|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:28-30 What God did for these his servants, would help to keep the Jews to their religion while in captivity, and to cure them of idolatry. The miracle brought deep convictions on Nebuchadnezzar. But no abiding change then took place in his conduct. He who preserved these pious Jews in the fiery furnace, is able to uphold us in the hour of temptation, and to keep us from falling into sin.
Verse 30. - Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon. The Septuagint renders here, "Thus, then, the king gave authority to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and appointed them to be rulers over the whole province." There seems to have been a slight difference of reading, probably hashlayt instead of hatzlah, and le'nol medee-meh instead of la'mdeenath Babel. It seems difficult to decide which of these two readings is the preferable; perhaps, on the whole, the Massoretic is the simpler. The version of Theodotion is considerably interpolated, "Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon, and made them great, and reckoned them worthy to have authority over all the Jews in his kingdom." The first portion agrees with the Massoretic text and with the LXX. in sense; but the last clause is a much later addition. The Peshitta agrees with the Massoretic. The exact meaning of halzlah is "to make glad," "to give rewards to," and therefore is in no conflict with the Massoretic recension of the concluding verse of the preceding chapter, "And Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babyhm." It is to be observed that in the deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 43:2) there seems to be a reference to this event, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." The deliverance from Egypt, and the passage of the Red Sea, and the entrance into Canaan, and the passage of the Jordan, are referred to in the first part of this verse, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." It certainly is but natural to suppose that the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar is the historical reference of the latter. Excursus on the Song of the Three Holy Children. When the student of the apocryphal addition to the Book of Daniel passes from the consideration of Susanna and the Elders, and Bel and the Dragon, with their manifold absurdities and manifest tokens of' a Greek origin, to that of the Song of the Three Holy Children, he feels he has come into a different atmosphere. He has not done more than casually perused the whole of the composition called "The Song of the Three Holy Children," when he discovers it is in two distinct portions. The whole structure of the two songs indicates a Hebrew origin. The character of the two divisions is quite different. The first is intercessory, and it proceeds from one person; the second is liturgic, and purports to be the joint expression of the feelings of all three. In both there are manifold echoes of earlier psalms. In some cases the phrases are imitated, in other cases adopted with some slight modifications. At the same time, there are in neither portion any obvious tokens of Greek origin, such as may be found in the Story of Susanna, with its play on words which hold only in Greek, or in its Greek views of history as seen in the Story of Bel and the Dragon. When the examples of translation from Hebrew were so numerous as they were by the time that Ben Sira came down to Egypt, and when the translators had by common consent adopted a special style, it cannot be denied that not only could a cento of phrases from the Greek version of the Hebrew Psalter have been formed, but also the style might be imitated, even when the words and sentiments were original. Still, as the aim and ambition of the Jews in Egypt were rather to show the close resemblance there was between the works of the fathers of their race and the sages of Greece, the imitative activity of the Jewish literary falsarii was directed more to that than to suggest merely a Hebrew original of what they had composed. We have no indubitable instance of psalms being composed in Greek in imitation of the translation of the Psalms of the original Psalter. We have certainly the psalms which go to form the Psalter of Solomon; but these are generally admitted to have been composed in Hebrew, and translated from that into Greek. However, there would still be a dubiety. The only way is to examine this song, or rather these songs, to see whether they contain any traces of being translations from Hebrew originals. As a basis of investigation, we have the two Greek and the Peshitta versions. In a subordinate position we have the Vulgate and the version of Paulus Tellensis. The first thing that one observes, on a casual comparison of the two Greek versions, is that they are much more nearly related, and resemble each other much more closely in regard to these songs, than they do in regard to the rest of the book. The resemblance of the Peshitta to beth is also close, but yet there are points of difference. If we take the introductory sentence, we see considerable variation, greater than occurs elsewhere. The Septuagint begins thus: "Then Azarias stood and prayed thus, and having opened his mouth, confessed to the Lord with his companions in the midst of the fire, made by the Chaldeans to burn exceedingly, and said." Theodotion is simpler - we give the ordinary rendering, "Then Azarias stood up and prayed on this manner, and opening his mouth in the midst of the fire, said." The Peshitta is, "And Azariah arose and opened his mouth to bless in the midst of the fire, and he opened his mouth and prayed, and said thus." All these versions have the appearance of being a union of two versions of the same tiring. In the Syriac this is most obvious In the Greek versions the evidence of reduplication is afforded by οὕτως occurring in the middle of the sentence, instead of naturally at the end, to introduce the speech referred to In the Syriac, which avoids this, it is evidenced even more by the repetition of the verb pethah, "to open." But this reduplication of versions implies an original of which there were already two readings. A similar phenomenon is presented by the opening verse of the Song of Azariah. As rendered by the LXX. it is, "Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, and thy Name is worthy to be praised and glorified for evermore." Theodotion, in the reading preferred by Tischendorf, has αἰνετός agreeing with Θεός. The Peshitta has changed the order, "to be exalted and praised is thy Name for ever." The "and" present in the two Greek versions is awanting. In the next verse the Septuagint renders, "Thou art righteous in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true, and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are true." Theodotion omits "to us" in the first clause, and has in the last "truth" instead of "true." When we turn to the Peshitta, we find a reason for the resemblance of the second member of the second and fourth clauses. "Righteous art thou in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are in truth (b"qooshtha), and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are faithful (meheemnin)." In Hebrew, as in Syriac, this contrast could be maintained, but it was more difficult to the Hellenist, who had, perhaps, few words at his command. The following verse in the LXX. runs as follows: "Thou didst judgments of truth in regard to all that thou hast brought upon us, and upon thy holy city, the city of our fathers, because in truth and judgment didst thou all these things because of our sins." The only difference between Theodotion and this is the omission of σου, "thy." The Peshitta rendering does not evidence much difference from that of the Greek versions, "Because in judgment of truth was what thou didst to us, and in all that thou hast brought upon us and upon the holy city of our fathers, upon Jerusalem, because in righteousness (b'c'anootha) didst thou bring upon us all these things." We shall only take the next verse, and shall conclude the verse-by-verse examination of the Song of Azariah. The rendering of the Seventy bears traces of being translated from a Shemitic dialect by one who had not a large vocabulary in Greek. "Because we sinned in all things and transgressed to turn aside from thee, and we sinned in all things, and the commandments of thy Law we obeyed not, neither observed, nor did we according as thou didst command us, in order that it should be well with us." Theodotion is exactly the same. The Peshitta is different, "Because we are debtors of sin (hoobin dehitin), and wicked before thee, and have removed far from thee, and have done against thy words, and have sinned against thee in all things, and to thy precepts have not hearkened, and did not keep them, and have not done anything which thou commandedst, to be well to us." The sense here is evidently the same, but there has been a difference, if not of text, at least of apprehension of one and the same text. The Syriac could not have been made from the Greek, nor the Greek from the Syriac; they must have had a common source. It would be impossible to say with absolute certainty that this source must have been Hebrew; but the probability is in that direction. Aramaic does not so naturally lend itself to poetry as does Hebrew. Whatever poetry we have by Jewish authors in pre-Christian times which is not in Greek, has been in Hebrew. That being settled, at all events conditionally, the next point is to examine the songs, and see whether they give any evidence in their contents of the background. In the first place, in regard to the Song of Azariah, if we take for granted that it was written in Hebrew, it follows almost necessarily from this that it was composed in Palestine. The next question that requires to be considered is the object of the composition. Was it intended to be placed here? was it written up to this, situation? or was it written for some other purpose, and placed here simply because some one thought it suited? The first thing bearing on this question which we observe is the names which these three Hebrews bear. In the Aramaic part which belongs to the Massoretic Daniel, they are called by their Babylonian names; in this portion their old Hebrew names are revived from the first chapter. That of itself is an indication that this portion has not been written for the place into which it has been put. Further, if this first psalmic fragment had been written for this place, it would have been put in the mouth of Hananiah. The arrangement of the names in Hebrew may have been merely according to the Hebrew alphabet, but instinctively one gives the first-named a certain precedence. Hence in the Peshitta this is called, "]'he prayer of Hananiah and his companions." For the choice of Azariah instead, there must have been a reason. The simplest reason would seem to be that already there was a sacred hymn extant written by a certain Azariah, and some later editor, seeing this, and knowing that there was an Azariah here, he gave him the credit of it, and as this event was the crisis of his history, declared it to have been composed in reference to this event. Azariah was rather a common name among the Jews; there are eighteen instances of it chronicled in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' It is certainly not so common after the Captivity, yet there was a captain in the Maccabean army called by this name, as above mentioned. When we direct our attention to the song itself, we find what confirms us in our conclusions - that it was not written for this place, but was written as the natural expression of feelings produced by circumstances widely different from those narrated in the chapter before us. If we compare this with the prayer of Daniel, which we find in ch. 9, we see the difference emphasized between circumstances of captives in Babylon and those presupposed by the Song of Azariah. If we turn to the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the song (vers. 37, 38), "For we, O Lord, are become less than any nation, and be kept under this day in all the world because of our sins. Neither is there at this time prince, or prophet, or leader, or burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place to sacrifice before thee, and to find mercy," It will be noticed that the diminishing of the numbers of the nation, or the restriction of its territory, and the humiliating position it was placed in, is the point of Azariah's complaint. Daniel's sorrow is that they are driven to other countries: אְשֵׁר הִדַּחְתָם שָׁם בָכָל־הָאֲרָצות, "in all the countries whither thou hast driven them." In the first case, we have a nation humiliated in their own land; in the second, a nation sent into certain definite countries, and there re-preached with having no country or capital. Again, it is said in the hymn before us, "There is neither prince, nor prophet, nor leader." It is to be noted that the word here is "prince," not "king" (nazi, not melek). In the original Hebrew there was probably a play on the words, lo-nasi v'lo-nabi, "neither prince nor prophet." As a matter of fact, in the period of Daniel, prophecy had not ceased, and all through the times of Jewish history it was known that there had been prophets during the time of the Exile. There was, at all events, Ezekiel by the river Chebar, and even if we take the date of the Septuagint for the inauguration of this golden image, and say that it was the eighteenth year of Nebuchaduezzar, Jeremiah was still living and prophesying. As for "princes," they were still in Jerusalem, if we reckon the eighteenth year strictly, but if we regard it as counted according to the Babylonian reckoning, and therefore that Jerusalem had already fallen, there were still "princes," although captives. Moreover, Coniah was still living, the former king, as also was Zedekiah. if we turn to Daniel, he declares the reason of the fall of Jerusalem and of the captivity of the people - because kings and princes and people had refused to hearken to the word of the Lord as spoken by the prophets. Daniel implies the existence of prophets, princes, and kings. if not absolutely necessarily in the actual present, yet in the immediate past, which, historically genuine or not, fits the setting. In the Song of Azariah there is no reference to a king; there is reference to "a prince" (nasi, not sar, which is usually "one of many"). In confirmation of this, there is not only the play on the words, if it is nasi', but also the fact that the word used in both Greek versions is ἄρχων, which is the most common representation of hast in the Septuagint This was the title of the head of the Sanhedrin, and borne usually by the high priest, it may also be noted that, while "sacrifices" and "offerings" are mentioned as having ceased, there is no mention of "priests." if this song was written at a time when the "prince" was the head of the priests, this omission would be explicable. Taking this as our guide, we should fix the date of the composition of the Song of Azariah at a time when the high priesthood was in abeyance, that is, during the Maccabean struggle, from the time when Epiphanes definitely desecrated the temple till its reconsecration by Judas Maccabaeus. When we look at the state of the temple as implied in this Song of Azariah as compared with the prayer of Daniel, Daniel speaks of the sanctuary being a desolation, and by connection it is implied Jerusalem was a desolation also; but in the song before us there is no place for sacrifice or offering. The Jews are excluded from the temple, there is no place allowed them there, but the place itself is not a desolation. If, again, we turn to the eighth verse of the Song of Azariah, we find still further evidences of the external circumstances in which it was composed. "And thou didst deliver us into the hands of lawless enemies, most hateful forsakers of God, and to an unjust king, and the most wicked in all the world." The two Greek versions are here in absolute agreement; the Syriac here, as elsewhere, presents signs of its independent origin, "And thou hast delivered us into the hands of lords of enmity, evil men who are far from thee, and the habitation of a wicked kingdom, the most miserable in all the earth." The structure of the latter half of this indicates, as it seems to us, that something has been misunderstood in the original document. Some word meaning "unto the power of" has been interpreted as being "dwelling-place," that necessitated the change of "king" to "kingdom" If we then assume the Greek versions to be correct, we find a state of things exactly fitting the period we have suggested above. The mode of speaking of their oppressor - "an unjust king, the most wicked in all the earth" - is quite unlike anything in the Old Testament. When Hezekiah prays to God to be delivered from the power of Sennacherib, although he had reproached the living God, he does not declare that he is wicked. Sennacherib is denounced as proud and cruel, but not as wicked. That would imply a certain amount of godlessness, of which none of the Assyrian monarchs could be accused, and least of all could Nebuchadnezzar. Such a statement is in complete antagonism to the character given to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel. It was by no means an unnatural description of Ephiphanes. He seems to have had no belief in deities of any kind. His persecution of the Jews had in all likelihood a motive either of policy or of vengeance. Nebuchadnezzar had never attempted to persecute religion in the ordinary sense of the word. The officials of his court he might and did expect to follow him in worship. Another thing to be observed is those that have turned away from God - ἀποσταστῶν - reheeqeen in the Peshitta. There were certainly many "apostates" at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but they were not apostates to the deities of Babylon. The "other gods" the Israelites were prone to worship were those of the nations around them. This apostasy was not connected with any treasonable submission to the Babylonian princes. So far as we can deduce the politics of the period from the prophecies of Jeremiah, the idolatrous party were patriotic so far as their resistance to Babylon was concerned, though they were always prone to coquet with Egypt. In the case before us, the enemies into whose hands the saints came were "apostates." If, however, we turn to the First Book of Maccabees 1:43, we find that "many also of the Israelites consented to his (Epiphanes') religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath." When we turn to 2 Maccabees, if we may trust it, we find that Jason, having purchased the high priesthood, encouraged Hellenic customs, and even sent money to Tyre for a sacrifice to Melkarth. These gave entrance to Epiphanes, and supported him in his cruelties. We can readily understand how a zealous Jew of the Maccabean time would regard these "apostates" as greater enemies than the heathen followers of Epiphanes. So far as we know, right down from shortly after the return from the Exile on to the period of the domination of the Seleucids, the high priest was nasi' and head of the people. After the Maccabean period until the Herodian period, the head of the people was the high priest. At the death of Herod the Great, the former relationship was resumed. Even during the reign of Herod there was a prince, in the shape of the king. The mention of a prince, without any mention of a king, excludes all after John Hyrcanus. The assertion that there was no longer a prince, shuts off all the period after Judas Maccabaeus had assumed the high priesthood. We are thus led by another line to fix the date of this Song of Azariah as being the heart of the Maccabean period. The following verse bears its own testimony to the date we have seen reason to fix on above. The Greek versions are at one here, and give the verde, "And now we cannot open our mouths, we are become a shame and a reproach to thy servants, and to them that worship thee." The Syriac has a slight difference in the first clause, "It is not for us to open our mouth before thee." This, however, does not affect the main reference of the verse. The meaning of the verse is that the widespread apostasy of the people made them a reproach and a shame to those who served the Lord and feared him elsewhere. The only time coincident with great persecution and consequent apostasy, when there were large communities fearing the Lord who might be scandalized by the apostasy of the Palcstinian Jews, was the Maccabean period, when there was the huge Jewish community of Babylonia, and the equally huge community of Egypt and Cyrene, not to speak of lesser and only lesser communities in Asia Minor. We venture, then, from all these grounds, to assume that this composition is to be dated as belonging to the Maccabean struggle. The liturgical song put in the mouths of all three has noticing to fix its date by. Close examination seems to show that it may have been written for the occasion. A Jew of later times might easily occupy his mind in imagining what would be a likely form a song of praise would take in the mouths of men so situated. Looked at in this light, it on the whole deserves some commendation. If these martyrs did sing, of which there is not a single word in the genuine text of Daniel, it would naturally be a psalm. If they did not take the hundred and thirty-sixth, with its liturgic refrain, then something modelled on it would certainly be their song. Diffuse as this song is, there is a sense of ecstasy in it which suits the mood of martyrs raised by Divine indwelling above pain or fear of death. This seems to have been the original addition, because the twenty-second verse of this portion (ver. 46 in the continuous versification of the Vulgate and Septuagint) suits the state of matters mentioned in ver. 21 of the chapter. In fact, it seems an amplified and exaggerated version of the twenty-second verse. The Song of Azariah, therefore, is probably an insertion of later date than the interpolation of the joint song. Although its insertion is of later date, it not improbably had been composed for some time before its insertion. Those connecting verses - the forty-sixth to the fiftieth, according to the Vulgate - have come to us in three different versions. The version of the LXX. is the longest, "The guards of the king who threw them into the fiery furnace, ceased not causing the furnace to burn (καίοντες τὴν κάμινον), and when they threw the three once for all into the furnace, and the furnace was very fiery on account of the sevenfold heat: and when they cast them in, those who cast them in were above them; but those from beneath them fed the furnace with naphtha, tow, pitch, and small wood. And the flames of the furnace went up forty-nine cubits, and it passed through and burnt up those of the Chaldeans whom it found about the furnace. And an angel of the Lord descended into the furnace along with Azariah and his companions, and smote the flame of fire out of the furnace, and caused in the midst of the furnace as it were a moist whistling wind; and the fire did not at all touch them, or grieve or trouble them." The version of Theodotion is shorter by this - that it does not give the relative situation of those who threw the three Hebrews into the furnace, and those who fed it with fuel. The Syriac Version is on the whole in ('loser agreement with Theodotion, but has a different account of the fuel thrown in, and also mentions that the accusers were devoured. The forty-ninth verse, in the Peshitta, differs considerably from the other versions, "Then the angel of the dew descended with Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael into the midst of the furnace of fire." The rest of the passage agrees, as we have said, with Theodotion, but the differences are sufficient to prove a difference of origin. It is to be observed that the three names are given in their Hebrew form, but in a different order from that in which they occur in the first chapter - a fact that gives greater plausibility to the view stated above, that when the Song of the Three Hebrews was originally interpolated, the Song of Azariah was not inserted. When we go on to the song of the three, and look at it somewhat closely, there are what appear to be traces of a process. From the fifty-second verse to the fifty-sixth inclusive in all the versions, we find the Deity addressed. "Blessed art thou," is the beginning of each verse; and the second portion of each verse concludes with, "to be praised and glorified art thou for ever;" or, as the Syriac renders it, "to be praised art thou and to be exalted art thou for ever." The following portion of the song is an address to all living creatures to praise God - each verse beginning," Bless the Lord," and concludes, "Praise and exalt his Name for ever." If this difference may be regarded as intimating a difference of origin, the second is the feebler and more diffuse, and. therefore likely to be the secondary formation. We do not need to go over this with any degree of care The differences mainly consist in transpositions of the successive liturgic summonings. On the whole, the Septuagint is the longer. The phenomena before us have a certain bearing on the question of the date of Daniel. If we are correct in our assumption of the date of the Song of Azariah, then its exclusion from the canonical Daniel - written as it almost certainly was in Palestine, and composed in the Hebrew or Aramaic tongue - proves the canon to have been fixed at an earlier date, and, by implication, places Daniel at least as far back as that earlier date, and shows that it then was commonly known, and consequently disposes of the Maccabean origin of Daniel. Further, in the passage in 1 Macc. 2:59, where the dying Mattathias exhorts his sons to valour, he refers to the deliverance of the three from the furnace, and calls them by their Hebrew names. This affords a strong presumption that at the time, at all events, when First Maccabees was written, the song of the three was not infrequently added to the canonical Book of Daniel. We can try among ourselves to see how many associate the incident of the fiery furnace with the names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, compared with those who recall it, when we mention the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshech, and Abed-nego. If we could affirm that this gives us the very words used by the dying priest, we could then place the date of this song back as far as B.C. 200: but not to press this, the First Book of Maccabees must have been written not later than B.C. 100. Then at that rime the Book of Daniel had been so popular and had enjoyed such a vogue that there had already been added to it at least the germ of this song. This addition must have been made so long before that it too had become popular. It will be very difficult to imagine that all these processes could have taken place between B.C. 168 and B.C. 100.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon,.... He restored them to their places of trust and profit, and increased their honours: or, "made them to prosper", as the word (x) signifies; they flourished in his court, and became very great and famous. The Septuagint and Arabic versions add,
"and he counted them worthy to preside over all the Jews that were in his kingdom.''
(x) "prosperare fecit", Munster; "prosperari jussit", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "prosperos felicesque fecit", Gejerus.
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