2006-11-26 - Daniel
Things were not looking good for our three friends, because if the king was angry before, now he went ballistic. Disobey him, would they? Here we see the out-of-control anger of the king. He behaves like a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum. He ordered the furnace heated so hot that the men who got the assignment of throwing Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah into it, were killed by the flames coming out of it, But the three did end up being thrown into the furnace. Archer describes the furnace as:
"Apparently there was no door or screen to hide the inside of the furnace from view. Judging from basreliefs, it would seem that Mesopotamian smelting furnaces tended to be like an old-fashioned glass milk-bottle in shape, with a large opening for the insertion of the ore to be smelted and a smaller aperture at ground level for the admission of wood and charcoal to furnish the heat. There must have been two or more smaller holes at this same level to permit the insertion of pipes connected with large bellows, when it was desired to raise the temperature beyond what the flue or chimney would produce. Undoubtedly the furnace itself was fashioned of very thick adobe, resistant to intense heat. The large upper door was probably raised above the level of the fire bed so that the metal smelted from the ore would spill on the ground in case the crucibles were upset.
So the text says (v.23) that the three "fell down" (nepalu) into the fire. Apart from the swirling flames and smoke, then, they were quite visible to an outside observer, though, like the king, he would have to stand at a distance.
Verses 24-27: Now the miracle occurs. The king can't believe his eyes. Where there were three men who were thrown into the furnace, there are now four, and they are walking around. And one of them appears to be more than human. Nebuchadnezzar describes him as a son of the gods, a testimony to his ongoing polytheism.
It is important to note we do not have enough information here to decide who this fourth individual is, whether an angel or even the preincarnate Christ. What is important here is to see that God is the one who provides the way of salvation for the three.
When God works miracles, they are complete. When the three come out of the furnace, even their clothes are not singed. They don't even smell of smoke. It was as if they had simply gone for a stroll in the park.
Nebuchadnezzar is forced to acknowledge that God is in control. He admits that Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were being faithful to God in their disobedience to him. And it appears that he was now afraid of God because he issued a kingdom-wide decree. The peoples of all the nations under his authority were never to say anything against God. If they did, he would bring judgment down on them, yet God does so on him.
And by the way, he promotes Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah again.
Speaking of this section of Daniel, Archer notes:
"A significant fact in the subsequent history of the Jews is that the sublime courage of the three Hebrews and their faith in Yahweh greatly encouraged the Jewish patriots at the time of the Maccabean revolt, whose leaders emulated it in their own struggle against Antiochus Epiphanes. 1 Macc 2:59 tells how the dying Mattathias of Modin recalled the heroism of David and Elijah and said, "Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved out of the flame." His words show his conviction of the historicity of Daniel 3. In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:34 refers to Daniel 3: "[They] quenched the fury of the flames" - an allusion that appears in a long list of the heroes of the faith. Obviously the author of Hebrews believed that the events in Daniel 3 took place in the sixth century B.C. exactly as they are related."
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