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 # 3881

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3881. 'Therefore she called his name Judah' means the essential nature of it. This is clear from the meaning of 'name' and of 'calling the name' as the essential nature, dealt with in 144, 145, 1754, 1896, 2009, 2724, 3006, 3421. That nature is contained in the internal sense of these words spoken by Leah - 'This time I will confess Jehovah', dealt with immediately above in 3880. That is to say, in the highest sense those words mean the Lord and the Divinity of His Love, in the internal sense the Word and also the Lord's celestial kingdom, and in the more exterior sense doctrine from the Word which the celestial Church has. But as yet scarcely anyone knows that these things are meant in the Word when the name Judah is mentioned, the reason being that the historical descriptions of the Word are thought to be simply historical descriptions, and the prophetical utterances to belong among such things as have fallen into oblivion, except for some of them from which doctrinal inferences may be drawn out. No belief exists that those descriptions and utterances have a spiritual sense within them, because at the present day no knowledge exists of what the spiritual sense is, or indeed of what the spiritual is. And the chief reason for this is that the life which people lead is the natural life. This is such that when they have that life as their end in view or it is the only life they desire, it blots out both spiritual knowledge and faith - so much so that when spiritual life and a spiritual sense are spoken of, these are like something that does not really exist or else are something unpleasant and depressing which, because it does not accord with natural life, they find distasteful. Such being the condition of the human race at the present day it neither understands nor wishes to understand by the names mentioned in the Word anything else than the nations, peoples, individual persons, regions, cities, mountains, or rivers, which those names denote. Yet in the spiritual sense names mean real things.

[2] That 'Judah' in the internal sense means the Lord's celestial Church, in the universal sense His celestial kingdom, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself may be seen from many places in the Old Testament where Judah is mentioned, for example, from the following: In Moses,

You are Judah; your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father will bow down to you. 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? The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes; and to him will be the gathering of peoples. Binding his ass's colt to the vine, and the foal of his she-ass to a choice vine, he will wash his clothing in wine, and his garment in the blood of grapes. His eyes are red from wine, and his teeth white from milk. Genesis 49:8-12.

[3] Nobody can know the meaning of this prophetical declaration about Judah uttered by Jacob, who by then was Israel - not even one expression used there - except from the internal sense. He cannot know for example what is meant by 'his brothers will praise him' and 'his father's sons will bow down to him', or by 'his going up from the prey like a lion's whelp', and 'his crouching and lying down like a lion'. Nor can he know what is meant by 'Shiloh', by 'binding his ass's colt to the vine, and the foal of his she-ass to a choice vine', by 'washing his clothing in wine, and his garment in the blood of grapes', by 'eyes red from wine', or by 'teeth white from milk'. As has been stated, these expressions cannot possibly be understood by anyone except from the internal sense, yet all of them - each one - mean celestial things belonging to the Lord's kingdom, also things that are Divine. The same words also foretell that the Lord's celestial kingdom, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself, were to be represented by Judah. All these things declared by Jacob will in the Lord's Divine mercy be discussed in the explanations of the chapter in which they occur.

[4] Similar examples involving the name Judah occur elsewhere, especially in the Prophets, as in Ezekiel,

You son of man, take a stick and write on it, For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions'. And take another stick and write on it, For Joseph - the stick of Ephraim and of the whole house of Israel, his companions - and join them together, one to the other into one stick for you, and they will be one in your, hand. I will make them into one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all. My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. And they will walk in My judgements, and keep My statutes and do them. And they will dwell in the land which I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers dwelt. And they will dwell in it, they and their sons, and their sons' sons even for ever. And David My servant will be their prince for ever, and I will make with them a covenant of peace, it will be an eternal covenant with them. I will bless them, and multiply them, and I will grant My sanctuary in their midst for evermore. Thus will My dwelling-place be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Ezekiel 37:15-28.

Anyone who takes Judah, Israel, Joseph, Ephraim, and David in this passage to mean those actual people will believe all these things will actually take place as described in the sense of the letter. That is to say, he will believe that Israel is going to be reunited with Judah, as well as the tribe of Ephraim; also that David is going to reign as king; that in this manner they are going to dwell in the land given to Jacob for ever, and that at that time an eternal covenant will exist with them and the sanctuary will be in the midst of them for ever. But in fact the meaning of this passage has nothing whatever to do with that nation but with the Lord's celestial kingdom meant by 'Judah', and His spiritual kingdom meant by 'Israel', and with the Lord Himself meant by 'David'. From this it is quite evident that names are not used to mean actual persons but things that are celestial and Divine.

[5] The same is so with the following words in Zechariah,

Many peoples and numerous nations will come to seek Jehovah Zebaoth in Jerusalem and to placate Jehovah's face. Thus said Jehovah Zebaoth, In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue will take hold; and they will take hold of the hem of a man of Judah, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. Zechariah 8:22-23.

Those who take these words literally will say, as the Jewish nation believes still, that being a prophecy not yet fulfilled it is going to be fulfilled in the future. These say that they are going to go back to the land of Canaan, that many from every nation and tongue will follow them, and take hold of the hem of a man of Judah and plead to be allowed to follow. They say that at that time God - that is to say, the Messiah, whom Christians call the Lord - will be among them, to whom they must first be converted. This would be the true implication of these words if 'a man of Judah' were used to mean a man of Judah. But in fact the internal sense at this point deals with a new spiritual Church among gentiles, and 'a man of Judah' means saving faith which results from love to the Lord.

[6] That 'Judah' is not used to mean Judah but, as has been stated, means in the internal sense the Lord's celestial kingdom which was represented in the Church established among Judah or the Jews, becomes quite clear from the following places: In Isaiah,

When the Lord raises an ensign for the nations He will gather the outcasts of Israel, and will assemble the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Then the envy of Ephraim will depart, and the enemies of Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not envy Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. Isaiah 11:12-13.

In Jeremiah,

Behold, the days are coming, said Jehovah, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, who will reign as king, and 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.

In Joel,

Then you will know that I am Jehovah your God, who dwell in Zion, My holy mountain; and Jerusalem will be holy. 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. Judah will abide for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. Joel 3:17-18, 20.

[7] In Zechariah,

On that day I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. And on the house of Judah I will open My eyes, and every horse of the peoples I will strike with blindness. And the leaders of Judah will say in their hearts, I will strengthen for myself the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Jehovah Zebaoth their God. On that day I will set the leaders of Judah like a hearth of fire in sticks of wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they will devour to the right and to the left all the peoples round about, and Jerusalem will yet again be inhabited in her own place, in Jerusalem. And Jehovah will save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitant of Jerusalem, may not exalt itself over Judah. On that day Jehovah will protect the inhabitant of Jerusalem, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of Jehovah in front of them. And I will pour out over the house of David and over the inhabitant of Jerusalem a spirit of grace. Zechariah 12:4-10.

This refers to the Lord's celestial kingdom, where truth should not have dominion over good but ought to be subordinate to it, truth being meant by 'the house of David' and 'the inhabitant of Jerusalem', and good by 'Judah'. From this it is evident why first it is said that 'the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitant of Jerusalem, will not exalt itself over Judah', and after this that 'the house of David will be like God, and like the angel of Jehovah', and that 'a spirit of grace will be poured out over it and over the inhabitant of Jerusalem'. For such is the state when truth is subordinate to good or faith to love. 'The horse which will be struck with panic, and the horse of the peoples with blindness' is self-intelligence, see 2761, 2762, 3217.

[8] In the same prophet,

On that day there will be on the horses' bells, Holiness to Jehovah. And the pots in the house of Jehovah will be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holiness to Jehovah Zebaoth. Zechariah 14:20-21.

This refers to the Lord's kingdom. 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. Behold, He is coming. Who can endure the day of His coming? Then the minchah of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to Jehovah, as in the days of old and as in former years. Malachi 3:1-2, 4.

This plainly refers to the Coming of the Lord. The meaning is that Judah and Jerusalem's minchah was not, as is well known, acceptable but that worship flowing from love, Judah's minchah, and worship flowing from faith rooted in love, Jerusalem's minchah, are acceptable.

[9] In Jeremiah,

Thus said Jehovah Zebaoth, Again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I turn again their captivity: Jehovah bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy mountain! And Judah and all its cities will dwell in it together. Behold, the days are coming, said Jehovah, in which I will sow the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. Behold, the days are coming, said Jehovah, in which I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers. Jeremiah 31:23-24, 27, 31-32.

In David,

The Lord chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which He loved, and built His sanctuary as the heights, as the earth He founded it for ever. Psalms 78:68-69.

[10] From these places and very many others which have not been mentioned one may see what 'Judah' means in the Word. They show that 'Judah' does not mean the Jewish nation, for that nation was anything but the celestial Church or the Lord's celestial kingdom; for so far as love to the Lord, charity towards the neighbour, and faith; went they were the worst nation of all. This has been so from their earliest forefathers, namely the sons of Jacob, even to the present day. But in spite of this such people were able to represent the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord's kingdom, see 3479-3481. For in representations no attention is paid to the person who represents, only to what is represented by him, 665, 1097 (end), 1361, 3147, 3670.

[11] But when they did not adhere to the religious observances commanded by Jehovah or the Lord but deviated from them into acts of idolatry they no longer represented those things but such as are contrary to them, namely those of hell and the devil, according to the Lord's words in John,

You are from your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and did not take a stand on the truth. John 8:44

Such is the meaning of 'Judah' in the contrary sense, as becomes clear from the following: In Isaiah,

Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their tongue and their works are against Jehovah, to provoke the eyes of His glory to anger. Isaiah 3:8.

In Malachi,

Judah has acted faithlessly, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, and Judah has profaned the holiness of Jehovah, for he loved and married the daughter of a foreign god. Malachi 2:11.

And in addition in the following places - Isaiah 3:1 and following verses;

8:7-8; Jeremiah 2:28; 3:7-11; 9:26; 11:9-10, 12; 13:9; 14:2; 17:1; 18:11-13; 19:7; 32:35; 36:31; 44:12, 14, 26, 28; Hosea 5:5; 8:14; Amos 2:4-5; Zephaniah 1:4; and many times elsewhere.

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