Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where was Daniel?

Q. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fiery furnace, where was Daniel? Why was he not also thrown in the furnace? Did he bow to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image?

Scripture text: Daniel 3:1-30

A. The brief and definitive answer is that the Scriptures do not say where Daniel was!

In a dream (which Daniel interpreted, Daniel 2:1-49), Nebuchadnezzar the king beheld a great image, whose head was of fine gold. Later Nebuchadnezzar made an image that was all of gold and required his subjects to bow in worship to this golden image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not bow. Daniel is never mentioned. Numerous explanations have been posited, including:

  • Daniel was in a different location at the time, perhaps on an errand for the king of Babylon.[i]
  • Daniel was exempt from bowing to the image because of his high position in the administration of the king of Babylon, and/or esteem in which he was held by the king.[ii]
  • Daniel refused to bow down to the image, but no one was watching him or no one accused him (as in the case of the “certain Chaldeans” who accused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego).[iii]
  • Daniel bowed to the image to avoid the death sentence pronounced by the king of Babylon.[iv]
Of the explanations, folks seem to pick what they like. Though these and other solutions have been suggested, the brief and definitive answer is still that we do not know where Daniel was because the Scriptures do not say.

It is best then not to dwell overmuch on what we don’t know, but meditate on and learn from what we do know. Chapter 3 is not Daniel’s story. Let him out of it. This is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Let them shine, as God did when he recorded it! Take the lesson. They worship God. They trust the God they worship. They will not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The God they trust can deliver them. They will not worship the image whether or not God chooses to deliver them.

“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. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods!”

The initial focus in Daniel 3 is Nebuchadnezzar, the golden image, and the worship of the image. The Lord appears in only one notable place. He is in the furnace waiting for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He was not noticed before. He was not seen after. Often the greatest manifestation of Jesus in our lives is “in the furnace” – when we have exhausted all options, at that very moment we need him most.

[i] Related to the “location” solution, some have suggested the plain of Dura (Daniel 3:1) was in a different location from where “Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:49).
[iii] Cf. Daniel 3:8-12. Within the accusation solution, some have suggested that no one was watching Daniel, while others think they may have been afraid to accuse Daniel because of Daniel’s close relationship to the king.
[iv] While this view cannot be excluded – since the Scriptures do not say – the idea that Daniel bowed to the image is generally the least acceptable. It seems inconsistent with Daniel’s integrity. See Daniel 1:8, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat;” Daniel 6:4-10 King Darius established a firm decree, that whosoever asked a petition of any God or man for thirty days shall be cast into the den of lions. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime; and Ezekiel 14:13-20, Daniel was exemplary for righteousness.

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