Nebuchadrezzar II

In the Bible, Nebuchadrezzar II (c. 630–c. 561 BC) was portrayed as a tyrannical king who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the first temple, and forced the Jews into exile in Babylon. The Book of Jeremiah describes the devastation in stark metaphors.

Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.

One of the principal villains of the Old Testament, Nebuchadrezzar earned the animosity of the Jews by defeating the Judaean king Jehoiakim in 598 BC and then attempting to erase Judaism by kidnapping thousands of Israelites and deporting them to his capital city—a period of time in biblical history that would become known as the Babylonian Captivity.

In secular history, however, the portrait of Nebuchadrezzar is more nuanced. In addition to his military conquests, which stretched from Egypt to modern-day Turkey, the king is thought to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a massive feat of engineering that was one of the SevenWonders of the Ancient World. The landmark, possibly constructed as a gift to Nebuchadrezzar’s wife, was a series of terraced gardens connected by an artificial irrigation system. Although the gardens were later destroyed in an earthquake and no trace of them remains, they were thought to be located south of modern-day Baghdad.

The biblical narrative suggests that Nebuchadrezzar went insane near the end of his life. He was “driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” He died in about
561 BC.

ADDITIONAL FACTS

  1. According to legend, Nebuchadrezzar built the Hanging Gardens because his wife, a Median princess, was homesick for the gardens and forests of her native country.
  2. In the 1999 film The Matrix, the aircraft piloted by Morpheus—played by Laurence Fishburne (1961–)—is called The Nebuchadnezzar, an alternate spelling of the king’s name.
  3. The name Nebuchadrezzar comes from the Akkadian words Nabu-kudurri-usur, meaning “Nebo, watch over my heir.” Although once widespread in the Middle East, Akkadian had disappeared by AD 1
 
 
 

Share this Post