Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s exploits are well documented in both scripture and extrabiblical sources.
After a successful career commanding the Babylonian army, Nebuchadnezzar inherited his father’s throne near the end of the seventh century BC. He reigned more than four decades.
Among his many conquests, Nebuchadnezzar made numerous incursions into Jewish territory. Initially, Nebuchadnezzar allowed Judah’s kings to remain on the throne, so long as they kept up their tribute payments. The first of these kings, Jehoiakim, rebelled, switching loyalties from Babylon to Egypt.
In retaliation, Nebuchadnezzar removed Jehoiakim from the throne and plundered the temple. Jehoiakim’s successors, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, fared no better. Finally, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar razed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried the surviving inhabitants into exile. The kingdom of Judah was defeated.
For all his pomp and power, though, Nebuchadnezzar was nothing more than God’s instrument. The prophet Jeremiah revealed that it was God who gave Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands:
“After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion”.’ Jeremiah 21:7).
God was responsible for his victories over Tyre and Egypt ( Ezekiel 29:17–20).
Once, in response to Daniel’s successful interpretation of a dream, the Babylonian king had acknowledged the supremacy of Israel’s God (Daniel 2:46–47). Soon, however, Nebuchadnezzar forgot and attributed his successes to his own “mighty power” (Daniel 4:30).
In response, God afflicted Nebuchadnezzar with temporary insanity—as He had promised earlier. Once his sanity was restored, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the supremacy of the Lord once more.
“His dominion,” Nebuchadnezzar declared, “is an eternal dominion” (Daniel 4:34).
Nebuchadnezzar is a rare, pagan contributor to the Bible. The fourth chapter of Daniel is attributed to the Babylonian ruler. Nebuchadnezzar’s adulation of the one true God seems to have represented something less than true conversion, as he alluded to Marduk (also known as Bel, for whom Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar) as “my god” (see Daniel 4:8).