🔼The name Merodach-baladan: Summary
- (Jocularly:) Bitter Oppression: Not Lord
- From (1) מר (mar), bitter, (2) דך (dak), oppressed, (3) בל (bal), not, and (4) אדן ('adon), lord.
🔼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 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 to a creative eye this name seems to start with מר (mar), or bitter:
The verb מרר (marar) means to be strong or bitter and can be used to describe tastes and smells, and hard or difficult situations.
Adjectives מר (mar) and מרירי (meriri) mean bitter. Nouns מרור (maror) and מרורה (merora) refer to any bitter thing, the former specifically to a certain bitter herb, and the latter to gall or poison.
Noun מררה (merera) also means gal. Nouns מרה (morra), מרה (mora), מרירות (merirut), ממר (memer), ממרור (mamror) and תמרור (tamrur) mean bitterness. The latter noun is spelled identical to the noun תמרור (tamrur), meaning marker or sign post, from the root תמר (tamar), meaning to be stiff or erect.
And speaking of such, the nouns מר (mor) and מור (mor) mean myrrh, a bitter and fragrant spice that was originally used to mark the tabernacle, but which came to be used to proclaim, olfactorily, the consummation of marriage. Hence, despite its links to words that mostly describe hardship, myrrh oil was known as the "oil of joy."
Verb מרה (mara) means to be contentious or rebellious, particularly against God. Noun מרי (meri) means rebellion.
The verb מור (mor) means to change. Perhaps the connection between the previous is coincidental but perhaps these words are indeed linked, as change is often reaction to bitterness or opposition. The noun תמורה (temura) means exchange.
The second part seems to have to do with 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 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:
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.
And the second part of Baladan appears to be the noun 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.
All together, the name Merodach-baladan means in Hebrew: Bitter Oppression: 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).