These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Daniel 3 Inductive Bible Study – With Commentary And Small Group Questions

Outline

I. All the people were to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image under threat of death (1-7)
II. The accusation against the Jews (8-12)
III. Nebuchadnezzar furiously threatens their life and defies the Lord (13-15)
IV. The three friends trust in the Lord and refuse to give in (16-18)
V. Nebuchadnezzar is enraged (19-23)
VI. The Lord protects them from the fire (24-27)
VII. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the Lord and blesses the three men (28-30)

I. All the people were to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image under threat of death (1-7)

Discussion Questions

• What were the dimensions of this image?
• What kind of image do you think it was?
• Why did Nebuchadnezzar want the people to worship this image?
• Who was invited?
• Do you think all the people worshiping that image at that moment truly believed in it?
• So why would they worship it?
• What do you think most people would do today in the same situation?
• What does this show us about men’s hearts?

Cross-References

Isaiah 40:19-20 – An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

Matthew 4:9 – And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold – Chapter 2 finished with the king giving glory to God and saying that Daniel’s God is “God of gods and Lord of kings.” However, that newfound humility proved to be short-lived.

The dream was in part intended to convey a message that God is sovereign over all kings. While the kingdoms of this world are temporary and will finally be destroyed, His kingdom is eternal. Though Nebuchadnezzar was represented by the head of gold, the entire statue was shattered by the Lord.

Instead of learning humility and submitting himself to the “God of gods,” the Babylonian king went the other way. He seemingly became even more egotistical, if that was possible. Nebuchadnezzar built an entire statue dedicated to himself. Just being the head wasn’t enough. He wanted the whole thing! Note that the figure was made out of gold. It was almost as if he was saying, “The head is not enough. I am not just the head. I am everything!”

The image was 90 feet (27.4 meters) tall and 9 feet (2.7 meters) wide. Though the proportions are too narrow for an average human figure, these measurements could include an elevated base with a human figure perched on top.

The size of the hulking image was meant to impress and intimidate. It was almost as tall as the Colossus of Rhodes.

Nebuchadnezzar’s “repentance” didn’t last long. Often people’s immediate response to an exciting spiritual experience is to become pious. But piety that is based on an emotional or dramatic event generally doesn’t last. When life gets back to normal, it is easy to fall right back into old habits.

Application – You may be able to think back on your life and remember an event (perhaps a trial or a victory) that made you feel excited and close to God. Perhaps you made a resolution to surrender some aspect of your life to the Lord. But as time passed and things got back to normal, you slipped into old habits. What are some causes of that? How can you be better rooted so that your life isn’t typified by “one step forward, one step back?”

2. Nebuchadnezzar required all the officials in the kingdom to worship the image – It was a vast kingdom spread across a diverse population. That diversity could cause issues or potential rebellion. Politically, one religion could unify the empire.

Once again, it shows us that Nebuchadnezzar was a clever ruler.

4. It satisfied Nebuchadnezzar’s pride – Likely, this was not just a calculated attempt to unify the kingdom but was primarily to massage Nebuchadnezzar’s ego. He loved the power. He enjoyed exerting his control over others by forcing them to bow to his every whim.

Like many rulers, his power made him increasingly prideful to the point where he craved worship.

5. The culture was quite advanced and featured choirs/bands.

6. Music has a powerful effect, either for good or evil. Satan often uses music to his own ends.

7. The people were like sheep – It seems that every single official gathered from the entire realm succumbed and worshiped the image, except Daniel’s friends.

Reflect: Why did these people worship the image? Did they believe in this religion that Babylon was selling?

They worshiped because it was to their material advantage to do so, not because they believed. Likely, most of those gathered didn’t have any genuine faith in this newly constructed statue. For many, it represented a god that was foreign to them.

Yet they didn’t have the backbone to stand up for their beliefs, whatever they were. It shows the weakness of most people and their principles. Most people have a price. Offer them enough and their principles go out the window.

In this case, the price was their life. People are all about pragmatism. Feigning respect for this idol was a small price, they thought, compared to their lives.

Matthew 16:26 – For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

What they didn’t realize is that their souls are infinitely more important than their physical lives.

Many professing believers in Christ approach their faith with this same pragmatic bent. They think God will give them many material blessings or grant them perfect health. But when they face trials or other difficulties, they abandon the faith.

Once when I was sharing the gospel, a person asked me, “if I believe in Jesus, what do I get?” While it is not often voiced so plainly, this attitude often lurks behind the surface.

II. The accusation against the Jews (8-12)

Discussion Questions

• Why do you think the Chaldeans tattle-tailed?
• Why did they refuse to bow?
• What reasons/justifications could they have given for bowing?
• Can you think of similar examples today where “everyone” is doing something wrong?
• What kind of temptations have you faced where the vast majority of your peers were all engaging in the wrong behavior?
• What kind of reasons do we sometimes give for why we “have” to do the same as everyone else?
• What will happen if we don’t?
• What should we do? Why?

Cross-References

Proverbs 27:4 – Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Certain Chaldeans maliciously accused the Jews – One gets the sense that these court officials were constantly jockeying for position. While they must have appeared very polite and well-mannered on the outside, they were ready to stab you in the back and take your job at the slightest opportunity.

Undoubtedly, Daniel and his friends’ success was a sore point for these officials. The Jews were foreigners taking jobs that should have rightfully been theirs! Their attacks were not motivated by genuine loyalty to the king but jealously.

Daniel 3:12 – These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

The accusation itself was made as harshly as possible. They said that these men “pay no attention to you.” It is as if they want to incite the king’s anger against them. At the same time, their wording makes it sound as if they are simply concerned for Nebuchadnezzar’s well-being.

In reality, their hope was the Jews would be punished. If some of them were promoted to take the vacancy, even better!

1 Peter 3:16-17 – Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Daniel’s friends faced malicious attacks. They were treated as criminals. But for believers, it is a badge of honor to suffer for the Lord. As Peter said, it is “better to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil.”

Application – When we face difficulties or suffering, we should examine ourselves to see if our own behavior has caused it. If your sin caused the negative consequences, don’t blame others or say, “it is my cross to bear.” Instead, repent of your sin. But if it is persecution due to standing up for Christ, then stand firm.

3. The Jews were the only ones (mentioned) that didn’t bow and worship the image –

Imagine the enormous pressure they would have faced. Already, they were isolated far from their home country. Removed from their support group, they were thrust into the middle of this high-pressure situation. All around them on every side, thousands of people prostrated themselves in accordance with the king’s command.

How conspicuous it must have been for the three of them to remain standing. There was no way to hide, nowhere to run, and no possibility of even disguising their disobedience.

And yet they stood firm. These were men of conviction. They knew the Old Testament prohibitions against worshiping or bowing to an idol.

Exodus 20:4-5 – You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

For them, it was a straightforward choice. Bowing down to the idol would have been disobedience to God. Therefore they chose to obey God rather than man. It wasn’t a decision that was made blindly. They were wise men and would have known that the likely penalty was death. Obedience to God was prioritized over their own lives and they were willing to face the cost, whatever it was.

Such faithfulness is rare but refreshing.

Reflect – Are you willing to risk your life in obedience to God?

Application – We don’t face “life or death” faith choices very often. And it can be difficult to know exactly how we would respond. What we do face is hundreds of “small” tests every day to obey God or pursue self. Jesus said that “he who is faithful in a little thing is also faithful in much.” The best training ground to prepare for moments of intense persecution is the daily grind. Practice obedience on a daily obedience and this will strengthen your walk with the Lord and prepare you for challenging tests.

4. The three friends did not justify compromise – They could have offered various excuses for giving in. Or they could have come up with some other plan.

Reflect – Would it have been acceptable for them to take a “sick day?” How about choosing the moment when everyone was bowing to pick up a pebble, clean their sandal, or draw in the dirt?

Bowing down (even if they didn’t truly worship the idol in their heart) would have caused them to lose their testimony. By doing that, they would have been the same as the other court officials, sacrificing principles for personal gain.

5. Satan often uses threats or rewards to lure believers into sin –

Reflect – Share a time when you were threatened (or offered a reward) to entice you to sin.

He also tries to get us to compromise and worship false things because what you worship is what you will become like.

5. “Everyone is doing it” and “I have no choice” are justifications as old as time –

It is tough to stand against a current that is moving in one direction. The winds of culture and public opinion are powerful forces. The last few years have shown that when an idea starts to become “trendy” or “cool,” people quickly pile on the bandwagon. Social norms and traditions can change almost overnight. What is considered shameful one day is praised as virtuous soon after.

When the tidal forces of media and public opinion start flowing, it may feel that there is nothing you can do. It may feel like you have a choice.

Yet this account of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah reminds us that we always have a choice. Compromise is never mandatory. God has given you a will. You can form your own convictions from God’s Word. And you can then stand on those convictions even in the face of enormous pressure.

When you stand before God one day, He will not accept “everyone was doing it” as a legitimate reason for why you were doing it.

Romans 14:4 – Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Each of us will stand before the Lord one day. And the Lord wants you to pass the judgment that day. So we need to stand now. It is not by our own power that we can overcome. It is only through Christ. The Lord gives the strength.

Revelation 12:11 – And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Application – Do not give in to pressure. The world seeks to mold you to its image, but God wants to conform you to His image. Stand firm on the side of righteousness, even if you are the only person in your family, class, company, or the world to do so.

III. Nebuchadnezzar furiously threatens their life and defies the Lord (13-15)

Discussion Questions

• How did Nebuchadnezzar feel about the situation?
• Was he ready to forgive them?
• Did he have any genuine belief in any gods?
• Did he respect the God of the Jews?
• What often happens when someone defies God? Examples? (Goliath, Titanic Belshezzar, etc.)

Cross-References

Esther 3:5 – And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury.

Exodus 5:2 – But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

2 Kings 18:35 – Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. When Nebuchadnezzar heard that three people had refused to obey his orders, he was furious –

The king was used to blind obedience. Few people would have dared to question him. Fewer still would have defied him. It was simply unheard of to disobey. Based on his reaction, it seems that Nebuchadnezzar could not believe it. And he could not handle it.

Didn’t they know that he had the power to have them killed? Didn’t they know that he held their lives in his hands? He is the head of gold! The most splendid king the world had ever seen! And here they were, three Jewish boys with the gall to refuse a direct order. They must not have understood. Yes, that’s it. There was a miscommunication somewhere along the way.

2. He was willing to give them another chance –

Was Nebuchadnezzar showing his soft, compassionate side? More likely, he offered them another opportunity in order to save his own face. It didn’t look good for Nebuchadnezzar the Great to be defied this way in public. He had to take control of the situation and show his empire who was in charge. And he had to prove to himself that he could force anyone to do anything he wanted. After all, he was the head of gold! Not the feet, the head!

3. He defied their God –

Daniel 3:15 – And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?

The kind is not the only one who made threats like this. Many other characters in Scripture did the same. Spoiler: it doesn’t usually end well for those who defy God.

Application – How can you prepare for facing now for facing persecution in the future?

Study Daniel 3:16-30
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