🔼The name Berodach-baladan: Summary
- (Jocularly:) Crushed Through Seeing: Not Lord
- From (1) the prefix ב (be), "in", (2) the verb ראה (ra'a), to see, (3) the adjective דך (dak), crushed, (4) בל (bal), "not", and (5) the noun אדן ('adon), lord, mister or sir.
🔼The name Berodach-baladan in the Bible
The name Berodach-baladan occurs only once in the Bible. The Book of 2 Kings tells how Berodach-baladan, son of Baladan and king of Babylon, sent a contingent of emissaries to king Hezekiah of Judah to learn all about his miraculous recovery from a deadly illness and associated curious behavior of the sun (2 Kings 20:12, see 2 Chronicles 32:31).
They found Hezekiah not only back up and running, but also more than happy to show them his treasury. The prophet Isaiah informed the king that the Babylonians were going to come back with an army and take all the wealth and people back with them to Babylon (2 Kings 20:17). That seems unappealing at first, but it meant that Jews would rise to serious power in Babylon (2 Kings 20:18), and thus were able to preserve Yahwism, which was obviously the sole reason why there are Jews at all (or Christians, for that matter).
Isaiah tells verbatim the same story (Isaiah 39:1-8) but he calls the Babylonian king Merodach-baladan, which is closer to the original because both literary characters are loosely based on the historical king Marduk-apal-iddina II of Babylon. Most commentators will decree that the M and the B sounded so similar back in the day that Berodach is just an inconsequential variant spelling of Merodach (or Marduk), but that's too easy a way out. Just imagine a Washington Post columnist commenting on George J. Tenet's book At the Center of the Storm by wryly observing that the Iraq War was based on a mere hunch of president George Push. Same thing; no coincidence.
🔼Etymology of the name Berodach-baladan
Though deliberately similar to Merodach-baladan and possibly with Marduk-apal-iddina II in mind, the first part of the name Berodach-baladan starts with the prefix ב, meaning "in" or "by means of":
Prefix ב (be) means in, within or by means of.
The second part could be construed to come from the verb ראה (ra'a), meaning to see:
The verb ראה (ra'a) means to see, and by extension to understand. It may mean to become visible (of, say, an angel) or to become understandable (of, say, a theory). Noun ראה (ro'eh) means either seer, or prophetic vision, and noun מראה (mar'a) means either vision as means of revelation, or mirror. Nouns ראית (re'ut) and ראות (re'ut) mean a looking. Nouns ראי (ro'i) and מראה (mar'eh) mean sight or appearance. Adjective ראה (ra'eh) means seeing.
And the final bit looks a lot like the adjective דך (dak), meaning crushed or oppressed:
The root דכך (dakak) means to break, crush or pulverize, either literally (of bones) or figuratively (of will or morale). Adjective דך (dak) means crushed or broken.
Verb דכא (daka') also means to crush but emphasizes the effects (i.e. to be crushed). Adjective דכא (dakka') means crushed or contrite. Noun דכא (dakka') means dust or fine rubble.
Verb דכה (daka) is a by-form of the previous and means the same. Noun דכי (doki) means a crushing.
Verb דוך (duk) means to grind down (of manna into paste). Noun מדכה (medoka) describes the result: a paste or mash.
The second part of our name is the same as Baladan, which both the author of 2 Kings and the Book of Isaiah apply to the father of M/Berodach-baladan. Since none of the inscriptions verify this paternal name, we should recognize it as yet another red herring. It consists of the name Bel, which is identical to 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 the name Baladan 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 Berodach-baladan looks vaguely like a garbled version of Marduk-Bel-Adonai, but to a Hebrew eye it looked like Crushed Through Seeing: Not Lord.