Day 239: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
Jeremiah 22:1-30 Three prophecies place heavy blame on the kings of Judah for the sad state of affairs. Shallum (Jehoahaz) was king only a few months before he was abducted and taken to Egypt by the Pharaoh. Jehoiakim, the vassal king appointed by Babylon, was a self-indulgent ruler who cared little about divine Law or civil justice and attempted to fight off the invaders by his own power. The short reign of Coniah (Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin) ended with the deportation of 587 BC, and his death marked the end of the monarchy in Judah and the Davidic dynasty.
Ch 22:13-17 Who makes his neighbor...his wages: Dishonesty or oppression by employers over their employees is a grave offense against justice and human dignity; indeed, it is one of the sins that cry to heaven. (CCC 1867, 1888, 1940, 2213, 2419, 2448-2449)
Daniel 3:1-23 It is not clear how this story relates to the previous chapter. Taken chronologically, it would seem Nebuchadnezzar had returned to the worship of pagan gods despite his strong recognition of the God of Israel. It is probable that the story is more symbolic than historical and that Nebuchadnezzar allegorically represents a pagan oppressor. It is also the “Chaldeans,” a term which here refers specifically to the king’s seers, who bring accusations against the three young men who in the previous story had helped save their lives. Daniel is not mentioned here, but only his companions. The story presents a compelling portrait of complete fidelity to God in the face of extreme threats and torture. (CCC 1435)
Ch 3:16-18 The answer the men gave the king is quite telling: they did not pray to be saved from the furnace but only to embrace the will of God. When they were saved, they stood as witnesses to the power of God; if they had perished, then they would have been heroic witnesses to their love and fidelity to God’s covenant. “Because of their faith, they believe that they can escape death, but they say if he does not deliver us out of your hand so that the king will know that they may also die in the arms of the God they love” (St. Cyprian, Epistolae, 58, 5). (CCC 2473)
Ch 3:1-68 [Greek/Latin] The Greek and Latin texts include an additional 68 verses inserted here. This text, commonly called the “Song of the Three Young Men” and the “Prayer of Azariah,” is included in the Greek and Latin texts of Daniel but not in the Hebrew text. The same is true of Chapters 13 and 14 of Daniel, which are the stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon. The Catholic Church has ALWAYS accepted these chapters as inspired.
THE FIRST SONG, BY AZARIAH, accepts their torture by fire as a punishment for their sins. It is thus a penitential prayer that expresses hope for forgiveness and purification. They recognize their exile and hardship as punishment for their sins and appeal to God’s infinite mercy.
The second canticle is sung by all three young men as a hymn or litany of blessing that praises God for all his works. “Prayer does not eschew repetition,” said St. John Paul II, “just as the lover, who wants to express his love repeats his love over and over again. To emphasize the same things conveys the intensity and multiple nuances of one’s interior feelings and affections” (General Audience, December 12, 2001)
St. John Paul II compared these canticles to “a flame that lights up the darkness of the time of oppression and persecution, a time that has often been repeated in the history of Israel and of Christianity itself. We know that the persecutor does not always assume the violent and grime face of an oppressor, but often delights in isolating the just person with mocking and irony, asking him sarcastically, ‘Where is your God?’” (General Audience, February 19, 2003)
Moreover, he said the canticle, which offers its praise in the context of creation, is “an immense choir, a symphony in which the varied voices are raised in praise to God, Creator of the universe and Lord of history. Prayed in the light of Christian revelation, it is addressed to the Trinitarian God, as we are invited by the liturgy which adds a Trinitarian formula to the canticle: ‘Let us praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (St. John Paul II, General Audience, May 2, 2001)
Ch 3:57-59 [Greek/Latin] All of God’s creatures warrant our respect and care. (CCC 2416)
Ch 3:24-30 The king underwent a change of heart as the three men emerged from the furnace unscathed. He promptly changed his command to worship the false idol and granted freedom of worship to the very people his edict was meant to oppress. Daniel and his companions bore witness to the need to remain faithful to the truth even in the face of suffering and death. (CCC 2473, 2606)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The story of the three young men who were thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship the gods of Babylon (Dn 3) works in a similar way.
By their lives, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael (whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) embodied the lives of the faithful of Judah, kept safe in the furnace of trial that was the land of their exile.
As they stood in the raging fire kindled to consume them, these young men offered the worship that Tobit called all his exiled countrymen to perform:
“Acknowledge him before the nations, O sons of Israel;
For he has scattered us among them [the pagans].
Make his greatness known there [i.e. in foreign lands]
And exalt him in the presence of all the living;
Because he is our Lord and God, he is our Father forever.” (Tb 13:3-4)
The fidelity of the three young men, and that of many Jews during the Exile, would not have been possible except for God’s grace.
Daniel makes it clear that the learning, skill, and wisdom of the three young men, as well as Daniel’s gift of understanding visions and the favor and compassion they each received in the sight of the pagan chiefs, were all gifts given by God.
Thus, the song of the three young men in the fiery furnace recounts the people’s sinfulness, but blesses God for his mercy.
Daniel’s gift of interpreting dreams is what is most striking to later Jewish readers.
Viewed in the context of Israel’s history, Daniel’s mission as a dream interpreter makes him a “new Joseph” of sorts.
Like the patriarch Joseph in Genesis, this young man is taken captive to a foreign nation to whom his people were subject. And, like Joseph, Daniel is honored in the pagan royal court for his gift of understanding visions.
These and other parallels between Daniel and Joseph have at least one critical implication: they lead us to think of the Exodus, the archetype of all of God’s salvific acts.
Just as 1 and 2 Kings portrayed the exile as “the Exodus in reverse,” so Daniel casts Babylon as another Egypt and the Babylonian kings as the new Pharaohs.
In Egypt, the question to God’s people is, “Whom will you serve?”
This is also the focus of the trials in the fiery furnace and the lion’s den:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you 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 your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” (Dn 3:16-18)
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
GOSH YOU GUYS!!
Jeremiah Ch 22 is INCREDIBLE
Daniel Ch 3 is kind of like TWELVE CHAPTERS IN ONE, QUITE LONG
BUT ALSO INCREDIBLE
Jeremiah is exhorting the people to REPENTANCE
He is speaking to the King of Judah, Josiah
Remember, Josiah was the king who had reforms
Jeremiah knew Josiah
Jeremiah served for a long time as a prophet
Then there is the son of Josiah, Shallum
Jeremiah basically says to Shallum, “Listen, your father Josiah was a reformer. You need to also be a reformer.”
One of the things that is SO CLEAR is that the people who belong to God were not only called to be FAITHFUL to the Lord God
Not just to NOT FALL INTO IDOLATRY
Also this consistent call to take care of the poor people, orphans, widows, and even strangers
This command comes back again and again
When God’s people either FAIL the Covenant by turning away from God and serving other gods
They FAIL the Covenant by turning away from the poor and the needy
This is an incredible sign of THE END
THINGS ARE GOING TO COME
Part of Covenant faithfulness is NOT ONLY being faithful to God and worshiping HIM ALONE
Being faithful to God’s COMMANDS to care for those who have no one to care for them
THAT IS SO POWERFUL to continue to come back to for ourselves
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own stuff
We say, “Oh I’m serving the Lord. I’m listening to the Bible. I’m worshiping him as he has asked me to do.”
Then not necessarily paying any attention to those who have no one else to take care of them
THAT IS OUR JOB FROM GOD HIMSELF
If we want to be PEOPLE OF THE COVENANT our job is to care for those who have no one to care for them
IT IS A BIG BURDEN
BUT IT IS ALSO A GRACE
Onward to Daniel
We have this lengthy story about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael
When they got to Babylon, they were given NEW names
That name change was SIGNIFICANT
Daniel’s name in Hebrew means “GOD IS MY JUDGE”
“El” is another Hebrew word for God
Hananiah’s name in Hebrew means “BELOVED OF THE LORD”
Mishael’s name in Hebrew means “WHO IS LIKE GOD”
Basically it is the same name as MICHAEL! (Yeah, I think I’ve heard of someone legendary named Michael….very impressive fellow, won 6 Championships with the Chicago Bulls 🤪)
Azariah’s name in Hebrew means “THE LORD IS MY HELP”
All of their names REFER TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL
THE LORD GOD
When they get to Babylon and their names are changed, their names refer to the FALSE GODS in Babylon
Belteshazzar (Daniel) means “Bel’s Prince”
Bel is a false god of Babylon
Shadrach (Hananiah) means “Illuminated by the sun god”
Meshach (Mishael) means “Who is like Shach”
Shach is one of the Babylonian goddesses
Abednego (Azariah) means “Servant of Nego”
Nego is one of the false gods of Babylon
This is not just a simple name change
Like your name in France is Francois and now in the United States you will be called Francis
The Babylonians are basically saying, “We are not only changing what we refer to you as, but to whom we refer when we refer to you.”
Every day of Daniel’s life, his name is “GOD IS MY JUDGE”
It referred to GOD OF THE COVENANT
But in Babylon, when he was called Belteshazzar, it means “you belong to Bel”
And so on and so forth for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
THIS IS DEVASTATING
They are being stripped of WHOM THEY BELONG TO
They are being given to these FALSE GODS IN BABYLON
We have an incredible sign of the fact that they REFUSED TO BELONG TO BABYLON
EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN EXILE
THEY REFUSED TO LIVE AS THE PEOPLE AMONG THEM
Remember the story of Israel
They go into the land of Canaan and they behave like the Canaanites and so on and so forth with the Jebusites and Philistines
These four men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are brought into Babylon and they REFUSE TO GIVE UP THE COVENANT WITH THE LORD
THEY REFUSE TO BEHAVE LIKE THE BABYLONIANS AROUND THEM
THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!
One of Fr. Mike’s favorite passages of ALL TIME in the ENTIRE BIBLE happened today in Daniel Ch 3
Daniel 3:15, “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound...fall down and worship the image which I have made...but if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace; AND WHO IS THE GOD THAT WILL DELIVER YOU OUT OF MY HANDS?”
Nebuchadnezzar had all of the power
Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael answer (AND THIS IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD! IT IS SO GOOD!), “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.”
THINK ABOUT THIS!
THEY HAVE NO POWER RIGHT NOW!
THEY ARE AT HIS MERCY!
“We don’t have to answer you!”
They go on, “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 your hand, O king.”
“You stripped us of our names to give us to these other gods. But no, our God still claims us and he is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.”
Daniel 3:18, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
TALK ABOUT FAITH!
THIS IS INCREDIBLE!
They declare their faith in the Lord God
“He can save us. But even if he doesn’t, we are not going to be unfaithful to him.”
It goes on with The Prayer of Azariah in the Furnace, praising the Lord in the fiery furnace
The three of them continue praising the Lord in the fiery furnace with The Song of the Three Young Men
Nebuchadnezzar has a MASSIVE CONVERSION after this whole episode after they are taken out of the furnace
Nebuchadnezzar is still a mean guy, but he uses this meanness to say in Daniel 3:29, “Therefore I make a decree: Any people...that speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb…”
He’s still using his rage and violence FOR GOD in this case
Maybe that’s a bit better
Tomorrow we jump into Daniel Ch 4
Nebuchadnezzar has a second dream and guess who’s going to come back around?
Some guy named Daniel
WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GIFT TO BE ABLE TO JOURNEY TOGETHER
STICK WITH THIS!!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!
WE ARE PRAYING TOGETHER!!
WE ARE LISTENING TO GOD’S WORD TOGETHER!!
WE ARE BEING FORMED BY THIS TOGETHER!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we thank you so much. We give you praise and glory. Thank you so much for your Word. Thank you for speaking to us and for constantly reaching out and constantly revealing your heart to us. We ask that you please help our hearts to receive you and help our hearts to hear you and help our hearts to be more like you. Help us to love what you love. In doing so, to be your image in this world so that those that see us, they get a glimpse at you. We make this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”