Anyone who has read the book of Daniel is familiar with the account of the three Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3) What you may not realize is that there is more to the story.
Actually, there is more to the book of Daniel. Those of us who are familiar with the Apocryphal writings know that there are additions to this book that were not included in the modern Western biblical canon. These additions are:
The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Children are noticeably absent from the Masoretic version of the “fiery furnace” account in Daniel 3.
Azariah’s prayer, and the song, were included in the LXX (Septuagint), Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, Arabic, and Ethiopian versions of Daniel. It was removed by Reformed Churches and relegated to a separate Apocryphon. However, the Catholic Church kept it as an integral part of the collections of Old Testament prophets. Both the prayer and song reportedly were known by believers in the early days following the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua.
Faith Is Tested In The Fiery Furnace
We all have experienced our own versions of the fiery furnace. It may have been a divorce, bankruptcy, or catastrophic illness. These types of trials test our faith and can either bring out the best or the worst of our personalities. Our response to stress and hard times show us if we really trust in Yah’s ability to bring us through any disaster that may come our way.
However, believers in Yeshua who have willingly laid down their lives rather than compromise their faith are in a whole other league. Martyrs, who remain faithful unto death for the sake of the Gospel, demonstrate what genuine commitment looks like. (Revelation 2:10)
When Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah1 refused to bow down to the rule of Babylon, they made a decision. They were willing to pay the ultimate price, even if it meant death by fire.
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: 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? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 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. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.Daniel 3:14-20 KJV
The fire was stoked seven times hotter than usual. The three insurgents were bound, fully clothed, and cast into the ferocious flames. Then something miraculous happened. The men who led the trio to the flames were burned to a crisp. But Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were seen walking around in the flames with a fourth person.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”2Daniel 3: 23-25 KJV
In the Septuagint (LXX), verse 23 of Daniel 3 reads differently and makes a connection to Azariah’s prayer and the psalm of praise sung by the three men:
Then these three men, Sedrach, Misach, and Abdenago, fell bound into the midst of the burning furnace, and walked in the midst of the flame, singing praise to God, and blessing the Lord.
It has long been my contention that big decisions are rooted in small ones. When one has a track record of walking righteously in small matters, there will be no hesitation or deviation when the moment comes to make the big decision. These three men, along with Daniel, had a reputation for uncompromising integrity regarding adherence to their covenant with The Most High. The first test occurred when they refused to eat the king’s delicacies.
Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.Daniel 1:19,20 KJV
By the time they were threatened with death, they did not have to struggle with decision making. Their position in the matter had already been decided. They would not bow down.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnesser, we have no need to answer you in this matter. “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”Daniel 3:16-18 KJV
In these last days, we need to make up our minds concerning how we will respond to persecution before the persecution comes. There will be a 42-month period of extreme pressure applied to believers who do not take the anti-messiah’s mark. During this period the two witnesses will spread the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is at the end of this 3 1/2 year time period when the trumpet sounds commencing the first resurrection event that true believers will be taken up to “heaven” — the New Jerusalem which exists now above the firmament. The Scriptures do not teach a pre-tribulation rapture. 3 (Matthew 24)
The social and economic pressures that many are getting a taste of now are just a preview of more difficult times ahead. The prophets, apostles, and Yeshua all warned us, and told us to prepare for hard times in the last days leading up to the Second Coming of Messiah.
Although Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were not killed in the fiery furnace, they share a conviction with martyrs throughout history. Those who were killed for their witness fully embraced the good news of the coming Kingdom and weighed its everlasting benefits against this passing world; fully convinced that their earthly lives are a small price to pay compared to life in Yahuah’s eternal Kingdom.
Their deaths serve as witnesses to an unimpeachable faith.
No matter what is going on in the world we must always remember that the Most High is in charge. He separates the wheat from the tares and the righteous from the unrighteous by applying pressure. His instruments of judgment are usually sword, famine, and plague.4
The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Children
The canonical Daniel is silent regarding the goings-on inside the furnace. We are told that there was a fourth person with the men, but we were not given the details of what really transpired. This is where the “Addition” can be helpful.5
Coming after Daniel 3:23 in the Septuagint, Thod, Syriac, and Latin Vulgate scriptures, these additions add another dimension to the story of what happened in the fiery furnace. Azariah does not pray for deliverance. Instead, he prays for the nation of Yashar’el/Israel.
How did these men survive the flames?
And the king’s servants, that put them in, did not cease to make the furnace hot with naphtha, pitch, tow, and small wood; so that the flame streamed forth above the furnace 73 feet high. it spread, and burned those Chaldeans whom it found near the furnace. But the angel of Yahuah came down into the furnace together with Azariah and his friends, and he drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace; and made the midst of the furnace like a moist whistling wind, so that the fire did not touch them at all, neither hurt nor troubled them.The Prayer of Azariah verses 23-27 Apocrypha
In both Daniel 3 and verses 25-27 of The Prayer of Azariah we are told that the Nebuchadnezzar saw someone else in the oven. As you read through Azariah’s prayer, pay attention to the fourth person in the fire. In the chapter titled “Agency and Prolepsis” of our book The Gospel Worth Dying For, we contend that the fourth person was an angel sent by Yah to protect the trio from harm.
1 In most translations of Daniel, the three Hebrew men are referred to by their Aramaic names — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In this Addition, their Hellenized (Greek) forms of their Hebrew names are Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
2 The Masoretic translation renders this as “like the Son of God.” This description and capitalizations imply that the fourth person in the fire was Yeshua. It was an angel sent by Yah to protect these men.
3 The Jesuits were the originators of the pre-tribulation rapture theory. Their enablers were many: the Roman Catholic Church, Council of Trent, Manuel Lacunza, Margaret MacDonald, John Nelson Darby, and Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. Do your research.
4 Jeremiah 15:2;24:10; 29:17, Ezekiel 5:12;5:17, Matthew 24:7
5 Known as the First Addition to the canonical Book of Daniel. The prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Children is an apocryphal insertion into Daniel. Both were included in the Latin Vulgate and Roman Catholic Bible canon. This version has been revised for easier readability for speakers of American English. It is based on the R.H. Charles translation of the apocryphal manuscripts.
Brenda Ross is a co-author of the book, “The Gospel Worth Dying For.” She is a former major market radio and television broadcaster who has served as Single’s Ministry Director at one of Houston’s Memorial Drive-area churches, a Jews for Jesus staff volunteer, and participated in mission outreach activities in Costa Rica, Mexico, and China. Urban mission experience includes volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and catering to the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.