Nebuchadnezzar II

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Nebukadnessar II.jpg
An engraving with a royal inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II. Anton Nyström, 1901.[1]
King of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
Reignc. 605 – c. 562 BC
Bornc. 634 BC
Diedc. 562 BC (aged 71–72)
SpouseAmytis of Media

Nebuchadnezzar II (/ˌnɛbjʊkədˈnɛzər/), also Nebuchadrezzar II[a] (Akkadian: 𒀭𒀝𒆪𒁺𒌨𒊑𒋀dNabû-kudurri-uṣur, meaning "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son"; Biblical Hebrew: נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּרNəḇūḵaḏreʾṣṣar[b] or נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּרNəḇūḵaḏneʾṣṣar;[c] Biblical Aramaic: נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּרNəḇūḵaḏneṣṣar[d]), king of Babylon c.  605 BC – c. 562 BC, was the longest-reigning and most powerful monarch of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[2][3]

His father Nabopolassar was an official of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who rebelled in 626 BC and established himself as the king of Babylon.[4][5] Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne in 605 BC and subsequently fought several campaigns in the West, where Egypt was trying to organize a coalition against him. His conquest of Judah is described in the Bible's Books of Kings, Books of Chronicles and Book of Jeremiah.[6] His capital, Babylon, is the largest archaeological site in the Middle East.[7]

The Bible remembers him as the destroyer of Solomon's Temple and the initiator of the Babylonian captivity. He is an important character in the Book of Daniel, a collection of legendary tales and visions dating from the 2nd century BC.[8]

Giuseppe Verdi's opera Nabucco was inspired by him. He is presented (at the start) as brutal, hawkish and despotic.


In 605 BCE, an Egyptian force under Psamtik I fought the Babylonians at Battle of Carchemish, helped by the remnants of the army of the former Assyria, but this met with defeat.
Building Inscription of King Nebuchadnezar II at the Ishtar Gate. An abridged excerpt says: "I (Nebuchadnezzar) laid the foundation of the gates down to the ground water level and had them built out of pure blue stone. Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate are bulls and dragons and thus I magnificently adorned them with luxurious splendor for all mankind to behold in awe."
Detail of a terracotta cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar II, recording the building and reconstruction works at Babylon. 604–562 BC. From Babylon, Iraq, housed in the British Museum (BM 85975).[9]

Nebuchadnezzar was the eldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, an Assyrian official who rebelled against the Assyrian Empire and established himself as the king of Babylon in 620 BC.[4][5] Nebuchadnezzar is first mentioned in 607 BC, during the destruction of Babylon's arch-enemy Assyria, at which point he was already crown prince.[10] In 605 BC he and his ally Cyaxares, ruler of the Medes, led an army against the Assyrians and Egyptians, who were then occupying Syria, and in the ensuing Battle of Carchemish, Pharaoh Necho II was defeated and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the control of Babylon.[11] Nabopolassar died in August 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend the throne.[12] For the next few years, his attention was devoted to subduing his eastern and northern borders, and in 595/4 BC there was a serious but brief rebellion in Babylon itself.[13] In 594/3 BC, the army was sent again to the west, possibly in reaction to the elevation of Psamtik II to the throne of Egypt.[13] During the Siege of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezar captured King Jehoiachin along with prominent citizens and craftsman and appointed Zedekiah as King of Judah in his place, the latter rebelled and attempted to organize opposition among the small states in the region but his capital, Jerusalem, was taken in 587 BC (the events are described in the Bible's Books of Kings and Book of Jeremiah).[6] In the following years, Nebuchadnezzar incorporated Phoenicia and the former Assyrian provinces of Cilicia (southwestern Anatolia) into his empire and may have campaigned in Egypt.[14] According to a Babylonian poem, Nebuchadnezzar began behaving irrationally in his final years, "pay[ing] no heed to son or daughter," and was deeply suspicious of his sons.[15] The kings who came after him ruled only briefly and Nabonidus, apparently not of the royal family, was overthrown by the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great less than twenty-five years after Nebuchadnezzar's death.

The ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon are spread over two thousand acres, forming the largest archaeological site in the Middle East.[7] He enlarged the royal palace (including in it a public museum, possibly the world's first), built and repaired temples, built a bridge over the Euphrates, and constructed a grand processional boulevard (the Processional Way) and gateway (the Ishtar Gate) lavishly decorated with glazed brick.[16] Each spring equinox (the start of the New Year), a statue of the god Marduk was paraded from its temple to a temple outside the walls, returning through the Ishtar Gate and down the Processional Way, paved with colored stone and lined with molded lions, amidst rejoicing crowds.[15]

Portrayal in the Bible[edit]

Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream
The only contemporary illustration of the Tower of Babel (in front of king Nebuchadnezzar II).[17]
Nebuchadnezzar II bronze step inscription

The Babylonian king's two sieges of Jerusalem (in 597 and 587 BC) are depicted in 2 Kings 24–25. The Book of Jeremiah calls Nebuchadnezzar the "destroyer of nations" (Jeremiah 4:7) and gives an account of the second siege of Jerusalem (587 BC) and the looting and destruction of the First Temple (Book of Jeremiah 39:1–10; 52:1–30). Nebuchadnezzar's assault on Egypt four months before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 [18] is represented in Ezekiel as a divine initiative undertaken "by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon".[19]

Nebuchadnezzar is an important character in the Old Testament Book of Daniel.[8] Daniel 1 introduces Nebuchadnezzar as the king who takes Daniel and other Hebrew youths into captivity in Babylon, to be trained in "the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans". In Nebuchadnezzar's second year, Daniel interprets the king's dream of a huge image as God's prediction of the rise and fall of world powers, starting with Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom (Daniel 2). Nebuchadnezzar twice admits the power of the God of the Hebrews: first, after God saves three of Daniel's companions from a fiery furnace (Daniel 3); and secondly, after Nebuchadnezzar himself suffers a humiliating period of madness, as Daniel predicted (Daniel 4).

The consensus among critical scholars is that the book of Daniel is historical fiction.[20][21][22] Nebuchadnezzar's recognition of the power of Yahweh is unlikely to have actually occurred.[23] His period of madness is also fictional, historians attributing it to rumors about Nabonidus's stay in Teima (or Tayma), which were subsequently applied to Nebuchadnezzar through conflation.[24]

His name is often recorded in the Bible as "Nebuchadrezzar" (in Ezekiel and parts of Jeremiah[e]), but more commonly as "Nebuchadnezzar". The form Nebuchadrezzar is more consistent with the original Akkadian, and some scholars believe that Nebuchadnezzar may be a derogatory pun used by the Israelites, meaning "Nabu, protect my jackass".[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In some passages of the Bible, the name is given, mistakenly, with an "n" in place of the "r," as Nebuchadnezzar." Asimov, I. (1968) The Near East, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., p. 62
  2. ^ In Jeremiah 49:28 only, the Hebrew name is נְבוּכַדְרֶאצּוֹר, with צּוֹ instead of צַּ.
  3. ^ This is the Hebrew spelling in 13 cases; in 13 other cases, the Hebrew spelling is one of the following:

    נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּר − with בֻ instead of בוּ.
    In 2 Kings 24:1&10 and 25:1&8, 1 Chronicles 5:41 (a.k.a. 6:15), and Jeremiah 28:11&14.

    נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר – without א, like the usual Aramaic spelling.
    In Ezra 1:7 and Nehemiah 7:6.

    נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר – with בֻ instead of בוּ and without א, like the Aramaic spelling used in Daniel 3:14, 5:11, and 5:18.
    In Daniel 1:18 and 2:1.

    נְבוּכַדְנֶצּוֹר – without א and with צּוֹ instead of צַּ, cf. note a.
    In Ezra 2:1.

    נְבוּכַדנֶאצַּר – without the shva quiescens.
    In Jeremiah 28:3.

  4. ^ In Daniel 3:14, 5:11, and 5:18 only, the Aramaic name is נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר, with בֻ instead of בוּ.
  5. ^ In Jeremiah, the name is written with n from 27:6 to 29:3, otherwise with r (21:2–25:9 and 29:21–52:30).


  1. ^ Anton Nyström, Allmän kulturhistoria eller det mänskliga lifvet i dess utveckling, bd 2 (1901)
  2. ^ Freedman 2000, p. 953.
  3. ^ "Nebuchadnezzar II". Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Bertman 2005, p. 95.
  5. ^ a b Oates 1997, p. 162.
  6. ^ a b Wiseman 1991a, p. 233–234.
  7. ^ a b Arnold 2005, p. 96.
  8. ^ a b Collins 2002, p. 2.
  9. ^ "Cylinder BM 85975 British Museum". The British Museum.
  10. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 182.
  11. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 182–183.
  12. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 183.
  13. ^ a b Wiseman 1991a, p. 233.
  14. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 235–236.
  15. ^ a b Foster 2009, p. 131.
  16. ^ Bertman 2005, p. 96.
  17. ^ "MS 2063 - The Schoyen Collection".
  18. ^ Davidson, A. B. (1893), Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Ezekiel 30, accessed 21 December 2019
  19. ^ Ezekiel 30:10
  20. ^ Collins 1999, p. 219.
  21. ^ Redditt 2008, p. 180.
  22. ^ Collins 1984, p. 41: "Conversely, most critical scholars take for granted that the genre is not History."
  23. ^ Smith-Christopher, D.L. (1996). "The Book of Daniel". In Keck, Leander E. (ed.). The New Interpreter's Bible : general articles & introduction, commentary, & reflections for each book of the Bible, including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books. 7. p. 19–152. ISBN 9780687278206. OCLC 30663880. apud Collins, J.J.; Flint, Peter W. (15 December 2000). The Book of Daniel, Volume 1 Composition and Reception. BRILL. p. 11. ISBN 978-90-04-27608-6.
  24. ^ Henze, M. H. (1999). The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar: The Ancient Near Eastern Origins and Early History of Interpretation of Daniel 4. BRILL. p. 63. ISBN 978-90-04-11421-0.
  25. ^ Hayim Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew, p. 461.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
King of Babylon
605 BC – 562 BC
Succeeded by