The king of Babylonia (605–562 BCE), frequently named in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, as well as by classical writers. The name is also rendered Nebuchadnezzar, a biblical variant; the form Nebuchadrezzar is closer to the Babylonian Nabû‐kudurri‐u⊡ur, “the (god) Nabu has protected the succession.” He was renowned as the most distinguished ruler of the Neo‐Babylonian (Chaldean) Dynasty founded by his father, Nabopolassar, in 627 BCE, and as the conqueror of Jerusalem who took the Judeans into exile.
Nebuchadrezzar acted as commander in chief for his aging father when in 605 BCE he took Carchemish from the Egyptians and drove them back to their borders, thus freeing Syria and Palestine. According to the Babylonian Chronicle and Josephus, he broke off this campaign in order to return to take the throne of Babylon on hearing of his father's death. He campaigned frequently in the west, receiving tribute from many rulers and from Tyre, which he subsequently besieged for thirteen years. His vassals included Jehoiakim of Judah who, however, defected in 601, misinterpreting the fierce battle between the Babylonians and Egyptians that year as a victory for the latter. Nebuchadrezzar gained revenge by capturing Jerusalem on 16March 597, when he set up a new king (Mattaniah/Zedekiah) sympathetic to him. Jehoiachin, whom he called Yaukin, king of Judah, was taken prisoner to Babylon with the Temple vessels and many Judeans (2 Kings 24.10–17). Nebuchadrezzar also fought against Elam (cf. Jer. 49.38) and the Arabs, and was present in the operations that led to the sack of Jerusalem in August 587/586 BCE as a reprisal for Zedekiah's activity as the focus of anti‐Babylonian opposition. At that time, more Judeans were taken into exile, as they also were following a later raid, including one on Egypt attested in a fragmentary Babylonian text dated 568–567 BCE (cf. Jer. 43.8–13).
Little is known of the last thirty years of Nebuchadrezzar's rule. The tale of his madness (Dan. 4.23–33) may be a pejorative account of a period in the reign of his successor Nabonidus. Nebuchadrezzar's character may be reflected in his inscriptions, which do not emphasize his military exploits yet reflect his exercise of law, order, and justice as well as stressing moral qualities and religious devotion. He rightly claims to have rebuilt Babylon, its walls, palaces, temples, and defenses as a wonder to which all peoples came with tribute; the famous “hanging gardens” of Babylon are also attributed to him in some traditions. He died during a period that saw the seeds of economic decline resulting from the cost of his enterprises; he was succeeded by his son Amel‐Marduk (Evil‐Merodach of 2 Kings 25.27).
Donald J. Wiseman