🔼The name Baladan: Summary
- Bel Is Lord, Worthless Lord
- From (1) בל (bal), worthless, or בעל (ba'al), Bel or Baal, and (2) the noun אדן ('adon), lord, mister or sir.
🔼The name Baladan in the Bible
The name Baladan occurs twice in the Bible, but in the same passage. Both Isaiah and the author of 2 Kings report that the king of Babylon corresponded with king Hezekiah of Judah about the latter's illness from which he miraculously recovered (2 Kings 20:12, Isaiah 39:1). Both Isaiah and the author of 2 Kings agree that the father of the king was Baladan, but Isaiah calls the king Merodach-baladan and the author of 2 Kings calls him Berodach-baladan (see our articles on these names for a discussion of this). What both authors agree on is that Hezekiah felt the need to show the Babylonian delegation all his wealth. When the prophet Isaiah hears of this he informs the king that the Babylonians will surely come back to shop. Tradition pegs the exile as reason for great lament but as Isaiah tells Hezekiah that some of his sons will become high officials at the royal court of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18), it's obvious that the exile also pretty much saved Yahwism from annihilation.
The name Merodach-baladan (or rather Marduk-apal-iddina) is known from extra-Biblical records (notably from the inscriptions of Sargon), but his father is known as Yakin (he hailed from Bit-Yakin, the tribal domain of the "sons of Yakin") and Merodach-baladan himself claimed that his father was Eriba-marduk (according to the Jewish Virtual Library). None of the many mentions of Marduk-apal-iddina notes his father to be Baladan, and it seems to be an invention of the Biblical authors. It's not unusual for Biblical characters to have two names, but it's more plausible that Baladan was a kind of patriarch, and the term son-of-Baladan is like the term son-of-Abraham, describing a common ancestor or belief system rather than a biological parent (Matthew 3:9).
Here at Abarim Publications we hold that the stories concerning Babylon and Persia (if not the whole of the Bible) are concerned less with political history and far more with theological history. The name Baladan serves as marker in the continuing report on how Truth came to the world, and how Yahwistic Jews competed with their own folly and that of overbearing governmental systems. We're guessing that the "wealth" which the kings of Israel (1 Kings 10:1-7) and Judah (2 Kings 21:13) showed foreign delegations is a euphemism for wisdom (technological skills, philosophical and scientific insights, etcetera).
🔼Etymology of the name Baladan
The name Baladan consists of two elements. The first part is the same as Bel, which is a contraction of the name Baal, which means lord or master:
The verb בעל (ba'al) means to exercise dominion over; to own, control or be lord over. The ubiquitous noun בעל (ba'al) means lord, master and even husband, and its feminine counterpart בעלה (ba'ala) means mistress or landlady.
God is obviously called 'lord' all over the Bible and the sin of the Baal priests (1 Kings 18:40) was not that they called upon some other deity but rather their incessant howling of the word 'lord' without any further responsibility or effects (see Matthew 7:21 and 11:4-5).
But the way the Hebrew authors wrote it, it looks very much like the particle of negation בל (bal), from the root בלה I (bala I), meaning to be worn out or worthless:
Verb בלה (bala) means to wear out, annul or use until worthlessness. Adjective בלה (baleh) means worn out. Noun בלוא (belo) describes worn out things or rags. Noun תבלית (tablit) means annihilation or destruction.
Adverb of negation בל (bal) means not. Noun בלי (beli) describes a wearing out, a destruction or a worthlessness. Noun בלימה (belima) meaning nothingness. Noun בליעל (beliya'al) means worthlessness.
Noun בלהה (ballaha) means terror or calamity, but some scholars insists that this noun stems from a second, yet identical verb בלה (bala II), to trouble. If this verb is not a whole other one, it evidently describes trouble of a courage draining and strength depleting nature.
The second part of our name comes from the word אדן (adan), roughly meaning lord:
The verb אדן ('dn) means to provide support for a piece of superstructure: to be a base for something big to stand or rotate upon. The noun אדן ('eden) refers to the foundation, base or pedestal of pillars or panels and such, and this word features lavishly in the description of the tabernacle. The tabernacle, of course, was a prototype of the temple, which in turn became embodied by God's living human congregation, and the bases and foundations of that living temple became personified by the human foundation known as אדון ('adon) or אדן ('adon), roughly translatable with lord, sir or mister.
The name Baladan was probably meant to mean Bel Is Lord but the way the Hebrews wrote it, it means Not Lord or Worthless Lord.