1sn This bipartite account of the alleged experiences of Daniel’s three friends in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace is the first of several additions to the Book of Daniel, the others being the story of Susanna and the account of Bel and the Dragon. None of these writings appears in the Hebrew/Aramaic text of the Book of Daniel, nor are they ever cited by ancient Jewish writers in documents that are extant. However, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men do appear between Dan 3:23 and Dan 3:24 in certain ancient witnesses, notably the Greek, Syriac, and Latin. This prayer (vv. 24-45) and song (vv. 52-90) form a fitting supplement to the canonical description of the experience of the three Jews who at the command of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon were thrown into a blazing furnace of fire for refusing to worship any God other than the God of Israel. The origins of these writings are obscure. Whether the accounts were originally composed in Hebrew (or Aramaic), or whether they were first composed in Greek, is not known for sure, although most modern scholars conclude on the basis of internal evidence that there probably was an original Semitic edition of these additions to Daniel. However, no such Semitic source has survived to the present time. The Aramaic text preserved in the medieval Chronicle of Jerahmeel is probably a late retroversion made from a Greek text and not a source that antedates the Greek versions. (For a contrary suggestion see K. Koch, Deuterokanonische Zusätze zum Danielbuch, 1:19-39.) The date of composition of these documents is also uncertain, although most scholars favor a date either in the second or first century B.C. This material shows clear literary affinities with certain Old Testament compositions, especially some of the psalms, and it was in fact probably modeled after such biblical compositions.

2tn The transmission history of this material is very complex, as is the case with the canonical portions of Daniel as well. The Greek text of the additions to Daniel survives in two distinct forms. The old Greek text is represented mainly by the ninth-century Greek MS 88, the seventh-century Syrohexapla of Paul of Tella, and the third-century Greek papyrus MS 967 (which lacks the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men). The text known as Theodotion is much better attested than the old Greek translation due to its having replaced the old Greek translation in the early Christian period. The translation presented above is based on the Göttingen edition of Theodotion, although some readings of the old Greek text will also be mentioned in the notes that accompany the translation.

3tc The old Greek version of this story includes the names of all three of Daniel’s friends and not just the name of Azariah. That version in v. 24 has “thus therefore Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael prayed and praised the Lord, when the king commanded that they be thrown into the furnace.”

4sn Azariah was one of the three friends of Daniel who, after being subjected to a period of probationary testing along with Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael, was appointed to a position of leadership in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The name Azariah is common in Hebrew and means “the Lord has helped” (BDB 741). There are more than two dozen individuals by this name in the Old Testament. According to Daniel 1 these three Jews were all very young men at the time of their deportation to Babylon. It is probably that fact that has led to the title “the Song of the Three Young Men,” even though there is nothing in this composition that actually suggests their age at the time of the fiery furnace incident. Although the traditional title is not entirely satisfactory we have utilized it here due to its widespread acceptance. The Syriac translation includes a summary heading for this section that reads “the prayer of Hananiah and his friends.”

5sn The previous verse already indicates that the Jews were walking about in the midst of the furnace, which means that there is no need to say that Azariah “stood up.” The expression is probably a Hebraism.

6tc Grk “thus.” The Syriac translation lacks the words “and prayed in the following manner” in v. 25.

sn Vv. 24-25 provide a narrative introduction to the prayer that follows. The prayer itself takes the form of a communal lament and confession of sin, a form-critical category frequently found in the Psalter. In vv. 26-28 Azariah begins by praising God and acknowledging that his sovereign actions are entirely appropriate. In vv. 29-33 he confesses in behalf of his people the sins that have precipitated the calamity that has befallen them in the exile. Finally, in vv. 34-45 he prays for the Lord to intervene and bring deliverance to his oppressed people. The appeal is based in part upon God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in patriarchal history (vv. 35-36), while at the same time emphasizing the deprived and desperate condition of a presently oppressed people. In tone the Prayer of Azariah may be compared especially to Dan 9:4-19.

7tn Grk “said.”

8tn Grk “fathers.”

9tn Grk “upon.” The use of the Greek preposition epi in this way is odd. It is probably a Hebraism.

10tn Grk “straight.”

11tn Grk “truth.” The expression is probably a Hebraism.

12tn Grk “decisions of truth.” The expression is probably a Hebraism.

13tn Grk “fathers.”

14tn Grk “in truth and judgment.” The expression is best understood as a hendiadys. Cf. the slightly different expression in v. 31.

15sn The emphasis on confession of sin in this section is at variance with the canonical account, which emphasizes the innocence and integrity of the three Jews who were cast into the fiery furnace. This difference in orientation may hint at the possibility that this material was originally composed for some purpose other than as an addition to Daniel, as a number of scholars have suggested. See, for example, C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 40-41; Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 198.

16tn Grk “in all things.”

17tc The old Greek translation has “the commandments of your law.”

18tn Grk “just as.”

19tn Grk “true.”

20tn The words “you have delivered us over” are not in the Greek text, but have been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

21tn The words “than any other in” are not present in the Greek text, but have been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

22sn In light of the connection of this prayer to Daniel 3 the description of a king “more evil than any other in the entire earth” would presumably be a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, although this goes beyond anything said about Nebuchadnezzar in the canonical portions of Daniel. Assuming that this addition to Daniel was composed in the wake of the second-century Jewish persecutions initiated by Antiochus Epiphanes, there is probably an implied reference to this Seleucid king as well.

23tn Grk “mouth.”

24tn Grk “become.”

25tn Grk “the one who has been loved by you.” Cf. Isa 41:8; 2 Chr 20:7 (and later, Jas 2:23).

26tn Grk “to whom.”

27tn Grk “spoke.”

28tn Grk “seed.”

29tn Grk “all the nations.”

30tn Or “land.”

31tn Grk “soul.”

32sn The appeal here is based on acknowledgment of the conditions of Jewish exile and persecution: the temple has been destroyed, political and religious leadership have been removed from office, and sacrifice and offering that is in keeping with requirements of Torah is no longer possible. Azariah therefore prays that God will look upon the humility, spiritual brokenness, and heart-felt contriteness of a repentant people as acceptable substitutes for the missing external features of Jewish worship. Cf. Pss 51:16-17; 141:2.

33tn Grk “thus.”

34tn As it stands the meaning of this line is unclear. The Greek text of Theodotion has ektelesai (“to complete”), which is very difficult to understand in this context. This verb can also have the sense of “to discharge a religious duty” (see LSJ 665), which forms the basis of the paraphrase suggested above. Some uncertainty, however, remains. The old Greek has exilasai (“to propitiate”), a meaning that fits well with the sacrificial language that immediately precedes this statement. It seems odd, however, for this verb to be followed by the preposition opisthen (“after”). The Syriac translation reads “and your servants will not be ashamed.” It is possible that all the extant witnesses have sustained textual corruption here that requires further evidence than what we presently possess in order to determine the correct text.

35tn Grk “there will not be shame.”

36tn Grk “give.”

37tn Grk “show.”

38tc The old Greek translation has a lengthy plus at the beginning of v. 46: “And when they threw the three together into the furnace, the furnace was red-hot, having been heated sevenfold. And when they threw them in, the ones who were throwing them in were above them.”

39sn There is conflict here with Dan 3:22, which indicates that the attendants who threw the Jews into the fiery furnace were immediately killed by the intensity of the blaze.

40tc The Syriac translation lacks “the king’s attendants who threw them in.”

41sn Four items are mentioned as adding to the intensity of heat in the fiery furnace. The term naphtha is a Greek loanword derived from Persian naft. For occurrences in classical Greek literature see LSJ 1163, and for rabbinic usage see Jastrow, 2:923. Naphtha is a flammable hydrocarbon liquid taken perhaps from coal tar. Cf. 2 Macc 1:36. The term pitch refers to a combustible derivative of coal tar or other similar substances. The term flax (Greek, stippuon = stuppeion) refers to the coarse fiber of flax or hemp (so LSJ 1658). The term brushwood, of course, refers to a highly combustible form of firewood. These terms are variously translated in the English versions: “rosin, pitch, tow, and small wood” (KJV); “brimstone, and tow, and pitch, and dry sticks” (Douay); “naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood” (NRSV); “brimstone, pitch, tow, and faggots” (NAB); “oil, tar, flax, and brushwood” (TEV); “Naphtha and tow, pitch and tinder” (Knox); “crude oil, pitch, tow and brushwood” (New Jerusalem Bible).

42sn That is, about 73.5 feet (understanding a cubit to be about eighteen inches). The number 49 (a multiple of seven) in v. 47 may be derived from the indication in Dan 3:19 that the furnace was heated seven times beyond its normal level (so J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 204).

43tn Grk “it passed through.”

44tn Or “Babylonians.”

45tn Grk “found.”

46sn According to Dan 3:25 the fourth person in the fiery furnace is described by Nebuchadnezzar as “one like a son of the gods” (Aramaic, dameh lebar ’elahin). Here, however, the identification is made even more specific: he is “the angel of the Lord,” a familiar figure in Old Testament literature (cf., e.g., Gen 16:7, 9, 11; 22:11, 15; Exod 3:2; Num 22:22-35; Jdg 2:1, 4; 5:23; 6:11-22; 13:3-21; 2 Sam 24:16; 1 Kgs 19:7; 2 Kgs 1:3, 15; 19:35; 1 Chr 21:12-30; Ps 34:7; 35:5-6; Isa 37:36; Zech 1:11-12; 3:1, 5-6; 12:8). According to a tradition mentioned in the Talmud the identity of this angel is Gabriel. See b. Pesahim 118a-b.

47sn The account of deliverance (vv. 46-51) is oddly preceded by a rather lengthy prayer of confession (vv. 24-45). It would seem that apart from miraculous deliverance the offering of such a prayer would have been impossible due to the extreme heat. The sequence of events is, as Moore says, “totally illogical.” See C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 41.

48tn Grk “a wind of dew.”

49tn Grk “as out of one mouth.”

50tn The Greek imperfect tenses are used here with an inceptive nuance, which is indicated in the translation with the word “began.”

51tn Grk “saying.”

sn Following a brief narrative introduction (vv. 46-51), the Song of the Three Young Men breaks forth in an extended ascription of praise to God. First, the three Jews express their praise to the Lord (vv. 52-56), and then they call upon all creation to join in praising God (vv. 57-90). These two sections are both characterized by repetition of doxological language, and early on they may have been used liturgically by choirs that sang in antiphonal responses.

52tn Grk “fathers.”

53tn Grk “the name of your glory.” The expression is a Hebraism.

54sn The thought expressed in v. 52 is very similar to that found in Tobit 8:5.

55sn Since the temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by this time, the reference here must be to God’s heavenly temple. The alternative, that at the time of the writing of this addition the Jerusalem temple was still standing, does not seem likely. However, in support of that view see J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 205.

56sn Cf. vv. 52-53 with Tobit 8:5.

57tn Or, “abysses.”

58sn In Old Testament literature the cherubim were heavenly creatures with wings. The Lord is sometimes depicted as riding on them (cf. 2 Sam 22:11; Ps 18:10). In v. 54 the Greek transliteration of cherubim has the Aramaic plural ending /-in/ in Theodotion’s version, but the old Greek version has the Hebrew plural ending /-im/.

59tc The old Greek translation reverses the order of vv. 54 and 55.

60tn Or, “dome.”

61sn Because of the widespread influence of the Latin Vulgate this song is sometimes referred to as The Benedicite. In the Vulgate v. 57 begins with the words benedicite omnia opera Domini.

62sn The appeal for others to join in ascribing praise to God focuses on four groups: first, there are those things that are located in the heavens above the earth (vv. 57-63); second, there are the atmospheric conditions that may affect the earth (vv. 64-73); third, there is the earth itself, together with its variegated plant and animal life (vv. 74-81); and finally, there are various categories of human life that are singled out (vv. 82-90). The effect of this section is to provide a comprehensive and somewhat exhaustive litany of praise to the Lord. The composer is indebted to the Old Testament psalms for much of this material, especially Psalms 136 and 148.

63sn In Theodotion’s text this refrain occurs some thirty-two times in this call to worship, with only an occasional slight variation in wording.

64tc The Syriac translation reverses the order of vv. 60 and 61 and includes in v. 60 an additional refrain: “Bless the Lord, all those who fear the Lord; praise and exalt him forever.”

65sn That is, angels.

66tn The Greek word (pneumata) translated “winds” can also mean “spirits,” although that sense does not fit the present context. The Douay rendering “spirits of God” in v. 65 is based on an inferior textual variant in the Latin manuscript tradition.

67tc The Syriac translation includes in v. 66 and additional refrain: “Bless the Lord, all the souls of the righteous; praise and exalt him forever.”

68tc The Syriac translation lacks vv. 67-68, and vv. 71-72 occur before v. 69 in Theodotion’s Greek text and in the Syriac translation.

69sn The normal order for these words in English is “days and nights.” But the word order used in v. 71 reflects Jewish practice in which the day begins at sundown. Cf. Gen 1:5, etc.

70tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 69: “Bless the Lord, summer and winter; praise and exalt him forever.”

71tn Or “land.”

72tn Or perhaps “on the earth.”

73tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 76: “Bless the Lord, all that grows on the earth; praise and exalt him forever.”

74tc The Greek text of Theodotion and the Syriac translation reverse the order of vv. 77 and 78.

75tn Greek MS 88 has “rains and springs” here.

76tn The Greek word ketos refers to large creatures of the sea but is not restricted in meaning to whale, although many English versions have rendered it that way here (e.g., KJV, Douay, TEV, NRSV, New Jerusalem Bible). NAB has “dolphins.”

77tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 81: “Bless the Lord, all that creeps on the earth; praise and exalt him forever.”

78tn Grk “the sons of men.” The sense of the expression is not gender specific.

79sn In light of the preceding verse the reference is probably to temple servants or Levites. So C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 73; J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 206. Cf. Ps 134:1; 135:2.

80tn Or, “the Underworld” (New Jerusalem Bible), or “the world of the dead” (TEV), or “the nether world” (NAB). Some older versions translate the word hades as “hell” (e.g., KJV, Douay), but this rendering is likely to be misunderstood. Here it refers not to a place of torment after death but rather to the unseen world of all spirits who have departed this life.

81tn Grk “hand.”

82sn Unlike the case for most of this song, the language in v. 88 is specifically directed to the experience of the three Jews in the fiery furnace. The rest of this song, however, permits a more general setting and application, a fact that has led some scholars to conclude that this material was originally composed for a different purpose and was later adapted to the story of the fiery furnace.

83tn Or, “benevolent,” “good,” “worthy.”

84tc The Syriac translation includes an additional refrain in v. 89: “Praise and exalt him forever.”

85tc After “forever” the old Greek translation adds “and ever” (kai eis ton aiona ton aionon).

86Although the Prayer of Manasseh is not regarded as canonical by Judaism, Protestantism, or Roman Catholicism, it is accepted as authoritative by the Eastern Orthodox churches. This document is not uniformly a part of Septuagint manuscripts. However, at the end of the Psalter the Greek manuscript codex Alexandrinus has some fourteen Odes, one of which is the Prayer of Manasseh. Apart from the title, the prayer itself does not indicate the name of the supplicant. It is thus possible to envision the prayer as appropriate to situations other than that of king Manasseh. Whether there may have been an original Hebrew or Aramaic form of this text is not known for certain. Most scholars seem to think that Jerome was unfamiliar with the Prayer of Manasseh, since he makes no mention of it when commenting on the biblical account of Manasseh. In addition to the Greek text of this prayer there are also translations into Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Old Slavonic, and Armenian. The present translation is based on the Greek text of the Göttingen edition.

Of all the Davidic kings of the Old Testament none reigned longer than Manasseh (698-642 B.C.). He came to the throne as a twelve-year-old boy and reigned for some fifty-five years (2 Kgs 21:1; 2 Chr 33:1). However, his administration was not one viewed with favor by the biblical writers due to the enormity of his religious failures and his advocacy of many pagan practices. Reversing the reforms of his father Hezekiah, Manasseh encouraged the building of pagan altars and the worship of foreign deities; he was also responsible for putting to death many innocent people (2 Kgs 21:16). The following summary of his life is not encouraging: “He did evil before the Lord and committed the same horrible sins practiced by the nations whom the Lord drove out from before the Israelites” (2 Kgs 21:2; 2 Chr 33:2). Eventually Manasseh was deposed by the Assyrians who took him captive to Babylon, a humbling fate that the biblical historians interpreted as a fitting consequence of his sins. But while captive in Babylon Manasseh is said to have repented of his prior sins, praying for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. In answer to his prayer the Lord forgave him and restored him to his throne in Jerusalem (2 Chr 33:12-13). Although his prayer is not recorded in the Hebrew Bible, it is said to have been preserved in the archival records of the kings of Israel and in those of the prophets, neither of which has been preserved (2 Chr 33:18-19). It is the absence of this prayer from the biblical record that the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh seeks to rectify. The author of this work voices a petition of the sort that Manasseh might have prayed while repenting and turning to the Lord during his stay in Babylon. The sincere piety so beautifully expressed in this prayer led to its finding considerable acceptance in early Christian liturgy. Apparently the earliest appearance of this work is found in the third century A.D. writing known as the Didascalia, which a couple of centuries later was included in the Apostolic Constitutions. The inclusion of the Prayer of Manasseh in these works probably played a significant role in later Christian familiarity with this work. The date of composition for the Prayer of Manasseh is uncertain, although most scholars favor a date in the first or second century B.C. The provenance of the Prayer is unknown, although some scholars suggest that its theology more closely resembles that of Palestinian Judaism during this period than that of Hellenistic Judaism (so, e.g., B. M. Metzger, Introduction to the Apocrypha, 125).

87tn Grk “fathers.”

88tc The Syriac translation adds “the God of” here for clarity. (The Leiden edition of the Peshitta presents two Syriac versions of the Prayer of Manasseh. The first is the text found in the Syriac biblical manuscripts and in the Didascalia Apostolorum, and the second is a very different recension found in the Melkite Horologia. References to the Syriac translation in the present notes have the first of these two texts in view.)

89tn Grk “seed.” The phrase seems to suggest that not all the descendants of the Patriarchs are actually to be included among the righteous. Cf. Rom 9:6.

90tn Grk “made.”

91tn Or “decoration,” “ornamentation.” See J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2:264. The meaning of the Greek word kosmos here is not entirely clear. Since the writer is alluding to Gen 2:1, kosmos may be used in the sense of Hebrew sa’ba’ (“host”). In that case perhaps the reference is to the stars.

92tn Or “fettered.”

93tc The Syriac translation has an additional verb here: “and established it.”

94tc The Syriac translation reverses the order of this phrase, reading “by the command of his word.”

95sn Cf. Job 38:8, 10, 11; Ps 104:9.

96sn This figurative use of sealing suggests ideas of ownership and security. The figure of speech is verbal hypocatastasis.

97tn Or “fearful,” “terrible.”

98tn Grk “from before your power.”

99tn Or “quiver.”

100tn Grk “the magnificence of your glory.”

101tn Or “unendurable” (so J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 1:67). This is the only place this word is used in the Septuagint.

102tn Or “is overwhelming.” Cf. Ps 123 [124]:5.

103tn Grk “the mercy of your promise.”

104tc The Syriac translation lacks “Most High.”

105sn The language of the prayer at this point seems to be significantly influenced by the Septuagint of Joel 2:12-13, although echoes of other Old Testament passages (e.g., Exod 34:6; Ps 86:15; Jonah 4:2) can also be detected. In Ryle’s view certain aspects of the language used in a textual variant to v. 7 reflect a pre-Christian understanding, since it is unlikely that a Christian would have failed to mention in such a context as this that salvation comes through Christ. However, at best this would seem to mean only that the author was non-Christian (i.e., Jewish) but not necessarily pre-Christian, and even that does not seem to be a necessary conclusion. But see H. E. Ryle, APOT, 621-22.

106tn Grk “of men.”

107tc The Syriac translation has the following plus: “You, O Lord, according to the kindness of your goodness promised forgiveness to those who repent of their sins. And by the multitude of your mercies you appointed repentance for the lives of sinners.” Certain Greek witnesses have a similar plus in v. 7.

108sn The writer uses phrases here (e.g., “Lord God of the righteous”) and elsewhere (e.g., “the God of those who repent,” v. 14) that are not drawn from the Old or New Testaments.

109sn The self-critical language used here (emoi to hamartolo) is almost identical to that used by the tax collector in the Gospels (moi to hamartolo). See Luke 18:13.

110tn Grk “I have sinned beyond the number of.”

111tn Grk “from.”

112tn The Greek infinitive construction (eis to ananeusai) is used here to indicate result or consequence.

113tn Grk “throw the head back” (as an expression of denial or refusal). See LSJ 113-14. The meaning here is rather unclear. Ryle in fact regards this as “the most difficult expression in the whole Prayer” and suggests that the text is probably corrupt (H. E. Ryle, APOT, 623). He suggests inserting a negative before the infinitive, a reading that is supported by codex Turicensis. This change yields the translation “I am bowed down . . . so that I cannot lift up my head” (cf. the Syriac translation). The English versions vary: “so that I am rejected because of my sins” (RSV); “that I cannot lift up mine head” (KJV); “I am crushed beneath the weight of my sin” (TEV); “so that I am rejected because of my sins” (NRSV).

114tc The Syriac translation renders this word by “idols” and the final noun in this line by “abominations.”

115tn Or “multiplying.” The words “the number of” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

116tn Grk “objects of wrath,” “offenses,” “provocations.”

117tn Grk “bend the knee of my heart.” The expression is a picturesque depiction of genuine humility and inner submission to God.

118tn Grk “the kindness from you.”

119tn Grk “know.”

120tn Grk “I ask, beseeching.”

121tc The Syriac translation does not repeat the appeal for forgiveness.

122tn Grk “evils.”

123sn Presumably a reference to Sheol, or Hades, the unseen world of those who have died.

124tn The Greek construction used here is difficult. The verb deixes is a second person singular aorist active subjunctive; presumably it is employed here as a jussive to express a wish (“may you demonstrate”). However, such usage of the subjunctive is unusual (see J. H. Moulton, W. F. Howard, and N. Turner, Grammar of New Testament Greek, 3:94), although a jussive use of the future tense is common in the Septuagint due to Semitic influence (see F. C. Conybeare and St. George Stock, Grammar of Septuagint Greek, 72). The English versions usually translate this verb as a future, presumably following the Latin ostendes: “thou wilt shew” (KJV), “thou wilt manifest” (RSV), “you will manifest” (NRSV).

125tn Or “show.”

126tn Or “save.”

127tn Grk “according to.”

128tn Grk “in.”

129tc The Syriac translation has “and to you they sing forever and ever.”

130sn Cf. the doxology at the end of the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:13).