Reading through the Bible together

Sunday, August 17, 2014

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Daniel had to translate from the Aramaic to Babylonian for Nebuchadnezzar a number of times.  He remembered the miracle with his friends after the King had the strange dream of the “Image” and the successive empires. He wrote it down in Aramaic to record exactly every detail of what happened. It was important since in legal matters in the court the evidence of the good results of the King towards the Jews could later be found in the archives by Nebuchadnezzar’s successors.

Chapter 3 has the account of "Dare to Differ" and God will sustain and help you, even if a miracle is necessary. Another point about this chapter, which is not important for the general reader but a legitimate Adventist question: Is the Greek an accurate translation of the Hebrew and is the hymn the three friends supposedly sang in the fiery furnace reliable?

The oldest translations of Daniel such as the Greek Septuagint and Theodotion, have the account of the three friends of Daniel singing in the fiery furnace.  It is also found in the Catholic Bible placed there by Jerome. It is called “The Song of the Three Holy Children.” Quoting from the Catholic Bible it begins: “And they walked in the midst of the flame, praising God and blessing the Lord” (v. 24) and continues for many more verses. It seems that the song was not composed until about 100 B.C. and then appeared in the Apocrypha. It is not found in the original Hebrew.

Daniel opened this chapter indicating that Nebuchadnezzar determined to rule for a long time and made an image of total gold to represent himself.  Then he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon where Daniel’s friends were working. All the officials were to come and worship before this image. When they would hear the music of the orchestra, they were to fall down and worship the image (vv. 4-5). Nebuchadnezzar decreed that anyone who does not bow down to the image would be cast into a furnace of fire (v. 6). In fact they shall "immediately" be thrown into the furnace. This indicates that Nebuchadnezzar most likely suspected that some officials were organizing a rebellion against him. Dictators suffered from the continuous syndrome of mistrust. They would have sleepless nights and were known to sleep every night in a different bed to avoid assassination.

False worship goes hand in hand with a noisy array of all kinds of musical instruments making a joyful noise to signal and assist in such worship. The music had to stir the emotions and would be so loud that a person could not think and just had to do what everyone else was told to do. Every favorite musical instrument was brought in (vv. 5, 15).

The three friends of Daniel made up their minds that they would not participate in this mass frenzy and bow down. The controllers noticed this, "came forward and brought charges against the Jews" (v. 8). In their accusation they said that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego do not worship the gods of Nebuchadnezzar and not the image of gold (v. 12).

Today, dictators use media propaganda to set up an image of themselves to raise the levels of loyalty and respect and then move it into the zone of worship that belongs to God alone. All subjects are then lined up to perform in united action and anyone out of step so to speak is fiercely persecuted.

Nebuchadnezzar was angry (v. 13) and had the three Hebrews brought close for questioning, giving them one more chance (v. 15). But they insisted that God will save them and if not, they still will not worship the image (vv. 16-18). Nebuchadnezzar was furious and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter (v. 19). Even the soldiers who threw the Hebrews into the fire, got burned up (v. 22). High on an audience platform was Nebuchadnezzar's throne. The oven was open and he could see into the oven from an angle high and elevated. He saw the three Hebrews in the oven (v. 23). Suddenly, he jumped up from his throne and "leaped to his feet in amazement" (v. 24). He saw Christ as the fourth one walking dignified (as a "son of the gods") with them, and they had no ropes and were not harmed. Nebuchadnezzar approached the opening at a safe distance and shouted for them to come out. "Servants of the Most High God, come out" (v. 26). A crowd of officials gathered near the oven to see them for themselves (v. 27). Then Nebuchadnezzar praised God for sending an "angel" to rescue them (v. 28).

Impressed that the three Hebrews dared to differ with him and were saved, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that anyone who is against the God of the Jews will be cut in pieces and their homes burnt (v. 29). The chapter ends with the promotion of the three (v. 30), and the miracle was written in Aramaic and became part of the official palace records.

Dear God,
We are daily faced with false religious inroads that try to encourage us, amid loud electronic sounds, to go with the flow of the emotional impact of the event. May the music not push aside Your Spirit's quiet gentle voice navigating us through biblical passages to a full understanding of the truth and helping us to stand fast. Amen.  

Koot van Wyk, DLitt et Phil; ThD.
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea.