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Nebuchadnezzar the Great

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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son and successor of Nabopolassar, succeeded to the kingdom of Chaldea, A.M. 3399. Some time previously to this, Nabopolassar had associated him in the kingdom, and sent him to recover Carchemish, which had been conquered from him four years before by Necho, king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, having been successful, marched against the governor of Phenicia, and Jehoiakim, king of Judah, who was tributary to Necho, king of Egypt. He took Jehoiakim, and put him in chains in order to carry him captive to Babylon; but afterward left him in Judea, on condition of paying a large tribute. He took away several persons from Jerusalem; among others Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of the royal family, whom the king of Babylon caused to be carefully instructed in the language and in the learning of the Chaldeans, that they might be employed at court, Daniel , 1. Nabopolassar dying about the end of A.M. 3399, Nebuchadnezzar, who was then either in Egypt or in Judea, hastened to Babylon, leaving to his generals the care of bringing to Chaldea the captives whom he had taken in Syria, Judea, Phenicia, and Egypt; for, according to Berosus, he had subdued all those countries. He distributed these captives into several colonies; and deposited the sacred vessels of the temple of Jerusalem, and other rich spoils in the temple or Belus. Jehoiakim, king of Judah, continued three years, in fealty to King Nebuchadnezzar; but being then weary of paying tribute, he threw off the yoke. The king of Chaldea sent troops of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, who harassed Judea during three of four years, and at last Jehoiakim was besieged and taken in Jerusalem, put to death, and his body thrown to the birds of the air, according to the predictions of Jeremiah. See JEHOIAKIM .

In the mean time, Nebuchadnezzar being at Babylon in the second year of his reign, had a mysterious dream, in which he saw a statue composed of several metals, a head of gold, a breast of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet half of iron and half clay; and a little stone rolling by its own impulse from the mountain struck the statue and broke it. This dream gave him great uneasiness, yet it faded away from his memory, and he could not recover more than the general impression of it. He ordered all his diviners and interpreters of dreams to be sent for; but none could tell him the dream or the interpretation: and, in wrath, he sentenced them all to death, which was about to be put in execution, when Daniel was informed of it. He went immediately to the king, and desired him to respite the sentence a little, and he would endeavour to satisfy his desire. God in the night revealed to him the king's dream, and also the interpretation: "Thou," said Daniel, "art represented by the golden head of the statue. After thee will arise a kingdom inferior to thine, represented by the breast of silver; and after this, another, still inferior, denoted by the belly and thighs of brass. After these three empires," which, are the Chaldeans, Persians, and Greeks, "will arise a fourth, denoted by the legs of iron," the Romans. "Under this last empire God will raise a new one, of greater strength, power, and extent, than all the other. This last is that of the Messiah, represented by the little stone coming out from the mountain and overthrowing the statue." Then the king raised Daniel to great honour, set him over all the wise men of Babylon, and gave him the government of that province. At his request he granted to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the oversight of the works of the same province of Babylon.

In the same year, as Dr. Hales thinks, in which he had this dream, he erected a golden statue, whose height was sixty cubits, and breadth six cubits, in the plains of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Having appointed a day for the dedication of this statue, he assembled the principal officers of his kingdom, and published by a herald, that all should adore this image, at the sound of music, on penalty of being cast into a burning fiery furnace. The result, as to the three Jews, companions of Daniel, who would not bend the knee to the image, is stated in Daniel 3. Daniel probably was absent. The effect of the miracle was so great that Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and he exalted the three Hebrews to great dignity in the province of Babylon, Daniel 4.

Jehoiachin, king of Judah, having revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, this prince besieged him in Jerusalem, and forced him to surrender. Nebuchadnezzar took him, with his chief officers, captive to Babylon, with his mother, his wives, and the best workmen of Jerusalem, to the number of ten thousand men. Among the captives were Mordecai, the uncle of Esther, and Ezekiel the prophet. He took, also, all the vessels of gold which Solomon made for the temple, and the king's treasury, and he set up Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle by his father's side, whom he named Zedekiah. This prince continued faithful to Nebuchadnezzar nine years: being then weary of subjection, he revolted and confederated with the neighbouring princes. The king of Babylon came into Judea, reduced the chief places of the country, and besieged Jerusalem: but Pharaoh-Hophra coming out of Egypt to assist Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar overcame him in battle, and forced him to retire into his own country. After this he returned to the siege of Jerusalem, and was three hundred and ninety days before the place before he could take it. But in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, A.M. 3416, the city was taken. Zedekiah attempted to escape, but was taken and brought to Nebuchadnezzar, who was then at Riblah in Syria. The king of Babylon condemned him to die, caused his children to be put to death in his presence, and then bored out his eyes, loaded him with chains, and sent him to Babylon.

Three years after the Jewish war Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city of Tyre, which siege held thirteen years. But during this interval, he made war, also, on the Sidonians, Moabites, Ammonites, and Idumeans; and these he treated in nearly the same manner as the Jews. Josephus says these wars happened five years after the destruction of Jerusalem, consequently in A.M. 3421. The city of Tyre was taken in A.M. 3432. Ithobaal, who was then king, was put to death, and Baal succeeded him. The Lord, as a reward to the army of Nebuchadnezzar, which had lain so long before Tyre, gave up to them Egypt and its spoils. Nebuchadnezzar made an easy conquest of it, because the Egyptians were divided by civil wars among themselves: he enriched himself with booty, and returned in triumph to Babylon, with a great number of captives. Being now at peace, he applied himself to the adorning, aggrandizing, and enriching of Babylon with magnificent buildings. To him some ascribe those famous gardens, supported by arches, reckoned among the wonders of the world; and also the walls of Babylon, though many give the honour of this work to Semiramis.

About this time Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great tree, loaded with fruit. Suddenly, an angel descending from heaven, commanded that the tree should be cut down, but that the root should be preserved in the earth, Daniel 4. The king sent for all the diviners in the country, but none could explain his dream, till Daniel, by divine revelation, showed that it represented his present greatness, his signal approaching humiliation, and his restoration to reason and dignity. A year after, as Nebuchadnezzar was walking on his palace at Babylon, he began to say, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" and scarcely had he pronounced these words, when he fell into a distemper or distraction, which so altered his imagination that he fled into the fields and assumed the manners of an ox. After having been seven years in this state, God opened his eyes, his understanding was restored to him, and he recovered his royal dignity.

Nebuchadnezzar died, A.M. 3442, after having reigned forty-three years. Megasthenes, quoted by Eusebius, says, that this prince having ascended to the top of his palace, was there seized with a fit of divine enthusiasm, and cried out, "O Babylonians, I declare to you a misfortune, that neither our father Belus, nor Queen Baltis has been able to prevent. A Persian mule shall one day come into this country, who, supported by the power of your gods, shall bring you into slavery. He shall be assisted by the Mede, the glory of the Assyrians." This Persian mule is Cyrus, whose mother was a Mede, and whose father was a Persian. The Mede who assisted Cyrus was Cyaxares, or Darius the Mede. This story at least shows that the Heathens had traditions of an extraordinary kind respecting this monarch, and that the fate of Babylon had been the subject of prophecy.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Nebuchadnezzar the Great'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​n/nebuchadnezzar-the-great.html. 1831-2.
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