The Three Hebrew Boys
Text: Daniel Chapters 1, 2, 3
Today’s lesson is about three boys about your age who chose to do the right thing. These Hebrew boys were from nobility who had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; but though in an unfamiliar country, and prisoners to the powerful king Nebuchadnezzar, they were not scared to decline to say no that would cause them to sin against God. They refused the king’s food (like old meat and wine). They went to the best schools and could read, write, and do math very well. The Babylonian king knew this and ordered that they educated in Babylon (or “Babylonian” way, which is another name for the Chaldeans now.). Their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Young Daniel "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank." So he pleaded with the king's captain to let him and his friends eat vegetables (pulse), and plain water. God was with the boys. An experiment was made for ten days. On the eleventh day they were found to be looking better than the others that ate the king’s food and wine. When they stood before the king three years later, they were smarter and healthier than the other children. The last three of these are sometimes called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Later, Daniel is promoted and leaves the three (Chapter 2) because he interprets a dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up, and I will give them a heart to know Me for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:4-7, see also Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Jeremiah 27:22; 29:10-14; 32:36-38).
There is a strong note of irony here. The Jewish captives of Babylon are in bondage because of their idolatry (see Isaiah 2; 30:19-22; 31:7; Jeremiah 8:19; Ezekiel 5:1-12; 6:1-10; 14:1-5; 16:15-23; 20:39-40; 22:1-4; 23). Israel was commanded not to make or worship idols, on penalty of death. Until their Babylonian captivity, they persisted in their idolatry. Idolatry was one of the reasons for their being in Babylon.
Now, with the making of this golden image and the dedication ceremony, Daniel’s three friends find themselves commanded to worship this idol, or die. God said, “Worship idols and die,” while Nebuchadnezzar said, “Worship my idol or die.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were determined to flee from idolatry, even if it meant death; Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to practice idolatry, or they would surely die. In doing what seemed to lead to certain death (refusing to bow down to the golden image), the three Hebrews were delivered from death. These three remained faithful to God and to His law, even when threatened with the fiery furnace. In contrast, Israel persisted in her idolatry, even when warned not to do so. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are the ideal Israelites, who obey God’s law even when it is life-threatening. They would rather face the wrath of men than the wrath of God.
Years later as young men, the king wanted them to bow down to his statue as if he was a God. When they refused, King Nebuchadnezzar decided to publically burn them. He ordered the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal. Their hands were tied and were cast into the blazing furnace. Even the soldiers near the furnace were burned. When the King saw what looked to be four men in the furnace, released and walking around. One looked like the Son of God. He wanted to speak to them. King Nebuchadnezzar then accepted God, and made a law to leave them and their people alone. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could rule over parts of Babylon. They trusted in God’ salvation for doing what was right.