Our true identity

Posted By: Dieuner Joseph | Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego. Daniel 1:6-7

Biblical scholars approximate that the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, lasted between 18 to 30 months. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged the city and its temple and took away much of the population of Judah to the Babylonian captivity. Among those who were taken captive were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Some people don’t know who these three boys are. They don’t realize these are the three Hebrew boys, who along with Daniel, stood up to the King of Babylon and were sentenced to death for their rebellion.

All three boys would have been fourteen years old when their names were changed because this was the age at which the Babylonians entered young people into their program of re-education. Hananiah (which means ‘Jehovah has been gracious’) became Shadrach (We do not know what that name implies, but it contains the name of the pagan deity Marduk). Mishael (which means ‘who is like God?’) became Meshach (a name which contains one of the ancient forms of the name for the deity Venus). Azariah (which means ‘Jehovah has helped’) became Abed-nego (‘the servant of Nebo).

The reeducation program was designed to reshape the identity of those taken into captivity. The Babylonian names given to the three boys were meant to change their Jewish identity. It was also intended to replace their religious history, the way they eat, think and act. Every time their Babylonian names were called, it was forcing them to forget their Jewish identity and to assimilate to Babylonian culture.

Someone asked me why we always hear about the Babylonian name of the three Hebrew boys, but we seldom hear about the Babylonian name given to Daniel (Belteshazzar). I researched this and did not find any particular reason. I guess it is because Daniel is the main character and possible author of the book. After all, the book is named after the character Daniel; thus the author could not have used Belteshazzar to refer to Daniel.

It is clear to me that though the three Hebrew boys are best known by their Babylonian names, they remained true to their identity as followers of Yahweh. They did not allow their Babylonian reeducation to reshape their identity. They stayed faithful to their God and their Jewish culture even to the point of death.

From a New Testament perspective, the three Hebrew boys were in Babylon, but they knew that they were not of Babylon. Therefore, they remained true to their Jewish identity under a lot of pressure. Too many Christians are quick to assimilate to the ways of the world thereby lose their Christian identity. We should never forget that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Our Christian identity was given to us on the day we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 5:17). Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he asked the Father to keep his followers from the evil one because we are not of this world (John 17:15-16). Therefore, we have to resist the temptation to dress or talk, or act, or think, or do business, or have relationships, or do politics, or entertain ourselves like the world. We should not conform to the ways of this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, as followers of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2). That’s what made Daniel and the three Hebrew boys such powerful biblical role models for us to follow.

Prayer- Blessed Lord, thank you for the new identity we have through Christ Jesus. May we resist the world’s attempt to force us to assimilate to its sinful ways.

About The Author

Rev. Dieuner Joseph is a dynamic leader, disciple Maker, Writer, Talk Show host, and Spiritual counselor. Reverend Joseph is the founder of the Imani Temple Baptist Church and the Disciple Maker Ministry. He is a skilled Bible teacher who carefully and responsibly exegete the Scriptures to make them relevant to today’s readers. Through his Blog and weekly Christian magazine- The Wednesday Word- he seeks to provide Bible based instructions for dealing with the socio-political issues of today.

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