Daniel’s Friends Are Tested
1#sn The LXX introduces this chapter with the following chronological note: “in the eighteenth year of.” Such a date would place these events at about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (cf. 2 Kgs 25:8). However, there seems to be no real basis for associating the events of Daniel 3 with this date. King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden#sn There is no need to think of Nebuchadnezzar’s image as being solid gold. No doubt the sense is that it was overlaid with gold (cf. Isa 40:19; Jer 10:3-4), with the result that it presented a dazzling self-compliment to the greatness of Nebuchadnezzar’s achievements. statue made.#sn According to a number of patristic authors, the image represented a deification of Nebuchadnezzar himself. This is not clear from the biblical text, however. It was ninety feet#tn Aram “sixty cubits.” Assuming a length of 18 inches for the standard cubit, the image would be 90 feet (27.4 m) high. tall and nine feet#tn Aram “six cubits.” Assuming a length of 18 inches for the standard cubit, the image would be 9 feet (2.74 m) wide.sn The dimensions of the image (ninety feet high and nine feet wide) imply that it did not possess normal human proportions, unless a base for the image is included in the height dimension. The ancient world knew of other tall statues. For example, the Colossus of Rhodes – the huge statue of Helios which stood (ca. 280-224 B.C.) at the entrance to the harbor at Rhodes and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – was said to be seventy cubits (105 ft or 32 m) in height, which would make it even taller than Nebuchadnezzar’s image. wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates,#sn The specific duties of the seven types of officials listed here (cf. vv. 3, 27) are unclear. The Aramaic words that are used are transliterations of Akkadian or Persian technical terms whose exact meanings are uncertain. The translations given here follow suggestions set forth in BDB. and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he#tn Aram “Nebuchadnezzar the king.” The proper name and title have been replaced by the relative pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. had erected. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.#tc The LXX and Theodotion lack the words “that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.”
4 Then the herald#tn According to BDB 1097 s.v. כָּרוֹז the Aramaic word used here is a Greek loanword, but other scholars have argued instead for a Persian derivation (HALOT 1902 s.v. *כָּרוֹז). made a loud#tn Aram “in strength.” proclamation: “To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given:#tn Aram “they are saying.” 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither,#sn The word zither (Aramaic קִיתָרוֹס [qitaros]), and the words for harp (Aramaic פְּסַנְתֵּרִין [pÿsanterin]) and pipes (Aramaic סוּמְפֹּנְיָה [sumponÿyah]), are of Greek derivation. Though much has been made of this in terms of suggesting a date in the Hellenistic period for the writing of the book, it is not surprising that a few Greek cultural terms, all of them the names of musical instruments, should appear in this book. As a number of scholars have pointed out, the bigger surprise (if, in fact, the book is to be dated to the Hellenistic period) may be that there are so few Greek loanwords in Daniel. trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must#tn The imperfect Aramaic verbs have here an injunctive nuance. bow down and pay homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected. 6 Whoever does not bow down and pay homage will immediately#tn Aram “in that hour.” be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire!” 7 Therefore when they all#tn Aram “all the peoples.” heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes,#tc Though not in the Aramaic text of BHS, this word appears in many medieval Hebrew MSS, some LXX MSS, and Vulgate. Cf. vv. 5, 10, 15. and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language groups began bowing down and paying homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
8 Now#tc This expression is absent in Theodotion. at that time certain#tn Aram “men.” Chaldeans came forward and brought malicious accusations against#tn Aram “ate the pieces of.” This is a rather vivid idiom for slander. the Jews. 9 They said#tn Aram “answered and said,” a common Aramaic idiom that occurs repeatedly in this chapter. to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!#sn O king, live forever! is a comment of typical court courtesy that is not necessarily indicative of the real sentiments of the speaker. Ancient oriental court protocol could sometimes require a certain amount of hypocrisy. 10 You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. 11 And whoever does not bow down and pay homage must be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – and these men#sn Daniel’s absence from this scene has sparked the imagination of commentators, some of whom have suggested that perhaps he was unable to attend the dedication due to sickness or due to being away on business. Hippolytus supposed that Daniel may have been watching from a distance. have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don’t serve your gods and they don’t pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage#tn Aram “in anger and wrath”; NASB “in rage and anger.” The expression is a hendiadys. demanded that they bring#tn The Aramaic infinitive is active. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them#tn Aram “these men.” The pronoun is used in the translation to avoid undue repetition. before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my gods and that you don’t pay homage to the golden statue that I erected? 15 Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the statue that I had made. If you don’t pay homage to it, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?”#tn Aram “hand.” So also in v. 17. 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar,#tc In the MT this word is understood to begin the following address (“answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar’”). However, it seems unlikely that Nebuchadnezzar’s subordinates would address the king in such a familiar way, particularly in light of the danger that they now found themselves in. The present translation implies moving the atnach from “king” to “Nebuchadnezzar.” “We do not need to give you a reply#tn Aram “to return a word to you.” concerning this. 17 If#tc The ancient versions typically avoid the conditional element of v. 17. our God whom we are serving exists,#tn The Aramaic expression used here is very difficult to interpret. The question concerns the meaning and syntax of אִיתַי (’itay, “is” or “exist”). There are several possibilities. (1) Some interpreters take this word closely with the participle later in the verse יָכִל (yakhil, “able”), understanding the two words to form a periphrastic construction (“if our God is…able”; cf. H. Bauer and P. Leander, Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramäischen, 365, §111b). But the separation of the two elements from one another is not an argument in favor of this understanding. (2) Other interpreters take the first part of v. 17 to mean “If it is so, then our God will deliver us” (cf. KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB). However, the normal sense of ’itay is existence; on this point see F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 45, §95. The present translation maintains the sense of existence for the verb (“If our God…exists”), even though the statement is admittedly difficult to understand in this light. The statement may be an implicit reference back to Nebuchadnezzar’s comment in v. 15, which denies the existence of a god capable of delivering from the king’s power. he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his disposition changed#tn Aram “the appearance of his face was altered”; cf. NLT “his face became distorted with rage”; NAB “[his] face became livid with utter rage.” toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders#tn Aram “he answered and said.” to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was normally heated. 20 He ordered strong#tn This is sometimes taken as a comparative: “[some of the] strongest.” soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So those men were tied up while still wearing their cloaks, trousers, turbans, and other clothes,#sn There is a great deal of uncertainty with regard to the specific nature of these items of clothing. and were thrown into the furnace#tn Aram “into the midst of the furnace.” For stylistic reasons the words “the midst of” have been left untranslated. of blazing fire. 22 But since the king’s command was so urgent, and the furnace was so excessively hot, the men who escorted#tn Aram “caused to go up.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed#tn The Aramaic verb is active. by the leaping flames.#tn Aram “the flame of the fire” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); NRSV “the raging flames.” 23 But those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the furnace#tn Aram “into the midst of the furnace.” For stylistic reasons the words “the midst of” have been left untranslated. of blazing fire while still securely bound.#sn The deuterocanonical writings known as The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three present at this point a confession and petition for God’s forgiveness and a celebration of God’s grace for the three Jewish youths in the fiery furnace. Though not found in the Hebrew/Aramaic text of Daniel, these compositions do appear in the ancient Greek versions.
God Delivers His Servants
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers, “Wasn’t it three men that we tied up and threw#tn Aram “we threw…bound.” into#tn Aram “into the midst of.” the fire?” They replied to the king, “For sure, O king.” 25 He answered, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!”#sn The phrase like that of a god is in Aramaic “like that of a son of the gods.” Many patristic writers understood this phrase in a christological sense (i.e., “the Son of God”). But it should be remembered that these are words spoken by a pagan who is seeking to explain things from his own polytheistic frame of reference; for him the phrase “like a son of the gods” is equivalent to “like a divine being.” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He called out,#tn Aram “answered and said.” “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!”
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire.#tn Aram “from the midst of the fire.” For stylistic reasons the words “the midst of” have been left untranslated. 27 Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically#tn Aram “in their bodies.” unharmed by the fire.#tn Aram “the fire did not have power.” The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them!
28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,#tn Aram “answered and said.” “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel#sn The king identifies the “son of the gods” (v. 25) as an angel. Comparable Hebrew expressions are used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible for the members of God’s angelic assembly (see Gen 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Pss 29:1; 89:6). An angel later comes to rescue Daniel from the lions (Dan 6:22). and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring#tn Aram “they changed” or “violated.” the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than#tn Aram “so that they might not.” serve or pay homage to any god other than their God! 29 I hereby decree#tn Aram “from me is placed an edict.” that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes#tn Aram “speaks negligence.” the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” 30 Then Nebuchadnezzar#tn Aram “and the king.” The proper name has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
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