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I've heard a story somewhere before that before Shadrach Meshach and Abednego got toasted (literally), they came to a prophet asking whether there will be a miracle or not. (I forget the prophet's name. Maybe it was Isaiah.) The prophet says that there will be no miracle, but God makes one anyway.

I've been trying to find the story using Google but can't find it. Where can I find it?

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I did not recognize the names, so I looked it up. As per a quick Wikipedia search, I found that these people are also known as Chananiah, Mishael, and Azaria. You seem to be asking about when they were thrown into the furnace, which can be found in the beginning of the Book of Daniel. I seem to recall learning Midrashim addressing your question, but I don't remember them well enough to answer your question. –  Salmononius2 May 9 at 13:42
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@Salmononius2 These are perfectly acceptable names to use to refer to them. –  Double AA May 9 at 16:09
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Sorry, it's sometimes hard to properly convey intent in a written statement. I didn't mean to sound like I was criticizing the names, but I assumed that others might also not recognize those versions of the names, so I brought up their arguably 'more common' names. –  Salmononius2 May 9 at 19:14
    
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadrach,_Meshach,_and_Abednego Looks like Sadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the more popular name and the bible actually uses that name. The wikipedia entry uses sadrach, meshach, and abednego instead of hananiah, misael, and azaria –  Jim Thio May 13 at 12:05

3 Answers 3

There is a tradition that these three people had asked Ezekiel whether they would be saved, and he responded in the negative. The story is referred to in Zohar Toldos 142a but discussed at length in Midrash Rabba Shir Hashirim (sometimes called Midrash Chazis) 7:13. There, a long discussion is recorded between these three would-be martyrs and the prophet Ezekiel about whether or not they should subject them selves to being burned.

This story (and its implications) is also mentioned in halakhic (legalistic) literature regarding the question of optional martyrdom. For example, see Shita Mekubetzes to Kesuvos 33, and the Merkeves Hamishna (Alfandari) and Avodas Hamelech to Rambam Hil. Yesodei HaTorah (5:1).

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From the plain reading of the text (Daniel 3:17-18), we see that they were unsure whether Hashem would save them. In particular, they say (3:18) והן לא (and if [Hashem does] not [save us]).

In Shir HaShirim Rabbah (on 7:8, על דעת ר׳ שמעון), we see a midrash that relates how Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah went to Ezekiel to ask whether Hashem would be with them if they gave up their lives instead of bowing to Nebuchadnezzar's idol. Ezekiel tells him that Hashem is not with them (לא מתקיים עליכם). Hence, it seems from this midrash that they thought they wouldn't be saved. The end of that midrash says that Hashem tells Ezekiel that of course He's with them, and in the end of course they're saved.

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oh man, beat me by five minutes and got two upvotes already! shkoyach :) –  Matt May 9 at 16:57
    
And why Ezekiel told them that Hashem will not be with them? After all, Hashem does not save every would be martyrs right? –  Jim Thio May 11 at 10:06
    
@JimThio Translation (from אישי התנ״ך) of the end of the midrash: "As soon as they left, the Holy One, Blessed is He, appeared to Ezekiel and said to him, 'Do you think I will not save them? Surely I will. But tell them nothing, so that they will go with simple faith, as it is written, (Prov. 10:9) He who goes with simple faith will go securely.'" –  magicker72 May 11 at 15:05
    
So God won't tell lie, but may deceive by silent. –  Jim Thio May 12 at 5:51

@magicker72 and @Matt found the medrash that identifies Ezekiel as the prophet that they asked. Since they answered the question, I am just going to expand on why it appears to be a "nevuah that was not carried out".

Note that he did not prophesy that they would not be saved but Ezekiel tells them that Hashem is not with them (לא מתקיים עליכם). However, on a hashkafa basis one cannot expect to be saved and must react as if he would not be saved through a miracle. The fact that they were saved does not invalidate that.

For someone to be worthy of a miracle and to be saved, he has to be willing to die and not expect a miracle. We have the principle "Ain Somchin al hanes" (do not rely on a miracle). Note that Rashi says that "they responded" (to Nevudchadnetzar) that they did not expect to be saved, not that they were told that they would not be saved.

“You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel; I am Hashem Who sanctifies you.” Vayikra Emor 22:32

You shall not desecrate – If a Jew is in a situation in which he is required to give up his life rather than desecrate G-d’s Name, he should do so without expectation of a miracle occurring to save his life. Rather he should act as Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did when threatened by Nevuchadnezzer, who wished to cast them into a fiery furnace unless they bowed to his statue. They responded that G-d was surely capable of saving them, but they didn't know if He would, and were prepared to sacrifice themselves regardless, rather than desecrate His Name. – Rashi

Another example is Avraham and his brother. Avraham was saved and his brother was not. There are commentators who say that Haran waited to see what happened to Avraham and when Avraham was saved he declared that he was ready to give up his life (without the expectation of being saved) for what Avraham had proved true. Haran was then thrown into the furnace and died.

Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped into the sea when Hashem told the Bnei Yisrael to enter it without the expectation of (he himself) being saved. If his death was required to save the rest of Bnei Yisrael, he was ready for it. Hashem then split the sea.

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This doesn't answer the question... –  Double AA May 9 at 16:08
    
This still doesn't answer the question... Acting as if one will not be saved doesn't preclude knowing that one will be saved. –  Double AA May 11 at 1:50
    
@DoubleAA If one "knows" or expects that he will be saved, he cannot act as if it does not matter if he is saved or not. A person's expectations will affect what he does in any case. –  sabbahillel May 11 at 2:29
    
???? That is simply false. People can choose to do whatever they want. –  Double AA May 11 at 3:40
    
@DoubleAA but their expectations influence them. Expecting that you will be saved means that it is not really a test and that you are not really putting yourself in danger. –  sabbahillel May 11 at 4:17

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