Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego saved from the blazing furnace: an example of unwavering faith, or a “sovereign” act of God?
Let’s consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the pagan names by which Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became known). You might want to re-read Daniel chapters 1-3 for this.
I will examine the test in a translation that’s literal and fairly faithful to the original. NKJV suffices in this instance. Please feel free to consult an interlinear for this, to verify with the original text (I have). We will be relying on the inspired original text for the correct understanding. I could have translated this hyper-literally from the original, but I want to make a point that what I am about to say can easily be established based on a literal English translation that’s true to the original like NKJV or YLT, using simple logic.
Daniel 3:1, 4-6 sets up the scene:
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
Daniel’s 3 friends, being true to their Jewish faith that forbade idol worship, didn’t comply. They immediately got reported to the king. Here’s king Nebuchadnezzar’s response:
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
Translator’s additions are in italics, and are not part of the original text.
Please notice the two sets of conditional sentences in v. 15 stating two cause-and-effect scenarios:
King’s two “ifs”
1) If you worship – then nothing (literally, the text says nothing – meaning no consequences to the three youths)
2) If you do not worship – then you shall be cast immediately into the burning fiery furnace.
The king concludes his ultimatum with asking this sarcastic question: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” The ball is now in the hands of the 3 faithful Hebrew young men.
Now, let’s look at their response to the king.