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In the third chapter of Daniel, 3 Jewish men get thrown into a fiery furnace. The King who had them thrown in looks and sees a fourth person walking around with them in the fire. This fourth person is identified by the polytheistic King as looking like unto a son of the gods:

He answered and hath said, 'Lo, I am seeing four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like to a son of the gods.' - Daniel 3:25 (YLT)

The men who were thrown into the fire had previously claimed faith that God, if he so chose, could rescue them from the fire:

Lo, it is; our God whom we are serving, is able to deliver us from a burning fiery furnace; and from thy hand, O king - Daniel 3:17 (YLT)

It is likely that this confidence was built in part upon a direct promise from God issued in Isaiah 43:

And now, thus said Jehovah, Thy Creator, O Jacob, and thy Fashioner, O Israel, Be not afraid, for I have redeemed thee, I have called on thy name—thou art Mine. When thou passest into waters, I am with thee, And into floods, they do not overflow thee, When thou goest into fire, thou art not burnt, And a flame doth not burn against thee. - v. 1-2

The promise is that in the fire they are not burnt because "I am with thee". Jehovah uses a first person singular pronoun. Later in Isaiah 43 Jehovah makes it clear that He alone is Savior:

I—I am Jehovah, And besides Me there is no saviour. - v.11

I understand the notion of proxy, and that God could still be considered the only Savior even though sending a Savior who is not Himself, but the promise in Isaiah is that God Himself with be with them in water, flood, and fire.

Whom do Biblical Unitarians say is seen by Nebuchadnezzar in the fiery furnace with the three Jews?

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  • Is not "I am with thee" simply a matter of omnipresence? Jul 3, 2023 at 15:07
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    The English rendering of the Aramaic in Daniel 3:25 should read son of deity (no articles) the 'deity' being singular. See the answer (from an expert) to my enquiry on SE-BH about this very matter. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 3, 2023 at 20:04
  • Who did Nebuchadnezzar think it was?
    – Kris
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:12
  • @User14 That is exactly Nigel's question which he linked in the comment above. Jul 4, 2023 at 12:06
  • @MikeBorden not exactly. That question asked what did nebu say. Regardless his exact phraseology we have to recognize that nebu was a pagan and thought there were many gods he was not thinking it was yhwh or the only begotten son
    – Kris
    Jul 4, 2023 at 12:49

2 Answers 2

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Daniel describes two incidents in which people are saved from certain death:

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 …
— Daniel 3:28

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me …
— Daniel 6:22

In each case, it's explicitly stated that it was God's angel (mal'aḵ, מַלְאַךְ) that saved them from certain death.

What reason is there to suspect that a Unitarian would interpret this with anything other than the obvious meaning?

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    Is it the Unitarian position that this angel of the lord could not be the pre existing son of God(Jesus) since according to Unitarians Jesus did not exist before being born of Mary.
    – Kris
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:05
  • These are the only two times that particular word appears in Scripture but it is said to correspond to a Hebrew word which is translated as either angel or messenger, depending upon the sending agency. Jul 4, 2023 at 12:22
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Disclaimer: My view, as a non-Trinitarian, though it likely counts as "Unitarian," does not represent the "Unitarian Church" denomination.

The Bible teaches that God is invisible.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17, KJV)

It also teaches that God's Son Jesus was the image of this invisible God.

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15, KJV)

Between these two truths, we may safely conclude that it was not God whom the king observed in the fiery furnace.

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18, KJV)

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12, KJV)

Those who believe the Son of God was actually God, instead of the Son of God, are the ones who may be hard-pressed to identify whom it was that Nebuchadnezzar saw, because the Bible quotes him referencing "the Son of God."

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, KJV)

Nebuchadnezzar is not recorded as claiming he had seen God. God was working on his heart, and he seems to have been inspired with an understanding of the truth in the midst of this dramatic event. He identified the fourth man in the fire as the Son of God.

Among those who seek ways of explaining this that would not have Nebuchadnezzar uttering such a sharp truth, the explanation is often given that he said "a son of the gods." (Some Bible translations actually render it this way.) They will claim that the king, being pagan, would not have known the true God, and would have been thinking of his own deities. However, the grammar does not lend itself to such a translation.

The phrase he actually used is: "בַר־אֱלָהִֽין", i.e. "bar-elahin"--a construct chain linking "son" with "God/god" in a possessive relationship, properly translated as "son of God/god" (Biblical languages do not have uppercase/lowercase distinctions). The word "elahin" is Aramaic for "elohim." In Aramaic, the definite article comes as an "-ah" suffix to the word--and it is notably absent here. Therefore, it cannot be properly translated as "the gods."

My Understanding

I believe the "Son of God" whom Nebuchadnezzar saw was the archangel Michael, the pre-incarnate Son of God who later spoke those words recorded by Paul in Hebrews 10:5 . . .

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (Hebrews 10:5, KJV)

He would have appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in the same manner he had appeared on prior occasions to others, such as to Abraham--as an angel of the LORD.

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  • A body prepared or my ears have you opened? Hebrews writer quotes the Septuagint but the Hebrew says something different? Either way, I would avoid such verses as support. Jul 3, 2023 at 19:46
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    No man hath seen God at any time. But when 'God is manifest in flesh' 1 Timothy 3:16 (TR/KJV) then that manifestation can be seen (by those witnesses who were chosen to view that manifestation). But faith must still 'see' the Person of the Son associated with that manifestation. But ye see me ; because I live, ye shall live also John 14:19.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 3, 2023 at 20:13
  • @NigelJ I find it interesting how quick people are to rationalize and justify their position that otherwise differs with a plain reading of the Scriptures. John wrote that "no man has seen God at any time." He wrote it more than once--using two different Greek verbs. He wrote this after Jesus had ascended to heaven, so it would apply to anyone who had seen him. That covers the bases well. Yet you say God allows "those witnesses who were chosen" to see God? As if you know better than John! The word "but" in your comment is telling everyone how ready you are to accept the Biblical trut
    – Biblasia
    Jul 7, 2023 at 13:03
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    @Biblasia You misquote me. I did not say 'chosen to see God.' I said 'chosen to view that manifestation.' You have ignored the content of my comment and then misrepresented it. No further comment from myself, thank you. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:30
  • @NigelJ Misunderstood it would be more accurate--and how would I have guessed? I cannot believe that you are actually saying God or Jesus was selective in who should see him. You're not making sense to me.
    – Biblasia
    Jul 7, 2023 at 20:56

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