HomeDailyWednesday: The Fourth Man    


Wednesday: The Fourth Man — 22 Comments

  1. The neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire was well within the iron age and would have had the technology to smelt iron ore into iron. This means that they knew how to make furnaces that reach temperatures of around 1400-1500C. You mix iron ore (essentially iron oxide) with carbon (charcoal) and silica (sand) and light a fire underneath it. But you also need bellows to pump air into the fire to make it burn hotter. The description of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 sounds like a primitive blast furnace and would have been well within the reach of the neo-Babylonians. When working at full strength it would easily kill anyone who approached it. We used to visit the BHP steel works in Newcastle and watch the blast furnace and BOC steel maker in operation. One of the human tasks was to retrieve a sample of molten steel for analysis. The person charged with this responsibility was heavily protected with a water-cooled suit and took the sample with a ladle on a long pole that had water running though it so that it did not melt. Tourists like us were kept well away and even at 50 paces we could still feel the heat.

    So much for the mundane stuff. The real story of course is the divine intervention when the three Hebrews were thrown into the furnace. It was hot enough to kill anyone who approached the fire, yet they survived without even the smell of fire on them. It was clear to Nebuchadnezzar that divine intervention had taken place.

    Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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. Dan 3:28

    Of course we can rejoice that the Hebrews were saved and the event was a witness of the power of God. But the story is a troubling one too. How many Christians throughout the millennia perished in the flames of persecution? Was their faith not strong enough? Do we believe because of the miracles? I have to confess that I don’t know the answer to that one, but perhaps the big life question we need to ask ourselves is: How much of our faith is based on signs and wonders?

    Footnote to myself. CS Lewis wrote an interesting little book on the topic, “Miracles”. I have it in my library and I know he discusses this very problem. I will report back in a couple of days time.

  2. The appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ in human form in the fire led me on journey of discovery in the Old Testament of the many instances of Yahweh interacting directly with His people. The lesson mentions a few and there are others. Sometimes it is not clear whether the messenger is an angel or the Son of God, but in the meeting between the Commander of the LORDs army and Joshua outside Jericho it is clear because He allows Joshua to bow down to Him and He says 'the place where you stand is holy'. Joshua 6:14-15
    These interactions between the LORD and His people help us to understand His character of loving kindness Ex 34:6 is also revealed in the OT as well as the NT. That He is not just a God who observes from a distance but comes down to walk among us, and through the Tabernacle dwelt with His people. He is someone to be a friend of and not afraid of.
    Are these appearancs of Jesus in the OT indications of the future revelations of triune nature of the Godhead?

    • To further affirm what Shirley is outlining, there is strong evidence that contrary to the widely held view of the distinction between the God of the Old Testament (Yahweh Elohim) and the Jesus of the New Testament as two different 'persons'/beings, the God of the Old Testament (Yahweh Elohim) and the Jesus of the New Testament (Immanuel) are in fact the same 'person'/being - the I AM (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58) whose dwelling is with mortal flesh (in contrast with Daniel 2:11).

      Ellen White appears to have shared this view as reflected in the following excerpt from Patriarchs and Prophets pg 366.1 (emphasis mine):

      "All the communion between heaven and the fallen race has been through Christ. It was the Son of God that gave to our first parents the promise of redemption. It was He who revealed Himself to the patriarchs. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses understood the gospel. They looked for salvation through man’s Substitute and Surety. These holy men of old held communion with the Saviour who was to come to our world in human flesh; and some of them talked with Christ and heavenly angels face to face."

      This is a very different idea to the one I was raised with and has completely rearranged my mental 'picture' and conception of God when I now read the Old Testament.

  3. I think every one of our lives serves to be a different purpose in the continuation of the work which God has set out for those who faithfully believe in Him. As we grow stronger in faith and become more and more like Him, so too, will our Christian responsibilities towards others also become more focused.

  4. Hello ssnet moderators,
    There seem to be a problem with the daily postings on the blog from this side of the world(Kenya-Africa).Since Thursday we no longer receive the daily postings on the blog as before. Kindly but urgently look into it for we feel isolated.

    Now to my question concerning today's lesson: how is King Nebuchadnezzar a pagan able to tell that the fourth man in the furnace resembles the son of God?(Dan3:25) Did he have an idea of how the the son of God looked like and how?

    • Thank you Benard, we are aware of the problem and are working on it. At the moment it is rather difficult because a couple of us who could fix the problem have not got easy access to the server for a variety or reasons. We will endevour to solve the issue as quickly as possible. In the meantime you can access those same materials from this website.

    • More bible translations translate the phrase in Daniel 3:25 as ‘a son of the gods’ than ‘The Son of God’.

      What appears to be the main point is that there was something about the 4th figure that seemed ‘divine’ rather than merely human - even to Nebuchadnezzar. God is able to reach people where they are at in a way that leads them to progressively greater comprehension - one manageable step at a time.

    • Hi Bernard,
      I don't believe Nebuchadnezzer was identifying the Fourth Man as the pre-incarnate Jesus as we believe He was. Read the verses below - they had been talking about his gods -(they had quite a few and probably had a preconceived idea of what a god looked like) so I believe he thought it was a divine being or a messenger from the gods, and in fact in verse 28 he says it was an angel. In fact he had challenged the 3's god to save them so was almost expecting an appearance.

      The original language does not have capital letters although some translation use them in Dan 3:25.
      Dan 3:15  ...... ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?
      Dan 3:18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image which you have set up.
      Dan 3:25 He answered and said, Behold! I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and there is no harm among them. And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods.
      Dan 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and has delivered his servants who trusted in him, and have changed the king's words and have given their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own god.

    • It was usual among the pagan and they believed that the gods often appeared in a human form, and probably Nebuchadnezzar regarded this as some such celestial appearance.

      He must therefore in my view have regarded it as some manifestation connected with the "Hebrew" form of religion.

    • “The Hebrew captives had told Nebuchadnezzar of Christ, the Redeemer that was to come, and from the description thus given the king recognized the form of the fourth in the fiery furnace as the Son of God.” Christ Triumphant, p. 178

  5. John 16:33 is not a popular verse. It is not a comfortable verse. This verse tells us straight up that in this life within this world, bad stuff is going to happen and we are going to suffer and possibly even die. Having been made aware, we are still taken back when it does happen. It’s not a reality we like to remind ourselves of - or to expect to happen.

    There appear to be two ‘realms’ referred to within this verse. There is this time-limited present world - the temporal realm - and there is the realm in which Jesus has “overcome” - the eternal realm.

    I would propose that we frequently forget - or fail to realise - that God’s priority is the eternal reaching back into the temporal rather than the temporal as the first and foremost focus (eg Luke 12:4,5). This is not to say that God does not care about what happens to us in the temporal, but that His focus is a much bigger picture that changes the perspective of the here and now. As we reflect across biblical history, we see God intervening in our temporal realm in order to establish humanity’s eternity as a whole and individually. For now (the temporal), God has to ‘balance’ the establishment of salvation for all who freely choose to embrace it with the freedom to chose the path of destruction for those who are free to chose the option of sin/lawlessness that produces steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). I see evidence that Paul understood and embraced this (Romans 8:18,35-37; Philippians 3:7-11).

    How does God achieve this balance? I would propose that the Biblical history suggests that God intervened to:
    * keep open the avenue for Messiah,
    * support establishment of faith communities (Eg, Israel in the OT, Christianity in the NT), and
    * support people with receptive hearts coming to faith (Eg, Nebuchadnezzar through his multiple observations of God’s miraculous interventions.

    There is likely to be more elements to the overall picture, but these are some that appear evident as far as I can see at this point.

    The main point is that things that happen to me on any given day are located within a much bigger and more complex picture than I am most naturally aware of and focused on. The experience of Job illustrates this well.

    Yes, God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9). Yet at the same time, God wants us to try to understand His ways as much as we can - and to grow in that understanding (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

  6. The author missed one visitation by Jesus "in human form" to Abraham: As King and Priest Melchizedek, after Abraham rescues his nephew, Lot, from those who had taken Lot and Lot's family captive as recorded in Genesis 14:18-20. Yes, and therefore as far as I am concerned, the fourth man with Daniel's three friends amidst the fiery furnace was also Jesus in human form.

    • Pete; I think it’s quite possible that the Melchizedek that Abraham paid tithe too, king of Salem, was in fact Noah’s oldest son Shim… Royce

  7. The lesson ends saying "here is one case in which the faithful receive a miraculous deliverance but, as we know, such things don’t usually happen", this is a point atheists and those losing faith always get us Christians to mull over. So my question is, how do we explain situations where miraculous deliverance does not happen to the faithful?

    • Well, Steve Yovan, as far as explaining them, we can only say that God has the power to miraculously save and that inspite of this He sometimes chooses to not save. Who saved Jesus from dying for our sins? Not even His Father did that. But His Father raised Jesus from that death and now Jesus lives to do the same for us and eventually give us incorruptible bodies too.

      • Well said Pete. Indeed, Christ is our greatest example. Although we see various instances in Hebrews 11 where miraculous deliverance does not necessarily happen to the faithful, Paul concludes his lesson on faith by saying, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:1,2. Urging us to trust Him.

        Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.." (13:15). This is faith. Faith is the link between us and God. Who are we to put God in a box and question things/circumstances we can't comprehend with our minute minds? So even though we may not be able to explain situations where miraculous deliverance does not happen to the faithful, we can simply say, "I trust Him because He is good." And how do we know he is good? Like you said Pete, look at the cross.

  8. Nebuchadnezzar, was able to go near the furnace to call the 3 faithfuls out and not suffered the fate of those who had cast them in. I am seeing how God is setting the stage for this pagan king to come to the realization that He is God over the gods that they worship. The furnace was kept cool. Mighty God, mighty to save to the uttermost. Praise His holy name..

  9. I believe Daniels witness of crediting his wisdom and revelation of dreams, made Nebuchadnezzar aware of the God of Heaven he worshipped, and about His Son.

  10. Was King Nebuchadnezzar the only one who saw a 4th man? Did the King’s advisors also see the 4th man? When the King approached the furnace to call the Hebrew young men out, why didn’t he call for the 4th man as well?

  11. It is amazing to me how the book of Hebrews devotes three chapters to King and High Priest Melchizedek, mainly 5, 6, and 7. But up this point in time, there were only two places in the O.T. that mention Him, once in Genesis when He met Abraham after Abraham rescued his nephew Lot. And another in one of the Psalms that says, "You are a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." It was in reference to this King and Priest that the book says: 1. "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing." 2. "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life;" 3. "...made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually." I would venture to say that from these verses (and there are more in those three chpters,) that there has only ever been "one King and High Priest." King Melchizedek who was and is Jesus---the same and only ONE.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and preferably significantly shorter than the post on which you are commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.