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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Nebuchadnez´zar (Kings, Chronicles, and Daniel; Jeremiah 27; Jeremiah 28;;;; and; written also Nebuchadrezzar, generally in Jeremiah, and in ) was the name of the Chaldean monarch of Babylon by whom Judah was conquered, and the Jews led into their seventy years' captivity. The name of this monarch has been commonly explained to signify the treasure of Nebo, but according to some it signifies Nebo the prince of gods.
The only notices which we have of this monarch in the canonical writings are found in the books of Kings, Chronicles, Daniel, and Ezra, and in the allusions of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
From , and , we gather that in the reign of Josiah (B.C. 610), Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, having approached by sea the coast of Syria, made a friendly application to King Josiah to be allowed a passage through his territories to the dominions of the Assyrian monarch, with whom he was then at war (). The design of Pharaoh-Necho was to seize upon Carchemish (Circesium or Cercusium), a strong post on the Euphrates; but Josiah, who was tributary to the Babylonian monarch, opposed his progress at Megiddo, where he was defeated and mortally wounded [JOSIAH]. Necho marched upon Jerusalem when the Jews became tributary to the king of Egypt. Upon this, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (; , where this monarch's name is for the first time introduced), invaded Judah, retook Carchemish, with the territory which had been wrested from him by Necho, seized upon Jehoiakim, the vassal of Pharaoh-Necho, and reduced him to submission (B.C. 607). Jehoiachim was at first loaded with chains, in order to be led captive to Babylon, but was eventually restored by Nebuchadnezzar to his throne, on condition of paying an annual tribute. Nebuchadnezzar carried off part of the ornaments of the Temple, together with several hostages of distinguished rank, among whom were the youths Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael (Daniel 1). These were educated at court in the language and sciences of the Chaldeans, where they subsequently filled offices of distinction. The sacred vessels were transferred by Nebuchadnezzar to his temple at Babylon (Isaiah 39; ) [BABYLON].
After the conquest of Judea, Nebuchadnezzar turned his attention towards the Egyptians, whom he drove out of Syria, taking possession of all the land between the Euphrates and the river (): which some suppose to mean the Nile, but others a small river in the desert, which was reckoned the boundary between Palestine and Egypt.
The fate of Jerusalem was now rapidly approaching its consummation. After three years of fidelity, Jehoiachim renounced his allegiance to Babylon, and renewed his alliance with Necho, when Nebuchadnezzar sent incursions of Ammonites, Moabites, and Syrians, together with Chaldeans, to harass him. At length, in the eleventh year of his reign, he was made prisoner, and slain (Jeremiah 22) [JEHOIAKIM]. He was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, who, after three months' reign, surrendered himself with his family to Nebuchadnezzar, who had come in person to besiege Jerusalem, in the eighth year of his reign () [JEHOIACHIN]. Upon this occasion all the most distinguished inhabitants, including the artificers, were led captive [CAPTIVITIES]. Among the captives, who amounted to no less than 50,000, were Ezekiel () and Mordecai [ESTHER]. The golden vessels of Solomon were now removed, with the royal treasures, and Mattaniah, the brother of Jehoiachin, placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, who gave him the name of Zedekiah, and bound him by an oath not to enter into an alliance with Egypt. Zedekiah, however, in the ninth year of his reign, formed an alliance with Pharaoh-Hophra, the successor of Necho. Hophra, coming to the assistance of Zedekiah, was driven back into Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, who finally captured Jerusalem in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign (B.C. 588) [ZEDEKIAH]. The Temple, and the whole city, with its towers and walls, were all razed to the ground by Nebuzaradan, Nebuchadnezzar's lieutenant, and the principal remaining inhabitants put to death by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. Jeremiah was, however, spared; and Gedaliah appointed governor. He was shortly after murdered by Ishmael, a member of the royal family, who was himself soon obliged to take refuge among the Ammonites. Many of the remaining Jews fled into Egypt, accompanied by Jeremiah; those who remained were soon after expatriated by Nebuchadnezzar, who depopulated the whole country.
He next undertook the siege of Tyre, and after its destruction proceeded to Egypt, now distracted by internal commotions, and devastated or made himself master of the whole country from Migdol to Syene (according to the reading of the Seventy,; ), transferring many of the inhabitants to the territory beyond the Euphrates.
We have referred to the captivity of the prophet Daniel, and have to turn to the book which bears his name for the history of this prophet, who, from an exile, was destined to become the great protector of his nation. In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, who was found superior in wisdom to the Chaldean magi, was enabled not only to interpret, but to reveal a dream of Nebuchadnezzar's, the very subject of which that monarch had forgotten [DREAMS]. This was the dream of the statue consisting of four different metals, which Daniel interpreted of four successive monarchies, the last of which was to be the reign of the Messiah. Daniel was elevated to be first minister of state, and his three friends were made governors of provinces. The history of these events (; ) is written in the Chaldee language, together with the narrative which immediately follows (Daniel 3), of the golden statue erected by Nebuchadnezzar in the plan of Dura, for refusing to worship which, Daniel's three friends were thrown into a furnace, but miraculously preserved. Daniel 4, also written in Chaldee, contains the singular history of the judgment inflicted on Nebuchadnezzar as a punishment for his pride, and which is narrated in the form of a royal proclamation from the monarch himself giving an account to his people of his affliction and recovery. This affliction had been, by the monarch's account, predicted by Daniel a year before, in the interpretation of his fearful dream of the tree in the midst of the earth. While walking in his palace, and admiring his magnificent works, he uttered, in the plenitude of his pride, the remarkable words recorded in , 'Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?' He had scarce uttered the words, when a voice from heaven proclaimed to him that his kingdom was departed from him; that he should be for seven times (generally supposed to mean years, although some reduce the period to fourteen months) driven from the habitations of men to dwell among the beasts of the field, and made to eat grass as an ox, until he learned 'that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.' The sentence was immediately fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar continued in this melancholy state during the predicted period, at the end of which he was restored to the use of his understanding (). We have no account in Scripture of any of the actions of this monarch's life after the period of his recovery, but the first year of the reign of his successor Evil-merodach is represented as having taken place in the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin, answering to B.C. 562 ().
The difficulties attending the nature of the disease and recovery of Nebuchadnezzar have not escaped the notice of commentators in ancient as well as modern times. Origen supposed that the account of Nebuchadnezzar's metamorphosis was merely a representation of the fall of Lucifer. Bodin maintains that Nebuchadnezzar underwent an actual metamorphosis of soul and body, a similar instance of which is given by Cluvier on the testimony of an eye witness. Tertullian confines the transformation to the body only, but without loss of reason, of which kind of metamorphosis St. Augustine reports some instances said to have taken place in Italy, to which he himself attaches little credit; but Gaspard Peucer asserts that the transformation of men into wolves was very common in Livonia. Some Jewish Rabbins have asserted that the soul of Nebuchadnezzar, by a real transmigration, changed places with that of an ox; while others have supposed not a real, but an apparent or docetic change, of which there is a case recorded in the life of St. Macarius, the parents of a young woman having been persuaded that their daughter had been transformed into a mare. The most generally received opinion, however, is, that Nebuchadnezzar labored under that species of hypochondriacal monomania which leads the patient to fancy himself changed into an animal or other substance, the habits of which he adopts. To this disease of the imagination physicians have given the name of Lycanthropy, Zoanthropy, or Insania Canina [DISEASES OF THE JEWS].
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Nebuchadnezzar'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/n/nebuchadnezzar.html.