“Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed–nego.”
You can’t always prevent personal loss, but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.
It was a quiet January morning in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California until suddenly and without warning the earth shook with such a violent force that many department stores, apartment houses, homes, and freeway overpasses crumbled under the strain. Within minutes the 1994 Northridge earthquake left scars upon lives and land that in some cases may never heal. Such catastrophic events remind us of just how difficult dealing with personal loss can be.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood personal loss. Perhaps in our day only those who have suffered as prisoners of war or as refugees from war’s ravages can fully appreciate the deep sense of loss those men must have felt after being cut off from family, friends, and homeland.
Their loss included even their own names. When taken captive, each of them had a Hebrew name that reflected his godly upbringing. But in an apparent effort to remove that influence and to exalt the pagan deities of Bel (or Baal) and Aku, Nebuchadnezzar’s commander changed their names from Daniel (which means “God is judge”) to Belteshazzar (“Bel provides” or “Bel’s prince”), from Hananiah (“the Lord is gracious”) to Shadrach (“under the command ofAku”), from Mishael (“Who is what the Lord is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”), and from Azariah (“the Lord is my helper”) to Abed–nego (“the servant of Nebo [the son of Baal]”).
Daniel and his friends couldn’t prevent their losses, but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair or compromise. That’s an example you can follow when you face loss.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord for the wisdom to see your losses through His loving eyes, and for the grace to respond appropriately. ✧ Pray for those whom you know who have suffered loss recently.
For Further Study: Read Job 1:13–22. How did Job respond to his losses? ✧ What can you learn from his example?
1:5–7 Nebuchadnezzar sought to assimilate the exiles into Babylonian culture by obliterating their religious and cultural identity and creating dependence upon the royal court. For this reason, the exiles were given names linked with Babylonian deities in place of Israelite names linked with their God. Daniel (“God is my Judge”), Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”), and Azariah (“Yahweh is a helper”) became names that invoked the help of the Babylonian gods Marduk, Bel, and Nebo: Belteshazzar (“O Lady [wife of the god Bel], protect the king!”), Shadrach (“I am very fearful [of God]” or “command of Aku [the moon god]”), Meshach (“I am of little account” or “Who is like Aku?”), and Abednego (“servant of the shining one [Nebo]”). They were schooled in the language and mythological literature of the Babylonians, and their food was assigned from the king’s table, reminding them constantly of the source of their daily bread.
1:6 Daniel Means “God is my judge.”
| Daniel (prophet)
Little is known of Daniel outside of the biblical book bearing his name. At some point in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Palestine, Daniel was taken captive to Babylon and served in the king’s court. He is renowned for his wisdom and ability to interpret dreams and omens. Portrayed as the quintessential Jewish sage, he serves as a model of covenant fidelity and righteousness (see Dan 2:14 and note).
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah These Hebrew names identify the three young men with the God of Israel: Hananiah (“Yahweh has acted graciously”); Mishael (may mean “Who is what God is”); and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”). The changing of their names in v. 7 places them firmly in the Babylonian courts.
the Judeans The royal tribe (see Gen 49:9 and note; Rev 5:5 and note).
When Jacob blesses his sons in Gen 49, he tells Judah that the scepter and ruler’s staff shall not depart from him, which developed the belief that the Messiah would be a Judahite. During the period of Israel’s monarchy, this concept was applied to the kings. As Israel’s kings failed to realize the ideal rulership desired by God, exile ensued and the messianic interpretation resurfaced. It became prominent during the Second Temple period.
1:7 gave them names A common custom in this time period was that a king would rename foreigners who were brought to the king’s court as captives. For Daniel and Azariah, the Hebrew references to God in their names (-el for God or -iah for Yahweh) are replaced with references to Babylonian deities like Nabu or Marduk (also called Bel). Their new names symbolized serving Babylon.
Daniel’s new name, Belteshazzar, probably means “Bel protect the prince” (see Dan 4:8). Azariah’s new name, Abednego, is probably a misspelling of Abed-Nabu, meaning “servant of Nabu.” The meanings of Shadrach and Meshach are uncertain, and the deity references may be missing from their names. The purpose of renaming was to completely disassociate captives from their former way of life. Since the Jews were known for their steadfast devotion to the faith of their ancestors, a complete reidentification was required for the palace master to successfully assimilate them into the Babylonian culture. However, these four Hebrew youths never abandon their faith, despite their name changes. Rather than reflect the nature and ideals of the gods of their new names, their actions display the character of the God of their Hebrew names.
1:6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These Hebrew names contain the word “God” (el) or a shortened form of God’s covenant name, “Yahweh” (Ps. 50:1 note). Daniel means “my judge is God”; Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious”; Mishael, “Who is what God is?”; and Azariah, “Yahweh has helped.”
1:7 Belteshazzar … Shadrach … Meshach … Abednego. Suggestions for the meanings of these names include: Belteshazzar, “May Bel protect his life” (Bel is another name for Marduk, the chief Babylonian god; cf. 4:8); Shadrach, “the command of Aku,” (the Sumerian moon god); Meshach, “Who is what Aku is?”; and Abednego, “servant of Nebo” (a Babylonian god). These name changes are a further step in Babylon’s attempt to reshape their religious and cultural identity.
1:6 According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, all four of these young men were members of Zedekiah’s royal family.
1:7 The name Daniel means “God Is My Judge.” Daniel’s Babylonian name Belteshazzar means “Lady Protect the King,” referring to the goddess Sarpanitu, wife of Marduk. The name Hananiah means “The Lord Is Gracious.” Hananiah’s Babylonian name Shadrach means “I Am Fearful of the God.” The name Mishael means “Who Is What God Is?” Mishael’s Babylonian name Meshach means “I Am of Little Account.” The name Azariah means “The Lord Has Helped Me.” Azariah’s Babylonian name Abed-Nego means “Servant of (the god) Nebo.”
1:6–7. No mention was made of how many captives were taken but four are mentioned here by name because of their later significant role in Babylon. Because all four bore names that honored Yahweh, the God of Israel, their names were changed. El means God and -iah (or -yah) is an abbreviation for Yahweh, thus suggesting that the young men’s parents were God-fearing people who gave them names that included references to God. Daniel, whose name means “God has judged” (or “God is my Judge”), was given the name Belteshazzar (Bēlet-šar-uṣur in Akk.), which means “Lady, protect the king.” Eight of the 10 times “Belteshazzar” occurs in the Old Testament are in the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel (2:26; 4:8–9, 18–19 [3 times]; 5:12). The other 2 occurrences are in 1:7 and 10:1.
Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) became Shadrach probably from the Akkadian verb form šādurāku, meaning “I am fearful (of a god).”
Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) was given the name Meshach, which possibly was from the Akkadian verb mēšāku, meaning “I am despised, contemptible, humbled (before my god).”
Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) was named Abednego, “Servant of Nebo” (Nego being a Heb. variation of the Babylonian name of the god Nebo). Nebo (cf. Isa. 46:1), son of Bel, was the Babylonian god of writing and vegetation. He was also known as Nabu (cf. comments on Dan. 1:1 on Nebuchadnezzar’s name).
Thus the chief court official (Ashpenaz, v. 3) seemed determined to obliterate any testimony to the God of Israel from the Babylonian court. The names he gave the four men signified that they were to be subject to Babylon’s gods.
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 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:6–7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1464). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1008). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1330). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.