Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold - The time when he did this is not mentioned; nor is it stated in whose honor, or for what design, this colossal image was erected. In the Greek and Arabic translationns, this is said to have occurred in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. This is not, however, in the original text, nor is it known on what authority it is asserted. Dean Prideaux (Consex. I. 222) supposes that it was at first some marginal comment on the Greek version that at last crept into the text, and that there was probably some good authority for it. If this is the correct account of the time, the event here recorded occurred 587 b.c., or, according to the chronology of Prideaux, about nineteen years after the transaction recorded in the previous chapter. Hales makes the chronology somewhat different, though not essentially. According to him, Daniel was carried to Babylon 586 b.c., and the image was set up 569 b.c., making an interval from the time that he was carried to Babylon of seventeen years; and if the dream Daniel 2 was explained within three or four years after Daniel was taken to Babylon, the interval between that and this occurrence would be some thirteen or fourteen years.
Calmet makes the captivity of Daniel 602 years before Christ; the interpretation of the dream 598; and the setting up of the image 556 - thus making an interval of more than forty years. It is impossible to determine the time with certainty; but allowing the shortest-mentioned period as the interval between the interpretation of the dream Daniel 2 and the erection of this statue, the time would be sufficient to account for the fact that the impression made by that event on the mind of Nebuchadnezzar, in favor of the claims of the true God Daniel 2:46-47, seems to have been entirely effaced. The two chapters, in order that the right impression may be received on this point, should be read with the recollection that such an interval had elapsed. At the time when the event here recorded is supposed by Prideaux to have occurred, Nebuchadnezzar had just returned from finishing the Jewish war.
From the spoils which he had taken in that expedition in Syria and Palestine, he had the means in abundance of rearing such a colossal statue; and at the close of these conquests, nothing would be more natural than that he should wish to rear in his capital some splendid work of art that would signalize his reign, record the memory of his conquests, and add to the magnificence of the city. The word which is here rendered "image" (Chaldee צלם tselēm - Greek εἰκόνα eikona), in the usual form in the Hebrew, means a shade, shadow; then what shadows forth anything; then an image of anything, and then an "idol," as representing the deity worshipped. It is not necessary to suppose that it was of solid gold, for the amount required for such a structure would have been immense, and probably beyond the means even of Nebuchadnezzar. The presumption is, that it was merely covered over with plates of gold, for this was the usual manner in which statues erected in honor of the gods were made. See Isaiah 40:19.
It is not known in honor of whom this statue was erected. Grotius supposed that it was reared to the memory of Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and observes that it was customary to erect statues in this manner in honor of parents. Prideaux, Hales, the editor of the "Pict. Bible," and most others, suppose that it was in honor of Bel, the principal deity worshipped in Babylon. See the notes at Isaiah 46:1. Some have supposed that it was in honor of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and that he purposed by it to be worshipped as a god. But this opinion has little probability in its favor. The opinion that it was in honor of Bel, the principal deity of the place, is every way the most probable, and this derives some confirmation from the well-known fact that a magnificent image of this kind was, at some period of his reign, erected by Nebuchadnezzar in honor of this god, in a style to correspond with the magnificence of the city.
The account of this given by Herodotus is the following: "The temple of Jupiter Belus, whose huge gates of brass may still be seen, is a square building, each side of which is two furlongs. In the midst rises a tower, of the solid depth and height of one furlong; upon which, resting as upon a base, seven other lesser towers are built in regular succession. The ascent is on the outside; which, winding from the ground, is continued to the highest tower; and in the middle of the whole structure there is a convenient resting place. In the last tower is a large chapel, in which is placed a couch, magnificently adorned, and near it a table of solid gold; but there is no statue in the place. In this temple there is also a small chapel, lower in the building, which contains a figure of Jupiter, in a sitting posture, with a large table before him; these, with the base of the table, and the seat of the throne, are all of the purest gold, and are estimated by the Chaldeans to be worth eight hundred talents.
On the outside of this chapel there are two altars; one is gold, the other is of immense size, and appropriated to the sacrifice of full-grown animals; those only which have not yet left their dams may be offered on the golden altar. On the larger altar, at the anniversary festival in honor of their god, the Chaldeans regularly consume incense to the amount of a thousand talents. There was formerly in this temple a statue of solid gold twelve cubits high; this, however, I mention from the information of the Chaldeans, and not from my own knowledge." - Clio, 183. Diodorus Siculus, a much later writer, speaks to this effect: "Of the tower of Jupiter Belus, the historians who have spoken have given different descriptions; and this temple being now entirely destroyed, we cannot speak accurately respecting it. It was excessively high; constructed throughout with great care; built of brick and bitumen. Semiramis placed on the top of it three statues of massy gold, of Jupiter, Juno, and Rhea. Jupiter was erect, in the attitude of a man walking; he was forty feet in height; and weighed a thousand Babylonian talents: Rhea, who sat in a chariot of gold, was of the same weight. Juno, who stood upright, weighed eight hundred talents." - B. ii.
The temple of Bel or Belus, in Babylon, stood until the time of Xerxes; but on his return from the Grecian expedition, he demolished the whole of it, and laid it in rubbish, having first plundered it of its immense riches. Among the spoils which he took from the temple, are mentioned several images and statues of massive gold, and among them the one mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, as being forty feet high. See Strabo, lib. 16, p. 738; Herodotus, lib. 1; Arrian "de Expe. Alex." lib. 7, quoted by Prideaux I. 240. It is not very probable that the image which Xerxes removed was the same which Nebuchadnezzar reared in the plain of Dura - compare the Introduction to this chapter, Section I. VII. (a); but the fact that such a colossal statue was found in Babylon may be adduced as one incidental corroboration of the probability of the statement here. It is not impossible that Nebuchadnezzar was led, as the editor of Calmet's "Dictionary" has remarked (Taylor, vol. iii. p. 194), to the construction of this image by what he had seen in Egypt. He had conquered and ravaged Egypt but a few years before this, and had doubtless been struck with the wonders of art which he had seen there.
Colossal statues in honor of the gods abounded, and nothing would be more natural than that Nebuchadnezzar should wish to make his capital rival everything which he had seen in Thebes. Nor is it improbable that, while he sought to make his image more magnificent and costly than even those in Egypt were, the views of sculpture would be about the same, and the "figure" of the statue might be borrowed from what had been seen in Egypt. See the statues of the two celebrated colossal figures of Amunoph III standing in the plains of Goorneh, Thebes, one of which is known as the Vocal Memnon. These colossi, exclusive of the pedestals (partially buried), are forty-seven feet high, and eighteen feet three inches wide across the shoulders, and according to Wilkinson are each of one single block, and contain about 11,500 cubic feet of stone. They are made of a stone not known within several days' journey of the place where they are erected. Calmet refers to these statues, quoting from Norden.
Whose height was threescore cubits - Prideaux and others have been greatly perplexed at the "proportions" of the image here represented. Prideaux says on the subject (Connections, I. 240, 241), "Nebuchadnezzars golden image is said indeed in Scripture to have been sixty cubits, that is, ninety feet high; but this must be understood of the image and pedestal both together, for that image being said to be but six cubits broad or thick, it is impossible that the image would have been sixty cubits high; for that makes its height to be ten times its breadth or thickness, which exceeds all the proportions of a man, no man's height being above six times his thickness, measuring the slenderest man living at the waist. But where the breadth of this image was measured is not said; perchance it was from shoulder to shoulder; and then the proportion of six cubits breadth will bring down the height exactly to the measure which Diodorus has mentioned; for the usual height of a man being four and a half of his breadth between the shoulders, if the image were six cubits broad between the shoulders, it must, according to this proportion, have been twenty-seven cubits high, which is forty and a half feet."
The statue itself, therefore, according to Prideaux, was forty feet high; the pedestal fifty feet. But this, says Taylor, the editor of Calmet, is a disproportion of parts which, if not absolutely impossible, is utterly contradictory to every principle of art, even of the rudest sort. To meet the difficulty, Taylor himself supposes that the height referred to in the description was rather "proportional" than "actual" height; that is, if it had stood upright it would have been sixty cubits, though the actual elevation in a sitting posture may have been but little more than thirty cubits, or fifty feet. The breadth, he supposes, was rather the depth or thickness measured from the breast to the back, than the breadth measured from shoulder to shoulder. His argument and illustration may be seen in Calmet, vol. iii. Frag. 156. It is not absolutely certain, however, that the image was in a sitting posture, and the "natural" constructsion of the passage is, that the statue was actually sixty cubits in height.
No one can doubt that an image of that height could be erected; and when we remember the one at Rhodes, which was 105 Grecian feet in height (see art. "Colossus," in Anthon's "Class. Dict."), and the desire of Nebuchadnezzar to adorn his capital in the most magnificent manner, it is not to be regarded as improbable that an image of this height was erected. What was the height of the pedestal, if it stood on any, as it probably did, it is impossible now to tell. The length of the "cubit" was not the same in every place. The length originally was the distance between the elbow and the extremity of the middle finger, about eighteen inches. The Hebrew cubit, according to Bishop Cumberland and M. Pelletier, was twenty-one inches; but others fix it at eighteen. - Calmet. The Talmudists say that the Hebrew cubit was larger by one quarter than the Roman. Herodotus says that the cubit in Babylon was three fingers longer than the usual one. - Clio, 178. Still, there is not absolute certainty on that subject. The usual and probable measurement of the cubit would make the image in Babylon about ninety feet high.
And the breadth thereof six cubits - About nine feet. This would, of course, make the height ten times the breadth, which Prideaux says is entirely contrary to the usual proportions of a man. It is not known on what "part" of the image this measurement was made, or whether it was the thickness from the breast to the back, or the width from shoulder to shoulder. If the "thickness" of the image here is referred to by the word "breadth," the proportion would be well preserved. "The thickness of a well-proportioned man," says Scheuchzer (Knupfer Bibel, in loc.), "measured from the breast to the back is one-tenth of his height." This was understood to be the proportion by Augustine, Civi. Dei, 1. xv. c. 26. The word which is here rendered "breadth" (פתי pethay) occurs nowhere else in the Chaldean of the Scriptures, except in Ezra 6:3 : "Let the house be builded, the height thereof threescore cubits, and the "breadth" thereof threescore cubits." Perhaps this refers rather to the "depth" of the temple from front to rear, as Taylor has remarked, than to the breadth from one side to another. If it does, it would correspond with the measurement of Solomon's temple, and it is not probable that Cyrus would vary from that plan in his instructions to build a new temple. If that be the true construction, then the meaning here may be, as remarked above, that the image was of that "thickness," and the breadth from shoulder to shoulder may not be referred to.
He set it up in the plain of Dura - It would seem from this that it was set up in an open plain, and not in a temple; perhaps not near a temple. It was not unusual to erect images in this manner, as the colossal figure at Rhodes shows. Where this plain was, it is of course impossible now to determine. The Greek translation of the word is Δεειρᾷ Deeira - "Deeira." Jerome says that the translation of Theodotion is "Deira;" of Symmachus, Doraum; and of the Septuagint. περίβολον peribolon - which he says may be rendered "vivarium vel conclusum locum." "Interpreters commonly," says Gesenius, "compare Dura, a city mentioned by Ammian. Marcel. 25. 6, situated on the Tigris; and another of like name in Polyb. 5, 48, on the Euphrates, near the mouth of the Chaboras." It is not necessary to suppose that this was in the "city" of Babylon; and, indeed, it is probable that it was not, as the "province of Babylon" doubtless embraced more than the city, and an extensive plain seems to have been selected, perhaps near the city, as a place where the monument would be more conspicuous, and where larger numbers could convene for the homage which was proposed to be shown to it.
In the province of Babylon - One of the provinces, or departments, embracing the capital, into which the empire was divided, Daniel 2:48.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Then, Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes - It is difficult now, if not impossible, to determine the exact meaning of the words used here with reference to the various officers designated; and it is not material that it should be done. The general sense is, that he assembled the great officers of the realm to do honor to the image. The object was doubtless to make the occasion as magnificent as possible. Of course, if these high officers were assembled, an immense multitude of the people would congregate also. That this was contemplated, and that it in fact occurred, is apparent from Daniel 3:4, Daniel 3:7. The word rendered "princes" (אחשׁדרפניא 'ăchashedarepenayâ') occurs only in Daniel, in Ezra, and in Esther. In Daniel 3:2-3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:1-4, Daniel 6:6-7, it is uniformly rendered "princes;" in Ezra 8:36; Esther 3:12; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3, it is uniformly rendered "lieutenants." The word means, according to Gesenius (Lex.), "satraps, the governors or viceroys of the large provinces among the ancient Persians, possessing both civil and military power, and being in the provinces the representatives of the sovereign, whose state and splendor they also rivaled." The etymology of the word is not certainly known. The Persian word "satrap" seems to have been the foundation of this word, with some slight modifications adapting it to the Chaldee mode of pronunciation.
The governors - סגניא sı̂genayâ'. This word is rendered "governors" in Daniel 2:48 (see the note at that place), and in Daniel 3:3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:7. It does not elsewhere occur. The Hebrew word corresponding to this - סגנים segânı̂ym - occurs frequently, and is rendered "rulers" in every place except Isaiah 41:25, where it is rendered "princes:" Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:14 (7); Nehemiah 5:7, Nehemiah 5:17; Nehemiah 7:5; Jeremiah 51:23, Jeremiah 51:28, Jeremiah 51:57; Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:12, Ezekiel 23:23, et al. The office was evidently one that was inferior to that of the "satrap," or governor of a whole province.
And the captains - פחותא pachăvâtâ'. This word, wherever it occurs in Daniel, is rendered "captains," Daniel 3:2-3, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:7; wherever else it occurs it is rendered governor, Ezra 5:3, Ezra 5:6, Ezra 5:14; Ezra 6:6-7, Ezra 6:13. The Hebrew word corresponding to this (פחה pechâh) occurs frequently, and is also rendered indifferently, "governor" or "captain:" 1 Kings 10:15; 2 Chronicles 9:14; Ezra 8:36; 1 Kings 20:24; Jeremiah 51:23, Jeremiah 51:28, Jeremiah 51:57, et al. It refers to the governor of a province less than satrapy, and is applied to officers in the Assyrian empire, 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 36:9; in the Chaldean, Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23; Jeremiah 51:23; and in the Persian, Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3. The word "captains" does not now very accurately express the sense. The office was not exclusively military, and was of a higher grade than would be denoted by the word "captain," with us.
The judges - אדרגזריא 'ădaregâzerayâ'. This word occurs only here, and in Daniel 3:3. It means properly great or "chief judges" - compounded of two words signifying "greatness," and "judges." See Gesenius, (Lex.)
The treasurers - גדבריא gedâberayâ'. This word occurs nowhere else. The word גזבר gizbâr, however, the same word with a slight change in the pronunciation, occurs in Ezra 1:8; Ezra 7:21, and denotes "treasurer." It is derived from a word (גנז gânaz) which means to hide, to hoard, to lay up in store.
The counselors - דתבריא dethâberayâ'. This word occurs nowhere else, except in Daniel 3:3. It means one skilled in the law; a judge. The office was evidently inferior to the one denoted by the word "judges."
The sheriffs - A sheriff with us is a county officer, to whom is entrusted the administration of the laws. In England the office is judicial as well as ministerial. With us it is merely ministerial. The duty of the sheriff is to execute the civil and criminal processes throughout the county. He has charge of the jail and prisoners, and attends courts, and keeps the peace. It is not to be supposed that the officer here referred to in Daniel corresponds precisely with this. The word used (תפתיא tı̂ptâyē') occurs nowhere else. It means, according to Gesenius, persons learned in the law; lawyers. The office had a close relation to that of "Mufti" among the Arabs, the term being derived from the same word, and properly means "a wise man; one whose response is equivalent to law."
And all the rulers of the provinces - The term here used is a general term, and would apply to any kind of officers or rulers, and is probably designed to embrace all which had not been specified. The object was to assemble the chief officers of the realm. Jacchiades has compared the officers here enumerated with the principal officers of the Turkish empire, and supposes that a counterpart to them may be found in that empire. See the comparison in Grotius, in loc. He supposes that the officers last denoted under the title of "rulers of the provinces" were similar to the Turkish "Zangiahos" or "viziers." Grotius supposes that the term refers to the rulers of cities and places adjacent to cities - a dominion of less extent and importance than that of the rulers of provinces.
To come to the dedication of the image ... - The public setting it apart to the purposes for which it was erected. This was to be done with solemn music, and in the presence of the principal officers of the kingdom. Until it was dedicated to the god in whose honor it was erected, it would not be regarded as an object of worship. It is easy to conceive that such an occasion would bring together an immense concourse of people, and that it would be one of peculiar magnificence.
Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
And they stood before the image - In the presence of the image. They were drawn up, doubtless, so as at the same time to have the best view of the statue, and to make the most imposing appearance.
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
Then an herald cried aloud - Margin, as in Chaldee, "with might." He made a loud proclamation. A "herald" here means a public crier.
To you it is commanded - Margin, "they commanded." Literally, "to you commanding" (plural); that is, the king has commanded.
O people, nations, and languages - The empire of Babylon was made up of different nations, speaking quite different languages. The representatives of these nations were assembled on this occasion, and the command would extend to all. There was evidently no exception made in favor of the scruples of any, and the order would include the Hebrews as well as others. It should be observed, however, that no others but the Hebrews would have any scruples on the subject. They were all accustomed to worship idols, and the worship of one god did not prevent their doing homage also to another. It accorded with the prevailing views of idolaters that there were many gods; that there were tutelary divinities presiding over particular people; and that it was not im proper to render homage to the god of any people or country. Though, therefore, they might themselves worship other gods in their own countries, they would have no scruples about worshipping also the one that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. In this respect the Jews were an exception. They acknowledged but one God; they believed that all others were false gods, and it was a violation of the fundamental principles of their religion to render homage to any other.
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet - It would not be practicable to determine with precision what kind of instruments of music are denoted by the words used in this verse. They were, doubtless, in many respects different from those which are in use now, though they may have belonged to the same general class, and may have been constructed on substantially the same principles. A full inquiry into the kinds of musical instruments in use among the Hebrews may be found in the various treatises on the subject in Ugolin's "Thesau Ant. Sacra." tom. xxxii. Compare also the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The Chaldee word rendered "cornet" - קרנא qarenâ' - the same as the Hebrew word קרן qeren - means a "horn," as e. g., of an ox, stag, ram. Then it means a wind instrument of music resembling a horn, or perhaps horns were at first literally used. Similar instruments are now used, as the "French horn," etc.
Flute - משׁרוקיתא masherôqı̂ythâ'. Greek, σύριγγός suringos. Vulgate, fistula, pipe. The Chaldee words occurs nowhere else but in this chapter, Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:7, Daniel 3:10, Daniel 3:15, and is in each instance rendered "flute." It probably denoted all the instruments of the pipe or flute class in use among the Babylonians. The corresponding Hebrew word is חליל châlı̂yl. See this explained in the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The following remarks of the Editor of the "Pictorial Bible" will explain the usual construction of the ancient pipes or flutes: "The ancient flutes were cylindrical tubes, sometimes of equal diameter throughout, but often wider at the off than the near end, and sometimes widened at that end into a funnel shape, resembling a clarionet. They were always blown, like pipes, at one end, never transversely; they had mouthpieces, and sometimes plugs or stopples, but no keys to open or close the holes beyond the reach of the hands. The holes varied in number in the different varieties of the flute. In their origin they were doubtless made of simple reeds or canes, but in the progress of improvement they came to be made of wood, ivory, bone, and even metal. They were sometimes made in joints, but connected by an interior nozzle which was generally of wood. The flutes were sometimes double, that is, a person played on two instruments at once, either connected or detached; and among the Classical ancients the player on the double-flute often had a leather bandage over his mouth to prevent the escape of his breath at the corners. The ancient Egyptians used the double-flute." Illustrations of the flute or pipe may be seen in the notes at Isaiah 5:12. Very full and interesting descriptions of the musical instruments which were used among the Egyptians may be found in Wilkinson's "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. ii. pp. 222-327.
Harp - On the form of the "harp," see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. Compare Wilkinson, as above quoted. The harp was one of the earliest instruments of music that was invented, Genesis 4:21. The Chaldee word here used is not the common Hebrew word to denote the harp (כנור kinnôr), but is a word which does not occur in Hebrew - קיתרוס qaytherôs. This occurs nowhere else in the Chaldee, and it is manifestly the same as the Greek κιθάρα kithara, and the Latin cithara, denoting a harp. Whether the Chaldees derived it from the Greeks, or the Greeks from the Chaldees, however, cannot be determined with certainty. It has been made an objection to the genuineness of the book of Daniel, that the instruments here referred to were instruments bearing Greek names. See Intro. to ch. Section II. IV. (c) (5).
Sackbut - Vulgate, Sambuca. Greek, like the Vulgate, σαμβύκη sambukē. These words are merely different forms of writing the Chaldee word סבכא sabbekâ'. The word occurs nowhere else except in this chapter. It seems to have denoted a stringed instrument similar to the lyre or harp. Strabo affirms that the Greek word σαμβύκη sambukē, "sambyke," is of barbarian, that is, of Oriental origin. The Hebrew word from which this word is not improperly derived - סבך sâbak - means, "to interweave, to entwine, to plait," as e. g., branches; and it is possible that this instrument may have derived its name from the "intertwining" of the strings. Compare Gesenius on the word. Passow defines the Greek word σαμβύκη sambukē, sambuca (Latin), to mean a triangular-stringed instrument that made the highest notes; or had the highest key; but as an instrument which, on account of the shortness of the strings, was not esteemed as very valuable, and had little power. Porphyry and Suidas describe it as a triangular instrument, furnished with cords of unequal length and thickness. The Classical writers mention it as very ancient, and ascribe its invention to the Syrians. Musonius describes it as having a sharp sound; and we are also told that it was often used to accompany the voice in singing Iambic verses - Pictorial Bible. It seems to have been a species of triangular lyre or harp.
Psaltery - The Chaldee is פסנתרין pesantērı̂yn. Greek, ψαλτήριον psaltērion; Vulgate, psalterium. All these words manifestly have the same origin, and it hat been on the ground that this word, among others, is of Greek origin, that the genuineness of this book has been called in question. The word occurs nowhere else but in this chapter, Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:7, Daniel 3:10, Daniel 3:15. The Greek translators often use the word ψαλτήριον psaltērion, psaltery, for נבל nebel, and כנור kinnôr; and the instrument here referred to was doubtless of the harp kind. For the kind of instrument denoted by the נבל nebel, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. Compare the illustrations in the Pict. Bible on Psalm 92:3. It has been alleged that this word is of Greek origin, and hence, an objection has been urged against the genuineness of the book of Daniel on the presumption that, at the early period when this book is supposed to have been written, Greek musical instruments had not been introduced into Chaldea. For a general reply to this, see the introduction, section I, II, (d). It may be remarked further, in regard to this objection,
(1) that it is not absolutely certain that the word is derived from the Greek. See Pareau, 1. c. p. 424, as quoted in Hengstenberg, "Authentic des Daniel," p. 16.
(2) It cannot be demonstrated that there were no Greeks in the regions of Chaldea as early as this. Indeed, it is more than probable that there were. See Hengstenberg, p. 16, following.
Nebuchadnezzar summoned to this celebration the principal personages throughout the realm, and it is probable that there would be collected on such an occasion all the forms of music that were known, whether of domestic or foreign origin.
Dulcimer - סומפניה sûmpôneyâh. This word occurs only here, and in Daniel 3:10, Daniel 3:15. In the margin it is rendered "symphony" or "singing." It is the same as the Greek word συμφωνία sumphōnia, "symphony," and in Italy the same instrument of music is now called by a name of the same origin, zampogna, and in Asia Minor zambonja. It answered probably to the Hebrew עוגב ‛ûgâb, rendered "organ," in Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; Job 30:31; Psalm 150:4. See the notes at Job 21:12. Compare the tracts on Hebrew musical instruments inscribed schilte haggibborim in Ugolin, thesau. vol. xxxii. The word seems to have had a Greek origin, and is one of those on which an objection has been founded against the genuineness of the book. Compare the Intro. Section I. II. (c). The word "dulcimer" means "sweet," and would denote some instrument of music that was characterized by the sweetness of its tones.
Johnson (Dict.) describes the instrument as one that is "played by striking brass wires with little sticks." The Greek word would denote properly a concert or harmony of many instruments; but the word here is evidently used to denote a single instrument. Gesenius describes it as a double pipe with a sack; a bagpipe. Servius (on Virg. AEn. xi. 27) describes the "symphonia" as a bagpipe: and the Hebrew writers speak of it as a bagpipe consisting of two pipes thrust through a leather bag, and affording a mournful sound. It may be added, that this is the same name which the bagpipe bore among the Moors in Spain; and all these circumstances concur to show that this was probably the instrument intended here. "The modern Oriental bagpipe is composed of a goatskin, usually with the hair on, and in the natural form, but deprived of the head, the tail, and the feet; being thus of the same shape as that used by the water-carriers. The pipes are usually of reeds, terminating in the tips of cows' horns slightly curved; the whole instrument being most primitively simple in its materials and construction." - "Pict. Bible."
And all kinds of music - All other kinds. It is not probable that all the instruments employed on that occasionwere actually enumerated. Only the principal instruments are mention ed, and among them those which showed that such as were of foreign origin were employed on the occasion. From the following extract from Chardin, it will be seen that the account here is not an improbable one, and that such things were not uncommon in the East: "At the coronation of Soliman, king of Persia, the general of the musqueteers having whispered some moments in the king's ear, among several other things of lesser importance gave out, that both the loud and soft music should play in the two balconies upon the top of the great building which stands at one end of the palace royal, called "kaisarie," or palace imperial. No nation was dispensed with, whether Persians, Indians, Turks, Muscovites, Europeans, or others; which was immediately done. And this same "tintamarre," or confusion of instruments, which sounded more like the noise of war than music, lasted twenty days together, without intermission, or the interruption of night; which number of twenty days was observed to answer to the number of the young monarch's years, who was then twenty years of age," p. 51; quoted in Taylor's "fragments to Calmet's Dict." No. 485. It may be observed, also, that in such an assemblage of instruments, nothing would be more probable than that there would be some having names of foreign origin, perhaps names whose origin was to be found in nations not represented there. But if this should occur, it would not be proper to set the fact down as an argument against the authenticity of the history of Sir John Chardin, and as little should the similar fact revealed here be regarded as an argument against the genuineness of the book of Daniel.
Ye shall fall down and worship - That is, you shall render "religious homage." See these words explained in the notes at Daniel 2:46. This shows, that whether this image was erected in honor of Belus, or of Nabopolassar, it was designed that he in whose honor it was erected should be worshipped as a god.
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth - The order in this verse seems to be tyrannical, and it is contrary to all our notions of freedom of religious opinion and worship. But it was much in the spirit of that age, and indeed of almost every age. It was an act to enforce uniformity in religion by the authority of the civil magistrate, and to secure it by threatened penalties. It should be observed, however, that the command at that time would not be regarded as harsh and oppressive by "pagan" worshippers, and might be complied with consistently with their views, without infringing on their notions of religious liberty. The homage rendered to one god did not, according to their views, conflict with any honor that was due to another, and though they were required to worship this divinity, that would not be a prohibition against worshipping any other. It was also in accordance with all the views of paganism that all proper honor should be rendered to the particular god or gods which any people adored.
The nations assembled here would regard it as no dishonor shown to the particular deity whom they worshipped to render homage to the god worshipped by Nebuchadnezzar, as this command implied no prohibition against worshipping any other god. It was only in respect to those who held that there is but one God, and that all homage rendered to any other is morally wrong, that this command would be oppressive. Accordingly, the contemplated vengeance fell only on the Jews - all, of every other nation, who were assembled, complying with the command without hesitation. It violated "no" principle which they held to render the homage which was claimed, for though they had their own tutelary gods whom they worshipped, they supposed the same was true of every other people, and that "their" gods were equally entitled to respect; but it violated "every" principle on which the Jew acted - for he believed that there was but one God ruling over all nations, and that homage rendered to any other was morally wrong. Compare Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," pp. 83, 84.
Shall the same hour - This accords with the general character of an Oriental despot accustomed to enjoin implicit obedience by the most summary process, and it is entirely conformable to the whole character of Nebuchadnezzar. It would seem from this, that there was an apprehension that some among the multitudes assembled would refuse to obey the command. Whether there was any "design" to make this bear hard on the Jews, it is impossible now to determine. The word which is here rendered "hour" (שׁעתא sha‛etâ) is probably from שׁעה shâ‛âh - "to look;" and properly denotes a look, a glance of the eye, and then the "time" of such a glance - a moment, an instant. It does not refer to "an hour," as understood by us, but means "instantly, immediately" - as quick as the glance of an eye. The word is not found in Hebrew, and occurs in Chaldee only in Daniel 3:6, Daniel 3:15; Daniel 4:19, Daniel 4:33 (Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:30); Daniel 5:5, in each case rendered "hour." Nothing can be inferred from it, however, in regard to the division of time among the Chaldeans into "hours" - though Herodotus says that the Greeks received the division of the day into twelve parts from them. - Lib. ii., c. 109.
Be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace - The word here rendered "furnace" (אתון 'attûn) is derived from (תנן tenan), "to smoke;" and may be applied to any species of furnace, or large oven. It does not denote the use to which the furnace was commonly applied, or the form of its construction. Any furnace for burning lime - if lime was then burned - or for burning bricks, if they were burned, or for smelting ore, would correspond with the meaning of the word. Nor is it said whether the furnace referred to would be one that would be constructed for the occasion, or one in common use for some other purpose. The editor of Calmet (Taylor) supposes that the "furnace" here referred to was rather a fire kindled in the open court of a temple, like a place set apart for burning martyrs, than a closed furnace of brick. See Cal. "Dict." vol. iv. p. 330, following. The more obvious representation, however, is, that it was a closed place, in which the intensity of the fire could be greatly increased. Such a mode of punishment is not uncommon in the East. Chardin (vi. p. 118), after speaking of the common modes of inflicting the punishment of death in Persia, remarks that "there are other modes of inflicting the punishment of death on those who have violated the police laws, especially those who have contributed to produce scarcity of food, or who have used false weights, or who have disregarded the laws respecting taxes. The cooks," says he, "were fixed on spits, and roasted over a gentle fire (compare Jeremiah 29:22), and the bakers were cast into a burning oven. In the year 1668, when the famine was raging, I saw in the royal residence in Ispahan one of these ovens burning to terrify the bakers, and to prevent their taking advantage of the scarcity to increase their gains." See Rosenmuller, "Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc."
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
All the people, the nations, and the languages fell down ... - All excepting the Jews. An express exception is made in regard to them in the following verses, and it does not appear that any of them were present on this occasion. It would seem that only the "officers" had been summoned to be present, and it is not improbable that all the rest of the Jewish nation absented themselves.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews - It does not appear that they accused the Jews in general, but particularly Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3:12. They were present on the occasion, being summoned with the other officers of the realm Daniel 3:2, but they could not unite in the idolatrous worship. It has been frequently said that the whole thing was arranged, either by the king of his own accord, or by the instigation of their enemies, with a view to involve the Jews in difficulty, knowing that they could not conscientiously comply with the command to worship the image. But nothing of this kind appears in the narrative itself, It does not appear that the Jews were unpopular, or that there was any less disposition to show favor to them than to any other foreigners. They had been raised indeed to high offices, but there is no evidence that any office was conferred on them which it was not regarded as proper to confer on foreigners; nor is there any evidence that in the discharge of the duties of the office they had given occasion for a just accusation. The plain account is, that the king set up the image for other purposes, and with no malicious design toward them; that when summoned to be present with the other officers of the realm at the dedication of the image they obeyed the command; but that when the order was issued that they should render "religious homage" to the idol, every principle of their religion revolted at it, and they refused. For the probable reasons why Daniel was not included in the number, see the note at Daniel 3:12.
They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
O king, live for ever - A customary form of address to a monarch, implying that long life was regarded as an eminent blessing. See the notes at Daniel 2:4.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
Thou, O king, hast made a decree ... - See Daniel 3:4-5. As the decree included "every man" who heard the sound of the music, it of course embraced the Jews, whatever religious scruples they might have. Whether their scruples, however, were known at the time is not certain; or whether they would have been regarded if known, is no more certain.
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego - Daniel 2:49. It is quite remarkable that the name of Daniel does not occur in the record of this transaction, and that he does not appear to have been involved in the difficulty. Why he was not cannot now be certainly known. We may be sure that he would not join in the worship of the idol, and yet it would seem, as Nebuchadnezzar had summoned all the high officers of the realm to be present Daniel 3:2, that he must have been summoned also. The conjecture of Prideaux (Con. I. 222) is not improbable, that he occupied a place of so much influence and authority, and enjoyed in so high degree the favor of the king, that they did not think it prudent to begin with him, but rather preferred at first to bring the accusation against subordinate officers. If they were condemned and punished, consistency might require that he should be punished also. If he had been involved at first in the accusation, his high rank, and his favor with the king, might have screened them all from punishment. It is possible, however, that Daniel was absent on the occasion of the dedication of the image. It should be remembered that perhaps some eighteen years had elapsed since the transaction referred to in Daniel 2 occurred (see the notes at Daniel 3:1), and Daniel may have been employed in some remote part of the empire on public business. Compare Introduction to the chapter, Section I.VIII.
These men, O king, have not regarded thee - Margin, "set no regard upon." Literally, "they have not placed toward thee the decree;" that is, they have not made any account of it; they have paid no attention to it.
They serve not thy gods - Perhaps it was inferred from the fact that they would not pay religious homage to "this" idol, that they did not serve the gods at all that were acknowledged by the king; or possibly this may have been known from what had occurred before. It may have been well understood in Babylon, that the Hebrews worshipped Jehovah only. Now, however, a case had occurred which was a "test" case, whether they would on any account render homage to the idols that were worshipped in Babylon. In their refusal to worship the idol, it seemed much to aggravate the offence, and made the charge much more serious, that they did not acknowledge "any" of the gods that were worshipped in Babylon. It was easy, therefore, to persuade the king that they had arrayed themselves against the fundamental laws of the realm.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in his rage and fury - The word rendered "fury" means "wrath." Everything that we learn of this monarch shows that he was a man of violent passions, and that he was easily excited, though he was susceptible also of deep impressions on religious subjects. There was much here to rouse his rage. His command to worship the image was positive. It extended to all who were summoned to its dedication. Their refusal was an act of positive disobedience, and it seemed necessary that the laws should be vindicated. As a man and a monarch, therefore, it was not unnatural that the anger of the sovereign should be thus enkindled.
Commanded to bring Shadrach ... - It is remarkable that he did not order them at once to be slain, as he did the magicians who could not interpret his dream, Daniel 2:12. This shows that he had some respect still for these men, and that he was willing to hear what they could say in their defense. It is proper, also, to recognize the providence of God in inclining him to this course, that their noble reply to his question might be put on record, and that the full power of religious principle might be developed.
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true - Margin, "of purpose;" that is, have you done this intentionally? Wintle renders this, "Is it insultingly?" Jacchiades says that the word is used to denote admiration or wonder, as if the king could not believe that it was possible that they could disregard so plain a command, when disobedience was accompanied with such a threat. De Dieu renders it, "Is it a joke?" That is, can you possibly be serious or in earnest that you disobey so positive a command? Aben Ezra, Theodotion, and Sandias render it as it is in margin, "Have you done this of set purpose and design?" as if the king had regarded it as possible that there had been a misunderstanding, and as if he was not unwilling to find that they could make an apology for their conduct. The Chaldee word (צדא tsedâ') occurs nowhere else. It is rendered by Gesenius, "purpose, design." That is, "Is it on purpose?" The corresponding Hebrew word (צדה tsâdâh) means, "to lie in wait, to waylay," Exodus 21:13; 1 Samuel 24:11, (12). Compare Numbers 35:20, Numbers 35:22. The true meaning seems to be, "Is it your "determined purpose" not to worship my gods? Have you deliberately made up your minds to this, and do you mean to abide by this resolution?" That this is the meaning is apparent from the fact that he immediately proposes to try them on the point, giving them still an opportunity to comply with his command to worship the image if they would, or to show whether they were finally resolved not to do it.
Do not ye serve my gods? - It was one of the charges against them that they did not do it, Daniel 3:12.
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Now, if ye be ready, that at what time ... - At the very time; on the very instant. It would seem probable from this that the ceremonies of the consecration of the image were prolonged for a considerable period, so that there was still an opportunity for them to unite in the service if they would. The supposition that such services would be continued through several days is altogether probable, and accords with what was usual on festival occasions. It is remarkable that the king was willing to give them another trial, to see whether they were disposed or not to worship the golden image. To this he might have been led by the apprehension that they had not understood the order, or that they had not duly considered the subject; and possibly by respect for them as faithful officers, and for their countryman Daniel. There seems, moreover, to have been in the bosom of this monarch, with all his pride and passion, a readiness to do justice, and to furnish an opportunity of a fair trial before he proceeded to extremities. See Daniel 2:16, Daniel 2:26, Daniel 2:46-47,
And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? - That is, he either supposed that the God whom they worshipped would not be "able" to deliver them, or that he would not be "disposed" to do it. It was a boast of Sennacherib, when he warred against the Jews, that none of the gods of the nations which he had conquered had been able to rescue the lands over which they presided, and he argued from these premises that the God whom the Hebrews worshipped would not be able to defend their country: "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" Isaiah 36:18-20. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have reasoned in a similar manner, and with a degree of vain boasting that strongly resembled this, calling their attention to the certain destruction which awaited them if they did not comply with his demand.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king - They appear to have answered promptly, and without hesitation, showing that they had carefully considered the subject, and that with them it was a matter of settled and intelligent principle. But they did it in a respectful manner, though they were firm. They neither reviled the monarch nor his gods. They used no reproachful words respecting the image which he had set up, or any of the idols which he worshipped. Nor did they complain of his injustice or severity. They calmly looked at their own duty, and resolved to do it, leaving the consequences with the God whom they worshipped.
We are not careful to answer thee in this matter - The word rendered "careful" (חשׁח chăshach) means, according to Gesenius, "to be needed" or "necessary;" then, "to have need." The Vulgate renders it, "non oportet nos" - it does not behove us; it is not needful for us. So the Greek, ου ̓ χρείαν ἔχομεν ou chreian echomen - we have no need. So Luther, Es ist Nicht noth - there is no necessity. The meaning therefore is, that it was not "necessary" that they should reply to the king on that point; they would not give themselves trouble or solicitude to do it. They had made up their minds, and, whatever was the result, they could not worship the image which he had set up, or the gods whom he adored. They felt that there was no necessity for stating the reasons why they could not do this. Perhaps they thought that argument in their case was improper. It became them to do their duty, and to leave the event with God. They had no need to go into an extended vindication of their conduct, for it might be presumed that their principles of conduct were well known. The state of mind, therefore, which is indicated by this passage, is that their minds were made up; that their principles were settled and well understood; that they had come to the deliberate determination, as a matter of conscience, not to yield obedience to the command; that the result could not be modified by any statement which they could make, or by any argument in the case; and that, therefore, they were not anxious about the result, but calmly committed the whole cause to God.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
If it be so - Chaldee, איתי הן hên 'ı̂ythay - "so it is." That is, "this is true, that the God whom we serve can save us." The idea is not, as would seem in our translation, "if we are to be cast into the furnace," but the mind is turned on the fact that the God whom they served could save them. Coverdale renders this whole passage, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we ought not to consent unto thee in this matter, for why? our God whom we serve is able to keep us," etc.
Our God, whom we serve - Greek, "our God in the heavens, whom we serve." This was a distinct avowal that they were the servants of the true God, and they were not ashamed to avow it, whatever might be the consequences.
Is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace - This was evidently said in reply to the question asked by the king Daniel 3:15, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" They were sure that the God whom they worshipped was able, if he should choose to do it, to save them from death. In what way they supposed he could save them is not expressed. Probably it did not occur to them that he would save them in the manner in which he actually did, but they felt that it was entirely within his power to keep them from so horrid a death if he pleased. The state of mind indicated in this verse is that of "entire confidence in God." Their answer showed
(a) that they had no doubt of his "ability" to save them if he pleased;
(b) that they believed he would do what was best in the case; and
(c) that they were entirely willing to commit the whole case into his hands to dispose of it as he chose. Compare Isaiah 43:2.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
But if not - That is, "if he should "not" deliver us; if it should "not" occur that he would protect us, and save us from that heated oven: whatever may be the result in regard to us, our determination is settled."
Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods ... - This answer is firm and noble. It showed that their minds were made up, and that it was with them a matter of "principle" not to worship false gods. The state of mind which is denoted by this verse is that of a determination to do their duty, whatever might be the consequences. The attention was fixed on what was "right," not on what would be the result. The sole question which was asked was, what "ought" to be done in the case; and they had no concern about what would follow. True religion is a determined purpose to do right, and not to do wrong, whatever may be the consequences in either case. It matters not what follows - wealth or poverty; honor or dishonor; good report or evil report; life or death; the mind is firmly fixed on doing right, and not on doing wrong. This is "the religion of principle;" and when we consider the circumstances of those who made this reply; when we remember their comparative youth, and the few opportunities which they had for instruction in the nature of religion, and that they were captives in a distant land, and that they stood before the most absolute monarch of the earth, with no powerful friends to support them, and with the most horrid kind of death threatening them, we may well admire the grace of that God who could so amply furnish them for such a trial, and love that religion which enabled them to take a stand so noble and so bold.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury - Margin, "filled." He was exceedingly enraged. He evidently was not prepared for a stand so firm and determined on their part, and he did not appreciate their motives, nor was he disposed to yield to them the privilege and right of following their honest convictions. He was deeply excited with anger when the complaint was made that they would not worship his gods Daniel 3:13, but he had hoped that possibly they had not understood his command, and that what they had done had not been by deliberate purpose (the notes at Daniel 3:14); and he had therefore given them an opportunity to reconsider the subject, and, by complying with his will, to save themselves from the threatened punishment. He now saw, however, that what they had done was done deliberately. He saw that they firmly and intelligently refused to obey, and supposing now that they not only rebelled against his "commands," but that they disregarded and despised even his "forbearance" Daniel 3:15, it is not wonderful that he was filled with wrath. What was with them fixed "principle," he probably regarded as mere obstinacy, and he determined to punish them accordingly.
And the form of his visage was changed - As the face usually is when men become excited with anger. We may suppose that up to this point he had evinced self-control; "possibly" he may have shown something like tenderness or compassion. He was indisposed to punish them, and he hoped that they would save him from the necessity of it by complying with his commands. Now he saw that all hope of this was vain, and he gave unrestrained vent to his angry feelings.
He spake and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated - Chaldee, "Than it was sees to be heated;" that is, than it was ever seen. The word "seven" here is a perfect number, and the meaning is, that they should make it as hot as possible. He did not reflect probably that by this command he was contributing to shorten and abridge their sufferings. Wicked men, who are violently opposed to religion, often overdo the matter, and by their haste and impetuosity defeat the very end which they have in view, and even promote the very cause which they wish to destroy.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army - Margin, "mighty of strength." Chaldee, "And to mighty men, mighty men of strength who were in his army, he said." He employed the strongest men that could be found for this purpose.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats - They were seized just as they were. No time was given them for preparation; no change was made in their dress. In "autos-da-fe" of later times, it has been usual to array those who were to suffer in a peculiar dress, indicative of the fact that they were heretics, and that they deserved the flame. Here, however, the anger of the king was so great, that no delay was allowed for any such purpose, and they proceeded to execute the sentence upon them just as they were. The fact that they were thus thrown into the furnace, however, only made the miracle the more conspicuous, since not even their garments were affected by the fire. The word rendered "coats," is in the margin rendered "mantles." The Chaldee word (סרבלין sarbâlı̂yn) means, according to Gesenius, the long and wide pantaloons which are worn by the Orientals, from סרבל sarbēl, to cover. The Greek word used in the translation is derived from this - σαράβαρα sarabara - and the word σαρβαρίδες sarbarides is still used in modern Greek. The Chaldee word is used only in this chapter. The Vulgate renders this, cum braccis suis - hence, the word "breeches," and "brogues." The garment referred to, therefore, seems rather to be what covered the lower part of their person than either a coat or mantle.
Their hosen - This word was evidently designed by our translators to denote drawers, or trousers - not stockings, for that was the common meaning of the word when the translation was made. It is not probable that the word is designed to denote "stockings," as they are not commonly worn in the East. Harmer supposes that the word here used means properly "a hammer," and that the reference is to a hammer that was carried as a symbol of office, and he refers in illustration of this to the plates of Sir John Chardin of carvings found in the ruins of Persepolis, among which a man is represented with a hammer or mallet in each hand. He supposes that this was some symbol of office. The more common and just representation, however, is to regard this as referring to an article of dress. The Chaldee word (פטישׁ paṭṭı̂ysh) is from פטשׁ pâṭash, to break, to hammer (πατάσσω patassō); to spread out, to expand; and the noun means
(2) a garment, probably with the idea of its being "spread out," and perhaps referring to a tunic or under-garment.
Compare Gesenius on the word. The Greek is, τιάραις tiarais, and so the Latin Vulgate, tiaris: the tiara, or covering for the head, turban. The probable reference, however, is to the under-garment worn by the Orientals; the tunic, not a little resembling a shirt with us.
And their hats - Margin, or "turbans." The Chaldee word (כרבלא karbelâ') is rendered by Gesenius mantle, pallium. So the version called the "Breeches" Bible, renders it "clokes." Coverdale renders it "shoes," and so the Vulgate, calceamentis, sandals; and the Greek, περικνηυίσιν periknēmisin, greaves, or a garment enclosing the lower limbs; pantaloons. There is certainly no reason for rendering the word "hats" - as hats were then unknown; nor is there any evidence that it refers to a turban. Buxtorf ("Chaldee Lex.") regards it as meaning a garment, particularly an outer garment, a cloak, and this is probably the correct idea. We should then have in these three words the principal articles of dress in which the Orientals appear, as is shown by the preceding engraving, and from the ruins of Persepolis - the large and loose trousers; the tunic, or inner garment; and the outer garment, or cloak, that was commonly thrown over all.
And their other garments - Whatever they had on, whether turban, belt, sandals, etc.
Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Therefore, because the king's commandment was urgent - Margin, as in Chaldee, "word." The meaning is, that the king would admit of no delay; he urged on the execution of his will, even at the imminent peril of those who were entrusted with the execution of his command.
And the furnace exceeding hot - Probably so as to send out the flame so far as to render the approach to it dangerous. The urgency of the king would not admit of any arrangements, even if there could have been any, by which the approach to it would be safe.
The flame of the fire slew those men - Margin, as in Chaldee, "spark." The meaning is, what the fire threw out - the blaze, the heat. Nothing can be more probable than this. It was necessary to approach to the very mouth of the furnace in order to cast them in, and it is very conceivable that a heated furnace would belch forth such flames, or throw out such an amount of heat, that this could not be done but at the peril of life. The Chaldee word rendered "slew" here, means "killed." It does not mean merely that they were overcome with the heat, but that they actually died. To expose these men thus to death was an act of great cruelty, but we are to remember how absolute is the character of an Oriental despot, and how much enraged this king was, and how regardless such a man would be of any effects on others in the execution of his own will.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
And these three men - fell down bound ... - That is, the flame did not loosen the cords by which they had been fastened. The fact that they were seen to fall into the furnace "bound," made the miracle the more remarkable that they should be seen walking loose in the midst of the fire.
In the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Latin Vulgate, there follow in this place sixty-eight verses, containing "The Song of the Three Holy Children." This is not in the Chaldee, and its origin is unknown. It is with entire propriety placed in the Apocrypha, as being no part of the inspired canon. With some things that are improbable and absurd, the "song" contains many things that are beautiful, and that would be highly appropriate if a song had been uttered at all in the furnace.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
Then, Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied - The word "astonied," which occurs several times in our translation Ezra 9:3; Job 17:8; Job 18:20; Ezekiel 4:17; Daniel 3:24; Daniel 4:19; Daniel 5:9, is but another form for "astonished," and expresses wonder or amazement. The reasons of the wonder here were that the men who were bound when cast into the furnace were seen alive, and walking unbound; that to them a fourth person was added, walking with them; and that the fourth had the appearance of a Divine personage. It would seem from this, that the furnace was so made that one could conveniently see into it, and also that the king remained near to it to witness the result of the execution of his own order.
And rose up in haste - He would naturally express his surprise to his counselors, and ask an explanation of the remarkable occurrence which he witnessed. "And spake, and said unto his counselors." Margin, "governors." The word used here (הדברין haddâberı̂yn) occurs only here and in Daniel 3:27; Daniel 4:36; Daniel 6:7. It is rendered "counselors" in each case. The Vulgate renders it "optimatibus;" the Septuagint, μεγιστᾶσιν megistasin - his nobles, or distinguished men. The word would seem to mean those who were authorized to "speak" (from דבר dâbar); that is, those authorized to give counsel; ministers of state, viziers, cabinet counselors.
Did not we cast three men bound ... - The emphasis here is on the words "three," and "bound." It was now a matter of astonishment that there were "four," and that they were all "loose." It is not to be supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had any doubt on this subject, or that his recollection had so soon failed him, but this manner of introducing the subject is adopted in order to fix the attention strongly on the fact to which he was about to call their attention, and which was to him so much a matter of surprise.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose - From the fact that he saw these men now loose, and that this filled him with so much surprise, it may be presumed that they had been bound with something that was not combustible - with some sort of fetters or chains. In that case it would be a matter of surprise that they should be "loose," even though they could survive the action of the fire. The "fourth" personage now so mysteriously added to their number, it is evident, assumed the appearance of a "man," and not the appearance of a celestial being, though it was the aspect of a man so noble and majestic that he deserved to be called a son of God.
Walking in the midst of the fire - The furnace, therefore, was large, so that those who were in it could walk about. The vision must have been sublime; and it is a beautiful image of the children of God often walking unhurt amidst dangers, safe beneath the Divine protection.
And they have no hurt - Margin, "There is no hurt in them." They walk unharmed amidst the flames. Of course, the king judged in this only from appearances, but the result Daniel 3:27 showed that it was really so.
And the form of the fourth - Chaldee, (רוה rēvēh) - "his appearance" (from ראה râ'âh - "to see"); that is, he "seemed" to be a son of God; he "looked" like a son of God. The word does not refer to anything special or peculiar in his "form" or "figure," but it may be supposed to denote something that was noble or majestic in his mien; something in his countenance and demeanour that declared him to be of heavenly origin.
Like the son of God - There are two inquiries which arise in regard to this expression: one is, what was the idea denoted by the phrase as used by the king, or who did he take this personage to be? the other, who he actually was? In regard to the former inquiry, it may be observed, that there is no evidence that the king referred to him to whom this title is so frequently applied in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is clear
(1) because there is no reason to believe that the king had "any" knowledge whatever that there would be on earth one to whom this title might be appropriately given;
(2) there is no evidence that the title was then commonly given to the Messiah by the Jews, or, if it was, that the king of Babylon was so versed in Jewish theology as to be acquainted with it; and
(3) the language which he uses does not necessarily imply that, even "if" he were acquainted with the fact that there was a prevailing expectation that such a being would appear on the earth, he designed so to use it.
The insertion of the article "the," which is not in the Chaldee, gives a different impression from what the original would if literally interpreted. There is nothing in the Chaldee to limit it to "any" "son of God," or to designate anyone to whom that term could be applied as peculiarly intended. It would seem probable that our translators meant to convey the idea that ""the" Son of God" peculiarly was intended, and doubtless they regarded this as one of his appearances to men before his incarnation; but it is clear that no such conception entered into the mind of the king of Babylon. The Chaldee is simply, לבר־אלחין דמה dâmēh lebar 'ĕlâhı̂yn - "like to A son of God," or to a son of the gods - since the word אלחין 'ĕlâhı̂yn (Chaldee), or אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym (Hebrew), though often, and indeed usually applied to the true God, is in the plural number, and in the mouth of a pagan would properly be used to denote the gods that he worshipped.
The article is not prefixed to the word "son," and the language would apply to anyone who might properly be called a son of God. The Vulgate has literally rendered it, "like to A son of God" - similis filio Dei; the Greek in the same way - ὁμοία ὑιῷ θεοῦ homoia huiō theou; the Syriac is like the Chaldee; Castellio renders it, quartus formam habet Deo nati similem - "the fourth has a form resembling one born of God;" Coverdale "the fourth is like an angel to look upon;" Luther, more definitely, und der vierte ist gleich, als ware er ein Sohn der Gotter - "and the fourth as if he might be "a" son of the gods." It is clear that the authors of none of the other versions had the idea which our translators supposed to be conveyed by the text, and which implies that the Babylonian monarch "supposed" that the person whom he saw was the one who afterward became incarnate for our redemption.
In accordance with the common well-known usage of the word "son" in the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, it would denote anyone who had a "resemblance" to another, and would be applied to any being who was of a majestic or dignified appearance, and who seemed worthy to be ranked among the gods. It was usual among the pagan to suppose that the gods often appeared in a human form, and probably Nebuchadnezzar regarded this as some such celestial appearance. If it be supposed that he regarded it as some manifestation connected with the "Hebrew" form of religion, the most that would probably occur to him would be, that it was some "angelic" being appearing now for the protection of these worshippers of Jehovah. But a second inquiry, and one that is not so easily answered, in regard to this mysterious personage, arises. Who in fact "was" this being that appeared in the furnace for the protection of these three persecuted men?
Was it an angel, or was it the second person of the Trinity, "the" Son of God? That this was the Son of God - the second person of the Trinity, who afterward became incarnate, has been quite a common opinion of expositors. So it was held by Tertullian, by Augustine, and by Hilary, among the fathers; and so it has been held by Gill, Clarius, and others, among the moderns. Of those who have maintained that it was Christ, some have supposed that Nebuchadnezzar had been made acquainted with the belief of the Hebrews in regard to the Messiah; others, that he spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, without being fully aware of what his words imported, as Caiaphas, Saul, Pilate, and others have done. - Poole's "Synopsis." The Jewish writers Jarchi, Saadias, and Jacchiades suppose that it was an angel, called a son of God, in accordance with the usual custom in the Scriptures. That this latter is the correct opinion, will appear evident, though there cannot be exact certainty, from the following considerations:
(1) The language used implies necessarily nothing more. Though it "might" indeed be applicable to the Messiah - the second person of the Trinity, if it could be determined from other sources that it was he, yet there is nothing in the language which necessarily suggests this.
(2) In the explanation of the matter by Nebuchadnezzar himself Daniel 3:28, he understood it to be an angel - "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, etc., "who hath sent his angel,"" etc. This shows that he had had no other view of the subject, and that he had no higher knowledge in the case than to suppose that he was an angel of God. The knowledge of the existence of angels was so common among the ancients, that there is no improbability in supposing that Nebuchadnezzar was sufficiently instructed on this point to know that they were sent for the protection of the good.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth ... - Margin, "door." The Chaldee word means door, gate, entrance. The "form" of the furnace is unknown. There was a place, however, through which the fuel was cast into it, and this is doubtless intended by the word "door" or "mouth" here used.
Ye servants of the most high God - They had professed to be his servants; he now saw that they were acknowledged as such. The phrase "most high God" implies that he regarded him as supreme over all other gods, though it is probable that he still retained his belief in the existence of inferior divinities. It was much, however, to secure the acknowledgment of the monarch of the capital of the pagan world, that the God whom they adored was supreme. The phrase "most high God" is not often employed in the Scriptures, but in every instance it is used as an appellation of the true God.
Come forth, and come hither - The "reasons" which seem to have influenced this singular monarch to recal the sentence passed on them, and to attempt to punish them no further, seem to have been, that he had some remains of conscience; that he was accustomed to pay respect to what "he" regarded as God; and that he now saw evidence that a "true" God was there.
And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
And the princes, governors, and captains - Notes, Daniel 3:3.
And the king's counselors - Notes, Daniel 3:24.
Being gathered together, saw these men - There could be no mistake about the reality of the miracle. They came out as they were cast in. There could have been no trick, no art, no legerdemain, by which they could have been preserved and restored. If the facts occurred as they are stated here, then there can be no doubt that this was a real miracle.
Upon whose bodies the fire had no power - That is, the usual power of fire on the human body was prevented.
Nor was a hair of their head singed - That which would be most likely to have burned. The design is to show that the fire had produced absolutely no effect on them.
Neither were their coats changed - On the word "coats," see the notes at Daniel 3:21. The word "changed" means that there was no change caused by the fire either in their color or their texture.
Nor the smell of fire had passed on them - Not the slightest effect had been produced by the fire; not even so much as to occasion the smell caused by fire when cloth is singed or burned. Perhaps, however, sulphur or pitch had been used in heating the furnace; and the idea may be, that their preservation had been so entire, that not even the smell of the smoke caused by those combustibles could be perceived.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach ... - On the characteristic of mind thus evinced by this monarch, see the notes and practical remarks at Daniel 2:46-47.
Who hath sent his angel - This proves that the king regarded this mysterious fourth personage as an angel, and that he used the phrase Daniel 3:25 "is like the son of God" only in that sense. That an angel should be employed on an embassage of this kind, we have seen, is in accordance with the current statements of the Scriptures. Compare "Excursus I." to Prof. Stuart "on the Apocalypse." See also Luke 1:11-20, Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:20-21; Matthew 2:13, Matthew 2:19-20; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:7-15; Genesis 32:1-2; 2 Kings 6:17; Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 33:2; Numbers 20:16; Joshua 5:13; Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 10:5-13, Daniel 10:20-21; Daniel 12:1.
And have changed the king's word - That is, his purpose or command. Their conduct, and the Divine protection in consequence of their conduct, had had the effect wholly to change his purpose toward them. He had resolved to destroy them; he now resolved to honor them. This is referred to by the monarch himself as a remarkable result, as indeed it was - that an Eastern despot, who had resolved on the signal punishment of any of his subjects, should be so entirety changed in his purposes toward them.
And yielded their bodies - The Greek adds here εἰς πῦρ eis pur - "to the fire." So the Arabic. This is doubtless the sense of the passage. The meaning is, that rather than bow clown to worship gods which they regarded as no gods; rather than violate their consciences, and do wrong, they had preferred to be cast into the flames, committing themselves to the protection of God. It is implied here that they had done this voluntarily, and that they might easily have avoided it if they had chosen to obey the king. He had given them time to deliberate on the subject Daniel 3:14-15, and he knew that they had resolved to pursue the course which they did from principle, no matter what might be the results Daniel 3:16-18. This strength of principle - this obedience to the dictates of conscience - this determination not to do wrong at any hazard - he could not but respect; and this is a remarkable instance to show that a firm and steady course in doing what is right will command the respect of even wicked men. This monarch, with all his pride, and haughtiness, and tyranny, had not a few generous qualities, and some of the finest illustrations of human nature were furnished by him.
That they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God - They gave up their bodies to the flame rather than do this.
Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
Therefore I make a decree - Margin, "A decree is made by me." Chaldee, "And from me a decree is laid down," or enacted. This Chaldee word (טעם ṭe‛êm) means, properly, "taste, flavor;" then "judgment," the power of "discerning" - apparently as of one who can judge of "wine," etc., by the taste; then the sentence, the decree which is consequent on an act of judging - always retaining the idea that the determination or decree is based on a conception of the true merits of the case. The decree in this case was not designed to be regarded as arbitrary, but as being founded on what was right and proper. He had seen evidence that the God whom these three youths worshipped was a true God, and was able to protect those who trusted in him; and regarding him as a real God, he made this proclamation, that respect should be shown to him throughout his extended realm.
That every people, nation, and language - This decree is in accordance with the usual style of an Oriental monarch. It was, however, a fact that the empire of Nebuchadnezzar extended over nearly all of the then known world.
Which speak any thing amiss - Margin, "error." The Chaldee word (שׁלה shâluh) means "error, wrong," and it refers here to anything that would be fitted to lead the minds of men astray in regard to the true character of the God whom these persons worshipped. The Vulgate renders it "blasphemy." So also it is rendered in the Greek, βλασφημίαν blasphēmian. The intention was, that their God was to be acknowledged as a God of eminent power and rank. It does not appear that Nebuchadnezzar meant that he should be regarded as the "only" true God, but he was willing, in accordance with the prevailing notions of idolatry, that he should take his place among the gods, and a most honored place.
Shall be cut in pieces - Margin, "made." This was a species of punishment that was common in many ancient nations. - Gesenius.
And their houses shall be made a dunghill - Compare 2 Kings 10:27. The idea is, that the utmost possible dishonor and contempt should be placed on their houses, by devoting them to the most vile and offensive uses.
Because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort - He does not say that there was no other god at all, for his mind had not yet reached this conclusion, but there was no other one who had equal power with the God of the Hebrews. He had seen a manifestation of his power in the preservation of the three Hebrews such as no other god had ever exhibited, and he was willing to admit that in this respect he surpassed all other divinities.
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
Then the king promoted Shadrach ... - Margin, "made to prosper." The Chaldee means no more than "made to prosper." Whether he restored them to their former places, or to higher honors, does not appear. There would be, however, nothing inconsistent with his usual course in supposing that he raised them to more exalted stations.
In the province of Babylon - See the notes at Daniel 2:49. The Greek and the Arabic add here, "And he counted them worthy to preside over all the Jews that were in his kingdom." But nothing of this is found in the Chaldee, and it is not known by whom this addition was made.
In the Vulgate and the Greek versions, and in some of the critical editions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Walton, Hahn, etc.), the three first verses of the following chapter are subjoined to this. It is well known that the divisions of the chapters are of no authority, but it is clear that these verses belong more appropriately to the following chapter than to this, as the reason there assigned by the monarch for the proclamation is what occurred to himself Daniel 3:2, rather than what he had witnessed in others. The division, therefore, which is made in our common version of the Bible, and in the Syriac and the Arabic, is the correct one.
I. The instance recorded in this chapter Daniel 3:1-7 is not improbably the first case which ever occurred in the world of an attempt to produce "conformity" in idolatrous worship by penal statute. It has, however, been abundantly imitated since, alike in the pagan and in the nominally Christian world. There are no portions of history more interesting than those which describe the progress of religious liberty; the various steps which have been taken to reach the result which has now been arrived at, and to settle the principles which are now regarded as the true ones. Between the views which were formerly entertained, and which are still entertained in many countries, and those which constitute the Protestant notions on the subject, there is a greater difference than there is, in regard to civil rights, between the views which prevail under an Oriental despotism, and the most enlarged and enlightened notions of civil freedom. The views which have prevailed on the subject are the following:
1. The "general" doctrine among the pagan has been, that there were many gods in heaven and earth, and that all were entitled to reverence. One nation was supposed to have as good a right to worship its own gods as another, and it was regarded as at least an act of courtesy to show respect to the gods that any nation adored, in the same way as respect would be shown to the sovereigns who presided over them. Hence, the gods of all nations could be consistently introduced into the Pantheon at Rome; hence, there were few attempts to "proselyte" among the pagan; and hence, it was not common to "persecute" those who worshipped other gods. Persecution of idolaters "by" those who were idolaters was, therefore, rarely known among the pagan, and "toleration" was not contrary to the views which prevailed, provided the gods of the country were recognized. In ancient Chaldea, Assyria, Greece, and Rome, in the earliest ages, persecution was rare, and the toleration of other forms of religion was usual.
2. The views which have prevailed leading to persecution, and which are a violation, as we suppose, of all just notions of liberty on the subject of religion, are the following:
(a) Those among the pagan which, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, require "all" to worship a particular god that should be set up. In such a case, it is clear that while all who were "idolaters," and who supposed that "all" the gods worshipped by others should be respected, could render homage; it is also clear that those who regarded "all" idols as false gods, and believed that "none" of them ought to be worshipped, could "not" comply with the command. Such was the case with the Jews who were in Babylon Daniel 3:8-18, for supposing that there was but one God, it was plain that they could not render homage to any other. While, therefore, every idolater could render homage to "any" idol, the Hebrew could render homage to "none."
(b) The views among the pagan "prohibiting" the exercise of a certain kind of religion. According to the prevailing views, no mode of religion could be tolerated which would maintain that "all" the gods that were worshipped were false. Religion was supposed to be identified with the best interests of the state, and was recognized by the laws, and protected by the laws. To deny the claim, therefore, of any and of all the gods that were worshipped; to maintain that all were false alike; to call on men to forsake their idols, and to embrace a new religion - all this was regarded as an attack on the state. This was the attitude which Christianity assumed toward the religions of the Roman empire, and it was this which led to the fiery persecutions which prevailed there. While Rome could consistently tolerate any form of idolatry that would recognize the religion established by the state, it could not tolerate a system which maintained that "all" idolatry was wrong. It would allow another god to be placed in the Pantheon, but it could not recognize a system which woud remove every god from that temple. Christianity, then, made war on the system of idolatry that prevailed in the Roman empire in two respects: in proclaiming a "purer" religion, denouncing all the corruptions which idolatry had engendered, and which it countenanced; and in denying altogether that the gods which were worshipped were true gods - thus arraying itself against the laws, the priesthood, the venerable institutions, and all the passions and prejudices of the people. These views may be thus summed up:
(aa) all the gods worshipped by others were to be recognized;
(bb) new ones might be introduced by authority of the state;
(cc) the gods which the state approved and acknowledged were to be honored by all;
(dd) if any persons denied their existence, and their claims to homage, they were to be treated as enemies of the state.
It was on this last principle that persecutions ever arose under the pagan forms of religion. Infidels, indeed, have been accustomed to charge Christianity with all the persecutions on account of religion, and to speak in high terms of "the mild tolerance of the ancient pagans;" of "the universal toleration of polytheism;" of "the Roman princes beholding without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway." - Gibbon. But it should be remembered that pagan nations required of every citizen conformity to their national idolatries. When this was refused, persecution arose as a matter of course. Stilpo was banished from Athens for affirming that the statue of Minerva in the citadel was no divinity, but only the work of the chisel of Phidias. Protagoras received a similar punishment for this sentence: "Whether there be gods or not, I have nothing to offer." Prodicus, and his pupil Socrates, suffered death for opinions at variance with the established idolatry of Athens. Alcibiades and Aeschylus narrowly escaped a like end for a similar cause. Cicero lays it down as a principle of legislation entirely conformable to the laws of the Roman state, that "no man shall have separate gods for himself; and no man shall worship by himself new or foreign gods, unless they have been publicly acknowledged by the laws of the state." - "De Legibus," ii. 8. Julius Paulus, the Roman civilian, gives the following as a leading feature of the Roman law: "Those who introduced new religions, or such as were unknown in their tendency and nature, by which the minds of men might be agitated, were degraded, if they belonged to the higher ranks, and if they were in a lower state, were punished with death." See M'Ilvaine's "Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity," pp. 427-429.