June 13 – Integrity Resists Intimidation

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

Daniel 3:4–7


The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.

After King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered all his leaders to the dedication of his golden image, he issued a proclamation that at the sound of his orchestra they were to fall down and worship the image. Those leaders were the most influential and respected people in Babylon, so you might expect them to be people of strong convictions and personal integrity. Sadly, that was not the case, and with only three exceptions they all lacked the courage to say no.

Granted, punishment for disobeying the king’s decree would be severe indeed. But even the threat of a fiery death could not intimidate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego. Instead, it simply revealed the depth of their commitment to God. That’s what makes them such remarkable role models. As young men barely twenty years old, they demonstrated tremendous courage and conviction.

Each day Christians face considerable pressure to compromise spiritual integrity and to adopt standards of thought and behavior that are displeasing to the Lord. Young people especially are vulnerable to negative peer pressure and intimidation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego show us that young people can be spiritual leaders who are strong in their faith and exemplary in their obedience. May that be true of you as well, regardless of your age.


Suggestions for Prayer: Remember to pray often for the young people in your church, and do what you can to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

For Further Study: Read Joshua 1:1–9. How did God encourage Joshua as he faced the intimidating task of leading the nation of Israel?[1]

3:1–7 Nebuchadnezzar … made an idolatrous image of gold ninety feet high and set it up in the plain of Dura. He then commanded that when they heard horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, all men were to fall down to worship it. Any who refused would be cast … into a fiery furnace.[2]

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).[3]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1080). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] 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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