The Apocrypha, Lesson 3: The Greek Portions of Daniel, Pt. 1

Fourth Man in the FireThe Protestant edition of Daniel is written in Hebrew (1:1-2:3, 8:1-12:13) and Aramaic (2:4-7:28).  The Daniel of the Septuagint is all Greek, with some portions not being a translation but with an original Greek text.  These include a couple of liturgical pieces: The Prayer of Azariah and the Hymn of the Three Young Men, which are placed between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24.  Also, we find additional accounts: The stories Susanna, which become chapter 13 and Bel and the Snake become chapter 14. 


The Prayer of Azariah [Abednego] in the Furnace

They [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] walked around in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.  Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud:

26 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever!  27 For you are just in all you have done; all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgments are true.  28 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.

  • How does this prayer begin?


  • How can how Azariah’s begins his prayer also help shape how we begin our prayers.


29 For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously.  30 We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good.  31 So all that you have brought upon us, and all that you have done to us, you have done by a true judgment.  32 You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world.

  • What does the prayer now become?


  • What does this reveal?


Unlike the New Covenant, Azariah understands the public nature of the Old Covenant.  God will reward His people for being faithful, following His covenant.  Likewise, God reprimanded them when they walk in their ways, not the Lord’s.

3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”  8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” [Exodus 24:3, 7-8]

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.? [Deuteronomy 28:1]

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” [Deuteronomy 28:15]


33 And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach.  34 For your name’s sake do not give us up forever, and do not annul your covenant.  35 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, 36 to whom you promised to multiply their descendants like the stars of heaven and like the sand on the shore of the sea.  37 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.  38 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.  39 Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, 40 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, for no shame will come to those who trust in you.

  • “And now” transitions the prayer. What takes place in this section?


  • What does Azariah ask God to remember?


41 And now with all our heart we follow you; we fear you and seek your presence.  42 Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy.  43 Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.  44 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.  45 Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.”

  • After bringing to mind the Covenant God made with His people, where does the prayer now go?


New-Testament Tie-In

Hebrews 11:32-34

32 And what more shall I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

“stopped the mouth of lions”: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” [Daniel 6:22]

“quenched the power of fire”: They walked around in the midst of the flames (Daniel 3:24).  The fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress (Daniel 3:50).  We know this reference is to the three young men in the fire because of its placement (right after an explicit reference to Daniel).  So, this cannot refer to Elijah because, with him, God quenched the power of water not fire, causing a fire to burn after water was poured over a sacrifice (1 Kings 18:34-35, 38).



The Song of the Young Men

The format and lyrics of this song bring to mind several Psalms: The blessings of Psalm 103, the use of refrains like Psalm 136 (“his steadfast love endures forever”), and its summons for heaven and earth to praise the Lord is like Psalm 148.

46 Now the king’s servants who threw them in kept stoking the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood.  47 And the flames poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits, 48 and spread out and burned those Chaldeans who were caught near the furnace.  49 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, 50 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.

  • If you remember the account only from the Aramaic (the Protestant Old Testament), what further information does the Septuagint give us about why the three men didn’t burn up in the fire? (vs. 49-50)


Excursus: The Angel of the Lord as the Pre-incarnate Christ

In Scripture, we find God the Son, not only after the incarnation but also as “the Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament.  We think “angel of the Lord” only refers to an angel God sent.  However, “angel” means messenger.  So, an angel can be a person with a message, a created heavenly being (which we usually associate with “angel”), or even the pre-incarnate Christ.

Jesus told the Jews of His day: “You search the Scriptures [the Old Testament] because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me….  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:39, 46).

In Exodus 23:20, God promised Moses, “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”  In 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul reveals this “angel” was Christ.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:1-4]

Jude 5: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

From the beginning, the Church recognized these appearances as the pre-incarnate Son and Word of God.  We find Christ in the visit of the “three men” to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:1-16: “And the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day” (vs. 1).  Though three men are there, Abraham addresses them in the singular, “Lord” and responds in the singular (vs. 9-15).

In Genesis 32:25-31, Christ is the “man” who wrestled Jacob.  Jacob described this event.  “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered” (vs. 30).

In Exodus 3:1-4:17, “the Angel of the Lord” appeared to Moses in the burning bush and identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6, 15, 16; 4:5).  He also revealed His name to be, “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14).  Note: God’s personal name, Yahweh (often translated as the LORD), is a derived from “He Is.”

In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian king witnesses another appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ.  When the King stared into the fiery furnace, he spots a fourth man.  “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god” (Daniel 3:92).


51 Then the three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:

52 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted forever; And blessed is your glorious, holy name, and to be highly praised and highly exalted forever.  53 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, and to be extolled and highly glorified forever.  54 Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim, and to be praised and highly exalted forever.  55 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, and to be extolled and highly exalted forever.

  • Though made up of repeated words of praise for God, what does this portion reveal about god’s character? (vs. 54)


The song now summons creation to praise its Creator.  The progression moves from heaven (3:56) down through the atmosphere (3:64-65) to the earth with its weather, landscape, and inhabitants (3:66-81).

The song of praise now narrows its focus to people here and in heaven, moving its focus to the righteous of Israel in particular (3:82-90).

82 “Bless the Lord, all people on earth; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  83 Bless the Lord, O Israel; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  84 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  85 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  86 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  87 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.  88 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 of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire he has delivered us.  89 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.  90 All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures forever.”

  • Is anyone not to praise God?


  • Thou only mentioned in passing, when those in heaven are called on to praise God, what is their sate of being? What does this point forward to? (vs. 86)


  • Why should we praise God? (Vs. 88-90) (What does He save us from and why?)


91 Hearing them sing, and amazed at seeing them alive, King Nebuchadnezzar rose up quickly.  He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?”  They answered the king, “True, O king.”  92 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”

  • What was the only part burned off the men thrown into the fire? (vs. 92)


Lutheran Tie-In

“The Song of the Three Young Men” is a hymn in the “biblical canticles” section of our hymnals.  In The Lutheran Hymnal, it still retained its Latin name, Benedicte Omnia Opera, TLH, pg. 120.  In Lutheran Service Book, we find two versions: LSB 930 and 931.

That this hymn is part of our Lutheran heritage and in the “Biblical Canticles” section means we’ve always considered the Apocrypha section of Daniel to be part of Scripture.  Though we have forgotten as much (and may even deny it), our hymnals reveal to us such an understanding.

If we have time, we now sing LSB 930, “All You Works of God, Bless the Lord.”


Link to the next Lesson.

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