Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon

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Reigned Sept. 7, 605, to 562 b.c. On the 1st of Elul, upon the death of his father, Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar II ascended the throne of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The spelling of his name as Nabuchodonosor in the Vulgate and Douai Version has its basis in the Septuagint spelling, Ναβουχοδονοσόρ, which has the vowels of the original name approximately correct but incorrectly has an "n" for an "r" as the third last consonant. The original Akkadian name is Nabū-kuduruur [O Nabu, protect the border (or, the heir?)]. (see nebo (nabu).) The Hebrew Masoretic Text has the name either as n ebukadrer (so usually in Jeremiah) or less correctly as n ebukadneer (so elsewhere).

The Old Testament and several ancient historians, such as Josephus, mention Nebuchadnezzar, as do many dedicatory inscriptions of his buildings; but the details of his reign were unknown until the recent publication of the Babylonian Chronicle by the British Museum. In 608607 b.c., Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar (then Crown Prince) led the Babylonian forces against the mountainous country north of northwestern Mesopotamia. The next year saw another Babylonian invasion of southern Armenia and of the cities in the vicinity of Carchemish, the city on the Euphrates where Pharao neco had established himself after defeating King Josiah of Judah at megiddo (see 2 Kgs 23.29) and invading Syria. In the late spring of 605, after Nabopolassar had returned to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Neco at Carchemish and again at Hamath on the Orontes. Just as Syria lay open to the Babylonian advance, Nabopolassar died in Babylon on the 8th of Ab (August 15), and Nebuchadnezzar returned to the capital city. The following year he was back in Syria, where he subdued Ashkelon and began to make inroads into Judah. An unsuccessful invasion of Egypt in late 601 forced Nebuchadnezzar to return to Babylon to recoup his strength.

At this point King Joachim of Judah (609598), who had paid tribute to Babylon for three years, rebelled and thus committed a fatal error. After conquering northern Arabia, the Babylonians advanced against Jerusalem in 598597. Joachim died soon after the siege began, and his 18-year-old son, Joachin, inherited the crown. After three months Jerusalem fell (March 16, 597), and its new king was taken to Babylon. Joachim's brother Sedecia was elevated to the throne by Nebuchadnezzar. His ten-year reign (597587) was marked by continual agitation and sedition. By 589, inflamed with fierce patriotism and bolstered by promises of Egyptian support, Judah had pushed itself into open and irrevocable revolt. Nebuchadnezzar immediately reacted and besieged Jerusalem in late 588 or early 587. On the 9th of Tammuz (July 30), 587, the city fell. Shortly afterward, it was completely destroyed, and its inhabitants were deported to Babylonia. Judah was organized into the provincial system of the empire, and its population of poor peasants was governed by Godolia (Gedalia), a former chief minister of Sedecia.

Although there is a gap in the Babylonian Chronicle extending from the 11th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign (594593) to the 3d year of Neriglissar's (557556), it is known from an inscription that Nebuchadnezzar led his armies in an unsuccessful invasion of Egypt in 568. Nebuchadnezzar's long reign saw Babylonia rise to its zenith as a world power. Temples, public buildings, palaces, and canals were built not only in Babylonia itself, but in the other cities of the realm. The German archeologists of the "Deutsch-Orient Gesellschaft," headed by Dr. R. Koldewey, began excavating the site of the city of babylon in 1899. The careful method employed yielded the ruins of the city that was once the capital of a world empire. After a reign of 43 years, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach. No historical value is to be attached to the Nebuchadnezzar of the Book of Daniel or that of Judith.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York 1963) 159598. m. leibovici, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 6:286291. f. gÖssmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 7:861862. d. j. wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings, 626556 B.C., in the British Museum (London 1956). w. f. albright, "The Nebuchadnezzar and Neriglissar Chronicles," The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 143 (1956) 2833. d. n. freedman, "The Babylonian Chronicle," The Biblical Archaeologist 19 (1956) 5060. j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959) 304311, 324326. m. noth, The History of Israel, tr. p. r. ackroyd (2d ed. New York 1960) 280294.

[d. l. magnetti]

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Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon

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