🔼The name Abed-nego: Summary
- A Work Of Light, Servant of Nego
- From (1) the verb עבד ('abad), to work or serve, and (2) the name Nego, or possibly the verb נגה (nagah), to shine.
🔼The name Abed-nego in the Bible
Azariah and friends — young, smart, beautiful (Daniel 1:4) — were abducted by the Babylonian forces of king Nebuchadnezzar and taken to his court to serve him. And that meant that they were to dine on the king's best food and to learn the writings of Babylon, which in those days were the most advanced in the world. It's like being kidnapped and taken to Harvard. But then, at Harvard you're not likely to get thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6).
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps by means of transliteration and projection, this Babylonian name seems very Hebrew. Our name is mostly spelled עבד נגו but in Daniel 3:29 occurs the form עבד נגוא, and the difference is probably due to the tendency of the Aramaic language to add the letter א (aleph) to words. In Daniel 3:26 our name occurs twice, and once spelled with a maqqep: עבד־נגו.
🔼Etymology of the name Abed-nego
The name Abed-nego obviously consists of two parts. The first part of the name Abed-nego comes from the root עבד, meaning servant:
The verb עבד ('abad) means to work or serve, and the noun עבד ('ebed) denotes someone who works: from a slave to a hired expert. The Greek equivalent of this noun is δουλος (doulos).
The second part of the name does not occur in Hebrew but looks like it could be a variant of נגה (nagah), shine. Derivation נגה (nogah) means brightness.
What the name Abed-nego was supposed to mean in the language in which it was first pronounced isn't clear, but for a Hebrew audience it must have sounded like A Work Of Light.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names initially reads Worshiper of Mercury, but then suggests a more 'natural' interpretation, and offers Servant of Splendor, i.e. the sun. NOBSE Study Bible Name List assumes Nego is the name of some god and renders Servant of Nego. BDB Theological Dictionary resolutely decrees that the nego-part is supposed to be Nebo, "נגו being corrupt (intent. or unintent.) for נבו".