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What’s in a name?

“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)

Daniel 1:6 tells us the names of the four youths that play a key role in this Bible book: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But we immediately learn that they are given new names once they arrive in Babylon. Why is this?

For many people, and certainly for Old Testament Jews, names are an important part of their identity. Often names were passed on within families for generations, connecting a person with his forefathers. Moreover, Jewish names had a meaning. Daniel means ‘God is my Judge’, Hananiah means ‘the Lord is gracious’, Mishael means ‘who is like God?’ and Azariah means ‘the Lord has helped’. So, every time these boys were called by their names, they were reminded of their God! And that was exactly what the Babylonians didn’t like…

Some people take on a new name when they come to faith, to express that they have found a new identity in Christ. Their new name can be a witness to people around them.

Jesus promises that He will give a new name to all believers who persevere till the end: “I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

Do you know what your name means? Does it have special value for you?

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Grietje Commelin

Grietje studied theology and mastered in Bible Translation. Next to being a mother, she supports GlobalRize by writing bible reflections and other content for GlobalRize.

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