Daniel 3:24–25 (ESV)
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Why is Nebuchadnezzar even watching? He delegated the execution to his henchmen. Some of them even died in carrying out his command. So, what’s the big deal? Kings are supposed to be busy. He should have just delivered his judgement and gone back to the palace. Why is he staying?
The truth is, Nebuchadnezzar is on the bubble about what to believe! He knows this is important. Of course, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego said that even if “our God” doesn’t deliver them, they’re willing to die before worshipping a statue. They specifically avoided predicting that they would be saved.
Still, Nebuchadnezzar is locked into “don’t touch that dial” mode. He’s not changing the channel until the show’s over. Deep down, he fears that “their God” will save them.
Of course, if he was sure “their God” would save them, he wouldn’t have sent them into the flames in the first place. Ticking off gods is a big no-no in the ancient polytheistic world.
If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are saved, the king just made a formidable enemy.
And that is exactly what appears to be happening.
Remember, this whole sequence of events has been, right from the start, driven by Nebuchadnezzar’s fear. It began with a fearsome nightmare that left him so rattled that he couldn’t sleep. His reaction was so extreme, he almost kills off all his advisors.
Then Daniel comes along and supernaturally interprets the dream. It’s flattering to Nebuchadnezzar, but he doesn’t like the way the prophesy ends. So, he pulls another crazy stunt and erects a golden statue that everyone must worship or die.
That, however, doesn’t go according to plan. Three “youths” refuse to comply. So, Nebuchadnezzar, in his paranoia and megalomania, sentences them to a horribly torturous death.
This act backfired. God saved the three youths in a particularly spectacular way. The presence of an extra person walking around in the furnace, who is like a son of the gods is a display of power. It intimidates Nebuchadnezzar, presumably by design.
Before, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t actually have anything to fear.
Now he does.
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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.