Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Section I. - Authenticity of the Chapter
The objections which have been urged against the authenticity of this chapter are much more numerous than those which have been alleged against the two previous chapters.
I. The first which deserves to be noticed is stated by De Wette (p. 383, under the general head of "improbabilities" in the chapter), and Bleek, p. 268, as quoted by Hengstenberg, "die Authentie des Daniel," p. 83. The objection is, substantially, that if the account in this chapter is true, it would prove that the Chaldeans were inclined to persecution on account of religious opinions, which, it is said, is contrary to their whole character as elsewhere shown. So far as we have any information in regard to them, it is alleged, they were far from having this character, and it is not probable, therefore, that Nebuchadnezzar would make a law which would compel the worship of an idol under severe pains and penalties.
To this objection the following reply may be made:
(1) Little is known, on any supposition, of the Chaldeans in general, and little of the character of Nebuchadnezzar in particular, beyond what we find in the book of Daniel. So far, however, as we have any knowledge of either from any source, there is no inconsistency between that and what is said in this chapter to have occurred. It is probable that no one ever perceived any incongruity of this kind in the book itself, nor, if this were all, should we suppose that there was any improbability in the account in this chapter.
(2) There is properly no account of "persecution" in this narrative, nor any reason to suppose that Nebuchadnezzar designed any such thing. This is admitted by Bertholdt himself (p. 261), and is manifest on the face of the whole narrative. It is indeed stated that Nebuchadnezzar demanded, on severe penalties, a recognition of the god that he worshipped, and required that the reverence should be shown to that god which he thought to be his due. It is true, also, that the monarch intended to be obeyed in what seems to us to be a very arbitrary and unreasonable command, that they should assemble and fall down and worship the image which he had set up. But this does not imply any disposition to persecute on account of religion, or to prevent in others the free exercise of their own religious opinions, or the worship of their own gods. It is well known that it was a doctrine of all ancient idolaters, that respect might be shown to foreign gods - to the gods of other people - without in the least degree implying a want of respect for their own gods, or violating any of their obligations to them.
The universal maxim was, that the gods of all nations were to be respected, and hence, foreign gods might be introduced for worship, and respect paid to them without in any degree detracting from the honor which was due to their own. Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, simply demanded that homage should be shown to the idol that "he" had erected; that the god whom "he" worshipped should be acknowledged as a god; and that respect should thus be shown to himself, and to the laws of his empire, by acknowledging "his" god, and rendering to that god the degree of homage which was his due. But it is nowhere intimated that he regarded his idol as the "only" true god, or that he demanded that he should be recognized as such, or that he was not willing that all other gods, in their place, should be honored. There is no intimation, therefore, that he meant to "persecute" any other men for worshipping their own gods, nor is there any reason to suppose that he apprehended that there would be any scruples on religious grounds about acknowledging the image that he set up to be worthy of adoration and praise.
(3) There is no reason to think that he was so well acquainted with the peculiar character of the Hebrew religion as to suppose that its votaries would have any difficulty on this subject, or would hesitate to unite with others in adoring his image. He knew, indeed, that they were worshippers of Jehovah; that they had reared a magnificent temple to his honor in Jerusalem, and that they professed to keep his laws. But there is no reason to believe that he was very intimately acquainted with the laws and institutions of the Hebrews, or that he supposed that they would have any difficulty in doing what was universally understood to be proper - to show due respect to the gods of other nations. Certainly, if he had intimately known the history of a considerable portion of the Hebrew people, and been acquainted with their proneness to fall into idolatry, he would have seen little to make him doubt that they would readily comply with a command to show respect to the gods worshipped in other lands. There is no reason, therefore, to suppose that he anticipated that the Hebrew exiles, anymore than any other people, would hesitate to show to his image the homage which he required.
(4) The whole account agrees well with the character of Nebuchadnezzar. He was an arbitrary monarch. He was accustomed to implicit obedience. He was determined in his character, and resolute in his purposes. Having once formed the resolution to erect such a magnificent image of his god - one that would correspond with the greatness of his capital, and, at the same time, show his respect for the god that he worshipped - nothing was more natural than that he should issue such a proclamation that homage should be shown to it by all his subjects, and that, in order to secure this, he should issue this decree, that whoever did "not" do it should be punished in the severest manner. There is no reason to suppose that he had any particular class of persons in his eye, or, indeed, that he anticipated that the order would be disobeyed by "any" class of persons. In fact, we see in this whole transaction just one illustration of what usually occurred under the arbitrary despotisms of the East, where, "whatever" is the order that is issued from the throne, universal and absolute submission is demanded, under the threatening of a speedy and fearful punishment. The order of Nebuchadnezzar was not more arbitrary and unreasonable than those which have been frequently issued by the Turkish sultan.
II. A second objection to the chapter is the account of the musical instruments in Dan 3:5. The objection is, that to some of these instruments "Grecian" names are given, and that this proves that the transaction must have a later date than is attributed to it, or that the account must have been written by one of later times. The objection is, that the whole statement seems to have been derived from the account of some Greek procession in honor of the gods of Greece. See Bleek, p. 259.
To this objection, it may be replied:
(a) that such processions in honor of the gods, or such assemblages, accompanied with musical instruments, were, and are, common among all people. They occur constantly in the East, and it cannot, with any propriety, be said that one is borrowed from another.
(b) A large part of these instruments have undoubtedly Chaldee names given to them, and the names are such as we may suppose that one living in the times of Nebuchadnezzar would give them. See the notes at Dan 3:5.
(c) As to those which are alleged to indicate a Greek origin, it may be observed, that it is quite uncertain whether the origin of the name was Greek or Chaldee. That such names are found given to instruments of music by the Greeks is certain; but it is not certain from where they obtained the name. For anything that can be proved to the contrary, the name may have had an Eastern origin. It is altogether probable that many of the names of things among the Greeks had such an origin; and if the instrument of music itself - as no one can prove it did not - came in from the East, the "name" came also from the East.
(d) It may be further stated, that, even on the supposition that the name had its origin in Greece, there is no absolute certainty that the name and the instrument were unknown to the Chaldeans. Who can prove that some Chaldean may not have been in Greece, and may not have borne back to his own country some instrument of music that he found there different from those which he had been accustomed to at home, or that he may not have constructed an instrument resembling one which he had seen there, and given it the same name? Or who can prove that some strolling Greek musician may not have traveled as far as Babylon - for the Greeks traveled everywhere - and carried with him some instrument of music before unknown to the Chaldeans, and imparted to them at the same time the knowledge of the instrument and the name? But until this is shown the objection has no force.
III. A third objection is, that the statement in Dan 3:22, that the persons appointed to execute the orders of the king died from the heat of the furnace, or that the king issued an order, to execute which perilled the lives of the innocent who were entrusted with its execution, is improbable.
To this it may be said
(a) that there is no evidence or affirmation that the king contemplated "their" danger, or designed to peril their lives; but it is undoubtedly a fact that he was intent on the execution of his own order, and that he little regarded the peril of those who executed it. And nothing is more probable than this; and, indeed, nothing more common. A general who orders a company of men to silence or take a battery has no malice against them, and no design on their lives; but he is intent on the accomplishment of the object, whatever may be the peril of the men, or however large a portion of them may fall. In fact, the objection which is here made to the credibility of this narrative is an objection which would lie with equal force against most of the orders issued in battle, and not a few of the commands issued by arbitrary monarchs in time of peace. The fact in this case was, the king was intent on the execution of his purpose - the punishment of the refractory and stubborn men who had resisted his commands, and there is no probability that, in the excitements of wrath, he would pause to inquire whether the execution of his purpose would endanger the lives of those who were entrusted with the execution of the order or not.
(b) There is every probability that the heat "would" be so great as to peril the lives of those who should approach it. It is said to have been made seven times hotter than usual Dan 3:19; that is, as hot as it could be made, and, if this were so, it is by no means an unreasonable supposition that those who were compelled to approach it so near as to cast others in should be in danger.
IV. A fourth objection, urged by Griesinger, p. 41, as quoted by Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," p. 92, is, that "as Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace already prepared ready to throw these men in, he must have known beforehand that they would not comply with his demand, and so must have designed to punish them; or that this representation is a mere fiction of the writer, to make the delivery of these men appear more marvelous."
To this it may be replied,
(a) that there is not the slightest evidence, from the account in Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace prepared beforehand, as if it were expected that some would disobey, and as if he meant to show his wrath. He indeed Dan 3:6 threatens this punishment, but it is clear, from Dan 3:19, that the furnace was not yet heated up, and that the occasion of its being heated in such a manner was the unexpected refusal of these three men to obey him.
(b) But if it should be admitted that there was a furnace thus glowing - heated with a view to punish offbnders - it would not be contrary to what sometimes occurs in the East under a despotism. Sir John Chardin (Voy. en Perse. iv. p. 276) mentions in his time (in the seventeenth century) a case similar to this. He says that during a whole month, in a time of great scarcity, an oven was kept heated to throw in all persons who had failed to comply with the laws in regard to taxation, and had thus defrauded the government. This was, in fact, strictly in accordance with the character of Oriental despotism. We know, moreover, from Jer 29:22, that this mode of punishment was not unknown in Babylon, and it would seem probable that it was not uncommon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus Jeremiah says, "And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The Lord make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire."
V. A fifth objection is stated thus by Bertholdt: "Why did the wonders recorded in this chapter take place? It was only for this purpose that Nebuchadnezzar might be made to appear to give praise to God, that he is represented as giving commandment that no one should reproach him. But this object is too small to justify such an array of means." To this it may be replied,
(a) that it does not appear from the chapter that this was the "object" aimed at.
(b) There were other designs in the narrative beside this. They were to show the firmness of the men who refused to worship an idol-god; to illustrate their conscientious adherence to their religion; to show their confidence in the Divine protection; to prove that God will defend those who put their trust in him, and that he can deliver them even in the midst of the flames. These things were worthy of record.
VI. It has been objected that "the expression in which Nebuchadnezzar Dan 3:28 is represented as breaking out, after the rescue of the three men, is altogether contrary to his dignity, and to the respect for the religion of his fathers and of his country, which he was bound to defend." - Bertholdt, p. 253. But to this it may be replied,
(a) that if this scene actually occurred before the eyes of the king - if God had thus miraculously interposed in delivering his servants in this wonderful manner from the heated furnace, nothing would be more natural than this. It was a manifest miracle, a direct interposition of God, a deliverance of the professed friends of Jehovah by a power that was above all that was human, and an expression of surprise and achniration was in every way proper on such an occasion.
(b) It accorded with all the prevailing notions of religion, and of the respect due to the gods, to say this. As above remarked, it was a principle recognized among the pagan to honor the gods of other nations, and if they had interposed to defend their own votaries, it was no more than was admitted in all the nations of idolatry. If, therefore, Jehovah had interposed to save his own friends and worshippers, every principle which Nebuchadnezzar held on the subject would make it proper for him to acknowledge the fact, and to say that honor was due to him for his interposition. In this, moreover, Nebuchadnezzar would be understood as saying nothing derogatory to the gods that he himself worshipped, or to those adored in his own land. All that is "necessary" to be supposed in what he said is, that he now felt that Jehovah, the God whom the Hebrews adored, had shown that he was worthy to be ranked among the gods, and that in common with others, he had power to protect his own friends.
To this it may be added
(c) that, in his way, Nebuchadnezzar everywhere showed that he was a "religious" man: that is, that he recognized the gods, and was ever ready to acknowledge their interference in human affairs, and to render them the honor which was their due. Indeed, this whole affair grew out of his respect for "religion," and what here occurred was only in accordance with his general principle. that when any God had shown that he had power to deliver his people, he should be acknowledged, and that no words of reproach should be uttered against hhn Dan 3:29.
VII. A more plausible objection than those which have just been noticed is urged by Luderwald, Jahn, Dereser, in regard to the account which is given of the image which Nebuchadnezzar is said to have erected. This objection has reference to the "size" of the image, to its proportions, and to the material of which it is said to have been composed. This objection, as stated by Bertholdt (p. 256), is substantially the following: "That the image had probably a human form, and yet that the proportions of the human figure are by no means observed - the height being represented to have been sixty cubits, and its breadth six cubits - or its height being to its breadth as ten to one, whereas the proportion of a man is only six to one; that the amount of gold in such an image is incredible, being beyond any means which the king of Babylon could have possessed; and that probably the image here referred to was one that Herodotus says he saw in the temple of Belus at Babylon (I. 183), and which Diodorus Siculus describes (II. 9), and which was only forty feet in height." See the notes at Dan 3:1. In regard to this objection, we may observe, then -
(a) That there is no certainty that this was the same image which is referred to by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus. That image was "in" the temple; this was erected on the "plain of Dura." See the notes at Dan 3:1. But, so far as appears, this may have been erected for a temporary purpose, and the materials may then have been employed for other purposes; that in the temple was permanent.
(b) As to the amount of gold in the image - it is not said or implied that it was of solid gold. It is well known that the images of the gods were made of wood or clay, and overlaid with gold or silver, and this is all that is necessarily implied here. See the notes at Dan 3:1.
(c) The "height" of the alleged image can be no real objection to the statement. It is not necessary to assume that it had the human form - though that is probable - but if that be admitted, there can be no objection to the supposition that, either standing by itself, or raised on a pedestal, it may have been as lofty as the statement here implies. The colossal figure at Rhodes was an hundred and five Grecian feet in height, and being made to stride the mouth of the harbor, was a work of much more difficult construction than this figure would have been.
(d) As to the alleged "disproportion" in the figure of the image, see the notes at Dan 3:1. To what is there said may be added:
(1) It is not necessary to suppose that it had the human form. Nothing of this kind is affirmed, though it may be regarded as probable. But if it had not, of course the objection would have no force.
(2) If it had the human form, it is by no means clear whether it had a sitting or a standing posture. Nothing is said on this point in regard to the image or statue, and until this is determined, nothing can be said properly respecting the proportions.
(3) It is not said whether it stood by itself, or whether it rested on a basis or pediment - and until this is determined, no objections can be valid as to the proportion of the statue. It is every way probable that the image was reared on a lofty pedestal, and for anything that appears, the proportions of the "image itself," whether sitting or standing, may have been well preserved.
(4) But in addition to this it should be said, that if the account here is to be taken literally as stating that the image was ten times as high as it was broad - thus failing to observe the proper human proportions - the account would not be incredible. It is admitted by Gesenius (Ency. vonr Ersch und Gruber, art. Babylon, Thes vii. p. 24), that the Babylonians had no correct taste in these matters. "The ruins," says he, "are imposing by their colossal greatness, not by their beauty; all the ornaments are rough and barbarian." The Babylonians, indeed, possessed a taste for the colossal, the grand, the imposing, but they also had a taste for the monstrous and the prodigious, and a mere want of "proportion" is not a sufficient argument to prove that what is stated here did not occur.
VIII. But one other objection remains to be noticed. It is one which is noticed by Bertholdt (pp. 251, 252), that, if this is a true account, it is strange that "Daniel" himself is not referred to; that if he was, according to the representation in the last chapter, a high officer at court, it is unaccountable that he is not mentioned as concerned in these affairs, and especially that he did not interpose in behalf of his three friends to save them. To this objection it is sufficient to reply
(a) that, as Bertholdt himself (p. 287) suggests, Daniel may have been absent from the capital at this time on some business of state, and consequently the question whether "he" would worship the image may not have been tested. It is probable, from the nature of the case, that he would be employed on such embasies or be sent to some other part of the empire from time to time, to arrange the affairs of the provinces, and no one can demonstrate that he was not absent on this occasion. Indeed, the fact that he is not mentioned at all in the transaction would serve to imply this; since, if he were at court, it is to be presumed that he himself would have been implicated as well as his three friends. Compare Dan. 6: He was not a man to shrink from duty, or to decline any proper method of showing his attachment to the religion of his fathers, or any proper interest in the welfare of his friends. But
(b) it is possible that even if Daniel were at court at that time, and did not unite in the worship of the image, he might have escaped the danger. There were undoubtedly manymore Jews in the province of Babylon who did not worship this image, but no formal accusation was brought against them, and their case did not come before the king. For some reason, the accusation was made specific against these three men - "for they were rulers in the province" Dan 2:49, and being foreigners, the people under them may have gladly seized the occasion to complain of them to the king. But so little is known of the circumstances, that it is not possible to determine the matter with certainty. All that needs to be said is, that the fact that Daniel was not implicated in the affair is no proof that the three persons referred to were not; that it is no evidence that what is said of "them" is not true because nothing is said of Daniel."
Section II. - Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter, which is complete in itself, or which embraces the entire narrative relating to an important transaction, contains the account of a magnificent brazen image erected by Nebuchadnezzr, and the reslilt of attempting to constrain the conscientious Hebrews to worship it. The narrative comprises the following points:
I. The erection of the great image in the plain of Dura, Dan 3:1.
II. The dedication of the image in the presence of the great princes and governors of the provinces, the high officers of state, and an immense multitude of the people, accompanied with solemn music, Dan 3:2-7.
III. The complaint of certain Chaldeans respecting the Jews, that they refused to render homage to the image, reminding the king that he had solemnly enjoined this on all persons, on penalty of being cast into a burning furnace in case of disobedience, Dan 3:8-12. This charge was brought particularly against Shadtach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Daniel escaped the accusation, for reasons which will be stated in the notes at Dan 3:12. The common people of the Jews also escaped, as the command extended particularly to the rulers.
IV. The manner in which Nebuchadnezzar received this accusation, Dan 3:13-15. He was filled with rage; he summoned the accused into his presence; he commanded them to prostrate themselves before the image on penalty of being cast at once into the fiery furnace.
V. The noble answer of the accused, Dan 3:16-18. They stated to the king that his threat did not alarm them, and that they felt no solicitude to answer him in regard to the matter Dan 3:16; that they were assured that the God whom they served was able to deliver them from the furnace, and from the wrath of the king Dan 3:17; but that even if he did not, whatever might be the issue, they could not serve the gods of the Chaldeans, nor worship the image which the king had set up.
VI. The infliction of the threatened punishment, Dan 3:19-23. The furnace was commanded to be heated seven times hotter than usual; they were bound and thrown in with their usual apparel on; and the hot blast of the furnace destroyed the men who were employed to perform this service.
VII. Their protection and preservation, Dan 3:24-27. The astonished monarch who had commanded three men to be cast in "bound," saw four men walking in the midst of the flames "loose;" and satisfied now they had a Divine Protector, awed by the miracle, and doubtless dreading the wrath of the Divine Being that had become their protector, he commanded them suddenly to come out. The princes, and governors, and captains were gathered together, and these men, thus remarkably preserved, appeared before them uninjured.
VIII. The effect on the king, Dan 3:28-30. As in the case when Daniel had interpreted his dream Dan. 2, he acknowledged that this was the act of the true God, Dan 3:28. He issued a solemn command that the God who had done this should be honored, for that no other God could deliver in this manner, Dan 3:29. He again restored them to their honorable command over the provinces, Dan 3:30.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth ... - Margin, "door." The Chaldee word means door, gate, entrance. The "form" of the furnace is unknown. There was a place, however, through which the fuel was cast into it, and this is doubtless intended by the word "door" or "mouth" here used.
Ye servants of the most high God - They had professed to be his servants; he now saw that they were acknowledged as such. The phrase "most high God" implies that he regarded him as supreme over all other gods, though it is probable that he still retained his belief in the existence of inferior divinities. It was much, however, to secure the acknowledgment of the monarch of the capital of the pagan world, that the God whom they adored was supreme. The phrase "most high God" is not often employed in the Scriptures, but in every instance it is used as an appellation of the true God.
Come forth, and come hither - The "reasons" which seem to have influenced this singular monarch to recal the sentence passed on them, and to attempt to punish them no further, seem to have been, that he had some remains of conscience; that he was accustomed to pay respect to what "he" regarded as God; and that he now saw evidence that a "true" God was there.
And the princes, governors, and captains - Notes, Dan 3:3.
And the king's counselors - Notes, Dan 3:24.
Being gathered together, saw these men - There could be no mistake about the reality of the miracle. They came out as they were cast in. There could have been no trick, no art, no legerdemain, by which they could have been preserved and restored. If the facts occurred as they are stated here, then there can be no doubt that this was a real miracle.
Upon whose bodies the fire had no power - That is, the usual power of fire on the human body was prevented.
Nor was a hair of their head singed - That which would be most likely to have burned. The design is to show that the fire had produced absolutely no effect on them.
Neither were their coats changed - On the word "coats," see the notes at Dan 3:21. The word "changed" means that there was no change caused by the fire either in their color or their texture.
Nor the smell of fire had passed on them - Not the slightest effect had been produced by the fire; not even so much as to occasion the smell caused by fire when cloth is singed or burned. Perhaps, however, sulphur or pitch had been used in heating the furnace; and the idea may be, that their preservation had been so entire, that not even the smell of the smoke caused by those combustibles could be perceived.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach ... - On the characteristic of mind thus evinced by this monarch, see the notes and practical remarks at Dan 2:46-47.
Who hath sent his angel - This proves that the king regarded this mysterious fourth personage as an angel, and that he used the phrase Dan 3:25 "is like the son of God" only in that sense. That an angel should be employed on an embassage of this kind, we have seen, is in accordance with the current statements of the Scriptures. Compare "Excursus I." to Prof. Stuart "on the Apocalypse." See also Luk 1:11-20, Luk 1:26-38; Mat 1:20-21; Mat 2:13, Mat 2:19-20; Mat 4:11; Mat 18:10; Act 12:7-15; Gen 32:1-2; Kg2 6:17; Exo 14:19; Exo 23:20; Exo 33:2; Num 20:16; Jos 5:13; Isa 63:9; Dan 10:5-13, Dan 10:20-21; Dan 12:1.
And have changed the king's word - That is, his purpose or command. Their conduct, and the Divine protection in consequence of their conduct, had had the effect wholly to change his purpose toward them. He had resolved to destroy them; he now resolved to honor them. This is referred to by the monarch himself as a remarkable result, as indeed it was - that an Eastern despot, who had resolved on the signal punishment of any of his subjects, should be so entirety changed in his purposes toward them.
And yielded their bodies - The Greek adds here εἰς πῦρ eis pur - "to the fire." So the Arabic. This is doubtless the sense of the passage. The meaning is, that rather than bow clown to worship gods which they regarded as no gods; rather than violate their consciences, and do wrong, they had preferred to be cast into the flames, committing themselves to the protection of God. It is implied here that they had done this voluntarily, and that they might easily have avoided it if they had chosen to obey the king. He had given them time to deliberate on the subject Dan 3:14-15, and he knew that they had resolved to pursue the course which they did from principle, no matter what might be the results Dan 3:16-18. This strength of principle - this obedience to the dictates of conscience - this determination not to do wrong at any hazard - he could not but respect; and this is a remarkable instance to show that a firm and steady course in doing what is right will command the respect of even wicked men. This monarch, with all his pride, and haughtiness, and tyranny, had not a few generous qualities, and some of the finest illustrations of human nature were furnished by him.
That they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God - They gave up their bodies to the flame rather than do this.
Therefore I make a decree - Margin, "A decree is made by me." Chaldee, "And from me a decree is laid down," or enacted. This Chaldee word (טעם ṭe‛êm) means, properly, "taste, flavor;" then "judgment," the power of "discerning" - apparently as of one who can judge of "wine," etc., by the taste; then the sentence, the decree which is consequent on an act of judging - always retaining the idea that the determination or decree is based on a conception of the true merits of the case. The decree in this case was not designed to be regarded as arbitrary, but as being founded on what was right and proper. He had seen evidence that the God whom these three youths worshipped was a true God, and was able to protect those who trusted in him; and regarding him as a real God, he made this proclamation, that respect should be shown to him throughout his extended realm.
That every people, nation, and language - This decree is in accordance with the usual style of an Oriental monarch. It was, however, a fact that the empire of Nebuchadnezzar extended over nearly all of the then known world.
Which speak any thing amiss - Margin, "error." The Chaldee word (שׁלה shâluh) means "error, wrong," and it refers here to anything that would be fitted to lead the minds of men astray in regard to the true character of the God whom these persons worshipped. The Vulgate renders it "blasphemy." So also it is rendered in the Greek, βλασφημίαν blasphēmian. The intention was, that their God was to be acknowledged as a God of eminent power and rank. It does not appear that Nebuchadnezzar meant that he should be regarded as the "only" true God, but he was willing, in accordance with the prevailing notions of idolatry, that he should take his place among the gods, and a most honored place.
Shall be cut in pieces - Margin, "made." This was a species of punishment that was common in many ancient nations. - Gesenius.
And their houses shall be made a dunghill - Compare Kg2 10:27. The idea is, that the utmost possible dishonor and contempt should be placed on their houses, by devoting them to the most vile and offensive uses.
Because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort - He does not say that there was no other god at all, for his mind had not yet reached this conclusion, but there was no other one who had equal power with the God of the Hebrews. He had seen a manifestation of his power in the preservation of the three Hebrews such as no other god had ever exhibited, and he was willing to admit that in this respect he surpassed all other divinities.
Then the king promoted Shadrach ... - Margin, "made to prosper." The Chaldee means no more than "made to prosper." Whether he restored them to their former places, or to higher honors, does not appear. There would be, however, nothing inconsistent with his usual course in supposing that he raised them to more exalted stations.
In the province of Babylon - See the notes at Dan 2:49. The Greek and the Arabic add here, "And he counted them worthy to preside over all the Jews that were in his kingdom." But nothing of this is found in the Chaldee, and it is not known by whom this addition was made.
In the Vulgate and the Greek versions, and in some of the critical editions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Walton, Hahn, etc.), the three first verses of the following chapter are subjoined to this. It is well known that the divisions of the chapters are of no authority, but it is clear that these verses belong more appropriately to the following chapter than to this, as the reason there assigned by the monarch for the proclamation is what occurred to himself Dan 3:2, rather than what he had witnessed in others. The division, therefore, which is made in our common version of the Bible, and in the Syriac and the Arabic, is the correct one.
I. The instance recorded in this chapter Dan 3:1-7 is not improbably the first case which ever occurred in the world of an attempt to produce "conformity" in idolatrous worship by penal statute. It has, however, been abundantly imitated since, alike in the pagan and in the nominally Christian world. There are no portions of history more interesting than those which describe the progress of religious liberty; the various steps which have been taken to reach the result which has now been arrived at, and to settle the principles which are now regarded as the true ones. Between the views which were formerly entertained, and which are still entertained in many countries, and those which constitute the Protestant notions on the subject, there is a greater difference than there is, in regard to civil rights, between the views which prevail under an Oriental despotism, and the most enlarged and enlightened notions of civil freedom. The views which have prevailed on the subject are the following:
1. The "general" doctrine among the pagan has been, that there were many gods in heaven and earth, and that all were entitled to reverence. One nation was supposed to have as good a right to worship its own gods as another, and it was regarded as at least an act of courtesy to show respect to the gods that any nation adored, in the same way as respect would be shown to the sovereigns who presided over them. Hence, the gods of all nations could be consistently introduced into the Pantheon at Rome; hence, there were few attempts to "proselyte" among the pagan; and hence, it was not common to "persecute" those who worshipped other gods. Persecution of idolaters "by" those who were idolaters was, therefore, rarely known among the pagan, and "toleration" was not contrary to the views which prevailed, provided the gods of the country were recognized. In ancient Chaldea, Assyria, Greece, and Rome, in the earliest ages, persecution was rare, and the toleration of other forms of religion was usual.
2. The views which have prevailed leading to persecution, and which are a violation, as we suppose, of all just notions of liberty on the subject of religion, are the following:
(a) Those among the pagan which, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, require "all" to worship a particular god that should be set up. In such a case, it is clear that while all who were "idolaters," and who supposed that "all" the gods worshipped by others should be respected, could render homage; it is also clear that those who regarded "all" idols as false gods, and believed that "none" of them ought to be worshipped, could "not" comply with the command. Such was the case with the Jews who were in Babylon Dan 3:8-18, for supposing that there was but one God, it was plain that they could not render homage to any other. While, therefore, every idolater could render homage to "any" idol, the Hebrew could render homage to "none."
(b) The views among the pagan "prohibiting" the exercise of a certain kind of religion. According to the prevailing views, no mode of religion could be tolerated which would maintain that "all" the gods that were worshipped were false. Religion was supposed to be identified with the best interests of the state, and was recognized by the laws, and protected by the laws. To deny the claim, therefore, of any and of all the gods that were worshipped; to maintain that all were false alike; to call on men to forsake their idols, and to embrace a new religion - all this was regarded as an attack on the state. This was the attitude which Christianity assumed toward the religions of the Roman empire, and it was this which led to the fiery persecutions which prevailed there. While Rome could consistently tolerate any form of idolatry that would recognize the religion established by the state, it could not tolerate a system which maintained that "all" idolatry was wrong. It would allow another god to be placed in the Pantheon, but it could not recognize a system which woud remove every god from that temple. Christianity, then, made war on the system of idolatry that prevailed in the Roman empire in two respects: in proclaiming a "purer" religion, denouncing all the corruptions which idolatry had engendered, and which it countenanced; and in denying altogether that the gods which were worshipped were true gods - thus arraying itself against the laws, the priesthood, the venerable institutions, and all the passions and prejudices of the people. These views may be thus summed up:
(aa) all the gods worshipped by others were to be recognized;
(bb) new ones might be introduced by authority of the state;
(cc) the gods which the state approved and acknowledged were to be honored by all;
(dd) if any persons denied their existence, and their claims to homage, they were to be treated as enemies of the state.
It was on this last principle that persecutions ever arose under the pagan forms of religion. Infidels, indeed, have been accustomed to charge Christianity with all the persecutions on account of religion, and to speak in high terms of "the mild tolerance of the ancient pagans;" of "the universal toleration of polytheism;" of "the Roman princes beholding without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway." - Gibbon. But it should be remembered that pagan nations required of every citizen conformity to their national idolatries. When this was refused, persecution arose as a matter of course. Stilpo was banished from Athens for affirming that the statue of Minerva in the citadel was no divinity, but only the work of the chisel of Phidias. Protagoras received a similar punishment for this sentence: "Whether there be gods or not, I have nothing to offer." Prodicus, and his pupil Socrates, suffered death for opinions at variance with the established idolatry of Athens. Alcibiades and Aeschylus narrowly escaped a like end for a similar cause. Cicero lays it down as a principle of legislation entirely conformable to the laws of the Roman state, that "no man shall have separate gods for himself; and no man shall worship by himself new or foreign gods, unless they have been publicly acknowledged by the laws of the state." - "De Legibus," ii. 8. Julius Paulus, the Roman civilian, gives the following as a leading feature of the Roman law: "Those who introduced new religions, or such as were unknown in their tendency and nature, by which the minds of men might be agitated, were degraded, if they belonged to the higher ranks, and if they were in a lower state, were punished with death." See M'Ilvaine's "Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity," pp. 427-429.
(c) The attempts made to produce conformity in countries where the "Christian" system has prevailed. In such countries, as among the pagan, it has been supposed that religion is an important auxiliary to the purposes of the state, and that it is proper that the state should not only "protect" it, but "regulate" it. It has claimed the right, therefore, to prescribe the form of religion which shall prevail; to require conformity to that, and to punish all who did not conform to the established mode of worship. This attempt to produce conformity has led to most of the persecutions of modern times.
3. The principles which have been settled by the discussions and agitations of past times, and which are recognized in all countries where there are any just views of religious liberty, and which are destined yet to be universally recognized, are the following:
(a) There is to be, on the subject of religion, perfect liberty to worship God in the manner that shall be most in accordance with the views of the individual himself, provided in doing it he does not interfere with the rights or disturb the worship of others. It is not merely that men are to be "tolerated" in the exercise of their religion - for the word "tolerate" would seem to imply that the state had some right of control in the matter - but the true word to express the idea is "liberty."
(b) The state is to "protect" all in the enjoyment of these equal rights. Its "authority" does not go beyond this; its "duty" demands this. These two principles comprise all that is required on the subject of religious liberty. They have been in our world, however, principles of slow growth. They were unknown in Greece - for Socrates died because they were not understood; they were unknown in Rome - for the state claimed the power to determine what gods should be admitted into the Pantheon; they were unknown even in Judea - for a national or state religion was established there; they were unknown in Babylon - for the monarch there claimed the right of enforcing conformity to the national religion; they were unknown in Europe in the middle ages - for all the horrors of the Inquisition grew out of the fact that they were not understood; they are unknown in Turkey, and China, and Persia - for the state regards religion as under its control. The doctrine of entire freedom in religion, of perfect liberty to worship God according to our own views of right, is "the last point which society is to reach in this direction." It is impossible to conceive that there is to be anything "beyond" this which mankind are to desire in the progress toward the perfection of the social organization; and when this shall be everywhere reached, the affairs of the world will be placed on a permanent footing.
II. In the spirit evinced by the three young men, and the answer which they gave, when accused of not worshipping the image, and when threatened with a horrid death, we have a beautiful illustration of the nature and value of "the religion of principle," Dan 3:12-18. To enable us to see the force of this example, and to appreciate its value, we are to remember that these were yet comparatively young men; that they were captives in a distant land; that they had no powerful friends at court; that they had had, compared with what we now have, few advantages of instruction; that they were threatened with a most horrid death; and that they had nothing of a worldly nature to hope for by refusing compliance with the king's commands. This instance is of value to us, because it is not only important "to have religion," but "to have the best kind of religion;" and it is doubtless in order that we "may" have this, that such examples are set before us in the Scriptures. In regard to this kind of religion, there are three inquiries which would present themselves: On what is it founded? what will it lead us to do? and what is its value?
(1) It is founded mainly on two things - an intelligent view of duty, and fixed principle.
(a) An intelligent view of duty; an acquaintance with what is right, and what is wrong. These young men had made up their minds intelligently, that it was right to worship God, and that it was wrong to render homage to an idol. This was not "obstinacy." Obstinacy exists where a man has made up his mind, and resolves to act, without any good reason, or without an intelligent view of what is right or wrong, and where he adheres to his purpose not because it is right, but from the influence of mere "will." The religion of principle is always found where there is an intelligent view of what is right, and a man can give a "reason" for what he does.
(b) This religion is founded on a determination to "do" what is right, and "not" to do what is wrong. The question is not what is expedient, or popular, or honorable, or lucrative, or pleasant, but what is right.
(2) What will such a religion lead us to do? This question may be answered by a reference to the case before us, and it will be found that it will lead us to do three things:
(a) To do our "duty" without being solicitous or anxious about the results, Dan 3:16.
(b) To put confidence in God, feeling that if he pleases he "can" protect us from danger, Dan 3:17.
(c) To do our duty, "whatever may be the consequences - whether he protects us or not," Dan 3:18,
(3) What is the "value" of this kind of religion?
(a) It is the only kind in which there is any fixed and certain standard. If a man regulates his opinions and conduct from expediency, or from respect to the opinions of others, or from feeling, or from popular impulses, there is no standard; there is nothing settled or definite. Now one thing is popular, now another; today the feelings may prompt to one thing, tomorrow to another; at one time expediency will suggest one course, at another a different course.
(b) It is the only kind of religion on which reliance can be placed. In endeavoring to spread the gospel; to meet the evils which are in the world; to promote the cause of temperance, chastity, liberty, truth, and peace, the only thing on which permanent reliance can be placed is the religion of principle. And
(c) It is the only religion which is "certainly" genuine. A man may see much poetic beauty in religion; he may have much of the religion of sentiment; he may admire God in the grandeur of his works; he may have warm feelings; easily enkindled on the subject of religion, and may even weep at the foot of the cross in view of the wrongs and woes that the Saviour endured; he may be impressed with the forms, and pomp, and splendor of gorgeous worship, and still have no genuine repentance for his sins, no saving faith in the Redeemer.
III. We have in this chapter Dan 3:19-23 an affecting case of an attempt to "punish" men for holding certain opinions, and for acting in conformity with them. When we read of an instance of persecutions like this, it occurs to us to ask the following questions: What is persecution? why has it been permitted by God? and what effects have followed from it?
(1) What is persecution? It is pain inflicted, or some loss, or disadvantage in person, family, or office, on account of holding certain opinions. It has had "two" objects: one to "punish" men for holding certain opinions, as if the persecutor had a right to regard this as an offence against the state; and the other a professed view to reclaim those who are made to suffer, and to save their souls. In regard to the "pain" or "suffering" involved in persecution, it is not material what "kind" of pain is inflicted in order to constitute persecution. "Any" bodily suffering; any deprivation of comfort; any exclusion from office; any holding up of one to public reproach; or any form of ridicule, constitutes the essence of persecution. It may be added, that not a few of the inventions most distinguished for inflicting pain, and known as refinements of cruelty, have been originated in times of persecution, and would probably have been unknown if it had not been for the purpose of restraining men from the free exercise of religious opinions. The Inquisition has been most eminent in this; and within the walls of that dreaded institution it is probable that human ingenuity has been exhausted in devising the most refined modes of inflicting torture on the human frame.
(2) Why has this been permitted? Among the reasons why it has been permitted may be the following:
(a) To show the power and reality of religion. It seemed desirable to subject it to "all kinds" of trial, in order to show that its existence could not be accounted for except on the supposition that it is from God. If men had never been called on to "suffer" on account of religion, it would have been easy for the enemies of religion to allege that there was little evidence that it was genuine, or was of value, for it had never been tried. Compare Job 1:9-11. As it is, it has been subjected to "every form" of trial which wicked men could devise, and has shown itself to be adapted to meet them all. The work of the martyrs has been well done; and religion in the times of martyrdom has shown itself to be all that it is desirable it should be.
(b) In order to promote its spread in the world. "The blood of the martyrs" has been "the seed of the church;" and it is probable that religion in past times has owed much of its purity, and of its diffusion, to the fact that it has been persecuted.
(c) To fit the sufferers for an exalted place in heaven. They who have suffered persecution needed trials as well as others, for "all" Christians need them - and "theirs" came in this form. Some of the most lovely traits of Christian character have been brought out in connection with persecution, and some of the most triumphant exhibitions of preparation for heaven have been made at the stake.
(3) What have been the effects of persecution?
(a) It has been the "settled" point that the Christian religion cannot be destroyed by persecution. There is no power to be brought against it more mighty than, for example, was that of the Roman empire; and it is impossible to conceive that there should be greater refinements of cruelty than have been employed.
(b) The effect has been to diffuse the religion which has been persecuted. The manner in which the sufferings inflicted have been endured has shown that there is reality and power in it. It is also a law of human nature to "sympathize" with the wronged and the oppressed, and we insensibly learn to transfer the sympathy which we have for these "persons" to their "opinions." When we see one who is "wronged," we soon find our hearts beating in unison with his, and soon find ourselves taking sides with him in everything.
IV. We have in this chapter Dan 3:24-27 an instructive illustration of the "protection" which God affords his people in times of trial. These men were thrown into the furnace on account of their obedience to God, and their refusal to do what they knew he would not approve. The result showed, by a most manifest miracle, that they were right in the course which they took, and their conduct was the occasion of furnishing a most striking proof of the wisdom of trusting in God in the faithful performance of duty, irrespective of consequences. Similar illustrations were furnished in the case of Daniel in the lions' den Dan 6:16-22, and of Peter Act 12:1-10. But a question of much interest arises here, which is, What kind of protection may "we" look for now?
(1) There are numerous "promises" made to the righteous of every age and country. They are not promises indeed of "miraculous" interference, but they are promises of "an" interposition of some kind in their behalf, which will show that "it is not vain thing to serve God." Among them are those recorded in the following places: Isa 54:7-8; Mat 5:4; Job 5:19,
(2) In regard to the "kind" of interposition that we may look for now, or the "nature" of the favors implied in these promises, it may be observed:
(a) That we are not to look for any "miraculous" interpositions in our favor.
(b) We are not to expect that there will he on earth an "exact adjustment" of the Divine dealings according to the deserts of all persons, or according to the principles of a "completed" moral government, when there will be a perfect system of rewards and punishments.
(c) We are not to expect that there will be such manifest and open rewards of obedience, and such direct and constant benefits resulting from religion in this world, as to lead men "merely" from these to serve and worship God. If religion were "always" attended with prosperity; if the righteous were never persecuted, were never poor, or were never bereaved, multitudes would be induced to become religious, as many followed the Saviour, not because they saw the miracles, but because they did eat of the loaves and fishes, and were filled: Joh 6:26. While, therefore, in the Divine administration here it is proper that there should be so many and so marked interpositions in favor of the good as to show that God is the friend of his people, it is "not" proper that there should be so many that men would be induced to engage in his service for the love of the reward rather than for the sake of the service itself; because they are to be happy, rather than because they love virtue. It may be expected, therefore, that while the general course of the Divine administration will be in favor of virtue, there may be much intermingled with this that will appear to be of a contrary kind; much that will be fitted to "test" the faith of the people of God, and to show that they love his service for its own sake.
V. We have, in Dan 3:28-30, a striking instance of the effect which an adherence to principle will produce on the minds of worldly and wicked men. Such men have no "love" for religion, but they can see that a certain course accords with the views which are professedly held, and that it indicates high integrity. They can see that firmness and consistency are worthy of commendation and reward. They can see, as Nebuchadnezzar did in this case, that such a course will secure the Divine favor, and they will be disposed to honor it on that account. For a time, a tortuous course may seem to prosper, but in the end, solid fame, high rewards, honorable offices, and a grateful remembrance after death, follow in the path of strict integrity and unbending virtue.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold - The time when he did this is not mentioned; nor is it stated in whose honor, or for what design, this colossal image was erected. In the Greek and Arabic translationns, this is said to have occurred in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. This is not, however, in the original text, nor is it known on what authority it is asserted. Dean Prideaux (Consex. I. 222) supposes that it was at first some marginal comment on the Greek version that at last crept into the text, and that there was probably some good authority for it. If this is the correct account of the time, the event here recorded occurred 587 b.c., or, according to the chronology of Prideaux, about nineteen years after the transaction recorded in the previous chapter. Hales makes the chronology somewhat different, though not essentially. According to him, Daniel was carried to Babylon 586 b.c., and the image was set up 569 b.c., making an interval from the time that he was carried to Babylon of seventeen years; and if the dream Dan. 2 was explained within three or four years after Daniel was taken to Babylon, the interval between that and this occurrence would be some thirteen or fourteen years.
Calmet makes the captivity of Daniel 602 years before Christ; the interpretation of the dream 598; and the setting up of the image 556 - thus making an interval of more than forty years. It is impossible to determine the time with certainty; but allowing the shortest-mentioned period as the interval between the interpretation of the dream Dan. 2 and the erection of this statue, the time would be sufficient to account for the fact that the impression made by that event on the mind of Nebuchadnezzar, in favor of the claims of the true God Dan 2:46-47, seems to have been entirely effaced. The two chapters, in order that the right impression may be received on this point, should be read with the recollection that such an interval had elapsed. At the time when the event here recorded is supposed by Prideaux to have occurred, Nebuchadnezzar had just returned from finishing the Jewish war.
From the spoils which he had taken in that expedition in Syria and Palestine, he had the means in abundance of rearing such a colossal statue; and at the close of these conquests, nothing would be more natural than that he should wish to rear in his capital some splendid work of art that would signalize his reign, record the memory of his conquests, and add to the magnificence of the city. The word which is here rendered "image" (Chaldee צלם tselēm - Greek εἰκόνα eikona), in the usual form in the Hebrew, means a shade, shadow; then what shadows forth anything; then an image of anything, and then an "idol," as representing the deity worshipped. It is not necessary to suppose that it was of solid gold, for the amount required for such a structure would have been immense, and probably beyond the means even of Nebuchadnezzar. The presumption is, that it was merely covered over with plates of gold, for this was the usual manner in which statues erected in honor of the gods were made. See Isa 40:19.
It is not known in honor of whom this statue was erected. Grotius supposed that it was reared to the memory of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and observes that it was customary to erect statues in this manner in honor of parents. Prideaux, Hales, the editor of the "Pict. Bible," and most others, suppose that it was in honor of Bel, the principal deity worshipped in Babylon. See the notes at Isa 46:1. Some have supposed that it was in honor of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and that he purposed by it to be worshipped as a god. But this opinion has little probability in its favor. The opinion that it was in honor of Bel, the principal deity of the place, is every way the most probable, and this derives some confirmation from the well-known fact that a magnificent image of this kind was, at some period of his reign, erected by Nebuchadnezzar in honor of this god, in a style to correspond with the magnificence of the city.
The account of this given by Herodotus is the following: "The temple of Jupiter Belus, whose huge gates of brass may still be seen, is a square building, each side of which is two furlongs. In the midst rises a tower, of the solid depth and height of one furlong; upon which, resting as upon a base, seven other lesser towers are built in regular succession. The ascent is on the outside; which, winding from the ground, is continued to the highest tower; and in the middle of the whole structure there is a convenient resting place. In the last tower is a large chapel, in which is placed a couch, magnificently adorned, and near it a table of solid gold; but there is no statue in the place. In this temple there is also a small chapel, lower in the building, which contains a figure of Jupiter, in a sitting posture, with a large table before him; these, with the base of the table, and the seat of the throne, are all of the purest gold, and are estimated by the Chaldeans to be worth eight hundred talents.
On the outside of this chapel there are two altars; one is gold, the other is of immense size, and appropriated to the sacrifice of full-grown animals; those only which have not yet left their dams may be offered on the golden altar. On the larger altar, at the anniversary festival in honor of their god, the Chaldeans regularly consume incense to the amount of a thousand talents. There was formerly in this temple a statue of solid gold twelve cubits high; this, however, I mention from the information of the Chaldeans, and not from my own knowledge." - Clio, 183. Diodorus Siculus, a much later writer, speaks to this effect: "Of the tower of Jupiter Belus, the historians who have spoken have given different descriptions; and this temple being now entirely destroyed, we cannot speak accurately respecting it. It was excessively high; constructed throughout with great care; built of brick and bitumen. Semiramis placed on the top of it three statues of massy gold, of Jupiter, Juno, and Rhea. Jupiter was erect, in the attitude of a man walking; he was forty feet in height; and weighed a thousand Babylonian talents: Rhea, who sat in a chariot of gold, was of the same weight. Juno, who stood upright, weighed eight hundred talents." - B. ii.
The temple of Bel or Belus, in Babylon, stood until the time of Xerxes; but on his return from the Grecian expedition, he demolished the whole of it, and laid it in rubbish, having first plundered it of its immense riches. Among the spoils which he took from the temple, are mentioned several images and statues of massive gold, and among them the one mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, as being forty feet high. See Strabo, lib. 16, p. 738; Herodotus, lib. 1; Arrian "de Expe. Alex." lib. 7, quoted by Prideaux I. 240. It is not very probable that the image which Xerxes removed was the same which Nebuchadnezzar reared in the plain of Dura - compare the Introduction to this chapter, Section I. VII. (a); but the fact that such a colossal statue was found in Babylon may be adduced as one incidental corroboration of the probability of the statement here. It is not impossible that Nebuchadnezzar was led, as the editor of Calmet's "Dictionary" has remarked (Taylor, vol. iii. p. 194), to the construction of this image by what he had seen in Egypt. He had conquered and ravaged Egypt but a few years before this, and had doubtless been struck with the wonders of art which he had seen there.
Colossal statues in honor of the gods abounded, and nothing would be more natural than that Nebuchadnezzar should wish to make his capital rival everything which he had seen in Thebes. Nor is it improbable that, while he sought to make his image more magnificent and costly than even those in Egypt were, the views of sculpture would be about the same, and the "figure" of the statue might be borrowed from what had been seen in Egypt. See the statues of the two celebrated colossal figures of Amunoph III standing in the plains of Goorneh, Thebes, one of which is known as the Vocal Memnon. These colossi, exclusive of the pedestals (partially buried), are forty-seven feet high, and eighteen feet three inches wide across the shoulders, and according to Wilkinson are each of one single block, and contain about 11,500 cubic feet of stone. They are made of a stone not known within several days' journey of the place where they are erected. Calmet refers to these statues, quoting from Norden.
Whose height was threescore cubits - Prideaux and others have been greatly perplexed at the "proportions" of the image here represented. Prideaux says on the subject (Connections, I. 240, 241), "Nebuchadnezzars golden image is said indeed in Scripture to have been sixty cubits, that is, ninety feet high; but this must be understood of the image and pedestal both together, for that image being said to be but six cubits broad or thick, it is impossible that the image would have been sixty cubits high; for that makes its height to be ten times its breadth or thickness, which exceeds all the proportions of a man, no man's height being above six times his thickness, measuring the slenderest man living at the waist. But where the breadth of this image was measured is not said; perchance it was from shoulder to shoulder; and then the proportion of six cubits breadth will bring down the height exactly to the measure which Diodorus has mentioned; for the usual height of a man being four and a half of his breadth between the shoulders, if the image were six cubits broad between the shoulders, it must, according to this proportion, have been twenty-seven cubits high, which is forty and a half feet."
The statue itself, therefore, according to Prideaux, was forty feet high; the pedestal fifty feet. But this, says Taylor, the editor of Calmet, is a disproportion of parts which, if not absolutely impossible, is utterly contradictory to every principle of art, even of the rudest sort. To meet the difficulty, Taylor himself supposes that the height referred to in the description was rather "proportional" than "actual" height; that is, if it had stood upright it would have been sixty cubits, though the actual elevation in a sitting posture may have been but little more than thirty cubits, or fifty feet. The breadth, he supposes, was rather the depth or thickness measured from the breast to the back, than the breadth measured from shoulder to shoulder. His argument and illustration may be seen in Calmet, vol. iii. Frag. 156. It is not absolutely certain, however, that the image was in a sitting posture, and the "natural" constructsion of the passage is, that the statue was actually sixty cubits in height.
No one can doubt that an image of that height could be erected; and when we remember the one at Rhodes, which was 105 Grecian feet in height (see art. "Colossus," in Anthon's "Class. Dict."), and the desire of Nebuchadnezzar to adorn his capital in the most magnificent manner, it is not to be regarded as improbable that an image of this height was erected. What was the height of the pedestal, if it stood on any, as it probably did, it is impossible now to tell. The length of the "cubit" was not the same in every place. The length originally was the distance between the elbow and the extremity of the middle finger, about eighteen inches. The Hebrew cubit, according to Bishop Cumberland and M. Pelletier, was twenty-one inches; but others fix it at eighteen. - Calmet. The Talmudists say that the Hebrew cubit was larger by one quarter than the Roman. Herodotus says that the cubit in Babylon was three fingers longer than the usual one. - Clio, 178. Still, there is not absolute certainty on that subject. The usual and probable measurement of the cubit would make the image in Babylon about ninety feet high.
And the breadth thereof six cubits - About nine feet. This would, of course, make the height ten times the breadth, which Prideaux says is entirely contrary to the usual proportions of a man. It is not known on what "part" of the image this measurement was made, or whether it was the thickness from the breast to the back, or the width from shoulder to shoulder. If the "thickness" of the image here is referred to by the word "breadth," the proportion would be well preserved. "The thickness of a well-proportioned man," says Scheuchzer (Knupfer Bibel, in loc.), "measured from the breast to the back is one-tenth of his height." This was understood to be the proportion by Augustine, Civi. Dei, 1. xv. c. 26. The word which is here rendered "breadth" (פתי pethay) occurs nowhere else in the Chaldean of the Scriptures, except in Ezr 6:3 : "Let the house be builded, the height thereof threescore cubits, and the "breadth" thereof threescore cubits." Perhaps this refers rather to the "depth" of the temple from front to rear, as Taylor has remarked, than to the breadth from one side to another. If it does, it would correspond with the measurement of Solomon's temple, and it is not probable that Cyrus would vary from that plan in his instructions to build a new temple. If that be the true construction, then the meaning here may be, as remarked above, that the image was of that "thickness," and the breadth from shoulder to shoulder may not be referred to.
He set it up in the plain of Dura - It would seem from this that it was set up in an open plain, and not in a temple; perhaps not near a temple. It was not unusual to erect images in this manner, as the colossal figure at Rhodes shows. Where this plain was, it is of course impossible now to determine. The Greek translation of the word is Δεειρᾷ Deeira - "Deeira." Jerome says that the translation of Theodotion is "Deira;" of Symmachus, Doraum; and of the Septuagint. περίβολον peribolon - which he says may be rendered "vivarium vel conclusum locum." "Interpreters commonly," says Gesenius, "compare Dura, a city mentioned by Ammian. Marcel. 25. 6, situated on the Tigris; and another of like name in Polyb. 5, 48, on the Euphrates, near the mouth of the Chaboras." It is not necessary to suppose that this was in the "city" of Babylon; and, indeed, it is probable that it was not, as the "province of Babylon" doubtless embraced more than the city, and an extensive plain seems to have been selected, perhaps near the city, as a place where the monument would be more conspicuous, and where larger numbers could convene for the homage which was proposed to be shown to it.
In the province of Babylon - One of the provinces, or departments, embracing the capital, into which the empire was divided, Dan 2:48.
Then, Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes - It is difficult now, if not impossible, to determine the exact meaning of the words used here with reference to the various officers designated; and it is not material that it should be done. The general sense is, that he assembled the great officers of the realm to do honor to the image. The object was doubtless to make the occasion as magnificent as possible. Of course, if these high officers were assembled, an immense multitude of the people would congregate also. That this was contemplated, and that it in fact occurred, is apparent from Dan 3:4, Dan 3:7. The word rendered "princes" (אחשׁדרפניא 'ăchashedarepenayâ') occurs only in Daniel, in Ezra, and in Esther. In Dan 3:2-3, Dan 3:27; Dan 6:1-4, Dan 6:6-7, it is uniformly rendered "princes;" in Ezr 8:36; Est 3:12; Est 8:9; Est 9:3, it is uniformly rendered "lieutenants." The word means, according to Gesenius (Lex.), "satraps, the governors or viceroys of the large provinces among the ancient Persians, possessing both civil and military power, and being in the provinces the representatives of the sovereign, whose state and splendor they also rivaled." The etymology of the word is not certainly known. The Persian word "satrap" seems to have been the foundation of this word, with some slight modifications adapting it to the Chaldee mode of pronunciation.
The governors - סגניא sı̂genayâ'. This word is rendered "governors" in Dan 2:48 (see the note at that place), and in Dan 3:3, Dan 3:27; Dan 6:7. It does not elsewhere occur. The Hebrew word corresponding to this - סגנים segânı̂ym - occurs frequently, and is rendered "rulers" in every place except Isa 41:25, where it is rendered "princes:" Ezr 9:2; Neh 2:16; Neh 4:14 (7); Neh 5:7, Neh 5:17; Neh 7:5; Jer 51:23, Jer 51:28, Jer 51:57; Eze 23:6, Eze 23:12, Eze 23:23, et al. The office was evidently one that was inferior to that of the "satrap," or governor of a whole province.
And the captains - פחותא pachăvâtâ'. This word, wherever it occurs in Daniel, is rendered "captains," Dan 3:2-3, Dan 3:27; Dan 6:7; wherever else it occurs it is rendered governor, Ezr 5:3, Ezr 5:6, Ezr 5:14; Ezr 6:6-7, Ezr 6:13. The Hebrew word corresponding to this (פחה pechâh) occurs frequently, and is also rendered indifferently, "governor" or "captain:" Kg1 10:15; Ch2 9:14; Ezr 8:36; Kg1 20:24; Jer 51:23, Jer 51:28, Jer 51:57, et al. It refers to the governor of a province less than satrapy, and is applied to officers in the Assyrian empire, Kg2 18:24; Isa 36:9; in the Chaldean, Eze 23:6, Eze 23:23; Jer 51:23; and in the Persian, Est 8:9; Est 9:3. The word "captains" does not now very accurately express the sense. The office was not exclusively military, and was of a higher grade than would be denoted by the word "captain," with us.
The judges - אדרגזריא 'ădaregâzerayâ'. This word occurs only here, and in Dan 3:3. It means properly great or "chief judges" - compounded of two words signifying "greatness," and "judges." See Gesenius, (Lex.)
The treasurers - גדבריא gedâberayâ'. This word occurs nowhere else. The word גזבר gizbâr, however, the same word with a slight change in the pronunciation, occurs in Ezr 1:8; Ezr 7:21, and denotes "treasurer." It is derived from a word (גנז gânaz) which means to hide, to hoard, to lay up in store.
The counselors - דתבריא dethâberayâ'. This word occurs nowhere else, except in Dan 3:3. It means one skilled in the law; a judge. The office was evidently inferior to the one denoted by the word "judges."
The sheriffs - A sheriff with us is a county officer, to whom is entrusted the administration of the laws. In England the office is judicial as well as ministerial. With us it is merely ministerial. The duty of the sheriff is to execute the civil and criminal processes throughout the county. He has charge of the jail and prisoners, and attends courts, and keeps the peace. It is not to be supposed that the officer here referred to in Daniel corresponds precisely with this. The word used (תפתיא tı̂ptâyē') occurs nowhere else. It means, according to Gesenius, persons learned in the law; lawyers. The office had a close relation to that of "Mufti" among the Arabs, the term being derived from the same word, and properly means "a wise man; one whose response is equivalent to law."
And all the rulers of the provinces - The term here used is a general term, and would apply to any kind of officers or rulers, and is probably designed to embrace all which had not been specified. The object was to assemble the chief officers of the realm. Jacchiades has compared the officers here enumerated with the principal officers of the Turkish empire, and supposes that a counterpart to them may be found in that empire. See the comparison in Grotius, in loc. He supposes that the officers last denoted under the title of "rulers of the provinces" were similar to the Turkish "Zangiahos" or "viziers." Grotius supposes that the term refers to the rulers of cities and places adjacent to cities - a dominion of less extent and importance than that of the rulers of provinces.
To come to the dedication of the image ... - The public setting it apart to the purposes for which it was erected. This was to be done with solemn music, and in the presence of the principal officers of the kingdom. Until it was dedicated to the god in whose honor it was erected, it would not be regarded as an object of worship. It is easy to conceive that such an occasion would bring together an immense concourse of people, and that it would be one of peculiar magnificence.
And they stood before the image - In the presence of the image. They were drawn up, doubtless, so as at the same time to have the best view of the statue, and to make the most imposing appearance.
Then an herald cried aloud - Margin, as in Chaldee, "with might." He made a loud proclamation. A "herald" here means a public crier.
To you it is commanded - Margin, "they commanded." Literally, "to you commanding" (plural); that is, the king has commanded.
O people, nations, and languages - The empire of Babylon was made up of different nations, speaking quite different languages. The representatives of these nations were assembled on this occasion, and the command would extend to all. There was evidently no exception made in favor of the scruples of any, and the order would include the Hebrews as well as others. It should be observed, however, that no others but the Hebrews would have any scruples on the subject. They were all accustomed to worship idols, and the worship of one god did not prevent their doing homage also to another. It accorded with the prevailing views of idolaters that there were many gods; that there were tutelary divinities presiding over particular people; and that it was not im proper to render homage to the god of any people or country. Though, therefore, they might themselves worship other gods in their own countries, they would have no scruples about worshipping also the one that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. In this respect the Jews were an exception. They acknowledged but one God; they believed that all others were false gods, and it was a violation of the fundamental principles of their religion to render homage to any other.
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet - It would not be practicable to determine with precision what kind of instruments of music are denoted by the words used in this verse. They were, doubtless, in many respects different from those which are in use now, though they may have belonged to the same general class, and may have been constructed on substantially the same principles. A full inquiry into the kinds of musical instruments in use among the Hebrews may be found in the various treatises on the subject in Ugolin's "Thesau Ant. Sacra." tom. xxxii. Compare also the notes at Isa 5:12. The Chaldee word rendered "cornet" - קרנא qarenâ' - the same as the Hebrew word קרן qeren - means a "horn," as e. g., of an ox, stag, ram. Then it means a wind instrument of music resembling a horn, or perhaps horns were at first literally used. Similar instruments are now used, as the "French horn," etc.
Flute - משׁרוקיתא masherôqı̂ythâ'. Greek, σύριγγός suringos. Vulgate, fistula, pipe. The Chaldee words occurs nowhere else but in this chapter, Dan 3:5, Dan 3:7, Dan 3:10, Dan 3:15, and is in each instance rendered "flute." It probably denoted all the instruments of the pipe or flute class in use among the Babylonians. The corresponding Hebrew word is חליל châlı̂yl. See this explained in the notes at Isa 5:12. The following remarks of the Editor of the "Pictorial Bible" will explain the usual construction of the ancient pipes or flutes: "The ancient flutes were cylindrical tubes, sometimes of equal diameter throughout, but often wider at the off than the near end, and sometimes widened at that end into a funnel shape, resembling a clarionet. They were always blown, like pipes, at one end, never transversely; they had mouthpieces, and sometimes plugs or stopples, but no keys to open or close the holes beyond the reach of the hands. The holes varied in number in the different varieties of the flute. In their origin they were doubtless made of simple reeds or canes, but in the progress of improvement they came to be made of wood, ivory, bone, and even metal. They were sometimes made in joints, but connected by an interior nozzle which was generally of wood. The flutes were sometimes double, that is, a person played on two instruments at once, either connected or detached; and among the Classical ancients the player on the double-flute often had a leather bandage over his mouth to prevent the escape of his breath at the corners. The ancient Egyptians used the double-flute." Illustrations of the flute or pipe may be seen in the notes at Isa 5:12. Very full and interesting descriptions of the musical instruments which were used among the Egyptians may be found in Wilkinson's "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. ii. pp. 222-327.
Harp - On the form of the "harp," see the notes at Isa 5:12. Compare Wilkinson, as above quoted. The harp was one of the earliest instruments of music that was invented, Gen 4:21. The Chaldee word here used is not the common Hebrew word to denote the harp (כנור kinnôr), but is a word which does not occur in Hebrew - קיתרוס qaytherôs. This occurs nowhere else in the Chaldee, and it is manifestly the same as the Greek κιθάρα kithara, and the Latin cithara, denoting a harp. Whether the Chaldees derived it from the Greeks, or the Greeks from the Chaldees, however, cannot be determined with certainty. It has been made an objection to the genuineness of the book of Daniel, that the instruments here referred to were instruments bearing Greek names. See Intro. to ch. Section II. IV. (c) (5).
Sackbut - Vulgate, Sambuca. Greek, like the Vulgate, σαμβύκη sambukē. These words are merely different forms of writing the Chaldee word סבכא sabbekâ'. The word occurs nowhere else except in this chapter. It seems to have denoted a stringed instrument similar to the lyre or harp. Strabo affirms that the Greek word σαμβύκη sambukē, "sambyke," is of barbarian, that is, of Oriental origin. The Hebrew word from which this word is not improperly derived - סבך sâbak - means, "to interweave, to entwine, to plait," as e. g., branches; and it is possible that this instrument may have derived its name from the "intertwining" of the strings. Compare Gesenius on the word. Passow defines the Greek word σαμβύκη sambukē, sambuca (Latin), to mean a triangular-stringed instrument that made the highest notes; or had the highest key; but as an instrument which, on account of the shortness of the strings, was not esteemed as very valuable, and had little power. Porphyry and Suidas describe it as a triangular instrument, furnished with cords of unequal length and thickness. The Classical writers mention it as very ancient, and ascribe its invention to the Syrians. Musonius describes it as having a sharp sound; and we are also told that it was often used to accompany the voice in singing Iambic verses - Pictorial Bible. It seems to have been a species of triangular lyre or harp.
Psaltery - The Chaldee is פסנתרין pesantērı̂yn. Greek, ψαλτήριον psaltērion; Vulgate, psalterium. All these words manifestly have the same origin, and it hat been on the ground that this word, among others, is of Greek origin, that the genuineness of this book has been called in question. The word occurs nowhere else but in this chapter, Dan 3:5, Dan 3:7, Dan 3:10, Dan 3:15. The Greek translators often use the word ψαλτήριον psaltērion, psaltery, for נבל nebel, and כנור kinnôr; and the instrument here referred to was doubtless of the harp kind. For the kind of instrument denoted by the נבל nebel, see the notes at Isa 5:12. Compare the illustrations in the Pict. Bible on Psa 92:3. It has been alleged that this word is of Greek origin, and hence, an objection has been urged against the genuineness of the book of Daniel on the presumption that, at the early period when this book is supposed to have been written, Greek musical instruments had not been introduced into Chaldea. For a general reply to this, see the introduction, section I, II, (d). It may be remarked further, in regard to this objection,
(1) that it is not absolutely certain that the word is derived from the Greek. See Pareau, 1. c. p. 424, as quoted in Hengstenberg, "Authentic des Daniel," p. 16.
(2) It cannot be demonstrated that there were no Greeks in the regions of Chaldea as early as this. Indeed, it is more than probable that there were. See Hengstenberg, p. 16, following.
Nebuchadnezzar summoned to this celebration the principal personages throughout the realm, and it is probable that there would be collected on such an occasion all the forms of music that were known, whether of domestic or foreign origin.
Dulcimer - סומפניה sûmpôneyâh. This word occurs only here, and in Dan 3:10, Dan 3:15. In the margin it is rendered "symphony" or "singing." It is the same as the Greek word συμφωνία sumphōnia, "symphony," and in Italy the same instrument of music is now called by a name of the same origin, zampogna, and in Asia Minor zambonja. It answered probably to the Hebrew עוגב ‛ûgâb, rendered "organ," in Gen 4:21; Job 21:12; Job 30:31; Psa 150:4. See the notes at Job 21:12. Compare the tracts on Hebrew musical instruments inscribed schilte haggibborim in Ugolin, thesau. vol. xxxii. The word seems to have had a Greek origin, and is one of those on which an objection has been founded against the genuineness of the book. Compare the Intro. Section I. II. (c). The word "dulcimer" means "sweet," and would denote some instrument of music that was characterized by the sweetness of its tones.
Johnson (Dict.) describes the instrument as one that is "played by striking brass wires with little sticks." The Greek word would denote properly a concert or harmony of many instruments; but the word here is evidently used to denote a single instrument. Gesenius describes it as a double pipe with a sack; a bagpipe. Servius (on Virg. AEn. xi. 27) describes the "symphonia" as a bagpipe: and the Hebrew writers speak of it as a bagpipe consisting of two pipes thrust through a leather bag, and affording a mournful sound. It may be added, that this is the same name which the bagpipe bore among the Moors in Spain; and all these circumstances concur to show that this was probably the instrument intended here. "The modern Oriental bagpipe is composed of a goatskin, usually with the hair on, and in the natural form, but deprived of the head, the tail, and the feet; being thus of the same shape as that used by the water-carriers. The pipes are usually of reeds, terminating in the tips of cows' horns slightly curved; the whole instrument being most primitively simple in its materials and construction." - "Pict. Bible."
And all kinds of music - All other kinds. It is not probable that all the instruments employed on that occasionwere actually enumerated. Only the principal instruments are mention ed, and among them those which showed that such as were of foreign origin were employed on the occasion. From the following extract from Chardin, it will be seen that the account here is not an improbable one, and that such things were not uncommon in the East: "At the coronation of Soliman, king of Persia, the general of the musqueteers having whispered some moments in the king's ear, among several other things of lesser importance gave out, that both the loud and soft music should play in the two balconies upon the top of the great building which stands at one end of the palace royal, called "kaisarie," or palace imperial. No nation was dispensed with, whether Persians, Indians, Turks, Muscovites, Europeans, or others; which was immediately done. And this same "tintamarre," or confusion of instruments, which sounded more like the noise of war than music, lasted twenty days together, without intermission, or the interruption of night; which number of twenty days was observed to answer to the number of the young monarch's years, who was then twenty years of age," p. 51; quoted in Taylor's "fragments to Calmet's Dict." No. 485. It may be observed, also, that in such an assemblage of instruments, nothing would be more probable than that there would be some having names of foreign origin, perhaps names whose origin was to be found in nations not represented there. But if this should occur, it would not be proper to set the fact down as an argument against the authenticity of the history of Sir John Chardin, and as little should the similar fact revealed here be regarded as an argument against the genuineness of the book of Daniel.
Ye shall fall down and worship - That is, you shall render "religious homage." See these words explained in the notes at Dan 2:46. This shows, that whether this image was erected in honor of Belus, or of Nabopolassar, it was designed that he in whose honor it was erected should be worshipped as a god.
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth - The order in this verse seems to be tyrannical, and it is contrary to all our notions of freedom of religious opinion and worship. But it was much in the spirit of that age, and indeed of almost every age. It was an act to enforce uniformity in religion by the authority of the civil magistrate, and to secure it by threatened penalties. It should be observed, however, that the command at that time would not be regarded as harsh and oppressive by "pagan" worshippers, and might be complied with consistently with their views, without infringing on their notions of religious liberty. The homage rendered to one god did not, according to their views, conflict with any honor that was due to another, and though they were required to worship this divinity, that would not be a prohibition against worshipping any other. It was also in accordance with all the views of paganism that all proper honor should be rendered to the particular god or gods which any people adored.
The nations assembled here would regard it as no dishonor shown to the particular deity whom they worshipped to render homage to the god worshipped by Nebuchadnezzar, as this command implied no prohibition against worshipping any other god. It was only in respect to those who held that there is but one God, and that all homage rendered to any other is morally wrong, that this command would be oppressive. Accordingly, the contemplated vengeance fell only on the Jews - all, of every other nation, who were assembled, complying with the command without hesitation. It violated "no" principle which they held to render the homage which was claimed, for though they had their own tutelary gods whom they worshipped, they supposed the same was true of every other people, and that "their" gods were equally entitled to respect; but it violated "every" principle on which the Jew acted - for he believed that there was but one God ruling over all nations, and that homage rendered to any other was morally wrong. Compare Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," pp. 83, 84.
Shall the same hour - This accords with the general character of an Oriental despot accustomed to enjoin implicit obedience by the most summary process, and it is entirely conformable to the whole character of Nebuchadnezzar. It would seem from this, that there was an apprehension that some among the multitudes assembled would refuse to obey the command. Whether there was any "design" to make this bear hard on the Jews, it is impossible now to determine. The word which is here rendered "hour" (שׁעתא sha‛etâ) is probably from שׁעה shâ‛âh - "to look;" and properly denotes a look, a glance of the eye, and then the "time" of such a glance - a moment, an instant. It does not refer to "an hour," as understood by us, but means "instantly, immediately" - as quick as the glance of an eye. The word is not found in Hebrew, and occurs in Chaldee only in Dan 3:6, Dan 3:15; Dan 4:19, Dan 4:33 (Dan 4:16, Dan 4:30); Dan 5:5, in each case rendered "hour." Nothing can be inferred from it, however, in regard to the division of time among the Chaldeans into "hours" - though Herodotus says that the Greeks received the division of the day into twelve parts from them. - Lib. ii., c. 109.
Be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace - The word here rendered "furnace" (אתון 'attûn) is derived from (תנן tenan), "to smoke;" and may be applied to any species of furnace, or large oven. It does not denote the use to which the furnace was commonly applied, or the form of its construction. Any furnace for burning lime - if lime was then burned - or for burning bricks, if they were burned, or for smelting ore, would correspond with the meaning of the word. Nor is it said whether the furnace referred to would be one that would be constructed for the occasion, or one in common use for some other purpose. The editor of Calmet (Taylor) supposes that the "furnace" here referred to was rather a fire kindled in the open court of a temple, like a place set apart for burning martyrs, than a closed furnace of brick. See Cal. "Dict." vol. iv. p. 330, following. The more obvious representation, however, is, that it was a closed place, in which the intensity of the fire could be greatly increased. Such a mode of punishment is not uncommon in the East. Chardin (vi. p. 118), after speaking of the common modes of inflicting the punishment of death in Persia, remarks that "there are other modes of inflicting the punishment of death on those who have violated the police laws, especially those who have contributed to produce scarcity of food, or who have used false weights, or who have disregarded the laws respecting taxes. The cooks," says he, "were fixed on spits, and roasted over a gentle fire (compare Jer 29:22), and the bakers were cast into a burning oven. In the year 1668, when the famine was raging, I saw in the royal residence in Ispahan one of these ovens burning to terrify the bakers, and to prevent their taking advantage of the scarcity to increase their gains." See Rosenmuller, "Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc."
All the people, the nations, and the languages fell down ... - All excepting the Jews. An express exception is made in regard to them in the following verses, and it does not appear that any of them were present on this occasion. It would seem that only the "officers" had been summoned to be present, and it is not improbable that all the rest of the Jewish nation absented themselves.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews - It does not appear that they accused the Jews in general, but particularly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Dan 3:12. They were present on the occasion, being summoned with the other officers of the realm Dan 3:2, but they could not unite in the idolatrous worship. It has been frequently said that the whole thing was arranged, either by the king of his own accord, or by the instigation of their enemies, with a view to involve the Jews in difficulty, knowing that they could not conscientiously comply with the command to worship the image. But nothing of this kind appears in the narrative itself, It does not appear that the Jews were unpopular, or that there was any less disposition to show favor to them than to any other foreigners. They had been raised indeed to high offices, but there is no evidence that any office was conferred on them which it was not regarded as proper to confer on foreigners; nor is there any evidence that in the discharge of the duties of the office they had given occasion for a just accusation. The plain account is, that the king set up the image for other purposes, and with no malicious design toward them; that when summoned to be present with the other officers of the realm at the dedication of the image they obeyed the command; but that when the order was issued that they should render "religious homage" to the idol, every principle of their religion revolted at it, and they refused. For the probable reasons why Daniel was not included in the number, see the note at Dan 3:12.
O king, live for ever - A customary form of address to a monarch, implying that long life was regarded as an eminent blessing. See the notes at Dan 2:4.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree ... - See Dan 3:4-5. As the decree included "every man" who heard the sound of the music, it of course embraced the Jews, whatever religious scruples they might have. Whether their scruples, however, were known at the time is not certain; or whether they would have been regarded if known, is no more certain.
There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego - Dan 2:49. It is quite remarkable that the name of Daniel does not occur in the record of this transaction, and that he does not appear to have been involved in the difficulty. Why he was not cannot now be certainly known. We may be sure that he would not join in the worship of the idol, and yet it would seem, as Nebuchadnezzar had summoned all the high officers of the realm to be present Dan 3:2, that he must have been summoned also. The conjecture of Prideaux (Con. I. 222) is not improbable, that he occupied a place of so much influence and authority, and enjoyed in so high degree the favor of the king, that they did not think it prudent to begin with him, but rather preferred at first to bring the accusation against subordinate officers. If they were condemned and punished, consistency might require that he should be punished also. If he had been involved at first in the accusation, his high rank, and his favor with the king, might have screened them all from punishment. It is possible, however, that Daniel was absent on the occasion of the dedication of the image. It should be remembered that perhaps some eighteen years had elapsed since the transaction referred to in Dan. 2 occurred (see the notes at Dan 3:1), and Daniel may have been employed in some remote part of the empire on public business. Compare Introduction to the chapter, Section I. VIII.
These men, O king, have not regarded thee - Margin, "set no regard upon." Literally, "they have not placed toward thee the decree;" that is, they have not made any account of it; they have paid no attention to it.
They serve not thy gods - Perhaps it was inferred from the fact that they would not pay religious homage to "this" idol, that they did not serve the gods at all that were acknowledged by the king; or possibly this may have been known from what had occurred before. It may have been well understood in Babylon, that the Hebrews worshipped Jehovah only. Now, however, a case had occurred which was a "test" case, whether they would on any account render homage to the idols that were worshipped in Babylon. In their refusal to worship the idol, it seemed much to aggravate the offence, and made the charge much more serious, that they did not acknowledge "any" of the gods that were worshipped in Babylon. It was easy, therefore, to persuade the king that they had arrayed themselves against the fundamental laws of the realm.
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in his rage and fury - The word rendered "fury" means "wrath." Everything that we learn of this monarch shows that he was a man of violent passions, and that he was easily excited, though he was susceptible also of deep impressions on religious subjects. There was much here to rouse his rage. His command to worship the image was positive. It extended to all who were summoned to its dedication. Their refusal was an act of positive disobedience, and it seemed necessary that the laws should be vindicated. As a man and a monarch, therefore, it was not unnatural that the anger of the sovereign should be thus enkindled.
Commanded to bring Shadrach ... - It is remarkable that he did not order them at once to be slain, as he did the magicians who could not interpret his dream, Dan 2:12. This shows that he had some respect still for these men, and that he was willing to hear what they could say in their defense. It is proper, also, to recognize the providence of God in inclining him to this course, that their noble reply to his question might be put on record, and that the full power of religious principle might be developed.
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true - Margin, "of purpose;" that is, have you done this intentionally? Wintle renders this, "Is it insultingly?" Jacchiades says that the word is used to denote admiration or wonder, as if the king could not believe that it was possible that they could disregard so plain a command, when disobedience was accompanied with such a threat. De Dieu renders it, "Is it a joke?" That is, can you possibly be serious or in earnest that you disobey so positive a command? Aben Ezra, Theodotion, and Sandias render it as it is in margin, "Have you done this of set purpose and design?" as if the king had regarded it as possible that there had been a misunderstanding, and as if he was not unwilling to find that they could make an apology for their conduct. The Chaldee word (צדא tsedâ') occurs nowhere else. It is rendered by Gesenius, "purpose, design." That is, "Is it on purpose?" The corresponding Hebrew word (צדה tsâdâh) means, "to lie in wait, to waylay," Exo 21:13; Sa1 24:11, (12). Compare Num 35:20, Num 35:22. The true meaning seems to be, "Is it your "determined purpose" not to worship my gods? Have you deliberately made up your minds to this, and do you mean to abide by this resolution?" That this is the meaning is apparent from the fact that he immediately proposes to try them on the point, giving them still an opportunity to comply with his command to worship the image if they would, or to show whether they were finally resolved not to do it.
Do not ye serve my gods? - It was one of the charges against them that they did not do it, Dan 3:12.
Now, if ye be ready, that at what time ... - At the very time; on the very instant. It would seem probable from this that the ceremonies of the consecration of the image were prolonged for a considerable period, so that there was still an opportunity for them to unite in the service if they would. The supposition that such services would be continued through several days is altogether probable, and accords with what was usual on festival occasions. It is remarkable that the king was willing to give them another trial, to see whether they were disposed or not to worship the golden image. To this he might have been led by the apprehension that they had not understood the order, or that they had not duly considered the subject; and possibly by respect for them as faithful officers, and for their countryman Daniel. There seems, moreover, to have been in the bosom of this monarch, with all his pride and passion, a readiness to do justice, and to furnish an opportunity of a fair trial before he proceeded to extremities. See Dan 2:16, Dan 2:26, Dan 2:46-47,
And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? - That is, he either supposed that the God whom they worshipped would not be "able" to deliver them, or that he would not be "disposed" to do it. It was a boast of Sennacherib, when he warred against the Jews, that none of the gods of the nations which he had conquered had been able to rescue the lands over which they presided, and he argued from these premises that the God whom the Hebrews worshipped would not be able to defend their country: "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" Isa 36:18-20. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have reasoned in a similar manner, and with a degree of vain boasting that strongly resembled this, calling their attention to the certain destruction which awaited them if they did not comply with his demand.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king - They appear to have answered promptly, and without hesitation, showing that they had carefully considered the subject, and that with them it was a matter of settled and intelligent principle. But they did it in a respectful manner, though they were firm. They neither reviled the monarch nor his gods. They used no reproachful words respecting the image which he had set up, or any of the idols which he worshipped. Nor did they complain of his injustice or severity. They calmly looked at their own duty, and resolved to do it, leaving the consequences with the God whom they worshipped.
We are not careful to answer thee in this matter - The word rendered "careful" (חשׁח chăshach) means, according to Gesenius, "to be needed" or "necessary;" then, "to have need." The Vulgate renders it, "non oportet nos" - it does not behove us; it is not needful for us. So the Greek, ου ̓ χρείαν ἔχομεν ou chreian echomen - we have no need. So Luther, Es ist Nicht noth - there is no necessity. The meaning therefore is, that it was not "necessary" that they should reply to the king on that point; they would not give themselves trouble or solicitude to do it. They had made up their minds, and, whatever was the result, they could not worship the image which he had set up, or the gods whom he adored. They felt that there was no necessity for stating the reasons why they could not do this. Perhaps they thought that argument in their case was improper. It became them to do their duty, and to leave the event with God. They had no need to go into an extended vindication of their conduct, for it might be presumed that their principles of conduct were well known. The state of mind, therefore, which is indicated by this passage, is that their minds were made up; that their principles were settled and well understood; that they had come to the deliberate determination, as a matter of conscience, not to yield obedience to the command; that the result could not be modified by any statement which they could make, or by any argument in the case; and that, therefore, they were not anxious about the result, but calmly committed the whole cause to God.
If it be so - Chaldee, איתי הן hên 'ı̂ythay - "so it is." That is, "this is true, that the God whom we serve can save us." The idea is not, as would seem in our translation, "if we are to be cast into the furnace," but the mind is turned on the fact that the God whom they served could save them. Coverdale renders this whole passage, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we ought not to consent unto thee in this matter, for why? our God whom we serve is able to keep us," etc.
Our God, whom we serve - Greek, "our God in the heavens, whom we serve." This was a distinct avowal that they were the servants of the true God, and they were not ashamed to avow it, whatever might be the consequences.
Is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace - This was evidently said in reply to the question asked by the king Dan 3:15, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" They were sure that the God whom they worshipped was able, if he should choose to do it, to save them from death. In what way they supposed he could save them is not expressed. Probably it did not occur to them that he would save them in the manner in which he actually did, but they felt that it was entirely within his power to keep them from so horrid a death if he pleased. The state of mind indicated in this verse is that of "entire confidence in God." Their answer showed
(a) that they had no doubt of his "ability" to save them if he pleased;
(b) that they believed he would do what was best in the case; and
(c) that they were entirely willing to commit the whole case into his hands to dispose of it as he chose. Compare Isa 43:2.
But if not - That is, "if he should "not" deliver us; if it should "not" occur that he would protect us, and save us from that heated oven: whatever may be the result in regard to us, our determination is settled."
Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods ... - This answer is firm and noble. It showed that their minds were made up, and that it was with them a matter of "principle" not to worship false gods. The state of mind which is denoted by this verse is that of a determination to do their duty, whatever might be the consequences. The attention was fixed on what was "right," not on what would be the result. The sole question which was asked was, what "ought" to be done in the case; and they had no concern about what would follow. True religion is a determined purpose to do right, and not to do wrong, whatever may be the consequences in either case. It matters not what follows - wealth or poverty; honor or dishonor; good report or evil report; life or death; the mind is firmly fixed on doing right, and not on doing wrong. This is "the religion of principle;" and when we consider the circumstances of those who made this reply; when we remember their comparative youth, and the few opportunities which they had for instruction in the nature of religion, and that they were captives in a distant land, and that they stood before the most absolute monarch of the earth, with no powerful friends to support them, and with the most horrid kind of death threatening them, we may well admire the grace of that God who could so amply furnish them for such a trial, and love that religion which enabled them to take a stand so noble and so bold.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury - Margin, "filled." He was exceedingly enraged. He evidently was not prepared for a stand so firm and determined on their part, and he did not appreciate their motives, nor was he disposed to yield to them the privilege and right of following their honest convictions. He was deeply excited with anger when the complaint was made that they would not worship his gods Dan 3:13, but he had hoped that possibly they had not understood his command, and that what they had done had not been by deliberate purpose (the notes at Dan 3:14); and he had therefore given them an opportunity to reconsider the subject, and, by complying with his will, to save themselves from the threatened punishment. He now saw, however, that what they had done was done deliberately. He saw that they firmly and intelligently refused to obey, and supposing now that they not only rebelled against his "commands," but that they disregarded and despised even his "forbearance" Dan 3:15, it is not wonderful that he was filled with wrath. What was with them fixed "principle," he probably regarded as mere obstinacy, and he determined to punish them accordingly.
And the form of his visage was changed - As the face usually is when men become excited with anger. We may suppose that up to this point he had evinced self-control; "possibly" he may have shown something like tenderness or compassion. He was indisposed to punish them, and he hoped that they would save him from the necessity of it by complying with his commands. Now he saw that all hope of this was vain, and he gave unrestrained vent to his angry feelings.
He spake and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated - Chaldee, "Than it was sees to be heated;" that is, than it was ever seen. The word "seven" here is a perfect number, and the meaning is, that they should make it as hot as possible. He did not reflect probably that by this command he was contributing to shorten and abridge their sufferings. Wicked men, who are violently opposed to religion, often overdo the matter, and by their haste and impetuosity defeat the very end which they have in view, and even promote the very cause which they wish to destroy.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army - Margin, "mighty of strength." Chaldee, "And to mighty men, mighty men of strength who were in his army, he said." He employed the strongest men that could be found for this purpose.
Then these men were bound in their coats - They were seized just as they were. No time was given them for preparation; no change was made in their dress. In "autos-da-fe" of later times, it has been usual to array those who were to suffer in a peculiar dress, indicative of the fact that they were heretics, and that they deserved the flame. Here, however, the anger of the king was so great, that no delay was allowed for any such purpose, and they proceeded to execute the sentence upon them just as they were. The fact that they were thus thrown into the furnace, however, only made the miracle the more conspicuous, since not even their garments were affected by the fire. The word rendered "coats," is in the margin rendered "mantles." The Chaldee word (סרבלין sarbâlı̂yn) means, according to Gesenius, the long and wide pantaloons which are worn by the Orientals, from סרבל sarbēl, to cover. The Greek word used in the translation is derived from this - σαράβαρα sarabara - and the word σαρβαρίδες sarbarides is still used in modern Greek. The Chaldee word is used only in this chapter. The Vulgate renders this, cum braccis suis - hence, the word "breeches," and "brogues." The garment referred to, therefore, seems rather to be what covered the lower part of their person than either a coat or mantle.
Their hosen - This word was evidently designed by our translators to denote drawers, or trousers - not stockings, for that was the common meaning of the word when the translation was made. It is not probable that the word is designed to denote "stockings," as they are not commonly worn in the East. Harmer supposes that the word here used means properly "a hammer," and that the reference is to a hammer that was carried as a symbol of office, and he refers in illustration of this to the plates of Sir John Chardin of carvings found in the ruins of Persepolis, among which a man is represented with a hammer or mallet in each hand. He supposes that this was some symbol of office. The more common and just representation, however, is to regard this as referring to an article of dress. The Chaldee word (פטישׁ paṭṭı̂ysh) is from פטשׁ pâṭash, to break, to hammer (πατάσσω patassō); to spread out, to expand; and the noun means
(1) a hammer; Isa 41:7; Jer 23:29; Jer 50:23; and
(2) a garment, probably with the idea of its being "spread out," and perhaps referring to a tunic or under-garment.
Compare Gesenius on the word. The Greek is, τιάραις tiarais, and so the Latin Vulgate, tiaris: the tiara, or covering for the head, turban. The probable reference, however, is to the under-garment worn by the Orientals; the tunic, not a little resembling a shirt with us.
And their hats - Margin, or "turbans." The Chaldee word (כרבלא karbelâ') is rendered by Gesenius mantle, pallium. So the version called the "Breeches" Bible, renders it "clokes." Coverdale renders it "shoes," and so the Vulgate, calceamentis, sandals; and the Greek, περικνηυίσιν periknēmisin, greaves, or a garment enclosing the lower limbs; pantaloons. There is certainly no reason for rendering the word "hats" - as hats were then unknown; nor is there any evidence that it refers to a turban. Buxtorf ("Chaldee Lex.") regards it as meaning a garment, particularly an outer garment, a cloak, and this is probably the correct idea. We should then have in these three words the principal articles of dress in which the Orientals appear, as is shown by the preceding engraving, and from the ruins of Persepolis - the large and loose trousers; the tunic, or inner garment; and the outer garment, or cloak, that was commonly thrown over all.
And their other garments - Whatever they had on, whether turban, belt, sandals, etc.
Therefore, because the king's commandment was urgent - Margin, as in Chaldee, "word." The meaning is, that the king would admit of no delay; he urged on the execution of his will, even at the imminent peril of those who were entrusted with the execution of his command.
And the furnace exceeding hot - Probably so as to send out the flame so far as to render the approach to it dangerous. The urgency of the king would not admit of any arrangements, even if there could have been any, by which the approach to it would be safe.
The flame of the fire slew those men - Margin, as in Chaldee, "spark." The meaning is, what the fire threw out - the blaze, the heat. Nothing can be more probable than this. It was necessary to approach to the very mouth of the furnace in order to cast them in, and it is very conceivable that a heated furnace would belch forth such flames, or throw out such an amount of heat, that this could not be done but at the peril of life. The Chaldee word rendered "slew" here, means "killed." It does not mean merely that they were overcome with the heat, but that they actually died. To expose these men thus to death was an act of great cruelty, but we are to remember how absolute is the character of an Oriental despot, and how much enraged this king was, and how regardless such a man would be of any effects on others in the execution of his own will.
And these three men - fell down bound ... - That is, the flame did not loosen the cords by which they had been fastened. The fact that they were seen to fall into the furnace "bound," made the miracle the more remarkable that they should be seen walking loose in the midst of the fire.
In the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Latin Vulgate, there follow in this place sixty-eight verses, containing "The Song of the Three Holy Children." This is not in the Chaldee, and its origin is unknown. It is with entire propriety placed in the Apocrypha, as being no part of the inspired canon. With some things that are improbable and absurd, the "song" contains many things that are beautiful, and that would be highly appropriate if a song had been uttered at all in the furnace.
Then, Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied - The word "astonied," which occurs several times in our translation Ezr 9:3; Job 17:8; Job 18:20; Eze 4:17; Dan 3:24; Dan 4:19; Dan 5:9, is but another form for "astonished," and expresses wonder or amazement. The reasons of the wonder here were that the men who were bound when cast into the furnace were seen alive, and walking unbound; that to them a fourth person was added, walking with them; and that the fourth had the appearance of a Divine personage. It would seem from this, that the furnace was so made that one could conveniently see into it, and also that the king remained near to it to witness the result of the execution of his own order.
And rose up in haste - He would naturally express his surprise to his counselors, and ask an explanation of the remarkable occurrence which he witnessed. "And spake, and said unto his counselors." Margin, "governors." The word used here (הדברין haddâberı̂yn) occurs only here and in Dan 3:27; Dan 4:36; Dan 6:7. It is rendered "counselors" in each case. The Vulgate renders it "optimatibus;" the Septuagint, μεγιστᾶσιν megistasin - his nobles, or distinguished men. The word would seem to mean those who were authorized to "speak" (from דבר dâbar); that is, those authorized to give counsel; ministers of state, viziers, cabinet counselors.
Did not we cast three men bound ... - The emphasis here is on the words "three," and "bound." It was now a matter of astonishment that there were "four," and that they were all "loose." It is not to be supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had any doubt on this subject, or that his recollection had so soon failed him, but this manner of introducing the subject is adopted in order to fix the attention strongly on the fact to which he was about to call their attention, and which was to him so much a matter of surprise.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose - From the fact that he saw these men now loose, and that this filled him with so much surprise, it may be presumed that they had been bound with something that was not combustible - with some sort of fetters or chains. In that case it would be a matter of surprise that they should be "loose," even though they could survive the action of the fire. The "fourth" personage now so mysteriously added to their number, it is evident, assumed the appearance of a "man," and not the appearance of a celestial being, though it was the aspect of a man so noble and majestic that he deserved to be called a son of God.
Walking in the midst of the fire - The furnace, therefore, was large, so that those who were in it could walk about. The vision must have been sublime; and it is a beautiful image of the children of God often walking unhurt amidst dangers, safe beneath the Divine protection.
And they have no hurt - Margin, "There is no hurt in them." They walk unharmed amidst the flames. Of course, the king judged in this only from appearances, but the result Dan 3:27 showed that it was really so.
And the form of the fourth - Chaldee, (רוה rēvēh) - "his appearance" (from ראה râ'âh - "to see"); that is, he "seemed" to be a son of God; he "looked" like a son of God. The word does not refer to anything special or peculiar in his "form" or "figure," but it may be supposed to denote something that was noble or majestic in his mien; something in his countenance and demeanour that declared him to be of heavenly origin.
Like the son of God - There are two inquiries which arise in regard to this expression: one is, what was the idea denoted by the phrase as used by the king, or who did he take this personage to be? the other, who he actually was? In regard to the former inquiry, it may be observed, that there is no evidence that the king referred to him to whom this title is so frequently applied in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is clear
(1) because there is no reason to believe that the king had "any" knowledge whatever that there would be on earth one to whom this title might be appropriately given;
(2) there is no evidence that the title was then commonly given to the Messiah by the Jews, or, if it was, that the king of Babylon was so versed in Jewish theology as to be acquainted with it; and
(3) the language which he uses does not necessarily imply that, even "if" he were acquainted with the fact that there was a prevailing expectation that such a being would appear on the earth, he designed so to use it.
The insertion of the article "the," which is not in the Chaldee, gives a different impression from what the original would if literally interpreted. There is nothing in the Chaldee to limit it to "any" "son of God," or to designate anyone to whom that term could be applied as peculiarly intended. It would seem probable that our translators meant to convey the idea that ""the" Son of God" peculiarly was intended, and doubtless they regarded this as one of his appearances to men before his incarnation; but it is clear that no such conception entered into the mind of the king of Babylon. The Chaldee is simply, לבר־אלחין דמה dâmēh lebar 'ĕlâhı̂yn - "like to A son of God," or to a son of the gods - since the word אלחין 'ĕlâhı̂yn (Chaldee), or אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym (Hebrew), though often, and indeed usually applied to the true God, is in the plural number, and in the mouth of a pagan would properly be used to denote the gods that he worshipped.
The article is not prefixed to the word "son," and the language would apply to anyone who might properly be called a son of God. The Vulgate has literally rendered it, "like to A son of God" - similis filio Dei; the Greek in the same way - ὁμοία ὑιῷ θεοῦ homoia huiō theou; the Syriac is like the Chaldee; Castellio renders it, quartus formam habet Deo nati similem - "the fourth has a form resembling one born of God;" Coverdale "the fourth is like an angel to look upon;" Luther, more definitely, und der vierte ist gleich, als ware er ein Sohn der Gotter - "and the fourth as if he might be "a" son of the gods." It is clear that the authors of none of the other versions had the idea which our translators supposed to be conveyed by the text, and which implies that the Babylonian monarch "supposed" that the person whom he saw was the one who afterward became incarnate for our redemption.
In accordance with the common well-known usage of the word "son" in the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, it would denote anyone who had a "resemblance" to another, and would be applied to any being who was of a majestic or dignified appearance, and who seemed worthy to be ranked among the gods. It was usual among the pagan to suppose that the gods often appeared in a human form, and probably Nebuchadnezzar regarded this as some such celestial appearance. If it be supposed that he regarded it as some manifestation connected with the "Hebrew" form of religion, the most that would probably occur to him would be, that it was some "angelic" being appearing now for the protection of these worshippers of Jehovah. But a second inquiry, and one that is not so easily answered, in regard to this mysterious personage, arises. Who in fact "was" this being that appeared in the furnace for the protection of these three persecuted men?
Was it an angel, or was it the second person of the Trinity, "the" Son of God? That this was the Son of God - the second person of the Trinity, who afterward became incarnate, has been quite a common opinion of expositors. So it was held by Tertullian, by Augustine, and by Hilary, among the fathers; and so it has been held by Gill, Clarius, and others, among the moderns. Of those who have maintained that it was Christ, some have supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had been made acquainted with the belief of the Hebrews in regard to the Messiah; others, that he spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, without being fully aware of what his words imported, as Caiaphas, Saul, Pilate, and others have done. - Poole's "Synopsis." The Jewish writers Jarchi, Saadias, and Jacchiades suppose that it was an angel, called a son of God, in accordance with the usual custom in the Scriptures. That this latter is the correct opinion, will appear evident, though there cannot be exact certainty, from the following considerations:
(1) The language used implies necessarily nothing more. Though it "might" indeed be applicable to the Messiah - the second person of the Trinity, if it could be determined from other sources that it was he, yet there is nothing in the language which necessarily suggests this.
(2) In the explanation of the matter by Nebuchadnezzar himself Dan 3:28, he understood it to be an angel - "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, etc., "who hath sent his angel,"" etc. This shows that he had had no other view of the subject, and that he had no higher knowledge in the case than to suppose that he was an angel of God. The knowledge of the existence of angels was so common among the ancients, that there is no improbability in supposing that Nebuchadnezzar was sufficiently instructed on this point to know that they were sent for the protection of the good.
(3) The belief that it was an angel accords with what we find elsewhere in this book (compare Dan 6:22; Dan 7:10; Dan 9:21), and in other places in the sacred Scriptures, respecting their being employed to protect and defend the children of God. Compare Psa 34:7; Psa 91:11-12; Mat 18:10; Luk 16:22; Heb 1:14.
(4) It may be added, that it should not be supposed that it was the Son of God in the peculiar sense of that term without positive evidence, and such evidence does not exist. Indeed there is scarcely a probability that it was so. If the Redeemer appeared on this occasion, it cannot be explained why, in a case equally important and perilous, he did not appear to Daniel when cast into the lions' den Dan 6:22; and as Daniel then attributed his deliverance to the intervention of an angel, there is every reason why the same explanation should be given of this passage. As to the probability that an angel would be employed on an occasion like this, it may be observed, that it is in accordance with the uniform representation of the Scriptures, and with what we know to be a great law of the universe. The weak, the feeble, and those who are in danger are protected by those who are strong; and there is, in itself, no more improbability in the supposition that an "angel" would be employed to work a miracle than there is that a "man" would be.
We are not to suppose that the angel was able to prevent the usual effect of fire by any natural strength of his own. The miracle in this case, like all other miracles, was wrought by the power of God. At the same time, the presence of the angel would be a pledge of the Divine protection; would be an assurance that the effect produced was not from any natural cause; would furnish an easy explanation of so remarkable an occurrence; and, perhaps more than all, would impress the Babylonian monarch and his court with some just views of the Divine nature, and with the truth of the religion which was professed by those whom he had cast into the flames. As to the probability that a miracle would be wrought on an occasion like this, it may be remarked that a more appropriate occasion for working a miracle could scarcely be conceived. At a time when the true religion was persecuted; at the court of the most powerful pagan monarch in the world; when the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, and the fires on the altars had been put out, and the people of God were exiles in a distant land, nothing was more probable than that God would give to his people some manifest tokens of his presence, and some striking confirmation of the truth of his religion.
There has perhaps never been an occasion when we should more certainly expect the evidences of the Divine interposition than during the exile of his people in Babylon; and during their long captivity there it is not easy to conceive of an occasion on which such an interposition would be more likely to occur than when, in the very presence of the monarch and his court, three youths of eminent devotedness to the cause of God were cast into a burning furnace, "because" they steadfastly refused to dishonor him.