The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews - Introduction
The Prayer of Azariah (vv. 1–22) and the Song of the Three Jews (vv. 28–68), along with a brief prose paragraph (vv. 23–27) concerning the fate of the three in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, are placed by ancient manuscripts between Dan 3.23 and 3.24 . The Prayer and Song (with the exception of the end of the Song) originally may have had no connection to the book of Daniel. They appear as numbers 7 and 8 of the fifteen “Odes” added to the book of Psalms in a few manuscripts of the Septuagint, a placement that complements the resemblance of these Additions to Ps 148 in terms of theme and Ps 136 in terms of structure. Their addition to Dan 3 gives their general emphasis on hope for deliverance, national repentance, and divine faithfulness a poignant focus as the three Jews face death in Babylonian exile. Whether the Prayer and Song were initially written in Hebrew or Aramaic or even Greek remains debated; their place of composition does as well, although the Prayer contains several references that correspond to the reign of Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE), and so a second‐(or perhaps first‐) century BCE date of composition is likely.
Similar prayers and hymns are a hallmark of Second Temple Jewish texts, and they are found in such works as Judith, Tobit, and Baruch, as well as in Dan 9 and among the scrolls discovered at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls); they may represent early forms of synagogue liturgies. The Additions to Daniel are, in particular, comparable to the Additions to Esther: In both, prose narrative is supplemented with prayer and song that emphasize the piety of the main characters. The Prayer of Azariah resembles other postexilic works highlighting divine righteousness, the failure of the covenant community to remain faithful, assertion of divine mercy, and appeal for deliverance (Ezra 9.6–15; Neh 1.5–11; Ps 106; Bar 1.15–3.8 ; and some Qumran texts). The Song of the Three Jews has allusions to numerous psalmic and prophetic passages in its exhortations to the heavens (vv. 36–41 ), nature (vv. 42–51 ), earth and its creatures (vv. 52–59 ), and humanity (vv. 60–68 ). Unlike the book of Daniel and the Prayer of Azariah, however, it does not suggest a period of persecution or a time when the Temple was either destroyed or profaned.