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Prayer of Azariah

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Louis F. Hartman writes of Daniel 3:24-90 (LXX): "This part of the chapter, embracing the Prayer of Azariah (26-45) and the Hymn of the Three Men (52-90a), with the prose introduction (24-25), interlude (46-51), and conclusion (90b), is preserved only in the Gk version and the ancient translations made from it. The original was in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Although not present in the MT, this so-called 'deuterocanonical fragment' has always been regarded as part of the canonical, inspired Scriptures. However, it is not part of the original story, but rather an addition made by an inspired author who took existing liturgical prayers, adapted them slightly, and inserted them here, with a few sentences of his own to make a smoother nexus." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 452)

Robert Doran writes: "In both versions [LXX and Theodotian] this passage lies between MT Dan. 3:23 and 3:24 and consists of three unequal parts: first, the Prayer of Azariah, the Hebrew name of Abednego (vv. 1-22); second, a short prose account of the fate of the three Jews in the furnace (vv. 23-27); third, a hymn sung by the three youths while in the furnace (vv. 28-68). The relationship between MT Dan 3:23 and 3:24 is highly dramatic. The three Jewish youths are thrown into an incredibly hot furnace and presumably destroyed, when suddenly Nebuchadnezzar is perturbed and in astonishment claims to see four men in the fire, the fourth looking like a divine being. Nebuchadnezzar reacts to the miracle by praising the God of the Jews. The author of the Addition must have found the transition too sudden and provided the details of the miracle. As in Exodus 15, 1 Samuel 2, and elsewhere, the narrative is supplemented by poetic material. Deliverance comes in response to prayer, and deliverance demands a hymn of praise. The Addition thus emphasizes the reciprocal covenantal faithfulness of God and the three young men." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 863)

James King West writes: "As the angel appears to dispel the deadly flames the three young men burst into song with what are, as the change in the form of address and responsory indicates, actually two canticles. Verses 52-56, Benedictus es, Domine, are addressed as a blessing directly to God; verses 57-90, Benedicite, omnia opera, call upon all the works of nature to bless the Lord. That these canticles, except for verse 88 which was undoubtedly added to adapt the canticle to its present use, are general hymns of praise and have no more connection with their context in Daniel than does the Prayer of Azariah, suggests that they, along with the Prayer, came from an otherwise unknown collection of psalms. From ancient times these canticles have been a part of the psalmnody of the Church. In the Roman Breviary the Benedictus es, Domine, with the addition of the first verse (vs. 57) of the second canticle, is used as the fourth psalm in the Sunday Office, Lauds II (for Lent); and in Lauds I (for the remaining Sundays of the year) the fourth psalm consists of a condensed form of the Benedicite, omnia opera, substituting a blessing of the Trinity and the last verse (vs. 56) of the first canticle for verses 88b-90, and omitting most of the responsories. The Benedicite also occurs as the celebrant's private thanksgiving after Mass in the Roman Rite (cf. the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 11-13). It is very similar in structure to Psalm 136 and in theme and content to Psalm 148 (cf. Ps. 150). R. H. Pfeiffer suggests that these hymns involving the works of creation may have been inspired by Ecclesiasticus 43 (cf. Ps. 19; Job 38; Ps. 104; Gen. 1:1-2:4). This theme reappears in St. Francis' well-known Laudes creaturarum." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 457)

Marjorie L. Kimbrough writes: "Many of us are familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew boys who refused to worship the golden statue even under threat of being thrown into the fiery furnace. Their story is found in Daniel 3, and the original Hebrew names given to them were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; the more familiar names were assigned by the Babylonian palace master (Dan. 1:7). Thus, the prayer of Azariah is the prayer of Abednego, and it begins after the three have been thrown into a fire whose flames are so intense that they killed the men who threw them in (v. 25; see Dan. 3:22). But Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah sing hymns to God, and Azariah prays aloud, 'Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever!' (v. 3)." (Stories Between the Testaments, pp. 65-66)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The language of Azariah's prayer is thoroughly biblical, and it was probably composed in Hebrew and translated into Greek. Its present narrative setting in the Greek version of Daniel 3 is Babylon in the sixth century during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. However, the references in verse 9 to 'lawless and hateful rebels' and to 'an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world' may reflect the coalition between 'progressive' Jews and Antiochus IV Epiphanes that appears in 1 Maccabees 1. Thus the prayer may have addressed the crisis in Judea in 167-165 B.C.E. that is reflected in most of the book of Daniel." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 110)

David A. deSilva writes: "The anonymous author or authors clearly were quite sensitive to and familiar with the liturgical traditions of intertestamental penitential prayers, as well as the more celebratory hymns among the psalms. The probability of a Hebrew original for the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, if not the connecting narrative (Pr. Azar. 23-27), points to a Palestinian provenance. Dating prayers and hymns is notoriously difficult, but there may be a reflection of the Hellenization crisis in Pr. Azar. 9, which speaks of the pious being handed over to apostates and a supremely wicked king (Harrington 1999: 10; Metzger 1957: 103; Moore 1992d: 19). The use of the terms anomon and apostaton in Pr. Azar. 9 makes this suggestion somewhat more plausible. The former may be used of Gentiles, but the latter speaks of those who formerly kept the Torah but 'turned away' at some point. The conjunction of lapsed Jews and a foreign king who together act as 'enemies' toward the Torah-observant naturally conjures up the period of 175-164 B.C.E. The Song of the Three Young Men, on the other hand, provides no such reminiscences and could be considerably older than the rest of Daniel. As with the other additions, a terminus ad quem of 100 B.C.E., the approximate time of translation into Greek (the Septuagint edition), is appropriate (Moore 1977: 29)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 227)

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