BOOK OF DANIEL – An Astonishing Event

Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – An Astonishing Event

An Astonishing Event

In our previous blog the three young Hebrews have been thrown into the furnace on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar due to their refusal to bow down to the golden image he had made. I mentioned that what happens next astounds the king. I’m sure it astounded all who were present too. I also mentioned the reason for this astounding event is talked about even today. You’ll see in a moment when we read the next passage of Scripture why that is so. Given the fact that the king’s mightiest soldiers perished simply by approaching the furnace, one could conclude that the same fate met the three young Hebrews. Being cast into the actual furnace surely meant a quick death. However, Daniel 3:24 tells us a different story. The Scripture reads, “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” (NASB)

However Nebuchadnezzar was seated, or in what location, we are not told. But, clearly, he had a view of the furnace by some means to quickly notice that what he expected to see was quite the contrary. The text seems to suggest that his astonishment at what he saw caused him to stand up from his seat in haste. Anyone who has experienced being astonished by something while they are sitting know that a variety of actions do occur as the body reacts to what the eye has seen. I’m persuaded to believe that what Nebuchadnezzar saw through the aperture in the furnace caused him to jump up from his seat in astonishment at what his eyes saw. The question he asks his officials is equally astounding, given the heat of the furnace. I would venture very few of us have ever experienced the intensity of heat that is described by what we have read in this third chapter of Daniel. Even those who gallantly laid down their lives for God during the early Reformation period by being burned at the stake and suffering indescribable pain as the flames took hold of their bodies were unlikely to have experienced the same intense heat already present that the three young Hebrews were thrown into. The nature of the flames that the Reformation heroes experienced was that of a building crescendo of heat that they were subjected to. But, for the young Hebrews, the furnace was pre-heated to an unbelievable temperature. A simple analogy could be when a piece of paper is thrown into a fire that has been burning for some time. Glowing embers are clearly seen by the differing colors defined by the intensity of the heat. As the paper makes contact with the source of the heat it instantaneously shrivels into nothingness [incinerates]. Nebuchadnezzar was expecting something very similar. Death would have been virtually instantaneous as the brain would have immediately sent signals that the body was about to die. Sensory centers would have quickly shut down as the brain recognized death was imminent. While a human body can take two to three hours to incinerate (as in the case of cremation) there would have been very little to no movement from the three Hebrews who would have quickly been consumed. But that is not what Nebuchadnezzar saw, i.e. three bodies immediately engulfed in flames. Instead, remarkably he asks his officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” The officials immediately replied that was, indeed, the case. What Nebuchadnezzar says next in Daniel 3:25 is remarkable. The Scripture says, “He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” (NASB)

Not only are the three young Hebrew men walking around unharmed in the furnace but they are no longer bound!! However, the most remarkable sight was that there was a fourth person who is described as having the appearance like a son of the gods. Who was this mysterious fourth man? The two most leading thoughts are that either the fourth man was an angel or the pre-incarnate Son of God Himself. So, which thought is correct? I err on the side of caution here so as not to state what the text does not say. The argument held by many is that it is not the Son of God because Nebuchadnezzar had no knowledge of the Divine Deity. But this is hardly a solid argument given the fact that he certainly knew of the power of God by the interpretation of the dream that he fully acknowledged. When we look at the original text used, the Aramaic word for the phrase, “son of the gods” is not plural but singular. That word is el-aw which corresponds with the Hebrew word eloah meaning God. The Jewish priest Ezra used the Aramaic term (el-aw) more than forty times in the book of Ezra between Ezra 4:24 – Ezra 7:26. On each occasion the reference is to the God of the Jews. Remember, Nebuchadnezzar believed in many gods. The fact that the text is written in the way Nebuchadnezzar voiced his astonishment proves he believed he was looking at some superhuman being. Why? Because he had earlier asked the three young Hebrews “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15b) He certainly would not have been referring to any of the Babylonian gods because the three young men had refused to worship any of them. We will see Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgement not only to the miracle but who was responsible for it in our next discussion.