Glossary of Terms

Nebuchadnezzar / Nebuchadrezzar


Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Nebuchadnezzar. A Chaldean king, 606 to 562 B.C., called king of Babylon, the capital of his empire which succeeded that of the Assyrians. He demanded tribute from the Southern Kingdom, Judah. When Judah revolted, he besieged Jerusalem, and captured and destroyed it, taking the people into captivity in Babylon. 2 Kings, chs. 24; 25; Ezra 2:1; Jer. 29:1. "Nebuchadnezzar" in The Book of Daniel does not refer to the historical person of that name.

Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Nebuchadnezzar. Four kings in ancient Mesopotamia had this name. The second reigned in Babylon from 605 to 562 BCE. (The alternative spelling Nebuchadrezzar (e.g. Jer 39:5, NRSV, REB) is closer to the Babylonian form.) He was a powerful and cruel monarch who defeated Assyria and Egypt; in 597 BCE he captured Jerusalem and deported King Jehoiachin to Babylon and appointed Zedekiah in his place. When Zedekiah rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar renewed the assault on Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and took many of the people to Babylon (586 BCE), through Jeremiah had urged submission to the Babylonians (Jer. 27:11).

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Nebuchadnezzar, the name of four kings now known to us from ancient Mesopotamia. The first was the king of the Second Dynasty of Isin (southern Mesopotamia), who ruled 1124-1103 b.c. He is known as Nebuchadnezzar I. The king mentioned in the Bible is known as Nebuchadnezzar II by modern scholars. The Behistun inscription (western Iran) of Darius I (522-486 b.c.) tells of two contenders for the throne (522 and 521 b.c.) who bore the name Nebuchadnezzar (called by moderns III and IV, though some doubt has been raised concerning the existence of the last).

Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Babylonia from 605 to 562 b.c. He was the son of Nabopolassar, founder of the Chaldean dynasty. Nebuchadnezzar II was the most powerful and longest reigning king of the Neo-Babylonian (625-539 b.c.) period. He brought the city of Babylon and the southern Mesopotamian state of Babylonia to the pinnacle of their power and prosperity.

The name Nabu-kudurri-usur means ‘O Nabu, preserve the offspring [lit., ‘boundary-stone’].’ From this Babylonian form, the alternate biblical spelling Nebuchadrezzar is taken.

The major competitors for power in the days of Nebuchadnezzar II were Media (northwest Iran) and Egypt, always with great-power ambitions for ports and trade in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel). Nebuchadnezzar’s marriage to a daughter of the king of the Medes held the alliance with that power secure until after Nebuchadnezzar’s death. As for Egypt, Pharaoh Neco suffered a defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar at the city of Carchemish in 605 b.c., from which he did not recover (2 Kings 24:7).

Much information about the early rule of Nebuchadnezzar II comes from the Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (D. J. Wiseman; London: British Museum, 1956). However, of the forty-three years of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, only those up to 594 b.c. are preserved. Other records tell of the conquest of Tyre (571 b.c.; cf. Ezek. 27:12) and the invasion of Egypt in Nebuchadnezzar’s thirty-seventh year (reported by a fragmentary British Museum tablet; see Ezek. 29:19-21). Accounts indicate that Nebuchadnezzar was an able but cruel ruler (cf. 2 Kings 25:7) who stopped at nothing to subdue peoples who stood in his path of conquest.

Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach), Nebuchadnezzar’s son, ruled from 562 to 560 b.c. According to accounts in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and Jer. 52:31-34 he recognized King Jehoiachin and allocated an allowance for him ‘all the days of his life.’ Babylonian clay tablets mentioning the disbursement of oil to Jehoiachin, five sons of the king of Judea and other Judeans confirm in a dramatic manner this Scriptural statement.

Building projects sponsored by Nebuchadnezzar included the beautification of Babylon, his capital, the construction of fortification walls in addition to those already in place, and the improvement of Marduk’s temple in Babylon, Esagila. There is extant a list of the personnel of the court of Nebuchadnezzar II, showing the complex infrastructure of the royal palace.

From the perspective of biblical Israel, the events associated with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II that had the most lasting effect upon their destiny were the destruction of Judea, the conquest of Jerusalem, the setting to the torch of the Temple of Solomon, and the exile to Babylonia (597-581 b.c.). The reflection of these events and the events that led up to them can be seen in the biblical materials in 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, taken with Jeremiah. Related materials may be found in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Daniel 1-5 represents an account of Jews in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, along with apocalyptic visions.

Jeremiah, the great prophet who was an eyewitness to the destruction of the Temple, counseled submission to Nebuchadnezzar, whom he viewed as the instrument of the Lord’s wrath. In time, Jeremiah wisely foresaw, Nebuchadnezzar’s own land would face its day of reckoning as well (Jer. 27).

It is thought by some scholars that Daniel 4, which records the madness of Nebuchadnezzar, may have incorporated accounts pertaining to the less well-known Babylonian monarch of this same dynasty, Nabonidus.


Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer