In chapter 3 of book of Daniel we find the story of the three young men that are thrown in fire because they refused to worship the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar made.

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1)

The three Jews refused to worship the image of gold:

They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever!

Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold,

and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace.

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:9-12)

Where was Daniel in these moments?

  • 2
    In the previous chapter, it says Daniel was promoted to a high office in the kingdom. It is possible he was on an official errand when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were condemned to the furnace.
    – Gryphoenix
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 14:23
  • It is entirely possible that Daniel was reluctantly one of the people to bow down to the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. There's no biblical basis to show that he was gone or that he was around so neither assumption can be thrown out.
    – LCIII
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 16:25
  • 1
    Great A+++ Question! however, I don't think this question will be able to be answered by anything other than speculation.
    – Jeremy H
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 20:44
  • "Bob Snow" left the following comment via an edit request: Daniel was not bowing to the idol. He would not have been impactful for the next dream and prophecy where God was rebuking King Neb for this very mindset. If you will recall he had to live in wild with an animal mentality for 7 years. Daniel 4:28-35
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


Since scripture does not provide this information, any answer one could provide, no matter how logical or acceptable it may seem, will never be anything more than personal speculation. That being said, here are some possibilities why Daniel may not appear in this narrative. Here are some unlikely suggestions that I have come across from other sources over the years as well as some more reasonable suggestions.

Unlikely possibilities

  1. Daniel obeyed the king and bowed before the idol.

I do not think anyone who has read the book of Daniel would give serious consideration to this possibility at all.

  1. Daniel was simply not observed not bowing before the idol.

That seems rather unlikely since Daniel held a position of prominence and would have been visible to all the people at such a ceremony.

  1. Because Daniel held such a prominent position before the king, perhaps they were afraid to accuse him.

  2. Perhaps because of Daniel’s prominence, he may have had his place beside the king when all of this was going on and was not required to bow before the idol.

Perhaps some more likely possibilities.

  1. Perhaps he was away on the king’s business and unable to attend.

  2. More likely, it was simply due to the fact that Daniel may not have been present at the event because of the duties of his office. Remember, this took place in the plains of Dura at a place thought to have been in the area of the city of Erech, some 95 miles south east of Babylon. Since Daniel was the ruler over the province of Babylon proper, it is more likely he was tending to the affairs of his office and was not at the event.

  3. Perhaps it was because of the great respect Nebuchadnezzar had for Daniel and his God, Nebuchadnezzar may well have excused Daniel from attending the event.

  • I agree that the last three are the most likely causes of Daniel's absence.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 22:18

Leonard J Greenspoon says in ‘Between Alexandria and Antioch: Jews and Judaism in the Hellenistic Period’, published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World page 322, that, at least in its finished form, the Book of Daniel was a Jewish novel. Its authors or compilers were not intent on relating actual events of the past, nor did they expect their audience to understand the book as historical. Although we may find an answer within the text, we should not regard that as historically correct, nor should we expect corroboration from any independent source.

In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that everyone in the kingdom worship a great idol that was set up on the plain, whenever they heard the music. But he was told that Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, refused to worship the idol or pay homage to the gods. They were brought before him and told that unless they worship as required, they would be thrown in a fiery furnace. The boys were bound and taken to the furnace, but it was so exceedingly hot that it killed the men who held them. The king saw the three, alive and in the company of an angel, in the midst of the fire, without even a hair singed or their clothes burnt. He then ordered that anyone who spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego be cut to pieces.

Notice that the text brings to our attention that the fire "was so exceedingly hot that it killed the men who held them," making it all the more miraculous that the young men survived unscathed. Then we are told that Nebuchadnezzar honoured the God of Daniel and his friends, a point made even more forcefully in chapter 4 and again, with a different king, in chapter 6. Greenspoon says (ibid, page 341) that the Hebrew form of Daniel neatly divides into two parts, with chapters 1 to 6 consisting of a collection of tales, in which Daniel and his companions demonstrate the superiority of their God and those who obediently follow him over the worshippers of false, empty and powerless deities.

The Book of Daniel does not tell us where Daniel was at the time the three young men were cast into the furnace, so that information is unavailable to us. However, it could be noted that if Daniel had been included in this scene, and so cast in the fire, then the very similar drama of his being cast into the lion's den would be lessened. For literary reasons, he needed to be elsewhere.

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