Articles home page

The fiery furnace: "and if he doesn't rescue us..."?

(Garth D. Wiebe, May 2024, added verse 16, June 2024)

I looked carefully at both the Aramaic original, LXX Greek translation, and Latin Vulgate translation of what Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) said to Nebuchadnezzar that so suddenly enraged him. Most translations have them telling him that God was able to save them, but even if he didn't, they would not bow down to the statue. That wouldn't have enraged Nebuchadnezzar. Although Nebuchadnezzar was determined that the Hebrews would submit and bow to the statue, or else get thrown into the furnace, he was trying to give them an opportunity to change their minds. Something they said suddenly enraged him, and then caused him to order the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. What I found out was this "if our God saves us...but if he doesn't..." clause was not justified in translation, but that what they said was far more provocative, which is that God was both able and would save them, and that Nebuchadnezzar should know better. These were men of faith who minced no words.

Dan 3:16 (Aramaic Masoretic, c. 800 A.D.) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded and declared to the king, "Nebuchadnezzar, we not having need in this command to answer you, [17] if this be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the fiery burning furnace and out of your hand, the king. He will deliver. [18] And, if not being known to you [ ידיע להוא לך, peal passive participle, not verb imperative], the king, that the gods of you we will not serve, and the golden image that you have set up, we will not worship."

Dan 3:16 (LXX Koine Greek, c. 200 B.C.) Yet answering, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego say to the king, "Nebuchadnezzar, king, we are not having need upon this, the directive, to answer to you, [17] for there is being God in heavens into Lord of us, whom we fear, who is able to deliver us out of the furnace of the fire, and out of the hands of you, king. He will deliver us. [18] And then he will be being manifest to you [φανεροω σοι εσται, intransitive linking verb + adjective of "reveal"], that neither the idol of you we will serve nor the image of you, the golden, which you placed, we worship."

Dan 3:16 (Latin Vulgate, St. Jerome, 405 A.D.) Responding, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego have said to king, "Nebuchadnezzar, it is not necessary, we from this matter, to respond to you. [17] Behold, for our God, whom we worship, is able to rescue us from furnace of burning fire, and from your hand, o king, to set free. [18] Because if he will have been unwilling, having been known [Latin "notum," perfect passive participle, not verb imperative], he would be to you, king, because we are not worshiping your gods, and golden statue, which you have raised, we are not honoring."
It's a little awkward in English the way I translated these so literally, very close to word for word. Note that the LXX Greek is the translation of the Jews in the third century B.C. of the Aramaic scriptures. This is a totally different language, but the same people, so it confirms that modern translators are not getting the Aramaic right, since the Jews at that time were able to both speak and write Aramaic and Koine Greek fluently. Besides that, most translations are controlled by Catholic/Anglican/Calvinist institutions, which are going to favor that kind of view of God. But even St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate doesn't really have the modern clause. Yet it is clear that the sense of what the three Hebrews are conveying, though polite, is provocative, that not only will they not bow down to the statue, not only that they are confident that God will deliver them, but it gives us the sense that they are conveying to Nebuchadnezzar that he lacks knowledge of God and should know better. And that's what set him off on a rage.

The bottom line is that these three men had an unwavering and uncompromising faith in God, with the sure confidence that God would deliver them as a result.

No copyrightI grant this work to the public domain.