Belshazzar and Bel(te)shazzar

New names and old names for Daniel and Friends
Belshazzar means Bel protect the King
Amil-Marduk, was he a Believer?


In reading several studies and webpages on the names given to Daniel and his three friends, we find some very interesting information.

Here is a brief summary.
For example, in a study done by William Shea (Andrews University Seminary Studies, Spring 1988) it is inferred that the Babylonian names given to Daniel and his three friends were purposely corrupted by Daniel! Now, the Hebrew names of these young men showed that they were worshippers of the true God, Jehovah!

Daniel -- God is my judge
Hananiah -- Jehovah is gracious
Mishael -- who belongs to God[ex..6;22]
Azariah -- Jehovah helps

Daniel 4:8 reveals that king Nebuchadnezzar renamed these Hebrews after his gods! New names were given to these captives from Israel, not just to blend them into the Babylonian court, but to change their allegiance from their God to the gods of Babylon.

Daniel, who wrote the BOOK OF DANIEL, and who wouldn't even eat the king's food not only because it contained unclean meats, but also contained the meats offered to the Babylonian gods, would no doubt be very much troubled by these Babylonian names and thus even when using them in his accounts changed them slightly.

Daniel's friend, Azariah, (Jehovah helps)
was renamed Abednego according to scripture. "Abed" means "servant" but we find no god named "nego". For the name to be authentically referring to a "Babylonian god" it should read "servant of some god ". However, if the name is read Abednebo-- then we have a well-known Babylonian god!
Nebo was the Babylonian god of wisdom.

Could it be that Daniel had such an aversion to calling his friend the "servant of Nebo" that he purposely corrupted his Babylonian name?

Found on a list of an ancient Babylonian clay tablet is the name Arbenebo--Official of the royal prince. This name is the equivalent to the Aramaic name Abednebo and may in fact be the first mention of one of Daniel's friends found outside of the Bible.
Apparently this Abednego (Abednebo) was given the position as secretary to the crown prince Amel-Marduk (called Evil-Marduk in the Bible).

Misheal was renamed Meshach

Another name found on the list of that same clay tablet is Meshaku/Marduk - Official to Nebuchadnezzar. Marduk was the name of a Babylonian god. If Marduk is dropped from the name we end up with the name Meshaku which is very similar in pronunciation to Meshach.

The Hebrew Mishael means "Who is like God?"
Meshach (Meshaku) means "Who is like Aku?"
Aku was the Babylonian god of the moon.

Hananiah (Jehovah keeps him or Jehovah is gracious)
was renamed Shadrach
Or Shadaku
Which means "Command of Aku". Aku being the moon god.

Shea came to the conclusion that Daniel’s given name was not really Belteshazzar, but Belshazzar, -- the same as the king that perished that night when Babylon fell. He entitled his study “Bel(te)shezzar meets Belshazzar”.

Now if Abednego’s name was slightly changed to avoid being called a servant of a false god, could it be that Daniel's name, Belteshazzar, was also slightly changed ? The “shazzar” part means “protect the king”, thus “Belte” should be the name of a Babylonian god. But we find no god by that name in Babylon. However, Bel, is a name for Nebuchnezzar’s favorite god, Marduk.

In Dan. 5 King Belshazzar seems averse to calling Daniel by his name Belteshazzar. Why so? “If the Hebrew wise man who stood before Belshazzar bore the same name as the king himself, it would have been natural for the king to have been reticent to have used his own name for him.”

We also find in a tablet writing that Amel-Marduk had as his chief officer one named Belshazzar. We also know that Amel-Marduk released from house-arrest the exiled Hebrew monarch Jehoiachin, and elevated him and honoured him above all of the other kings who were captive in Babylon.


With these thoughts concerning Bel(te)shazzar and Belshazzar, what lessons can we learn from the two men with the same name.

The one served the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone, but niether the god "Bel" nor any of these gods could protect him from the invading forces.

The other served the God of heaven, not the Babylonian god, his story continues in the promises that he will be among those who inherit the earth in the final everlasting kingdom of God.

Belshazzar means "Bel protect the king".

Bel obviously could not protect king.

I don't know what the "te" stands for, but I like to think it means "not". How fitting that Daniel should change the Babylonian name assigned to him to "Bel not protect the king"-- especially in the light of this story--(and the story in Daniel 4 as well) Only by trusting and following the God of heaven is their safety.


Another question that arises from this study is--
Might the unpopular Amil-Marduk, been unpopular due to his Jewish favoritism? The only mention of him in the scriptures is his act of liberating the Jewish king.

2 Kings 25.27-30 and Jeremiah 52:31-34
And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the Kings that were with him in Babylon; And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.

With Abednego as his secretary, and Daniel as his chief officer, and the former king of Jerusalem as a favored member of his court, one wonders if this king, Amil-Marduk, who reaped the wrath of the Babylonian hierarchy and was assassinated might not have continued in Nebuchadnezzar's new faith; something the powerful priestly society in Babylon would not tolerate.

Thus Belshazzar's rebellion against the God of heaven, would not have been his alone, but also of Babylon itself.

Study on Daniel 5
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