Daniel 3:25

"God" or "gods"

By Dr. Ken Matto

Daniel 3:25 (KJV) 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.

Daniel 3:25 (ESV) He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, 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.”

Another criticism that the modern version only proponents (MVOP) level against the King James Bible is found in Daniel 3:25. The question concerning this verse is should it be singular as “God” or should it be plural as “gods?” The MVOP claim that Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist and there is no way that he would have understood that the Lord Jesus Christ was the one in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now a question must be asked. Did God write the Bible according to the belief systems of the people mentioned therein or did He write the Bible according to His own wisdom? Once we get into the text, we will see that the King James Bible has rendered the word properly as “God” and not “gods” as the modern versions do.

The Aramaic words found in the statement are as follows, "dâmēh lebar 'ĕlâhı̂yn" The last word corresponds to the word "elohim" in the Hebrew which shows the plurality of God. In other words, it does not signify 3 gods but is used to show "three distinct persons" as one Godhead. Now the Aramaic word "elahiyn" may be translated "gods or God" and the usage is determined by the context.

Jeremiah 10:11 (KJV) Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

Daniel 3:18 (KJV) But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Jeremiah 10:11 is the only place outside of Daniel where the word “elahiyn” is translated “gods.” In the book of Ezra, it is translated “God” 43 times. So we see that the word is definitely used according to context as many words in Scripture are.

When we look at the modern versions that say "son of the gods" it is basically claiming son (singular) but gods (plural) so which son of which god in the pantheon of gods of Babylon was he? The plural word "gods" does not fit the context of the immediate statement that it is in. It is like 5 men standing next to each other and a little boy is brought out and introduced as a son of the men. It does not make grammatical sense because the boy can only be the son of one of the men. Now let us go further in the context.

Notice verse 26 that Nebuchadnezzar came by the furnace and spoke into the furnace calling the three men servants of the most high God, not gods.   Even the ESV translates it as “Most High God.”  It is the very same word used in verse 25.  We never translate the Scriptures according to how we believe someone may think, we translate according to the underlying text.

Daniel 3:26 (ESV) Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

Daniel 3:17 (KJV) If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

Notice the three Hebrew boys state that the God they serve can deliver them. So they told Nebuchadnezzar about the God they serve, which is in keeping with the context of the following verses of the furnace scene. There would have been no need on Nebuchadnezzar's part to change it to a plural "gods" since he was seeing a miracle and would have remembered they spoke of them serving only one God and not many. Now finally we look at two more verses in this chapter.

Daniel 3:28-29 (KJV) Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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. {29} Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

Four times in the closing verses of this chapter Nebuchadnezzar mentions God (same word as in verse 25) and in all four mentions, not one is made in the plural. Therefore, in verse 25, the word "God" stands as the correct rendering which fits the context of the entire narrative in this chapter.

Then the MVOP level another charge concerning the word “son.” If you notice in verse 25, it is capitalized as “Son.” When the King James translators saw this verse and knew that the word “elahiyn” would be singular in this case because of context and not plural, then they knew that this was a Christophany which was a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Christ. Therefore, armed with that knowledge, they capitalized Son in respect to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 2:7 (KJV) I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Psalm 2:12 (KJV) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

If you notice in Psalm 2, in verses 7 and 12, the word “Son” is capitalized because it is directly referencing the Lord Jesus Christ. I have yet to this day come across anyone who rejects the capitalization of those two words, yet the MVOP attempt to make a claim that it should not be capitalized in Daniel 3:25, when it is also referencing the Lord Jesus Christ. So there you have it!