and his compatriots.

Where is Daniel during these events in Dura? This is one of the most frequently asked questions about the book. The answer is: Daniel is in Babylon. According to Daniel 2:49 the young man from Jerusalem is serving Nebuchadnezzar at the royal court.

Determine to Serve God Only (1, 8–12)

Sinaitic law is very clear. Israelites serve no other gods, and they are forbidden to bow before idols. Nebuchadnezzar’s gold idol (see 2:36–38) cannot be ignored, but the three men choose not to follow the edict to worship the larger-than-life statue. They know their stand might cost them their lives, but they recognize that God is their supreme authority, before whom every king will give account.

Noting their ethnic distinction, certain Mesopotamians bring this act of rebellion to the attention of the king. Nebuchadnezzar responds in anger to the accusations, and he calls the men to answer for their brazen actions.

Resist All Pressure (15b–18)

But if not ... these words are the turning point in the conversation. King Neb gives them another chance to follow the law. After all, they are young and still learning the ways of Babylon. Bow down when the music plays; but if not, you will be incinerated.

But if not ... the men seize upon these words. Your majesty, we will not bow down, and our God will deliver us from your hands; but if not, we still refuse to worship your gods or your statue.  

But if not ... according to George Will (“A Dying Tradition,” The Day, 5/4/84), Allied troops were pinned down by Nazi forces at Dunkirk in 1940. They were surrounded and had little chance for survival. A British officer was able to get a signal out. His communiqué was three simple words: “but if not.” Instantly the Allies knew the reference was to the three Hebrew men of this Bible passage. Their eventual rescue was seen to be miraculous.

But if not ... these words are a concise reminder that God is greater than any challenge we face; and even if He chooses not to deliver us, He is still God and worthy to be praised.

 Trust God’s Presence and Power (24–25, 28)

Something supernatural occurs in the fire. Three men are bound and then thrown in the fire with no hope of escape. But wait — they are walking around without bindings. And who is that fourth figure, the one “like a son of gods” (from the original Aramaic)? Conservative Bible interpreters generally view the fourth person as a supernatural being: an angel, a theophany (manifestation of God) or a Christophany (pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ).  

The event and its outcome demonstrate God’s intervention with a supernatural being and a miraculous deliverance. Three Hebrew men trust God in their trial and deliverance. In fact, they will trust God if He does not deliver them. Will you?

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