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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, 2; Jeremiah 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 life.
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; Ezekiel 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 (Daniel 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. (3:2, 3, 27). 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 DANIEL.)
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.
Nebuchadrezzar, tears and groans of judgment
Called also Nebuchadrezzar.
King of Babylon
An instrument of God's judgments
(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 1:1,2) 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 23:18,19) 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 son's 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 king's order while his sons and his chief nobles were slain. 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 Nebuchadnezzar's. 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 Rawlinson's "Historical Illustrations."
ED.) After an interval of four or perhaps seven years, (Daniel 4:16) Nebuchadnezzar's 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 him.