The three Hebrews possessed the faith and hope of Job:
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Their
confidence in God made Nebuchadnezzar furious and his attitude
toward them changed; they had challenged him and his gods. He
ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than
usual. Literally, the text reads, “one times seven beyond,”
which is heat raised to a factor of seven. Symbolically, this
phrase indicates extremely hot. This extraordinary heating of
the furnace opens the door for the performing of a miracle by
God, who specializes in the impossible (Luke 1:37).
Babylonian stone and brick furnaces were made like recent-day
limekilns, with one opening at the top and a large opening at
the bottom, for the withdrawing of burned substances. Charcoal
normally served as the fuel. This furnace had a ramp leading
to its top since the soldiers “took up” the condemned men.
This furnace may have been constructed to smelt the gold used
in making the image. God used it for another purpose—to
overrule evil for good.
Nebuchadnezzar is intensely
hot, the furnace is intensely hot, and the three victims are
amazingly cool! Firmly tied, they dropped down the shaft to
the bottom of the furnace. The strong soldiers, who threw the
three Jews into the furnace, were incinerated by the flames.
Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and sprang to his feet.
Five things amazed the king.
- Four persons were seen instead of three.
- No one was bound.
- Four persons were walking in the fire; no
one was lying down.
- All four persons were unhurt.
- The fourth person looked supernatural—“a son
of the gods.”
When God performs a miracle, He overrules natural order
so that His power is unmistakable, and there is no other
explanation for what occurred.
Nebuchadnezzar almost made the correct identification:
“the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Whom did the
king see? An angel sent by God or one who looks like “a
son of the gods.” Of course, that is what the king said he
saw. Most likely, the king saw a theophany. In the OT,
Yahweh sometimes appeared in human form as He appeared
before Samson’s parents (Judges 13:10-22). It is probable
that such appearances are the Second Person of the
Moses had encountered the angel of
Yahweh, who appeared in the burning bush that was not
consumed (Exodus 3:2). Keeping the flames of the fiery
furnace from consuming the three Jews was nothing new.
Figuratively, we might say that God had permitted the Jews
to be cast into the horrifying furnace of Babylon, but in
so doing, He had literally gone with them!
Interestingly, the meanings of the Hebrew names of the
three men are fulfilled by God’s presence, protection and
power in the fiery furnace.
Hananiah Beloved of
Mishael Who is as God.
Azariah Yahweh is
Yahweh is God, He loves His people, and
He helps them. Where were the king’s gods? Not in the
fiery furnace! Nebuchadnezzar must have recognized their
absence when he confessed “the Most High God” along with
his cry of defeat: “Come out! Come here!”
Humiliation! How would the king handle it? His strongest
soldiers dead; unbound Hebrews alive; the only thing
associated with the three men that suffered harm in the
furnace had been the king’s rope; the hair of the three
men was not singed; and their clothing did not even smell
of smoke. Ironically, on the day that had been set aside
for the dedication and worship of the golden image, the
Most High God received the glory!