Daniel 3:25 and 3:28
Why in Daniel 3:25 does Nebuchadnezzar first say that “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” but then in 3:28 he says that God “hath sent his angel” to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego?
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. (Daniel 3:24–25)
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. (Daniel 3:28)
It is my understanding that Nebuchadnezzar meant what he said in both places, (and that what he said is exactly as the KJV says), and that what he said in both places is indicative of how well, (and how not so well), he was responding to the information with which God was confronting him.
Before dealing with this, first keep in mind that much of what the opening chapters of Daniel set forth is information about how God was dealing with Nebuchadnezzar, along with specific information that God was giving to him to which he was expected to respond in a particular way.
For as God had indicated through Jeremiah and Ezekiel when He began to bring the first set of judgments of Israel’s Fifth Course of Punishment upon them, He was going to make Nebuchadnezzar ‘His servant’ in more ways than one. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar would not only ‘serve God’s purpose’ in judging Israel, but God would also use him as ‘His servant’ in some other ways.
One of these other ways would be for the dispensing of further information regarding Israel’s Fifth Course of Punishment. And this particular aspect of God’s use of Nebuchadnezzar got underway by means of the dream that God gave to him, as related in Daniel chapter 2.
Now in connection with this, as far as Nebuchadnezzar himself is concerned he was also given the opportunity to respond positively and properly to the information that God was making known through him. And his various actions in response to God’s information are indicative of how well, or how not so well, he himself responded.
For example, his initial response to Daniel, and to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, following God’s first revelation was a positive one. But his making of the “image of gold” unto himself in connection with what that revelation described was not. In fact, his negative responses predominate, as the information in chapter 3 relates.
What’s more, they eventually make it so that God deals with him in the severe manner related in chapter 4 in order to make it so that his negative responses do not continue to hold sway, and so that he does eventually fulfill the remainder of what he is given to do as God’s ‘servant’ during the first installment of Israel’s Fifth Course of Punishment.
Now because of how Nebuchadnezzar responded to the dream revelation in chapter 2, it is my understanding that he meant exactly what he said in both Daniel 3:25 and 3:28. With what he said in 3:25 being the real truth of the matter, but with what he said in 3:28 being the only thing he could confidently state took place.
Simply put my understanding is as follows: When in Daniel 3:25 Nebuchadnezzar said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” he realizes that “the fourth” person he sees is “like the Son of God” whom he had been previously informed about in the interpretation that Daniel had given to him of his dream.
For in accordance with Daniel’s interpretation of his dream back in chapter 2, he was given to know that “the stone” that “was cut out of the mountain without hands” cannot be a mere man at all. But rather that man would have to be “the Son of God,” otherwise he could not be described as he was.
Wherefore when he sees “the fourth” man and perceives that his “form” is clearly different from that of either Shadrach, Meshach, or Abed-nego, it naturally makes him think of that dream. By not having the same “form” as the others, the specific “form” of the “fourth” man made him think of the man that is “the Son of God” in the dream that God had given to him. Hence he said “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Now in view of the dream revelation that God had given to him, he was correct in what he perceived. And even though Nebuchadnezzar with his limited understanding could only say that the “fourth” man was “like the Son of God,” the reason the man was “like the Son of God” is because He indeed was “the Son of God.”
Nebuchadnezzar then responds positively to the issue of God’s deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, declaring that they are the “servants of the most high God” and calling them to “come forth” out of the furnace and to “come hither” unto him, as verses 26 and 27 relate. Moreover he also responds positively by immediately making the pronouncement and decree described in verses 28 and 29.
However when he now speaks of the way by which “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” delivered them, Nebuchadnezzar does not speak of “the fourth” man specifically as “the Son of God.” But now he says that God “sent his angel” and thereby “delivered his servants that trusted in him.”
Now as I said, it is my understanding that Nebuchadnezzar meant what he said this time as well, and that this too is indicative of how he is responding to things.
Hence when Nebuchadnezzar said that God “sent his angel,” this was all that his present understanding would confidently allow him to say had taken place. And he now needed to be able to confidently say what had happened, since he was now not only making a public proclamation, but a legal decree as well.
He therefore needed to be able to confidently state what had happened and what he saw. Plus he also needed to be able to describe it in a way that would be understood by ones who were not privy to the dream revelation that God had previously given to him.
So then the upshot is this: Even though Nebuchadnezzar had previously said that “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” this was all that he could say about him; i.e. that he was “like the Son of God” from what he could perceive. With his measure of understanding he could not confidently declare to others that this is who “the fourth” man was, nor was he expected to be able to do so; (though this is who He was). But that this “fourth” one came from “the God of heaven” and was sent by Him, (which would be true of an “angel”), is a basic truth that Nebuchadnezzar was sure about and could confidently state to others.
Therefore when he makes his public pronouncement and blesses “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego,” this is what he confidently declares happened. And this is what those who heard Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation and decree would be able to readily understand. That is, they could easily understand the issue of God sending an “angel” to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Wherefore we are not to look upon what Nebuchadnezzar said in Daniel 3:28 as if it denies that “the fourth” man was “the Son of God,” or as if it conflicts with 3:25, or as if it later on gives us the proper understanding that it really was only an angel and not the Lord. But rather we are to understand that this was what Nebuchadnezzar was confidently able to say based upon his measure of understanding. Nevertheless what he first perceived “the fourth” man to be “like,” as stated in Daniel 3:25, is in actuality who He was.
– K.R. Blades