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Bible: What Does Daniel 3-4 Teach Us About Faith, Deliverance, and Humiliation?
The Three Hebrew Youths
Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace
Without a doubt motivated by this vision, Nebuchadnezzar, megalomaniacal to the core, orders the construction of a golden, totem pole-like representation of himself (v. 1).
Perhaps completely disregarding the fact that the statue in his vision also possessed silver, bronze, iron, and clay elements, he says, in effect, "Let the future kings build their own idols; my image will not only have a gold head, but everything will be gold!"
Having completed the erection of his statue, Nebuchadnezzar issues a universal edict: everyone in his kingdom must worship it, or face fiery consequences (vv. 4-6).
The three Hebrew youths, of course, rebel against his wishes and meet the testing of their faith with admirable confidence in their Lord (vv. 12, 16-18).
[The narrative abounds in repetitions:
(1) the titles/positions of G-men who must attend the ceremony (A) [vv. 2-3];
(2) the fact that the king had set up an image (B) [vv. 2, 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, 15, 18];
(3) the musical instruments played prior to the worship of the image (C) [vv. 5, 7, 10, 15]; and
(4) the punishment for refusing to worship the image (D) [vv. 6, 11, 15, 17].
Why Daniel uses this particular literary device cannot be unmistakably determined.
It may be a mnemonic tool, or it may reflect the extreme rigidity of Babylonian ritualism.
The passage (vv. 2-18) follows a pattern that can be diagrammed according to the arrangement of the repetitions: A-B-A-B-C-B-D-C-B-C-D-B-B-C-D-D-B].
While casting the three Hebrew youths—Daniel is undoubtedly absent—into the furnace bound up in their clothes, certain "mighty men of valor" lose their lives as the fire from the super-heated oven engulfs them (vv. 19-23).
The Angel of the LORD
The Angel of Yahweh
However, God grants complete deliverance to the faithful Israelites, honoring them with His visible presence (or that of a mighty angel) in the midst of the flames (vv. 24-25).
Once he learns of the safety of the servants of the LORD, Nebuchadnezzar praises Yahweh once again (vv. 26-28).
As a reward for their bravery, the king not only protects the Jews from further persecution in the future by issuing another kingdom-wide decree, but he also promotes the three men in the province of Babylon (vv. 29-30).
[Certainly, the "story" teaches an obvious, yet nonetheless very powerful, lesson.
Because they knew their God, the Jews were absolutely willing to die for His cause rather than submit to Nebuchadnezzar's arrogant decree].
The Humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar
Chapter 4 records Nebuchadnezzar's second dream, Daniel's interpretation of it, the king's humiliation, and his eventual restoration to his throne and spiritual salvation.
[The NKJV sets the narrative in an indented (almost poetic) format].
As he begins his account, Nebuchadnezzar "salutes" the inhabited earth (v. 1).
He intends his communiqué both to testify to the great works of Yahweh on his behalf and to declare the eternality of the LORD’s kingdom (vv. 2-3).
[The king obviously allowed Daniel to record this account in order to save it for posterity’s spiritual benefit.]
The king of Babylon himself recounts how he "saw" a frightening dream while he was, figuratively speaking, on "top of the world," i.e., without troubles (vv. 4-5).
Characteristically, he demands its interpretation from all of the quickly assembled Babylonian sages (v. 6); but, as expected, they fail him again (v. 7).
A Most Wonderful Characteristic
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At the very last, Belteshazzar (Daniel) comes to his rescue (v. 8).
One can tell that, by the way he addresses the prophet, the king highly respects him.
What reason does he give for his admiration of his wise man?
Belteshazzar has "the Spirit of the Holy God" in him (v. 9).
Nebuchadnezzar relates his dream to Daniel (v. 10), disclosing, first, that a very tall tree appeared to him.
This great tree took on mythical proportions, and provided the shelter and nourishment needs of a multitude of animal and human life (vv. 11-12).
Next, the king describes the descent from heaven of an angel, and then repeats this messenger's command that the tree be reduced to a stump bound with an iron and bronze band (vv. 13-15a).
At about this point, a transformation takes place: the stump changes from being a dew-drenched "it" to a grazing "him" (v. 15b).
In addition to possessing this bovine characteristic, the creature receives an animal "heart" to remain with "him" for seven "times" (probably years) [v. 16; cf. 7:25].
The angel announces that this decision originates with the "watchers," whose purpose is to instruct human beings who dare to take credit for their worldly achievements (v. 17).
Confident that Daniel, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can declare its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar asks that he do so (v. 18).
Because the interpretation involves the king’s future humiliation, the prophet expresses dismay before him (vv. 19-22).
Nebuchadnezzar as a Bovine
The Length of the King's Aflliction
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Verses 20-21, 23 reiterate the details of the dream (cf. vv. 10-16), while verses 22, 25-26 proclaim Daniel's divinely-inspired interpretation.
Again, as in chapter three, Daniel employs the device of reiteration, perhaps for the sake of precision as a high official in the king's cabinet.
He does not restrain himself from counseling Nebuchadnezzar to repent so that the latter's prosperity might last longer; his words nevertheless imply that the king's judgment is inevitable (v. 27).
Verses 28-33 record (in the third person) Nebuchadnezzar's predicted humiliation.
[He could not have written it himself, because he was in a detached state of mind].
As the king begins to boast about his greatness, Yahweh strikes him with boanthropy (a medical condition which finds human beings taking on animal characteristics).
After the seven periods of time elapse, God graciously restores the king's mental health, eliciting immediate praise from Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 4:3) as well as a humble acknowledgment that Yahweh is the universal Sovereign (vv. 34-35).
The LORD also fulfills Daniel's interpretation of the king's dream by returning Nebuchadnezzar to his throne (v. 36; cf. vv. 15, 26).
Concluding his testimony, the king again praises God for His truth and justice (v. 37).
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