June 12 – Integrity Worships the True God

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.”

Daniel 3:1–3


People are incurably religious and will worship either the true God or a false substitute.

Scripture teaches that a double–minded man is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). That certainly was true of King Nebuchadnezzar, who shortly after declaring that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47), erected a huge image of himself and assembled all his leaders for its dedication.

The image was ninety feet tall and was probably constructed of wood overlaid with gold. Because the plain of Dura was flat, the statue would have been visible for a great distance. The gold idol was a magnificent sight as it reflected the bright sunlight of that region.

The king’s plan was to have all his leaders bow down to the image, thereby bringing glory to himself, verifying their loyalty, and unifying the nation under one religion. But he was soon to learn that three young men with spiritual integrity would never abandon worship of the true God, regardless of the consequences.

Worshiping the true God or a false substitute is the choice that everyone must make. Sadly, millions of people who wouldn’t think of bowing to a tangible image nevertheless worship useless gods of their own imaginations. Even Christians can be lured into self–love and covetousness, which are forms of idolatry (Col. 3:5). That’s why you must always guard your heart diligently.


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing and worshiping the true God.

For Further Study: According to Romans 1:18–32, what are the spiritual and moral consequences of idolatry?[1]

1–7 No time frame is assigned to this episode, but most likely the event occurs early in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as a test of loyalty to the new administration (cf. Miller, 107). The date given for the incident in the LXX (the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign) is borrowed from Jeremiah 52:29 as a possible rationale for the unusual royal ceremony (cf. Porteous, 57). The story features Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, with no mention of Daniel himself. Daniel’s absence at the “Festival of the New Babylon” may be explained by the reference to his role as an adviser in the royal court (2:49). Either Daniel has relinquished his administrative authority for the profit of his friends (so Lacocque, 55), or his duties are of such a highly specialized nature that he is required to remain at the royal palace (so Miller, 108).

At issue in the story is a giant image erected by Nebuchadnezzar (v. 1) and his subsequent decree that all of his royal subjects must bow down and worship the image (vv. 6, 11). The term “image” (Aram. elēm) simply refers to a statue or stela of some sort. The extreme height (ninety feet) and narrow width (nine feet) of the image suggests the form of an obelisk or totem pole (e.g., Porteous, 57; see BBCOT, 734). Commentators debate whether the image represents the king or a deity of the Babylonian pantheon (cf. Goldingay, 70). Wallace, 64, rightly points out that the matter is left intentionally vague. The statue could represent whatever anyone wants it to symbolize, whether the spirit of Babylon, the king himself, one of the traditional deities (e.g., Marduk according to Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 109), or even a syncretistic focal point for the various religions of Nebuchadnezzar’s realm. The fact that the statue is overlaid with gold may indicate that Nebuchadnezzar has been influenced by Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s statue-dream identifying him as the “head of gold” (2:28; cf. Young, 84).

The “plain of Dura” (v. 1) may have been a site near the city wall (since the Akk. duru refers to a “walled place”; cf. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 111), but more traditionally the location has been identified with Tulul Dura (“tells of Dura”) some sixteen miles south of Babylon (cf. Miller, 111). Seven classes of state officials are named (vv. 2–3), presumably rank-ordered in terms of importance (cf. Miller, 111; see Notes). These administrators represent the many peoples, nations, and languages of the king’s wide domain. The lesser officials and civil servants are addressed collectively in the umbrella phrase “all the other provincial officials” (v. 2). Goldingay, 70, has noted that “in many cultures, music draws attention to state and religious processions and ceremonials.”

Six types of musical instruments are specifically mentioned as examples of the array of instruments comprising the royal band (v. 5; see Notes). None of the instruments named were used in Hebrew worship, and most are designated by loanwords from other languages. Rhetorically, the repetition of the musical component of the event (vv. 5, 7, 10, 15) attests the grandiose nature and cosmopolitan character of the ceremony (cf. Porteous, 57; Wallace, 64; Miller, 114). Theologically, the repetition of the foreign terms for the musical instruments “imply a double judgment on the alien, pagan nature of the [idolatrous] ceremony Nebuchadnezzar is inaugurating” (Goldingay, 70).

Ceremonies marking the installation of statues or the dedication of buildings are well documented in the ancient world (cf. Montgomery, 197–98). This ceremony probably included the taking of a loyalty oath as Nebuchadnezzar solidified his rule over the vast Babylonian Empire (cf. BBCOT, 735). The word “dedication” (vv. 2–3; Heb. anukkâ; GK 10273) means to inaugurate or put into use for the first time (and implies some ongoing function for the object so dedicated; cf. TDOT, 5:19–23). The same term is used in the OT for the dedication of the altar (Nu 7:10–11), the temple (1 Ki 8:63), and the rebuilt wall of Jerusalem (Ne 12:27; cf. Seow, 53). “Hanukkah” is the name applied to the Feast of Rededication of the temple after its cleansing by Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 4:56, 59). Later the NT records that Jesus was in the temple during the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah (Jn 10:22).

The role of the herald (v. 4) as public crier and messenger or courier is known in the biblical world (e.g., Est 3:13; cf. Collins, Daniel, 183); according to Wiseman (Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 111), “the use of the herald for public proclamations was a long-standing Babylonian tradition.” The king’s decree is probably announced to the assembly in the Aramaic language, the lingua franca of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire (so Miller, 113). Burning (v. 6) is a well-attested penalty for the punishment of criminals throughout the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek periods (cf. Jer 29:22; see Goldingay, 70; Collins, Daniel, 185–86). Nebuchadnezzar’s “blazing furnace” (v. 6) may have been a beehive-type oven or kiln with an opening at the top (into which the men were thrown) and a door at the side (permitting a view to the inside of the furnace; cf. Hartman and Di Lella, 161), or a tunnel-shaped brick furnace (so Baldwin, 103). While such details lend authenticity to narrative, the story itself has little to do with “the Festival of the New Babylon” (see Wallace, 63–64) and everything to do with idolatry and apostasy—the very cause of the Hebrews’ exile to Babylonia (see Russell, 59–61; cf. Dt 29:25–28).[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 75–77). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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