WORD STUDY – THIS MATTER
Daniel 3:16-18: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it be so our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if he does not, let it be known to you O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
These three Hebrew young men were pretty insolent to the king. Not only do they refuse to bow down to his idol, but they address the king simply as “Nebuchadnezzar.” Even the “O” as you see in most translations is not in the original Aramaic. They don’t prefix it with “King” nor do they end it with “live forever.” Even Daniel had the protocol to do that. Their response was a blunt, lo chashechin. The KJV translates this rather nicely: “we are not careful to answer you.” Basically that is what lo chashechin means, “we do not need to answer you.” It has the idea of a careless answer, and can be expressed as, “I don’t have to answer to you.” But note they add the word pitegam which is rendered on this matter. Pithegam is not a matter but a decree, a demand or command. The word matter is pithegam which is a decree. They were not in a blanket defiance against the king, only in this particular decree. Herein lies a real lesson. When we are under Godless leadership we are obligated to obey except when it is in directly against the command of God.
We need to look at the situation here. These three young men, along with Daniel, had earlier made a very strong impression on King Nebuchadnezzar when Daniel interpreted his dream. When Nebuchadnezzar heard that the three refused to worship his idol he was enraged. He called for them and characteristically would have had them cast into the furnace right away, but instead he gave them another chance. Nebuchadnezzar had to be spooked out with these guys to begin with. He had a sense that he was dealing with the true God Jehovah, thanks to Daniel, and he probably was not too keen are crossing Him up. Now he finds himself confronted with a challenge before all his subjects, will he back down to this God that he recognizes and face disgrace before his subjects? The three young people most likely knew the respect Nebuchadnezzar had for their God, which may explain their flippant attitude. “Go ahead, try it, we dare you, our God will crush you so fast you won’t even be grease spot.”
The next verse is little difficult to translate out of the Aramaic. Basically, what the young men tell Nebuchadnezzar is, “If our God is able, He will deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire.” The next word should really be then not and. “Then he will deliver us from your hand (or your power). The word deliver is shazav which means to rescue, but this form is a Pael infinitive. Again to use a Pael infinitive would really be taunting the old King because they would be saying: “If our God is able he can rescue us from the fire, then we will really be rescued from your power. In other words, “If our God pulls this off, we will never have to submit to your power. It will prove who is in charge.”
It is at that point that they add their final insult to this king who dared to defy their God. “But even if He doesn’t choose to rescue us, we are still not going to worship your gods.”
Depending on what translation you use, you kind of get the impression that these three young men fully expected to be delivered from the furnace. However, from my reading of the text, I don’t think they were sure they were going to be rescued. The emphasis is not on the confidence that they would be rescued, but on their commitment to not bow down to any other god.
Throughout Church History and even today there are Christians like these three young Hebrew men who take their stand for God, but they are not delivered. Christians have been thrown to lions, burned at the stake, and in modern times, tortured, shot, hung, etc. Like the Hebrew young men, they stood and said: “My God can rescue me, but even if He doesn’t, I am not about to deny Him.” In this country we do not face such a decision, or do we?
Not too long ago there was a movie, Hacksaw Ridge, based upon a true story of Desmond Doss who joined the army during World War II as a combat medic. He refused to carry a rifle as his faith in God forbid him to do it. He was by all accounts an excellent soldier except he would not carry a rifle. He suffered much persecution and was labeled a coward, yet he saved the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers and won the medal of honor. Desmond Doss was a modern day Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Desmond Doss quietly faced persecution, beatings, and a court martial for his beliefs. In the end he is seen before his fellow soldiers, those who mocked him, beat him and called him a coward for not carrying a rifle and he is praying. The men, the modern day Nebuchadnezzars, refused to go into battle until their medic had finished praying. Yes, the story of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego still applies especially in pithegam the decree that goes against the will of God.