The Eastern mindset tells stories that paint a picture.Nowhere is this more evident than the story in Daniel 3, of the three Hebrew captives that we Westerners know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
To an Easterner names are extremely important, and often a picture of the story is in the names. A closer look at the names in this story will show us how far we have missed some of the meaning intended for the reader.
First of all, why do we know these three Hebrew children by their Babylonian names, only? Almost no one has their Hebrew names committed to memory. And what do their Babylonian names mean anyway?
- Shadrach – “I’ll do whatever goddess Aku commands.”
- Meshach – “There’s no one like goddess Aku”, or “who is like Aku?”
- Abednego – “Nabu’s servant”
Aku and Nabu are Babylonian gods and these were the names given to these Hebrews by Nebuchadnezzar himself in attempt to get them to conform to and worship like he wanted. Even Nebuchadnezzar has Nabu in it and means Nabu, protect my son, or protect my boundary”
Now let’s look at their given Hebrew names, which is what we ought to call them by.
- Hannaniah – “the Lord shows grace, YHWH is my strength, only the Lord will take care of me”
- Mishael – “who is what God is? Who is like YHWH?
- Azariah – “the Lord helps” – God’s servant
Now, the storyline is so much deeper. Will these three Hebrews live up to the name that their parents gave them or will they act and do what their pagan names suggest?
These men come through with flying colors and paint an awesome picture of the power of the God of the Jews. Verse 17 says, ” we don’t have to defend ourselves in this matter” (the Lord will help us-Azariah). “If we are to be thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand (only the Lord will take care of us-Hannaniah). (Who is what our God is?-Mishael), but if not we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
What’s in a name? A lot, evidently, as the story shows. No longer is this merely a children’s story with a nice ending, but a testimony to the power of God and the power of His Name. The three Hebrew children definitely lived up to their given names, and did not live up to their pagan names and triumphed over the evil foreigner.
The moral of the story is never read a Bible story without looking at the names. The names will also tell a story and make a point to the listening reader.
Another point to make here for all of us, do you go by your Christian name at school, or work, and your pagan name on the weekends? Do you have two names, or are you true to your given name, the one that God gave you?
About the author:
Bob is the creator of this site and a disciple of Ray Vander Laan. Along with his wife of 50 years, he teaches a Bible study at Christ’s Church in Roswell, NM. He is also an avid hunter and fisher.