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)

“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)

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)

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.”