Daniel 3:13–15 (ESV)
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
At least Nebuchadnezzar asks the right question. “Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” Some translations say, “What God …”
The question sounds rhetorical, but maybe it’s sincere. He’s promoted these guys once because of “their God.” He’s well aware that “their God” has done things way beyond anything he’s seen either from his “wise men” or from his gods. He might be genuinely curious.
Nebuchadnezzar is afraid. This all started with his dream. He was so afraid that his sleep left him. That’s why he took the outrageous action of threatening to kill all his wise men. He even started carrying this threat out. Then Daniel comes along and interprets the dream. Peace at last.
Well, not exactly. Daniel’s interpretation prophesies the end, not just of Nebuchadnezzar, but of his kingdom. He promotes Daniel and his buddies because they’re obviously worth promoting. That doesn’t completely fix the problem though.
The nightmare continues.
Why is Nebuchadnezzar so insistent?
Does he believe that three people declining to bow down to his silly statue will somehow wreck the whole scheme?
Or is it just an enforcement thing? Is he worried that folks would see that they can get away with disobedience?
In any case, he’s trying remarkably hard to talk them into bowing down to his gold statue. Why not just toss them into the furnace and be done with it?
As always, there’s not much chance we’re going to be able to fully comprehend Nebuchadnezzar’s polytheistic mindset. As we’ll soon see, he even heats the furnace up extra hot before he throws them in.
He’s not doing this reluctantly.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.