DANIEL 3      Other translations  -  previous  -  next  -  Daniel  -  BM Home  -  Full Page

CHAPTER III. THE IMAGE OF GOLD AND THE FIERY FURNACE.

  1. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was three-score cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of
  2. Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the
  3. image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
  4. Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded,
  5. O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut,' psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up:
  6. and whoso falls not down and worshiped! shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
  7. Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar
  8. the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and brought accusation against the
  9. Jews. They answered and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king,
  10. O king, live for ever. You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music,
  11. shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whoso falls not down and worships, shall be cast into the
  12. midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded you: they serve not your gods,
  13. nor worship the golden image which you have set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought
  14. these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you serve not my god, nor worship the golden
  15. image which I have set up? Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that
  16. shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
  17. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out
  18. of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the
  19. golden image which you have set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
  20. And he commanded certain mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to
  21. cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their hosen, their tunics, and their mantles, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of
  22. the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach,
  23. Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of
  24. the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste: he spoke and said to his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said to the king,
  25. True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods.
  26. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace: he spoke and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and
  27. Abednego, came forth out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were their hosen changed, nor
  28. had the smell of fire passed on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not
  29. serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is
  30. no other god that is able to deliver after this sort! Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

 

REFERENCES.

Verses. Numbers.
1,2 P. P.
1-7 AE 1029
1-7 and following AR 717; TCR 754
1 and following AC 1326
1 to end L. J. 54
3-7 P.P.
8-12 P. P.
13-21 P. P.
22-25 P. P.
25-28 Dict. P. 11
26-33 P. P.
Chapter cited 2 Adver. 1719

COMMENTARY: The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace.

in studying the text of this chapter of Daniel, in connection with the references given to it by Swedenborg in his explanations of the Word, it is well to note that he adds to it three verses of the following chapter, giving to this one thirty-three verses, and making the thirty-third verse answer to verse three of chapter four. Nebuchadnezzar is a representative of the infernal love of dominion which endeavors to reduce all things into submission to itself, to gain power over the souls of men, and even to invade heaven itself. It may be said that this infernal love has prevailed in all ages and among all classes of men, unless we except the state of mankind before the fall, which was one of innocence and trust in the Lord.

It is customary to regard Babylon as a type of the Roman Catholic Religion. In the explanations given by Swedenborg he shows how the Roman Catholic Church, through the papal power, has exercised this unholy love and brought its members into entire subjection. When they have refused obedience to its decrees, it has pronounced excommunication upon them, and the punishments of hell have been held out to them as their lot after death. (See AE 1029.) The conduct of the rulers of this church is foretold in this chapter in what is said of the conduct of the Chaldeans, who accused the Jews of not worshiping the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar set up. (Verses 8-12.)

The Chaldeans denote those who are in falsities. The rage of the king against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego called in the Hebrew tongue, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who were accused, knew no bounds, and he ordered these three men to be cast into the furnace of fire. The imagery prefigures the hatred of the rulers of the Church of Rome against those who would not obey them.

But we must not narrow down our interpretations to one age of the Christian Church. We should endeavor to learn not only its particular meaning with reference to one church or dispensation, but its larger and more universal meaning. Babylon, under the Hebrew form, Babel, is spoken of in Genesis, where the building of the tower of Babel is described. There it refers to the prevalence of the love of dominion in the Ancient Church, denoted by Noah, which came to an end from that cause.

The same infernal love prevailed in the Jewish Church. This church or its members would have been utterly destroyed, naturally as well as spiritually, had it not been kept alive by outward conformity to the law. It was necessary to preserve some knowledge of Jehovah through the written Word which was committed to their keeping. Their worship was profaned before the captivity, and at the best it had never been anything more than the semblance or outward representation of the pure worship of the Lord. In all the permissions of the Divine Providence He regards the preservation of the truth in some form as the final end. Had all knowledge of God been lost with the Jewish people or nation, a New Church could not have been raised up at the time of the Lord's coming on the earth. The final consummation of the Jewish Church through the love of dominion and the consequent profanation of the Word, is foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter four, under the figure of Babylon, and the Divine judgement upon it in chapters twenty-one, forty-seven, and forty-eight.

Babylon is also spoken of when the future state of the Christian Church is foretold in the Book of Revelation, called "The Apocalypse," particularly in the seventeenth chapter of that book, under the figure of a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast. In the explanations of the meaning of the Apocalypse given to the New Church, it is declared that the woman thus described represents and signifies the Roman Catholic Religion, which, although originally founded upon the Word, was afterwards wholly corrupted and finally judged.

We have, therefore, types of this love of dominion in all parts of the Word, as it has been manifested in all the different churches and branches thereof. In the universal, spiritual meaning its corrupting influence is portrayed with reference to every individual man who suffers himself to be governed by it.

The story contained in this third chapter of Daniel illustrates in a vivid manner how this evil love endeavors to bring all men under its dominion, and, failing that, to visit them with cruel punishment; and, on the other hand, how those who are subjected to danger and sufferings are preserved from destruction by the Lord.

The king Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image, sixty cubits high and six cubits broad, and set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. The image was probably gilded and not of solid gold. The measurements given are probably Babylonian, and may be taken as one hundred feet and ten feet, respectively, English measure. This gilded image is not described as to its form or features. It was doubtless in the human form and may have been an image of the king himself.

We know that it represents the love of dominion from the love of self which filled the heart of the king. From this infernal love he desired to have all nations and people bow down to him. He made himself a god. Gold corresponds to the good of love, the celestial principle which leads men to worship the Lord, to acknowledge all good to be from Him who is the highest good, and to desire that this good may be received by all. But when this good becomes adulterated, mixed with the evil of man's selfish nature and turned into its opposite, the gold denotes what may appear to be good in external form, but which is internally evil. It is like gilded fruit which is rotten within. With the evil the good they seek is their own pleasure, and their delight is to persuade others to accede to their wishes or to compel them to yield obedience to their commands. The worship of the golden calf by the Israelites was the lowest manifestation of this love which seeks its gratification in sensual and corporeal pleasures. All who are under the influence of the love of dominion springing from the love of self, give themselves up to such pleasures. History affords us notable examples of the vice and luxury of kings who have exercised despotic power.

It is not said that Nebuchadnezzar, at first, commanded all the people in his kingdom to worship this image. He sent and gathered all the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, councillors, sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, and commanded them to come to the dedication of the image. But when these officers were gathered together and stood before the image, the herald cried aloud and proclaimed to all people, nations, and languages present, that when they heard the sound of different musical instruments they should fall down and worship this image of gold. Whatever is done by a subordinate or agent, by command of another, is done by the will of the principal. Kings and potentates exercise dominion through their subordinates. The Pope of Rome executes his decrees through his cardinals, archbishops, and bishops; and these decrees are just as binding upon the people under them as if he were to command them directly in his own person.

He excites the affections of these subordinates so that they desire to exercise dominion themselves. The sounds of musical instruments correspond to the influence of a variety of affections, by which men are led to take delight in certain good or evil things. In this case, the affections of the people were excited to lead them to worship the golden image. Thus, according to the spiritual idea, men come under the influence of the love of self.

The love of ruling over others is often manifested in a stronger degree by a subordinate ruler than by a principal. But in whatever degree it may exist it always looks to self-elevation and not to the good of others. Where the freedom of others is not regarded, in the exercise of authority, government is not from heaven. No one can be led to good, except in a state of freedom and in the exercise of rationality. It is not difficult, therefore, to see that the worship of the golden image denotes the submission of the human will and understanding to the influence of self-love, either in ourselves or in others. Those who come under its influence are always ready to accuse others of evil, especially when others are not willing to yield submission to their personal authority. They become filled with the fire of hatred towards those who do not pay them homage, and act towards them with cruelty. The history of the Christian Church is filled with examples of this kind.

We are not to understand that this evil arises from the exercise of authority in one particular form of government more than in another. Whenever the government is that of the human will arbitrarily exercised without any law, that is, uninfluenced by the truth and without regard to the good of all, it is infernal, not heavenly.

The three men of the Jews who refused to bow down to the golden image, represent all those in the church who acknowledge and worship the Lord, and are therefore unwilling to come under the dominion of self-love whether exercised by one man or by many. This love, however, may become dominant in the individual without its being exercised directly over others. The idolatry of self is more dangerous than the worship of others. We may submit to the will of others and love them with natural affection for something which appears good in them. But, if we worship ourselves, we desire that all should honor, love, and obey us.

These three men of the Jews had all along refused to be fed with the king's meat. They received knowledge from their God, were governed by His spirit, and therefore could not worship any other. The command of the king to cast them into the furnace of fire is indicative of the burning hatred of the evil love of ruling over others exercised towards those who will not come under their dominion. As before remarked, the pains and torments of hell-fire were promised to those who did not confess that they believed in the decrees of the pope. But the Lord protects those who put their trust in Him. Latimer and Cranmer endured the torment of the flames while proclaiming their faith. It is declared in the narrative that these three men were cast into the furnace of fire "bound, in their hosen, their tunics, and their mantles, and their other garments," and that while those who cast them in were burned with the flame of the fire, the Jews came out unhurt; indeed, that "the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their hosen changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them." This has been regarded by many as one of the most wonderful miracles recorded in the Bible. It seems to show that under certain conditions fire will not burn or destroy. If this is true spiritually, if men or spirits can be protected by the Lord from the fire of hatred and passion which would destroy them, cannot the same power, without violating any law of order, overcome the influence of the natural elements? "When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you." (Isa. 43:2.)

The human body can be protected from the action of heat by moisture. Men handle molten metal in this way. It is a little remarkable that some such idea seems to have been in the mind of the one who wrote the "Song of the three Hebrew Children" in the Apocryphal additions to the Book of Daniel, where we are told that they were "surrounded by a moist, whistling wind." May we not rather say that they were surrounded by a natural atmosphere, corresponding to the spiritual atmosphere, which was produced by the presence of angels, by whom they were protected. The Divine power overruled the action of the elements, as was the case when the Lord walked upon the Sea of Galilee and quelled the storm. The spiritual meaning seems to require actuality in the things recorded, otherwise there would be no basis for this meaning and we might be led to doubt the truth of the whole narrative. Some in the New Church have believed that the whole transaction took place in the spiritual world, and they confirm this idea by the statement in the narrative that when the king looked into the furnace he saw four men, and that the "form of the fourth was like the Son of God." The inference is that the spiritual sight of the king was opened that he saw the spiritual forms of the three men, and the fourth form was that of an angel who was filled with the Divine Spirit or Presence, and is therefore called the "Son of God," according to the common version.

This commingling of natural scenes with spiritual ones is difficult to understand, although there are similar things in other parts of the Word, as in the case of Abraham entertaining three angels at the door of his tent. The theophanies of Scripture are too frequent to admit of denial unless we reject the Word entirely. Let us not, however, regard the term "Son of God" as the same as that used in the New Testament. In fact the correct translation is "son of the gods" as in the text of the Revised Version. The fourth form, I take it, was that of an angel, and such an appearance could not have been an object of natural sight. Let us be careful, however, how we treat the Word in the letter, or do away with the literal statements of natural fact or spiritual phenomena. The statement is plainly made that the three men came forth out of the midst of the fire, and those who cast them into the fire were burned themselves a fulfillment of the spiritual law that the evil which men would do to others returns upon themselves.

The king, when he saw that these men walked forth unhurt, commanded that they should be promoted in the province of Babylon. This may not be taken as an evidence of change of heart on the part of the king. Evil-minded men do from compulsion what they will not do voluntarily.

In conclusion we submit the caution to adhere to the mode of interpretation given in the writings of the New Church. Where it is stated in the letter of the Word that things were seen in vision, or where angels are mentioned as appearing to men, we must interpret such statements in the light of what is taught in the New Church of the relation of the natural world to the spiritual world and of man's spiritual nature and connection with that world, and not relegate to the domain of speculation what is clearly revealed by the Lord in His Holy Word.

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