Chapter Five - pg 69 par 1-17
Their Faith Survived the Crucible
(Note: I highlighted all the words that basically say ... we don't really know ... so we are adding to scripture ... thanks to Blondie for training me to keep a good eye out for that stuff.)
SHOULD your devotion be directed to God or to the land in which you live? Many would answer by saying, ‘I pay homage to both. I worship God according to the dictates of my religion; at the same time, I pledge allegiance to my homeland.’
2 The line between religious devotion and patriotism might seem blurred today, but in ancient Babylon it was virtually nonexistent. Indeed, the civil and the sacred were so entwined that they were at times indistinguishable. “In ancient Babylon,” writes Professor Charles F. Pfeiffer, “the king served as both High Priest and civil ruler. He performed sacrifices and determined the religious life of his subjects.”
3 Consider King Nebuchadnezzar. His very name means “O Nebo, Protect the Heir!” Nebo was the Babylonian god of wisdom and agriculture. Nebuchadnezzar was a deeply religious man. As noted earlier, he built and beautified the temples of numerous Babylonian gods and was especially devoted to Marduk, to whom he credited his military victories. It also appears that Nebuchadnezzar relied heavily upon divination to formulate his battle plans.—Ezekiel 21:18-23.
4 Really, a religious spirit pervaded all of Babylon. The city boasted more than 50 temples, at which a vast array of gods and goddesses were worshiped, including the triad of Anu (god of the sky), Enlil (god of the earth, air, and storm), and Ea (god over the waters). Another trinity was made up of Sin (the moon-god), Shamash (the sun-god), and Ishtar (the fertility goddess). Magic, sorcery, and astrology played a prominent role in Babylonian worship.
5 Living amid people who venerated many gods posed a formidable challenge for the Jewish exiles. Centuries earlier, Moses had warned the Israelites that there would be dire consequences if they chose to rebel against the Supreme Lawgiver. Moses told them: “Jehovah will march you and your king whom you will set up over you to a nation whom you have not known, neither you nor your forefathers; and there you will have to serve other gods, of wood and of stone.”—Deuteronomy 28:15, 36.
6 The Jews now found themselves in that very predicament. Keeping integrity to Jehovah would be difficult, especially for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These four young Hebrews had been specially selected to receive training for governmental service. (Daniel 1:3-5) Remember that they had even been assigned Babylonian names—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—likely to influence them to conform to their new environment. The high-profile positions of these men would make any refusal on their part to worship the gods of the land conspicuous—even treasonous.
A GOLDEN IMAGE PRESENTS A THREAT
7 Evidently in an effort to strengthen the unity of his empire, Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image on the plain of Dura. It was 60 cubits (90 feet [27 m]) in height and 6 cubits (9 feet [2.7 m]) in breadth. Some believe that the image was simply a pillar, or an obelisk. It may have had a very high pedestal on which there was a huge statue in human likeness, perhaps representing Nebuchadnezzar himself or the god Nebo. Whatever the case, this towering monument was a symbol of the Babylonian Empire. As such, it was meant to be seen and revered.—Daniel 3:1.
8 Accordingly, Nebuchadnezzar arranged an inauguration ceremony. He gathered his satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, police magistrates, and all the administrators of the jurisdictional districts. A herald cried out: “To you it is being said, O peoples, national groups and languages, that at the time that you hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, the zither, the triangular harp, the stringed instrument, the bagpipe and all sorts of musical instruments, you fall down and worship the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship will at the same moment be thrown into the burning fiery furnace.”—Daniel 3:2-6.
9 Some believe that Nebuchadnezzar arranged for this ceremony in an attempt to force the Jews to compromise their worship of Jehovah. Likely this was not the case, for evidently only government officials were called to the event. Thus, the only Jews present would be those serving in some governmental capacity. It seems, then, that bowing down before the image was a ceremony intended to strengthen the solidarity of the ruling class. Scholar John F. Walvoord notes: “Such a display of officials was on the one hand a gratifying demonstration of the power of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire and on the other hand was significant as recognizing the deities who in their thinking were responsible for their victories.”
JEHOVAH’S SERVANTS REFUSE TO COMPROMISE
10 Despite their devotion to various patron gods, most of those gathered before Nebuchadnezzar’s image would have no qualms about worshiping it. “They were all accustomed to worship idols, and the worship of one god did not prevent their doing homage also to another,” explained one Bible scholar. He continued: “It accorded with the prevailing views of idolaters that there were many gods . . . and that it was not improper to render homage to the god of any people or country.”
11 For the Jews, however, it was a different matter. They had been commanded by their God, Jehovah: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Exodus 20:4, 5) Therefore, as the music began and those gathered prostrated themselves before the image, three young Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—remained standing.—Daniel 3:7.
12 The refusal of three Hebrew officials to worship the image infuriated certain Chaldeans. At once, they approached the king and “accused the Jews.” They were not interested in an explanation. Wanting the Hebrews to be punished for disloyalty and treason, the accusers said: “There exist certain Jews whom you appointed over the administration of the jurisdictional district of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these able-bodied men have paid no regard to you, O king, they are not serving your own gods, and the image of gold that you have set up they are not worshiping.”—Daniel 3:8-12.
13 How it must have frustrated Nebuchadnezzar that the three Hebrews disobeyed his order! It was clear that he had not succeeded in turning Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into loyal advocates of the Babylonian Empire. Had he not educated them in the wisdom of the Chaldeans? Why, he had even changed their names! But if Nebuchadnezzar thought that a grandiose education would teach them a new way of worship or that changing their names would change their identities, he was sadly mistaken. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remained loyal servants of Jehovah.
14 King Nebuchadnezzar was enraged. At once, he summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He asked: “Is it really so, O Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you are not serving my own gods, and the image of gold that I have set up you are not worshiping?” No doubt Nebuchadnezzar spoke these words in shocked disbelief. After all, he must have reasoned, ‘How could three men of sound mind disregard such a plain command—and one that carried such a severe penalty for disobedience?’—Daniel 3:13, 14.
15 Nebuchadnezzar was willing to give the three Hebrews another chance. “Now if you are ready,” he said, “so that when you hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, the zither, the triangular harp, the stringed instrument, and the bagpipe and all sorts of musical instruments, you fall down and worship the image that I have made, all right. But if you do not worship, at that same moment you will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace. And who is that god that can rescue you out of my hands?”—Daniel 3:15.
16 Apparently, the lesson of the dream image (recorded in Daniel chapter 2) had left no lasting impression on Nebuchadnezzar’s mind and heart. Perhaps he had already forgotten his own statement to Daniel: “The God of you men is a God of gods and a Lord of kings.” (Daniel 2:47) Now Nebuchadnezzar seemed to be challenging Jehovah, saying that not even He could save the Hebrews from the punishment that awaited them.
17 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not need to reconsider matters. Immediately they responded: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”—Daniel 3:16-18.
1. How do many feel about devotion to God and to their homeland?
2. How was the king of Babylon both a religious and a political figure?
3. What shows that Nebuchadnezzar was a deeply religious man?
4. Describe the religious spirit of Babylon.
5. What challenge did the religious environment of Babylon pose for the Jewish exiles?
6. Why did living in Babylon pose a special challenge for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah?
7. (a) Describe the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. (b) What was the purpose of the image?
8. (a) Who were called to the inauguration of the image, and what were all present required to do? (b) What was to be the penalty for refusing to bow down before the image?
9. What was the apparent significance of bowing down before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up?
10. Why would non-Jews have no problem complying with Nebuchadnezzar’s command?
11. Why did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down before the image?
12. Certain Chaldeans accused the three Hebrews of what, and why so?
13, 14. How did Nebuchadnezzar respond to the course taken by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
15, 16. What opportunity did Nebuchadnezzar extend to the three Hebrews?
17. How did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respond to the king’s offer?