I. The Image (3:1-7)
A. Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold (3:1).
1. Perhaps this was inspired by what he saw in his dream in Dan. 2.
2. Could have been an image of himself, or an idol to a god.
3. 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide.
4. The location of the “plain of Dura” is uncertain.
B. Instructions to worship (3:2-7).
1. All levels of the administration are commanded to come and worship at the time designated by all sorts of instruments (3:2-5).
2. Those who disobey will be cast into a burning fiery furnace (3:6).
a) The Babylonians sometimes used very cruel methods of punishment (see Jer. 29:22).
b) The furnace may have been the one used to forge the statue.
3. Everyone obeys – almost (3:7).
II. The Refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (3:8-18)
A. The accusation (3:8-12).
1. “Maliciously accused,” implying this was motivated by envy (3:8).
2. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are accused of disrespecting the king, his gods, and image (3:9-12).
3. Daniel is not mentioned, perhaps because he is now working in a different part of the administration (see 2:49).
B. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before Nebuchadnezzar (3:13-18).
1. Infuriated, Nebuchadnezzar summoned them to verify these charges (3:13-15). Notice the end of v. 15 – “who is the god who will deliver you?”
2. Their response (3:16-18):
a) Our God can deliver us (3:16-17).
b) Even if He doesn’t, we will not serve your gods or worship image (3:18). This was the same determination expressed by Esther (Esther 4:16) and later by Paul (Acts 21:13).
III. The Furnace (3:19-30)
A. Nebuchadnezzar orders them into the furnace (3:19-23).
1. “Filled with fury,” “expression [image, cf. 3:1] of his face was changed” (3:19a).
2. Furnace heated seven times more than usual (3:19b).
3. So hot the men who cast the friends in were killed (3:20-22).
4. Fell in, bound (3:23).
5. NOTE: at this point, Catholic Bibles contain two apochryphal stories: The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Children.
B. Nebuchadnezzar is astonished (3:24-25).
1. He sees four men, unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, unharmed (3:24-25a).
2. The fourth was “like a son of the gods” (3:25b).
a) Later identified as God’s “angel” (3:28).
b) Many commentators argue this was a pre-NT appearance of the Christ.
C. The aftermath (3:26-30).
1. Nebuchadnezzar calls them to come out (3:26).
2. The witnesses see that no harm of any kind came to them (3:27).
3. Nebuchadnezzar praises their God, and decrees that no one speak against their God (3:28-29).
4. The three friends are promoted (3:30).