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The Prayer of Azariah#sn This bipartite account of the alleged experiences of Daniel’s three friends in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace is the first of several additions to the Book of Daniel, the others being the story of Susanna and the account of Bel and the Dragon. None of these writings appears in the Hebrew/Aramaic text of the Book of Daniel, nor are they ever cited by ancient Jewish writers in documents that are extant. However, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men do appear between Dan 3:23 and Dan 3:24 in certain ancient witnesses, notably the Greek, Syriac, and Latin. This prayer (vv. 24-45) and song (vv. 52-90) form a fitting supplement to the canonical description of the experience of the three Jews who at the command of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon were thrown into a blazing furnace of fire for refusing to worship any God other than the God of Israel. The origins of these writings are obscure. Whether the accounts were originally composed in Hebrew (or Aramaic), or whether they were first composed in Greek, is not known for sure, although most modern scholars conclude on the basis of internal evidence that there probably was an original Semitic edition of these additions to Daniel. However, no such Semitic source has survived to the present time. The Aramaic text preserved in the medieval Chronicle of Jerahmeel is probably a late retroversion made from a Greek text and not a source that antedates the Greek versions. (For a contrary suggestion see K. Koch, Deuterokanonische Zusätze zum Danielbuch, 1:19-39.) The date of composition of these documents is also uncertain, although most scholars favor a date either in the second or first century B.C. This material shows clear literary affinities with certain Old Testament compositions, especially some of the psalms, and it was in fact probably modeled after such biblical compositions.
24#tn The transmission history of this material is very complex, as is the case with the canonical portions of Daniel as well. The Greek text of the additions to Daniel survives in two distinct forms. The old Greek text is represented mainly by the ninth-century Greek MS 88, the seventh-century Syrohexapla of Paul of Tella, and the third-century Greek papyrus MS 967 (which lacks the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men). The text known as Theodotion is much better attested than the old Greek translation due to its having replaced the old Greek translation in the early Christian period. The translation presented above is based on the Göttingen edition of Theodotion, although some readings of the old Greek text will also be mentioned in the notes that accompany the translation. They#tc The old Greek version of this story includes the names of all three of Daniel’s friends and not just the name of Azariah. That version in v. 24 has “thus therefore Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael prayed and praised the Lord, when the king commanded that they be thrown into the furnace.” were walking around in the midst of the flame, singing praises to God and blessing the Lord. 25 Then Azariah#sn Azariah was one of the three friends of Daniel who, after being subjected to a period of probationary testing along with Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael, was appointed to a position of leadership in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The name Azariah is common in Hebrew and means “the Lord has helped” (BDB 741). There are more than two dozen individuals by this name in the Old Testament. According to Daniel 1 these three Jews were all very young men at the time of their deportation to Babylon. It is probably that fact that has led to the title “the Song of the Three Young Men,” even though there is nothing in this composition that actually suggests their age at the time of the fiery furnace incident. Although the traditional title is not entirely satisfactory we have utilized it here due to its widespread acceptance. The Syriac translation includes a summary heading for this section that reads “the prayer of Hananiah and his friends.” stood up#sn The previous verse already indicates that the Jews were walking about in the midst of the furnace, which means that there is no need to say that Azariah “stood up.” The expression is probably a Hebraism. and prayed in the following manner.#tc Grk “thus.” The Syriac translation lacks the words “and prayed in the following manner” in v. 25.sn Vv. 24-25 provide a narrative introduction to the prayer that follows. The prayer itself takes the form of a communal lament and confession of sin, a form-critical category frequently found in the Psalter. In vv. 26-28 Azariah begins by praising God and acknowledging that his sovereign actions are entirely appropriate. In vv. 29-33 he confesses in behalf of his people the sins that have precipitated the calamity that has befallen them in the exile. Finally, in vv. 34-45 he prays for the Lord to intervene and bring deliverance to his oppressed people. The appeal is based in part upon God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in patriarchal history (vv. 35-36), while at the same time emphasizing the deprived and desperate condition of a presently oppressed people. In tone the Prayer of Azariah may be compared especially to Dan 9:4-19. He opened his mouth and exclaimed#tn Grk “said.” in the midst of the fire,
26 “O Lord God of our ancestors,#tn Grk “fathers.” you are blessed and worthy of praise,
and your name is to be glorified forever.
27 For you are righteous in#tn Grk “upon.” The use of the Greek preposition epi in this way is odd. It is probably a Hebraism. all things that you have done.
All your works are true, your ways are upright,#tn Grk “straight.”
and all your judgments are true.#tn Grk “truth.” The expression is probably a Hebraism.
28 You have executed proper decisions#tn Grk “decisions of truth.” The expression is probably a Hebraism.
with regard to all those things that you have brought upon us
and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors.#tn Grk “fathers.”
For by a proper judgment#tn Grk “in truth and judgment.” The expression is best understood as a hendiadys. Cf. the slightly different expression in v. 31. you have brought about all these things because of our sins.#sn The emphasis on confession of sin in this section is at variance with the canonical account, which emphasizes the innocence and integrity of the three Jews who were cast into the fiery furnace. This difference in orientation may hint at the possibility that this material was originally composed for some purpose other than as an addition to Daniel, as a number of scholars have suggested. See, for example, C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 40-41; Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 198.
29 We have sinned and behaved lawlessly by turning away from you.
We have sinned miserably in every conceivable way.#tn Grk “in all things.”
30 We have not paid attention to your commandments,#tc The old Greek translation has “the commandments of your law.”
nor have we adhered to them, nor have we performed them
in the way that#tn Grk “just as.” you instructed us, so that things might go well for us.
31 Everything that you have brought upon us, and everything that you have done to us,
you have done by proper#tn Grk “true.” judgment.
32 You have delivered us into the hands of enemies who are lawless, extremely hateful, and rebellious,
and you have delivered us over#tn The words “you have delivered us over” are not in the Greek text, but have been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. to a king who is unrighteous and more evil than any other in#tn The words “than any other in” are not present in the Greek text, but have been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. the entire earth.#sn In light of the connection of this prayer to Daniel 3 the description of a king “more evil than any other in the entire earth” would presumably be a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, although this goes beyond anything said about Nebuchadnezzar in the canonical portions of Daniel. Assuming that this addition to Daniel was composed in the wake of the second-century Jewish persecutions initiated by Antiochus Epiphanes, there is probably an implied reference to this Seleucid king as well.
33 Now we have no right to open our mouths.#tn Grk “mouth.”
Shame and reproach have overtaken#tn Grk “become.” your servants and those who worship you.
34 But for the sake of your name do not deliver us over completely!
Do not repudiate your covenant!
35 Do not remove your mercy from us
for the sake of Abraham whom you love,#tn Grk “the one who has been loved by you.” Cf. Isa 41:8; 2 Chr 20:7 (and later, Jas 2:23).
and Isaac your servant,
and Israel your holy one!
36 It was to these#tn Grk “to whom.” you promised#tn Grk “spoke.”
to multiply their descendants#tn Grk “seed.” like the stars of the sky
and like the sand which is at the edge of the sea.
37 Master, we have been diminished more than any other nation,#tn Grk “all the nations.”
and we are this day the most lowly in all the world#tn Or “land.” because of our sins.
38 At this time we have no ruler or prophet or leader
or whole burnt offering or sacrifice or offering or gift of incense
or place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.
39 Nonetheless, may we with broken heart#tn Grk “soul.” and humble spirit be accepted
40 as though with whole burnt offerings of rams and bulls,
and as though with myriads of fat lambs.#sn The appeal here is based on acknowledgment of the conditions of Jewish exile and persecution: the temple has been destroyed, political and religious leadership have been removed from office, and sacrifice and offering that is in keeping with requirements of Torah is no longer possible. Azariah therefore prays that God will look upon the humility, spiritual brokenness, and heart-felt contriteness of a repentant people as acceptable substitutes for the missing external features of Jewish worship. Cf. Pss 51:16-17; 141:2.
In this way#tn Grk “thus.” let our sacrifice appear before you today.
And may we follow you wholeheartedly,#tn As it stands the meaning of this line is unclear. The Greek text of Theodotion has ektelesai (“to complete”), which is very difficult to understand in this context. This verb can also have the sense of “to discharge a religious duty” (see LSJ 665), which forms the basis of the paraphrase suggested above. Some uncertainty, however, remains. The old Greek has exilasai (“to propitiate”), a meaning that fits well with the sacrificial language that immediately precedes this statement. It seems odd, however, for this verb to be followed by the preposition opisthen (“after”). The Syriac translation reads “and your servants will not be ashamed.” It is possible that all the extant witnesses have sustained textual corruption here that requires further evidence than what we presently possess in order to determine the correct text.
for those who trust in you will know no shame.#tn Grk “there will not be shame.”
41 Now we are following you with all our heart, fearing you
and seeking your face. 42 Do not put us to shame,
but deal with us according to your gentleness
and according to the magnitude of your mercy.
43 Deliver us according to your wondrous works,
and bring#tn Grk “give.” glory to your name, O Lord.
44 May all those who bring#tn Grk “show.” evil upon your servants be reduced to shame.
May they be shamefully removed from all power,
and may their strength be crushed.
45 May they know that you alone are the Lord God,
and that you are glorious over all the inhabited earth.”
Conditions in the furnace
46#tc The old Greek translation has a lengthy plus at the beginning of v. 46: “And when they threw the three together into the furnace, the furnace was red-hot, having been heated sevenfold. And when they threw them in, the ones who were throwing them in were above them.” Now the king’s attendants#sn There is conflict here with Dan 3:22, which indicates that the attendants who threw the Jews into the fiery furnace were immediately killed by the intensity of the blaze. who threw them in#tc The Syriac translation lacks “the king’s attendants who threw them in.” did not stop heating the furnace with naphtha, pitch, flax, and brushwood.#sn Four items are mentioned as adding to the intensity of heat in the fiery furnace. The term naphtha is a Greek loanword derived from Persian naft. For occurrences in classical Greek literature see LSJ 1163, and for rabbinic usage see Jastrow, 2:923. Naphtha is a flammable hydrocarbon liquid taken perhaps from coal tar. Cf. 2 Macc 1:36. The term pitch refers to a combustible derivative of coal tar or other similar substances. The term flax (Greek, stippuon = stuppeion) refers to the coarse fiber of flax or hemp (so LSJ 1658). The term brushwood, of course, refers to a highly combustible form of firewood. These terms are variously translated in the English versions: “rosin, pitch, tow, and small wood” (KJV); “brimstone, and tow, and pitch, and dry sticks” (Douay); “naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood” (NRSV); “brimstone, pitch, tow, and faggots” (NAB); “oil, tar, flax, and brushwood” (TEV); “Naphtha and tow, pitch and tinder” (Knox); “crude oil, pitch, tow and brushwood” (New Jerusalem Bible). 47 The flame poured forth above the furnace forty-nine cubits,#sn That is, about 73.5 feet (understanding a cubit to be about eighteen inches). The number 49 (a multiple of seven) in v. 47 may be derived from the indication in Dan 3:19 that the furnace was heated seven times beyond its normal level (so J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 204). 48 rushing forth#tn Grk “it passed through.” and burning up those Chaldeans#tn Or “Babylonians.” it encountered#tn Grk “found.” around the furnace. 49 But the angel of the Lord#sn According to Dan 3:25 the fourth person in the fiery furnace is described by Nebuchadnezzar as “one like a son of the gods” (Aramaic, dameh lebar ’elahin). Here, however, the identification is made even more specific: he is “the angel of the Lord,” a familiar figure in Old Testament literature (cf., e.g., Gen 16:7, 9, 11; 22:11, 15; Exod 3:2; Num 22:22-35; Jdg 2:1, 4; 5:23; 6:11-22; 13:3-21; 2 Sam 24:16; 1 Kgs 19:7; 2 Kgs 1:3, 15; 19:35; 1 Chr 21:12-30; Ps 34:7; 35:5-6; Isa 37:36; Zech 1:11-12; 3:1, 5-6; 12:8). According to a tradition mentioned in the Talmud the identity of this angel is Gabriel. See b. Pesahim 118a-b. went down to be with those around Azariah in the furnace, and he expelled the fiery flame from the furnace.#sn The account of deliverance (vv. 46-51) is oddly preceded by a rather lengthy prayer of confession (vv. 24-45). It would seem that apart from miraculous deliverance the offering of such a prayer would have been impossible due to the extreme heat. The sequence of events is, as Moore says, “totally illogical.” See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 41. 50 He made the midst of the furnace as though a damp wind#tn Grk “a wind of dew.” were whistling throughout it, and the fire that was all around them did not touch, harm, or trouble them. 51 Then the three, as with a single voice,#tn Grk “as out of one mouth.” began#tn The Greek imperfect tenses are used here with an inceptive nuance, which is indicated in the translation with the word “began.” praising, glorifying, and blessing God in the furnace. They said,#tn Grk “saying.” sn Following a brief narrative introduction (vv. 46-51), the Song of the Three Young Men breaks forth in an extended ascription of praise to God. First, the three Jews express their praise to the Lord (vv. 52-56), and then they call upon all creation to join in praising God (vv. 57-90). These two sections are both characterized by repetition of doxological language, and early on they may have been used liturgically by choirs that sang in antiphonal responses.
The Song of the Three Young Men: A Hymn of Praise to God
52 “You are blessed, O Lord God of our ancestors,#tn Grk “fathers.”
and you are to be praised and exalted forever.
Blessed is your glorious and holy name,#tn Grk “the name of your glory.” The expression is a Hebraism.
and it is to be highly praised and exalted forever.#sn The thought expressed in v. 52 is very similar to that found in Tobit 8:5.
53 You are blessed in your holy and glorious temple,#sn Since the temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by this time, the reference here must be to God’s heavenly temple. The alternative, that at the time of the writing of this addition the Jerusalem temple was still standing, does not seem likely. However, in support of that view see J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 205.
and you are to be highly praised and greatly glorified forever.#sn Cf. vv. 52-53 with Tobit 8:5.
54 You are blessed, the one overlooking the depths#tn Or, “abysses.” and sitting above the cherubim,#sn In Old Testament literature the cherubim were heavenly creatures with wings. The Lord is sometimes depicted as riding on them (cf. 2 Sam 22:11; Ps 18:10). In v. 54 the Greek transliteration of cherubim has the Aramaic plural ending /-in/ in Theodotion’s version, but the old Greek version has the Hebrew plural ending /-im/.
and you are to be praised and exalted forever.#tc The old Greek translation reverses the order of vv. 54 and 55.
55 You are blessed on the throne of your kingdom,
and you are to be highly praised and exalted forever.
56 You are blessed in the heavenly firmament,#tn Or, “dome.”
and you are to be praised and glorified forever.
A Call for all Creation to Praise God
57 Bless#sn Because of the widespread influence of the Latin Vulgate this song is sometimes referred to as The Benedicite. In the Vulgate v. 57 begins with the words benedicite omnia opera Domini. the Lord, all you works of the Lord;#sn The appeal for others to join in ascribing praise to God focuses on four groups: first, there are those things that are located in the heavens above the earth (vv. 57-63); second, there are the atmospheric conditions that may affect the earth (vv. 64-73); third, there is the earth itself, together with its variegated plant and animal life (vv. 74-81); and finally, there are various categories of human life that are singled out (vv. 82-90). The effect of this section is to provide a comprehensive and somewhat exhaustive litany of praise to the Lord. The composer is indebted to the Old Testament psalms for much of this material, especially Psalms 136 and 148.
praise him and exalt him forever!#sn In Theodotion’s text this refrain occurs some thirty-two times in this call to worship, with only an occasional slight variation in wording.
58 Bless the Lord, O heavens;
praise and exalt him forever!
59 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord;
praise and exalt him forever!
60 Bless the Lord, all the waters that are above the heaven;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation reverses the order of vv. 60 and 61 and includes in v. 60 an additional refrain: “Bless the Lord, all those who fear the Lord; praise and exalt him forever.”
61 Let every power#sn That is, angels. bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him forever!
62 Bless the Lord, sun and moon;
praise and exalt him forever!
63 Bless the Lord, heavenly stars;
praise and exalt him forever!
64 Bless the Lord, every thunderstorm and dew;
praise and exalt him forever!
65 Bless the Lord, all winds;#tn The Greek word (pneumata) translated “winds” can also mean “spirits,” although that sense does not fit the present context. The Douay rendering “spirits of God” in v. 65 is based on an inferior textual variant in the Latin manuscript tradition.
praise and exalt him forever!
66 Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation includes in v. 66 and additional refrain: “Bless the Lord, all the souls of the righteous; praise and exalt him forever.”
67 Bless the Lord, cold and burning;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation lacks vv. 67-68, and vv. 71-72 occur before v. 69 in Theodotion’s Greek text and in the Syriac translation.
68 Bless the Lord, dews and snowstorms;
praise and exalt him forever!
71 Bless the Lord, nights and days;#sn The normal order for these words in English is “days and nights.” But the word order used in v. 71 reflects Jewish practice in which the day begins at sundown. Cf. Gen 1:5, etc.
praise and exalt him forever!
72 Bless the Lord, light and darkness;
praise and exalt him forever!
69 Bless the Lord, frost and cold;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 69: “Bless the Lord, summer and winter; praise and exalt him forever.”
70 Bless the Lord, frosts and snows;
praise and exalt him forever!
73 Bless the Lord, stars and clouds;
praise and exalt him forever!
74 Let the earth#tn Or “land.” bless the Lord;
let it praise and exalt him forever!
75 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;
praise and exalt him forever!
76 Bless the Lord, all things that grow in the ground;#tn Or perhaps “on the earth.”
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 76: “Bless the Lord, all that grows on the earth; praise and exalt him forever.”
78 Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Greek text of Theodotion and the Syriac translation reverse the order of vv. 77 and 78.
77 Bless the Lord, O springs;#tn Greek MS 88 has “rains and springs” here.
praise and exalt him forever!
79 Bless the Lord, sea monsters#tn The Greek word ketos refers to large creatures of the sea but is not restricted in meaning to whale, although many English versions have rendered it that way here (e.g., KJV, Douay, TEV, NRSV, New Jerusalem Bible). NAB has “dolphins.” and all things that move in the waters;
praise and exalt him forever!
80 Bless the Lord, all the birds of the sky;
praise and exalt him forever!
81 Bless the Lord, all the wild animals and beasts of burden;
praise and exalt him forever!#tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 81: “Bless the Lord, all that creeps on the earth; praise and exalt him forever.”
82 Bless the Lord, O humanity;#tn Grk “the sons of men.” The sense of the expression is not gender specific.
praise and exalt him forever!
83 Bless the Lord, O Israel;
praise and exalt him forever!
84 Bless the Lord, O priests;
praise and exalt him forever!
85 Bless the Lord, O servants;#sn In light of the preceding verse the reference is probably to temple servants or Levites. So C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 73; J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 206. Cf. Ps 134:1; 135:2.
praise and exalt him forever!
86 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous;
praise and exalt him forever!
87 Bless the Lord, those who are holy and humble in heart;
praise and exalt him forever!
88 Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael;
praise and exalt him forever!
For he has plucked us from Hades;#tn Or, “the Underworld” (New Jerusalem Bible), or “the world of the dead” (TEV), or “the nether world” (NAB). Some older versions translate the word hades as “hell” (e.g., KJV, Douay), but this rendering is likely to be misunderstood. Here it refers not to a place of torment after death but rather to the unseen world of all spirits who have departed this life. he has delivered us from the grasp#tn Grk “hand.” of death;
he has rescued us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace;
he has rescued us from the midst of the fire.#sn Unlike the case for most of this song, the language in v. 88 is specifically directed to the experience of the three Jews in the fiery furnace. The rest of this song, however, permits a more general setting and application, a fact that has led some scholars to conclude that this material was originally composed for a different purpose and was later adapted to the story of the fiery furnace.
89 Acknowledge the Lord, for he is kind;#tn Or, “benevolent,” “good,” “worthy.”
for his mercy is forever!#tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 89: “Praise and exalt him forever.”
90 Bless the God of gods, all you who worship the Lord;
praise him and give him thanks, for his mercy is forever!”#tc After “forever” the old Greek translation adds “and ever” (kai eis ton aiona ton aionon).
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