February 3, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XIV: Where's Waldo...er...Daniel?

A Colossal Eyesore and Daniel’s Conspicuous Absence (Daniel 3)

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire...” ~Daniel 3:1-6

Right off the bat in verse 1 Nebuchadnezzar commanded a colossal golden image to be set up in the plain of Dura at Babylon, and summoned all his high officers of state to be present at its consecration. He caused it to be proclaimed throughout the land, that at a given signal all should fall down before the image and worship it. Those that refused to do so would be cast into a burning fiery furnace.

...and Daniel is nowhere to be found in this portion of a book that bears his namesake.

This ceremony having ended, it was reported to the king that Daniel’s friends, who had been placed over the province of Babylon, had not done homage to the image; whereupon, being called to account by the king, they refused to worship the image because they could not serve his gods. The guilty individuals were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Because of this defiance to the king they were thrown bound in their clothes, into the burning fiery furnace.

They were unscathed by the immense heat of the flames; and the king perceived with terror that not three, but four men, were walking unbound and uninjured in the furnace (vv. 19–27). Then he commanded them to come out; and when he found them wholly unhurt, he not only praised their God who had so wonderfully protected them, but also commanded, on the pain of death, all the people of his kingdom not to despise this God (vv. 28–30).

It is quite probable that Nebuchadnezzar, after he had firmly established his world-kingdom by the overthrow of all his enemies, felt moved to erect this image as a monument of his great exploits and of his world-power; yet the destruction of the capital of Judea, which had been already twice destroyed, can hardly be regarded as having furnished a sufficient occasion for this as it was solely a small “backwater” in his empire. It would be like erecting a monument for conquering the Canary Islands.

It is probable that the king received the idea for the image from the dream in Chapter 2, and the likelihood that the image was constructed to test the loyalty of the king’s officials to his new administration all appear to support a time nearer the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

What is interesting about this narrative is that Daniel was not present on this occasion, and a number of explanations for his absence have been offered.

I believe the correct tact for figuring out where Daniel was is by understanding the statement made in Daniel 2:49: Moreover, at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court”. They had been appointed to administer to the affairs of the province. Daniel on the other hand had responsibilities that actually required his presence at the palace. With the king and other important officials absent, someone would’ve been needed to govern in the city. Therefore Daniel wouldn’t have been able to leave Babylon and travel to the plain of Dura. Therefore, his absence may also have been due to other factors. The fact-of-the-matter is that judging by Daniels character elsewhere in the book named after him, Daniel would’ve never paid homage to a giant eyesore.

So what we see in this chapter is a demand of an earthly king to have people pay homage and loyalty to him but what we really see is a testament to the faith of 3 men that follow the One True God...the God of Heaven. For it is only the God of Heaven that could've spared Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the incinerating flames of the furnace.

On thing of particular note that should be mentioned about Chapter 3 is in verse 9-12:

They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds 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, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:9-12

The astrologers addressed the king in the customary manner— “O king, live forever!” They then launch into the charges and reminded the king of his decree to worship the image and of the death penalty for refusing to comply. These sniveling astrologers bring to the kings attention that the disrespectful and treasonous men were “Jews.” There should've been no reason to point out their nationality. Therefore the designation seems slanderous and resentment toward Jewish people is evident. We are seeing anti-semitism here. Anti-Semitism is nearly always satanic in origin. This is especially true in the period before Jesus' birth as Satan clearly knew the Messiah would arise from the Semitic (Jewish) people. The Savior of all mankind (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 9:4–5) would be born of Jewish descendents.

The king was reminded that he had given these Jews positions of authority in his administration (“there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon”). They were eithr trying to point out a Jewish rebellion or this was veiled assault on the king’s judgment—Nebuchadnezzar had made a mistake in assigning these foreigners positions in Babylon. Either way he was backed into a corner...at least it seemed so until Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became immune to the effects of fire with the power of Alimighty God.

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