In the favorite childhood Bible story of the fiery furnace we find a mystery. In this account, there is an unknown 4th person found in the fire. Who is this 4th person? Does the Hebrew pictographic language give us any clues to help identify this person? Will there be anything in this account which will point us to Messiah?
The prophet Daniel recounts for us the problems faced by the Israelites as they were forced into Babylonian culture after they were taken into captivity. Their refusal to obey the commandments of the God of Israel had resulted in judgement and consequences.
In Chapter 3 verse 15, three of the young Hebrew men who were taken into captivity were forced to make a life-changing decision. They were required to worship a golden statue made by king Nebuchadnezzar or die in his furnace:
…but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
The response of these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in verses 17 and 18 is one of the greatest statements of faith recorded for us in all the Scriptures:
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.
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.
True to his word, Nebuchadnezzar had these three men who were faithful to their God cast into the furnace. But in verse 25, to his amazement, not only did they not perish, they were found to have a companion in the furnace with them:
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.
This 4th man is not identified for us. Is he an angel or is this perhaps a theophany, a physical appearance of Jesus Christ in our Old Testament? Let’s investigate the Hebrew word for furnace and see if there are any clues there that might answer this mystery. The Hebrew word for furnace is Kuwr which is spelled Kaf Vav Reysh.
Kaf is the picture of the palm of the hand and means to cover, to open, to allow, or to atone.
Vav is the picture of the wooden hook or the iron nail and means to join or to connect two things that are separated from one another.
Reysh is the picture of the head and means the master, the leader, or the prince.
The Vav, as it is being used here in the word Kuwr, connects the Kaf with the Reysh. As you might guess, these two letters form another Hebrew word, Kar.
What does the Hebrew word Kar mean? It is the word for Lamb. The Lamb is joined in the furnace! Who is this Lamb that has joined Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the furnace? The ancient Hebrew pictographs can help us here.
The Kaf Reysh of the Lamb is the picture of the covering or the atonement of the Prince that will be necessary to deliver these three men from certain destruction.
The two letters Kaf Reysh are also numbers. Together with the pictographs they complete the picture of this Lamb.
Kaf is the number 20 and stands for redemption.
Reysh is the number 200 and describes a tension between the insufficiency of man and the sufficiency of God.
When John the Baptist viewed the approaching Messiah, Jesus the Christ, he declared this in the Gospel of John Chapter 1 verse 29:
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
Jesus Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God, is the instrument of the Heavenly Father used for our rescue in the difficult circumstances of life, not just our rescue out of them. He is the one who will ultimately redeem us from sin as we are unable and insufficient to do that for ourselves.
The Prophet Isaiah describes God’s purpose in these circumstances. In Isaiah Chapter 48 verse 10 he writes:
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
It is in the fiery furnace of affliction, the Kuwr, that He reveals Himself to us and perfects us as we walk with Him.
There is one final clue that the 4th man in the furnace is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Hebrew letter Dalet is also the number 4. The Dalet is the picture of the door and reveals an entrance or a pathway to life.
In the Gospel of John Chapter 19 verse 9 Jesus gives us this encouragement:
I am the door: by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Nebuchadnezzar had asked:
Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
We now know that deliverance came from the Most High God who sent His son Jesus Christ who is the Perfect Lamb of God, the redeemer of His people, and the doorway to eternal life.