Nebuchadnezzar II: A Villain or Hero?

Nebuchadnezzar II is one of the most reputed rulers of the ancient world. He is a famous Near Eastern monarch. There are about 4 Jewish scriptures, 10 Rabbinic commentaries, several Arabic, Greek and Latin writings upon the life and times of this great monarch. He surely created a great impact upon his times. Many of the above mentioned sources depict him as a god like figure while the Jewish and Biblical depict him as an archetypical villain.


Nebuchadnezzar II a Figure who is portrayed in negative light in Bible

He appears as Nebuchadnezzar in the Latin and Greek writings, but the Akkadian and Babylonian versions spell him as Nebuchadrezzar. His name Nebu means son of or boundaries. Perhaps Nebu was taken from his father’s name which was Nabopolassar. There were atleast five other famous Babylonians who had Nabu in their names including Nebuchadnezzar I who was the ruler of Second Dynasty of Isin from 1124-03 BC. There are disparate and limited materials about the life of Nebuchadnezzar II. It is known that Neo-Babylonian Empire replaced the empire of Assyria in 612 BC under Nabopolassar. The kingdom was built with a hybrid of people, one such group were the Chaldeans from Southern Mesopotamia. Resources tell us that Nebuchadnezzar’s family descended from the Chaldeans. Later, Nebu went onto marry a Median Princess which was an arrangement meant to keep security among the major powers of his times.


Nebuchadnezzar's Palace near Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar II accompanied his father on various military campaigns at Carchemish (which was a major frontier city on the Euphrates River) against the Egyptians during 608-7 BC. After a while his after returned to Babylon, but Nebuchanezzar stayed on and fought the forces of Pharaoh Neco. Soon the Egyptian army was defeated and vast areas of Syria, Phoenicia and Judaea were captured. He marched forward, but news of his father’s death interrupted his plans. He had to hurry back to Babylon and ascended the throne. In 601 BC he had victories across Levant and other cities throughout the region. All the defeated Kings were asked to pay tributes to Nebuchadnezzar. In 587 BC the city of Jerusalem was surrounded and besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. On July 30, 587 BC the Judean King was defeated. Judean King, his family and other citizens were deported. Only the poor peasants were left behind in the city. All the treasures and trappings of Jerusalem Temple were exported to Babylon. This incident made Nebuchadnezzar II a villain in the Bible. Bible also claims that he destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem at a later date. He also imprisoned all the leading citizens of Jerusalem.


Bible states that Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Temple of Jerusalem, which is false

But sources reveal that Nebuchadnezzar was a liberal king. He let the Jews practice their faith. Also city of Jerusalem was kept in healthy state, how else would Jews reconstitute themselves in this city 50 years later? Even famous Jews such as Jeremiah counselled all Jews to help Nebuchadnezzar rather than dislike him.


Nebuchadnezzar II ordered the construction of Hanging Gardens of Babylon

After the Jerusalem he tried to invade Egypt, but was not successful. In his later years he devoted time to public works. He constructed at least 12 cities and decorated his capital. There were various social welfare tasks taken up by the king. He restored temple of Madruk with a tower which is popularly associated as Tower of Babel. He is also deemed as the creator of Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whivch was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Writings from Nebuchadnezzar II’s times suggest that he was a skilled administrator as well as military general. He created the Neo Babylonian Empire and took it to the pinnacle of success.


Analysing all the facts it is evident that Bible has portrayed Nebuchadnezzar in wrong light. He was a great ruler and a hero to his subjects.


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2 thoughts on “Nebuchadnezzar II: A Villain or Hero?

  1. In reading the Bible, I don’t see Nebuchadnezzar cast as a villain or a hero…I see a great ruler who God uses to accomplish His purposes!

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