Sennacherib’s campaign against Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39)

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Illustration: Sennacherib’s Campaign Against Merodach-Baladan

In Isaiah 39:1 Merodach-Baladan (a Hebrew form of his Akkadian name, Marduk-apla-iddina), the king of Babylon, sent envoys to Hezekiah. Merodach-Baldan, a ruler within the Chaldean tribe of Bit Yakin, spent his career trying to wrest Babylon from Assyrian control.

Although he paid tribute to the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-Pileser III, Merodach-Baladan rebelled against Sargon II with help from the neighbouring Elamites. By 710 B.C. Sargon II had defeated Merodach-Baladan and forced him to flee to Elam. Upon Sargon’s death his son Sennacherib became the Assyrian emperor, and once again Merodach-Balkadan rebelled. Perhaps Hezekiah’s aid was sought by Merodach-Baladan at this juncture, resulting in an alliance that may have led to Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. To address this sedition Sennacherib faced Merodach.Baladan at Kish and again forced him into exile. Although a seemingly loyal puppet named El-ibni was installed by Sennacherib over Babylon, Bel-ibni led another revolt, and Merodach-Baladan reasserted his power in the aftermath of the insurrection.

With the demise of Bel-ibni’s mutiny in Babylon and Sennacherib’s control secured yet again, the Assyrian emperor sought a final solution to the troublesome Merodach-Baladan. In  694 B.C. Sennacherib sent his army to flush his nemesis out of the marshes in southern Babylonia. But the Elamites exploited this weakness and again seized control of Babylon. Although Sennacherib was eventually able to oust the Elamite incursion, Merodoch-Baladan escaped his grasp and apparently fled to Elam, where he lived out his days. His brief appearance within Isaiah (and in 2 Kings 20:12) is appropriate, given the elusive nature of his career.


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