Daniel 3 – The Fiery Furnace & The Kingdoms of Daniel’s Prophecies

The Hammer Dulcimer is a tuned percussion instrument thought to be an ancestor to the piano.

I don’t understand why people can’t believe in Your existence after all the prophecies that Your prophets made came true, all accept those in the Book of Revelation. People can look in history books and see that all that Daniel said here happened.

I bet Nebuchadnezzar really freaked out when Daniel and his friends didn’t get burned in the furnace.  Knowing that his God was supreme, that being You of course.

So about Nebuchadnezzar…

Daniel 3
The Fiery Furnace

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

“Image of gold” – Large statues of this kind were not made of solid gold, but were plated with gold.  This image probably represented the god Nabu, whose name formed the first element in Nebuchadnezzar’s name (in Akkadian Nabu-kudurri-usur, meaning “Nabu, protect my son!” or “Nabu, protect my boundary!”).

“Height was threescore cubits” – Ninety feet, including the lofty pedestal on which it stood.

The cornet is very similar to the trumpet, distinguished by its conical bore, and mellower tone quality.

“Dura” – either the name of a place now marked by a series of mounds (located a few miles south of Babylon) or a common noun meaning “walled enclosure.”

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,

5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:

The words for “harp,” “psaltery” and “dulcimer” are the only Greek loanwords in Daniel.  Greek musicians and instruments are mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions written before the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.

9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever.

A cache of ancient flutes has been found in China. These instruments, made from the leg bones of the red-crested crane, are still playable despite being 9,000 years old. One of them has even been used to make a recording of the Chinese folk tune “Little Cabbage”.

10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image:

11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

The harp has always been known to be a beautiful sounding stringed instrument. The above painted sketch is from an actual harp in ancient Biblical times.
In ancient times the harp was played with the hand while walking. It had multiple strings and sometimes a sounding board.

15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.

20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.

Psalteron (harp). Made of wood with ten strings. Heighth 90 cm. Gaza 6th century BCE. Reconstructed according to ancient mosaics.

25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.

The Kingdoms of Daniel’s Prophecies

The Babylonian Empire was a civilization of Babylonians in Lower Mesopotamia (central and southern Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. The Persian Empire later grew near the Babylonians region.

Daniel 2 and 7 together present a prophetic look at four kingdoms that would dominate the world. They are represented both by an image of four metals (chapter 2) and ; by a vision of four beasts (chapter 7).

One interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece, respectively. However, Media never attained the status of a world power. Its independent period was contemporary with that of Babylon, but it was ruled as part of Persia after Babylon’s fall in 539 B.C.

In approximately 550 B.C. Cyrus, the king of Persia, defeated the last king of Media, Astyages, and merged the two kingdoms.1 In fact, the book of Daniel treats Media and Persia as a single power (cf.5:28; 6:8,12,15;8:20).

A more plausible interpretation holds that these kingdoms are Babylon, Media- Persia, Greece and Rome, according well with the symbolism and factual history of the kingdoms mentioned.

The first kingdom is identified as Babylon, the head of gold and winged lion. The lion was a recognized symbol of Babylonian royalty, as demonstrated by statues and reliefs of lions excavated from Babylon’s ruins. The plucking of wings and subsequent transformation into a man perhaps represents Nebuchadnezzar’s illness and restoration.

Medes is often called the first Iranian kingdom, one that set the institution of monarchy and created a united “country” out of scattered tribes. The general consensus is that before the foundation of the Empire of Medes, Iranian tribes, before and after their migration to the plateau, existed in form of individual or small tribal confederations with no proper ruling hierarchy.

The second, bear-like beast, “raised up on one of its sides”, corresponds to the Persian domination in the Medo-Persian Empire after the defeat of Astyages by Cyrus II (the fact that the bear is raised on one side symbolizes the ascendancy of the Persians over the Medes).

Similarly, the ram of Daniel 8 is described as having two horns, one longer than the other, identified as the kings of Media and Persia (8:20). Under Cyrus and his son Cambyses three kingdoms were “chewed up,” as represented by the three ribs in the bear’s mouth (7:5).  These kingdoms were Lydia (546 B.C.), the Chaldean Empire (539 B.C.) and Egypt (525 B.C.).

The third beast, a four-winged, four-headed leopard (7:6), represents the Greek Empire. The swiftness and agility of the leopard (cf. Hab 1:8 on Babylonia) symbolizes the speed of Alexander the Great, who conquered all the known world between 334 and 323 B.C.

After his untimely death the kingdom was divided among four of his generals, as symbolized by the four heads of the leopard:

1.Cassander over Greece and Macedonia;
2.Lysimachus over Thrace and Asia Minor;
3.Seleucus over Syria and the Middle East; and
4.Ptolemy over Egypt.

Of all of the human empires that affected the people of Israel, the Persians did something rather unique – they permitted the return of the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, by God’s command (see above verses), 70 years after their exile by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar.
At its peak, the Persian empire reached from the India to Greece, and from the Caspian Sea to the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The Persians are believed to have originated in Media, which today corresponds to western Iran and southern Azerbaijan. They settled in Persia, on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf.

At the same time, the number four should probably not be pressed here; the Greek kingdoms after the death of Alexander were for some time quite unstable, and various dynasties rose and fell (Lysimachus, e.g., was slain in battle in 281 B.C. and no dynasty followed him).

The number four is probably just representative of the several Greek kingdoms that at various times controlled parts of the Near East and, in particular, the Holy Land.

The final kingdom, “different from all the former beasts” (7:7), denotes Rome. The two iron legs of the image (2:33) may reflect that the empire could generally be characterized as having two major parts, one in the east (where Greek was the principal language) and the other in the west (where Latin dominated).

The ten horns may represent the various rulers and dynasties who governed the Roman Empire (again,”ten” here represents a plurality and should not be pressed for ten specific historical counterparts).

Throughout its history the empire was ruled by the republic various generals who seized power during the late republic (examples include Sulla and Julius Caesar) and by various dynasties that ruled after Augustus had consolidated power under himself.

Vying for power through intrigue, assassination and outright civil war was a regular feature of Roman history, and this seems to be reflected in the diversity of the image (iron mixed with clay).

The Ancient Greek civilization covered areas formerly held by the Babylonian Empire.
Ancient Greece, as seen in the Ancient Greek Map of the Greek civilization bible map above, is the Greek civilization belonging to the period of Greek history lasting from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to 146 BC and the Roman Empire conquest of Greece after the Battle of Corinth.

An interesting motif of the four kingdoms is that they become increasingly large, diverse, violent and unstable. Babylon is portrayed as highly unified, while Persia in two parts (one dominant over the other).  Greece has four heads and Rome has a multiplicity of divisions.

…what happened to him?  How did he die?