(29) Daniel in the Firing Line
The third story of Daniel is another familiar one, but it’s set in a very unfamiliar historical world—a real historical world, however; not an imaginary one.
1. Read Daniel 3:1. Why do you think Nebuchadnezzar does this? (It’s probably a wood statue overlaid with gold)
a. Could it be related to that first dream with the head of gold?
b. What do we, business leaders, national leaders etc do that might be similar to this, and what tempts us?
2. Read Daniel 3:2. What is Nebuchadnezzar doing?
a. Okay, we don’t demand that other people worship Hollywood or other nations worship American-style democracy… do we? How do we risk making other nations and faiths view us this way?
b. Is Nebuchadnezzar being intentionally evil? What’s the difference between intentional evil and accidental evil?
3. Read Daniel 3:7. Do you stand for the national anthem?
a. What calls us to worship? What should call us to worship?
b. What is worship?
4. Read Daniel 3:8-12 Is Nebuchadnezzar searching out people who disobey, or just working toward unity?
a. Are the Chaldeans trying to serve their king or trying to gain power for themselves?
b. Do we ever try to gain points with God?
5. Read Daniel 3:13-18 Why is Nebuchadnezzar so angry? Why does losing face hurt so much?
a. Does Nebuchadnezzar think the statue is a god? Does he think God is power? How might that relate to Christian belief that God is love?
b. Nebuchadnezzar did respect God—has he forgotten who interpreted his dream? When are we tempted to put our own plans and needs above God’s plan?
c. What kind of faith do Daniel’s friends show? How easily do we assume God will do as we ask?
6. Read Daniel 3:19-23.
a. What interpretation might the Jews have put on heating the furnace to 7 times its usual heat?
b. What interpretation do you put on the fact that they “fell down” into the furnace?
c. Modern archeology suggests they “fell down” because they were thrown into the furnace from the top. Does this change your view of what’s happening?
d. Modern science suggests the furnace was overheated and blew itself out—the blast killing the (over-dressed) jailers who stood ready to throw them down, and the return draft dragging the prisoners in? Does a scientific explanation threaten faith?
7. Read Daniel 3:24-25. Who is the fourth man?
8. Read Daniel 3:26-30. Combining archeology and science, they would have been thrown from the top into a furnace which blew itself out. They now exit through the side where the flames are normally fed.
a. Who is the angel?
b. How much do you think Nebuchadnezzar understands about God at this point?
c. Does God want all those who speak ill of him to get chopped up?
d. Some Bible versions include Azariah’s song of praise (verse 24-45). How do you feel about disagreements over which pieces are accepted in the Bible?
Then there’s a fourth story—Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream:
1. Read Daniel 4:1-3. How does this compare with the first words of various epistles? Does God change?
2. Read Daniel 4:4-9. How does he name Daniel? What does this tell us about how he views God?
a. Can someone recognize the Holy Spirit without knowing God?
3. Read Daniel 4:10-18. Can you paraphrase Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
a. What is a watcher? Medieval Jewish scholars considered watchers as being like angels, never-sleeping like God.
b. Does this dream sound more personal than the first one?
c. Does this dream sound more scary?
4. Read Daniel 4:19, 24-27. Why is Daniel upset? Isn’t Nebuchadnezzar the enemy?
a. If we heard such a prophecy about our enemies, how would we react?
b. If Nebuchadnezzar had listened, would he have been spared the fulfilment of this prophecy?
c. Who can you think of that listened and was spared?
5. Read Daniel 4:29-32. Some translations say “seven times,” and others “seven years.” Why might that be?
a. Did you know there is evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s illness, recorded in a document in the British Museum? How should we react when people say there’s no evidence of something in the Bible?
b. Did you know there’s another document which says Nebuchadnezzar had no joy in his kingdom for four years? But four isn’t seven. How should we react when people say evidence conflicts the Bible? (seven times could be seven seasons which, in a culture that only has two seasons per year, is kind of four years)
6. Read Daniel 4:33-37
a. What do you think his illness might have been?
b. Does Nebuchadnezzar’s recovery inspire hope?
c. Does Nebuchadnezzar’s praise inspire hope?
d. Why might documents describing this event be hard to find in Babylon? The Babylonians didn’t keep great written records; e.g. no Babylonian document records the siege of Tyre, but Tyre was under their power, and there is a record of food being sent to aid the army marching to Tyre.