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|King of Babylon|
An engraving on an eye stone of onyx with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II
|Reign||ca. 605 – 562 BC|
|Born||ca. 634 BC|
|Died||ca. 562 BC|
|King of Babylon|
An engraving on an eye stone of onyx with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II
|Reign||ca. 605 – 562 BC|
|Born||ca. 634 BC|
|Died||ca. 562 BC|
Nebuchadnezzar II (i//; Aramaic: ܢܵܒܘܼ ܟܘܼܕܘܼܪܝܼ ܐܘܼܨܘܼܪ ; Hebrew: נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר Nəḇūḵaḏneṣṣar; Ancient Greek: Ναβουχοδονόσωρ Naboukhodonósôr; Arabic: نِبُوخَذنِصَّر nibūḫaḏniṣṣar; c 634 – 562 BC) was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and for the destruction of the First Temple. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is mentioned in several other books of the Bible.
The Akkadian name, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son". Nabu is the Babylonian deity of wisdom, and son of the god Marduk. In an inscription, Nebuchadnezzar styles himself as Nabu's "beloved" and "favourite". His name has previously been mistakenly interpreted as "O Nabu, defend my kudurru", in which sense a kudurru is an inscribed stone deed of property. However, when contained in a ruler's title, kudurru approximates to "firstborn son" or "oldest son". Variations of the Hebrew form include נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר and נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר (Nəḇuḵaḏreṣṣar). He is also known as Bakhat Nasar, which means "winner of the fate", or literally, "fate winner".
Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its three centuries of vassalage to its fellow Mesopotamian state Assyria, and in alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, laid Nineveh in ruins. According to Berossus, some years before he became king of Babylon, Babylonian dynasties were united. There are conflicting accounts of Nitocris of Babylon being either his wife or daughter.
Nabopolassar was intent on annexing the western provinces of Syria (ancient Aram) from Necho II (whose own dynasty had been installed as vassals of Assyria, and who was still hoping to help restore Assyrian power), and to this end dispatched his son westward with a large army. In the ensuing Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, the Egyptian and Assyrian army was defeated and driven back, and the region of Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the control of Babylon. Nabopolassar died in August that year, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend to the throne.
After the defeat of the Cimmerians and Scythians, previous allies in the defeat of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar's expeditions were directed westward, although the powerful Median empire lay to the north. Nebuchadnezzar's political marriage to Amytis of Media, the daughter of the Median king, had ensured peace between the two empires.
Nebuchadnezzar engaged in several military campaigns designed to increase Babylonian influence in Aramea (modern Syria) and Judah. An attempted invasion of Egypt in 601 BC was met with setbacks, however, leading to numerous rebellions among the Phoenician and Canaanite states of the Levant, including Judah. Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC and deposing King Jehoiakim, then in 587 BC due to rebellion, destroying both the city and the temple, and deporting many of the prominent citizens along with a sizable portion of the Jewish population of Judea to Babylon. These events are described in the Prophets (Nevi'im) and Writings (Ketuvim), sections of the Hebrew Bible (in the books 2 Kings and Jeremiah, and 2 Chronicles, respectively). After the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar engaged in a thirteen-year siege of Tyre (circa 586–573) which ended in a compromise, with the Tyrians accepting Babylonian authority.
Following the pacification of the Phoenician state of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar turned again to Egypt. A clay tablet, now in the British Museum, states: "In the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Mitzraim (Egypt) to wage war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad." Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and a campaign against Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon, and constructed canals, aqueducts, temples and reservoirs.
According to Babylonian tradition, towards the end of his life, Nebuchadnezzar prophesied the impending ruin of the Chaldean Dynasty (Berossus and Abydenus in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9.41). He died in Babylon between the second and sixth months of the forty-third year of his reign, and was succeeded by Amel-Marduk.
During the last century of Nineveh's existence, Babylon had been greatly devastated, not only at the hands of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal, but also as a result of her ever renewed rebellions. Nebuchadnezzar, continuing his father's work of reconstruction, aimed at making his capital one of the world's wonders. Old temples were restored; new edifices of incredible magnificence were erected to the many gods of the Babylonian pantheon (Diodorus of Sicily, 2.95; Herodotus, 1.183). To complete the royal palace begun by Nabopolassar, nothing was spared, neither "cedar-wood, nor bronze, gold, silver, rare and precious stones"; an underground passage and a stone bridge connected the two parts of the city separated by the Euphrates; the city itself was rendered impregnable by the construction of a triple line of walls. The bridge across the Euphrates is of particular interest, in that it was supported on asphalt covered brick piers that were streamlined to reduce the upstream resistance to flow, and the downstream turbulence that would otherwise undermine the foundations. Nebuchadnezzar's construction activity was not confined to the capital; he is credited with the restoration of the Lake of Sippar, the opening of a port on the Persian Gulf, and the building of the Mede wall between the Tigris and the Euphrates to protect the country against incursions from the north. These undertakings required a considerable number of laborers; an inscription at the great temple of Marduk suggests that the labouring force used for his public works was most likely made up of captives brought from various parts of western Asia.
Nebuchadnezzar is credited by Berossus with the construction of the Hanging Gardens, for his homesick wife Amyitis (or Amytis) to remind her of her homeland, Medis (Media) in Persia. He is also credited for the construction of the Ishtar Gate, one of the eight gates leading into the city of Babylon. However, some scholars argue that the Gardens may have been constructed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in his capital city, Nineveh.
Nebuchadnezzar is widely known through his portrayal in the Bible, especially the Book of Daniel. The Bible discusses events of his reign and his conquest of Jerusalem. Daniel 2 contains an account attributed to the second year of his reign, in which Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a huge image made of various materials (gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay). The prophet Daniel tells him God's interpretation, that it stands for the rise and fall of world powers, starting with Nebuchadnezzar's own as the golden head.
Daniel 3 is an account of Nebuchadnezzar erecting a large idol made of gold for worship during a public ceremony on the plain of Dura. When three Jews, whose names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (respectively renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by their captors, to facilitate their assimilation into Babylonian culture), refuse to take part, he has them cast into a fiery furnace. They are protected by what Nebuchadnezzar describes as "a son of the gods" (Daniel 3:25 NIV) and emerge unscathed without even the smell of smoke. Daniel 4 contains an account of Nebuchadnezzar's dream about an immense tree, which Daniel interprets to mean that Nebuchadnezzar will go insane for seven years because of his pride. The chapter is written from the perspective of king Nebuchadnezzar.
While boasting about his achievements, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God. The king loses his sanity and lives in the wild like an animal for seven years. After this, his sanity and position are restored and he praises and honors God. Theologians have interpreted this story in several ways. Origen attributed the metamorphosis as a representation of the fall of Lucifer, Bodin and Cluvier maintained it was a metamorphosis of both soul and body, Tertullian confined the transformation to the body only, without the loss of reason, cases of which Augustine stated were reported in Italy, but gave them little credit. Gaspard Peucer asserted that the transformation of men into wolves was common in Livonia. Some Jewish Rabbins asserted there was an exchange of souls between the man and ox, while others argued for an apparent or docetic change which was not real. The most generally received opinion, which was also held by Jerome, was that the madman was under the influence of hypochondriachal monomania by which God could humble the pride of kings.
There has been speculation by modern writers that the Biblical account might preserve memories of an illness that had a natural organic cause. Some consider it to have been an attack of clinical lycanthropy or alternatively porphyria. Psychologist Henry Gleitman has claimed that Nebuchadnezzar's insanity was a result of general paresis or paralytic dementia seen in advanced cases of syphilis.
Some scholars  think that Nebuchadnezzar's portrayal by Daniel is a mixture of traditions about Nebuchadnezzar and about Nabonidus (Nabuna'id) who became confused with him. For example, Nabonidus was the natural, or paternal father of Belshazzar, and the seven years of insanity could be related to Nabonidus' sojourn in Tayma in the desert. Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, written from 150 BC to 70 AD  state that it was Nabonidus (N-b-n-y) who was smitten by God with a fever for seven years of his reign while his son Belshazzar was regent.
The Book of Jeremiah contains a prophecy about the arising of a "destroyer of nations", commonly regarded as a reference to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 4:7), as well as an account of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and looting and destruction of the temple (Jer. 52).
Chapter 14 of the Book of Isaiah refers to what Jewish exegesis of the prophetic vision of Isaiah 14:12-15 identifies as King Nebuchadnezzar II; the Hebrew text says "Helel ben Shaḥar" ("the shining one, son of the dawn"). It is a taunting prophecy against an oppressive king. In Isaiah 14, the king is being mocked, as he is struck through with a sword, killed, and thrown into a common grave. Mainstream Christianity attributes this passage to the fall of Lucifer because verse 20 says that this king will not be joined with the others in burial, but rather be cast out of the grave. "Helel ben Shaḥar" may refer to the Morning Star, but Isaiah gives no indication that Helel is a star.
According to Tabari, Nebuchadnezzar, whose Persian name was Bukhtrashah, was of Persian descent, from the progeny of Jūdharz. Some believe he lived as long as 300 years. While much of what is written about Nebuchadnezzar depicts a ruthless warrior, some texts show a ruler who was concerned with both spiritual and moral issues in life and was seeking divine guidance.
Nebuchadnezzar was seen as a strong, conquering force in Islamic texts and historical compilations, like Tabari. The Babylonian leader used force and destruction to grow an empire. He conquered kingdom after kingdom, including Phoenicia, Philistia, Judah, Ammon, Moab, Jerusalem, and more. The most notable events that Tabari’s collection focuses on is the destruction of Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar was sent from Balkh by Luhrāsb, a Persian ruler, to defeat the Jews in Jerusalem. Some sources believe that Luhrāsb’s son, Bahman, is the one who sent Nebuchadnezzar to exile the Jews from Jerusalem. According to one source in Tabari, at the time Nebuchadnezzar was summoned to defeat Jerusalem, he was finishing a peace agreement with the people of Damascus. Because of this, he sent an officer to ease the tension in Jerusalem and create a peace treaty. The officer successfully met with the king of Jerusalem and made a peace treaty. As was custom for the Babylonians, the officer took hostages with him as and began the return journey to Nebuchadnezzar. When the officer reached Tiberias, he heard that the Israelites had revolted against their king and killed him because the king had given the Babylonians hostages. The hostages were then beheaded and Nebuchadnezzar made his way to Jerusalem. Most of the sources agree that Nebuchadnezzar was sent to Jerusalem by God to punish the Jews for their sinful behavior.
After Nebuchadnezzar ravaged the town, killing and enslaving the people, he came upon the prophet Jeremiah in a prison. He had been jailed for about three years because God told him what Nebuchadnezzar would do to Jerusalem. He tried to warn the Israelites and told them to repent, but they jailed him instead. God sent an angel to ask Jeremiah if the Israelites must be destroyed and Jeremiah agrees, beginning the attack by Nebuchadnezzar. When Jeremiah reveals all of this to Nebuchadnezzar, he replies, “Wretched people, they defied their Lord’s messenger” 10. He then released Jeremiah. This encounter gives evidence that there were still many different gods being worshipped, as Nebuchadnezzar does not refer to God as his own god, and displays a sort of interfaith understanding between religions. Nebuchadnezzar does not worship the god of the Bible but Marduk, a Babylonian god most often related to judgement. Nebuchadnezzar has respect for Jeremiah and his beliefs that allows Jeremiah to be an ally and help Nebuchadnezzar with policy.
Nebuchadnezzar then goes on to attack Egypt. After releasing Jeremiah from prison, the remaining Israelites apologized to Jeremiah but still do not listen to him when he tells them to stay in Jerusalem. They instead flee to Egypt, where the king takes them in even after Nebuchadnezzar has asked that they be returned. Nebuchadnezzar then conquers Egypt and moves further north in Africa before returning home with treasures and hoards of slaves. Nebuchadnezzar’s victories display the period of growth that Babylonians were experiencing. Every new victory resulted in a further accumulation of wealth and prisoners of war, both of which were used to strengthen the empire even more. It is also suggested that Nebuchadnezzar took royals hostage but treated them well so that when they were released, they would be supportive and complimentary of the Babylonian Empire.
After Nebuchadnezzar leaves, there is a disconnect between the sources. One says that Jeremiah speaks to God, who tells him that the city will be rebuilt. He then puts Jeremiah to sleep for a hundred years. The Israelites return and begin to rebuild the city and then God wakes Jeremiah from his slumber.
Other sources say that Nebuchadnezzar puts Zedekiah in power. Jeremiah provides support and counsel to Zedekiah for the two years he is in charge because Zedekiah knows that the city is doomed. Jeremiah stays by his side, realizing that it is better to be Babylon’s ally than enemy. After ruling for two years, Zedekiah tried to make an alliance with Egypt, leading to his demise. Nebuchadnezzar puts an end to the alliance and the cities.
Some accounts say that Bahman took over after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, eventually passing off the power to Cyrus. These accounts do not say a lot about Nebuchadnezzar or make him seem as powerful.
Yet another source say that God let Nebuchadnezzar rule as long as he wanted. Near the end of his reign, and life, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream but he cannot remember it when he awakes. He calls Daniel to pray and talk to God to figure out what he had dreamed. He comes back and tells Nebuchadnezzar about his dream: He saw a statue, made up of many different materials. The feet were formed out of clay and the materials got stronger and stronger the higher they were on the body, with the head and neck being made from iron. These different substances symbolized the different reigns of rulers. Then, a rock was sent down from heaven and smashed the statue. This was meant to symbolize God sending a prophet to smash the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Soon after this, Nebuchadnezzar addressed the Israelites. He talked about how powerful he was, so powerful that he had destroyed God’s house and people and that when he died, he would take over God’s kingdom. God, having heard this, pitied his people. He allowed them to return to Judea and multiply. One of the captives, Ezra, was distraught about the fact that the Israelites’ scripture had been destroyed with the temple. God returns the scripture to him and his people and the Israelites live on under their own leadership.
While researchers rely mostly on firsthand accounts to learn about Nebuchadnezzar, that is not the only way they can get information. Much of the autobiographical information collected by historians about Nebuchadnezzar is taken from inscriptions on buildings that were erected during the rebuilding of Babylon.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nebuchadnezzar II.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1879 American Cyclopædia article Nebuchadnezzar.|
|King of Babylon|
605 BC – 562 BC