Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah

Another one of my favorite stories from Daniel is the story of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace.  As you may recall, their names were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  What may be slightly less familiar to you is that those were not their real names.  In the first chapter of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem, and Judah falls into his power.  After this, he calls for young men from Israel to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans.  Four of these young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  As a way of expressing that they were now servants of the king of Babylon, they were given Babylonian names.  This is another situation where knowing the meaning behind there names can give us a bit more insight into the significance of these changes.  Here are the (approximate) meanings of their names. both before and after they were changed:

Daniel - God is my judge
Belteshazzar - Bel/Ba'al/Marduk (Babylonian gods) protect the king

Hananiah - God is gracious
Shadrach - Command of Aku (Babylonian god of the moon)

Mishael -Who is what God is?
Meshach -(possibly means) who is what Aku is?

Azariah - God has helped
Abednego - Servant of Nebo (Babylonian god of wisdom)
As you can see, their new names strip away references to God and replace them with references to Babylonian gods.  Now, on to the story of the fiery furnace.  As with yesterday's story, I will give a brief summary, but you can find the whole story here.

King Nebuchadnezzar has a giant, golden statue of himself built and sends out a royal decree that everyone was to worship this statue.  Anyone caught not worshiping the statue was to be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to worship the statue.  They are brought before the king and given another chance to worship the statue or be thrown into the furnace.  He said to them
'[If] you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?’

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’ -Daniel 3:15-18
The king, filled with rage, orders the furnace to be heated up to seven times its normal temperature and has the three young men thrown in.  When the king looks into the furnace, he sees that, not only are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking around in the furnace unharmed, there is a fourth man walking in the fire that has the appearance of a god.  The king then asks the three men to come out of the furnace and, when they do, sees that they show no signs of having been in the fire at all.  They don't even smell like fire.  The king is so impressed by their devotion to (and deliverance by) God, he promoted them in Babylon and proclaimed, "'Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’" -Daniel 3:29

While their deliverance from the furnace is amazing, I find their devotion to God that much more so.  They knew that God was capable of saving them from the fiery furnace, but they were still going to be devoted to God even if they were not saved.  I pray that we may all find that kind of devotion.

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