Culture and Identity (Daniel 1:1-7)

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.  (Daniel 1:1-7)

Learn it:

            In book of Daniel opens up with a reminder of what has happened in Israel’s recent history.  Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem, has been overtaken by Babylon and some of the treasures in the temple have been removed.  Not only have material things been taken but people have been removed from the city as well.  Some of the people taken from Israel belong to an elite class and probably had connections to the royal family.  This was probably done to make sure those in power stay in line and obey the Babylonian King. 

            We are then introduced to some of those people that were taken.  We first learn of their characteristics and how they were handsome and intelligent. The cream of the crop!  They were being taught all about Babylon and being groomed to serve the king.  This passage ends with them being given new names.  All of their Jewish names had a meaning referring to the God of Israel.  Their new Babylonian names removed those references and related to their pagan gods.  Renaming them was a way to really break down their identity and tell them your old self does not exist anymore.  You are no longer a Jews but a Babylonian.    

Live it:

            This time in Israel’s history is referred to as “the exile”.  Israel is no longer able to worship God in the Temple and their relationship with God is going to be challenged as they are going to be living among people who do not recognize the God of Israel.  We can learn a lot from the book of Daniel because we live in a culture where there are many different beliefs when it comes to faith.  There will be moments where culture is going to want us to conform to their ways, but we must stand strong in our identities as children of Christ.  We must not be persuaded into their false teachings but stand strong on the Word of God.      

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