In Daniel 3, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—known also as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were repeatedly tempted to forsake God by bowing to the golden image. Nebuchadnezzar even provided an easy way out by offering another opportunity to worship this idol.
Unwaveringly, these three stood up to the most powerful ruler in the ancient Near East at the time. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us” (v. 17). But their faith and resolve were made explicit through the following words: “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18).
Daniel and his three friends’ refusal to capitulate pointed to the fact that no punishment for disobeying the king—neither lions nor fiery furnace—could ever exceed disobedience to the King of kings.
After the furnace was heated seven times hotter than normal, Nebuchadnezzar ordered some of his men to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with all their clothes (v. 20–21). Because the furnace was so hot, the consuming flames killed the mighty men who bound the young Hebrews, causing the three friends to fall bound into the fiery furnace (v. 23). An astonished Nebuchadnezzar declared, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” (v. 24).
Notice the fourfold repetition of “bound.” Reiteration is like a spotlight in a play, focusing our attention on the key point. A double iteration could be incidental. A triple occurrence is surely intentional. Yet a quadruple repetition is forceful and provocative.
Why? Elucidation comes from Nebuchadnezzar’s own lips: “I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt” (v. 25). The Aramaic word translated “unbound,” sherayin, may also be rendered as “liberated” or “freed.” The flames did not touch the three men’s bodies, hair, or cloaks—not even a scent of smoke prevailed (v. 27). The only thing that God allowed to burn was the very rope that bound them.