The Golden Image of Nebuchadnezzar
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that king Nebuchaddezzar had set up, and they stood before it. Then the heralds loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language. As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshipped the image of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that a golden image was to be made and placed “on the plain of Dura”, which was very likely a location not far from Babylon. We can see from this account that, even though Nebuchadnezzar had recognised the greatness of Daniel’s God in chapter 2, he seems to have forgotten about it in this chapter. After the statue had been placed on the plain of Dura, Nebuchadnezzar gathered his principal officials for the dedication of this image. At the sound of the music all those gathered were “to fall down and worship the golden image” as a recognition of his great power. This would have been a very shrewd move politically on the part of the king since it would have brought unity to the nations he was ruling over. We will have a similar situation in the future as we can read in:
Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Let’s now return to Daniel where we will read:
At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to king Nebuchadnezzar, “O, king, live forever! You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold and that whoever does not worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who pay no attention to you. O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel seemed not to have been present but his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were at the ceremony. Certain Babylonians used this time to bring about the downfall of these men. They went to Nebuchadnezzar and accused these men of disobeying the king by not bowing down to the golden image. They made three charges against Daniel’s friends:
1. They had no regard for the king.
2. They did not serve the gods of the king.
3. They did not worship the golden image.
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these three men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ”Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
Nebuchadnezzar regarded the disobedience of these three men a threat to his political security as well as a personal affront. He called these men to find out if this was so, making it very clear that, if they did not obey him, punishment would follow in the form of a fiery furnace. The answer of Daniel’s friends can be found in:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into a blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The three men responded by declaring to the king their total trust in God regardless of what would happen to them. They were certain of one thing: they would not bow down and worship the golden image. The question arises: What about us? What will you and I do in such circumstances? I believe the reason that these three men stood the test was because they had determined beforehand that they would be obedient to their God, no matter what the consequences might be. Likewise, we must determine beforehand that we will obey God, no matter what the consequences might be. We cannot say to ourselves, ‘O, when things get tough, I will decide what to do.’ No, we must make the right decision before we are challenged in our faith and then hold on to our decision when we get challenged.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude towards them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then king Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth look like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their head singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Their response caused Nebuchadnezzar to immediately command their execution by fire. He sat down in a safe place to watch this spectacle. While watching, he suddenly rose from his seat for he saw something or rather someone “a son of the gods” with these three men, and all of them were freely walking around in the fire. The king next ordered these three men, servants of the Most High God, to come out. Their deliverance is typical of Israel’s deliverance during the period of Gentile domination. I need to say that looking at history and even today many believers have been martyred for their faith. They were not delivered out of their circumstances as these three men were. Some examples from the New Testament are the Apostle Peter who was taken out of prison by an angel according to Acts 12:7-11 while the Apostle James was killed according to Acts 12:2.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
Once again God gave Nebuchadnezzar an opportunity to get to know who the real God was. This time Nebuchadnezzar told people in his realm that they were not to say anything amiss concerning the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This shows that he was beginning to have a greater understanding of who the God of Daniel and his friends is. Nevertheless, he was still not yet a true believer.