Nebuchadnezzar II

Nebuchadnezzar II (; English pronunciation: /nɛbəkədˈnɛzər/  ( listen); Arabic: بختنصر c 634 – 562 BC) was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. According to the Bible, he conquered Judah and Jerusalem, and sent the Jews into exile. He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the destruction of the First Temple. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is also mentioned in several other books of the Bible.

The Akkadian name, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means "Oh 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”.[1][2]

The name is often mistakenly interpreted as "O Nabu, defend my kudurru",[3] 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".[4]

The Hebrew form is נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר (Nəḇūḵaḏneṣṣar or Nevuchadnetsar), but is also found as נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר and נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר (Nəḇuḵaḏreṣṣar). The Greek form was Ναβουχοδονόσωρ (Naboukhodonósôr). He is also known as Bakhat Nasar, which means "winner of the fate", or literally, "fate winner".

Contents


Biography

Nebuchadnezzar II was the eldest son, and successor, of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. According to Berossus, some years before he became king of Babylon, he married Amytis of Media, the daughter or granddaughter of Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and thus the Median and Babylonian dynasties were united. There are also conflicting account of Nitocris of Babylon either being his wife or daughter.

Nabopolassar was intent on annexing the western provinces of Syria from Necho II (who was still hoping to restore Assyrian power), and to this end dispatched his son westward with a powerful army. 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 control of Babylon. Nabopolassar died in August of that year, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend to the throne.

After the defeat of the Cimmerians and Scythians, all of Nebuchadnezzar's expeditions were directed westwards, 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 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. Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC and deposing King Jeconiah, 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.[5] 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 (585–572 BC), which ended in a compromise, with the Tyrians accepting Babylonian authority.

Following the pacification of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar turned again to Egypt. A clay tablet,[6] now in the British Museum, states: "In the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, 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 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, Nebuchadnezzar, towards the end of his life, prophesied the impending ruin of the Chaldean Empire (Berossus and Abydenus in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9.41). Nebuchadnezzar 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

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";[7] 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 with the construction of the Hanging Gardens, for his homesick wife Amyitis (or Amytis) to remind her of her homeland, Medis (Media) in Persia.[8] However, some scholars argue that they may have been constructed by a queen from the Assyrian city, Nineveh.[9]

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. The Bible discusses events of his reign and in addition his conquest of Jerusalem.

The second chapter of Daniel relates 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.

In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar erects a large idol made of gold 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 what Nebuchadnezzar describes as "the son of God" (Daniel 3:25) and emerge unscathed without even the smell of smoke.[10]

Daniel chapter 4 contains an account of another of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, this time of an immense tree, which Daniel interprets that Nebuchadnezzar will go insane for seven years because of his pride.

While boasting over 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. There has been some speculation on what the organic cause of this insanity might have been. Some consider it to be an attack of clinical lycanthropy or alternatively porphyria, or an advanced case of syphilis.[11]

Some scholars [12] think that Nebuchadnezzar's portrayal by Daniel is a mixture of traditions about Nebuchadnezzar — 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. Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, written from 150 BC to 70 AD[13] 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), as well as an account of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and looting and destruction of the temple (Jer. 52).

Interpretations of Nebuchadnezzar's actions

Roger Williams, a Baptist minister and founder of Rhode Island, interpreted several passages in the Old and New Testament to support limiting government interference in religious matters. Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution describing his analysis of why a civil government should be separate from religion according to the Bible. Williams believed that Israel was a unique covenant kingdom and not an appropriate model for New Testament Christians who believed that the Old Testament covenant had been fulfilled. Therefore, the more informative Old Testament examples of civil government are kings such as Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan (not one of the covenant kings), who provides an example of a "bad" king that forces his subjects to worship the official state religion or be thrown in the furnace.[14]

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

Named after Nebuchadnezzar

  • The opera Nabucco 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[15] 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;[16] he named one of his Republican Guards divisions after Nebuchadnezzar.[17]
  • A bottle of champagne filled with the volume equivalent of 20 standard bottles (15 litres) is called a Nebuchadnezzar;
  • "Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace" is a type of daylily;
  • In The Matrix film trilogy, the hovercraft captained by Morpheus is named the Nebuchadnezzar
  • The first track from Marcus Roberts' album Deep in the Shed is titled Nebuchadnezzar
  • The character "Mr. Nezzer" from VeggieTales.
  • An object in Evangelion.
  • A card in the Magic The Gathering card game, named "Nebuchadnezzar" from the Legends set
  • Nebakaneza - The Oakland, CA based Dubstep artist.
  • The stoner metal band Sleep (band) has a song named "Nebuchadnezzar's Dream" on their first album, Volume One (Sleep album).
  • The novel written by the fictional author W.P. Mayhew in the Coen brothers' film Barton Fink is entitled Nebuchadnezzar

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Lamb, Harold. 1960. Cyrus the Great. New York: Doubleday, p. 104.
  3. Schrader, Eberhard. 1888. The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament. London: Williams and Norgate, p. 48 (footnote).
  4. Chicago Assyrian Dictionary sub Kudurru Ca5'
  5. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, ch. 6–8
  6. Elgood, Percival George. 1951. Later Dynasties of Egypt. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 106.
  7. 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.
  8. Foster, Karen Polinger (1998). . . New Haven: Yale University. pp. 320–329. http://environment.yale.edu/documents/downloads/0-9/103foster.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  9. "How the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World Work". Stuff You Missed in History Class. 8.04.08
  10. http://www.kjvonly.org/doug/kutilek_son_of_god.htm
  11. Based on descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar's actions and physical traits, psychologist Henry Gleitman claims that Nebuchadnezzar's descent into insanity was a result of syphilis infection. Gleitman believes his odd behavior was actually general paresis or paralytic dementia seen in advanced cases of syphilitic infection. source: Henry Gleitman, Psychology (New York: W W Norton, 2007), 219.
  12. Wolfram von Soden: Eine babylonische Volksüberlieferung von Nabonid in den Danielerzählungen. In: Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 53 (1935), 81–89.
  13. Bruce, F. F. "The Last Thirty Years". Story of the Bible. ed. Frederic G. Kenyon Retrieved June 19, 2007
  14. James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: religious liberty, violent persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002)http://books.google.com/books?id=M4FK-j35yFYC&source=gbs_navlinks_s (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)
  15. Encyclopedia of the Developing World, Edited by Thomas M. Leonard, p.793.
  16. Archeology Under Dictatorship, Michael L. Galaty and Charles Watkinson, p.203.
  17. 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 978-1-5911-4279-9

References