How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace


How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace

September 24th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM

Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Daniel 3:19-27

9-24-67    8:15 a.m.



Thank you, glorious teenage choir of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And you who listen on the radio are sharing our morning service.  The title of the sermon this morning is How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace.  In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel, you have the story of the three faithful friends who were thrust in the fiery furnace; and you have the story of how they fared, and how God blessed them, for they lived in the faith and in the truth of the Almighty.  And this morning, we are going to see how the critics fare when they are placed in the burning white light heat of historical truth and spiritual fact.  Last Sunday the sermon was Daniel Is Eaten Up in the Critics Den.  The sermon next Sunday will be Will the Real Daniel Stand Up.  Who is he, and what was he like, and when did he write, and what did he write?

Last Sunday we learned of the merciless and vicious attack of the modern rationalist against the Bible which is centered in and against the Book of Daniel.  And we found the four ways that they attack it:  they attack it historically, saying that it is filled with historical errors, and inaccuracies, and missed guesses, and mistakes; they attack it philologically, linguistically, saying that it is full of philological irreconcilables; they attack it prophetically, saying that it is full of prophetic impossibilities; and they attack it doctrinally, saying that it is full of doctrinal aberrations.  So last Sunday morning, we listened to the critic as he literally devoured alive the Book of Daniel. 

Now today, this message, we are going to see how the critic fares in the light of historical fact and spiritual truth.  I have learned to my great sorrow that I cannot even begin to present, in the brief time allotted for a morning message at church, I cannot even begin to present all that I would like to say.  So I will have to do this:  we shall take just a part, just a piece, and speak of that, knowing that it would be typical of all of the rest that might have been said, and, of course, many, many of the things that I would put in a sermon like this will appear in the sermons that are to follow in the weeks and months to come.

Now the sermon this morning is going to take two sides, going to follow two great outlines.  First, we are going to look at those historical inaccuracies and errors that the critic avows to be found in the Book of Daniel; so we are going to look at history in Daniel.  Then the second part, we are going to look at Daniel in history, we are going to see the record of this book in its genesis and through the centuries that followed.  Now, in looking at all of those historical mistakes, and errors, and inaccuracies that the critic, the rational modernist, and this is the thing that is taught in the schools, and it is taught in the seminaries, and it is believed by the whole liberal world; there is not a liberal in the world, not one, who believes in the integrity and the authenticity of the Book of Daniel; they all think of it as a forgery and as a fraud; it is purported, it is supposed, it says of itself that it was written in the sixth century BC.  "Actually," these critics say, "it was written in 165 BC, four hundred years after it says it was written." 

Now one of the things that they say that makes them think that is, that the Book of Daniel is filled with historical inaccuracies and errors.  Now we shall take one of them.  As I say, if we had hours to be here we’d take up a throng of them; but we shall take one of them.  I have picked out the historical error that the modern rationalist has said is the grossest and the most unbelievable.  And I have picked it out because the modern rationalist has said that in this instance we have a watertight argument; one that cannot be disputed or defeated or denied. 

We’re going to take the character of Belshazzar.  He is introduced to us in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, Belshazzar the king.  Now, the critic says that there never lived anybody,Belshazzar; that there never was any king of Babylon by the name of Belshazzar.  They say that there is no such thing as the reign of Belshazzar.  They say there’s no such thing as the death recorded here of Belshazzar.  And they say that there is no such thing as the history recorded in the Book of Daniel of Belshazzar.  They avow that Belshazzar is a figment of the author’s imagination; it is pure, unadulterated fiction, and that it has no place in serious history and is a gross historical inaccuracy on the part of the unknown Jew who is supposed, they say, to have written Daniel in 165 BC, four hundred years after Belshazzar is supposed to have lived.  Well, fine, let us take that.

The critic says that this is a sure-fire thing; there is no such thing as the life, kingship, death, history, or reference to Belshazzar.  Now they make out a good case for it, and I’m going to present the case of the modern rationalist against Belshazzar.  The historian and the secular sources list all of the kings of Babylon.  First, Nebuchadnezzar; Nebuchadnezzar reigned for forty years, and he died in 562 BC; first, Nebuchadnezzar.  He was followed by his son, Evil-merodach, who reigned for two years from 560 to 562.  And Evil-merodach was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Neriglisser.  And Neriglisser reigned for four years; that’d make it from 560 to 556; he reigned from 560 to 556 BC, and Neriglisser died.  When Neriglisser died, he left on the throne a small boy, his son, named Labashi-Marduk and Labashi-Marduk, the infant son, reigned for nine months; and he was deposed by Nabonidus.  And Nabonidus reigned for seventeen years from 556 to 539 when Cyrus came, captured him, captured the city, and destroyed the Babylonian Empire, and thereafter the Medo-Persian Empire took over the conquest of the whole civilized world. 

Now the higher rationalist says that there is no such thing as any Belshazzar.  We have named all of the kings of Babylon:  Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Neriglisser, Labashi-Marduk, Nabonidus the last king who was captured by Cyrus the Persian; and there is no place in it for anybody named Belshazzar.  Well, it looks like a sure fire thing, and that’s the way they do it.  And when you read those men, you will say, "Well, for sure and for certain, the book is a forgery after all."  You see, there is not a secular source that mentions Belshazzar; yet Daniel says he was the last king in Babylon.  There was not an ancient historian, neither one like Berossus, a priest in Babylon, nor Alexander, Hephaestion; there is no such thing as any ancient historian who mentions Belshazzar.  Yet, Daniel says that Belshazzar was the last king in Babylon.  The chronicles that we have say that Nabonidus was the last king in Babylon and that Nabonidus was captured by Cyrus and was pensioned, and lived his whole life out.  But Daniel says that Belshazzar, the last king, was slain the night that Babylon was taken.  So you have what the critic says is a sure-fire indication of a gross action of a man’s imagination in conjuring up somebody like Belshazzar.

Then, the archaeologist began to dig into the ruins of the ancient Chaldean Empire and Babylon, the great capital city.  And as the archaeologist dug, and dug, and dug, he uncovered thousands and thousands of Chaldean tablets and inscriptions, all of which he bundled up and sent to the British Museum in London.  And there the Assyriologists – a man who is learned in the ancient civilization of the Mesopotamian Valley, Assyria and Babylonian, is called an Assyriologist – and there the Assyriologist pored over those tablets and those inscriptions.  They found a tablet, a clay tablet, in those cuneiform inscriptions; they found a clay tablet with the name Belshazzar upon it.  So we know that there was somebody who lived back there in that time by the name of Belshazzar; he was after all a real person.  Second: then they found a tablet with the name of Belshazzar and Nabonidus, the last king, on the same inscription.  So they knew that there was some connection between Nabonidus and Belshazzar.  Third: then they found an inscription that referred to Belshazzar as the eldest son of the King Nabonidus.  Fourth: then they found one of those clay cuneiform tablet inscriptions in which there was a business contract; and the man making the contract made an oath in the name of Nabonidus and Belshazzar.  Now in the ancient Babylonian day, an oath was always taken in the name of the reigning king.  So we know from that table that Belshazzar was co-regent, and co-sovereign, and co-king with his father Nabonidus.

Then they kept on digging up those ostraca and those clay tablets with that funny cuneiform writing, and finally, Bel-sarra-usur, his name in the Chaldean language – Belshazzar in our language – has come to stand out as one of the leading spirits of his age.  He was born in 575 BC.  He was fourteen years old when Nebuchadnezzar died.  He was twenty years old when his father ascended the throne.  When he was twenty years old we learned that he had his own house in the city of Babylon.  When he was twenty-five years old we find mention of his secretary.  When he was twenty-seven years old we find mention of his steward and several secretaries.  When he was thirty years old we find him commander in chief of the armies of northern Babylonia.  When he was thirty years old, we read of an instance where he sent an offering to the temple at Sippar up the Euphrates River; and we also read about his sister who was a votaress of the moon god at Ur, down the Euphrates River.  And we also read of his building a house for his sister, who was a votary of the moon god, Sin, down at Ur; he built a house for her in the woman’s quarters where she might live in dignity and have a house of her own.  And we learn that he was co-regent, and co-king, and co-sovereign with his father, Nabonidus. 

Now the reason for that is very plain as we have learned from these many, many cuneiform tablets and inscriptions.  You see, Nabonidus was an unusual man.  He was a man of high cultural and religious sensitivities.  He was an archaeologist – now this is the last king in Babylon – he was an archaeologist, and he loved to dig into the foundations of temples and into the cornerstones of temples, and there, copy out the list of kings of the ages past, and all of the things that pertain to antiquity.  Consequently, he did not like to give himself to affairs of state. 

Second thing about Nabonidus:  he was not only a highly sensitive, cultural, religious man, but for the most part of his reign, he lived in Tema, in northern Arabia.  So, when Nabonidus left [Babylon], he left the city, and he left the kingdom, in charge of his eldest son Belshazzar.  And for most of those seventeen years, for ten of those seventeen years, Nabonidus, the king, lived in Tema, in northern Arabia; and the real and acting king of Babylon, and of the Babylonian Empire was his eldest son named Belshazzar.

Now that accounts for this strange thing that you read in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, where Belshazzar says, in the sixteenth verse, that Daniel is to be third ruler in the kingdom.  Then he mentions him again, in the twenty-ninth verse, that he is to be third ruler in the kingdom.  Well, that’s a strange thing.  Why wasn’t he the second ruler in the kingdom?  Because the first ruler in the kingdom was Nabonidus, and the second ruler in the kingdom was Belshazzar; so when he offered that high place to Daniel, the most he could do was to say, "And you will be third ruler in the kingdom." 

Now, the death of Belshazzar, which is accounted here, recorded here, in the last of the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel: the Book of Daniel says that that night King Belshazzar was slain [Daniel 5:30].  Now there has been dug up the annalistic tablet of Cyrus, in which the Persian king, Cyrus, describes his capture of the city of Babylon.  He describes the fall of Babylon. And in that entablature, Cyrus says that four months before Babylon fell he captured Nabonidus; and Nabonidus, in the hands of the enemy, in the hands of the Persians, naturally looked upon – as everyone else did – Belshazzar, his son, as the king in Babylon.  Now that tablet says, the annalistic tablet of Cyrus, that the fall of Babylon, the capture of Babylon, was easily done; and that is exactly what Daniel says in the last verses of the fifth chapter of Daniel.  Babylon fell easily; just as Cyrus says.  But the tablet of Cyrus also says that that night the king’s son died; and that’s exactly what Daniel says, "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain." 

Now all of this is an astonishing thing, because the name of Belshazzar literally fell out of human history!  Herodotus, the father of history and one of the greatest literary figures of all time, Herodotus the Greek, visited Babylon in 460 BC, within eighty years after Cyrus captured the city and after Belshazzar was slain.  Herodotus visited Babylon in 460 BC, and yet Herodotus, who names kings and queens and who describes the city minutely, and its history, Herodotus never knew anything about Belshazzar; he never heard of him.  Nor did any other ancient historian ever know anything about Belshazzar; his name fell out of human history.  Then how is it that Daniel knew him?  And how is it that Daniel is the only one that ever refers to him?  The reason is this:  because Daniel was a contemporary; Daniel lived in that day, Daniel lived in that time, and Daniel wrote of the things that were happening in his day.

And what Daniel said is now corroborated by those pieces of brick and pottery and ostraca, and those cuneiform inscriptions that have been dug up by the archaeologists.  So much so, that I have copied this from Joseph P. Free Archaeology and Bible History, page 235; listen to it:


There is now no first rate liberal today as far as the writer knows who urges the objection concerning Belshazzar.  The detailed facts are that Nabonidus, in one sense the last king of Babylon, was not killed by the invading Persians but was given a pension by his conquerors.  On the other hand, Belshazzar, elevated to the position of ruler of Babylon by his father, was killed when the city of Babylon was taken, as indicated in Daniel 5:30.


Now look at this last sentence that this great modern historian and archaeologist writes,: "The matter concerning Belshazzar, far from being an error in the Scriptures, is one of the many, striking confirmations of the Word of God which has been demonstrated by archaeology." 

That’s how the critic fares in the fiery furnace.  So cocksure is he; so watertight are his arguments; so invincible and so infallible are his attacks, except when you put him in the fire of historical truth and spiritual fact.  It is Daniel who is right!  It is Daniel who is correct!  It is the entire modern rationalist world that is filled with confusion of faith and shameful injury and mistakeS.

All right, oh, our time is,Ah!

Now we’re going to look at the Book of Daniel in history.  We’ve looked at history in the Book of Daniel and found him right, even though all the world, all of it, had forgotten about and buried the very name of the king that he describes.  We must hasten – I would say well we’ll take next Sunday for the next sermon; but we would be here forever.  I’ll die before I get through, even with the Book of Daniel.  So we’re going on, now very hastily; and it hurts my heart to do it like this, because this is one of the finest, noblest, meaningful, significant truths to be found anywhere when we talk about the Word of God. 

The Book of Daniel: one, it’s in the Hebrew canon; it’s in the Hebrew canon.  It’s in the Bible.  The canon refers to the inspired books of the Bible; Daniel is in the Bible.  Now that is a fact that you have to face; it’s in the Bible, Daniel is in the Bible.  Now you look at that.  There are a hundred marvelous, noble works that were excluded from the Hebrew canon. First Maccabees, 1 Maccabees could have been in the Bible, and I would have said, "Amen."  Martin Luther said, "It is of such noble character that it ought to be in the Holy Scriptures."  First Maccabees is one of the noblest books ever penned by man; but it was excluded from the canon, from the Hebrew Bible, because it was not ancient enough.  Ecclesiasticus, which was written about 300 BC, Ecclesiasticus was excluded from the canon even though it represented the Jewish thought of that day; but it was not ancient enough.  The ancient synagogue challenged the Book of Proverbs; the ancient synagogue challenged the Book of Ecclesiastes; the ancient synagogue even challenged the Book of Ezekiel; but there is never a record where the canonicity of the Book of Daniel was ever challenged.  And some of you who have time to read things like that, get Edersheim, his second volume, and the fifth appendix, and read those discussions.  There never was a time when the canonicity, that is the right of Daniel to be in the Old Testament Bible, was ever challenged – though Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel were challenged.

Isn’t it a marvelous come to pass that those men of the ancient synagogue, and the canon was this, the root, the word "canon" in Hebrew, Greek, and in English, the word "canon" means "test, measure"; does the book meet the canon, does it meet the test, does it meet the measure.  The canon was this:  that it had to be inspired, the book had to be inspired.  And they felt that inspiration ceased in the days of Nehemiah and Malachi; that there were no prophets after Nehemiah and Malachi.  And a book, in order to be received into the canon, had to be before the days of Nehemiah and Malachi.  Now isn’t that an amazing come to pass, that after those men had made that canon and refused all these other wonderful books that those same men put into this canon a forgery, written in their own day in 165 BC?  It would be the same thing as if we had a group of theologians today to discuss the proposition of putting Giovanni Papini’s Life of Christ in the Bible along with the Four Gospels; it would be as ridiculously grotesque today if we tried to do that as if they had tried to put Daniel in the Canon in 165 BC when they say the date it was written. For the canon was as set in 165 BC as our New Testament is set today; and it would have been a strange thing to add it in 165 BC as to add Papini’s Life of Christ  to the New Testament now.

All right, second, we’re looking at the history of the Book of Daniel.  Second: it is in the Septuagint, the Septuagint. Whenever you read it, it will be "LXX," Septuagint, seventy. The Septuagint is the most famous and influential of all of the translations ever made in the world.  The Septuagint was translated under the Ptolemies in Alexandria, out of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek.  And the Septuagint is the Bible used by the apostles and the evangelists and preachers of the New Testament.  When the Bible says, "And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35], he was preaching out of the Septuagint Bible.  When the Bible says that Apollos from Alexandria convinced the Jews mightily out of the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ [Acts 18:28], he was using the Septuagint Bible.  Now the Septuagint was translated in 300 BC in Alexandria; and some scholars say that by 275 BC that the Septuagint translation was completed.  These critics say that the Book of Daniel was written in 165 BC, two hundred years after the Septuagint translation was made; but you find it in the Septuagint.

All right, third, we’re following the history of the Book of Daniel:  it is quoted by 1 Maccabees; in the first chapter of the Book of Maccabees, and I told you, one of the noblest writings of all time, he quotes from the Book of Daniel, and in the second chapter, the dying Mattathias, as he makes appeal to his son Judas  Maccabeus, and to his brethren to stay true to the faith, the dying Mattathias uses the example of Daniel and his three brethren.  And 1 Maccabees was written about the time that they say this forgery of Daniel was supposed to have been composed, yet, Maccabees quotes Daniel as being the Word of God.

All right, third, fourth it is: Josephus.  One of the most beautiful stories in all literature is in The Book of Antiquities.  In the eleventh Book of the Antiquities, in the eighth chapter, in paragraph four and five; you go to the library and read it; one of the most beautiful stories in the world.  Alexander the Great was in this story; he was besieging Tyre.  And he sent word to Jerusalem to send him provisions for his army as he besieged Tyre.  And the high priest Jaddua in Jerusalem sent word to Alexander the Great that he had sworn allegiance to Darius the King of Persia, and he could not break that oath.  And it infuriated Alexander the Great.  And when he got through reducing Tyre to ashes, and when he got through reducing Gaza to ashes, he turned his army to Jerusalem to reduce Jerusalem to ashes.  Every Syrian city that proved friendly to Darius and the Persians Alexander burned to the ground.  Well, when Jaddua the high priest learned that Alexander the Great was coming to Jerusalem with his army, he was filled with terror; and he took it to God.  And God answered him in a vision of what he should do.  And the next day Jaddua called his people together and told them what God had said.  And the people dressed in white, the entire city; and the high priest, Juddua, put on his scarlet robes, and his golden miter, and the breastplate, all of the glorious garments of the high priest.  And when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, at the head of his army to destroy the city, he looked and saw that great throng dressed in white, and the high priest with his high priestly garments, and the other priests following behind, coming out to meet him singing the songs of Zion, and Alexander bowed down and went into the city and worshiped Jehovah God and offered sacrifices in the temple.  And when his army who came to gather the spoils of the stricken city looked upon it, they thought he was out of his mind, that’s the expression that Josephus uses, they thought Alexander was out of his mind!  And they asked him why; and Alexander said, "In a vision, before I left Macedonia and crossed the Hellespont over into Asia to destroy, to fight against the Persians, I saw in a dream, a man exactly like this high priest Jaddua who told me that God would bless me in my efforts of conquest; and it was this man."

Now, the fact:  the critic says that Josephus is just lying in that.  What,I’ve forgotten the main point of my story here,what Jaddua did was, he took Daniel, he took the prophet Daniel and showed Alexander, in the prophet Daniel, where the prophet Daniel had prophesied about Alexander – and we’ll see that in the eighth chapter, in the seventh and eighth chapters of his book – he showed that to Alexander the Great.  Now the fact; they say that Josephus is just lying; see the critic says anything.  But the fact is this:  that whereas Alexander the Great destroyed every city that was friendly to Darius, he not only spared, but he greatly favored Jerusalem.  Now we’re talking about the story of the book.

The Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls that were recently found, there was a book found of Isaiah; and there by the side of Isaiah, you will find Daniel.  And those Dead Sea Scrolls go back to the time when they say that Daniel was written.  How does the critic fare in the fiery furnace of spiritual truth and historical fact?  He’s consumed.  For Daniel is always proved to be right and correct; and the critics are always proved to be wrong.

Oh, I had an ending to this sermon; what I thought was a glorious ending to this sermon.  And I haven’t got time even to mention it.  Well, we’ll come back next Sunday; listening to Will the Real Daniel Stand Up?

Now it is very late, and while we sing our hymn of invitation, somebody you, a couple you, a family  you, to give your heart to Jesus, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, however God shall say the word and lead in the way, would you make it this morning?  Come now.  On the first note of the first stanza, "Here I am, preacher, I’m taking Jesus as my Savior; I’m giving my heart to God"; or, "I’m giving my life to the Lord."  A family of you, a couple, or one somebody, while we sing, come on that first stanza; decide now to come.  And when you stand up, stand up coming.  Do it now.  While we stand and while we sing.