2 Kings 20:12–15—How can these verses speak of the visitors from Berodach-Baladan as coming after the invasion of Sennacherib?
Problem: According to the sequence of events as they are presented in 2 Kings 20:12–15, the delegation sent from Berodach-Baladan (spelled Merodach-Baladan in Isa. 39:1) came to visit Hezekiah after the invasion of Sennacherib in 701 b.c. However, according to historical evidence, Berodach-Baladan had fled to Elan after having been expelled from Babylon by Sennacherib in 702 b.c. How can the chronology of these verses be reconciled?
Solution: The fact that the description of the invasion of Sennacherib in both 2 Kings and Isaiah comes before the description of the visit of the delegation from Berodach-Baladan does not mean that this is the actual order. In 2 Kings 20:1 we find the introductory phrase “In those days.” However, this does not necessarily indicate that the following events took place in the same time period as the previous section. This phrase is sometimes used to introduce a new section and is similar in function to the phrase “And it came to pass.” We find this type of use in Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, and Esther 1:2. It may also be pointed out that the Hebrew word hem that is translated here as “those” can also be rendered “these.” It is the context that determines its function. The beginning phrase could be translated, “In these days.”
The visit recorded in 2 Kings 20:12–15 actually took place before the invasion of Sennacherib recorded in 2 Kings 18–19. This is attested by the fact that Hezekiah died sometime between 698 and 696 b.c. Since God extended his life by 15 years, this would put the time of Hezekiah’s illness at about 713 b.c. This time frame would coincide well with a visit by a delegation from Berodach-Baladan who was expelled by Sennacherib in 702 b.c.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.