Called in Jeremiah Nebuchadnezzar, the son and successor of Nabopolassar, succeeded to the kingdom of Chaldea about 600 B. C. He had been some time before associated in the kingdom, and sent to recover Carchemish, which had been wrested from the empire by Necho king of Egypt. Having been successful, he marched against the governor of Phoenicia, and Jehoiakim king of Judah, tributary of Necho king of Egypt. He took Jehoiakim, and put him in chains to carry him captive to Babylon; but afterwards he left him in Judea, on condition of his paying a large annual tribute. He took away several persons from Jerusalem; among others, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of the royal family, whom the king of Babylon caused to be carefully educated in the language and learning of the Chaldeans, that they might be employed at court, 2 Kings 24:1 2 Chronicles 36:6 Daniel 1:1.
Nabopolassar dying, Nebuchadnezzar, who was then either in Egypt or in Judea, hastened to Babylon, leaving to his generals the care of bringing to Chaldea the captives taken in Syria, Judea, Phoenicia, and Egypt; for according to Berosus, he had subdued all these countries. He distributed these captives into several colonies, and in the temple of Belus he deposited the sacred vessels of the temple of Jerusalem, and other rich spoils. Jehoiakim king of Judah continued three years in fealty to Nebuchadnezzar, and then revolted; but after three or four years, he was besieged and taken in Jerusalem, put to death, and his body thrown to the birds of the air according to the predictions of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 22:1-30.
His successor, Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah, king of Judah, having revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, was besieged in Jerusalem, forced to surrender, and taken, with his chief officers, captive to Babylon; also his mother, his wives, and the best workmen of Jerusalem, to the number of ten thousand men. Among the captives were Mordecai, the uncle of Esther, and Ezekiel the prophet, Esther 2:6. Nebuchadnezzar also took all the vessels of gold, which Solomon made for the temple and the king’s treasury, and set up Mattaniah, Jeconiah’s uncle by the father’s side, whom he named Zedekiah. Zedekiah continued faithful to Nebuchadnezzar nine years, at the end of which time he rebelled, and confederated with the neighboring princes. The king of Babylon came into Judea, reduced the chief places of the country, and besieged Jerusalem; but Pharaoh Hophra coming out of Egypt to assist Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar went to meet him, and forced him to retire to his own country. This done, he resumed the siege of Jerusalem, and was three hundred and ninety days before the place. In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, B. C. 588, the city was taken and Zedekiah, being seized, was brought to Nebuchadnezzar, who was then at Riblah in Syria. The king of Babylon condemned him to die, caused his children to be put to death in his presence, and then bored out his eyes, loaded him with chains, and sent him to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:1-25:30 2 Chronicles 36:1-23.
During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the city of Babylon and the kingdom of Babylonia attained their highest pitch of splendor. He took great pains in adorning Babylon; and this was one great object of his pride. "Is not this," said he, "great Babylon that I have built for the house of my kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" But God vanquished his pride, and he was reduced for a time to the condition of a brute, according to the predictions of Daniel. See Daniel 1.1-4.37. An inscription found among the ruins on the Tigris, and now in the East India House at London, gives an account of the various works of Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon and Borsippa. Abruptly breaking off, the record says the king’s heart was hardened against the Chaldee astrologers. "He would grant no benefactions for religious purposes. He intermitted the worship of Merodach, and put an end to the sacrifice of victims. He labored under the effects of enchantment." Nebuchadnezzar is supposed to have died B. C. 562, after a reign of about forty years.
One of the famous structures ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar, and in which no doubt he took much pride, was the famous "hanging gardens," which he is said to have erected to gratify the wish of his queen Amytis for elevated groves such as she was accustomed to in her native Media. This could only be done in a country so level as Babylonia, by constructing an artificial mountain; and accordingly the king caused on e to be made, four hundred feet square and over three hundred feet high. The successive terraces were supported on ranges of regular piers, covered by large stones, on which were placed thick layers of matting and of bitumen and two courses of stones, which were again covered, with a solid coating of lead. On such a platform another similar, but smaller, was built, etc. The various terraces were then covered with earth, and furnished with trees, shrubbery, and flowers. The whole was watered from the Euphrates, which flowed at its base, by machinery within the mound. These gardens occupied but a small portion of the prodigious area of the palace, the wall inclosing the whole being six miles in circumference. Within this were two other walls and a great tower, besides the palace buildings, courts, gardens, etc. Al the gates were of brass, which agrees with the language used by Isaiah in predicting the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, Isaiah 45:25. The ruins of the hanging gardens are believed to be found in the vast irregular mound called Kasr, on the East Side of the Euphrates, eight hundred yards by six hundred at its base. The bricks taken from this mound are of fine quality, and are all stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar.
Another labor of this monarch was that the ruins of which are now called Birs, Nimroud, about eight miles southwest of the above structure. See BABEL. The researches of Sir Henry Rawlinson have shown that this was built by Nebuchadnezzar, on the platform of a ruinous edifice of more ancient days. It consisted of six distinct terraces, each twenty feet high, and forty-two feet less horizontally than the one below it. On the top was the sanctum and observatory of the temple, now a vitrified mass. Each story was dedicated to a different planet, and stained with the color appropriated to that planet in their astrological system. The lowest, in honor of Saturn, was black; that of Jupiter was orange; that of Mars red, that of the sun yellow, that of Venus green, and that of Mercury blue. The temple was white, probably for the moon. In the corners of this longruined edifice, recently explored were found cylinders with arrowhead inscriptions, in the name of Nebuchadnezzar, which inform us that the building was named "The Stages of the Seven Spheres of Borsippa;" that it had been in a dilapidated condition; and that, moved by Merodach his god, he had reconstructed it with bricks enriched with lapis lazuli, "without changing its site or destroying its foundation platform." This restoration is also stated to have taken place five hundred and four years after its first erection in that form by Tiglath Pileser I., 1100 B. C. If not actually on the site of the tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible, and the temple of Belus described by Herodotus, this building would seem to have been erected on the same general plan. Every brick yet taken from it bears the impress of Nebuchadnezzar. Borsippa would seem to have been a suburb of ancient Babylon.