Exiles in Babylon

Three exiled Jews refuse to obey the king of Babylon and bow to his golden image. This poem is an interpretation of part of the book of Daniel, in the Bible.

In the land of Judah, Jehoiakim reigned
But in his third year as king he was chained
By Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king
Who besieged him, and who did bring
Him and some of his nobles and clan
Back to Babylon by caravan

From these exiles of Judah were selected
Some young men with no defects detected
These men, who were handsome and wise,
Were chosen to serve the king and to advise
So they were the Chaldean language taught
And they learned what the locals thought
They were given new names also:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

But king Nebuchadnezzar built on a plain
A tall image of gold, and he did ordain
That when any person should hear
All kinds of music being played near
He must worship and bow down low
And devotion to the gold image show
But anyone who did not follow this decree
Who did not with the king’s order agree
Must be thrown into a furnace of fire
Where he would surely suffer and expire

So when all the instruments were played
The people ceased their work and they obeyed
They bowed down to the image of gold
That rose from the plain, as they were told
But some of the locals saw three
Who would not obey the decree
And these spies took the report
To the king and to his court
And the king’s face became distorted
With rage at the thing they reported
And he said to the three Jews,
“What is this incredible news?
Is it true that you don’t revere
My gods and idols, or even fear
The fire that I have prepared
For those who do what you have dared?
Now, if you are prepared to obey
And bow down when the flutes play
To my image of gold on the plain
Then you will not feel any chain
And you will not feel the heat
Or burn like a piece of meat
What god that is worshipped in any land
Can free you from my powerful hand?”

And the three from Judah replied to him,
“We don’t need to answer your threats grim
The God we serve is able to deliver us
From the fire with which you threaten us
But even if our God does not prevent
The fire from burning, we will not consent
To serve your gods or worship the gold
On yonder plain that we all behold”

Then the king was overcome by wrath
And he prepared the furnace fire bath
And the furnace of fire was heated to a grade
Seven times hotter than it normally stayed
And the king commanded his strong men
To tie up the three in their clothes, and then
To throw them into the furnace of heat
And then to leave in a quick retreat
But the king’s strong men were slain
By the heat as it escaped the fire main

And the king watched from a distance
To watch the three lose their existence
But the king was amazed to see
That he did no longer see three
Instead, he saw four men walking around
Inside the furnace, and now unbound
And the king did to his officials proclaim,
“Did we not cast three men into the flame?”
And they answered him, “Yes, we did so”
“Look, I see four men who freely go
About the furnace without even burning
And a son of the gods I am discerning”

Then the king went to the furnace door
And to the three he did loudly implore,
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out!
You servants of the Most High God, come out!”
And the three men came out from the blaze
And the king and his officials they did amaze
For they saw that, in the furnace, the fire
Had not harmed their bodies, hair, or attire
Neither did the stench of the smoke
The clothes of the three men soak

Then Nebuchadnezzar said,
“Blessed be your God, your Head!
For He sent His angel and saved
You three men who willingly braved
The fire, against my stern command
You risked your bodies, and took your stand
Refusing to worship any other power
You served only your own God at that hour
Now I know that no other god can aid
As yours did when you stood unswayed!”