Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, was a real horror. The ingenuities of his torture chamber made those of Vlad the Impaler look like parlor games. When King Zedekiah of Israel rebelled against him, for instance, he had his eyes put out-which anybody could have thought of-but the master touch was that just before this was done, he had Zedekiah's sons killed before him in some appropriately loathsome way, so that in his blindness he'd have that last sight to live with for the rest of his days.

And then there was the famous trio of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were all three of them employees of the Babylonian civil service, but as Jews they believed there was one God only, and his name was Yahweh. Therefore when Nebuchadnezzar had a ninety-foot idol made out of twenty-four-karat gold and commanded everybody to grovel at its feet-or else-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tried to get themselves registered as conscientious objectors. Nebuchadnezzar lost no time in ordering them to be thrown into a flaming, fiery furnace prepared especially for the occasion.

He ordered the furnace to be heated to seven times its normal temperature, had the three trussed up in their long black overcoats, galoshes, and derby hats, and then took his seat in the front row center. The fire was so hot that the men who tossed them in were burned to a crisp in the process. This wasn't supposed to be part of the act, and neither was what happened next. First of all, Nebuchadnezzar could see that there were four men in the furnace, instead of three, and that the fourth was an angel. Second, they were all obviously fireproof.

Nebuchadnezzar was so undone that he called to them to comeout, and when they emerged with not even their earlocks singed, he pardoned them on the spot and remarked that Yahweh was clearly a God you didn't fool around with. He then went a step further by issuing a new command to the effect that from that day forward, anybody caught treating Yahweh with anything but the highest respect was to be torn limb from limb and have his house burned down, in that order.

Yahweh was presumably pleased by this sudden conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's, but he may have had the sense that there were still a few rough edges to take care of before the job was complete.

Daniel 3; 2 Kings 25:7

~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words