Through the inﬂuence of Daniel, who was one of the ministers of King Nevuchadnezar, his three companions, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah were appointed as governors over various provinces in Bavel.
At that time, the king decided to build a tremendous idol to proclaim the invincibility of his god. The idol was made out of gold and set in the plains of Dura.
The king then issued a decree that at a certain time during the day, when the sound of the bugle would be heard, all the populace should fall down on their faces and worship the golden idol. The face of the idol was that of the king, thus all the people would acknowledge that Nevuchadnezar was a god and they would worship him.
Furthermore, the decree stated that any person who would not fall down and worship would be cast into a burning, fiery furnace.
Accuse The Governors
It was not long before a group of Chaldeans approached the king and accused the Jews of having violated his decree by not worshipping the idol.
“O mighty King Nevuchadnezaar,” they said, “you made a decree that everyone should bow to your image and those who do not should be cast into a burning, ﬁery furnace. Yet, there are certain governors whom you have appointed to rule over your provinces who disregard your command and do not worship your golden image. They have also advised their people to do the same thing.”
The king became enraged and he shouted, “Who are these scoundrels?”
“They are none other than Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, your governors,” was the reply.
The king ordered them brought before him and asked, ” Is it true you do no worship my image?”
“It is true,” they replied, “we worship only the living G-d in heaven Who is able to deliver us from your burning ﬁery furnace and from any evil which you will decree against us.”
The King Is Angry
The king became enraged at these brazen words. He commanded his servants to heat the furnace seven times more than its usual heat. He then commanded his mighty warriors to bind Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah and cast them into the ﬁery furnace.
A huge crowd came to see the execution, for the king had his heralds proclaim the event in many cities so that people would learn what happens to those who disobey the king.
The soldiers bound the hands and feet of the three martyrs and brought them to near to the fire. However, the heat was so intense that they could not come close. The enraged king shouted at them to obey his orders. Having no other choice, the soldiers, walked to the edge of the furnace and heaved the three heroes in. But because they had come so close to the flames, they were consumed by the ﬁre and died.
In the meanwhile, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah began walking about within the furnace. The tremendous heat of the fire did not affect any part of their bodies or their clothes. Only the cords which bound their hands and feet were burned off.
The king was astonished and he called to his counselors.
“Do you see what I see?” he shouted.
”Yes,” they answered in trembling voices.
“I see four men walking in the midst of this terrible ﬁre and the form of the fourth person appears to be in the image of an angel,” the king said in an awed tone.
The Angels Intercede
When Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah were thrown into the furnace, the malachim in heaven approached God, begging to intercede in their behalf.
Yorkami, the malach in charge of hail, approached the Almighty and said, “Lord of the Universe! Permit me to descend into the fiery caldron and rescue the three saints. I will cast my icy hail into the fire and extinguish it.”
But the malach Gavriel, standing nearby, interrupted and said, “Lord of the Universe! It is no trick for the malach in charge of the hail to extinguish a ﬁre, for everyone knows that ice and water will extinguish ﬂame.
“Let me, instead, go down, for I am known as the malach in charge of ﬁre. I will make the inside of the ﬁre cool while the outside is hot. Thus people will see a double miracle; not only will they be saved, but they will be able to walk around in the ﬁre.”