The No-Named Nobility

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Yesterday, while reading the first chapter of Daniel, I became intrigued at the thought of what had happened to the other exiles who, like Daniel, had been carried away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  In this chapter, we are told that these exiles were members of…

…the royal family and the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace (vv. 3-4)…

…in short, they were the very best young men that could be found in all of Judah.  And, because in the Hebrew language, the term “royal family” means “of the seed of the kingdom,” these were the young men who were expected to preserve the genealogical line to the Messiah.  But what happened to them?  The only four out of the whole bunch that we hear anything about are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

From what we are told in this passage, it would appear that they all started out on the same level playing field.  They had all come from the same kind of background, had been through the same devastating experiences of a siege on their city and destruction of their homeland—accompanied, no doubt, by the loss of many of their family and friends.  They had all been hauled off to a strange land, populated by a people that they considered to be “heathens” and vastly inferior to themselves; and, worst of all, they had seemingly been abandoned by the God they thought would keep them in their homeland forever.

Although we have no idea how they were treated while enroute from Judah to Babylon, once they were there, the field upon which they were expected to operate was leveled once again.  For, as we learn in verse 5…

The king assigned [each of] them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.  They were [each] to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they [each] were to stand before the king.

However, in verses 18-20, we find out that…

At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they [all] should be brought in…and the king spoke with them [all], and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  Therefore they stood before the king.  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

To me, this begs the question of what happened to all of the other guys—the group of also-rans who, as part of the No-Named Nobility, didn’t even merit a mention in God’s spiritual Hall of Fame?  Could their anonymity be because, unlike Daniel and his friends, they were willing to compromise their personal identity, national heritage, and spiritual lineage for the sake of their own personal safety or success?

This was certainly the goal of Nebuchadnezzar’s program of assimilation; for, in taking them away from everything they had known before, in giving them new names, a new diet, and the best liberal education available—where they were also introduced to the gods of their new culture–he was gradually replacing their old “world view” with a new one, and systematically remolding them into compliant, tolerant, and “globally-minded” citizens of his kingdom.

Unfortunately, as part of this process, they not only lost their distinctiveness but they defeated the very purpose for which they had been exiled—which was to be seed sown by God among the Gentiles.  You see, it was God’s intention from the very beginning that the nation of Israel would be a light to the nations; and that, as a result of His blessings upon them in response to their obedience, the other nations would be drawn to Him, learn that He was the one true God, and be saved.  However, when Israel failed to obey God’s commands, she ceased to be that light, and was expeditiously thrust out into those nations as exiles.

While the No-Named Nobility’s conformity to the world’s system probably provided them with a temporary measure of security and maybe even some short-term prosperity, in the long run, instead of securing them a lasting place in history, it only served to render them ineffective as the conduits of God’s grace and mercy to the people of Babylon.

On the other hand, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, in their refusal to compromise with the world—even at the risk of their lives—became the seed and light that those people needed and, as a result, they were blessed, promoted, and protected by God—all the while making names for themselves which would secure their place in history for both time and all of eternity .Making a name for yourself by honoring God

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