The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. – Daniel 1:5-7

Children letters and digits on the table

What’s in a name? Is there a meaning, description or perhaps a summarization of one’s character? There was a time when people were given names that meant something. Usually the names gave a description of one’s character, or a hope of what someone would be in their life. For instance; my name, Nathaniel is a French name meaning “a gift from God.” Of course that remains to be seen.

The Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire. King Nebuchadnezzar appointed several boys from Judah’s royal family to be servants. Among them were four boys named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief of staff ordered their names be changed to Babylonian names and those names had pagan meanings.

Daniel “God is my Judge” or “God has judged” became Belteshazzar “Bel [a Babylonian god] protects his life”…a chief Babylonian god.

Hananiah “the Lord is grace” became Shadrach possibly meaning “command of Aku,” another Babylonian god.

Mishael “who is God?” became Meshach “who is Aku?”.

Azariah “the Lord helps” became Abednego “servant of Nego/Nebo,” another Babylonian god of literature, wisdom, and the arts.

This passage has had my attention ever since I read and understood it. It serves as an example of how Satan changes our identities once he has captured our minds and hearts. He takes us from being God’s peculiar treasure into that of pagan and demonic images and behavior.

But once we accept Jesus in our lives and allow Him to be our guide through this world of temptation and sin, we receive a new mind, new heart and a new identity. We are now identified with the one who is able to do anything but fail, and the one who has an impeccable record for keeping His promises for thousands of years. Thank God for the newness He gives after we’re reconciled back to Him!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18


3 thoughts on “The Name Game

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