In Daniel 3:25, King Nebuchadnezzar said he saw a fourth person and he looked like the son of God. Was he referring to Jesus Christ and if so, how was he able to tell that it was Jesus, the son of God and not something else?
Here we must tread very carefully so as not to read into the text something that was not intended.
Now let me be completely frank - I believe that the fourth person in the furnace was Jesus, the Son of God. The question should really be, Who did Nebuchadnezzar think or say He was? Let us observe several things about this story:
- The Name "Jesus" or even His title "Son of God" was unknown in Daniel's time.
- The word translated "God" in the NKJV & KJV, is actually plural so that the verse should be translated, "the son of [the] gods" as per NIV, ESV, BSB, HCSB, NHEB, GWT, NAS1977, AKJV, ASV, ERV, etc.
- Nebuchadnezzar sees the fourth person as a man (V25)
- He also calls this fourth person an "angel" (V28)
To us who live after the cross, none of this is an impedimanet to believing that this was Jesus because He is called "The Son of God", "The Son of Man", and in the OT is also referred to as the "Angel of God" (6:13, 8:15, 9:8, 17, 15:13, 17:3, 4, 21:12, 16-21, 35:1, 10, Ex 4:3-8, 6:2, 23:20, 21, Deut 1:6, 1 Kings 12:22), or, "the Angel of the LORD" (Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1) in many places.
The remarkable thing is that Nebuchadnezzar recognized this person as somehow supernatural either by direct inspiration of God or by the example of the three worthies in the furnace we are not told. Clearly Jesus would have had a very noble, majestic bearing about Him that deeply impressed the king.
In any case, Nebuchadnezzar would not have known about the coming Messiah at least at this stage of his spiritual journey (perhaps later after his conversion in Dan 4???).
I believe it was none other than Jesus. Despite Nebuchadnezzar witnessing this miracle he failed to call this 4th person out of the furnace! This was a critical and the main factor here.... he had the opportunity to call Him out and establish a personal relationship with Jesus... but he could not bring himself to do it! To me this speaks to ALL of us - we can all recognize Him and the unbelievable miracles He does and we can also acknowledge Him as God, but that will not save us. We must invite Him to come to us and have a personal relationship with Him. This thought/message would not be available if the 4th person was an angelic being. I am sure there are many more “messages” to be uncovered in this story of the furnace.
The Aramaic term [לְבַר־אֱלָהִֽין] 'Le-Bar Elohin' used in [Daniel 3:25] is "(belonging) To a Son - of God".
The Hebrew term [בְּנֵ֤י הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙] 'Beni-HaElohim' used in [Genesis 6:4] refers to the Nephilim (נְּפִלִ֞ים) as "sons of the gods".
If [Daniel 3:25] refers to the spirit of the Son of YHVH, then the fourth form was 'Yisrael'. Since YHVH calls the nation of Yisrael His first-born Son in [Exodus 4:22] "YHVH said My first-born Son is Yisrael" ( אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּנִ֥י בְכֹרִ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל).