What’s in a Name?
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher in Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
“Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names ...” (Daniel 1:7a)
When one thinks of attacks and assaults, matters subtle and insignificant do not come to mind. These are military terms often associated with large groups of men performing acts with great aggression and often in the open.
Satan’s attacks and assaults are not always so open and obvious. They can include the subtle and seemingly insignificant. In our spiritual battle, Satan knows, whether he can bind with one strong chain or with many thousands of threads, his prey is just as bound.
Daniel and his three friends saw the large, open attack of Babylon’s army upon God’s people. They also saw the open attack of Satan upon covenant families as promising children were taken away from their parents. The changing of their names, though not as violent or aggressive, is still part of Satan’s attack on them to get them to forget their God.
Babylon was the centre of a powerful empire. Anything which the world had to offer at that time could have been found there. Many idols were served there. Idolatry is not an expression of the unique character of a people or culture. Idols were served in the way of sin, quite often adultery. Idolatry was a socially accepted way of satisfying sinful lusts. It was to idolatrous Babylon God allowed His people to be taken into captivity.
Parents, what would your prayers be if your junior high or high school sons were taken away from you, brought to New York and told that whatever they desired could be theirs? Many sinful pleasures can be found there. The Babylonians of Nebuchadnezzar’s day would feel quite at home there.
Daniel 1:4 tells us these children were “well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom.” God had given these young men physical attractiveness and good minds. Human nature has not changed since Daniel’s time. Doors of opportunity are thrown open to the attractive and intelligent. The same would be true for Daniel and his friends. Their parents were not there to correct the godless instruction they were given. If these young men would want to discover what Babylon had to offer, there would be nobody present to refuse them and nobody waiting for them at home to ask where they had gone, what they had done, and reprove and correct as needed. They would be encouraged to discard God’s restrictive commandments and join the Babylonian way of life.
Because their names would remind Daniel and his friends about God, their names had to be changed. Quoting from Matthew Henry’s commentary: “Their Hebrew names, which they received at their circumcision, had something of God, or Jah, in them: Daniel—God is my judge; Hananiah—The grace of the Lord; Mishael—He that is the strong God; Azariah—The Lord is a help. To make them forget the God of their fathers, the guide of their youth, they give them names that savour of the Chaldean idolatry. Belteshazzar signifies the keeper of the hidden treasures of Bel; Shadrach—The inspiration of the sun, which the Chaldeans worshipped; Meshach—Of the goddess Shach, under which name Venus was worshipped; Adednego, The servant of the shining fire, which they worshipped also.”
Babylon wanted to erase the mention of God’s name, right to the “Jah’s” and “El’s” in the names of Daniel and his friends. In recent times, the Supreme Court heard arguments about taking “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. The Supreme Court redefined marriage. Any lawyers who wanted to define marriage as between a man and a woman did not make much headway in court by basing their arguments upon Scripture and God’s commands about family relationships.
Our day is similar to Daniel’s. The world can hardly tolerate the mention of God’s name, especially when it is clear that God is the God revealed in the Bible. God used the early education of Daniel and his friends to preserve His name in their hearts, which was then evident in their way of life. May God be pleased to use the covenant instruction given in our schools to preserve His name in the hearts of His children.