The Three Holy Children

The Three Holy Children, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) were all companions of the Prophet Daniel and fellow kinsmen in the tribe of Judah. During the reign of King Jechonias they were taken prisoner and led away as captives with other Jews during the Babylonian Captivity. Eventually they were taken into the court of King Nebuchadnezzar as servants, stripped of their Hebrew names, and given Babylonian names, which honored pagan deities.

Great are the accomplishments of faith, for the Three Holy Youths rejoiced in the fountain of flames as though in the waters of rest; and the prophet Daniel appeared, a shepherd to the lions as though they were sheep. So by their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls!

In the Book of Daniel (chapter 3), King Nebuchadnezzar constructs a golden image of himself, which he orders worshiped. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah defy the king’s order, refusing to worship none but God alone. Nebuchadnezzar, in a fit of rage, orders that the three children be thrown in a furnace. Inside the furnace, Azariah prays for the forgiveness of his sins and those of his people, asking God to demonstrate his power to the Babylonians. They are delivered from the fire by an angel who makes the flames feel like a cool breeze over dew. The Church teaches that it was Christ taking the form of an angel who saved the youths from their torment. In icons of this miracle, the angel sports a halo bearing a cross, indicating that He is Christ. This vision is said to prefigure of Christ’s incarnation, the Son of God who is begotten and not made, destroying death through His Resurrection. Seen in the furnace walking with a fourth individual unscathed and praising God, the three children emerge. Nebuchadnezzar then orders the people to worship their God instead of the idol.

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3 Comments

Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Orthodox Christianity, Sundays, Feast Days, Other Days

3 responses to “The Three Holy Children

  1. Janet

    I like the odes from the canon in Orthros:

    The godly-minded children worshipped not the creature rather than the Creator, but trampling upon the threat of fire in manly fashion, they rejoiced and sang: “O, All-praised Lord and God of our Fathers, blessed art Thou.” The three holy children in the furnace the Child of the Theotokos saved; then was the type, now is its fulfilment, and the whole world gathers to sing: “All ye works, praise the Lord, and magnify Him unto all ages.”

  2. When my children were very small, they once used the other names: “Shadrack, Mishak and a BIG NEGRO”. (Abednego)
    Priest Seraphim St Nicholas, McKinney
    seraphim@orthodox.net
    BLOG:Redeeming the time:
    http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

  3. Interesting about the icon showing that the “angel of the Lord” here has a cross showing it is a Theophany, where Christ appears to save His people. Thank you for that detail.

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