Most people we know want us to change. Some change is good. For instance, becoming more kind or more helpful or being in better control of one’s temper are positive changes. However, not all change is good. For instance, if someone wants us to lower our ethics and morals, that’s not a change we should embrace. As Christians, one thing we should cling to is our identity in Christ. We shouldn’t let anyone minimize it or cause us to compromise our relationship with Him. However, that’s exactly the situation Daniel and his three friends found themselves in:
Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. – Daniel 1:6-7, ESV
Daniel translates to, “My judge is God.” Hananiah means, “God is gracious.” With Mishael we get, “Who is like God?” Finally, Azariah is, “God is my helper.” Those are powerful names which testify to the greatness of God. However, to the chief eunuch, they were Hebrew names and, more importantly, they glorified the God of the Israelites and not one of the pantheon of the Babylonians.Therefore, so far as the Babylonians were concerned, these boys were renamed. Daniel became Belteshazzar, which means, “May Bel protect his life.” Hananiah was renamed Shadrach meaning “Commanded by Shad/Aku.” Mishael was given Meshach, which translates to, “Who is like Shach/Aku?” Azariah was called Abednego, meaning “servant of Nebo/Nego.”
It’s interesting how similar the names are between the two sets. I’m sure this was by design. It’s an attempt to switch out the name of God with the name of a Babylonian god, but keeping the rest of the meaning the same. It was a nudge to get the boys to change. We can say initially that the boys didn’t give up their names. In both chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Daniel, we see the young men referred to as Daniel, Hanahiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In Daniel 3, however, we see Daniel’s friends referred to by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. However, it was Nebuchadnezzar who was referring to the three men. Based on their actions, these men hadn’t forgotten their relationship with God. After all, they stood up to Nebuchadnezzar about his false idol and they went to the furance for it. We see Daniel treated the same way when he’s referred to. The Babylonians called him Belteshazzar. We don’t know if Daniel’s friends started using their Babylonian names primarily because the Bible doesn’t reveal anything about them after Daniel 3. Whatever any of the four were called, though, their identity stayed the same: they were faithful to God.
As we are urged to change, especially when it’s subtle — like the seemingly slight change in the boys’ names, we should be aware of what is being asked of us and make a decision based on what we believe in. If such a change would be to weaken our identity in Christ, to reduce or hamper our relationship with Him, we must resist such a change with everything we have. Our relationship with Christ is more precious than anything or anyone. We must protect it regardless of the cost.