MERODACH-BALADAN (Heb. מְרׁדַךְ בַּלְאֲדָן; Akk. dMarduk-ap-la-iddin; "Marduk has given a son"), Babylonian king (722–710 B.C.E.). Assyrian inscriptions place the origin of Merodach-Baladan in the land of Bît-Iakin, a Chaldean kingdom near the coast of the Persian Gulf ("Sealands"). This is more probable than Merodach-Baladan's claim that he was the son and legal heir of the Babylonian king Erība-Marduk. In 731 B.C.E., Ukin-zer of Bît Amukkani, a Chaldean, wrested the kingship of Babylonia from the pro-Assyrian king Nabunadin-zer. Merodach-Baladan, who also had designs on the kingship, supported the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, against Ukin-zer. He was thus able to strengthen his position among the Chaldean tribes, increase his influence in Babylonia, and forge an alliance with Elam, without interference from Tiglath-Pileser III or Shalmaneser V, both of whom exercised sovereignty over Babylonia (729–722 B.C.E.).
With the death of Shalmaneser V, Merodach-Baladan seized the Babylonian throne (722/721 B.C.E.). This marked the beginning of violent struggles between Merodach-Baladan and the Assyrians. By 720, Sargon II was preparing for war against Merodach-Baladan, who had the support of the Elamites. Conflicting reports have been preserved of this battle, which took place in the plain of Dêr, east of the Tigris. Merodach-Baladan ruled Babylonia until 710, when, through neglect and economic exploitation, he incurred the enmity of the native Babylonian population in the large urban centers which had been loyal to him, although he enjoyed the support of the Chaldean and Babylonian tribes which were largely concentrated in the southern part of the country.
Therefore, it is not surprising that when Sargon II waged war against Merodach-Baladan in 710, he was warmly received by the urban population. Sargon defeated Merodach-Baladan's armies and conquered his fortresses, causing Merodach-Baladan to flee south to Bît-Iakin, where he waited for an opportunity to regain the throne. Seeing in the widespread disturbances that arose after the death of Sargon (705) the opportunity to resume his rule over Babylonia, Merodach-Baladan, in 703, with the support of the Elamites and much of the Babylonian population, reestablished his rule there. He found an ally in *Hezekiah, who was at that time planning a revolt against Assyria, exploiting the latter's political goals for his own benefit. Hezekiah could help Merodach-Baladan by distracting the attention of the Assyrians to the west. This appears to be the background of the biblical narrative concerning the goodwill delegation sent by Merodach-Baladan to Hezekiah of Judah in 701 B.C.E. after Sennacherib's campaign there (II Kings 20:12–19; Isa. 39:1–8; II Chron. 32:31). However, it is doubtful that political conditions in Palestine after the Assyrian campaign were favorable for Merodach-Baladan and Hezekiah to form an alliance.
In 703 B.C.E. Sennacherib conducted a campaign against Merodach-Baladan, defeating the Elamite and Babylonian armies surrounding Kish. Merodach-Baladan fled to the "Sealands," and from there continued to rule over Bît-Iakin and the southernmost part of Babylonia. After Sennacherib returned from his campaign in the west in 701, he waged war against Merodach-Baladan (700). The Chaldeans were no match for the Assyrians, and Merodach-Baladan fled further along the Persian Gulf to the region bordering on Elam, dying there in 694.
In the Aggadah
Merodach-Baladan is praised for honoring his father. He added his father's name Baladan to his own when acting as regent during the incapacity of his father, and signed documents in the name of both his father and himself (Sanh. 96a). When told that the sun had reversed its course on the day that Hezekiah miraculously recovered from his illness, he acknowledged the superiority of God, though previously he had been a sun worshiper. He thereupon addressed a letter to Hezekiah the original introduction of which was "Peace to Hezekiah, Peace to the God of Hezekiah, and Peace to Jerusalem." Realizing, however, that he had been disrespectful in not placing God first, he took steps and recalled his messengers in order to change the wording. As a reward he was told: "You took three steps for the honor of My name … I will therefore raise up from thee three kings [Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, and Belshazzar], who shall rule from one end of the world to the other" (Est. R. 3:1).
H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness that was Babylon (1962), 109–20; J.A. Brinkman, in: Studies Presented to A. Leo Oppenheim (1964), 6–53; idem, in: JNES, 24 (1965), 161–6; P. Artzi, in: EM, 5 (1968), 445–9; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 275, 300; 6 (1928), 368, 430; I.Y. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 269.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.