Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
- Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are the three young Jewish administrators who end up in the fiery furnace due to Nebuchadnezzar’s unwise decree. In Daniel chapter 3 they are called by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
- In the furnace the three youths are joined by a fourth man who “looked like the son of God.”
- The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men come from this miraculous rescue.
- This prayer and song are sung in Orthodox church matins. Thus, this additional chapter is one used for church liturgy.
Susanna and the Elders
- Susanna bathing in a pool is spied upon by two elders. When accused, they lie about her to save their own reputation. They accuse her of committing adultery near the pool, and for this she will be stoned to death. Daniel employs wisdom to expose the two elders as liars, and thus saves Susanna’s life.
- It is a Persian tale that is uncomfortable for Jewish leaders who would not want to be caught out in this manner. This could be a reason for cutting this chapter out of the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible.
Bel and the Dragon
- Bel is an idol in a temple in Persia. Cyrus the Great believes in this idol and that each night it eats quite a lot of food, proving it to be a god. Daniel reveals the idol to be a fake set up by the priests who serve it. (The priests, their wives and children go each night through a secret tunnel into the temple and eat the food themselves, then say the idol ate it).
- Having lost their statue idol and its temple, the people bring in a dragon and say it is a god. Cyrus says he can see it is a living animal and it eats a lot, so it must be a god. Daniel feeds the animal tar inside barley cakes. There is a note that dragon slayers fed the animals hot embers wrapped in skins that caused the animals to breathe out smoke before dying. Anyway, the stomach of the dragon busts open and it dies, so it cannot be a god.
- Daniel shows King Cyrus that the God of the Jews is the true God. Cyrus adopted monotheism and made a decree that the Jews in his empire should be set free to return to Jerusalem and build a temple to their God.
Exiled Jews Close to Kings
When I examined the lives of the Old Testament prophets and the rulers under which they lived, I realized that half of them lived as exiles outside Israel. I realized that many Jews became governors and administrators in the kingdoms they were exiled in. Daniel was one of these exiled Jews close to kings. I found that every king had been directly influenced by a Jewish prophet, but I could not find which prophet had influenced Cyrus the Great. Through the influence of someone, Cyrus had decided to drop idol worship, take on belief in the one God of heaven and make a favourable decree. It is when I read this Apocryphal book ‘Bel and the Dragon’ that I got the answer to my question. I knew for certain that a Jewish prophet had taken Cyrus in hand, but I needed this evidence to know which one: it was the prophet Daniel.