Towards the end of the seventh century BC, the ancient nation Babylon rose again to international prominence, largely through the new dynasty that had been established by Nabopolassar. The greatest king of this dynasty was Nabopolassar’s son and successor, Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar). Nebuchadnezzar became king soon after he led Babylonian forces to victory over Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC (2 Kings 24:7; Jer 46:2). One outcome of this was that Judah fell under Babylonian power. After a series of Babylonian attacks over several years, Jerusalem was finally destroyed and its people taken captive to Babylon (587 BC).
Nebuchadnezzar was the Babylonian king throughout this time, and the books of 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel mention him by name repeatedly. (For details of his dealings with Judah and his military successes among the nations of the region see BABYLON.) Through his contact with Jews at his court in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar learnt about the Jews’ God, Yahweh. Upon seeing how this God revealed mysteries and miraculously saved people from death, he concluded that Yahweh must have been the greatest of all the gods (Dan 2:47; 3:29).
However, he was a proud man, whose empire-building achievements led him to believe that he could ignore God and take no notice of the warnings given him by God’s messenger Daniel. The result was that God punished Nebuchadnezzar with a disease of temporary madness, till he learnt that God was the sovereign ruler over the kingdoms of the world (Dan 4:27-33). The Bible gives no clear indication whether Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgment of the sovereign rule of God had any lasting effect on his behaviour. Babylon proved to be an arrogant nation, and God’s prophet saw all its pride and evil embodied in its king (Isa 14:4-11). There is no certainty that the prophet had Nebuchadnezzar or any other king specifically in mind, but his warning has a timeless relevance. Those who ambitiously desire the highest place, the greatest honour and supreme power are in danger of being brought down to the lowest place, the greatest shame and complete weakness (Isa 14:12-20). Nebuchadnezzar was undoubtedly the greatest king of this period of Babylonian supremacy. He reigned more than forty years and died in 562 BC. He was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach (Jer 52:31).