What Did They Really Say?

Barry Bennett

In the book of Daniel we find the amazing story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. For their refusal to worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, they were being threatened with death in a fiery furnace.

The traditional interpretation of the story has Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego responding to the threat in this way: “If it is true that you will throw us into the fiery furnace then our God will deliver us out of your hand, O King.” “But if He doesn’t, we still won’t serve you.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

This unfortunate interpretation gives rise to the exaltation of double mindedness. Think about it for a minute. Their first response is to declare that God will deliver them from the furnace and the edict of the King. Then they supposedly continue by saying that if God doesn’t come through, they still won’t bow to the image. Huh? Obviously if they are dead, they won’t be bowing to any image. Not only is the response nonsensical, it is double minded.

What did they really say? We must first understand that this passage was written in Aramaic. Words are important and it is very important that we understand their meanings apart from religious tradition. Here is the dialogue:

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

”The phrase ‘if it be so’ is the Aramaic word ‘hen.’ If what be so? In verse 15 these men of God are threatened with being cast into the furnace. Their reply ‘if it be so’ is referring to the threat. ‘If it be so that you throw us into the furnace…”

They then continue: “But if not.” But if not what? The Aramaic words here are ‘hen la.’ The ‘la’ is the negative added to the original ‘hen.’ Hen = if it be so. Hen la = if it be not so. The original declaration was in regards to the threat. The following ‘hen la’ is with regards to the same threat!

This is what is being said: “If it be so that you throw us into the furnace, our God will deliver us. If it be not so (if you change your mind and don’t throw us in the furnace) be it known to you that we still won’t serve your gods…”Not only does this make perfect sense, it also delivers our heroes from the foolish double mindedness that has been attributed to them for so long. Their declaration is a declaration of faith. “God WILL deliver us. And if you change your mind, King, be sure that we still won’t worship your gods.

”This is what they really said. Don’t let tradition rob you of a powerful example of faith and deliverance!