Nebuchadnezzar II

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Nabû-kudurri-usur
King of Babylon
Nebukadnessar II.jpg
An engraving on an eye stone of onyx with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II[1]
Reign ca. 605 – 562 BC
Born ca. 634 BC
Died ca. 562 BC
Predecessor Nabopolassar
Successor Amel-Marduk
Father Nabopolassar

Nebuchadnezzar II (Listeni/nɛbjʉkədˈnɛzər/; Aramaic: ܢܵܒܘܼ ܟܘܼܕܘܼܪܝܼ ܐܘܼܨܘܼܪ ‎; Hebrew: נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר Nəḇūḵaḏneṣṣar; Ancient Greek: Ναβουχοδονόσωρ Naboukhodonósôr; Arabic: نِبُوخَذنِصَّر nibūḫaḏniṣṣar; c 634 – 562 BC) was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and for the destruction of the First Temple. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is mentioned in several other books of the Bible.

The Akkadian name, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son". Nabu is the Babylonian deity of wisdom, and son of the god Marduk. In an inscription, Nebuchadnezzar styles himself as Nabu's "beloved" and "favourite".[2][3] His name has previously been mistakenly interpreted as "O Nabu, defend my kudurru",[4] in which sense a kudurru is an inscribed stone deed of property. However, when contained in a ruler's title, kudurru approximates to "firstborn son" or "oldest son".[5] Variations of the Hebrew form include נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר and נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר (Nəḇuḵaḏreṣṣar). He is also known as Bakhat Nasar, which means "winner of the fate", or literally, "fate winner".[citation needed]

Life[edit]

Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its three centuries of vassalage to its fellow Mesopotamian state Assyria, and in alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, laid Nineveh in ruins. According to Berossus, some years before he became king of Babylon, Babylonian dynasties were united. There are conflicting accounts of Nitocris of Babylon being either his wife or daughter.

Nabopolassar was intent on annexing the western provinces of Syria (ancient Aram) from Necho II (whose own dynasty had been installed as vassals of Assyria, and who was still hoping to help restore Assyrian power), and to this end dispatched his son westward with a large army. In the ensuing Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, the Egyptian and Assyrian army was defeated and driven back, and the region of Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the control of Babylon. Nabopolassar died in August that year, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend to the throne.

Nebuchadnezzar faces off against Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, who holds a plan of Jerusalem, in a Baroque era depiction in Zwiefalten Abbey, Germany.

After the defeat of the Cimmerians and Scythians, previous allies in the defeat of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar's expeditions were directed westward, although the powerful Median empire lay to the north. Nebuchadnezzar's political marriage to Amytis of Media, the daughter of the Median king, had ensured peace between the two empires.

Nebuchadnezzar engaged in several military campaigns designed to increase Babylonian influence in Aramea (modern Syria) and Judah. An attempted invasion of Egypt in 601 BC was met with setbacks, however, leading to numerous rebellions among the Phoenician and Canaanite states of the Levant, including Judah. Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC and 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 Judea to Babylon.[6] These events are described in the Prophets (Nevi'im) and Writings (Ketuvim), sections of the Hebrew Bible (in the books 2 Kings and Jeremiah, and 2 Chronicles, respectively). After the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar engaged in a thirteen-year siege of Tyre (circa 586–573) which ended in a compromise, with the Tyrians accepting Babylonian authority.[7][8]

Following the pacification of the Phoenician state of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar turned again to Egypt. A clay tablet,[9] now in the British Museum, states: "In the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Mitzraim (Egypt) to wage war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad." Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and a campaign against Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon, and constructed canals, aqueducts, temples and reservoirs.

According to Babylonian tradition, towards the end of his life, Nebuchadnezzar prophesied the impending ruin of the Chaldean Dynasty (Berossus and Abydenus in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9.41). He died in Babylon between the second and sixth months of the forty-third year of his reign, and was succeeded by Amel-Marduk.

Construction activity[edit]

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 splendour for all mankind to behold in awe."

During the last century of Nineveh'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. Nebuchadnezzar, 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";[10] 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. Nebuchadnezzar's construction activity was not 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. These undertakings required a considerable number of laborers; an inscription at the great temple of Marduk suggests that the labouring force used for his public works was most likely made up of captives brought from various parts of western Asia.

Nebuchadnezzar is credited by Berossus with the construction of the Hanging Gardens, for his homesick wife Amyitis (or Amytis) to remind her of her homeland, Medis (Media) in Persia. He is also credited for the construction of the Ishtar Gate, one of the eight gates leading into the city of Babylon.[11] However, some scholars argue that the Gardens may have been constructed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in his capital city, Nineveh.[12][13]

Portrayal in the Bible[edit]

Daniel Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Nebuchadnezzar is widely known through his portrayal in the Bible, especially the Book of Daniel. The Bible discusses events of his reign and his conquest of Jerusalem. Daniel 2 contains an account attributed to the second year of his reign, in which Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a huge image made of various materials (gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay). The prophet Daniel tells him God's interpretation, that it stands for the rise and fall of world powers, starting with Nebuchadnezzar's own as the golden head.

Daniel 3 is an account of Nebuchadnezzar erecting a large idol made of gold for worship during a public ceremony on the plain of Dura. When three Jews, whose names were 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 what Nebuchadnezzar describes as "a son of the gods" (Daniel 3:25 NIV) and emerge unscathed without even the smell of smoke.[14] Daniel 4 contains an account of Nebuchadnezzar's dream about an immense tree, which Daniel interprets to mean that Nebuchadnezzar will go insane for seven years because of his pride. The chapter is written from the perspective of king Nebuchadnezzar.

Bout of insanity[edit]

Nebuchadnezzar, by William Blake, depicting the king during his bout of insanity

While boasting about his achievements, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God. The king loses his sanity and lives in the wild like an animal for seven years. After this, his sanity and position are restored and he praises and honors God. Theologians have interpreted this story in several ways. Origen attributed the metamorphosis as a representation of the fall of Lucifer, Bodin and Cluvier maintained it was a metamorphosis of both soul and body, Tertullian confined the transformation to the body only, without the loss of reason, cases of which Augustine stated were reported in Italy, but gave them little credit. Gaspard Peucer asserted that the transformation of men into wolves was common in Livonia. Some Jewish Rabbins asserted there was an exchange of souls between the man and ox, while others argued for an apparent or docetic change which was not real. The most generally received opinion, which was also held by Jerome, was that the madman was under the influence of hypochondriachal monomania by which God could humble the pride of kings.[15]

There has been speculation by modern writers that the Biblical account might preserve memories of an illness that had a natural organic cause. Some consider it to have been an attack of clinical lycanthropy or alternatively porphyria.[16] Psychologist Henry Gleitman has claimed that Nebuchadnezzar's insanity was a result of general paresis or paralytic dementia seen in advanced cases of syphilis.[17]

Some scholars [18] think that Nebuchadnezzar's portrayal by Daniel is a mixture of traditions about Nebuchadnezzar and about Nabonidus (Nabuna'id) who became confused with him. 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. Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, written from 150 BC to 70 AD [19] state that it was Nabonidus (N-b-n-y) who was 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),[20] as well as an account of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and looting and destruction of the temple (Jer. 52).

Helel, Son of the Morning[edit]

Chapter 14 of the Book of Isaiah refers to what Jewish exegesis of the prophetic vision of Isaiah 14:12-15 identifies as King Nebuchadnezzar II; the Hebrew text says "Helel ben Shaḥar" ("the shining one, son of the dawn").[21] It is a taunting prophecy against an oppressive king.[22] In Isaiah 14,[23] the king is being mocked, as he is struck through with a sword, killed, and thrown into a common grave. Mainstream Christianity attributes this passage to the fall of Lucifer because verse 20 says that this king will not be joined with the others in burial, but rather be cast out of the grave. "Helel ben Shaḥar" may refer to the Morning Star, but Isaiah gives no indication that Helel is a star.[24]

Portrayal in medieval Muslim sources[edit]

According to Tabari, Nebuchadnezzar, whose Persian name was Bukhtrashah, was of Persian descent, from the progeny of Jūdharz. Some believe he lived as long as 300 years.[25] While much of what is written about Nebuchadnezzar depicts a ruthless warrior, some texts show a ruler who was concerned with both spiritual and moral issues in life and was seeking divine guidance.[26]

Nebuchadnezzar was seen as a strong, conquering force in Islamic texts and historical compilations, like Tabari. The Babylonian leader used force and destruction to grow an empire. He conquered kingdom after kingdom, including Phoenicia, Philistia, Judah, Ammon, Moab, Jerusalem, and more.[27] The most notable events that Tabari’s collection focuses on is the destruction of Jerusalem.[25]

Destruction of Jerusalem[edit]

Nebuchadnezzar was sent from Balkh by Luhrāsb, a Persian ruler, to defeat the Jews in Jerusalem. Some sources believe that Luhrāsb’s son, Bahman, is the one who sent Nebuchadnezzar to exile the Jews from Jerusalem.[28] According to one source in Tabari, at the time Nebuchadnezzar was summoned to defeat Jerusalem, he was finishing a peace agreement with the people of Damascus. Because of this, he sent an officer to ease the tension in Jerusalem and create a peace treaty. The officer successfully met with the king of Jerusalem and made a peace treaty. As was custom for the Babylonians, the officer took hostages with him as and began the return journey to Nebuchadnezzar. When the officer reached Tiberias, he heard that the Israelites had revolted against their king and killed him because the king had given the Babylonians hostages. The hostages were then beheaded and Nebuchadnezzar made his way to Jerusalem. Most of the sources agree that Nebuchadnezzar was sent to Jerusalem by God to punish the Jews for their sinful behavior.[citation needed]

After Nebuchadnezzar ravaged the town, killing and enslaving the people, he came upon the prophet Jeremiah in a prison. He had been jailed for about three years because God told him what Nebuchadnezzar would do to Jerusalem. He tried to warn the Israelites and told them to repent, but they jailed him instead. God sent an angel to ask Jeremiah if the Israelites must be destroyed and Jeremiah agrees, beginning the attack by Nebuchadnezzar. When Jeremiah reveals all of this to Nebuchadnezzar, he replies, “Wretched people, they defied their Lord’s messenger” 10. He then released Jeremiah. This encounter gives evidence that there were still many different gods being worshipped, as Nebuchadnezzar does not refer to God as his own god, and displays a sort of interfaith understanding between religions. Nebuchadnezzar does not worship the god of the Bible but Marduk, a Babylonian god most often related to judgement.[25][29] Nebuchadnezzar has respect for Jeremiah and his beliefs[28] that allows Jeremiah to be an ally and help Nebuchadnezzar with policy.[30]

Nebuchadnezzar then goes on to attack Egypt. After releasing Jeremiah from prison, the remaining Israelites apologized to Jeremiah but still do not listen to him when he tells them to stay in Jerusalem. They instead flee to Egypt, where the king takes them in even after Nebuchadnezzar has asked that they be returned. Nebuchadnezzar then conquers Egypt and moves further north in Africa before returning home with treasures and hoards of slaves. Nebuchadnezzar’s victories display the period of growth that Babylonians were experiencing. Every new victory resulted in a further accumulation of wealth and prisoners of war, both of which were used to strengthen the empire even more. It is also suggested that Nebuchadnezzar took royals hostage but treated them well so that when they were released, they would be supportive and complimentary of the Babylonian Empire.[31]

After Nebuchadnezzar leaves, there is a disconnect between the sources. One says that Jeremiah speaks to God, who tells him that the city will be rebuilt. He then puts Jeremiah to sleep for a hundred years. The Israelites return and begin to rebuild the city and then God wakes Jeremiah from his slumber.[25]

Other sources say that Nebuchadnezzar puts Zedekiah in power. Jeremiah provides support and counsel to Zedekiah for the two years he is in charge because Zedekiah knows that the city is doomed.[32] Jeremiah stays by his side, realizing that it is better to be Babylon’s ally than enemy. After ruling for two years, Zedekiah tried to make an alliance with Egypt, leading to his demise.[33] Nebuchadnezzar puts an end to the alliance and the cities.

Some accounts say that Bahman took over after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, eventually passing off the power to Cyrus. These accounts do not say a lot about Nebuchadnezzar or make him seem as powerful.

Yet another source say that God let Nebuchadnezzar rule as long as he wanted. Near the end of his reign, and life, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream but he cannot remember it when he awakes. He calls Daniel to pray and talk to God to figure out what he had dreamed. He comes back and tells Nebuchadnezzar about his dream: He saw a statue, made up of many different materials. The feet were formed out of clay and the materials got stronger and stronger the higher they were on the body, with the head and neck being made from iron. These different substances symbolized the different reigns of rulers. Then, a rock was sent down from heaven and smashed the statue. This was meant to symbolize God sending a prophet to smash the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.[34] Soon after this, Nebuchadnezzar addressed the Israelites. He talked about how powerful he was, so powerful that he had destroyed God’s house and people and that when he died, he would take over God’s kingdom. God, having heard this, pitied his people. He allowed them to return to Judea and multiply. One of the captives, Ezra, was distraught about the fact that the Israelites’ scripture had been destroyed with the temple. God returns the scripture to him and his people[35] and the Israelites live on under their own leadership.

Sources[edit]

While researchers rely mostly on firsthand accounts to learn about Nebuchadnezzar, that is not the only way they can get information. Much of the autobiographical information collected by historians about Nebuchadnezzar is taken from inscriptions on buildings that were erected during the rebuilding of Babylon.[36]

Nebuchadnezzar in fiction[edit]

Voltaire interprets the legacy of Nebuchadnezzar and his relationship with Amasis in a short story entitled The White Bull.

Named after Nebuchadnezzar[edit]

  • The opera Nabucco (1842) by Giuseppe Verdi.
  • The Nabucco pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.
  • Saddam Hussein considered himself to be the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar[37] and had the inscription "To King Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Saddam Hussein" inscribed on bricks inserted into the walls of the ancient city of Babylon during a reconstruction project he initiated;[38] he named one of his Republican Guards divisions after Nebuchadnezzar.[39]
  • A bottle of wine with a volume equivalent to 20 standard bottles (15 litres) is called a Nebuchadnezzar.
  • "Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace" is a type of daylily.
  • The name of Morpheus' vessel in the films The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded.
  • Nebuchadnezzar II is a playable character in Civilization V.
  • Nebuchadnezzar II is mentioned in the Microsoft computer game Age of Empires in the eighth Babylon campaign "Nineveh" in the history section and after the campaign is won.
  • Nebuchadnezzar is a card in Magic: The Gathering.[40]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Anton Nyström, Allmän kulturhistoria eller det mänskliga lifvet i dess utveckling, bd 2 (1901)
  2. ^ Harper, R. F. quoted in Peet, Stephen Denison (editor). 1900. “Editorial Notes,” The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal. New York: Doubleday, vol. XXII, May and June, p. 207.
  3. ^ Lamb, Harold. 1960. Cyrus the Great. New York: Doubleday, p. 104.
  4. ^ Schrader, Eberhard. 1888. The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament. London: Williams and Norgate, p. 48 (footnote).
  5. ^ Chicago Assyrian Dictionary sub Kudurru Ca5'
  6. ^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, ch. 6–8.
  7. ^ Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, ed. (2012). Unlock the Bible: Keys to Exploring the Culture and Times. Thomas Nelson. p. 347. ISBN 1418547263. 
  8. ^ Allen, Leslie C. (2008). Jeremiah: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 472. ISBN 978-0664222239. 
  9. ^ Elgood, Percival George. 1951. Later Dynasties of Egypt. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, p. 106.
  10. ^ Smith, William and Fuller, J.M. 1893. A Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History. London: John Murray, vol. I, p. 314.
  11. ^ Foster, Karen Polinger (1998). "Gardens of Eden: Flora and Fauna in the Ancient Near East". Transformations of Middle Eastern Natural Environments: Legacies and Lessons. New Haven: Yale University. pp. 320–329. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  12. ^ Dalley, Stephanie, (2013) The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: an elusive world Wonder traced, OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-966226-5
  13. ^ Rollinger, Robert, (2103) "Berossos and the Monuments" p155, ed J Haubold et al, The World of Berossos Harrassowitz ISBN 978-3-447-06728
  14. ^ Kjvonly.org
  15. ^ Samuel Fallows, The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopaedia and Scriptural Dictionary The Howard-Severance Company (1920) Vol.2 p.302
  16. ^ Kroeger, Catherine Clark; Evans, Mary J. (2009). The Women's Study Bible: New Living Translation (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-529125-4. 
  17. ^ Henry Gleitman, Psychology (New York: W W Norton, 2007), 219.
  18. ^ Wolfram von Soden: "Eine babylonische Volksüberlieferung von Nabonid in den Danielerzählungen". In: Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 53 (1935), pp. 81–89.
  19. ^ Bruce, F. F. "The Last Thirty Years". Story of the Bible. ed. Frederic G. Kenyon. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
  20. ^ Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part I, John Calvin, translated by John King, Forgotten Books, 2007, p. 168.
  21. ^ "ASTRONOMY - Helel, Son of the Morning.". The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  22. ^ Wilken, Robert (2007). Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Grand Rapids MI: Wm Eerdmans Publishing. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8028-2581-0. 
  23. ^ "Bible". 
  24. ^ Gunkel, "Schöpfung und Chaos," pp. 132 et seq.
  25. ^ a b c d Ṭabarī, Muḥammad Ibn-Ǧarīr Aṭ- (1987). The History of Al-Tabarī. State Univ. of New York Pr. pp. 43–70. 
  26. ^ Wiseman, D.J. (1985). Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon. Oxford. 
  27. ^ Tabouis, G.R. (1931). Nebuchadnezzar. Whittlesey House. p. 3. 
  28. ^ a b Calkins, Raymond (1930). Jeremiah the Prophet: A Study in Personal Religion. New York: Macmillan. 
  29. ^ Tabouis, G.R. (1931). Nebuchadnezzr. New York: Whittlesey House. p. 130. 
  30. ^ Gordon, T. Crouther (1932). The Rebel Prophet: Studies in the Personality of Jeremiah. New York and London: Harper and Bros. p. 65. 
  31. ^ Wiseman, D.J. (1985). Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon. Oxford: Oxford UP. pp. 81–84. 
  32. ^ Gordon, T. Crouther (1932). The Rebel Prophet: Studies in the Personality of Jeremiah. New York and London: Harper and Bros. p. 117. 
  33. ^ Tabouis, G.R. (1931). Nebuchadnezzar. New York: Whittlesey House. pp. 130–166. 
  34. ^ Redditt, Paul L. (1999). Daniel: Based on the New Revised Standard Version. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic. pp. 49–63. 
  35. ^ Grabbe, Lester L. (1998). Ezra-Nehemiah. London: Routledge. pp. 143–153. 
  36. ^ Wiseman, D.J. (1985). Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 42. 
  37. ^ Encyclopedia of the Developing World, edited by Thomas M. Leonard, p. 793.
  38. ^ Archeology Under Dictatorship, Michael L. Galaty and Charles Watkinson, p. 203.
  39. ^ Fontenot, Gregory; Degen, E. J.; Tohn, David. 2005. On point: the United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, p. 263. ISBN 978-1-59114-279-9
  40. ^ http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=201212

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Nabopolassar
King of Babylon
605 BC – 562 BC
Succeeded by
Amel-Marduk