personality

Nebuchadnezzar II king of Babylonia

Definition.

Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605/604-562 BCE) was the greatest King of ancient Babylon during the period of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (626-539 BCE), succeeding its founder, his father, Nabopolassar (r. 626-605 BCE). Nabopolassar had defeated the Assyrians with the help of the Medes and liberated Babylonia from Assyrian rule. He then continued his conquest of the region and so provided for his son a stable base and ample wealth on which to build; an opportunity for greatness which Nebuchadnezzar took full advantage of in the same way that Alexander the Great (r.336-323 BCE) would later capitalize on the treasury and standing army left him by his father Philip II of Macedon (r.359-336 BCE).

Nebuchadnezzar married Amytis of Media (630-565 BCE) and so secured an alliance between the Medes and the Babylonians (Amytis being the daughter or perhaps granddaughter of Cyaxares, King of the Medes) and, according to some sources, had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built for her to remind her of her homeland in Persia.

Upon ascending to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar spoke to the gods in his inaugural address, saying, “O merciful Marduk, may the house that I have built endure forever, may I be satiated with its splendor, attain old age therein, with abundant offspring, and receive therein tribute of the kings of all regions, from all mankind.” (Kerrigan, 39). It would seem that his patron god Marduk heard his prayer in that, under his reign, Babylon became the most powerful city-state in the region and Nebuchadnezzar II himself the greatest warrior-king and ruler in the known world.

He is portrayed in unflattering light in the Bible, most notably in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Jeremiah where he is seen as an ‘enemy of God’ and one whom the deity of the Israelites intends to make an example of or, conversely, the agent of God used as a scourge against the faithless followers of Yahweh. He died in the 43rd year of his reign as the most powerful monarch in the Near East in the city he loved.

Early Life & Rise to Power.

Nebuchadnezzar II was born in c. 634 BCE in the region of Chaldea, in the southeast of Babylonia. His name is actually Nabu-kudurru-usur (“Nabu, Preserve My First-Born Son”) in Chaldean while ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ is the name by which the Israelites of Canaan knew him (from the Akkadian ‘Nebuchadrezzar’). He was the eldest son of a Babylonian general in the Assyrian army, Nabu-apla-usur (“Nabu, Protect My Son”), better known as Nabopolassar.

At this time, the Assyrian Empire still controlled the region but was in its final days. The empire had grown too large to maintain and began to weaken toward the end of the reign of the last great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (r. 668-627 BCE). In 627 BCE, the Assyrians sent two of their representatives to take charge of Babylon but Nabopolassar refused to support them, sent them back home, and was crowned king in 626 BCE.

For the next ten years Nabopolassar fought the Assyrians while Nebuchadnezzar grew up, receiving an education in military matters as well as general literacy and government administration. In 615 BCE, Nabopolassar attacked the city of Ashur but was unable to take it until the Medes under their king Cyaxares joined the resistance and Ashur fell. Nabopolassar then entered into an alliance with Cyaxares and confirmed it with the marriage of Nebuchadnezzar to Cyaxares’ daughter (or granddaughter) Amytis.

In 612 BCE, the city of Nineveh fell to the Babylonian-Mede coalition and this date is recognized as the end of the Assyrian Empire. Even so, the last Assyrian king, Ashur-uballit, struggled to regain power with the help of the Egyptians under pharaoh Necho II (r. 610-595 BCE). Necho II was defeated in battle by Nebuchadnezzar II in 605 BCE near Carchemish and sometime shortly after this Nabopolassar died, of natural causes, in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar returned to the city a war hero and was crowned king in either late 605 or early 604 BCE.

Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible.

Nebuchadnezzar II had orchestrated the so-called Babylonian Exile (Babylonian Captivity) of the Jews following the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, so, unsurprisingly, the Hebrew scribes had no love for him or his city. The Jews of the 6th century BCE, like many ancient peoples, believed that their god resided in the temple dedicated to him. When Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, he literally destroyed the house of god. Judaism – again, like other religious belief systems – was based on an understanding of quid pro quo (this for that) in which the people paid homage to their god and that god provided for and protected the people. When the temple was destroyed – and then the rest of the kingdom – and the people carried off to a foreign land, some explanation had to be found by the priestly class to explain it.

The conclusion reached by the Jewish clergy was that, previously, they had been led astray by other gods and beliefs and had not paid enough attention to the sole worship of Yahweh. In the era known as the Second Temple Period (c. 515 BCE-70 CE), Judaism was revised in light of the Babylonian Captivity to focus on monotheistic belief and practice and, at the same time, the narratives which would become their scriptures were edited to fit this new focus.

Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar II – described in the most glowing terms and phrases in other works from the ancient world – accordingly receive poor treatment in the Bible. Babylon is routinely characterized as a city of sin and evil and Nebuchadnezzar II appears in the Book of Daniel as a stubborn tyrant who recognizes the power of Daniel’s god but will not submit to him until he is literally driven insane and is then restored. In the Book of II Kings the scribes relate the sack of Jerusalem, and Nebuchadnezzar II is mentioned elsewhere as well, but it is primarily the Book of Daniel which has cemented Nebuchadnezzar’s reputation for the largest audience.

In Daniel 1-4, Nebuchadnezzar is witness to the power of Daniel’s god when the three Jewish youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago refuse to worship the golden idol the king has created and decreed that all should bow before. He has them thrown into a furnace but they are saved through their faith and emerge unharmed (Daniel 3:12-97). The god of the Israelites also grants Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and he displays this skill for the king in rightly interpreting his vision of the tree (Daniel 4:1-24).

The most dramatic event for Nebuchadnezzar in this account is when a voice comes down from heaven declaring he will shortly go insane and this comes swiftly to pass (Daniel 4:25-30). Nebuchadnezzar is said to have been “driven away from among men, and did eat grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until hairs grew like the feathers of eagles and his nails like bird’s claws.” (4:30). The madness lasts for seven years, just as the voice from heaven predicted, and then the king’s sanity is restored and he gives praise to god.

Accomplishments of Nebuchadnezzar II.

Nebuchadnezzar restored old religious monuments and improved canals, as other Babylonian kings had done. He was the first Babylonian king to rule Egypt, and controlled an empire that extended to Lydia, but his best-known accomplishment was his palace — a place used for administrative, religious, ceremonial, as well as residential purposes — especially the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

Building Projects.

The Hanging Gardens were on a terrace supported by brick arches. Nebuchadnezzar’s building projects included surrounding his capital city with a double wall 10-miles long with an elaborate entry called the Ishtar Gate.

Conquests.

Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in 605. In 597, he captured Jerusalem, deposed King Jehoiakim, and put Zedekiah on the throne, instead. Many leading Hebrew families were exiled at this time.

Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Cimmerians and Scythians [see Tribes of the Steppes] and then turned west, again, conquering Western Syria and destroying Jerusalem, including the Temple of Solomon, in 586. He put down a rebellion under Zedekiah, whom he had installed, and exiled more Hebrew families. He took the inhabitants of Jerusalem prisoner and brought them to Babylon, for which reason this period in Biblical history is referred to as the Babylonian captivity.

Reference :

Joshua J. Mark (7-11-2018), “Nebuchadnezzar II”، www.ancient.eu

N.S. Gill (15-8-2018), “The Chaldean Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II”، www.thoughtco.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button