Daniel 3


Nebuchadnezzar, having erected an image, whose height (including

probably a very high pedestal) was sixty cubits, and the

breadth six, ordered a numerous assembly, which he had

convened, to fall down and worship it; threatening, at the

same time, that whosoever refused should be cast into a fiery

furnace, 1-7;

a punishment not uncommon in that country, (see Jer 29:22.)

Daniel's three companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego,

who were present, being observed to refrain from this

idolatrous worship, were accused before the king; who, in

great wrath, commanded them to comply with his orders on pain

of death, 8-15.

But these holy men, with the greatest composure and serenity,

expressed their firm resolution not to worship his gods or his

images, whatever might be the consequence, 16-18.

Upon which the king, unaccustomed to have his will opposed, in

the height of his wrath, ordered the furnace to be made seven

times hotter than usual, and these men to be cast into it,

bound by the most mighty of his army, who were killed by the

flame in the execution of this service, 19-23.

On this occasion God literally performed his promise by Isaiah,

(Isa 43:2:)

"When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt;

neither shall the flame kindle upon thee;" for an angel of

God, appearing in the furnace, protected these young men, and

counteracted the natural violence of the fire; which, only

consuming the cords with which they were bound, left them to

walk at liberty, and in perfect safety, in the midst of the

furnace. The king, astonished at this prodigy, called to them

to come out of the furnace, and blessed God for sending an

angel to deliver his servants; and commanded all his subjects,

upon pain of death, not to speak irreverently of the God of

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who were promoted to great

power and honour, 24-30.

A striking example of the interposition of Providence in favour

of true and inflexible piety.


Verse 1. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold] It is

supposed that the history given here did not occur till the close,

or near the end, of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. For it was after his

insanity, as we see Da 4:33-36, and this happened near the close

of his reign. The authorized version, which is followed in the

margin, fixes the date of this event seventeen years earlier, and

ten years before the king's insanity. A few observations on this

image may be necessary:-

1. It is not likely that this image was in human form-the

dimensions show the improbability of this; for what proportion is

there between sixty cubits (ninety feet) in length, and six

cubits (nine feet) in breadth?

2. It is not likely that this image was all of gold; for this

would have required more of this precious metal than the whole

province of Babylon could produce; for as I suppose the sixty

cubits apply to the perpendicular altitude, so I take it for

granted that the six cubits intend the diameter. Now a column of

gold of this height in diameter, upon the supposition that the

pillar was circular, contains five thousand seven hundred and

twenty-five and a half cubic feet; and as there are nineteen

thousand avoirdupois ounces in a cubic foot, the weight of the

whole pillar would be eight million two hundred and sixty-two

thousand eight hundred and six pounds, ten ounces of gold.

3. It might have been a pillar on which an image of the god Bel

was erected. The image itself might be of gold, or more probably

gilt, that is, covered with thin plates of gold, and on this

account it might be called the golden image; and most probably the

height of the image may be confounded with the height of the

pillar. Or perhaps it was no more than a pillar, on the sides of

which their gods and sacred emblems were engraven, surmounted with

Bel on the top.

The plain of Dura] The situation of this place is not exactly

known; there was a town or city called Dura, or Doura, in

Mesopotamia, near the Tigris.

Verse 2. Sent to gather together the princes] It is not easy to

show what these different offices were, as it is difficult to

ascertain the meaning of the Chaldee words. Parkhurst analyzes

them thus:-

The PRINCES] achashdarpenaiya, from achash,

great or eminent, and dar, "to go about freely," and

panim, "the presence." Satraps or privy counsellors who had

free access to the presence of the king.

The GOVERNORS] signaiya, lieutenants or viceroys,

for sagan, among the Hebrews, was the name of the high

priest's deputy.

The CAPTAINS] pachavatha, from pach, to extend,

because set over those provinces that had been annexed to the

kingdom by conquest. Pashas-This word and office are still in use

in Asiatic countries. By corruption we pronounce bashaw.

The JUDGES] adargazeraiya, from adar, noble

or magnificent, and gazar, to decree. The nobles, the

assistants to the king in making laws, statutes, &c. The same

probably in Babylon, as the House of Lords in England.

The TREASURERS] gedaberaiya, from ganaz,

(the zain being changed into daleth, according to the

custom of the Chaldee,) to treasure up, and bar, pure.

Those who kept the current coin, or were over the mint; the

treasurers of the exchequer in Babylon.

The COUNSELLORS] dethaberaiya, from dath, a

statute, and bar, "to declare the meaning of the law;" for in

all ages and countries there has been what is termed the glorious

uncertainty of the law; and therefore there must be a class of men

whose business it is to explain it. What a pity that law cannot be

tendered to the people as other sciences are, in plain,

unsophisticated, and intelligible terms, and by persons whose

business it is to show what is just and right, and not pervert

truth, righteousness, and judgment.

The SHERIFFS] tiphtaye, from taphath, in

Hebrew, shaphath, "to set in order." Probably civil


And all the rulers of the provinces] All other state or civil

officers, not only to grace the solemnity, but to maintain order.

My old Bible renders them: Satrapis, or wiise men. Magistratis.

Jugis. Duykis, Tyrauntis, or stronge men. Prefectis, and alle the

Princes of Cuntreese.

Verse 4. Then a herald cried aloud] caroza kara

bechayil, "a crier called with might." A bedel cried mightili.-Old

MS. Bible.

Verse 5. The sound of the CORNET] There is not less difficulty

in ascertaining the precise meaning of these musical instruments

than there is in the offices in Da 3:2.

karna, here translated cornet, is the common blowing horn, which

makes a deep and hollow sound, as well as one shrill and piercing.

FLUTE] mashrokitha, from sharak, to

whistle, shriek. A wind instrument which made a strong and shrill

noise, such as the hautbois or clarionet.

HARP] kithros, cytharus; κιθαρα. Some kind of

stringed instrument. It seems to be formed from the Greek word.

SACKBUT] sabbecha. The Greek has it σαμβυκη, from

which our word sackbut, from Κβο sabach, to interweave;

probably on account of the number of chords, for it seems to have

been a species of harp.

PSALTERY] pesanterin; Greek, ψαλτηριον. A stringed

instrument, struck with a plectrum; that called santeer in Egypt

is probably the same. Dr. Russel says: "It is a large triangle,

and has two bottoms two inches from each other, with about twenty

catguts of different sizes." It was the ancient psalterium, and

most probably the same as David's harp.

DULCIMER] sumponeyah; Greek, συμφωνεια. Probably a

kind of tamboor, tambourine, or tomtom drum. It does not mean the

same as the Greek symphonia, which signifies a concert or harmony

of many instruments, for here one kind of instrument only is


All kinds of music] col zeney zemara, the whole

stock, or band, of music; the preceding being the chief, the most

common, and the most sonorous. My old MS. Bible has, Trumpe, and

Pipe, and Harpe: Sambuke, Santrie, and Synfonye, and al kynde of


Verse 6. Shall the same hour] This is the first place in the Old

Testament where we find the division of time into hours. The

Greeks say that Anaximander was the inventor. He had it probably

from the Chaldeans, among whom this division was in use long

before Anaximander was born.

Be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.] This was an

ancient mode of punishment among the Chaldeans, if we may credit

the tradition that Abram was cast into such a fire by this

idolatrous people because he would not worship their idols.

Verse 8. Accused the Jews.] That is, Shadrach, Meshach, and

Abed-nego. The other Jews were left unnoticed; and probably at

this time Daniel was too high to be touched; but we may rest

assured that he was not found among these idolaters, see Da 3:12.

Verse 16. We are not careful] We have no need to put thee to any

farther trouble; we have made up our minds on this subject, and

have our answer ready: Be it known unto thee, WE WILL NOT SERVE

THY GODS. This was as honest as it was decisive.

Verse 17. If it be so] Thou mayest cast us into the furnace; the

terror of it has no effect on our minds to induce us to alter the

resolution we have taken, nor shall the fire change our purpose.

We serve a God who is able to deliver us. Should he not, we are

equally determined; but we are satisfied that in some way or other

he will deliver us out of thy hand. Thy power cannot affect us in

the kingdom of our God to which we shall ascend from thy furnace,

should he permit the fire to kindle upon us. "Render to Caesar the

things which are Caesar's," is a maxim of Jesus Christ; but when

Caesar arrogates to himself the things that are the Lord's, then,

and in such cases, his authority is to be resisted. God does not

desire Caesar's things; Caesar's must not have the things of God.

Verse 19. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury] How strange is

this, after having had so many proofs of the supremacy of Jehovah!

He had seen how God poured contempt upon his authority in the case

of the three Hebrews, and yet he will try his strength once more!

How infatuated is man!

Seven times more] As hot as it could be made. Seven expresses

the great intensity of the heat.

Verse 20. The most mighty men] The generals, or chief officers

of his army; not strong men, there was no need of such.

Verse 21. Their hats] This word, hat, is found only in this

place in the Old Testament. The word sarbal properly means an

outer garment. Herodotus, who lived about one hundred years after

Daniel, says, "the dress of the Babylonians consisted of a tunic

of linen reaching down to the feet; over this a tunic of woollen;

and over all a white short cloak or mantle, χλανιδιον; and on

their heads they wore turbans, μιτρησι." Following this, Mr.

Parkhurst translates the verse thus: "Then these three men were

bound [ besarbaleyhon] in their CLOAKS, [

patesheyhon] their TURBANS, [ vecharbelathehon] and in

their UPPER (woollen) TUNICS, [ ulebushehon] and their

UNDER (linen) TUNICS." And as, according to this interpretation,

their sarbaley were their outermost garments, we see the

propriety with which it is observed at Da 3:27 that these

were not changed by the fire.

Verse 23. And these three men-fell down bound] There is a most

evident want of connexion between this and the following verse;

and it is between these verses that the apocryphal Song of the

Three Children, as it is called, has been inserted by St. Jerome

and others; but with this note: Quae sequuntur in Hebraeis

voluminibus non reperi; "What follows I have not found in the

Hebrew books." And then begins, "They walked in the midst of the

flame, praising God, and blessing the Lord." The Septuagint and

Arabic read the twenty-fourth verse thus: "Then Nebuchadnezzar

heard them singing praise, and was astonished." To connect the two

verses Houbigant adds two verses found in the Vulgate, which are

the forty-ninth and the twenty-third: "But an angel of the Lord

went down with Azariah and his companions into the furnace, and

drove out the flame of fire from the furnace; and they walked in

the midst of the furnace." This verse (the forty-ninth) has been

added to show the reason of Nebuchadnezzar's astonishment, and

also to account for the appearance of a fourth person in the

furnace, as in Da 3:25.

Verse 25. Is like the Son of God.] A most improper translation.

What notion could this idolatrous king have of the Lord Jesus

Christ? for so the place is understood by thousands. bar

elahin signifies a son of the gods, that is, a Divine person or

angel; and so the king calls him in Da 3:28: "God hath sent his

ANGEL, and delivered his servants." And though even from this some

still contend that it was the Angel of the covenant, yet the

Babylonish king knew just as much of the one as he did of the

other. No other ministration was necessary; a single angel from

heaven was quite sufficient to answer this purpose, as that which

stopped the mouths of the lions when Daniel was cast into their


Verse 27. Upon whose bodies the fire had no pouter] The heathens

boasted that their priests could walk on burning coals unhurt; and

Virgil mentions this of the priests of Apollo of Soracte:-

Summe Deum, sancti custos Soractis Apollo!

Quem primi colimus, cui pineus ardor acervo

Pascitur; et medium, freti pietate, per ignem

Cultores multa premimus vestigia pruna.

VIRG. AEn. xi. 785.

O Phoebus, guardian of Soracte's woods

And shady hills; a god above the gods;

To whom our natives pay the rites divine,

And burn whole crackling groves of hallowed pine;

Walk through the fire in honour of thy name,

Unhurt, unsinged, and sacred from the flame.


But Varro tells us that they anointed the soles of their feet

with a species of unguent that preserved them from being burnt.

Very lately a female showed many feats of this kind, putting red

hot iron upon her arms, breasts, &c., and passing it over her hair

without the slightest inconvenience; but in the case of the three

Hebrews all was supernatural, and the king and his officers well

knew it.

Verse 28. Blessed be the God of Shadrach, &c.] Here is a noble

testimony from a heathen. And what produced it? The intrepidly

pious conduct of these three noble Jews. Had they been

time-servers, the name of the true God had not been known in

Babylon. What honour does the Lord put on them that are steadfast

in the faith!

Verse 29. Speak any thing amiss] Though by the decree the king

does not oblige the people to worship the true God, yet he obliges

them to treat him with reverence.

Verse 30. Then the king promoted, &c.] He restored them to the

offices which they held before the charge of disobedience and

treason was brought against them.

At the end of this verse the Septuagint add, "And he advanced

them to be governors over all the Jews that were in his kingdom."

This may be the meaning of the latter verse. They were more likely

to be set over the Jews than over the Chaldeans.

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