(may Nebo protect the crown), was the greatest and most powerful of the Babylonian kings. His name is explained to mean “Nebo is the protector against misfortune.” He was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, the founder of the Babylonian empire. In the lifetime of his father Nebuchadnezzar led an army against Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, and defeated him at Carchemish in a great battle (Jeremiah 46:2-12); recovered Coele-Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine; took Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2); pressed forward to Egypt; and was engaged in that country or upon its borders when intelligence arrived which recalled him hastily to Babylon. Nabopolassar, after reigning twenty-one years, had died, and the throne was vacant. In alarm about the succession Nebuchadnezzar returned to the capital, accompanied only by his light troops, and crossing the desert, probably by way of Tadmor or Palmyra, reached Babylon before any disturbance had arisen and entered peaceably on his kingdom. Within three years of Nebuchadnezzar’s first expedition into Syria and Palestine, disaffection again showed itself in those countries. Jehoiakim, who, although threatened at first with captivity (2 Chronicles 36:6), had been finally maintained on the throne as a Babylonian vassal, after three years of service “turned and rebelled” against his suzerain, probably trusting to be supported by Egypt (2 Kings 24:1). Not long afterward Phoenicia seems to have broken into revolt, and the Chaldean monarch once more took the field in person and marched first of all against Tyre. Having invested that city and left a portion of his army there to continue the siege, he proceeded against Jerusalem, which submitted without a struggle. According to Josephus, who is here our chief authority, Nebuchadnezzar punished Jehoiakim with death (comp. Jeremiah 23:18-19 and Jeremiah 36:30) but placed his son Jehoiachin upon the throne. Jehoiachin reigned only three months, for on his showing symptoms of disaffection Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem for the third time; deposed the son’s prince whom he carried to Babylon, together with a large portion of the population of the city and the chief of the temple treasures); and made his uncle, Zedekiah, king in his room. Tyre still held out, and it was not until the thirteenth year from the time of its first investment that the city of merchants fell. Ere this happened, Jerusalem had been totally destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar had commenced the final siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah—his own seventeenth year—and took it two years later. Zedekiah escaped from the city but was captured near Jericho (Jeremiah 39:5) and brought to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah in the territory of Hamath, where his eyes were put out by the king’s order while his sons and his chief nobles were slain. Nebuchadnezzar then returned to Babylon with Zedekiah, whom he imprisoned for the remainder of his life. The military successes of Nebuchadnezzar cannot be traced minutely beyond this point. It may be gathered from the prophetical scriptures and from Josephus that the conquest of Jerusalem was rapidly followed by the fall of Tyre and the complete submission of Phoenicia (Ezekiel 26-28), after which the Babylonians carried their arms into Egypt and inflicted severe injuries on that fertile country (Jeremiah 46:13-26; Ezekiel 23:2-20). We are told that the first care of Nebuchadnezzar, on obtaining quiet possession of his kingdom after the first Syrian expedition, was to rebuild the temple of Bel (Bel-Merodach) at Babylon out of the spoils of the Syrian war. The next proceeded to strengthen and beautify the city, which he renovated throughout and surrounded with several lines of fortifications, himself adding one entirely new quarter. Having finished the walls and adorned the gates magnificently, he constructed a new palace. In the grounds of this palace he formed the celebrated “hanging garden,” which the Greeks placed among the seven wonders of the world. But he did not confine his efforts to the ornamentation and improvement of his capital. Throughout the empire at Borsippa, Sippara, Cutha, Chilmad, Duraba, Teredon, and a multitude of other places, he built or rebuilt cities, repaired temples, and constructed quays, reservoirs, canals and aqueducts on a scale of grandeur and magnificence surpassing everything of the kind recorded in history unless it be the constructions of one or two of the greatest Egyptian monarchs. The wealth, greatness, and general prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar are strikingly placed before us in the book of Daniel. Toward the close of his reign the glory of Nebuchadnezzar suffered a temporary eclipse. As a punishment for his pride and vanity, that strange form of madness was sent upon him which the Greeks called lycanthropy, wherein the sufferer imagines himself a beast and, quitting the haunts of men, insists on leading the life of a beast (Daniel 4:33). (This strange malady is thought by some to receive illustration from an inscription, and historians place at this period the reign of a queen to whom are ascribed the works which by others are declared to be Nebuchadnezzar’s. Probably his favorite wife was practically at the head of affairs during the malady of her husband. Other historians, Eusebius and Berosus, also confirm the account. See Rawlinson’s “Historical Illustrations.”–ED.) After an interval of four or perhaps seven years (Daniel 4:16) Nebuchadnezzar’s malady left him. We are told that “his reason returned, and for the glory of his kingdom his honor and brightness returned,” and he “was established in his kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to him” (Daniel 4:36). He died at an advanced age (eighty-three or eighty-four), having reigned forty-three years. A son, Evil-merodach, succeeded him.
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866).