The Prayer of Azariah is said by Azariah alone. It is a song of lamentation following a liturgical style popular after the 4th century bc: an introductory section of praise to God, a confession of Israel’s sin, a plea for mercy, and a doxology.
That is, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan 2.17), the original names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego which were their Babylonian given names to replace their Jewishness(Dan 1.6-7)
According to the Hebrew Bible, Daniel 3:23 states that the three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. This happened because they refused to bow down and worship the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
1 They a walked around in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.
2 Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud:
3 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever!
4 For you are just in all you have done; all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgments are true.
5 You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors; by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins.
6 For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously.
7 We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good.
8 So all that you have brought upon us, and all that you have done to us, you have done by a true judgment.
9 You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world.
10 And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach.
11 For your name’s sake do not give us up forever, and do not annul your covenant.
12 Do not withdraw your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham your beloved and for the sake of your servant Isaac and Israel your holy one,
13 to whom you promised to multiply their descendants like the stars of heaven and like the sand on the shore of the sea.
14 For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any other nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins.
15 In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.
16 Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,
17 as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or with tens of thousands of fat lambs; such may our sacrifice be in your sight today, and may we unreservedly follow you, b for no shame will come to those who trust in you.
18 And now with all our heart we follow you; we fear you and seek your presence.
19 Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy.
20 Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.
21 Let all who do harm to your servants be put to shame; let them be disgraced and deprived of all power, and let their strength be broken.
22 Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.”
23 Now the king’s servants who threw them in kept stoking the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood.
24 And the flames poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits,
25 and spread out and burned those Chaldeans who were caught near the furnace.
26 But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions, and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace,
27 and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it. The fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress.
28 Then the three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:
29 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted forever;
30 And blessed is your glorious, holy name, and to be highly praised and highly exalted forever.
31 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, and to be extolled and highly glorified forever.
32 Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim, and to be praised and highly exalted forever.
33 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, and to be extolled and highly exalted forever.
34 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, and to be sung and glorified forever.
35 “Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
36 Bless the Lord, you heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
37 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
38 Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
39 Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
40 Bless the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
41 Bless the Lord, stars of heaven; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
42 “Bless the Lord, all rain and dew; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
43 Bless the Lord, all you winds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
44 Bless the Lord, fire and heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
45 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
46 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
47 Bless the Lord, nights and days; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
48 Bless the Lord, light and darkness; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
49 Bless the Lord, ice and cold; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
50 Bless the Lord, frosts and snows; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
51 Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
52 “Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
53 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
54 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
55 Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
56 Bless the Lord, you springs; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
57 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
58 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
59 Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
60 “Bless the Lord, all people on earth; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
61 Bless the Lord, O Israel; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
62 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
63 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
64 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
65 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
66 “Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power c of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire he has delivered us.
67 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.
68 All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures forever.”
These verses can be divided into three sections: 1:1-22 — The Prayer of Azariah; 1:23-28 – Description of the Furnace; 1:29-68 – The Song of the Three Jews.
I – 1:1-22 – The Prayer of Azariah
o As they walked around in the flames, they sang hymns to God
o Then Azariah stopped and said this prayer
o Confession of sins
o Azariah begins by praising God
o He is the God of our fathers and always just in whatever He has done
o His deeds and judgments are true
o The exile was “just” on account of the sins of all the people
o The people did not obey God’s commandments
o Nor have they done “what was good for them”
o Because of this, God’s actions were justified
o Israel has been delivered into the hands of their enemies
o These enemies are lawless and hateful
o Their king is completely unjust
o Yet, the people of Israel cannot complain
o Shame and disgrace are their lot – even for those who still worship him
o All are culpable
o Azariah prays that God will not abandon them forever or annul His covenant
o He pleads that God will not withdraw His mercy from them
o He refers to the promises made to Abraham and Isaac
o They were promised descendants more numerous than the stars of the sky and of the sands of the seashore
o He realizes Israel’s smallness of importance and knows it is a result of their sin
o In exile they have no king, no prophet, no leader [Technically, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both actively prophesying, which suggests that this was written much later.]
o They have no temple or anyplace to make an offering
o Plea for deliverance
o Azariah asks God to accept their contrite souls and humble spirits
o Like the previous sacrifices of rams and bulls, he prays that God will see their sacrifice
o All he wants is to be able to follow God wholeheartedly
o He does not want those who trust in God to be disappointed
o He avows that they earnestly follow God and fear Him and seek His face
o He prays that God will not put them to shame but treat them leniently
o This would be in accordance with God’s great mercy Anyone who abuses them should be put to shame and stripped of power
o Their strength should be broken
o Then even the pagans will know that He “alone is Lord, God”
o God is glorious over the whole world
II — 1:23-28 – Description of the Furnace
o The king’s servants tried to comply with the king’s order to heat the furnace hotter
o They stoked it with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brush
o Naphtha would be some sort of natural oil
o The flames rose seventy feet above the furnace
o The flames shot out and burned the king’s servants to death
o An angel of the Lord came down and joined the three men in the furnace
o The angel drove out the scorching blaze
o In the middle of the furnace was a dew-laden breeze
o The dew represents an agent of physical relief
o The text reads, “a wind of dew, whistling through…”
o It was so effective that the fire did not even touch them
o It neither hurt them nor annoyed them
o All three men then began praising God
III — 1:29-68 – The Song of the Three Jews.
o Blessed be God who is praiseworthy and highly exalted
o Blessed is He in the temple of His sacred glory
o This could be a reference to the Jerusalem temple or a heavenly one
o Blessed is He who sits upon the cherubim and looks into the depths
o The cherubim were winged creatures upon which God rode
o They were oftentimes depicted as bulls with a human head
o This is perhaps a vestige of pagan culture
o Blessed is He who sits on His royal throne
o Blessed is He who is in the dome of heaven
o “Dome” could also be translated “firmament”
o This is a reference to the thought that heaven was held back by a hammered strip of metal
o Call to all of Creation
o Each verse includes the prayer: “Bless the Lord….sing his praise and highly exalt him forever”
o This is similar to some of the Psalms
o The heavens and inhabitants are called on to praise
o All the works of the Lord should bless Him and sing
o His praises forever All the heavens should do the same
o They should be joined by all the angels and the waters above the heavens
o The waters above the heavens are the celestial waters or upper “oceans”
o All the powers and the sun and the moon should sing
o His praises and highly exalt Him forever
o “Powers” is probably a reference to all the celestial bodies
o Lastly, the stars are included as well
o Meteorological elements are called to praise
o Rain, dew, and wind are called to praise God and exalt Him forever
o Cold and heat, ice and snow, light and darkness, and night and day are called
o These paired elements are all components of creation
o Creatures of the earth are called to praise
o The earth and the mountains and hills are called to praise
o Everything that grows in the ground shall sing His praise
o This includes the seas and rivers, rains and springs
o It even includes the sea monsters and anything that swims in the waters
o The birds of the air and the wild beasts and cattle are also called
o Both animate and inanimate things are included somewhat according to their order of creation
o Human responses
o Last, but not least, are the sons of men
o This includes Israel, all its priests and servants of the Lord
o It also includes the spirits and the souls of the just and those who are humble in heart
o These would be all those who are righteous
o Lastly, of course, it includes the three Hebrew men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – who are supremely grateful to have been snatched out of the hand of death
o They have escaped the fiery furnace
o There is nothing left but to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever
o The refrain is repeated for good measure