Notes on the Book of Daniel: Chapter 3

Chapter 3:

v.1: Although, as Barnes points out, the Greek and Arabic translations say this was eighteen years into the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, I think that those translations must preserve a footnote that found its way into the text after the original composition.  To me it would make sense to assume that this story happened on the heels of the preceding one, mainly because (although the text does not say) I think this statue was inspired by Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  This statue certainly resembles the dream figure in majesty, and Nebuchadnezzar may have chosen gold because the gold head on his dream figure represented the king himself.  Finding the story immediately after the preceding one just seems to suggest that to me.  Anyway, the only real reason that Barnes thinks this is eighteen years later is the fact that Nebuchadnezzar seems so quick to turn on the servants of God after his convicting experience of the previous chapter.  However, I don’t believe that Nebuchadnezzar understood the worship of this statue to be in conflict with the Hebrew God and so might not have expected this reaction on the part of the Jews.  Having been made aware of their disobedience, however, he could easily have turned this quickly on the Jews, given his unstable personality. Remember how quickly he condemned all the wise men in 2:12.

v. 6: This is very interesting to consider.  Obviously there was suspicion that the command would not be obeyed or there would not have been such a harsh penalty for disobedience here.  But if pagans were given to incorporating other gods into their worship, I wonder why there would be doubt on this point?  I have two possible answers:

1) Bowing to the statue may have been seen more tangibly, in the eyes of pagans, as giving homage Nebuchadnezzar, and so the action may have been refused on political grounds rather than religious, and this could be what the king suspected might happen.

2) The decree was issued at the urging of Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men because of their jealousy of the Jews.  True, one would think that the wise men would be grateful to the Jews for their help[1], but it is also possible that they (or some significant portion of them) were jealous of Daniel and his friends, just as the satraps in chapter 6 are jealous of Daniel’s influence with Darius.

v. 19: Nebuchadnezzar has a personality similar to that of King Saul.  On some level, he wants to do right, but his unstable personality and violent temper usually control his actions.[2] I believe that Nebuchadnezzar had been trying to maintain a calm manner (vs. 14-15), but here he takes the Jews’ answer as a personal affront, and he becomes as furious again as he was when he first learned of their resolve (vs. 8-13).

[1] See note on 2:27.

[2] It is interesting that both kings suffered from madness.  The Biblical narratives seem to suggest that their wicked choices led to madness.  Obviously, not all madness is the result of wicked choices, but I do believe that some madness can be.


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