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AZARIAH.

—Biblical Data:

The name given to twenty-six different persons in the Old Testament. The most important are:

1. A noble in the court of Solomon. According to I Kings iv. 2, he was the son of Zadok the priest. I Chron. v. 35 [A. V. vi. 9] makes him the son of Ahimaaz and grandson of Zadok. The same genealogical list (next verse) states that he in turn had a grandson bearing the same name who "executed the priest's office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem." Since Zadok figured as a prominent priestly noble in the court of Solomon, it seems more likely that not his grandson, but his son (as is stated by the older narrative of I Kings), occupied a similar position, probably succeeding his father in the highpriestly office. In that case the reference in I Chron. would apply to Azariah, the son of Zadok, rather than to Azariah's grandson. Similarity of name may have been the cause of the displacement at the hand of some later copyist.

2. The grandson of the Azariah of Solomon's reign and father of Amariah, who was high priest during the reign of Jehoshaphat (I Chron. v. 36 [A. V. vi. 10]; Ezra vii. 3).

3. The second Book of Chronicles (xxvi. 16-20), in assigning a cause for the leprosy of King Uzziah, states that the king impiously attempted to burn incense on the altar, and that Azariah "the priest" (that is; the high priest), with eighty attendant priests, opposed him, warning him that he as a layman had no right to burn incense to Yhwh. As a punishment for his impiety and his anger against the priests, Uzziah was at once smitten with leprosy. Josephus adds that an earthquake further evinced the divine disapproval ("Ant." ix. 10, § 4). This tradition of Josephus clearly arose from an association of the earthquake in the reign of Uzziah, referred to in Amos i. 1 and Zech. xiv. 5, with the story of the chronicler. The older narrative of Kings simply states that "the Lord smote the king, so that he was a leper" (II Kings xv. 5). The genealogical list in I Chron. v. [A. V. vi.], purporting to give the complete line of high priests in Judah, assigns to the reign of Uzziah none bearing the name of Azariah. The point of view of the entire story in II Chronicles is not that of the days of the kingdom, when it was the duty of the king to present offerings and burn incense (I Kings ix. 25), but of the late post-exilic period when the chronicler wrote. It has a close kinship with other traditions peculiar to him or to his age, and frequently introduced into his ecclesiastical history. Its aim was clearly to explain the horrible affliction of one who figures in the earlier narratives as a just and benign ruler; and also to point a priestly moral.

J. Jr. C. F. K.—In Rabbinical Literature:

The Haggadah identifies Azariah, chief priest under Uzziah, withthe high priest Azariah of whom it is stated, as a special distinction, "He it is that executed the priest's office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem" (I Chron. v. 36 [A. V. vi. 10]), to indicate that he guarded the sanctity of the Temple from the sinful king Uzziah at the risk of his life (Sifre Zuṭṭa, cited in Yalḳ., Num. 754).

J. Sr. L. G.

4. According to II Chron. xxxi. 10, 13, a certain Azariah of the house of Zadok was chief priest and "ruler of the house of God" during the reign of Hezekiah. During his high-priesthood, chambers were built in the Temple to receive the oblations of the people.

5. The Levite Azariah (probably distinct from the preceding), whose son Joel is described by the chronicler (II Chron. xxix. 12) as active in carrying out the command of Hezekiah to cleanse the Temple.

6. Associated with the same traditional cleansing of the Temple in the days of Hezekiah was a third Azariah described as a Levite of the sons of Merari (II Chron. xxix. 12).

7. Son of the high priest Hilkiah, who was connected with the reformation of Josiah (I Chron. v. 39, 40 [R. V. vi. 13, 14]; in part, Ezra vii. 1). It was his son Seraiah who was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps it was this Azariah who gave his name to the priestly clan that figured in the reformation of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. x. 3 [R. V. 2]).

J. Jr. C. F. K.

8. Son of Nathan, chief of the officers of Solomon (I Kings iv. 5).

9. Son of Hoshaiah, one of the men who disregarded the words of Jeremiah, and persisted in going to Egypt, taking the prophet along with them (Jer. xliii. 2).

10. The Hebrew name for Abed-nego, the companion of Daniel (Dan. i. 6 et seq.).

J. Jr. G. B. L.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Azariah and his friends Hananiah and Mishael were of royal lineage, like their colleague in the royal service, Daniel, being descendants of Hezekiah, to whom the prophet Isaiah had announced concerning them (Isa. xxxix. 7), "and of thy sons there shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon" (Sanh. 93b; Pirḳe R. Eliezer lii.; Jerome, in his Commentary on Isaiah; Origines on Matt. xv. 5; a dissenting view in the Talmud, Sanh. l.c., contends that only Daniel was a Judean; his friends belonging to other tribes). The cause of their having been eunuchs was the fact that the enemies of the Jews had accused them before King Nebuchadnezzar of leading impure lives, especially with the wives of the noble Babylonians, and in order to show the falsity of this accusation they mutilated themselves, and when arraigned before Nebuchadnezzar, they were not only able to refer to the Decaalogue (Ex. xx. 14), which enforces chastity upon the Jew, but were also able to prove how unfounded was the accusation (Midr. Megillah, published by Gaster, in "Semitic Studies," p. 176).

His Strength and Faith.

Azariah and his friends were able to control themselves even to the suppression of every human inclination, and they were eminently fit for the service of the court (Dan. i. 4) because they did not permit themselves to be overcome by sleep or other needs (Sanh. l.c.). Devoted to their mundane ruler, they were equally faithful to their heavenly Father, obeying His commands strictly and keeping the Sabbath holy (Eliyahu R. xxvi.; Sanh. l.c.). Their faithfulness to the Jewish religion was demonstrated by their refusal to show homage to the idol erected by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. iii.), although it was in reality no idolatry that was required of them, but rather an act of homage to the king's statue. They gave their lives for the glorification of the Eternal, saying, "If soulless animals like frogs hastened into the burning ovens of the Egyptians (Ex.vii.28), how much more reason is there for us to do similarly" (Pes. 53b; compare Tosafot, under the word ). Azariah and his friends Hananiah and Mishael were the men chosen as Jewish delegates to show homage to the statue, Nebuchadnezzar having commanded each nation to send three envoys on this occasion. They came to Daniel for advice; he sent them to the prophet Ezekiel, who advised them not to risk their lives, but rather to try to evade the command by flight. Although the prophet based his advice on the authority of Isaiah (compare Isa. xxvi. 20), they determined openly to insult the king's statue so that all the nations should say, "All peoples did homage to the image, Israel alone refused!" As Ezekiel could not make them desist from their plan, he bade them wait at least until he had questioned God; but the Almighty said to him: "Let them not depend upon Me herein, for it is precisely through the sinfulness of such aristocrats as they among My people, that My house is destroyed, My palace in ashes, and My children exiled among the heathens." This response, however, only confirmed their determination, and they each proceeded to a different point and there proclaimed loudly, "We will not serve thy gods, O king, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up, even though God sustain us not" (Dan. iii. 18; verse 17, however, explicitly expresses faith in God's assistance). When they had thus proven their pious determination, it was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel that God would nevertheless intervene in their behalf, the former reply having been simply to test their fortitude (Cant. R. to vii. 8).

Opposes Idol-Worship.

When brought before him, Nebuchadnezzar reminded the young men that the Jews had freely worshiped idols before the destruction of Jerusalem, thus affording them a precedent; he also referred them to the words of Jeremiah (xxvii. 8), threatening destruction to all who should not obey Nebuchadnezzar; and appealing finally to the prophecy of Moses himself (Deut. iv. 28), predicting that the Jews would serve idols when scattered among the nations. But the three men remained steadfast, and intimated to the monarch that he might command their full obedience in such matters as taxes and imposts, but that in religious matters they could not obey. This defiance so enraged the king that he ordered them thrown into the fiery furnace (Lev. R. xxxiii. 6; compare also Tan., Noah, 10; ed. Buber, xv., and the parallel passages cited by Buber in note 130). Cast into the furnace, the men raised their eyes to heaven and prayed, "Lord ofthe universe, Thou knowest we did this thing not in reliance upon our own good deeds, but in reliance upon Thee, who wilt not permit the heathen to say, Where is their God?" (Tanḥuma, l.c.; the words here ascribed to the pious victims are a paraphrase of Ps. cxv. 1, 2, which psalm, according to Pes. 117a, was composed by these three men; compare also Ex. R. ix. 1, xviii. 4). The furnace into which they were thrown was so well heated with naphtha, tow, tar, and dry branches that the flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace, destroying all Chaldeans who were standing by (Septuagint and Theodotion on Dan. iii. 47; compare also Sanh. 92b; Cant. R. vii. 9.)

In the Fiery Furnace.

The angel of the hailstorm, Yurḳami, craved divine permission to cool the furnace, but the task was entrusted to the archangel Gabriel, who so arranged matters that the interior of the furnace was cooled, but its exterior was so furiously glowing that all heathens who gathered to the spectacle perished (Pes. 118a, b; different in Tan. l.c., which states that God Himself delivered the victims; compare also Ex. R. xviii. 4). In the midst of the flames, Azariah meanwhile intoned a penitential prayer and confession of sins, in which his friends joined, acknowledging God's supreme justice; and when presently a strong wind, laden with moisture, blew through the furnace, they broke into a song of thanksgiving (Septuagint and Theodotion, ib. iii. 26-90). The extinction of the flames was but one of six miracles happening upon that day, which happened to be both the Sabbath and the Day of Atonement. The fiery furnace, which had been sunk deep in the ground, rose upon its foundations and its walls fell apart; four adjoining nations, hostile to the Jews, were burned by it; Nebuchadnezzar himself suffered from its fury, his statue being overthrown; and it was this identical wind-storm which reanimated the dead of Ezekiel's vision (Ez. xxxvii. 9) at God's command (Sanh. l.c.; Cant. R. l.c.). When the furnace fell, the men refused obedience to the angel's suggestion that they should leave the ruins, saying that they would not leave until Nebuchadnezzar would order them to do so, as otherwise it would look as if they had run away (Tan. l.c.). When Nebuchadnezzar at length approached to bid them come forth, he recognized in the fourth personage present the angel Gabriel, whom he had seen previously, destroying the army of Sennacherib before Jerusalem (Yalḳ., Dan. 1062).

The deliverance of these three men from the furnace made a deep impression upon the surrounding nations, who came to them and remonstrated with them: "You knew that your God could perform such great miracles; how, then, could you through your sinfulness bring about the destruction of His house and the banishment of His children?" They then so forcibly expressed their contempt for so rebellious a people, that the princes exclaimed, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth to Thee, but unto us confusion of face as at this day" (Dan. ix. 7) (Pesiḳta, ed. Buber, xi. 99a; Sanh. 93a).

According to one account, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah died on the spot; but, according to other accounts, they left Babylonia and settled in Palestine, where they married and had descendants, their sojourn in the furnace having remedied all their physical deformities (Sanh. l.c.; Yer. Shab. vi., end, 8d). Here they became the friends of the high priest Joshua, and in view of their past they were considered "men that are a sign" (Zech. iii. 8). Another result of the deliverance of these men was that the heathens broke up their idols and fashioned bells and spangles out of them, which they hung around the necks of their dogs and asses. The piety of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah has remained imperishable in the memory of the people, so that, for instance, when the supports of the order of the universe are spoken of, these men are referred to as its pillars (Cant. R. vii. 9).

Bibliography:
  • Brüll, Jahrbücher, viii. 22-27.
J. Sr. L. G.

11. Son of Maaseian, who rebuilt part of the wall of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah (Neh. iii. 23).

12. A leader who came with Zerubbabel (Neh. vii. 7). In the parallel account of Ezra ii. 2 he is called "Seraiah."

13. One of those who explained the Law (Neh. viii. 7).

14. One of "those that sealed" the covenant with Nehemiah (Neh. x. 3 [R. V. 2]).

15. A member of the tribe of Judah who took part in the dedication of the wall (Neh. xii. 33).

16. Son of Ethan, mentioned in the genealogy of Judah (I Chron. ii. 8).

17. A Jerahmeelite (I Chron. ii. 38, 39).

18. The same as Uzziah, which see.

19. A Kohathite Levite (I Chron. vi. 21 [R. V. vi. 36]).

20. A priest residing in Jerusalem (I Chron. ix. 11).

21. Son of Oded, who, meeting the victorious army of Asa at Mareshah, on its return from the campaign against Zerah the Ethiopian, urged the necessity of a religious reform (II Chron. xv. 1-8).

22 and 23. Two sons of Jehoshaphat (II Chron. xxi. 2).

24. Son of Jeroham, captain of a hundred (II Chron. xxiii. 1).

25. Son of Obed, also captain of a hundred (II Chron. xxiii. 1).

26. Son of Johanan, an Ephraimite who refused to accept the booty taken by Israel from Judah (II Chron. xxviii. 12).

In II Chron. xxii. 6 "Azariah" is an error for "Ahaziah."

J. Jr. G. B. L.
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