on Daniel 3 :6
Shall the same hour - This is the first place in the Old Testament where we find the division of time into hours. The Greeks say that Anaximander was the inventor. He had it probably from the Chaldeans, among whom this division was in use long before Anaximander was born.
Be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace - This was an ancient mode of punishment among the Chaldeans, if we may credit the tradition that Abram was cast into such a fire by this idolatrous people because he would not worship their idols.
on Daniel 3 :6
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth - The order in this verse seems to be tyrannical, and it is contrary to all our notions of freedom of religious opinion and worship. But it was much in the spirit of that age, and indeed of almost every age. It was an act to enforce uniformity in religion by the authority of the civil magistrate, and to secure it by threatened penalties. It should be observed, however, that the command at that time would not be regarded as harsh and oppressive by "pagan" worshippers, and might be complied with consistently with their views, without infringing on their notions of religious liberty. The homage rendered to one god did not, according to their views, conflict with any honor that was due to another, and though they were required to worship this divinity, that would not be a prohibition against worshipping any other. It was also in accordance with all the views of paganism that all proper honor should be rendered to the particular god or gods which any people adored.
The nations assembled here would regard it as no dishonor shown to the particular deity whom they worshipped to render homage to the god worshipped by Nebuchadnezzar, as this command implied no prohibition against worshipping any other god. It was only in respect to those who held that there is but one God, and that all homage rendered to any other is morally wrong, that this command would be oppressive. Accordingly, the contemplated vengeance fell only on the Jews - all, of every other nation, who were assembled, complying with the command without hesitation. It violated "no" principle which they held to render the homage which was claimed, for though they had their own tutelary gods whom they worshipped, they supposed the same was true of every other people, and that "their" gods were equally entitled to respect; but it violated "every" principle on which the Jew acted - for he believed that there was but one God ruling over all nations, and that homage rendered to any other was morally wrong. Compare Hengstenberg, "Authentie des Daniel," pp. 83, 84.
Shall the same hour - This accords with the general character of an Oriental despot accustomed to enjoin implicit obedience by the most summary process, and it is entirely conformable to the whole character of Nebuchadnezzar. It would seem from this, that there was an apprehension that some among the multitudes assembled would refuse to obey the command. Whether there was any "design" to make this bear hard on the Jews, it is impossible now to determine. The word which is here rendered "hour" (שׁעתא sha‛etâ) is probably from שׁעה shâ‛âh - "to look;" and properly denotes a look, a glance of the eye, and then the "time" of such a glance - a moment, an instant. It does not refer to "an hour," as understood by us, but means "instantly, immediately" - as quick as the glance of an eye. The word is not found in Hebrew, and occurs in Chaldee only in Daniel 3:6, Daniel 3:15; Daniel 4:19, Daniel 4:33 (Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:30); Daniel 5:5, in each case rendered "hour." Nothing can be inferred from it, however, in regard to the division of time among the Chaldeans into "hours" - though Herodotus says that the Greeks received the division of the day into twelve parts from them. - Lib. ii., c. 109.
Be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace - The word here rendered "furnace" (אתון 'attûn) is derived from (תנן tenan), "to smoke;" and may be applied to any species of furnace, or large oven. It does not denote the use to which the furnace was commonly applied, or the form of its construction. Any furnace for burning lime - if lime was then burned - or for burning bricks, if they were burned, or for smelting ore, would correspond with the meaning of the word. Nor is it said whether the furnace referred to would be one that would be constructed for the occasion, or one in common use for some other purpose. The editor of Calmet (Taylor) supposes that the "furnace" here referred to was rather a fire kindled in the open court of a temple, like a place set apart for burning martyrs, than a closed furnace of brick. See Cal. "Dict." vol. iv. p. 330, following. The more obvious representation, however, is, that it was a closed place, in which the intensity of the fire could be greatly increased. Such a mode of punishment is not uncommon in the East. Chardin (vi. p. 118), after speaking of the common modes of inflicting the punishment of death in Persia, remarks that "there are other modes of inflicting the punishment of death on those who have violated the police laws, especially those who have contributed to produce scarcity of food, or who have used false weights, or who have disregarded the laws respecting taxes. The cooks," says he, "were fixed on spits, and roasted over a gentle fire (compare Jeremiah 29:22), and the bakers were cast into a burning oven. In the year 1668, when the famine was raging, I saw in the royal residence in Ispahan one of these ovens burning to terrify the bakers, and to prevent their taking advantage of the scarcity to increase their gains." See Rosenmuller, "Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc."
on Daniel 3 :6