Nebuchadnezzar II

CODEX Entry 5145: Nebuchadnezzar II


Nebuchadnezzar II was born in c. 634 BCE. His name means “Nabu, Preserve My First-Born Son”. He was indeed the eldest son of a Babylonian general in the Assyrian army, Nabopolassar, “Nabu, Protect My Son”. In 627 BCE, the Assyrians sent two of their representatives to take charge of Babylon, but Nabopolassar sent them back home, crowning himself king in 626 BCE. For the next ten years of Nebuchadnezzar’s childhood, his father fought the Assyrians. In 615 BCE, Nabopolassar entered an alliance with Cyaxares, King of the Medes, and confirmed it with the marriage of Nebuchadnezzar to Cyaxares’ daughter Amytis. In 612 BCE, the city of Nineveh fell to the Babylonian-Mede coalition marking the end of the Assyrian Empire. The last Assyrian king, Ashur-uballit formed an alliance with the Egyptians under pharaoh Necho II, but he was defeated in battle by Nebuchadnezzar II, now 29 years old. Nebuchadnezzar returned, hearing of his father’s death, feted as a war hero and was crowned king in 604 BCE.

Nebuchadnezzar held a Bakhat Nazar at which some Jews were accused of worshipping other Gods and not honoring his name¹. Nebuchadnezzar began a terrible siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC². Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem’s walls, and King Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape, but were captured on the plains of Jericho. There, after seeing his sons killed, Zedekiah was blinded, and taken to prison in Babylon, along with most of Jerusalem’s leading citizens, in what was called the Babyloian Exile³. After the fall of Jerusalem, general Nebuzaraddan was sent to complete the plunder, destroy Solomon’s Temple, and then razed the city to the ground. Only a few people were allowed to remain to tend the land4. Others, in the chaos that followed, fled back to Egypt for safety5.

Nebuchadnezzar engaged in numerous monumental building projects which renovated many of his cities completely, particularly Babylon. Babylon was the home of the god Marduk. By 600 BCE, Babylon was so impressive it was considered the center of the world. The creation of the Processional Way was for the Festival of Marduk during which the god was paraded from the temple out beyond the gates. This road was 21 metres wide and ran from the temple complex out through the Ishtar Gate in the north, a distance of nearly a kilometer, with 15 metre walls decorated on the inside with golden animals on either side.

He died peacefully in the city he had built after a reign of 43 years but just 25 years later, the city fell to Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, and later efforts to restore it by Alexander the Great never elevated it to the heights it had known under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II.




¹ Dan. 5
² 2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 9
³ 2 Kings 25:1–7; 2 Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 32:4–5; 34:2–3; 39:1–7; 52:4–11
4 Jeremiah 52:16
5 2 Kings 25:25–26, Jeremiah 43:5–7