|neb-u-kad-nez'-ar (may Nebo protect the crown)
RELATED: Babylon, Captivity, Chaldeans, Daniel (the prophet), Jehoiakim, Jerusalem, Necho, Riblah, Temple, Zedekiah
Easton's Bible Dictionary
in the Babylonian orthography Nabu-kudur-uzur, which
means "Nebo, protect the crown!" or the "frontiers." In an inscription he styles
himself "Nebo's favourite." He was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, who
delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. He
was the greatest and most powerful of all the Babylonian kings. He married the
daughter of Cyaxares, and thus the Median and Babylonian dynasties were united.
Necho II., the king of Egypt, gained a victory over the Assyrians at Carchemish.
( See JOSIAH ; MEGIDDO ) This secured to Egypt the possession of the Syrian provinces
of Assyria, including Palestine. The remaining provinces of the Assyrian empire
were divided between Babylonia and Media. But Nabopolassar was ambitious of reconquering
from Necho the western provinces of Syria, and for this purpose he sent his son
with a powerful army westward ( Daniel
1:1 ). The Egyptians met him at Carchemish, where a furious battle was fought,
resulting in the complete rout of the Egyptians, who were driven back ( Jeremiah
46:2 - 12
), and Syria and Phoenicia brought under the sway of Babylon (B.C. 606). From
that time "the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land" ( 2
Kings 24:7 ). Nebuchadnezzar also subdued the whole of Palestine, and took
Jerusalem, carrying away captive a great multitude of the Jews, among whom were
Daniel and his companions ( Daniel
1:1 , 1:2
27:19 ; 40:1
Three years after this, Jehoiakim, who had reigned in Jerusalem as a Babylonian
vassal, rebelled against the oppressor, trusting to help from Egypt ( 2
Kings 24:1 ). This led Nebuchadnezzar to march an army again to the conquest
of Jerusalem, which at once yielded to him (B.C. 598). A third time he came against
it, and deposed Jehoiachin, whom he carried into Babylon, with a large portion
of the population of the city, and the sacred vessels of the temple, placing Zedekiah
on the throne of Judah in his stead. He also, heedless of the warnings of the
prophet, entered into an alliance with Egypt, and rebelled against Babylon. This
brought about the final siege of the city, which was at length taken and utterly
destroyed (B.C. 586). Zedekiah was taken captive, and had his eyes put out by
order of the king of Babylon, who made him a prisoner for the remainder of his
An onyx cameo, now in the museum of Florence, bears on it an arrow-headed inscription,
which is certainly ancient and genuine. The helmeted profile is said (Schrader)
to be genuine also, but it is more probable that it is the portrait of a usurper
in the time of Darius (Hystaspes), called Nidinta-Bel, who took the name of "Nebuchadrezzar."
The inscription has been thus translated:, "In honour of Merodach, his lord, Nebuchadnezzar,
king of Babylon, in his lifetime had this made."
A clay tablet, now in the British Museum, bears the following inscription, the
only one as yet found which refers to his wars: "In the thirty-seventh year of
Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Egypt [Misr] to make
war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad."
Thus were fulfilled the words of the prophet ( Jeremiah
46:13 - 26
29:2 - 20
). Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and inflicted chastisement on
Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar now set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon
4:30 ), and to add to the greatness and prosperity of his kingdom by constructing
canals and aqueducts and reservoirs surpassing in grandeur and magnificence everything
of the kind mentioned in history ( Daniel
2:37 ). He is represented as a "king of kings," ruling over a vast kingdom
of many provinces, with a long list of officers and rulers under him, "princes,
governors, captains," etc. ( Daniel
3:2 , 3:3
). He may, indeed, be said to have created the mighty empire over which he ruled.
"Modern research has shown that Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest monarch that Babylon,
or perhaps the East generally, ever produced. He must have possessed an enormous
command of human labour, nine-tenths of Babylon itself, and nineteen-twentieths
of all the other ruins that in almost countless profusion cover the land, are
composed of bricks stamped with his name. He appears to have built or restored
almost every city and temple in the whole country. His inscriptions give an elaborate
account of the immense works which he constructed in and about Babylon itself,
abundantly illustrating the boast, 'Is not this great Babylon which I have build?'"
Rawlinson, Hist. Illustrations.
After the incident of the "burning fiery furnace" ( Daniel
3 ) into which the three Hebrew confessors were cast, Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted
with some peculiar mental aberration as a punishment for his pride and vanity,
probably the form of madness known as lycanthropy (i.e, "the change of a man into
a wolf"). A remarkable confirmation of the Scripture narrative is afforded by
the recent discovery of a bronze door-step, which bears an inscription to the
effect that it was presented by Nebuchadnezzar to the great temple at Borsippa
as a votive offering on account of his recovery from a terrible illness. (See
He survived his recovery for some years, and died B.C. 562, in the eighty-third
or eighty-fourth year of his age, after a reign of forty-three years, and was
succeeded by his son Evil-merodach, who, after a reign of two years, was succeeded
by Neriglissar (559-555), who was succeeded by Nabonadius (555-538), at the close
of whose reign (less than a quarter of a century after the death of Nebuchadnezzar)
Babylon fell under Cyrus at the head of the combined armies of Media and Persia.
"I have examined," says Sir H. Rawlinson, "the bricks belonging perhaps to a hundred
different towns and cities in the neighbourhood of Baghdad, and I never found
any other legend than that of Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon."
Nine-tenths of all the bricks amid the ruins of Babylon are stamped with his name.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(may Nebo protect the crown), was the greatest and most
powerful of the Babylonian kings. His name is explained to mean "Nebo is the protector
against misfortune." He was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, the founder
of the Babylonian empire. In the lifetime of his father Nebuchadnezzar led an
army against Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, defeated him at Carchemish, B.C. 605,
in a great battle ( Jeremiah 46:2-12 ) recovered Coele-Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine,
took Jerusalem, ( Daniel 1:1 , 1:2 ) pressed forward to Egypt, and was engaged
in that country or upon its borders when intelligence arrived which recalled him
hastily to Babylon.
Nabopolassar, after reigning twenty-one years, had died and the throne was vacant.
In alarm about the succession Nebuchadnezzar returned to the capital, accompanied
only by his light troops; and crossing the desert, probably by way of Tadmor or
Palmyra, reached Babylon before any disturbance had arisen and entered peaceably
on his kingdom, B.C. 604. Within three years of Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition
into Syria and Palestine, disaffection again showed itself in those countries.
Jehoiakim, who, although threatened at first with captivity, ( 2 Chronicles 36:6
) had been finally maintained on the throne as a Babylonian vassal, after three
years of service "turned and rebelled" against his suzerain, probably trusting,
to be supported by Egypt. ( 2 Kings 24:1 ) Not long afterward Phoenicia seems
to have broken into revolt, and the Chaldean monarch once more took the field
in person, and marched first of all against Tyre. Having invested that city and
left a portion of his army there to continue the siege, he proceeded against Jerusalem,
which submitted without a struggle. According to Josephus, who is here our chief
authority, Nebuchadnezzar punished Jehoiakim with death, comp. ( Jeremiah 23:18
, 23:19 ) and Jeremiah 36:30 but placed his son Jehoiachin upon the throne. Jehoiachin
reigned only three months; for, on his showing symptoms of disaffection, Nebuchadnezzar
came up against Jerusalem for the third time, deposed the sons prince whom he
carried to Babylon, together with a large portion of the population of the city
and the chief of the temple treasures), and made his uncle, Zedekiah, king in
his room. Tyre still held out; and it was not till the thirteenth year from the
time of its first investment that the city of merchants fell, B.C. 585. Ere this
happened, Jerusalem had been totally destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar had commenced the
final siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah --his own seventeenth year
(B.C. 588)--and took it two years later, B.C. 586. Zedekiah escaped from the city,
but was captured near Jericho, ( Jeremiah 39:5 ) and brought to Nebuchadnezzar
at Riblah in the territory of Hamath, where his eyes were put out by the kings
order while his sons and his chief nobles were Plain. Nebuchadnezzar then returned
to Babylon with Zedekiah, whom he imprisoned for the remainder of his life. The
military successes of Nebuchadnezzar cannot be traced minutely beyond this point.
It may be gathered from the prophetical Scriptures and from Josephus that the
conquest of Jerusalem was rapidly followed by the fall of Tyre and the complete
submission of Phoenicia, Ezekiel 26 - 28 after which the Babylonians carried their
arms into Egypt, and inflicted severe injuries on that fertile country. ( Jeremiah
46:13 - 26 ; Ezekiel 23:2 - 20 )
We are told that the first care of Nebuchadnezzar, on obtaining quiet possession
of his kingdom after the first Syrian expedition, was to rebuild the temple of
Bel (Bel-Merodach ) at Babylon out of the spoils of the Syrian war. The next proceeded
to strengthen and beautify the city, which he renovated throughout and surrounded
with several lines of fortifications, himself adding one entirely new quarter.
Having finished the walls and adorned the gates magnificently, he constructed
a new palace. In the grounds of this palace he formed the celebrated "hanging
garden," which the Greeks placed among the seven wonders of the world. But he
did not confine his efforts to the ornamentation and improvement of his capital.
Throughout the empire at Borsippa, Sippara, Cutha, Chilmad, Duraba, Teredon, and
a multitude of other places, he built or rebuilt cities, repaired temples, constructed
quays, reservoirs, canals and aqueducts, on a scale of grandeur and magnificence
surpassing everything of the kind recorded in history unless it be the constructions
of one or two of the greatest Egyptian monarchs. The wealth greatness and general
prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar are strikingly placed before us in the book of Daniel.
Toward the close of his reign the glory of Nebuchadnezzar suffered a temporary
eclipse. As a punishment for his pride and vanity, that strange form of madness
was sent upon him which the Greeks called Lycanthropy, wherein the sufferer imagines
himself a beast, and, quitting the haunts of men, insists on leading the life
of a beast. ( Daniel 4:33 ) (This strange malady is thought by some to receive
illustration from an inscription; and historians place at this period the reign
of a queen to whom are ascribed the works which by others are declared to be Nebuchadnezzars.
Probably his favorite wife was practically at the head of affairs during the malady
of her husband. Other historians, Eusebius and Berosus also confirm the account.
See Rawlinsons "Historical Illustrations." --ED. ) After an interval of four or
perhaps seven years, ( Daniel 4:16 ) Nebuchadnezzars malady left him. We are told
that "his reason returned, and for the glory of his kingdom his honor and brightness
returned;" and he "was established in his kingdom, and excellent majesty was added
to him." ( Daniel 4:36 ) He died in the year B.C. 561, at an advanced age (eighty-three
or eighty-four), having reigned forty-three years. A son, Evilmerodach, succeeded
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Nebuchadnezzar, the second king of Babylon of that name, is best known as the
king who conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, and carried the people of the Jews
captive to Babylon. Of all the heathen monarchs mentioned by name in the Scriptures,
Nebuchadnezzar is the most prominent and the most important. The prophecies of
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and the last chapters of Kings and Chronicles centered
about his life, and he stands preeminent, along with the Pharaohs of the oppression
and the exodus, among the foes of the kingdom of God. The documents which have
been discovered in Babylon and elsewhere within the last 75 years have added much
to our knowledge of this monarch, and have in general confirmed the Biblical accounts
1. His Name:
His name is found in two forms in the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadrezzar.
In the Septuagint he is called Nabouchodonosor, and in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin
Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Nabuchodonosor. This latter form is found also in the King
James Version Apocrypha throughout and in the Revised Version (British and American)
1 Esdras, Ad Esther and Baruch, but not Judith or Tobit. This change from "r"
to "n" which is found in the two writings of the name in the Hebrew and the Aramaic
of the Scriptures is a not uncommon one in the Semitic languages, as in Burnaburiyash
and Burraburiyash, Ben-hadad and Bar-hadad (see Brockelmann's Comparative Grammar,
136, 173, 220). It is possible, however, that the form Nebuchadnezzar is the Aramaic
translation of the Babylonian Nebuchadrezzar. If we take the name to be compounded
of Nabu-kudurri-usur in the sense "O Nebo, protect thy servant," then Nabu-kedina-usur
would be the best translation possible in Aramaic. Such translations of proper
names are common in the old versions of the Scriptures and elsewhere. For example,
in WAI, V, 44, we find 4 columns of proper names of persons giving the Sumerian
originals and the Semitic translations of the same; compare Bar-hadad in Aramaic
for Hebrew Ben-hadad. In early Aramaic the "S" had not yet become "T" (see Cooke,
Text-Book of North-Sem Inscriptions, 188 f); so that for anyone who thought that
kudurru meant "servant," Nebuchadnezzar would be a perfect translation into Aramaic
The father of Nebuchadnezzar was Nabopolassar, probably a Chaldean prince. His
mother is not known by name. The classical historians mention two wives: Amytis,
the daughter of Astyages, and Nitocris, the mother of Nabunaid. The monuments
mention three sons: Evil-merodach who succeeded him, Marduk-shum-utsur, and Marduk-nadin-achi.
A younger brother of Nebuchadnezzar, called Nabu-shum-lishir, is mentioned on
a building-inscription tablet from the time of Nabopolassar.
3. Sources of Information:
The sources of our information as to the life of Nebuchadnezzar are about 500
contract tablets dated according to the days, months and years of his reign of
43 years; about 30 building and honorific inscriptions; one historical inscription;
and in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Kings. Later sources are Chronicles,
Ezra, and the fragments of Berosus, Menander, Megasthenes, Abydenus, and Alexander
Polyhistor, largely as cited by Josephus and Eusebius.
4. Political History:
From these sources we learn that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded his father on the throne
of Babylon in 604 BC, and reigned till 561 BC. He probably commanded the armies
of Babylon from 609. BC. At any rate, he was at the head of the army which defeated
Pharaoh-necoh at Carchemish on the Euphrates in 605 BC (see 2 Kings 23:31 ; 2
Chronicles 35:20). After having driven Necoh out of Asia and settled the affairs
of Syria and Palestine, he was suddenly recalled to Babylon by the death of his
father. There he seems quietly to have ascended the throne. In the 4th year of
Jehoiakim (or 3rd according to the Babylonian manner of reckoning (Daniel 1:1)),
he came up first against Jerusalem and carried away part of the vessels of the
temple and a few captives of noble lineage. Again, in Jehoiakim's 11th year, he
captured Jerusalem, put Jehoiakim, its king, into chains, and probably killed
him. His successor, Jehoiachin, after a three months' reign, was besieged in Jerusalem,
captured, deposed, and carried captive to Babylon, where he remained in captivity
37 years until he was set free by Evil-merodach. In the 9th year of Zedekiah,
Nebuchadnezzar made a 4th expedition against Jerusalem which he besieged, captured,
and destroyed (see Jeremiah 52). In addition to these wars with Judah, Nebuchadnezzar
carried on a long siege of Tyre, lasting 13 years, from his 7th to his 20th year.
He had at least three wars with Egypt. The first culminated in the defeat of Necoh
at Carchemish; the second in the withdrawal of Hophra (Apries) from Palestine
in the 1st year of the siege of Jerusalem under Zedekiah; and the third saw the
armies of Nebuchadnezzar entering Egypt in triumph and defeating Amasis in Nebuchadnezzar's
37th year. In the numerous building and honorific inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar
he makes no mention by name of his foes or of his battles; but he frequently speaks
of foes that he had conquered and of many peoples whom he ruled. Of these peoples
he mentions by name the Hittites and others (see Langdon, 148-51). In the Wady-Brissa
inscription, he speaks of a special conquest of Lebanon from some foreign foe
who had seized it; but the name of the enemy is not given.
5. Buildings, etc.:
The monuments justify the boast of Nebuchadnezzar "Is not this great Babylon that
I have built?" (Daniel 4:30). Among these buildings special emphasis is placed
by Nebuchadnezzar upon his temples and shrines to the gods, particularly to Marduk,
Nebo and Zarpinat, but also to Shamash, Sin, Gula, Ramman, Mah, and others. He
constructed, also, a great new palace and rebuilt an old one of his father's.
Besides, he laid out and paved with bricks a great street for the procession of
Marduk, and built a number of great walls with moats and moat-walls and gates.
He dug several broad, deep canals, and made dams for flooding the country to the
North and South of Babylon, so as to protect it against the attack of its enemies.
He made, also, great bronze bulls and serpents, and adorned his temples and palaces
with cedars and gold. Not merely in Babylon itself, but in many of the cities
of Babylonia as well, his building operations were carried on, especially in the
line of temples to the gods.
6. Religion, etc.:
The inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar show that he was a very religious man, probably
excelling all who had preceded him in the building of temples, in the institution
of offerings, and the observance of all the ceremonies connected with the worship
of the gods. His larger inscriptions usually contain two hymns and always close
with a prayer. Mention is frequently made of the offerings of precious metals,
stones and woods, of game, fish, wine, fruit, grain, and other objects acceptable
to the gods. It is worthy of note that these offerings differ in character and
apparently in purpose from those in use among the Jews. For example, no mention
is made in any one of Nebuchadnezzar's inscriptions of the pouring out or sprinkling
of blood, nor is any reference made to atonement, or to sin.
No reference is made in any of these inscriptions to Nebuchadnezzar's insanity.
But aside from the fact that we could scarcely expect a man to publish his own
calamity, especially madness, it should be noted that according to Langdon we
have but three inscriptions of his written in the period from 580 to 561 BC. If
his madness lasted for 7 years, it may have occurred between 580 and 567 BC, or
it may have occurred between the Egyptian campaign of 567 BC and his death in
561 BC. But, as it is more likely that the "7 times" mentioned in Daniel may have
been months, the illness may have been in any year after 580 BC, or even before
that for all we know.
8. Miracles, etc.:
No mention is made on the monuments
(1) of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Daniel 2,
As to (1), it may be said, however, that a belief in dreams was so universal among
all the ancient peoples, that a single instance of this kind may not have been
considered as worthy of special mention. The annals of Ashur-banipal and Nubu-naid
and Xerxes give a number of instances of the importance attached to dreams and
their interpretation. It is almost certain that Nebuchadnezzar also believed in
them. That the dream recorded in Daniel is not mentioned on the monuments seems
less remarkable than that no dream of his is recorded.
(2) of the image of gold that he set up,
As to (2) we know that Nebuchadnezzar made an image of his royal person (salam
sharrutiya, Langdon, XIX, B, col. x, 6; compare the image of the royal person
of Nabopolassar, id, p. 51), and it is certain that the images of the gods were
made of wood (id, p. 155), that the images of Nebo and Marduk were conveyed in
a bark in the New Year's procession (id, pp. 157, 159, 163, 165) and that there
were images of the gods in all the temples (id, passim); and that Nebuchadnezzar
worshipped before these images. That Nebuchadnezzar should have made an image
of gold and put it up in the Plain of Dura is entirely in harmony with what we
know of his other "pious deeds."
(3) of the fiery furnace from which the three children were delivered (Daniel 3).
As to "the fiery furnace," it is known that Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, says
that his own brother, Shamash-shumukin, was burned in a similar furnace.
The failure of Nebuchadnezzar to mention any of the particular persons or events
recorded in Daniel does not disprove their historicity, any more than his failure
to mention the battle of Carchemish, or the siege of Tyre and Jerusalem, disproves
them. The fact is, we have no real historical inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, except
one fragment of a few broken lines found in Egypt.
T.G. Pinches, The New Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends
of Assyria and Babylonia; Stephen Langdon, Building Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian
Empire. See also, Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria; and McCurdy, History,
Prophecy and the Monuments, III.
R. Dick Wilson
babylon king, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, chaldean, define, hanging garden (seven wonders of the world), imagined himself a beast, insane, jehoiakim killed, lycanthropy, nebuchadnezzar, nebuchadrezzar, went mad, zedekiah eyes taken out