🔼The name Merodach-baladan in the Bible
The name Merodach-baladan occurs once in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah tells how Merodach-baladan, son of Baladan and king of Babylon, sent a delegation to king Hezekiah of Judah carrying gifts and correspondence (Isaiah 39:1). King Hezekiah had been sick but was miraculously healed, and that piqued the interest of the distant monarch. What also piqued his interest was Hezekiah's wealth, which Hezekiah proudly showed the delegation. Upon hearing about this, Isaiah informed his king that the Babylonians would certainly come back to help themselves to Hezekiah's possessions and people, which might have been Hezekiah's intention in the first place, since it meant the perpetuation of Yahwism (Isaiah 39:6-7).
The Book of 2 Kings tells the same story, but in this version the king of Babylon is called Berodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12). Scholars have pondered for long why the author of 2 Kings would speak of Berodach instead of Merodach, and the conclusion is usually that the letters M and B sounded alike and since there was no real standard of spelling, Berodach is as good a transliteration of an obviously foreign name as is Merodach.
The counter-argument to this solution is that even back in those days spelling was consistent enough to write the name of a famous king the same way each time, especially since that name was based on Merodach or Marduk, the cardinal deity of Babylon. Since Hebrew scribes commonly transliterated names of rivaling kings to match words and terms in Hebrew that in turn were usually not very flattering, it's probably much more likely that the author of 2 Kings supplied his readers with an extra little bit of commentary on the whole affair. Isaiah, after all, ties the miraculous healing of Hezekiah directly to his boasting, and his boasting to the exile to Babylon.
Judging from the chronological contexts, the names Merodach-baladan and Berodach-baladan reflect the Babylonian monarch around the time of king Marduk-apal-iddina II. It's not unthinkable that the segment apal-iddina was transmuted into pal-din, bal-danan and finally baladan but it's fruitless to demand that the name Merodach-baladan is the Hebrew version of Marduk-apal-iddina, and both names denote the same human individual. The Bible writers were far less concerned about who did the actual ruling of a country, and far more about the role of the ruler in the greater story of how Truth came to the world.
🔼Etymology of the name Merodach-baladan
The name Merodach-baladan consists of two elements. The first part is derived from the name Merodach or Marduk, but that name is commonly spelled מרדך and the first part of our name is spelled מראדך (with an inserted א). Both letters מ and ב also work as prefixes; מ may signify "place of" or "instrument of" and the ב commonly means "in" or "by means of" (it's the first letter of the Bible). It seems to us here at Abarim Publications that by inserting the letter א into this name, both authors were trying to hint at existing Hebrew words, and alternated the suggested prefix to confirm this.
The merodach-part is obviously derived from the name Merodach or Marduk. See for a full discussion of this name our article on the name Marduk, but the core of it seems to have to do with the adjective דך (dak), meaning crushed or oppressed:
But as spelled, the first element of the merodach-part seems to have to do with the verb ראה (ra'a), meaning to see:
The baladan-part is the same as the name Baladan, which also consists of two elements, namely the name Bel, which looks like it has to do with the verb בלה I (bala I), meaning to be worn out or worthless:
And the second part of Baladan appears to be the noun אדנ (adan), roughly meaning lord:
All together, the name Merodach-baladan means in Hebrew: Crushed Through Vision: Not Lord. It seems overly obvious that the authors of 2 Kings and Isaiah were making a statement concerning theological progress in Babylon. When the Jews were brought to Babylon, the religion they found there was foreign but the theology appears to have been ready to accept Truth, which the Jews called YHWH. This transition is most dramatically described in the stories of Esther (Esther 10:3) and Daniel (Daniel 4:2-3), and demonstrated in the release of the exiles (Ezra 1:2).