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Daily Devotional • April 19

David Baumann
Changing Names
A Reading from Daniel 2:17-30

17 Then Daniel went to his home and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, of the matter 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel said:
“Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
    for wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons,
    deposes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my ancestors,
    I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and power
    and have now revealed to me what we asked of you,
    for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.”

24 Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will give the king the interpretation.”

25 Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king and said to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who can tell the king the interpretation.” 26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to tell me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the end of days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed were these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed, came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and the revealer of mysteries disclosed to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me because of any wisdom that I have more than any other living being, but in order that the interpretation may be known to the king and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

When the young Israeli men, Daniel and his three friends, were taken to Babylon, their Hebrew names were changed to names suggestive of Babylonian gods. Clearly the changes were intended to cause the young men to forget and forgo their background and the God of Israel and conform to the ways and the paganism of their conquerors. Daniel, Hebrew for “God is my judge,” is renamed Belteshazzar, which is Chaldee for “Bel protects his life” or maybe “Beltis protect the king!” 

So when Daniel is introduced to the king who asks, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”, the text reminds us that Daniel’s name has been changed. With that opening, Daniel repeats what the advisers had declared the day before: “No wise man … can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about,” but immediately he shifts the ground: “But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.” In those words, he acknowledges Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship, declares that there is a God who is favoring the king with a personal revelation, and prepares the soil for further testimony to the truth and the supremacy of the God of Israel. As his Chaldee name suggests, Daniel is “protecting the king” even as he is clearly refusing to abandon his Hebrew name, faith, and heritage. 

Three times in Scripture Nebuchadnezzar is called “God’s servant.” At first it was because he was the unwitting instrument of God’s judgment against Judah, but now we will see, under Daniel’s ministry and God’s mercy, this title go farther.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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The Diocese of Seychelles – The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
Parish of Calvary-St. George’s, New York
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