The third chapter of Daniel brings the story of how King Nebuchadnezzar erected a statue made of gold for the people of the land to worship. (Ultimately, this is the story of how Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Daniel's three friends, were thrown into a furnace for not bowing down to the idol but miraculously survived.) The first thing noticeable about this chapter is that Daniel is missing from the narrative. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 93a) tells us the reason behind Daniel's absence:

The Sages taught: Three were partners in that plan to ensure that Daniel would not be in Babylonia when the decree of persecution was in effect: The Holy One, Blessed be He; Daniel; and Nebuchadnezzar. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Let Daniel go from here, so that people would not say that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were delivered from the fiery furnace due to the virtue of Daniel, rather than due to their own righteousness.

And Daniel said to himself: I will go away from here so that this verse will not be fulfilled in my regard: “The graven images of their gods shall you burn with fire” (Deuteronomy 7:25). Daniel was concerned that because Nebuchadnezzar worshipped him like a deity, his legal status was that of an idol, and he would be burned.

And Nebuchadnezzar said: Daniel should go away from here so that the people will not say: Nebuchadnezzar burned his god in fire. And from where is it derived that Nebuchadnezzar worshipped Daniel? It is derived from a verse, as it is written: “Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and worshipped Daniel and commanded that they should offer an offering and pleasing aromas to him” (Daniel 2:46).

Nebuchadnezzar worshipped Daniel as a god. Metzudat David on Daniel 3:12 says that Daniel didn't have to worship, because how could a god come to bow down to an idol?

Now comes my question. Could it be that the statue Nebuchadnezzar made was actually the image of Daniel himself? I have not found a source to back up my claim, but I have not found anything against it either. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," so they say.

{Question courtesy of my brother.}

  • According to Shir HaShirim Rabbah, Nevuchadnezzar did try to convince Doniel to bow down to it
    – Dov
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


Whilst this doesn't answer your question, it does displace the premise. Your question was based on the principle that Doniel did not have to worship as Nevuchadnezzar saw him as a god-like figure.

However, in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7:9 it says explicitly that Nevuchadnezzar tried to convince him to bow down. He told Doniel to to take a look at the statue and and he would be so overawed he would bow down. Nevuchadnezzar then took the tzitz of the kohen gadol and placed it over the mouth of the statue. All the musicians were then assembled to sing praise before it, after which the image then said, "I am Hashem your G-d". On seeing this, Doniel asked Nevuchadnezzar if he could go and kiss it on the mouth. When Nevuchadnezzar queried why the mouth specifically, Doniel answered that it speaks well. Upon his approach, Doniel says that he is a human messenger of Hashem, and that no chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name) should happen. He subsequently kissed the mouth, removing the tzitz. Once again the musicians began playing, but this time there was no reaction from the image. It was swiftly overturned by the wind, prompting the other nations of the world to smash their idols and make them into bells.


It seems that acoording to the Beis Yosef Yore Dea 157 bringing proofs from the Gemora in Pesachim 53b and the Medrash, that the Graven image was not a deity rather merely a very large statue replica of kings of Bavel not unlike Mount Rushmore.

רשאי לקדש את השם ולמסור עצמו אפילו על מצוה קלה כדי שיראו העם ליראה השם ולאהבו בכל לבם והיינו דאמרינן [פסחים נג:] מה ראו חנניה מישאל ועזריה שהפילו את עצמן לכבשן האש פי' ולא השתחוו לצלם והאי לאו עכו"ם היתה אלא אנדרטי של מלכים לכבוד בעלמא אלא מתוך שהיו רובן טועין וסבורים שהיתה עכו"ם היה קדוש השם במה שעשו. ואמרי' נמי במדרש מה לך יוצא ליסקל שמלתי את בני מה לך יוצא ליצלב שנטלתי את הלולב דמשמע שהיו מוסרין עצמם על קדושת השם לפנים משורת הדין דודאי לא היו מחוייבין בכך כיון שבידן להעביר ולבטלם אלא דאפ"ה היו נהרגין מפני שהיתה השעה צריכה לכך :
Why did Chananya Mishael and Azarya refused to bow down to the statue surely it was not a deity as indicated Pesachim 53b rather it was a statue of the Kings of Bavel (a bit like Mount Rushmore) and showing a sign of respect for the Royalty to bow down so why did they throw themselves in fire? Rather they saw that the Generation needed Chizzuk so they did more than the law to give up their lives to Sanctify G-d's name.

  • Many ancient civilizations had leader divinity cults, and it is quite clear that the statue was an idol Commented May 7, 2020 at 21:17
  • Why is a larger idol not an idol? Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 18:10

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