In the Bible, many people have two names. That’s certainly the case with Daniel and his three friends. Daniel 1:6-7 says, “The [Babylonian] chief official gave them new [Chaldean] names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.”
What’s in a Name?
So, when you think of this article’s heroes of the faith, don’t forget they started with thoroughly Hebrew names. In Hebrew, Hananiah means “The Lord is gracious,” Mishael means “Who is what God is?” (no one, of course!), and Azariah means “The Lord has helped.”
When changing their names, the chief official substituted the names of several Babylonian gods for the one true Lord God. What terrible names became badges of honor, however, as we’ll discover below. In this article, therefore, we’ll use those names.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s Relevance
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the fiery furnace, they had no idea how their world-famous story would turn out. Theirs would be the first miraculous deliverance recorded in the Book of Daniel — but they didn’t know that.
Their confidence in God’s ability to save them was not based on any prior guarantee of deliverance. Neither was their worship.
This was not a test to determine whether God would come through and therefore deserve the faith and service of these three young men.
Even if the outcome would be death, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were committed to God alone.
As these three friends faced the king, their confident words couldn’t have been more different from a panicked foxhole prayer. They did not beg, “Save me, God, and I’ll serve you.” Instead, they declared, in effect, “We will worship you alone, O Lord, no matter whether you save us.”
The late Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband Jim died a young martyr’s death, once said, “There are a lot worse things that could happen to you than dying. Like living in disobedience.”
Disobedience definitely was not an option for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who proved as steadfast and faithful as Daniel.
Sure enough, there was no last-minute change of the king’s heart. As their bodies were sent hurtling into the flames, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were more than prepared to die.
Instead — in the midst of that fiery trial — their ropes fell off, they stood up, and One like God’s Son appeared to them.
Again, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted and worshipped God resolutely no matter what happened. May their experience inspire all of us to stay true to God just the same.
After all, you and I will not know ahead of time whether the Lord intends to deliver our bodies from death.
All that matters is if, for the Lord, we’re always willing to stand firm in our faith.
Scriptures about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Apocrypha’s Expansion of Daniel 3
Until 1666, all editions of the King James Version, like many earlier Bibles going all the way back to the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint, included an “Apocrypha” expansion of Daniel 3.
In many English Bibles, this expansion was and is inserted as verses 24-90. It contains two parts: Prayer of Azarias (verses 24-45) and The Song of the Three Holy Children (verses 46-90).
The first part largely echoes other famous prayers throughout the Hebrew scriptures. The public domain text of the Douay-Rheims 1899 American edition for that first part appears below. It includes several definitions of now-archaic terms.
Prayer of Azarias
“And they walked in the midst of the flame, praising God and blessing the Lord. Then Azarias standing up prayed in this manner, and opening his mouth in the midst of the fire, he said:
Blessed art thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and thy name is worthy of praise, and glorious for ever:
For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true, and thy ways right, and all thy judgments true.
For thou hast executed true judgments in all the things that thou hast brought upon us, and upon Jerusalem the holy city of our fathers: for according to truth and judgment, thou hast brought all these things upon us for our sins.
For we have sinned, and committed iniquity, departing from thee: and we have trespassed in all things:
And we have not hearkened to thy commandments, nor have we observed nor done as thou hadst commanded us, that it might go well with us.
Wherefore all that thou hast brought upon us, and every thing that thou hast done to us, thou hast done in true judgment:
And thou hast delivered us into the hands of our enemies that are unjust, and most wicked, and prevaricators [liars], and to a king unjust, and most wicked beyond all that are upon the earth.
And now we cannot open our mouths: we are become a shame and reproach to thy servants, and to them that worship thee. Deliver [give] us not up for ever, we beseech thee, for thy name’s sake, and abolish not thy covenant.
And take not away thy mercy from us for the sake of Abraham thy beloved, and Isaac thy servant, and Israel thy holy one:
To whom thou hast spoken, promising that thou wouldst multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the sea shore.
For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins.
Neither is there at this time prince, or leader, or prophet, or holocaust [burnt offering], or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place of first fruits before thee,
That we may find thy mercy: nevertheless in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted. As in holocausts [burnt offerings] of rams, and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it may please thee: for there is no confusion to them that trust in thee.
And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies.
And deliver us according to thy wonderful works, and give glory to thy name, O Lord:
And let all them be confounded that shew evils to thy servants, let them be confounded in all thy might, and let their strength be broken. And let them know that thou art the Lord, the only God, and glorious over all the world” (Daniel 3).
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The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.