The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children
Harper’s Bible Dictionary
edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
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Song of the Three Children, the, one of the Additions to Daniel found between Dan. 3:23 and 3:24 in the Septuagint (lxx) and Theodotion. It includes:
I. The Prayer of Azariah, the Hebrew name of Abednego (vv. 1-22)
II. Additional narrative material describing the intensity of the flames (vv. 23-27)
III. A hymn sung by the three youths while in the furnace (vv. 28-68).
The prayer and the hymn are probably independent liturgical compositions done in Hebrew and later adapted sometime during the second century b.c. to fit the story in Daniel 3. The addition follows the practice of supplying prayers and songs at appropriate places in stories, but it may also have been intended to shift the emphasis of Daniel 3 from the tyranny of the king to the piety of the three youths. The prayer is penitential in character and seems to reflect the desecration of the Temple by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 b.c. It treats the catastrophe as the consequence of our sins, begs Gods mercy for the sake of his promise to Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:1-3), Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), and, in the absence of a place to make an offering before thee (v. 15), it presents the sacrifice of a contrite heart and a humble spirit (v. 16). The last suggestion echoes Psalm 51 but also anticipates the ultimate transformation of Judaism under the Pharisees and rabbis from a religion centered around the Temple to one concerned with prayer, acts of mercy, and the way of Torah.
The hymn calls upon Gods creatures to bless him, moving from heavenly to earthly things, then from animals to humanity, and finally to Israel. While its order is related to Psalm 148, it is possible that both the psalm and the hymn are dependent upon a system of cosmic order present in speculative wisdom. In contrast to the prayer, in which the Temple seems to be desecrated, the hymn places God in his temple (v. 31), although it may well be that the heavenly rather than the earthly temple is intendedan idea from the conceptual world of postbiblical Judaism (cf. Rev. 11:19).
Protestants include the Song of the Three Children among the Apocrypha, while Catholics retain it as part of the book of Daniel.
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer