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Late 3rd century/early 4th century Christians depicted the fiery furnace in the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

The fiery furnace is a passage from the Book of Daniel (chapter 3) in the Tanakh (Old Testament). It is well known among Jews and Christians.

In the passage, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego), defy King Nebuchadnezzar's order that they bow down and worship a golden idol, an undefined cult image which might have portrayed Nebuchadnezzar or a Babylonian god. Nebuchadnezzar, in a rage, orders the men thrown into a furnace, but they are miraculously unharmed by the flames and survive the experience unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar sees them walking around in the furnace along with an unnamed fourth man. After the three youths emerge, Nebuchadnezzar gives a command that anyone who speaks against the God of Shadrach, Mesahach, and Abednego will be torn apart and have his house turned into a pile of stones.

The Septuagint version of this passage adds two additional portions that take place while the three men are inside the furnace. In the "Prayer of Azariah", Azariah confesses their sins and the sins of Israel, and asks their God to save them to demonstrate his power to the Babylonians. It is followed by an account of an angel coming and making the inside of the furnace feel like a cool breeze over dew, and an extended hymn of praise to their God for delivering them, the "Song of the Three Young Men".

Liturgical use

The Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace. The fourth is sometimes interpreted as being the Archangel Michael (15th century icon of the Novgorod school).

The song of the three youths is alluded to in odes seven and eight of the canon, a hymn sung in the matins service and on other occasions in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where their feast day is December 17 (along with Daniel). The Orthodox also commemorate them on the two Sundays before the Nativity of Christ. The reading of the story of the fiery furnace, including the song, is prescribed for the vesperal Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Orthodox on Holy Saturday. Likewise, the three are commemorated as prophets in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church on December 17 with Daniel.

Political use

In 17th century England, Quakers used this Bible story to justify their campaign against the deference required by the judiciary, which they called "Hat honour".[1]



Wikisource has original 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary text related to:

Hananiah (Hebrew for "Yahweh is gracious") is a Hebrew man in the Book of Daniel in the Bible, whom Nebuchadnezzar names Shadrach.

  • Introduced in Daniel  1 as one of the nobles
  • Taken captive by the Babylonian army after they conquered Judah
  • Brought to Babylon to be re-educated as a Babylonian and serve in the court
  • Renamed Shadrach (an honorific for a Babylonian god)
  • Along with his companions Daniel (Babylonian name: Belteshazzar), Mishael (Babylonian name: Meshach), and Azariah (Babylonian name: Abednego), refused the king's meats and kept Kosher by eating only vegetables, a way of resisting compromise and obeying God's law
  • Along with Mishael and Azariah, refused to bow down to the golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar, leading to the episode of the fiery furnace


Wikisource has original 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary text related to:

Meshach (me-shack) is the name given in Babylon to Mishael, one of the three young Hebrew companions of Daniel (Daniel 1:7; 2:49; 3:12-30). It is likely based on a name of a Chaldean (Babylonian) god. It also means "to feed" or "to provide" (as in how a husband would provide for his family) in Hebrew.

Meshach (possibly, Mi·sha·aku), apparently a clever twist of "Who Is Like God?" to "Who Is What Aku Is?"


Wikisource has original 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary text related to:

Abednego (Hebrew עֲבֵד־נְגוֹ, Standard Hebrew ʿAved-nəgo, Tiberian Hebrew ʿĂḇēḏ-nəḡô) is the name given in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar to Azariah, one of the companions of Daniel (Daniel  1:7). It is perhaps a corruption, perhaps deliberate, of either Abednebo, "servant of Nebo," or Abednergo, for Abednergal, "servant of the god Nergal." Azariah is Hebrew for "Yahweh has helped".

King Nebuchadnezzar


  • The Burning Fiery Furnace is one of the three Parables for Church Performances composed by Benjamin Britten, dating from 1966, and is his Opus 77.
  • The 1955 electronic work Gesang der Jünglinge by Karlheinz Stockhausen takes its title and some words from the story.
  • The story of the fiery furnace is alluded to in the song "Shadrach" on the Beastie Boys' 1989 album Paul's Boutique.[1]
  • The story is also a somewhat common theme within Reggae music, for example the The Abyssinians' song "Abendigo" which contains the lyrics "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego / Were condemned to be thrown in the furnace"[2]

    The "fiery furnace" part of the Russian Christmas liturgy, as painted by Nicholas Roerich.

  • The story of the fiery furnace is chronicled in the Johnny Cash song named The Fourth Man in the Fire, appearing on the albums The Holy Land and Unearthed.
  • The story was featured for the Veggie Tales video Rack, Shack and Benny.
  • Author William T. Vollmann presents an idiosyncratic take on this tale to express the color orange in the short story "Scintillant Orange" in his collection The Rainbow Stories.
  • In the October 1998 issue of Scientific American magazine, Carolyn P. Meiner wrote a story, "How Hackers Break In... and How They Are Caught", about a hacker who used the alias "Abednego".
  • In the song 'Loose Booty' by Sly and the Family Stone, the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are repeatedly sung.
  • In Toni Morrison's Sula there is a character named Shadrack who is interpreted as a prophet.
  • The author Robert Silverberg wrote a Science Fiction novel named Shadrach in the Furnace.
  • An indie rock band called The Fiery Furnaces has released several albums.
  • Quote: "She's hotter than Meshach, Shadrach and Abendego..." - "The Infamous Date Rape" from A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory album.
  • In Andrew Marvell's poem 'Last Instructions to a Painter', he alludes to the story at line 648 in reference to the three ships destroyed in the Battle on the Medway.

See also

External links


  1. Hat honour:

    George Fox: Journal, 1656: When we were brought into the court, we stood a while with our hats on, and all was quiet. I was moved to say, "Peace be amongst you." Judge Glynne, a Welshman, then Chief-Justice of England, said to the jailer, "What be these you have brought here into the court?" "Prisoners, my lord," said he. "Why do you not put off your hats?" said the Judge to us. We said nothing. "Put off your hats," said the Judge again. Still we said nothing. Then said the Judge, "The Court commands you to put off your hats." Then I spoke, and said, "Where did ever any magistrate, king, or judge, from Moses to Daniel, command any to put off their hats, when they came before him in his court, either amongst the Jews, the people of God, or amongst the heathen? and if the law of England doth command any such thing, show me that law either written or printed." Then the Judge grew very angry, and said, "I do not carry my law-books on my back." "But," said I, "tell me where it is printed in any statute-book, that I may read it. "Then said the Judge, "Take him away, prevaricator! I'll ferk him." So they took us away, and put us among the thieves. Presently after he calls to the jailer, "Bring them up again." "Come," said he, "where had they hats, from Moses to Daniel; come, answer me: I have you fast now." I replied, "Thou mayest read in the third of Daniel, that the three children were cast into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar's command, with their coats, their hose, and their hats on."

    This plain instance stopped him: so that, not having anything else to say to the point, he cried again, "Take them away, jailer."

  2. Track 5, side 1 on the album Satta Massagana, released by The Abyssinians in 1976 on Penetrate Label.