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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

17 December 2006
  Daniel and the Three Young Men
17 December, Old Testament

Today we commemorate the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Young Men — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These four were among the young men of Judah who were taken into captivity in Babylon. Showing promise in leadership positions, their captors elevated them to positions. Even in that strange and foreign land, regardless of persecution or pressure to worship false gods, they remained faithful to the one true God in piety, prayer, and life.

The Fiery FurnaceOn account of their steadfast faithfulness in the face of pagan idolatry, the Three Young Men were thrown into a fiery furnace, from which they were saved by the Lord and emerged unharmed (Daniel 3). Similarly, Daniel was thrown into a pit of lions, from which he also was saved (Daniel 6).

The canonical text of Daniel only tells us that a fourth person joined the Three Young Men in the furnace and that they were unharmed in the ordeal. Supplemental accounts from the Apocrypha provide insertions between verses 23 and 24 of chapter 3. The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men are purported accounts of what they sang and prayed while amidst the flames. The latter song entered Jewish and then Christian worship as a canticle of praise. Much of Christendom knows the song by its Latin title and still sings Benedicite Omnia Opera (Bless Him, All You Works [of the Lord]). These verses also inspire hymnists and various metrical works based upon the Benedicite have been written and sung through the years.

Perhaps because of its apocalyptic nature, the book of Daniel inspired not only these two prayers but other "supplemental" writings. Some Bibles insert these various passages into the Masoretic Text while others include some or all of them as separate writings. Of these additions, the two most noted are Susanna and Bel and the Dragon. The former is a tale of moral integrity in the face of sexual blackmail while the latter is a loose collection of stories involving Babylonian gods, a literal beast slain by Daniel, and a different tale of the prophet amidst the lions.

Daniel in the Lions' DenBlessed in all their endeavors by the Lord — and in spite of the hostility of some — Daniel and the Three Young Men were promoted to positions of leadership among the Babylonians (Daniel 2:48-49; 3:30; 6:28). Daniel received special favor from the Lord and was given the ability to interpret the difficult dreams and strange signs that were given to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar (Daniel 2, 4-5). To Daniel himself the Lord gave visions of the end times and a picture of "one like a son of man" who "came to the Ancient of Days. (Daniel 7:9-14)" This same imagery returns to Holy Scripture in portions of Revelation.

As an aside, we note that the Babylonians gave new names to some of their captives. Although the book and most references to the prophet use his Hebrew name, Daniel was also known as Belteshazzar. Meanwhile, the Three Young Men are normally referred to by their captive names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their Hebrew names were, respectively, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

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