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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. and Chald. Nebukadnetstsar', נְבוּכִדְנֶאצִּר, 2 Kings 25:22; 2 Chronicles 36:6; Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:3; Jeremiah 29:1; Jeremiah 29:3; Jeremiah 34:1; Jeremiah 39:5; Daniel 1:1; also in the shorter forms, נְבֻכִדְנֶאצִּר , 2 Kings 24:1; 2 Kings 24:10-11; 2 Kings 25:1; 2 Kings 25:8; 1 Chronicles 6:15; Jeremiah 28:11; Jeremiah 28:14; Daniel 1:18; Daniel 2:1; נְבוּכִדְנֶצִּר, the usual form; and נְבֻכִדְנֶצִּר, = Daniel 4:37; Daniel 5:18; Sept. Ναβουχοδονόσορ), or (in Jeremiah and Ezekiel only, but in them always except the passages noted above) NEBUCHADREZZAR (See NEBUCHADNEZZAR) (q.v.) (which Hitzig [Jerem. page 191] rightly considers the original form), called by Berosus (ap. Josephum), Ναβουχοδονόσορος; by Abydenus (ap. Eusebium, Prcep. Evang.), Ναβουδρόσορος ; and by Strabo, the only writer among the Greeks by whom he is named (15:687), Ναυκοοκοδρόσορος, besides Ναβοκολάσαρος , which appears in the Canon of Ptolemy. This name, Nabuchodonosor, has passed from the Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate, and into the authorized English version of the books of Judith and Tobit. This monarch was the greatest and most powerful of the Babylonian kings. His name, according to the native orthography, is read as Nabukuduri- utsur, and is explained to mean "Nebo (q.v.) is the protector against misfortune," kuduri being connected with the Hebrew כַּידוֹר, "trouble" or "attack," and utsur being a participle from the root נָצִר, "to protect." (According to others, the middle term kudur is connected with the Perso- Greek κἐδαρις, "a crown;" Oppert refers it to an Arabic kudur, "a young man;" while Sir H. Rawlinson thinks it means "a landmark.'") The rarer Hebrew form, used by Jeremiah and Ezekiel — Nebuchadrezzar is thus very close indeed to the original. The Persian form, Nabukudrachara (Beh. Inscr. Colossians 1, par. 16), is less correct. This (also written Nabokhodrossor) is supposed to be the assumed name of one of the rebels subdued by Darius Hystaspis. It is there easily read, being transcribed in another column, and hence is readily recognised elsewhere when found in the pure Babylonian writing, as it often is on bricks and fragments from the ruins near Hillah (Lavard, Nineveh, 2:141).
1. Nebuchadnezzar was the son and successor of Nabopolassar, the founder of the Babylonian empire. (See No. 5 below.) He appears to have been of marriageable age at the time of his father's rebellion against Assyria, B.C. 625; for, according to Abydenus (ap. Euseb. Chron. Song of Solomon 1:9), the alliance between this prince and the Median king was cemented by the betrothal of Amuhia, the daughter of the latter, to Nebuchadnezzar, Nabopolassar's son. Little further is known of him during his father's lifetime. It is suspected, rather than proved, that he was the leader of a Babylonian contingent which accompanied Cyaxares in his Lydian war, (See MEDES), by whose interposition, on the occasion of an eclipse, that war was brought to a close, B.C. 610. (Herodotus terms this leader Labynetus [1:74]; a word which does not rightly render the Babylonian Nabukuduriuzur, but does render another Babylonian name Nabu-nahit. Nabopolassar may have had a son of this name; or the Labynetus of Herod. 1:74 may be Nabopolassar himself.) At any rate, a few years later, he was placed at the head of a Babylonian army, and sent by his father, who was now old and infirm, to chastise the insolence of Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt. This prince had recently invaded Syria, defeated Josiah, king ofJudah, at Megiddo, and reduced the whole tract, from Egypt to Carchemish on the upper Euphrates, (See CARCHEMISH), which in the partition of the Assyrian territories on the destruction of Nineveh had been assigned to Babylon (2 Kings 23:29-30; Beros. ap. Josephus, c. Revelation 1:19). Necho had held possession of these countries for about three years, when (B.C. 606) Nebuchadnezzar led all army against him, defeated him at Carchemish in a great battle (Jeremiah 66:2-12), recovered Coele-Syria, Phcenicia, and Palestine, took Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2), pressed1 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; or, as there is some reason to think, Nebuchadnezzar, since he appeared to be the "king of Babylon" to the Jews, had really been associated with his father (Jeremiah 4:1; Daniel 1:1). In some alarm, however, about the succession, he hurried back 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 (B.C. 604). The bulk of the army, with the captives — Phoenicians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews — returned by the ordinary route, which skirted instead of crossing the desert. It was at this time that Daniel and his companions were brought to Babylon, where they presently grew into favor with Nebuchadnezzar, and became persons of very considerable influence (Daniel 1:3-20). (See DANIEL). The sacred vessels taken from Jehovah's house were transferred by Nebuchadnezzar to his temple at Babylon (Isaiah 39; 2 Chronicles 36:6-7). (See BABYLON); (See CAPTIVITY).
Within a few years after 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 afterwards Phcenicia seems to have broken into revolt; and the Chaldaean monarch, who had previously endeavored to subdue the disaffected by his generals and allies (2 Kings 24:2), once more took the field in person, and marched first of all against Tyre. Having invested that city in the seventh year of his reign (Josephus, c. Ap. 1:21), and left a portion of his army there to continue the siege, he proceeded against Jerusalem, which submitted without a struggle (B.C. 598). According to Josephus, who is here our chief authority, Nebuchadnezzar punished Jehoiakim with death (Ant. 10:6, 3; comp. Jeremiah 22:18-19; 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 young 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 place. Tyre still held out; and it was not till the thirteenth year from the time of its first investment that the city of merchants fell (B.C. 585). Before this happened, Jerusalem had been totally destroyed. This consummation was owing to the folly of Zedekiah, who, despite the warnings of Jeremiah, made a treaty with Apries (Hophra), king of Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), and on the strength of this alliance renounced his allegiance to the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar commenced the final siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah — his own sixteenth year (early in B.C. 589) — and took it nearly two years later (latter part of B.C. 588). One effort to carry out the treaty seems to have been made by Apries. An Egyptian army crossed the frontier, and began its march towards Jerusalem; upon which Nebuchadnezzar raised the siege, and set off to meet the new foe. According to Josephus (Ant. 10:7, 3) a battle was fought, in which Apries was completely defeated; but the scriptural account seems rather to imply that the Egyptians retired on the advance of Nebuchadnezzar, and recrossed the frontier without risking an engagement (Jeremiah 37:5-8). At any rate. the attempt failed, and was not repeated; the "broken reed, Egypt," proved a treacherous support, and after an eighteen months' siege Jerusalem fell. 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; leaving Nebuzar-adan, the captain of his guard, to complete the destruction of the city and the pacification of Judaea. Gedaliah, a Jew, was appointed governor, but he was shortly murdered, and the rest of the Jews either fled to Egypt or were carried by Nebuzar-adan to Babylon (B.C. 582).
The military successes of Nebuchadnezzar cannot be traced minutely beyond this point. His own annals have not come down to us; and the historical allusions which we find in his extant inscriptions are of the most vague and general character. 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 (Ezra 26-28; Joseph. c. Ap. 1:21); after which the Babylonians carried their arms into Egypt, and inflicted severe injuries on that fertile country (Jeremiah 66:13-26; Ezra 29:2-20; 30:6; Joseph. Ant. 10:9, 7). But we have no account of these campaigns on which we can depend. Josephus adds that Megasthenes, in his fourth book, refers to the same subject, and thereby endeavors to show that Nebuchadnezzar exceeded Hercules, and conquered a, great part of Africa and Spain. Strabo adds that "Sesostris, king of Egypt, and Tearcon, king of Ethiopia, extended their expedition as far as Europe, but that Navokodrosor, who is venerated by the Chaldeeans more than Hercules by the Greeks,... marched through Spain to Greece and Pontus." Our remaining notices of Nebuchadnezzar present him to us as a magnificent prince and beneficent ruler rather than a warrior; and the great fame which has always attached to his name among the Eastern nations depends rather on his buildings and other grand constructions than on any victories or conquests ascribed to him.
2. We are told by Berosus 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 (ap. Joseph. Ant. 10:11, 1). He next proceeded to strengthen and beautify the city, which he renovated throughout, and surrounded with several lines of fortification, himself adding one entirely new quarter. Having finished the walls and adorned the gates magnificently, he constructed a new palace, adjoining the old residence of his father — a superb edifice which he completed in fifteen days! In the grounds of this palace he formed the celebrated "hanging garden," which was a plaisance, built up with huge stones to imitate the varied surface of mountains, and planted with trees and shrubs of every kind. Diodorus, probably following Ctesias, describes this marvel as a square, four plethra (four hundred feet) each way, and fifty cubits (seventy-five feet) high, approached by sloping paths, and supported on a series of arched galleries increasing in height from the base to the summit. In these galleries were various pleasant chambers; and one of them contained the engines by which water was raised from the river to the surface of the mound. This curious construction, which the Greek writers reckoned among the seven wonders of the world, was said to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar for the gratification of his wife, Amuhia, who, having been brought up among the Median mountains, desired something to remind her of them. Possibly, however, one object was to obtain a pleasure-ground at a height above that to which the mosquitoes are accustomed to rise. This complete renovation of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, which Berosus asserts, is confirmed to us in every possible way. The Standard Inscription of the king relates at length the construction of the whole series of works, and appears to have been the authority from which Berosus drew. The ruins confirm this in the most positive way, for nine tenths of the bricks in situ are stamped with Nebuchadnezzar's name. Scripture also adds an indirect but important testimony in the exclamation of Nebuchadnezzar recorded by Daniel, "Is not this great Babylon which I have built?" (Daniel 4:30).
But Nebuchadnezzar 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, 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. "I have examined," says Sir H. Rawlinson, "the bricks in situ, belonging perhaps to a hundred different towns and cities in the neighborhood of Bagdad; and I never found any other legend than that of Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon" (Corn. on the Inscr. of Assyria and Babylonia, pages 76, 77). "Nebuchadnezzar," says Abydenus, "on succeeding to the throne, fortified Babylon with three lines of walls. He dug the Nahr Malcha, or Royal River which was a branch stream derived from the Euphrates, and also the Acracanus. He likewise made the great reservoir above the city of Sippara, which was thirty parasangs (ninety miles) in circumference, and twenty fathoms (one hundred and twenty feet) deep. Here he placed sluices or flood-gates, which enabled him to irrigate the low country. He also built a quay along the shore of the Red Sea (Persian Gulf), and founded the city of Teredon on the borders of Arabia." It is reasonably concluded from these statements that an extensive system of irrigation was devised by this monarch, to whom the Babylonians were probably indebted for the greater portion of that vast network of canals which covered the whole alluvial tract between the two rivers, and extended on the right bank of the Euphrates to the extreme verge of the stony desert. On that side the principal work was a canal of the largest dimensions, still to be traced, which left the Euphrates at Hit, and skirting the desert ran south-east a distance of above four hundred miles to the Persian Gulf, where it emptied itself into the bay of Grane.
The wealth, greatness, and general prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar are strikingly placed before us in the Book of Daniel. "The God of heaven" gave him, not a kingdom only, but "power, strength, and glory" (Daniel 2:37). His wealth is evidenced by the image of gold, sixty cubits in height, which he set up in the plain of Dura (Daniel 3:1). The grandeur and careful organization of his kingdom appear from the long list of his officers, "princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counsellors, sheriffs, and rulers of provinces," of whom we have repeated mention (Daniel 3:2-3; Daniel 3:27). We see the existence of a species of hierarchy in the "magicians, astrologers, sorcerers," over whom Daniel was set (Daniel 2:48). The "tree, whose height was great, which grew and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto the heavens, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth; the leaves whereof were fair, and the fruit much, and in which was food for all; under which the beasts of the field had shadow, and the fowls of heaven dwelt in the branches thereof, and all flesh was fed of it" (Daniel 4:10-12), is the fitting type of a kingdom at once so flourishing and so extensive. It has been thought by some (De Wette, Th. Parker, etc.) that the Book of Daniel represents the satrapial system of government (Satrapen-Einrichtung) as established throughout the whole empire; but this conclusion is not justified by a close examination of that document. Nebuchadnezzar, like his Assyrian predecessors (Isaiah 10:8), is represented as a "king of kings" (Daniel 2:37); and the officers enumerated in chapter 2 are probably the authorities of Babylonia proper, rather than the governors of remoter regions, who could not be all spared at once from their employments. The instance of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:5; 2 Kings 25:22) is not that of a satrap. He was a Jew; and it may be doubted whether he stood really in any different relation to the Babylonians from Zedekiah or Jehoiachin; although, as he was not of the seed of David, the Jews considered him to be "governor" rather than king.
3. Towards 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 (λυκανθρωπία); wherein the sufferer imagines himself a beast, and, quitting the haunts of men, insists on leading the life of a beast (Daniel 4:33). Berosus, with the pardonable tenderness of a native, anxious for the good fame of his country's greatest king, suppressed this fact; and it may be doubted whether Herodotus in his Babylonian travels, which fell only about a century after the time, obtained any knowledge of it. Nebuchadnezzar himself, however, in his great inscription appears to allude to it, although in a studied ambiguity of phrase which renders the passage very difficult of translation. After describing the construction of the most important of his great works, he appears to say, "For four years (?)... the seat of my kingdom... did not rejoice my heart. In all my dominions I did not build a high place of power, the precious treasures of my kingdom I did not lay up. In Babylon, buildings for myself and for the honor of my kingdom I did not lay out. In the worship of Merodach, my lord, the joy of my heart, in Babylon the city of his sovereignty, and the seat of my empire, I did not sing his praises, I did not furnish its altars with victims, nor did I clear out the canals" (Rawlinson's Herod. 2:586). Other negative clauses follow. It is plain that we have here narrated a suspensionapparently for four years of all those works and occupations on which the king especially prided himself his temples, palaces, worship, offerings, and works of irrigation; and though the cause of the suspension is not stated, we can scarcely imagine anything that would account for it but some such extraordinary malady as that recorded in Daniel. It has often been remarked that Herodotus ascribes to a queen, Nitocris, several of the important works, which other writers (Berosus, Abydenus) assign to Nebuchadnezzar. The conjecture naturally arises that Nitocris was Nebuchadnezzar's queen, and that, as she carried on his constructions during his incapacity, they were by some considered to be hers. It is no disproof of this to urge that Nebuchadnezzar's wife was a Median princess, not an Egyptian (as Nitocris must have been from her name), and that she was called, not Nitocris, but Amyitis or Amyhia; for Nebuchadnezzar, who married Amyitis in B.C. 625, and who lived after this marriage more than sixty years, may easily have married again after.the decease of his first wife, and his second queen may have been an Egyptian. His later relations with Egypt appear to have been friendly; and it is remarkable that the name Nitocris, which belonged to very primitive Egyptian history, had in fact been resuscitated about this time, and is found on the Egyptian monuments to have been borne by a princess belonging to the family of the Psammetiks.
The nature of Nebuchadnezzar's disease and recovery has been much debated. Origen strangely allegorizes the story (ap. Hieron. in Dan.) as a representation of the fall of Lucifer. Bodin (in Demonol.) maintains that Nebuchadnezzar underwent an actual metamorphosis of soul and body, a similar instance of which is given by Cluvier (Append. ad Epitom. Hist.) on the testimony of an eye-witness. Tertullian (De Poenit.) confines the transformation to the body only, but without loss of reason, of which kind of metamorphosis St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 18:18) 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 (Medina, De recta in Deum fid.); while others have supposed not a real, but an apparent 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. Jerome probably leaned to this opinion: "Who does not see," he observes, "that madmen live like brute beasts" (in Daniel 4:4). To this disease of the imagination physicians have given the name of Lycanthropy, Zoanthropy, or Insania Canina. (See DISEASE).
In Daniel 4:15 (Daniel 4:12, according to the Latin) there seems to be an allusion to some species of insanity in the expression, "Even with a band of iron and brass" (alligetur vinculo ferreo et ereo,Vulg.); and the loss and return of reason is very clearly intimated in Daniel 4:34, "Mine understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High." (See also Virgil, Eclog. 6; Drummond Hay, Western Barbary, page 65; B. Reckenberger, De Nebucadn. ab hominibus expulso, Jen. 1733; Bertholdt, Daniel, 1:290; Heinroth, Seelenstor. 1:65; Ader, De cegrotis in Evang. page 31, etc.; Meade, Med. Sac.; Muller, De Nebuchadnezz. μεταμορφώσει , Lips. 1747.)
The idea of an allegory has been revived in modern times, especially by De Wette (Einleitung, page 257), who considers the accounts in Daniel too improbable, if literally understood, although he admits that they may have been founded on historical traditions. He considers the whole of the narrative in Daniel as referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, who he asserts is also signified by Belshazzar. This hypothesis assumes that the Book of Daniel is spurious, contrary to the New Testament and other ancient testimony (Hengstenberg, Authent. des Dan. page 100 sq.). (See DANIEL).
Some have fancied that there was an allusion to the disease of Nebuchadnezzar in the passage of Berosus quoted by Josephus (c. Apion. 1:20): "Nabuchodonosor, after he had commenced the aforesaid wall, falling into a sickness, died." Abydenus (ap. Eusebium. Prcepar. Evang. 9:41), having cited the passage from Megasthenes already referred to, adds, upon the authority of the same writer, a speech of Nabuchodonosor, wherein, having been struck by some god, he foretold the destruction of Babylon by a "Persian mule," assisted by a Mede, the former boast of Assyria, after which he instantly vanished. A reference has been supposed to exist in these words to Nebuchadnezzar's madness and consequent disappearance, but there is at most, as De Wette observes, only a traditional connection between them. Jahn (Hebrew Commonwealth) conceives the whole to be a tradition made up from his prophetic dreams, his insanity, and from Daniel's explanation of the well-known handwriting in the banqueting-hall of Belshazzar.
After an interval of four, or probably seven years (Daniel 4:16), Nebuchadnezzar's malady left him. As we are told in Scripture 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), so we find in the Standard Inscription that he resumed his great works after a period of suspension, and added fresh "wonders" in his old age to the marvellous constructions of his manhood. He died in the year B.C. 561, at an advanced age (83 or 84), having reigned forty-three years. A son, Evil-Merodach (q.v.), succeeded him.
4. The character of Nebuchadnezzar must be gathered principally from Scripture. There is a conventional formality in the cuneiform inscriptions, which deprives them of almost all value for the illustration of individual mind and temper. Ostentation and vainglory are characteristics of the entire series, each king seeking to magnify above all others his own exploits. We can only observe as peculiar to Nebuchadnezzar a disposition to rest his fame on his great works rather than on his military achievements, and a strong religious spirit, manifesting itself especially in a devotion, which is almost exclusive, to one particular god. Though his own tutelary deity and that of his father was Nebo (Mercury), yet his worship, his ascriptions of praise, his thanksgivings, have in almost every case for their object the god Merodach. Under his protection he placed his son, Evil-Merodach. Merodach is "his lord," "his great lord," "the joy of his heart," "the great lord who has appointed him to the empire of the world, and has confided to his care the far-spread people of the earth," "the great lord who has established him in strength," etc. One of the first of his own titles is, "He who pays homage to Merodach." Even when restoring the temples of other deities, he ascribes the work to the suggestions of Merodach, and places it under his protection. We may hence explain the appearance of a sort of monotheism (Daniel 1:2; Daniel 4:21; Daniel 4:32; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 4:37), mixed with polytheism (Daniel 2:47; Daniel 3:12; Daniel 3:18; Daniel 3:29; Daniel 4:9), in the scriptural notices of him.
While admitting a qualified divinity in Nebo, Nana, and other deities of his country, Nebuchadnezzar maintained the real monarchy of Bel- Merodach. This deity was to him "the supreme chief of the gods," "the most ancient," "the king of the heavens and the earth." These expressions are all applied to Merodach by Nebuchadnezzar in his inscriptions. It was his image, or symbol, undoubtedly, which was "set up" to be worshipped in the "plain of Dura" (Daniel 3:1), and his "house" in which the sacred vessels from the Temple were treasured (Daniel 1:2). Nebuchadnezzar seems at some times to have identified this, his supreme god, with the God of the Jews (ch. iv); at others, to have regarded the Jewish God as one of the local and inferior deities (chapter 3) over whom Merodach ruled. The genius and grandeur which characterized Nebuchadnezzar, and which have handed down his name among the few ancient personages known generally throughout the East, are very apparent in Scripture, and indeed in all the accounts of his reign and actions. Without perhaps any strong military turn, he must have possessed a fair amount of such talent to have held his own in the east against the ambitious Medes, and in the west against the Egyptians. Necho and Apries were both princes of good warlike capacity, whom it is some credit to have defeated. The prolonged siege of Tyre is a proof of the determination with which he prosecuted his military enterprises. But his greatness lay especially in the arts of peace. He saw in the natural fertility of Babylonia, and its ample wealth of waters, the foundation of national prosperity, and so of power. Hence his vast canals and elaborate system of irrigation, which made the whole country a garden; and this must have been a main cause of the full treasury, from which alone his palaces and temples can have received their magnificence. The forced labor of captives may have raised the fabrics; but the statues, the enamelled bricks, the fine woodwork, the gold and silver plating, the hangings and curtains, had to be bought; and the enormous expenditure of this monarch, which does not appear to have exhausted the country, and which cannot have been very largely supported by tribute, must have been really supplied in the main from that agricultural wealth which he took so much pains to develop. We may gather from the productiveness of Babylonia under the Persians (Herod. 1:192, 193; 3:92), after a conquest and two (three?) revolts, some idea of its flourishing condition in the period of independence, for which (according to the consentient testimony of the monuments and the best authors) it was indebted to this king.
The moral character of Nebuchadnezzar is not such as entitles him to our approval. Besides the overweening pride which brought upon him so terrible a chastisement, we note a violence and fury (Daniel 2:12; Daniel 3:19) common enough among Oriental monarchs of the weaker kind, but from which the greatest of them have usually been free; while at the same time we observe a cold and relentless cruelty which is particularly revolting. The blinding of Zedekiah may perhaps be justified as an ordinary Eastern practice, though it is the earliest case of the kind on record; but the refinement of cruelty by which he was made to witness his sons' execution before his eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:7) is worthier of a Dionysius or a Domitian than of a really great king. Again, the detention of Jehoiachin in prison for thirty-six years for an offence committed at the age of eighteen (2 Kings 24:8), is a severity surpassing Oriental harshness. Against these grave faults we have nothing to set, unless it be a feeble trait of magnanimity in the pardon accorded to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when he found that he was without power to punish them (Daniel 3:26).
It has been thought remarkable that to a man of this character God should have vouchsafed a revelation of the future by means of visions (Daniel 2:29; Daniel 4:2). But the circumstance, however it may disturb our preconceived notions, is not really at variance with the general laws of God's providence as revealed to us in Scripture. As with his natural, so with his supernatural gifts, they are not confined to the worthy. Even under Christianity, miraculous powers were sometimes possessed by those who made an ill use of them (1 Corinthians 14:2-33). And God, it is plain, did not leave the old heathen world without some supernatural aid, but made his presence felt from time to time in visions, through prophets, or even by a voice from heaven. It is only necessary to refer to the histories of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-7; Genesis 41:28), Abimelech (Genesis 20:3), Job (Job 4:13; Job 38:1; Job 38:1; Job 40:6; comp. Daniel 4:31), and Balaam (Numbers 22-24), in order to establish the parity of Nebuchadnezzar's visions with other facts recorded in the Bible. He was warned, and the nations over which he ruled were warned through him, God leaving not himself "without witness" even in those dark times. In conclusion, we may notice that a heathen writer (Abydenus), who generally draws his inspirations from Berosus, ascribes to Nebuchadnezzar a miraculous speech just before his death, announcing to the Babylonians the speedy coming of the " Persian mule," who with the help of the Medes would enslave Babylon (Abyd. ap. Euseb. Prep. Ev. 9:41).
5. The Canon of Ptolemy the mathematician, who flourished about the commencement of the Christian aera, consists of a catalogue, arranged in chronological order, of the kings of Babylon, commencing with Nabonassar, who reigned B.C. 747, and ending with Nabonned, B.C. 556. According to this catalogue, Nabopolassar (Ναβουπολάσαρος ), who died B.C. 625, was succeeded by Nabocolassar (Ναβοκολάσαρος ), B.C. 605. This Nabocolassar is therefore presumed to be the Nebuchadnezzar of Scripture (for the Canon of Ptolemy, see Table Chronologique des Regnes, etc., par l'Abbe Halmy, Paris, 1819). Nabopolassar, the father of Nabocolassar, is supposed to have been the first Chaldaean monarch of Babylon, and to have disunited it from the Assyrian empire, of which it had hitherto formed a part (Jahn's Hebrew Commonwealth). According to a fragment of Alexander Polyhistor, reported by Syncellus in his Chronographia, it was this sovereign who destroyed the city of Nineveh, B.C. 612, which, according to Eusebius (Chronicles page 46), he effected in conjunction with Astyages, the eldest son of Cvaxares, king of the Medes (see also Tobit 14:15, where the latter is named Assuerus).
The following extract, preserved by Josephus, from the lost Chaldaean history of Berosus, priest of the temple of Bel (B.C. 268), will be found to throw considerable light on the Scripture narrative: "When his father Nabuchodonosor heard that the governor whom he had set over Egypt and the places about Coele-Syria and Phoenicia had revolted from him, while he was not himself able any longer to undergo hardships, he committed to his son Nabuchodonosor, who was still but a youth, some parts of his army, and sent him against the enemy. So when Nabuchodonosor had given him battle, and fought with the rebel, he overcame him, and reduced the country from under his subjection and made it a branch of his own kingdom. But about that time it happened that his father Nabuchodonosor fell ill, and ended his life in the city of Babylon, when he had reigned twenty-one years; and when he learned that his father Nabuchodonosor was dead — having settled the affairs of Egypt and the other countries, and also those that concerned the captive Jews, and the Phoenicians, Syrians, and Egyptians, and having committed the conveyance of them to Babylon to certain of his friends — he hastily crossed the desert, with a few companions, into Babylon. So he took upon him the management of public affairs, and of the kingdom which had been kept for him by one of the chief Chaldaeans, and he received the entire dominions of his father, and ordered that when the captives came they should be placed in colonies in the most proper places of Babylonia" (Ant. 10:11; see also Apion. 1:19; Euseb. Chronicles Armen. 1:59; Volney, Recherch. Nouv. sur l'hist. Ancienne, 3:151 sq.). It will be observed that both Nebuchadnezzar (styled by some the Great) and his father are here equally named Nabuchodonosor, but in the citation of the same narrative from Berosus by Josephus (c. Apion. 1:19) the father of Nebuchadnezzar is called Nabolassar (Ναβολάσσαρος ), corresponding nearly with the Nabopolassar of Ptolemy; which has induced some to suppose the name Nabuchodonosor in the former citation to be an error of transcription. Some consider the Nabuchodonosor of the Book of Judith to be the same with the Saosduchin of Ptolemy, who was contemporary with Manasseh. Some foundation has thus been afforded for considering Nebuchadnezzar as a general name for Babylonian sovereigns (Prideaux, Connect.); this, however, is considered by Whiston as a groundless mistake (Whiston's Josephus, note on chapter 9). The similarity of the two names may have led to their being sometimes confounded. The conqueror of Nineveh is also called by the name of Nebuchodonosor in Tobit 14:15 (in the Greek, for the Latin ends with Tobit 14:14), and is on this account styled by some Nebuchadnezzar the First, a designation first applied to him by rabbi David Ganz, in the age of the world 3285.
According to Ptolemy's Canon, the reign of Nabocolassar is made to commence two years later than that of the Nebuchadnezzar of Scripture. Probably the first capture of Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1) took place during the last years of the reign of Nabopolassar, in the expedition mentioned by Berosus (ut sup.), but the Canon of Ptolemy dates the commencement of his reign from the death of his father, when he became sole king of Babylon (De Wette's Introd. § 253, note). (See CHRONOLOGY).
Although Herodotus does not name Nebuchadnezzar, he is supposed by some to allude to the expedition of Pharaoh-Necho against Babylon, when he observes that "Necho, after an engagement at Magdolus in Egypt, took Cadytis, a great city of Syria." It is conjectured that he may have confounded Migdol, in Egypt, with Megiddoo, and that Cadytis was the same with Jerusalem (El Kadosh, "the holy city") (Jahn's Hebrew Commonwealth).
6. One other point in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, connecting it with Scripture, may be glanced at. In the Book of Daniel (chapter 3) there is abruptly introduced an account of a golden image which Nebuchadnezzar set up in the plain of Dura, its inauguration being heralded in solemn pomp to all parts of the kingdom. The image was probably one of his patron-god, Bel-Merodach; and the dedication of such a statue is in perfect keeping with his intense religiousness, which is apparent from his numerous and cordial inscriptions of thanks and homage to the same divinity, after whom also he named his son and successor. The adoration paid to the image was a test of loyalty. To worship the king's god simply at the king's command was such a spectacle of national conformity as an Oriental despot would naturally delight in. Some have supposed that the image represented the king himself, who, in this way, claimed divine honors — an insanity found in Persian, Egyptian, and Seleucid monarchs — in the Grecian Alexander and the Roman Caligula. This is not a likely conjecture. The Jews as a body, it would seem, were not invited to the festival, being aliens and captives. But it is said that the image itself was out of all shape-sixty cubits high, and only six cubits broad — that is, in the proportion of ten to one. Now it is evident from the story that its height was for the sake of its being visible to an immense concourse gathered on a plain, and it is therefore probable that a tall pedestal is included in the measurement; or it may have been an obelisk with a bust on the summit of it (Minter, Relig. d. Bab. page 59; Hengstenberg, On Daniel). Diodorus Siculus (lib. 2) informs us that one of the images of massy gold found by Xerxes in the temple of Bel measured forty feet in height, which would have been fairly proportioned to a breadth of six feet, measured at the shoulders. Prideaux supposes that this may have been the identical statue erected by Nebuchadnezzar, which, however, Jahn conceives was more probably only gilt, as a statue of gold could scarcely have been safe from robbers in the plain of Dura; but this conjecture of Jahn seems by no means necessary. Dur-Dura signifies a plain, and in such a plain, yet vulgarly called Dowair, to the south-east of Babylon, M. Oppert found the pedestal of what must have been a colossal statue. There is no hint that the image was of solid gold, as some objectors imagine. Anything plated with gold was, in popular phrase, called golden (comp. Exodus 30:1-3; Exodus 39:8, etc.). The description of the process of forging idols in Isaiah 40:19 shows us the plating of the figures. Herodotus mentions a large golden statue of Bel, and then refers to 7. Literature. — See Schroder, Nebuchadn. Chaldacor. rex (Marb. 1719); Schroer, Imper. Babyl. page 260 sq.; Lochner, De Nino Nebuchadnezare (Stadse, 1736) Maier, Statua Nebuchadnezaris (Jen. 1693); Miller De Nebuchadnezaris μεταρμορφ. (Lips. 1747); Offerhaus, De rebus sub Nebuchadnezare gestis (Groning. 1734); Seelen, De stipendiariis Nebuchadnezaris (Lubeck, 1737); Jour. Sac. Lit. April 1853, page 32; Rawlinson, Evidences, pages 127, 133; Ancient Monarchies, 2:50 sq. (See BABYLONIA). Copyright Statement Bibliography Information
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nebuchadnezzar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nebuchadnezzar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
7. Literature. — See Schroder, Nebuchadn. Chaldacor. rex (Marb. 1719); Schroer, Imper. Babyl. page 260 sq.; Lochner, De Nino Nebuchadnezare (Stadse, 1736) Maier, Statua Nebuchadnezaris (Jen. 1693); Miller De Nebuchadnezaris μεταρμορφ. (Lips. 1747); Offerhaus, De rebus sub Nebuchadnezare gestis (Groning. 1734); Seelen, De stipendiariis Nebuchadnezaris (Lubeck, 1737); Jour. Sac. Lit. April 1853, page 32; Rawlinson, Evidences, pages 127, 133; Ancient Monarchies, 2:50 sq. (See BABYLONIA).
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11