It is written in the Book of Daniel (Chapter 3) that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon and a committed idolater, had a statue that was 60 cubits (90-120 feet) high and six cubits (9-12 feet) wide. Those who failed to prostrate themselves before this idol when the royal orchestra played were to be cast into a fiery furnace.

As you can imagine, when that orchestra played, everyone present bowed. However, it was reported to Nebuchadnezzar that there were several Jewish advisors/ministers who refused to bow. Their behavior was regarded as a sign of the Jews’ disrespect for the king.

Nebuchadnezzar demanded an explanation from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Hebrew names: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), challenging them to bow down to the idol or be thrown into the furnace. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused.

Infuriated, Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be thrown in the furnace, and for the heat to be increased sevenfold. It was so hot that those who cast the three men into the furnace were themselves incinerated. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, however, remained unharmed.

When Nebuchadnezzar saw the 3 men walking in the flames of the great fire (accompanied by an angel), he was in utter shock. He called them forth from the furnace and had all those present witness that they were truly unharmed. Nebuchadnezzar publicly declared the greatness of the God of the Judeans and forbade any of his subjects to speak against the powerful Hebrew deity.

An interesting side comment in Talmud Pesachim 53b, cites Todos of Rome, who taught that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah chose to risk death in the furnace when they realized that they could do no less than the frogs (2nd of ten plagues in Egypt), who jumped into the ovens of the Egyptians in order to fulfill God’s words.