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Nebuchadrezzar II

Nebuchadrezzar II, more often called Nebuchadnezzar (c 630-562 BC), was a ruler of Babylon in the Chaldean Dynasty, who reigned c. 605 BC-562 BC. He is mentioned in the Book of Daniel, and he constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He conquered Judah and Jerusalem.

He was traditionally called "Nebuchadnezzar the Great", but his destruction of temples in Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah caused his vilification in the Bible, (Daniel 1:1; Prophesied Jeremiah 25:11). In contemporary Iraq and some other parts of the Middle East, he is glorified as a historic leader.

Name

His name in Akkadian, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, is usually (but mistakenly) interpreted as "O Nabu, defend my kudurru" -- Nabu being the Babylonian deity of wisdom who is the son of the god Marduk. A kudurru is an inscribed stone deed of property, a clay copy of which served as a boundary marker. In an inscription, he styles himself "Nabu's favourite". Contained in a ruler's title, kudurru approximates to "firstborn son" or "oldest son". Due to this, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur actually means "Oh God Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son".

The Hebrew form is נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר (Nəḇuḵadnəṣar or simply Nevuchadnetsar), but can be also found as נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר and נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר (Nəḇuḵadreṣar).

Biography

Nebuchadrezzar II was the second son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Nineveh from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. According to Berossus, he married Amytis of Media, the daughter or granddaughter of Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and thus the Median and Babylonian dynasties were united.

Nabopolassar was intent on conquering from the pharaoh Necho II (who was still hoping to restore Assyrian power) the western provinces of Syria, and to this end dispatched his son with a powerful army westward. In the ensuing Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, the Egyptian army was defeated and driven back, and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the sway of Babylon. Nabopolassar died in August of that year, and Nebuchadrezzar returned home to Babylon to ascend to the throne.

After the defeat of the Cimmerians and Scythians, all of Nebuchadrezzar's expeditions were directed westwards, although a powerful neighbour lay to the North; the cause of this was that a wise political marriage with Amuhia, the daughter of the Median king, had ensured a lasting peace between the two empires.

Nebuchadrezzar engaged in several military campaigns designed to increase Babylonian influence in Syria and Judah. An attempted invasion of Egypt in 601 BC was met with setbacks, however, leading to numerous rebellions among the states of the Levant, including Judah. Nebuchadrezzar soon dealt with these rebellions, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC 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 Judah to Babylon. These events are described in Nevi'im and Ketuvim, sections of Tanakh, and the Hebrew Bible. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadrezzar engaged in a thirteen year long siege of Tyre (585-572 BC), which ended in a compromise, with the Tyrians accepting Babylonian authority.

It would appear that following the pacification of Tyre, Nebuchadrezzar turned again to Egypt. A clay tablet, now in the British Museum, bears the following inscription referring to his wars:

"In the 37th year of Nebuchadrezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Mitzraim (Egypt) to make war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad."

Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and inflicted chastisement on Egypt, Nebuchadrezzar now set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon, and constructed canals, aqueducts, temples and reservoirs.

Babylonian tradition has it that towards the end of his life, Nebuchadrezzar, inspired from on high, prophesied the impending ruin to the Chaldean Empire (Berosus and Abydenus in Eusebius, Praep. Evang., 9.41). Nebuchadrezzar died in Babylon between the second and sixth months of the forty-third year of his reign.

Construction activity

Nebuchadrezzar seems to have prided himself on his constructions more than on his victories. During the last century of Niniveh'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. Nebuchadrezzar, 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. Nor was Nebuchadrezzar's activity 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. In fact, there is scarcely a place around Babylon where his name does not appear and where traces of his activity are not found. These gigantic undertakings required an innumerable host of workmen; from the inscription of the great temple of Marduk, we may infer that most probably captives brought from various parts of Western Asia made up a large part of the labouring force used in all his public works. Nebuchadrezzar made the hanging gardens for his wife Amyitis (or Amytis) to remind her of her homeland, Medis (or Media). She was the daughter (or granddaughter) of King Cyaxares the Mede.

Portrayal in the Books of Daniel and Jeremiah

Nebuchadnezzar is most widely known through his portrayal in the Bible, especially the Book of Daniel as נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר. This book discusses several events of his reign, in addition to his conquest of Jerusalem.

In the second year of his reign (evidently counting from his conquest of the Jews), Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a huge image made of various materials (gold, silver, bronze, iron, etc). The prophet Daniel tells him God's interpretation, that it stands for the rise and fall of world powers. (Daniel Chapter 2)

During another incident, Nebuchadnezzar erects a large idol for worship during a public ceremony on the plain of Dura. When three Jews, 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 an angel [Daniel 3:25, KJV], and emerge unscathed without even the smell of smoke. (Daniel Chapter 3)

Another dream, this time of an immense tree, is interpreted by Daniel the prophet. (Daniel Chapter 4) Chapter 4 is also written by Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.) DAN4:1-2

While boasting over his achievements, Nebuchadrezzar is humbled by God. The king loses his sanity and lives in the wild like an animal for seven years (by some considered as an attack of the madness called clinical boanthropy or alternately porphyria). After this, his sanity and position are restored and he praised and honored God.

A clay tablet in the British Museum (BM34113) describes Nebuchadnezzar's behaviour during his insanity: "His life appeared of no value to him... then he gives an entirely different order... he does not show love to son or daughter... family and clan does not exist. There is also a notable absence of any record of acts or decrees by the king during 582 to 575 BC.

Some scholars think that Nebuchadrezzar's portrayal by Daniel is a mixture of traditions about Nebuchadrezzar — he was indeed the one who conquered Jerusalem — and about Nabonidus (Nabuna'id). 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. Evidence for this view was actually found on some fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls that reference Nabonidus (N-b-n-y) being 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).

Named after Nebuchadnezzar

Notes and references

Notes

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