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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) someone who appears unaffected by intense heat

intense orange flames and heat against a black background

The fact that a Shadrach is someone who appears unaffected by intense heat cropped up on HH this week—

—and as some clever, clever people pointed out, there’s a curious story attached to this one.

The term Shadrach alludes to an episode from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, recounted in the Old Testament book of Daniel. According to the tale, the king commanded that three young Jewish officers—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—be thrown into a “burning fiery furnace” for refusing to worship a golden idol he had had made:

Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace … and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego … come hither. Then [they] came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains … saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Daniel, 3:26–7

Not only did the three men emerged unharmed, but Nebuchadnezzar claimed to have seen a fourth figure “like the Son of God” walking with them through the flames. The king had the men promptly pulled from the furnace, and was so humbled that he promoted them to high offices in Babylon, decreeing that anyone who spoke against their God would be “cut in pieces, and their houses ... made a dunghill.”

Originating in this story, in the nineteenth century Shadrach—which is also now the name of a mechanism that feeds air into a blast furnace—dropped into allusive use in English as a word for anyone apparently unaffected by extreme heat.

Let to its own devices, the class tied Eunice Ann Simpson to a chair and placed her in the furnace room. We forgot her, trooped upstairs to church, and were listening quietly to the sermon when a dreadful banging issued from the radiator pipes, persisting until someone investigated and brought forth Eunice Ann saying she didn't want to play Shadrach any more—Jem Finch said she wouldn't get burnt if she had enough faith, but it was hot down there.
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)


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