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Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the Babylonian king scrutinized Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he found them “ten times better” than all of his sorcerers and astrologers (Daniel 1:20). Their secret was simple: The king could transplant them to pagan Babylon—he could even give them pagan names—but Babylon would not remove God from their hearts.
As members of the Jewish aristocracy, these men were taken to Babylon about two decades before Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. In Babylon, they were trained to serve the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. Their Hebrew names, which honored God, were replaced with names that honored Babylonian idols and their new king.
The change was intended to remind them that they now belonged to Nebuchadnezzar, and that his goal was their assimilation—a natural reponse since the king interpreted his triumph over Jerusalem as the triumph of his gods over the Hebrew God. These friends were now expected to pay homage to the victorious idols of Babylon.
The religious devotion of these men came under fire at least twice. The first test came when they were ordered to eat from the royal table even though Nebuchadnezzar’s food and drink had been offered to idols first. Clearly, eating this food would have signified submission to the Babylonian gods. The three friends refused—and were later vindicated when their spartan diet of vegetables and water proved superior to the choicest meals from the king’s table.
Later these men—along with the rest of Babylon—were ordered to bow down to a golden image erected by Nebuchadnezzar. Once more they refused to trade their God for Babylonian idols, and once more they were vindicated. After Nebuchadnezzar had the trio thrown into a fiery furnace, they emerged without so much as the smell of soot on them.
Daniel 2 reveals how these three men were successful at resisting Babylon’s influence. While all the king’s astrologers relied on superstition and idolatry, these men relied on prayer ( Daniel 2:17–18). Rather than look to the stars to reveal truth, they looked to the One who made the stars.