The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews deals with three Jewish men, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who are walking around in a white-hot, blazing furnace; yet they are still are praising God within the flames. They had been put there as a punishment for disobeying a wicked king in order to serve their God. Does this sound familiar?
The aforementioned scenario should strike a recollection of a commonly-told Bible story, in which three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were thrown into a fiery furnace by an angry king. The book of Daniel in the Canon describes the story of these three men who were thrown into a furnace to die, only to escape unscathed when God sent an angel to protect his faithful. Only upon further examination does one discover that the instances described are one and the same. In short, the book of the Apocrypha, The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, is classified as Deuterocanonical literature because it is not found in the traditional Canon, The Bible. The canonical account of the aforementioned events is recorded in Daniel, and more information is supposedly contained within the apocryphal book’s contents; note that the deuterocanonical book is billed as mere “additions to Daniel,” to be inserted between Daniel 3:23 and Daniel 3:24. The apocryphal book begins with a song of praise to God, lifted up by Azariah. Then the author describes further the furnace in which the men were placed. Then the psalm of praise by Azariah is resumed by the other two men in the furnace. Then the canonical book Daniel supposedly resumes. There is only one discrepancy between the canonical and Deuterocanonical works, though the discrepancy in the names of the three Jewish men is easily explained. Simply, when King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, took exiles from Judea, he took the smartest, most handsome men from the prisoners to train as court officials. To further shame the proud Hebrews, the ruler gave the men new names, changing their names from God-fearing, kosher names, to names based off of the pagan gods of Babylon; Hananiah was renamed Shadrach; Mishael, Meshach; and Azariah, Abednego.
The Biblical book of Daniel is not particularly clear on what happened to the three men while they were in the furnace, but The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews gives more insight into the happenings. It is not difficult to read, nor understand. It uses no symbolism, nor is it pseudoepigraphical in nature. Its clear, concise, yet sincere praise to God from his faithful is uplifting. Still, I do not know if The Prayer of Azariah… has base in Scripture, or why was it not included as part of the book of Daniel? For this reason, I believe that The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews is best used for devotional purposes.