Bible Commentaries
Daniel 3

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-30

Daniel 3:0

I. We have here a specimen of religious intolerance.

II. We see here how religious intolerance is to be met. These three young men simply refused to do what Nebuchadnezzar commanded, or, in modern phrase, they met his injunctions with "passive resistance."

III. We have here an illustration of the support which Jesus gives to His followers when they are called to suffer for His sake.

IV. We see here that in the matter of religious intolerance, as well as in some other things, the opposite of wrong is not always right. Nebuchadnezzar had no more right to cut men in pieces for speaking evil of Jehovah than he had to put Shadrach and his companions into the flames for not worshipping his image.

W. M. Taylor, Daniel the Beloved, p. 58.

References: 3 Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 338; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 517; J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 99; J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 191.Daniel 4:2 , Daniel 4:3 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 21.Daniel 4:13 , Daniel 4:14 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 7. Daniel 4:19-27 . Ibid., vol. x., p. 27.

Verses 16-18

Daniel 3:16-18

I. We can scarcely sufficiently admire the answer of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There is an independence of speech in it which, when we consider the circumstances in which the speakers were placed, is only to be accounted for by supposing that their minds were thoroughly imbued with the thought that they were standing in a higher presence than that of Nebuchadnezzar. The chief nobleness of their answer was the "if not." This readiness to meet the consequences, this counting of the cost, elevates these Jewish youths and gives them a place amongst Christian martyrs. However useful they may be to us as examples of what faith will do in the way of quenching flames, they are still more useful as showing us what a sense of duty will do, even where a fiery furnace stares us in the face.

II. Godliness, having the promise of both worlds, the fear of God, and the keeping of His commandments, will generally bring happiness and prosperity and success; but "if not," still to fear God and keep His commandments is the whole duty of man. Take the case of the Apostles as a very striking example. Christ promised them that those who left all for His sake should receive, even in this present world, houses and lands and wives and children and the rest. He added, "with persecutions." Now the Apostles did leave all for Him, and what houses or lands did they receive? Men who were made, in the language of the Apostle, "the offscouring of all things." You may say Christ's promise failed; He promised and did not perform. Be it so. But if such an accusation be brought against Christ, it must be by His own servants, who knew His service, and not by others. Search the records then of apostolic experience, and confess it to be a marvellous truth that, throughout all the writings which have been left to us, there is not even the most distant hint of disappointment on the part of those who took upon themselves Christ's yoke; so that we must suppose, that however figurative the promise of houses and lands might have been, it was not a delusive promise. They received a spiritual wealth as His disciples which was worth more than all they had lost; their life was "hid with Christ in God;" they appeared to have lost all, whereas in fact all things were theirs. When their minds were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they prepared to do their work and leave consequences and rewards in other hands.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 17.

I. Let us study the martyr-spirit as here revealed. (1) These men had attained to the condition in which conviction had passed beyond the reach of perturbation or question. The everlasting hills were not so firmly rooted as the belief in the God of heaven, and the essential blessedness of serving Him was rooted in these young hearts. They had so grasped the truth of the glorious power and steadfastness of the God of heaven, that it lifted them to a kindred firmness. (2) They were themselves of that temper, and had come to that strength and unity of character, that they could declare, "There are things which we cannot say; there are things which we cannot do, whatever be the cost; it is blankly impossible; here stand we; we can do no other; God help us." (3) There must abide in all martyr-spirits an unwavering faith in the omnipotent hand of God. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us. His power to rule is clear to us as sunlight. He may choose to help us now, and signally deliver. He may choose to let us suffer, but nothing can shake our belief in His power to save."

II. We shall better understand the temper of these men when we compare it with a record which describes very faithfully the quality of much that goes by the name of the religious life (Genesis 28:16-22 ). "Bless me, prosper my journey, bring me home again, and I will serve Thee," were the terms of Jacob's covenant at Bethel. How grandly beside these terms of bargain rings out the clear defiance of the text!

III. Let us look at the school in which men are trained to such Godlike vigour, courage, as this (Daniel 1:1-16 ). They began young and in little things to learn the lesson which it was God's will that they should practise in great things. Their life was fairly woven of one piece throughout. They were as resolute against little compliances as against great ones; ready ever to meet the tempter in the outworks, they were able to hold the citadel securely in the hour of the great assault.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 167.

The great service rendered by these young Hebrew exiles to the world of subsequent ages is their teaching, by word and act, the nature and the working of a religion of principle.

I. They illustrate the truth that a religion of principle is founded on intelligent convictions of truth, so fixed in the heart as to be beyond the reach of argument.

II. The religion of principle consists preeminently in obedience to the sense of duty without regard to consequences.

III. The religion of principle carries with it a profound sense of a personal God.

IV. The religion of principle is the only type of religious character which commands the confidence of the world.

A. Phelps, The Old Testament a Living Book, p. 261.

Reference: Daniel 3:16-23 . R. Payne-Smith, Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 105.

Verses 17-18

Daniel 3:17-18

Let us take three points in the history of these three young men.

I. Their resolution. They were entirely in the dark as to whether God would really come down, as it were, and interfere to save them from suffering or not, yet this made no difference in their resolution. They said, "God will deliver us; but if not supposing He does not deliver us we will not serve thy gods for all that." On the one side right, on the other enjoyment. Right shadowed with pain; enjoyment coloured with sin. Their answer was free and decisive, and we glory in it this day. And we ought not to leave out of sight something which makes this answer more remarkable still. Many a martyr has, in the words of a great martyr of old, stood firm, because the eye of faith enabled him to see clearly what was behind a flashing sword. He said, "Who would not labour to reach that brightness, to become the friend of God, and enter in a moment the joy of Christ?" We must remember that these Jews could not speak such a language, for these latter truths had not yet been revealed. If there was a deep conviction of the life to come, it was still a dim one at any rate they said nothing of the kind to Nebuchadnezzar. They neither revealed any such hope, nor sustained themselves by it. All they said was that they had cast in their lot with their own God, and the cause of God; and should that cause be bound up with the utmost sacrifice of self, they would die in pain if need were. "We will not serve thy gods." If life is falsehood, let me not live. If the truth is death, then let me die somewhere in God's world; some day in God's time the great contradiction will be washed out.

II. Their endurance. To them all seemed as if the second alternative were coming, and that He would not deliver. As the flames leap out, as they are hurried forward by the mightiest men in the army, as the fierce heat is too much even for the executioners, they are, as it were, hurled forward with such a force, that there is no halting, and they fall bound, as into some burning crater.

III. Their deliverance. In a moment no more three men, bound, weltering in flames; four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form of the fourth as of the Son of God. How nobly and beautifully was it imagined that the praises they then sang to Him were such as tradition tells us that men wrapped and bathed in the most powerful natural force, and finding it powerless upon them, called on all the creatures of God by them to "Bless the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever."

Archbishop Benson, Boy Life: Sundays in Wellington College, p. 3.

Verse 18

Daniel 3:18

We ask ourselves what it was which gave these three men the power to withstand the will of this great monarch, this representative of the world and it greatness, to resist passively, but immovably, the overwhelming force of numbers, and stand firm, though they were alone in the midst of an assembled world. And the answer is obvious. It was simply that they felt the importance of the truth for which they witnessed.

I. Here then is the lesson the scene teaches us. It is the lesson that we have laid upon us the duty of witnessing to the truth; and that in order to be able to witness to the truth, we must have an inward perception of the value of the truth which is to be witnessed to. And as Christians have the office imposed upon them of witnessing to the truth, so they are placed in a world which tries that office severely, and opposes great temptations to, and brings an overwhelming influence to bear against, the performance of that duty. The scene which is described in the Book of Daniel is indeed a symbolical one. It presents to us in figure the vast assemblage of the powers and influences of this world as they array themselves in opposition to, and for the suppression of, the truth.

II. The office of witness of Divine truth, rejected as it is by the generality, as if it were something more than could be expected, of men, is a privilege as well as a duty, and brings, if it is faithfully executed, great rewards to those who execute it. The faith which witnesses to the truth has a sense of victory in it. It comes out best in the contest. It was so on the occasion we have been considering, and, as I have said, this scene is symbolical. The Gospel recompense for obedience is the manifestation of the Divine presence within us, the awaking of the soul to the knowledge of God, and to such a sense of the supreme value of His approbation, and comfort in Him as a witness and judge of our heart, as makes amends for any loss we may sustain.

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 82.

Reference: Daniel 3:18 . J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 251.

Verses 24-25

Daniel 3:24-25

There are two aspects of life: one, the common, the ordinary, the prosaic aspect; and the other, the Divine, the glorified, the Christian aspect; and that which alone can give you this second aspect of life is the presence of the Son of God.

I. It is a very remarkable thing that in this Book of the Prophet Daniel, the fourth and last of the four great prophets, we have such an extraordinary foretaste of the coming Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have here the expression and it is the only place in the Old Testament "The Son of God." It is impossible that the king can mean one of these persons who are called by a figure of speech "sons of God." He must mean the Son of God, the one who is made in God's image and God's likeness, who is of God and from God, and who stands in the exact relation to God that a child stands to his father. The form of the fourth is like the Son of God; and wheresoever that form comes, wheresoever that presence of the Son of God is felt, there the three become four; there the bound become loosened, and there those who are exposed to temptation or peril may walk in safety, because they have One with them who is none other than the God of gods and Lord of lords.

II. Such then is the glorification which is offered to every Christian for the trials of life. Life no doubt, for every one under the most advantageous circumstances, has its dull aspect. What we want is not to have those circumstances altered, but something which will make us proof against their dulness and monotony; something which will give us strength to cope with them; something which out of our weakness will make us strong; something which will shed the sunlight of eternal day over the darkness and gloominess of the morning spread upon the mountains, and will kindle for us by it a glorious day in which and through which we may walk from hour to hour with the presence of Him whose form is like that of the Son of God.

S. Leathes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 289.

References: Daniel 3:24 , Daniel 3:25 . J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 42.Daniel 3:24-30 . R. Payne-Smith, Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 350.

Verse 25

Daniel 3:25

This narrative may be assumed to set forth in lively type or emblem the security of God's saints in the hour of their greatest peril, together with the reason of that security. Fire represents persecution, trial, torment, affliction, of whatever sort, under its fiercest aspect; for fire consumes, devours, destroys, causes to disappear. A furnace, heated one-seven times more than usual, is the very image of destruction in its wildest shape. To have fallen down bound into such a furnace, and straightway to be observed walking about there loose, is in like manner the liveliest picture possible of perfect security amid tremendous danger; while the presence of a companion, and He "one like the Son of God," explains the rest of the marvel, while it adds crowning interest to the mystery; for it accounts for that safety which before was simply inexplicable.

I. In every trial then, every affliction, which may at any time befall us, the victory is promised to faith; the same faith which on the plain of Dura "quenched the violence of fire." Faith in the presence of the unseen God will be for ever the secret of the strength of each afflicted one; and the language of every faithful heart will be to the end, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

II. The fire of temptation is illustrated by the security of the three children in the furnace. The man is safe, because the Lord is with him, as He was with Joseph. And behold he walks loose, is freer than before, even because he hath been tried and hath overcome.

III. But chiefly are we taught by this beautiful incident to behold the safety of God's elect children in that tremendous day when the "Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire." That fire shall consume unquenchably the impenitent, obdurate sinner; but the saints of God will walk loose in the midst of that fire and have no hurt. The fetters of sin will be burned in that day, though the garments of mortality will go unscathed. Tied and bound with a chain till then, the redeemed of God will discover by a blessed experience that the marvellous property of the probationary fire is to loose from that cruel bondage.

J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 82.

References: Daniel 3:25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 662; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 345.Daniel 3:27 . G. T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii, p. 101.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Daniel 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary".