Daniel - Lesson 6

The Fiery Furnace

Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

Lesson 6
Watching Now
The Fiery Furnace

I. Historical Context

A. Time gap

B. Back in Jerusalem

II. Daniel 3

A. Court conflict

1. Image of gold

2. Repetition of lists

C. Accusation 3:8-12

D. Nebuchadnezzar's response 3:13-18

E. Deliverance of the three Hebrew men 3:16-27

F. Nebuchadnezzar's response

E. Salvation is not something we earn

F. Salvation is believing Jesus

G. The fourth figure in the fire

  • Join distinguished scholar and professor emeritus Dr. Tremper Longman for a study of the book of Daniel, a fascinating and inspiring part of the Bible. In this class, you'll explore six stories and four apocalyptic visions that all demonstrate God's control and ultimate victory, even in the face of evil and difficulty. Don't miss this opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as you study the powerful messages of the book of Daniel with Dr. Longman.

  • Daniel is written in two parts. The first six chapters is history written in the form of a story. Chapters seven through twelve are apocalyptic literature. In the English Bible, it’s with the major prophets. In the Hebrew Bible it’s in the Writings. The Apocalyptic section has similarities to the book of Revelation. One of the main messages in the book of Daniel is that even if you are living in a culture that is toxic to your faith, living by faith can help you not only survive, but thrive.

  • By the time Daniel was written, the nation of the Jewish people was divided into the tribes of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC. Babylon overthrew Assyria in 612 BC then Judah in 605 BC. Daniel. Daniel and others were taken to Babylon and chosen to be trained as royal advisors.   

  • Daniel and his friends were willing to learn the language, literature and divination practices of the Babylonians even though it was potentially toxic to their faith. They temporarily chose to eat vegetables and water rather than the food and wine that the other officials in training were eating. The performed at the top of their class.

  • Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

  • Daniel reveals the dream and the interpretation because God revealed it to him. The parts of the statue represent different worldly kingdoms. The stone that crushes the statue represents God’s rule over the kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Yahweh as being powerful.

  • Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

  • This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

  • As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

  • Belshazzar was a ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. During a banquet he hosted, he used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem for his guests to drink out of. In the middle of a banquet, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the message.

  • When Darius gave Daniel a position of authority in his government, the administrators underneath him were jealous. They devised a plan to trap Daniel and force Darius to execute him. God rescued Daniel and the administrators suffered the fate that they had planned for Daniel. The story shows that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and it’s important to live a life that is faithful to him.

  • Daniel had a vision of four beasts that were frightening in appearance. An angel explained the significance of the beasts in terms of historical kingdoms but didn’t say specifically which ones.

  • Daniel and Jeremiah both had messages from God but the way God communicated to each of them was different. The word “apocalypse” comes from the first word in Greek in the book of Revelation which means to reveal or uncover something. Some characteristics of apocalyptic literature are visions, dreams, a binary point of view, highly figurative language and the theme of hope based in confidence in God’s control over people and events that seem chaotic and overwhelming.

  • In this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the book of Daniel, focusing on its themes, historical context, and preparation for spiritual battles in a challenging cultural environment.
  • You gain a deeper understanding of the Book of Daniel, its historical context, literary features, key themes, and significance within the Old Testament, while focusing on God's warfare against evil.
  • John the Baptist described Jesus coming as a warrior but the ministry of Jesus was different than what he expected. Since we live in phase 4, God gives us the power to fight spiritual battles. The God who led the people of Israel into battle in the Old Testament is the same God described in the New Testament who came as God in human form as Jesus.

  • The vision in Daniel 8 describes animals that represent kingdoms and individuals. While Daniel was seeing the vision, Gabriel came and explained its meaning. Antiochus Epiphanes fits the description of one of the horns in the vision. His persecution of the people of Israel and his desecration of the temple is similar to the way the anti-Christ is described in Revelation.

  • As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

  • As Daniel is reading Jeremiah and praying, the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain the vision to him. The numbers in the vision are symbolic but demonstrate that God has a plan and a time frame to accomplish it.

  • The final of Daniel’s four visions described in chapters 10-12. There is an introduction to the vision, description of the vision and instructions to Daniel. The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed because of spiritual warfare.

  • This vision covers the events surrounding the Persian and Greek rulers in the 3rd and 4th century BC. They are described in such detail that some people think it was written after they took place, not as a prophecy.

  • The righteous and the wicked have different fates in the after-life. Throughout Scripture there is progress of revelation. God is in control and he will be victorious. The prophecy that God gave Daniel describes events that will happen in the future. Celestial sources give final words to Daniel that are also addressed to readers of the book of Daniel. A theme that is emphasized throughout the book of Daniel is, in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory.  This is illustrated both in the stories of Daniel and his friends and in the visions of future events that Daniel has.

  • Daniel informs the imagery and message of the book of Revelation. They are the two books of the Bible with primarily apocalyptic themes. Daniel’s encounter with God and angels is similar to what John records in Revelation. Daniel is commanded to seal his prophecy and in Revelation, the seals are opened. The references Revelation to the beasts and three and a half years is also similar to Daniel.

Living in a toxic culture can be dangerous and risky, but when you live by faith, God can give you opportunities to thrive, succeed and be a testimony to God's power and love for people. A primary message of the prophecies of Daniel is that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory. God has not provided us with a precise date on the calendar for when that will happen, but he will accomplish his plan on his timetable.

Dr. Tremper Longman III
Daniel ot666-06
The Fiery Furnace
Lesson Transcript

Tremper Longman III [00:00:01] We now come to one of the best known stories in the Book of Daniel, a story that if you attended Vacation Bible School as a young person, you probably are familiar with the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar sets up on the plane of Dora and blazing furnace. Again, we're going to see that. This story also illustrates that primary theme that in spite of present trouble, God is in control and he will have the final victory that you can not only survive, but even thrive. And this passage illustrates this point better than any others. You need to be willing and you might die and your it as you remain faithful to God. So but before we actually get into the tax time, I'm going to talk a little bit further about the historical events of the age we stopped when we looked at Daniel Chapter one, the third year of King Joachim. We brought the history up to the beginning of the Book of Daniel, which had to do with Nebuchadnezzar making due to submit the vassal status. And I think it's good to know a little bit about what's going on back home and back home, meaning Jerusalem, after Daniel and his three friends are brought to the Babylonian court, because surely they're hearing reports about this, though I will admit that it these events do not directly play into the story of Daniel. And the reason why I'm bringing it up here is partly because we don't know the chronological gap between Daniel Chapter two and Daniel Chapter three. At the beginning of the end of chapter two, it says it never. And as a second year, we don't get a clear chronological indication of when this story takes place. But you might think it's a few years and a few years after Nebuchadnezzar is acclamation of Yahweh at the end of Chapter two has worn off because he's setting up this image in the plain of Dora. We'll talk about what this image might have represented in a moment. And and I will say that the Septuagint, that Greek translation of the Old Testament, it does give a chronological indicator that is not something to be taken, taken as as as necessarily true. But it is suggesting that what happens in Daniel three takes place eight years after what happens in Daniel chapter one and two. And that coincides with an extremely important event, a devastating event, which is the Babylonian destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Again, I don't think at all that we should think that that's taking place. But we again, it doesn't hurt to know some of the events that are happening back in Jerusalem. So as I said, we laughed it off, left the story off in 605 B.C. Now we are to consider where never can. Our strategy is in terms of the control of his vassal states. He's wanting to expand the influence of Babylonian empire, but he wants to do it, I believe, with the least exertion of wealth and lives as possible. In other words, what I'm saying is never can. Nasr probably could have taken Jerusalem by force at any point along the way, which is what he's going to do in 586 B.C. But he really doesn't want to do that. What provokes him to do that is periodic rebellions on the part of Judah and Kings, periodic rebellions that actually the prophets of Israel counseled against. And so this King Joachim, who was on the throne in his third year. In the third year of his reign when Nebuchadnezzar came and besiege the city chooses to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C., 597 B.C. Now, we're never told explicitly why he chooses to rebel, but it's typical. That vassal states will rebel if they detect some kind of weakness in their sovereign overlords. And if they feel like they're going to get help from some other powerful nation and from what the prophets say about Egypt. And because you Hoyer Cam, you might remember, was placed on the throne by Pharaoh Neco. So his predilection, his political predilection, shall we say, is to turn to Egypt for help over against Babylon. I think we can rightfully speculate that he thought he'd be getting help from Egypt. And you also might remember, as you read through the prophet of Egypt is always called something like that. We read that you lean on, it breaks and it pierces your hand. Egypt never seems to come through. Well, he rebels in 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar mobilizes his troops and they begin the about 1000 1000 mile march to Jerusalem. Now, you might imagine how that does not please him, you know, to have to mobilize his army and march up the Euphrates and then down from Syria to Jerusalem. By the time he gets there, and again, the situation's a little murky, what happens? But your whole year came as no longer on the throne. He either dies or is deposed. But when he gets there, you're Hoya. Kim Sun. Yo Hoi chan. My students always get a little perturbed by the fact that it's hard to tell the difference between your Yakima and your your chin. But your Hoya chin is on the throne. He's 18, 19 years old, and you might imagine newly on the throne. And all of a sudden the Babylonian army shows up on your doorstep. Well, the Babylonians quell the rebellion and they cart your Hoya chin off to Babylon. The same Your Hoya ten, who at the end of the Book of Kings, is released from Babylonian prison, but he's replaced by his another uncle named Zedekiah. In 597 B.C.. And by the way, you're not the only person deported to Babylon at this time. Many other leading figures are. Most notably, a young priest name Ezekiel. And so Ezekiel is preaching from Babylon, while Jeremiah is preaching in Jerusalem and and preaching that all these events are happening because of God's judgment and the need for God's people to repent, which they don't listen to. So in 586 B.C., again, for reasons not explicit, but probably the same reasons I suggested earlier for your Occam's Rebellion and also against the explicit warnings of Jeremiah, for instance, Zedekiah rebels against Neva Nasr. Now, this time Neva Nasr has kind of had it. So that's why he takes it to the next level and he defeats Jerusalem. He executes all Zedekiah, his children after before, while Zedekiah is watching, after which he plucks out his eyes. So the last thing he sees is the death of his sons. He puts them in chains and carts him off to Babylon. And we never hear from Zedekiah again. So 586 B.C. Most tragically, the temple is destroyed and and many of the leading citizens are carted off to Babylon. And I want to emphasize that because sometimes people have a faulty view of the exile as if never had Nasser deported all the population. I, I don't think he even deported a majority of the population that says the poor remained in the land. And let's remember that there is no big middle class at the time. So it's all the it's most of the priests and military leaders, etc., are either killed or they're carted off. But there are many Jews who remain in the land. And and indeed, the Babylonians set up a governor, a Jewish governor of of their province of Judah, a man named Get a Liar. And there's some interesting stories about this period of time that you can find in Jeremiah 40 through 45. But I'll leave the history here and I'll pick it up again when we come to the Persian period, When will all of a sudden see a story that set within the early Persian period? So we'll talk about that transition later. But we we might imagine all these things happening in the background there. They're not making their presence known explicitly in the Book of Daniel. But but still, it kind of gives us a picture, bigger picture of Nebuchadnezzar, at least as well. Okay. So now we come to Daniel chapter three. And and so Daniel, Chapter three is a third story set in a foreign court. It's the first story that can be described. It has been described by scholars as a story of court conflict. So there are going to be two major types of stories in the following chapters Court conflict and Court contest. Court conflict is where Daniel and or his three friends find themselves in a actual conflict with their fellow Babylonian wise men. And then there are stories that are a couple stories that are described as accounts of court contest, like the one that we just read, where it's not so much a matter of conflict as much as Daniel in the end or the three friends showing. Superiority of their divinely given wisdom compared to the Babylonians. And indeed, here's where we see. I think Steve mentioned the kind of concentric relationship between chapter two and Chapter seven, where you have in chapter two the dream of a multi medaled statue that is comparable to the vision of the four hybrid beasts arising out of the sea. Whereas Chapter three and Chapter six are are stories of court conflict. The first, interestingly enough, only focusing in on the three friends. Daniel is not mentioned in Daniel three, which raises some interesting questions. The main one being Where's Daniel? But. But we can't actually answer that question. I mean, maybe he's traveling. Maybe he's not out on the playing of Dora, but back at the court or we're not sure. But in chapter six, which is the story of Daniel in the lion's den, the three friends aren't there either. So again, I'm not raising this as a question that can be resolved or needs to be resolved, but it's just an interesting observation. Okay. So we're also going to see that. Whereas Daniel chapter two is a story that highlights God's wisdom. Daniel. Chapter three is a story that highlights God's power. All right. So. And God's power is transcending even death. All right. So we'll we'll read this chapter together in sections and I'll make some comments on each section, starting with chapter three versus 1 to 7, where we're introduced to Nebuchadnezzar as image of gold. KING Navic Nasser made an image of gold 60 cubits high and six cubits wide and set it up on the plain of Dora in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps Prefects, governors, advisors, treasures, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come up to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps prefects, governors, advisors, treasures, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication. The image that King never Nasser had set up, and they stood before it. Then the Herald loudly proclaim nations and peoples of every language, This is what you're commanded to do. As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold. The King Nebuchadnezzar as set up. Whoever does not fall down in 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 nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nasser had set up. Well, there's lots to comment on here in order to understand what's going on here. First of all, the image of gold, 60 cubits high, six cubits wide, where a cubit is typically reckoned as a foot and a half, so nine feet wide and 90 feet tall, which is, as some people have pointed out, kind of a grotesque image, a kind of very thin, tall statue. But it's a pretty enormous statue as well. And so there's speculation as to whether this includes a disk that the statue is on. That's not really important to the story. It's set up on the plane of Dora. Dora means fortress. We don't know exactly where it is in Babylon, but. But let's focus on the more interesting question of what is this an image of? What is it an image of? It's a little unclear from the passage. Is this an image of Nebuchadnezzar himself? Doesn't say, but it could be. After all, maybe after a while, that thing about him being the head of gold got to his head and he decided, well, I'm going to build a statue that's totally gold. And yeah, that's a possibility. What? And then if that's the case, it's clearly what we might call a loyalty test. One of the things that I think strikes us about the character of Nebuchadnezzar in these stories is he's kind of insecure. You know, he's kind of he's a very powerful person, to say the least. But powerful people are often quite insecure because there are lots of people that want their power. And so maybe this is very explicitly a loyalty test where he's getting all these other powerful people under him to show their obeisance to him by bowing to a statue of him. That's not the only possibility, though, of course. I mean, in one sense it's more natural to think of this not as an image of Nebuchadnezzar, but as an image of, say, Marduk, the chief God of Babylon. Hmm. And it would still be a kind of loyalty test. I'm telling you about this statue. And if you don't, then I know that you're not loyal to me. The reason why it doesn't make a lot of difference as to which of those it is, is in either case, it's something that the that the three friends of Daniel can't bring themselves to do because they recognize it as a kind of idolatrous act. And by the way, that's another argument against the idea that this statue of gold doesn't rep or does represent that mechanism. It's an argument against that idea because in a sense, it almost suggests that never again Ezra's parading himself as a divine figure himself. And that's not a Babylonian idea. It's an Egyptian idea. There are some early Sumerian rulers who talked about themselves in divine terms, but Babylonian and Assyrian kings, for the most part, saw themselves as very important agents of God, but not God themselves. But again, as I say, it's not critically important to the story. It is a form of idolatry. Either way, it is a form of idolatry either way. And of course, therefore, the three friends recognize that it violates both the first and second commandment to worship the Lord only, and also not to build an image of God. And so, so so this is something that they can't participate in. Now, the other thing to notice about this opening to the chapter, it it is beginning to give us the first instances and in some cases, the second instance of these lengthy lists that are repeated throughout that chapter, the first one being some of the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasures, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials. And then the very next first of the satraps prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provinces. So there's this repetition throughout. If I remember correctly, then I'm one of the senior translators of the New Living translation. If I remember correctly, the original Living Bible, simply in later appearances of this repetitious, lengthy list, would simply say something like the Babylonian officials rather than repeating it. But there's a reason why, you know, narratives do things they don't come out and explicitly tell you. But I think a couple possible ideas for the repetition of the lists of important people who are there is, first of all, to emphasize that all the important people are there. Secondly, it might be intentionally ponderous to kind of poke fun at Abu Nasr. Also, it kind of contrasts the three friends with everybody else. You know, all the other officials are going to conform to the two to never sansa's demand, but they're going to stand out. A scholar named Dana Fuel said through repetition, the narrator creates a scenario. In which conformity is normative. All the other people are doing it when disobedience is unthinkable. I think that that's a good sort of literary insight into the text. But again, you know, the problem is idolatry. The problem is setting up an image of a God or of a king and asking for this type of response. All right. So you also get the repetition occasionally of nations and people of every language. This is what you're commanded to do, again, emphasizing the fact that everybody else is doing it as opposed to three friends. Be the lengthy list of musical instruments, horn flute, zither, lyre harp, pipe and all kinds of music is also going to be repeated throughout. And this surrounds the ritual with a certain measure of pomp and circumstance surrounding the ceremony. And also kind of highlights them are the music stops and then you wait for what's the response going to be from the people, though? Again, some interpreters also kind of think that the repetition serves the purpose of parody or, you know, by kind of poking fun at this whole ritual. And I think that might be the case as well. All right. So so that's Daniel, three verses one through seven. And now we come to the accusation and chapter three, verses 8 to 12. At this time, some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, May the king live forever. Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have sent over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Notice how they use the Babylonian names, not the Hebrew names, who pay no attention to Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold that you set up. Okay, so first of all, notice that Nebuchadnezzar did not observe these three men directly from his perception everyone was bowing down to him. So the some astrologers say now out them, you know, dry his attention to this and clearly are doing so out of jealousy for, you know, the three friends and the favor that they have received from Nebuchadnezzar. I see that in what they say. But there are some Jews, by the way, whom you have set over in the affairs of the province of Babylon. You know those guys that you promoted above us. So I think that's what's motivating them, not even any kind of specific loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar or himself, necessarily. Yeah. And so, by the way, that what they also say they need their serve your guys and our worship the image of God you set up doesn't answer our question whether this image is of Nebuchadnezzar himself or of the gods. So. So they. Out him. And as a result, in chapter verses 13 to 18 never has a response with anger and confronts Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego furious with rage, the Aramaic says something of the fact of his image changed using the same term as for the statue. Nebuchadnezzar summons Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. And then Wickenheiser said to them, Is it true Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold that I have set up? Now, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre harp, pipe 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'll be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what? God will be able to rescue you from my hand. As we saw in chapter two, we have another sort of setup line throwing down the gantlet to Yahweh, so to speak. What God will be able to rescue you from my hand? Well, Nebuchadnezzar. You're about to find out. So I you know, when I when I think about this whole scene, it kind of reminds me of what we learn and Psalm two. Right. So let me turn to Psalm two and read it. You know, why did the nations conspire and the people's plot in vain? The kings of the Earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let's break their chains and throw off their shackles. So, I mean, Nebuchadnezzar is is is challenging these men who are loyal to Yahweh, the one enthroned in heaven, laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, I'm install my king on saying my Holy Mountain. I mean, it's just this whole idea of kings of the Earth trying to challenge Yahweh. And we'll see that this does not go well for Navid Nasr. So now we read in 1927 the story of the deliverance of the three friends in 16 to 18 first. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, King Nebuchadnezzar. We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. And He will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that they will. That we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. You know, so, I mean, there's a little bit of a problem with the fact that they say he will deliver us. But even if he does, and the latter part recognizes that he may choose not to deliver them. He may choose to let them die in the blazing furnace. He's able to deliver, but he may, for his purposes, not choose to do so. Nonetheless, they are not going to bow to the statue. They're going to stay firm and persistent in their faith, even in the face of death. Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in the 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. The narrator is leaving us in no doubt that this fire is hot enough to kill. And these three men firmly fell into the blazing furnace. Now, I should perhaps make a comment about the blazing furnace. It's a little hard to picture it. Somehow it's hot and somehow they have to take them up and throw them in and somehow never can. Ezer can actually see into it later. But. And and and so some people have questioned the whole scene as kind of made up. And it is a little hard to recreate the furnace itself or even imagine why there's a furnace there, except that this place is called Der the fortress. So perhaps there's building going on and they need a large furnace there for that purpose. Also, a former fellow student of mine at Yale, a guy named Paul Ballou, who has become one of the leading experts in neo Babylonian history and is not an evangelical Christian himself and I don't think feels the compulsion to kind of defend biblical trustworthiness. Nonetheless, does mention two or three occasions during this time period where executions were carried out in a hot oven. So it's not uncontested at this period of time. They're thrown into the furnace. And then in verse 24, then King never even Ezer leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his adviser. Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? He replied, Certainly, Your Majesty, he said. Look, I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods. Okay, let's keep that phrase in mind. We'll come back and talk about what it is he thinks he's seeing. But he's definitely seeing a fourth figure who he describes as somebody who looks 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. He saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed. Their robes were not scorched. There was no smell of fire on them. Again, all illustrating God's intervention and protection for these men in the blazing furnace. And remembering that the men who had taken them up there had died even by being near this intense fire. It will be similar to what we see Daniel and the lion's den when diet Daniel will emerge unscathed from the lion's den. But then those who accused him thrown into the lion's den and it says and the lions ate them before they hit the floor kind of thing. Again, making it clear that we know that it wasn't because the Lions weren't hungry or that the fire wasn't hot. Then, Nebuchadnezzar said. Praise be to the god of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who had sent his angel. Okay, now, now we can, as are, is referring to the one like the Sons of God as an 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 be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble for no other God can save in this way. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon again. You'll get tired of me saying this in spite of present trouble. God is in control and he will have the final victory. You can not only survive, but you can thrive to get promoted at the end of the chapter again. Nebuchadnezzar pays tribute to the true God, Yahweh again. I would suggest that this doesn't mean he becomes an exclusive Yahweh worshiper. But even the simple fact that Nebuchadnezzar, the man who destroyed Jerusalem, is even acknowledging the power of your way here would be a sign of encouragement. Later, readers. So now let's return to the question. Who's the fourth figure? Okay, who's the fourth figure? And of course, Christians, in my opinion, too quickly say Jesus. Jesus is the fourth figure. I would respectfully say no Old Testament reader would have made that type of identification. And I would say that we can't really pay too much heed to exactly what Neville Netzer is saying either. He's talking from his kind of pagan perspective. He's one like the sons of God. He's an angel. What I would say is what we can be certain about is that this fourth figure clearly represents God's intervention. God will often take a human or angelic form to appear in the Old Testament time period. I personally think it's a mistake to always assume, whenever God appears in that form, that it's some kind of Kristoff and he necessarily there's a really good book whose title escapes me right now, but written by Andrew Malone, which evaluates these Old Testament B often these and suggests that, like I'm saying, that they are all Aristophanes. So the important thing, the clear thing here is that this text is talking about God's intervention, saving these men. But again, it's a second question as we read it from a New Testament perspective. And so. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I don't think we go to wrong to say that that this. This, you know. That this represents Christ. I don't think it's correct. But those who want to insist on a Christophe and they are not. Sort of. Seriously violating an understanding of this text. But I just think it's better to stay with the idea that this fourth figure represents God's deliverance of the people. So that's kind of an overview of the chapter. And if you have questions or comments or disagreements. Happy to hear it. 

Audience 2 [00:41:17] So we don't get to hear you saying that. 

Tremper Longman III [00:41:22] Yeah. Yeah, that's what you keep saying. Okay. 

Audience 2 [00:41:24] I actually had a comment and a question. One is this is really good storytelling narrative. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I've just been reading Africa. What is called is the narrative curve or something where you introduce the players, you introduce the conflict, the conflict comes to a peak, it's resolved. Yeah, Yeah. And that is what chapter three is. Yeah, it's perfect storytelling form. Yeah. And I love it about, um, you know, the king says, Well, what? God can rescue you. Yeah. And then he says, Well, no other God can do that and balance themselves. And there's there's a lot of that kind of stuff in the story. I never seen that, but good in narrative style. This really is. Absolutely. That was a comment. But the other is to get back to shared recognition and to Bendigo statement, which is, you know, something that Christians hang onto, rightly so, that we know that God can save him, but we understand that it doesn't mean he will choose to save in the way we want him to save. And it's such a wonderful balance. I remember hearing someone or some pastor was saying, basically, we pray that God would heal because we know he can heal. But is that tension, isn't it? Yeah, that's right. And the humbleness before God, he could do whatever he wants to do, but may not always do what we want him to do. 

Tremper Longman III [00:42:43] Absolutely. Thanks for that, Phil. I think that's absolutely right. And New Testament gives us a clearer kind of eschatological perspective on this as well. He may not choose to save us, save from our terminal cancer, but ultimately he will save us. Right. If we are in relationship with Jesus, we'll be raised to live with them forever. So I think if anything, I think Christians have even more reason to risk death in the face of, you know. Persecution to to resist turning against our Lord when we're called to, because we have a sure confidence that God will raise us again. Where? When we come to Daniel. Chapter 12. The whole question of the afterlife will come up. And I agree with those scholars who say that throughout most of the Old Testament time period, the promise of life with God forever is muted. It comes out, I think, most clearly in Daniel chapter 12. But but yeah, I think that's right. And get back to your first observation about storytelling. I'm doing a lot of reading now in narrative theory. Again, when went in there in the 1980s, one of my first books is called Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation. And so Bakers asked me to do a trilogy on the Old Testament as literature. The Old Testament is history. The Old Testament is theology. And I'm working on the first book, which is the literature one. And, you know, your comments go all the way back to Aristotle, who talks about plots having beginning, middle and end that are generated by this type of conflict. And and and I think one of the things that we should acknowledge, as I said earlier, these are story like histories we need to relish and enjoy the high quality of presentation of these events through great structure, characterization, etc.. So yeah, so thanks for that. 

Audience 3 [00:45:28] My question is, it seems like from verse 25 to verse 28, there's a increased knowledge of who this fourth person is because it starts out the fourth, it looks like a sign of the gods. And then by verse 28, he's attributing this person to be the God of Shadrach, Michigan, Abednego, and calls it an angel. So is there something important going on there or not? 

Tremper Longman III [00:46:03] Well, yeah, thanks for that. I think I think what's important to notice in chapter 28 is that no matter who the fourth figure represents, I think navigators are getting it right that the praise is due to God. In other words, God may have sent one of his angels into the into the fiery furnace. So praise be the God of Shadrach who has sent his angel and rescued his servants. So Son of God, by the way, is a expression used in the Old Testament also for angels. Now, again, the question is, is. How accurate is Nebuchadnezzar in his perception and how is he using? How? It's very possible that the narrator who also controls the dialog is is not giving us the exact words of Nebuchadnezzar at this time, but is expressing what Nebuchadnezzar said using Hebrew idioms, that those are the kind of questions that are difficult to answer. But. But I think your question highlights the fact that whether God sent an angel or he himself appeared in the form that Nebuchadnezzar recognized as an angel, God is the ultimate source of their deliverance. 

Audience 3 [00:47:44] Thank you. I just wanted to ask in verse 18. The charity pointed out that the Shadrack Ishaq and Abednego also said, We will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold. So if it didn't say the second phrase, if it just said Serve your gods, then we would be pretty sure that the image of gold was in fact an idol and not Nasser himself. With the second phrase up there that. I don't know, because it also was translated into English from Aramaic. So, yeah, it's a little hard, as you said, you know, whose language are we listening to? But I kind of wonder about. Exactly. I don't really know how to ask the question, but it's a culture war for us today because we don't today think too much in terms of literally bowing before a statue, at least in the 20th century, at least Western civilization. Right. But and yet they were very clear that being ordered to bow or else you lose your life and you're one of a bunch of people, you know, hundreds, if not thousands standing there. And they all get down and go, you know, for whatever the Babylonia equivalent is. Then you say, okay, you can't even that you can't do. Right. Yeah. And so in today's world, I run into that, of course, on the other side of the world where people are asked to burn a candle to a dead person or or put out a bowl of rice. But I think we have modern day equivalents. Where where would you draw the line? Not so much in scholarship, but in sort of personal. 

Tremper Longman III [00:49:35] Yeah. Yeah, I think that's a great question to raise. Where where do we find idolatry today, essentially? And let's first of all, define idolatry as anything as the thing or person that you think is most important in your life. And anything other than that true God. If that's the most important thing in your life, then that is an idol. You may remember Bill Bright, the founder of what is today called CRU, used to ask the question, who's on the throne of your life? Paul Tilak, the existentialist theologian, used to refer to God as your ultimate concern. What is your ultimate concern? And I just like to use those two examples just to bring Bill Brown and Paul Ehrlich together. But, but the and then how do you know? I mean, one of the things that you might use to gauge your thinking is what do I think most of the time about what you know, where do I spend my money? Where do I exert my efforts now. You know, and and and questions like that. And I should point out that we all struggle with idolatry. I mean, that it's not as if once you become a Christian, you're never tempted by or participating in idolatry. John Calvin used an interesting phrase when he said, the human mind is a factory of ideals. But but what are our idols today? Well, I mean, and say Western world idols are things like money, pleasure, work, relationships. Interestingly enough, things that the Book of Ecclesiastes address has as Colette, the teacher or preacher, tries to find ultimate meaning in life in those things. But no wonder it lets them down because because idols are always inadequate to the task. So, so, so those are typically but it can also be a person and it can be a good thing. I mean, I think ministry can be an idol for me. I think writing can be an idol or my work can be an idol. So does that get at your question? Oh, okay. So press me a little further. I may have gotten off track on that. 

Audience 3 [00:52:27] You know, I think of John and John in the Bible said covetousness is equal to idolatry. Right? So. So I think we get that. But I don't recall ever being. Asked by anybody to bow down to my new Tesla or or something like that. Yeah. So I'm just trying to find a way where it's kind of relevant to my life. 

Audience 2 [00:52:52] Let me ask it. At what point does writing become an idol to you? 

Tremper Longman III [00:52:56] Yeah, well, when I when I spend all my time thinking about it, getting extremely frustrated when I don't get enough time to write, I think that's another kind of indicator to me, at least when I'm when I'm kept from surfing my idle. What's my reaction? Jerome actually Interesting wrote a very influential commentary around 400 A.D. on the back of Ecclesiastes. That was kind of the go to commentary for a thousand years. Commentary writers can only dream about that kind of influence. But his his basic approach to Ecclesiastes was, you know, all these things that actually that coalesce tried to find ultimate meaning in our idols. And therefore we need to not just not make them the most important thing in our life, but to actually reject them. So poverty and and, you know, celibacy and things like that are he used it as kind of a as a manual or guide post toward the monastery, which I think. Yeah. Whereas whereas I think a more healthy biblical view of creation points out that that these things in their proper place are, are good, good things, you know, working hard, enjoying pleasure that God provides for us and so forth. Oh, and just in terms of yeah, we don't physically we're not physically asked about down to them. But again, I think the bowing down is, is a gesture of submission and an acknowledgment that this is. Important to me the most important thing in the world. So you don't have to physically bow down to them to actually worship them. 

Audience 3 [00:55:13] One one way I've heard expressed is do we live our lives based on faith or out of fear? So as we live our lives, to live it out a faith in who God is, in his provision and his power and his wisdom and sovereignty, and in doing the things that he's going to do regardless of the outcome. You know, are we going to choose faith or do we live out of fear? 

Tremper Longman III [00:55:40] Do we put fear. 

Audience 3 [00:55:41] As the thing where we are constantly concerned about what we can control? Yeah, and we put things that we can control in the place of God. So who's in control? Yeah, and that's Bill Bright's idea is who's on the throne. 

Tremper Longman III [00:55:59] Yeah, absolutely. And that's very helpful.