Song of the Three Children

THREE CHILDREN, SONG OF THE (̔́Υμνος τω̂ν τριω̂ν παίδων). One of the Gr. additions to the Book of Daniel, which, along with the Prayer of Azariah, appears not as an appendix but as a supplementary insertion between 3:23 and 3:24 in the LXX. These two items, connected by a short narrative bridge, form a separate book of the Apocrypha, but in the Vul. (as in the LXX) are to be found in ch. 3 of the canonical Daniel.

After the Prayer of Azariah, the ed. remarks (or was this once a part of the MT?) that the fire into which the three had been thrown continued to be fed, becoming so great that it burned those near the furnace, but that the angel of the Lord came down and protected the three (vv. 23-27). Thereupon they are said to have sung “as with one mouth” (ὡς ἐξ ἑνὸς στόματος) a great doxology. This hymn of praise, after an introductory section (vv. 29-34), is built on the repeated words “Bless the Lord...” followed by the refrain “sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever,” which occurs in identical pattern thirty-two times in succession (except for a very slight variation in v. 52). This calls to mind the similar liturgical rhythm of Psalm 136, where the repeated refrain is “for his stedfast love endures for ever” (cf. v. 67f.). The idea that all the various works of the Lord are to bless or praise Him may well be derived from the same idea in Psalm 148. The Song (Benedicite omnia opera) has found an enduring place in the liturgy of the Christian Church and is included in the Book of Common Prayer where it stands in the Morning Service as an alternate to the Te Deum.

In v. 66 is reference to the names of the three Israelites, who are to bless the Lord for deliverance from the fiery furnace. It is likely, however, that this v. is an addition of the ed. who is responsible for the insertion of this material into ch. 3. The joyful praise of the Song stands in marked contrast to the penitential prayer that precedes it, and thereby any essential connection between the two seems ruled out. The Song, like the Prayer, was composed independently (i.e without reference to the story of Dan 3) and seems to derive from a time when Israel was very grateful for the blessings of the Lord upon the nation, and it has been suggested that this could well fit the period of the Maccabean restoration. If the date of the Song remains unknown, so also does its author, of course, but it is not improbable that he originally wrote the Song in Heb.

The Song preceded by the Prayer of Azariah is available as a separate entity in the Apoc. The Gr. text (LXX and Theodotionic recensions agree closely) is available in the standard edd. of the LXX as a part of Daniel 3, but also as one of the collected Odes (Rahlfs, H = 8) which are often appended to the Psalms. The Song is received by Roman Catholics as a canonical part of Daniel 3. See nodetitle.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

|| 1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Author and Date

5. Original Language

6. Text and Versions


For general remarks concerning the Additions to Daniel see Bel and the Dragon.

1. Name:

This Addition has no separate title in any manuscript or version because in the Septuagint, Theod, Syriac and Latin (Old Latin and Vulgate) it follows Da 3:23 immediately, forming an integral portion of that chapter, namely, The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:24-90 in the Septuagint and Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) It is the only one of the three Additions which has an organic connection with Daniel; as regards the others see preliminary remarks to BEL AND THE DRAGON. The title in English Versions of the Bible is "The So of the Three Holy Children," a title describing its matter as formerly understood, though a more rigid analysis shows that in the 68 verses so designated, we have really two separate sections. See ''''3, below.

2. Canonicity:

See introductory remarks to BEL AND THE DRAGON. The order in which the three "Additions to Daniel" are found in the (Separate Protestant) Apocrypha is decided by their sequence in the Vulgate, the So of the Three Children forming part of chapter 3, Susanna of chapter 13, and nodetitle of chapter 14 of Daniel.

3. Contents:

Though the English and other Protestant versions treat the 68 verses as one piece under the name given above, there are really two quite distinct compositions. These appear separately in the collection of Odes appended to the Psalter in Cod. A under the headings, "The Prayer of Azarias" (Proseuche Azariou, Azariah, Da 1:6 f) and "The Hymn of Our Fathers" (Humnos ton pateron hemon); see Swete, The Old Testament in Greek, 3804 ff, and Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 253 f. Luther with his usual independence makes each of these into a separate book under the titles, "The Prayer of Azaria" (Das Gebet Asarjas) and "The So of the Three Men in the Fire" (Der Gesang der drei Manner im Feuerofen).

(1) The Prayer of Azarias (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:1-22) (Daniel 3:24-48).

Azariah is the Hebrew name of Abed-nego (= Abednebo, "servant of Nebo"), the latter being the Babylonian name (see Da 1:7; 2:49, etc.). This prayer joins on to Da 3:23, where it is said that "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Azariah) fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." [?] (the version of Theodotion; see "Text and Versions" below) adds, "And they walked (Syr adds "in their chains") in the midst of the fire, praising God, and blessing the Lord." This addition forms a suitable connecting link, and it has been adopted by the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and in modern versions which are made from [?] and not from the Septuagint, which last was lost for many centuries (see BEL AND THE DRAGON, III). In the Septuagint the words with which the Prayer was introduced are these: "Thus therefore prayed Hananias, and Azarias and Misael and sang praises (hymns) to the Lord when the king commanded that they should be cast into the furnace." The prayer (offered by Azarias) opens with words of adoration followed by an acknowledgment that the sufferings of the nation in Babylon were wholly deserved, and an earnest entreaty that God would intervene on behalf of His exiled and afflicted people. That this prayer was not composed for the occasion with which it is connected goes without saying. No one in a burning furnace could pray as Azarias does. There are no groans or sighs, nor prayer for help or deliverance of a personal nature. The deliverance sought is national.

(2) The So of the Three Holy Children (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:28-68) (Da 3:51-90).

This is introduced by a brief connecting narrative (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:23-27). The king’s servants continued to heat the furnace, but an angel came down and isolated an inner zone of the furnace within which no flames could enter; in this the three found safety. Rothstein (Kautzsch, Die Apok., 175) is inclined to think that this narrative section (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:23-27) stood between Da 3:23 and 3:24 in the original Hebrew text. The "Song" is really a psalm, probably a translation of a Hebrew original. It has nothing to do with the incident--the three young men in the furnace--except in The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:66 (EV) where the three martyrs call upon themselves by name to praise and bless the Lord for delivering them from the midst of the furnace. This verse is an interpolation, for the rest of the So is a long litany recalling Ps 103 and especially Psalms 136; 148, and Sirach 43. The Song, in fact, has nothing to do with the sufferings of the three young men, but is an ordinary hymn of praise. It is well known from the fact that it forms a part of the Anglican Prayer-book, as it had formed part of many early Christian liturgies.

4. Author and Date:

(1) Author.

We know nothing whatever of the author besides what may be gathered from this Addition. It is quite evident that none of the three Additions belong to the original text of Daniel, and that they were added because they contained legends in keeping with the spirit of that book, and a song in a slight degree (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:66 English Version of the Bible) adapted to the situation of the three Hebrew youths in the furnace, though itself of an independent liturgical origin.

For a long time the three Additions must have circulated independently. Polychronius says that "The So of the Three Holy Children" was, even in the 5th century AD, absent from the text of Daniel, both in the Peshitta and in the Septuagint proper. Rothstein (Kautzsch, Die Apok., 176) contends that the Additions formed a part of the Septuagint from the beginning, from which he infers that they were all composed before the Septuagint was made. What was the date of this version of Daniel? Since its use seems implied in 1 Macc 1:54 (compare Da 11:31; 12:11), it would be safe to conclude that it existed about 100 BC.

(2) Date of the Prayer of Azarias.

In The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:15 (English Versions of the Bible) it is said that at the time the prayer was offered, there was no prince, prophet or leader, nor sacrifice of any kind. This may point to the time between 168 and 165 BC, when Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) profaned the temple. If written in that interval, it must have been added to Da at a much later time. But on more occasions than one, in later times, the temple-services were suspended, as e.g. during the invasion of Jerusalem by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy IV (Philopater).

(3) Date of the Song.

We find references in the So (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:62 f English Versions of the Bible) to priests and temple-servants, and in The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:31 to the temple itself, suggesting that when the So was written the temple-services were carried on. This, in itself, would suit a time soon after the purification of the temple, about 164 BC. But the terms of the So are, except in verse 66 (English Versions of the Bible), so general that it is impossible to fix the date definitely. On the date of the historical connecting narrative (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:23-27) see ''''3, (2), above.

5. Original Language:

(1) Romanist scholars in general and several Protestants (Eichhorn, Einleit., in das Altes Testament, IV, 24 f; Einleit. in die apok. Schriften, 419; Vatke; Delitzsch, De Habacuci, 50; Zockler, Bissell, Ball, Rothstein, etc.) hold that the original language was Hebrew. The evidence, which is weak, is as follows: (a) The style is Hebraistic throughout (not more so than in writings known to have been composed in Alexandrian Gr; the idiom kataischunesthai + apo = bosh min (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:44 English Versions of the Bible; the Septuagint 1:44), "to be ashamed of," occurs in parts of the Septuagint which are certainly not translations). (b) The three Hebrew martyrs bear Hebrew names (The So of the Three Children (Azariah) 1:66 English Versions). This only shows that the tale is of Hebrew origin. (2) Most modern non-Romanist scholars hold that the original language of the So (and Prayer) was Greek. So Keil, Fritzsche, De Wette, Schurer, Konig, Cornill, Strack, etc.

Some grounds:

(1) The Hebraisms are comparatively few, and those which do exist can be paralleled in other writings composed in Hellenistic Greek

(2) It can be proved that in Daniel and also in Bel and the Dragon (see Introduction to Bel in the Oxford Apocrypha, edition R.H. Charles), Theodotion corrects the Septuagint from the Hebrew (lost in the case of Bel); but in Three, Theodotion corrects according to Greek idiom or grammar. It must be admitted, however, that the evidence is not very decisive either way.

6. Text and Versions:

As to the text and the various versions of the Song, see what is said in the article BEL AND THE DRAGON. It is important to note that the translations in English Versions of the Bible are made from Theodotion’s Greek version, which occurs in ancient versions of the Septuagint (A B V Q dc) instead of the true Septuagint (Cod. 87).


See the article BEL AND THE DRAGON; Marshall (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, IV, 754); W. H. Bennett (Oxford Apocrypha, edition R.H. Charles, 625 ff).

T. Witton Davies