The story of the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace is found in Daniel chapter 3. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon (ch. 3:1).
Nebuchadnezzar’s Fiery Furnace
King Nebuchadnezzar commanded that all people should be present for the dedication of the image. This attendance was to be a test of loyalty for all. And “He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up (ch. 3:2-3).
Once the crowd of officials was gathered, they were given orders to bow down and worship the image. “As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace…” (ch. 3:4-7).
The Jews Accused of Disloyalty
Jealous government officials were watching the Jews. They realized that their religion won’t allow them to bow to the image. So, they said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “‘O king, live forever! You have issued a decree… that everyone who hears the sound of … music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up'” (ch. 3:8-12).
These government officials didn’t like “foreigners” getting more prominent government positions than the local citizens. So, they accused the Jews of not bowing. When the king heard the accusation, he was angry. He saw this as an act of disloyalty.
But he gave the Jews a second chance saying, “‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of … music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?'” (ch. 3:13-15). The king realized that this is a religious matter, but his own pride blinded him from helping them even though at one point he had praised Daniel’s God (ch. 2:47).
The 3 Jews’ Defiance to the King’s Order
The 3 Jews’ response to the king was clear and affirmative that they will not worship the image. For they said, “‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up'” (ch. 3:16-18)
The Ten Commandments clearly stated that no one should bow down to or worship any other gods: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, ….” (Exodus 20:3-5).
The Death Decree and God’s Deliverance
Then, Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. And he ordered the fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie them up and throw them into the fiery furnace. And the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took them up (ch. 3:19-23)
Nebuchadnezzar watched and waited to see the Jews burn. But he was greatly amazed of what he saw. And he asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ ‘They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed , and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!'” (ch. 3:24-26a).
So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and all the officials crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them (ch. 3:26a-27).
The King’s Acknowledgement of God
Then Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, “‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon” (ch. 3:28-30).
In His service,