Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace
Nebuchadnezzar sees four men, unbound and walking freely about in the midst of the fire.
king, grew in power until he became the greatest king in the world at that time. Year after year he added new countries to his kingdom, and in every country the people feared him greatly. These things caused him to become very proud, and to think himself a wonderful man indeed.
Then Nebuchadnezzar decided to make a god and compel the people of every country to worship that god. So he built a great image, ninety feet high, and covered it with gold. This image he set up on the plain of Dura, which was near Babylon. There it could be seen at a great distance.
After the image had been set up, the King sent a command to the princes and rulers and officers in every nation, that they should come to the great gathering on the plain of Dura. And they dared not disobey. When they came together, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel's three friends, were among them. For some reason Daniel himself was not there.
King Nebuchadnezzar was pleased to see such a vast company of men assembled on the plain before the image.
He wished to have every one of them bow down and worship the god that he had made, so he caused one of his servants to cry out in a loud voice and say: "O people, nations, and languages, to you it is commanded that when the sound of music is heard you must fall down upon your knees before this great image of gold, which the King has set up. But if you refuse to fall down and worship the image, then you shall be thrown into a furnace of fire."
Soon afterwards the music began to play, and the people feel down on their knees, trembling in fear of the great King who had given such a stern command. All the people except three men bowed with their faces to the ground. These three stood up boldly, and would not kneel at all. They were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Because Nebuchadnezzar had given these young men positions of honor in the kingdom, some of the Chaldeans were jealous of them.
And now these jealous Chaldeans watched to see if Daniel's friends would kneel before the image. When they saw the young men standing bravely alone among all the kneeling princes and nobles, they hurried to tell Nebuchadnezzar.
And Nebuchadnezzar was surprised to hear that these men had dared to disobey his command. He knew they were good rulers, and he did not wish to destroy them in the furnace of fire. He thought perhaps they might have misunderstood, so he sent for them at once, and told them that he would give them another chance to obey.
But they bravely answered: "O King, we will not accept another chance. We will not bow before your image, for we will not worship any god except the one true God. And our God is so great that he can deliver us from the fiery furnace that you have prepared. But even if he will not deliver us from any such a death, we will not worship any other god."
Nebuchadnezzar could not understand why these Jews should refuse to worship the image, and he was very angry indeed. He believed these young men were too stubborn to obey him, and he no longer wished to spare their lives from the cruel furnace.
He commanded his servants to throw more fuel into the fire and make it seven times hotter than it had been before. Then he called the mightiest men of his army and gave them orders to bind stout cords around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and throw them like pieces of wood into the fire.
But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not afraid. They stood quietly while the mighty men wound the cords tightly around their bodies, and they did not cry out when the men picked them up and threw them into the furnace. But the flames leaped out of the furnace door and killed the mighty soldiers who carried them to the place of burning.
Nebuchadnezzar sat in his royal chair near by, watching. He saw the flames leap out and burn the soldiers to death. He saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fall, bound hand and foot, into the fire.
Then his eyes grew wide in surprise; for he saw the three men who had dared to disobey his command rise up and walk about in the fire with no cords to hinder them. And another Person, one who looked to the astonished King like a god, was walking about with them in the furnace.
At first Nebuchadnezzar refused to believe his own eyes. He called to the nobles who stood near his chair and asked, "Did we not cast only three men into the fire?"
They replied, "True, O King."
"But now I see four men, unbound and walking freely about in the midst of the awful flame!" he cried out. "They seem to have no hurt and the fourth one is like a god."
Now Nebuchadnezzar rose from his royal chair in haste and ran to the door of the furnace. He called loudly to the three men and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the Most High God, come forth! and come to me at once!"
The princes and nobles and rulers of the kingdom gathered around in amazement to see these three men walk out of the fire and come before Nebuchadnezzar. And they saw that the fire had not harmed these Jews at all.
Not even had their hair been singed by the flames, and the smell of fire was not noticed on their garments. But the stout cords that the soldiers had wrapped tightly around them before throwing them into the furnace had been burned to ashes.
Nebuchadnezzar was no longer angry with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now he believed they were great men, and he wished to honor them. He knew they served a great God, one who could do miracles, and he blessed the God of the Jews.
He said to all the people, "Now I shall make another commandment, that no man in all my kingdom shall speak one word against the God of these brave men."
And after this Nebuchadnezzar set these men up in higher places in his kingdom.
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