Fourth Man in Fire

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Old Testament


If the KJV of the Bible is true, how did Nebuchadnezzar recognize the Son of God having never seen Him before? (Dan.3:25)


This question was answered in November 2004, but for ease of review it is repeated here in its entirety:

The KJV translates Dan. 3:25 as follows: "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." The RSV, however, reads: "But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." The NIV reads: "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

The word for "god" in this passage is elahin, an Aramaic word, not the Hebrew word, Elohim. Elohim, though plural, is generally translated as "God" and is used as a singular name. Elahin, also plural, is always a "true plural," meaning it should be translated as "gods." Though no one knows for sure what Nebuchadnezzar actually saw (or if anyone else saw it), his comment would have been consistent with his pagan beliefs. He surely believed in a pantheon of gods and thought this was a divine figure of some sort. Some scholars see this phrase, "a son of the gods," as a Semitic idiom for a member of the class "gods." His statement, then, recognizes the fourth figure as a God-given presence. Jewish commentators often view the mysterious form as a messenger or angel from God. And indeed, in Dan. 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar says: "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."

Some of the earlier Christian commentators saw this figure as the pre-incarnate "Christ," thereby making Nebuchadnezzar a witness to the Incarnation. Few subscribe to that view any more.

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