The Fiery Furnace


Por Rev. Dr. Andrew M. T. Dibb

The third chapter of Daniel follows the same pattern as the first two: Nebuchadnezzar begins by making threats against those who do not bow to his every whim, and ends with his humbly admitting the Lord's power.

The similarities between the dramatic vision of the statue in chapter two and actually building an image in chapter three are not, however, mere repetition. Close attention to the detail in this chapter will show how in its pursuit of domination the selfish side of human nature continues to try to dominate, even though we might consciously submit to the Lord.

This third chapter opens with a huge image created by Nebuchadnezzar. The actual dimensions are important, not because of their physical impact, but because of the spiritual concepts they contain. Similarly, the impossibility of it being made from gold should not interfere with the spiritual exposition of the verse. The literal sense of the story is important only as a means of bringing out the spiritual sense.

This entire image was made of gold. But like the head of the statue in the previous chapter, this is not the gold representing love to the Lord, but self love. Every good correspondence also has an opposite sense.

The statue is described as sixty cubits tall, and six cubits wide. The recurring number "six" takes meaning from its contrast to the number immediately following. "Seven" is a state of fullness and completeness—the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation, clean animals entered the ark in sevens, we should forgive others "up to seventy times seven." As seven contains this sense of completeness, six represents a state of incompleteness.

"Six" is often used to describe the process of regeneration, especially in the creation series, and in the Ten Commandments. In the six days of creation, people are tempted and in a state of conflict, which must be overcome for the person to regenerate (AC 8494, 8539:2, 8888). The conflict illustrated in this chapter is between our sense of selfishness and our emerging conscience.

The number sixty is the fullness of this conflict, as sixty is a six multiplied by ten. If six represents the conflicts of temptation, ten represents completeness (AC 3107, 4638, 8468, 9416), or fullness of that conflict.

Ideally, the states of goodness, truth and their mutual expression should be equal. The shape representing a regenerate person would be a perfect cube, as described by "the Holy City coming down from God out of heaven" (Revelation 21:2).

But Nebuchadnezzar's image vastly different from this ideal: it was tall and narrow — ten times taller than it was wide, and no depth is described. It comes across as one dimensional, disproportionate, its most compelling feature the gold from which it is made.

As in the second chapter, Nebuchadnezzar calls together his advisers: before, it was astrologers and wise men. In this chapter he calls together the governors of his kingdom: the satraps, administrators and so on. When the Word speaks of governors, it speaks of our loves, because we are ruled and governed by loves. The list here gives a hierarchy of loves from the top, or ruling loves, down to the lesser affections we have.

We are shown our state when that ruling love is Nebuchadnezzar: he dominates the scene, his word is law. He controls a vast empire and has absolute control over life and death. Thus Nebuchadnezzar can summon his governors and order them around with the same ease with which he called together the wise men and demanded the impossible from them.

At the sound of music, his whole empire was to fall down and worship the gold image erected by the king. Music is used as a means of summoning the rulers of the land because if those men represent our various loves and affections, so music speaks to our loves.

If Nebuchadnezzar represents our selfishness and love of control, the Chaldeans come into the picture as a confirmation of this selfishness. The essence of profanation—evil pretending to be good—is the misuse of goodness and truth for one's own ends. Any state of genuine good or truth resisting this misuse would come into conflict with it.

Thus the Chaldeans with great enthusiasm name Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who do not serve the king nor worship his golden image. By using their Babylonian names, they are refusing to recognize truth as coming from the Word. This is the very heart of profanation: to know something is from the Word, even to acknowledge it as such, and yet to deny it—just as those Chaldeans must have known that the three men were Jews, and that their Babylonian names were not truly their own. It is the ultimate denial of their identity, just as profanation is the ultimate denial of the Lord.

Nebuchadnezzar's life is first of military conquest and the expansion of his empire. This conquest comes with the dominion of religious things. Thus it was not out of character for him to command worship. As the love of self progresses, it demands greater and greater things, until it demands to be treated as the Lord Himself (AR 717).

"The evil of the love of self is not, as is generally thought, that external elation which is called pride, but it is hatred against the neighbor, and thence a burning desire for revenge, and delight in cruelty. These are the interiors of the love of self. Its exteriors are contempt for others in comparison with self, and an aversion to those who are in spiritual good, and this sometimes with manifest elation or pride, and sometimes without it. For one who holds the neighbor in such hatred, inwardly loves no one but himself and those whom he regards as making one with himself, thus he loves them in himself, and himself in them for the sole end of self" (AC 4750:5).

Each person in this world is capable of giving freedom to these feelings, and if we do, soon we find ourselves doing what Nebuchadnezzar did: demanding that people see the world through our own personal spectacles, and roundly damning them to hell if they do not.

As we saw earlier, Daniel represents the conscience developing in opposition to our selfish states. Conscience is the activity of truth leading and guiding our minds towards a life in harmony with the Lord's. The conscience, however, must be made up of individual truths, truths applicable to different parts of our lives. We have a set of truths to govern marriage, work ethic, social interaction, and so on.

These individual truths are Daniel's Hebrew companions. Each time we have seen them, they have stood on their belief in God, but each time at Daniel's leadership. This time they stand alone, willing to confront the imperial wrath and face death for their belief.

The consequences were, of course, dire. Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage, demanding that the young men be cast into a fiery furnace, heated to seven times its normal heat. The young men were prepared to accept this punishment rather than retract their belief in the Lord.

Nebuchadnezzar tried to scare the three men by heating the furnace to hotter than normal, which well describes the actions of evil spirits in temptation who,

"act against the affections of truth that make the conscience: as soon as they perceive anything of conscience, of whatever kind, then from the falsities and failings in the man they form to themselves an affection; and by means of this they cast a shade over the light of truth, and so pervert it; or they induce anxiety and torture him" (AC 1820:4).

The time the young men spend in the furnace represents a state of temptation, which occurs for the sake of regeneration (AE 439). Most simply defined, temptation is a battle between two sides within us, where the natural, or selfish side is subdued. Up until then, selfishness is seen as simply being a part of us, the way we are (AC 1820). In temptation, this self-image is changed, and we learn to see ourselves in the light of heaven (AE 439).

The power of the evil spirits is greatly illusory. Just as Nebuchadnezzar fell back after resistance, so the spirits also withdraw when we resist them. The greatest temptation we face is believing the Lord is unable to help us in our times of great need. If we cling to the believe that He can and does give help, then facing our inner selfishness becomes less difficult. The image the men were commanded to worship was, after all, an immobile object of gold, disproportionate and one-dimensional. Our selfishness is like that: seemingly monolithic, and yet devoid of any real life. Its attractions fade when seen in the light of heaven. Spiritual resistance is not so difficult, and the results give strength:

"Victories are attended with the result that the malignant genii and spirits afterward dare not do anything; for their life consists in their being able to destroy, and when they perceive that a man is of such a character that he can resist then at the first onset they flee away, as they are wont to do when they draw near to the first entrance to heaven, for they are at once seized with horror and terror, and hurl themselves backward" AC 1820.

Nebuchadnezzar is brought to awareness and appreciation of the power of the Lord, this time, with his own senses. There is a power in his acquiescence after witnessing the four men in the fiery furnace that is far more dramatic than his incredulity after Daniel foretold the dream in chapter two. This time he actually saw the power of the furnace, so strong that those who cast the three men in were killed by its heat, yet he saw the three men walk out unscathed. This proved the power of God to him more than anything before.

We see something of this process in the final verses of Chapter three, where Nebuchadnezzar praises the Lord, showing a new humility impossible for him before. As a result, the affection of truth begins to rule in place of the former selfish loves. Thus we see Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego promoted in the province of Babylon, presumably in place of the Babylonian satraps, administrators, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the officials of the province who responded to Nebuchadnezzar's call to worship the gold image.

Das Obras de Swedenborg


Arcana Coelestia # 4750

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4750. 'And Judah said to his brothers' means the corrupt within the Church who are opposed to all good whatever. This is clear from the representation of 'Judah' in the good sense as the good of celestial love, dealt with in 3654, 3881, but in the contrary sense as an opposition to all good whatever, dealt with below; and from the meaning of 'his brothers' as those in the Church who are adherents to faith separated from charity. The reason 'Judah' here represents those who are opposed to all good whatever is that in the good sense 'Judah' in the Word represents those who are governed by the good of celestial love. Celestial love consists in love to the Lord and from this in love towards the neighbour. Those governed by this love are the ones who are the most closely joined to the Lord and therefore they live in the inmost heaven, and in a state of innocence there. This being so, they are seen by all others as small children, and entirely as visual forms of love. No one else can go near them, and therefore when they are sent to others they are surrounded by other angels, through whom the sphere of love emanating from them is moderated. If not moderated this sphere would cause those to whom they have been sent to faint, for the sphere of their love penetrates even to one's marrow.

[2] Since this love, that is, this form of the good of love, which is called celestial, is represented in the good sense by 'Judah', he therefore represents in the contrary sense the kind of thing that is the opposite of celestial good, and so is opposed to any good whatever. Most things in the Word have two meanings - a good one, and another contrary to this. The good meaning they have enables one to see the nature of their contrary one, for things in the contrary sense are the direct opposite of whatever are meant in the good sense.

[3] Each form of the good of love falls in general into one of two categories - the good of celestial love and the good of spiritual love. The opposite of the good of celestial love is in the contrary sense the evil of self-love, and the opposite of the good of spiritual love is in the contrary sense the evil of love of the world. Those governed by the evil of self-love are opposed to all good whatever, but those governed by the evil of love of the world less so. In the Word 'Judah' in the contrary sense represents those who are governed by self-love, while 'Israel' in the contrary sense represents those who are governed by love of the world, the reason being that 'Judah' represented the Lord's celestial kingdom, and 'Israel' His spiritual kingdom.

[4] The hells too are distinguished in accordance with those two loves. Spirits governed by self-love, being opposed to all good whatever, are in the deepest and consequently the most dreadful hells, whereas those governed by love of the world, being less opposed to all good whatever, are in hells not quite so deep and consequently less dreadful ones.

[5] The evil of self-love is not, as people commonly regard it, the display of superiority which is called arrogance; rather, it is hatred against the neighbour and a resulting burning desire for revenge and a delight in cruelty. These are the more internal features of self-love. Its more external features are contempt for others in comparison with oneself and an aversion to those in whom spiritual good is present. These more external features of it are sometimes accompanied by a manifest display of superiority or arrogance, sometimes they are not. For anyone who hates his neighbour in that fashion loves solely himself inwardly, and only any others whom he regards to be at unity with him, so that they are part of him and he is part of them, solely for the sake of his own selfish ends.

[6] This is what those people are like whom 'Judah' represents in the contrary sense. The Jewish nation was governed by that kind of love right from the start, for it regarded all people throughout the world as the basest slaves, of no value at all compared with themselves, and it also hated them. What is more, when self-love and love of the world did not hold them together they persecuted even their companions and brethren with similar hatred. This disposition remains with that nation even now, but because they have to seek asylum in lands not their own they conceal it.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.

Das Obras de Swedenborg


Arcana Coelestia # 3654

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3654. In the internal sense of the Word 'Judea' does not mean Judea, any more than 'Jerusalem' means Jerusalem. This becomes clear from many places in the Word. In the Word Judea is mentioned less frequently than the land of Judah, which, like the land of Canaan, means the Lord's kingdom, and therefore the Church also since the Church is the Lord's kingdom on earth. And Judea has this meaning because Judah or the Jewish nation represented the Lord's celestial kingdom, and Israel or the Israelitish people His spiritual kingdom. And because His kingdom was represented by them, therefore when that nation or people is mentioned in the Word, nothing else is meant in its internal sense.

[2] The truth of this will be evident from those things which in the Lord's Divine mercy will be stated later on regarding Judah and the land of Judah. For the present it will be evident from the following few examples in the Prophets: In Isaiah,

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 1 He surrounded it [with an enclosure] and gathered out the stones, and planted it with the choicest vine and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a winepress in it. And he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitant of Jerusalem and man of Judah, judge, I pray you, between Me and My vineyard. I will make it a desolation, for the vineyard of Jehovah Zebaoth is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah His pleasant plant. 2 And He looked for judgement, but behold, festering; for righteousness, but behold, a cry. Isaiah 5:1-3, 6-7.

Here the subject in the sense of the letter is the perverted state of the

Israelites and Jews, but in the internal sense it is the perverted state of the Church represented by Israel and Judah. 'Inhabitant of Jerusalem' is the Church's good - 'inhabitant' meaning good, or what amounts to the same, those with whom good is present, see 2268, 2451, 2712, 3613, and 'Jerusalem' the Church, 402, 2117. 'The house of Israel' has a similar meaning - 'house' meaning good, 710, 1708, 2233, 2331, 3142, 3538, and 'Israel' the Church, 3305. 'The man of Judah' also is very similar, for 'a man' means truth, 265, 749, 1007, 3134, 3310, 3459, and Judah good. The difference however is that 'the man of Judah' means truth grounded in the good of love to the Lord, which is called celestial truth, that is, those governed by that kind of truth are meant.

[3] In the same prophet,

He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will gather the outcasts of Israel, and will assemble the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Then the rivalry of Ephraim will depart, and the enemies of Judah be cut off. Ephraim will not vie with Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. Jehovah will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt, and will shake His hand over the River with the might of His spirit. Then there will be a highway for the remnant of His people which will remain from Asshur. Isaiah 11:12-13, 15-16.

Here the subject in the sense of the letter is the bringing back of the Israelites and Jews from captivity, but in the internal sense it is a new Church in general and with each person in particular who is being regenerated or becoming the Church. 'The outcasts of Israel' stands for their truths, 'the dispersed of Judah' for their goods. 'Ephraim' stands for the understanding part of their minds, which will no longer offer any resistance. 'Egypt' stands for facts, and 'Asshur' for reasoning based on these, which they have perverted. 'The outcasts', 'the dispersed', 'the remnant', and 'those who remain' stand for truths and goods which survive. For 'Ephraim' means the understanding part of the mind, as will be shown elsewhere, while 'Egypt' means factual knowledge, see 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462, 2588, 3325, 'Asshur' reasoning, 119, 1186, and 'remnant' the goods and truths that the Lord has stored away in the interior man, 468, 530, 560, 561, 660, 661, 798, 1050, 1738, 1906, 2284.

[4] In the same prophet,

Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel and who came out of the waters of Judah. For they are called after the city of holiness, and upon the God of Israel they place their reliance. Isaiah 48:1-2.

'The waters of Judah' stands for truths which spring from the good of love to the Lord. The truths from that source are actually the goods of charity, which are called spiritual goods and constitute the spiritual Church, the internal of this Church being meant by 'Israel' and the external by 'the house of Jacob'. This shows what is meant by 'the house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel and who came out of the waters of Judah'.

[5] In the same prophet,

I will bring forth seed from Jacob, and from Judah the heir of My mountains, and My chosen ones will possess it, and My servants will dwell there. Isaiah 65:9.

'From Judah the heir of mountains' stands in the highest sense for the Lord, and in the representative sense for those in whom love to Him is present and so the good of love to Him and the good of love towards the neighbour. As regards 'mountains' meaning these forms of good, this has been shown above in 3652.

[6] In Moses,

A lion's whelp is Judah; from the prey you have gone up, my son. He crouched, he lay down like a lion, and like an old lion; who will rouse him up? Genesis 49:9.

Here it is quite evident that in the highest sense 'Judah' is used to mean the Lord, and in the representative sense those with whom the good of love to Him is present. In David,

When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a foreign people, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominions. Psalms 114:1-2.

Here also 'Judah' stands for celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, while 'Israel' stands for celestial truth, which is spiritual good.

[7] In Jeremiah,

Behold, the days are coming, says Jehovah, and I will raise up for David a righteous branch, who will reign as king, and will prosper, and execute judgement and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is His name which they will call Him, Jehovah our Righteousness. Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16.

This refers to the Coming of the Lord. 'Judah' stands for those with whom the good of love to the Lord is present, 'Israel' for those with whom the truth that goes with that good is present. For 'Judah' is not used to mean Judah, nor 'Israel' to mean Israel, as may be seen from the fact that neither Judah nor Israel was actually preserved any longer. Similarly in the same prophet,

I will bring back the captivity of Judah, and the captivity of Israel, and build them as they were previously. Jeremiah 33:7.

The like may be seen here also. In the same prophet,

In those days and at that time, says Jehovah, the children of Israel will come, they and the children of Judah together, weeping as they come; and they will seek Jehovah their God; and they will seek Zion on the way, their faces towards it. Jeremiah 50:4-5.

In the same prophet,

At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah, and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, because of the name of Jehovah; and they will go no more after the stubbornness of their own evil heart. In those days the house of Judah will go to the house of Israel, and together they will come over the land out of the land of the north. Jeremiah 3:17-18.

[8] In the same prophet,

Behold, the days are coming, said Jehovah, in which I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast; and I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days: I will put My law in the midst of them, and will write it on their heart. Jeremiah 31:27, 31, 33.

This shows plainly that Israel or the house of Israel was not meant, for once dispersed among the gentiles they were never brought back from captivity. Nor consequently was Judah or the house of Judah meant. Instead Israel and Judah meant in the internal sense members of the Lord's spiritual and celestial kingdoms. It is with these people that the new covenant is made, and in whose hearts the law is written. 'The new covenant' stands for being joined to the Lord by means of good, 665, 666, 1023, 1038, 1864, 1996, 2003, 2021, 2037. 'The law written in their heart' stands for a perception of good and of truth springing from that good, and also for conscience.

[9] In Joel,

It will happen on that day that the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the streams of Judah will flow with water; and a spring will come forth from the house of Jehovah and will water the river of Shittim. Egypt will become a waste, and Edom a desolate wilderness, 3 on account of the violence done to the children of Judah whose innocent blood they have shed in their land. And Judah will abide for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. Joel 3:18-20.

From every detail here also it is evident that 'Judah' is not used to mean Judah, nor 'Jerusalem' to mean Jerusalem, but those in whom the holiness of love and charity dwells, for they are 'to abide for ever' and 'from generation to generation'.

[10] In Malachi,

Behold, I am sending My angel, who will prepare the way before Me; and suddenly there will come to His temple the Lord whom you are seeking, and the angel of the covenant in whom you delight. Then the minchah 4 of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to Jehovah, as in the days of eternity, and as in former years. Malachi 3:1, 4.

This refers to the Coming of the Lord, at which time, it is clear, the minchah of Judah and Jerusalem was not acceptable to Jehovah. From this it is evident that Judah and Jerusalem mean such things as constitute the Lord's Church. The same applies wherever else Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem are mentioned in the Word. From this one may now see what is meant in Matthew by 'Judea', namely the Lord's Church, in that case when vastated.


1. literally, on a horn of a son of oil

2. literally, the young plant of His delights

3. literally, the wilderness of a waste

4. Generally rendered 'offering' in English versions of the Scriptures. It is a Hebrew word. The 'ch' in it has a hard or guttural pronunciation, as in German buch or Scottish loch.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.