Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Men in the Old Testament

  • This story appears in the third chapter of Daniel.
  • King Nebuchadnezzar built an enormous statue of gold that was 96 feet tall and 9 feet wide.
  • Archeology confirms that such statues existed in antiquity.
  • The story doesn't tell us who the statue represented. Some think it was one of Nebuchadnezzar's gods or maybe it was a statue of him.
  • He demanded that all ranking officials pledge their loyalty to him by worshiping the statue, thus boosting his ego.
  • When the music played, the people fell prostrate. (Six instruments are mentioned. Their common denominator is that they were all loud!)
  • Ordinary people were exempt from worshiping at the sound of music.
  • Nebuchadnezzar had appointed the three Hebrew men over the administration of the province of Babylon as a favor to Daniel.
  • Pledging their loyalty to the king was no problem; worshiping his god was a serious problem (it violated the Second Commandment).
  • Needless to say, their promotion irritated certain Chaldeans who began looking for a way to get them in trouble.
  • The decree was that anyone who didn't fall down and worship the statue would immediately be thrown into a fiery furnace.
  • The Chaldeans were only too happy to point out to Nebuchadnezzar that the three Hebrew men were not bowing down.
  • Their accusation is forceful and could be literally translated: "They ate the Judeans to pieces."
  • The king flew into a rage and demanded they be brought to him immediately.
  • He did not blindly accept the accusations against them; he gave them a chance to prove themselves.
  • He offered them a choice: worship or the fiery furnace, i.e. life or death.
  • The three men chose a principled stance: they would not worship another god (which would break the first two Commandments) regardless of the outcome.
  • "If our God is able to save us, he will; even if he should not, we will not worship."
  • The three men stay calmly confident in contrast to the raging fury of the king.
  • This made the king even angrier and he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual.
  • The guards were ordered to bind them and throw them in the furnace - they didn't even have time to strip them.
  • The irony is that the furnace was so hot it killed the men who threw them in.
  • The three men were not saved from the furnace; they were saved in it.
  • But shortly, Nebuchadnezzar noticed four men walking unharmed among the flames. He identified the fourth as a divine being.
  • Immediately, he called to the three men and told them to come out. (Apparently the furnace had a door on the bottom as well as an opening at the top.)
  • When they did, they were untouched. Neither their hair nor their clothes were singed; there was not even the smell of fire upon them.
  • Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who rescued his servants who trusted in him!
  • He was so humbled that he made a new decree: Thereafter no one could utter any insult against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If any did, they would be dismembered and their house destroyed.
  • Nebuchadnezzar recognized that no other God could have delivered them in this way.
  • Their ordeal had a positive effect in that their religion was given official recognition and protection.
  • Then he promoted the three men once again.


Goldingay, John. "Daniel." Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1989.

Lucas, Ernest. "Daniel." Apollos Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Redditt, Paul. "Daniel." The New Century Bible Commentary. Sheffield, Great Britain: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.

Russell, D.S. "Daniel." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1981.

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