Daniel 3 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Daniel 3)
Babylon's characteristics

After this general picture, we have, historically, the characteristic features of these empires, marking the condition into which they fall, through their departure from God—primarily and principally Babylon.

In chapter 3 we have the first characteristic feature of man invested with imperial power, but whose heart is afar from God—a distance augmented by the very possession of power. He will have a god of his own, a god dependent on the will of man; and, in this case, dependent on the depositary of the imperial power. This is man's wisdom. The religious instincts of men are gratified in connection with the supreme power; and the influences of religion are exercised in binding all the members of the empire in one blended mass around the head, by the strongest bond, without any appearance of authority. For the religious wants of man are thus connected with his own will; and his will is unconsciously subject to the centre of power. Otherwise religion, the most powerful motive of the heart, becomes a dissolvent in the empire. But the will of man cannot make a true god; and consequently Nebuchadnezzar, although he had confessed that there was none like the God of the Jews, forsakes Him and makes a god for himself. The Gentile government rejects God, the source of its power; and the true God is only acknowledged by a faithful and suffering remnant. The empire is idolatrous.

Faithfulness and obedience to God in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

This is the first great feature that characterises the dominion of Babylon. But the faithfulness that opposes this wise system which binds the most powerful motive of the whole people to the will of their head, uniting them in worship around that which he presents to them—faithfulness like this touches the mainspring of the whole movement. The idol is not God at all; and, however powerful man may be, he cannot create a god. The man of faith, subject indeed to the king, as we have seen, because appointed of God, is not subject to the false god which the king sets up, denying the true God who gave him his authority, and who is still acknowledged by the man of faith. But power is in the king's hands; and he will have it known that his will is supreme.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into the fiery furnace. But it is in the sufferings of His people that God in the end appears as God. He allows their faithfulness to be tried in the place where evil exists, that they may be with Him in the enjoyment of happiness in the place where His character and His power are fully manifested, whether on this earth, or in a yet more excellent manner in heaven.

The king's defiance and rage: God's power and faithfulness

We may observe that faith and obedience are as absolute as the will of the king. Nothing can be finer and more calm than the answer of the three believers. God is able to deliver, and He will deliver; but, happen what may, they will not forsake Him. The king in his fury defies God. "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" God allows him to take his own way. The effect of his headlong rage is that the instruments of his vengeance are destroyed by the fierce flames prepared for the faithful Hebrews. The latter are cast into the furnace, and (outwardly) the king's will is accomplished. But this is only to manifest more brightly the power and the faithfulness of God, who comes, even into the midst of the fire, to prove the interest He takes in the fidelity of His servants. The effect, to them, of the fire is that their bands are consumed, and that they have His presence whose form is like the Son of God, even in the eyes of the king who denied His almighty power. The result is a decree forbidding the whole world to speak against the God of the Jews, the glory of that weak and captive people.

Remark here that the remnant are characterised by their faithfulness and obedience. They manifest their faithfulness by refusing to have any god but their own God: no concession—it would be to deny Him. For, to acknowledge the true God, He alone must be acknowledged. Truth is but the full revelation of Him and can only recognise itself. To put itself on a level with falsehood would be saying it was not truth.

Characteristics of the remnant

We find three principles marked out with respect to the remnant. They do not defile themselves by partaking of that which the world bestows—the king's meat. They have understanding in the mind and revelations of God. They are faithful in refusing absolutely to acknowledge any god but their own, who is the true God. The first principle is common to them all. The second is the Spirit of prophecy, of which Daniel is here the vessel. The third is the portion of every believer, although there may be no Spirit of prophecy. The nearer we are to the power of the world, the more likelihood there is of suffering if we are faithful. It must be observed that all this is connected with the position and the principles of the Jews.

Gentile recognition of God and the effect of the remnant's deliverance

Remark also that the Gentile will and power recognise God in two ways, and by different means; both being the privileges granted to the remnant. The first of these privileges is having the mind of Jehovah, the revelation of His thoughts and counsels. This leads the Gentile to own the God of Daniel as God of gods and Lord of kings. That is His position in respect of all that was exalted above the earth. He was supreme in heaven and earth. The second is that He interests Himself in the poor remnant of His people, and has power to deliver them in the tribulation into which rebellious and idolatrous (and thus apostate) power has thrown them. The result here is that He is acknowledged, and His faithful ones are delivered and exalted. The first is more general and Gentile—the Gentiles' own recognition of God; the second, the effect of deliverance for this Jewish remnant.

The establishment of idolatrous unity in religion, and the pride of human power, are the characteristics here given of Babylon. This folly, which does not know God, fills the whole course of time allotted to this power—"seven times." At the end the Gentile owns for himself and praises and blesses the Most High. This chapter then gives the Gentile power's own relationship with God, not merely his connection with the God and people of the Jews. Hence the title of God, in chapter 4, is the Most High that ruleth in the kingdom of men; in chapter 3 it was ‘our God’ for the heart of the faithful remnant, and ‘the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,’ for the world that saw the deliverance.