Let the Music Play

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego step onto a stage that is set for them in Daniel 3:1–7. It’s a stage replete with pomp and ceremony and, I suggest, a fair bit of mockery. The king has orchestrated a grand occasion. You can tell it’s grand because everyone who’s anyone is summoned to be there (v.2). And everyone who’s anyone then shows up (v.3).

Things get underway when the herald announces the order of service, which boiled down to “Hit the deck when the music plays” or, more properly, “When the music plays, fall down and worship.” But the narrator lets the herald wax eloquent for two verses; you can almost hear his voice booming through the crowd:

“You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (vv.4–6).

The narrator then shows the herald’s directions being followed to the letter: “Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (v.7).

At this point, the tattletales in the crowd observe three men left standing (I do wonder how they noticed them if they had obeyed the king’s decree themselves) and they seize the opportunity to ingratiate themselves to the king: “You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews…” (vv.10 – 11).

The three Jewish boys are hauled in before the king so he can see for himself if, indeed, anyone was foolish enough not to do exactly what he said. He offers them a second chance: “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good” (v.15).

You might almost say (okay, I will say) that in all this repetition, the narrator means to mock Nebuchadnezzar as a king who demands (and receives) mechanical, unthinking, unquestioning obeisance. But in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the autocratic pagan king finally meets his match.

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About wendywidder

For LOVE of the WORD
This entry was posted in Daniel 3, How to read the Bible, The Book of Daniel. Bookmark the permalink.

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