Nebuchadnezzar: Who Was the Biblical King of Men and Beasts?

One of the greatest kings mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, who was Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire?

Sep 24, 2022By Tendai Kashiri, BA Theology
king nebuchadnezzar portrait hanging gardens babylon painting


King Nebuchadnezzar II is one of the greats in the history of kings. A unique character who exerted power and command, he was the eldest of Nabopolassar’s two sons.


Nebuchadnezzar was a warrior king. According to Louise Pryke he was the “… greatest military leader of the Neo-Babylonian empire.” He ruled from 605 to 562 BCE, and apart from being a warrior, Nebuchadnezzar endeavored to re-build Babylon and establish religious worship. Throughout his reign, he cemented his kingship and grew in strength.


The Hebrew form of the name Nebuchadnezzar is Nabu-kadurri-asur meaning Nabu (deriving from a god’s name) protects (nasaru means to protect) my eldest son (kadurri means the eldest son). His father Nabopolassar desired protection for his son from his own gods. However, according to the Bible, throughout his reign, Nebuchadnezzar dealt more with the God of the Israelites.


Nebuchadnezzar: Warrior King, Conqueror of Nations and Cities

nebuchadnezzar the warrior
King Nebuchadnezzar Besieging Jerusalem, by Frans Pourbus, 1880 via Harvard Art Museums


Nebuchadnezzar’s military genius ranks him high among kings. As crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar commanded an army along with his father in the mountains North of Assyria. He also served as an army commander in his father’s place and he defeated the Egyptian army securing control of Syria. Altogether, he played a major role in liberating Babylon itself.


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At a young age, his potential was clear and his zeal for conquering nations and extending Babylonian domination was recognized through his military conquests. After his father’s death, in August 605, Nebuchadnezzar was crowned king. Afterward, he continued conquering nations and establishing his authority.


burning of jerusalem
The Burning of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s Army, by Juan de la Corte, 2013, via


Nebuchadnezzar conquered Assyria, Egypt, and Judah, but his most famous conquest is that of Jerusalem, which is recorded in the Bible. Some refer to him as a ruthless, cruel king who destroyed Jerusalem and forced the Jewish people into exile.


It is reported that Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of cities was so fierce and the fires were so hot that they turned the limestone buildings into lime. Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests made him one of history’s greatest kings, having turned his empire into a powerful force.


He became a leader to not only his own people but also to other nations as well. Cities like Judah chose to be tributary states. This means that their kings were subordinate to Nebuchadnezzar, reporting to him and governing for him.


Babylonian Architecture, Culture, and Civilization Under Nebuchadnezzar’s Kingship 

babylonian art
Panel with Striding Lion, Neo-Babylonian Period, via the Getty Art Blog


Although Nebuchadnezzar was a strong military man, he also concentrated on nation-building initiatives. Brutality existed outside Babylon’s walls, but Babylon experienced peace and development under the administration of King Nebuchadnezzar.


Nebuchadnezzar promoted art and architecture. The famous impenetrable forty feet tall Babylonian walls hint at the brilliant architectural minds under his great leadership in this era. According to the Greek Historian Herodotus, the walls of Babylon were so thick that the Babylonians were able to hold chariot races on top of them.


Babylon was also home to the famous Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus describes the Hanging Gardens extensively. He notes that the terraces slopped upwards like an ancient theatre and they reached a total height of 20 meters (65 feet). They were built on pillars and lined with reeds and bricks. They were an architectural delight.


hanging gardens of babylon
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, from North Wind Picture Archives, 19th Century Illustration, via the Mirror


Under the skillful kingship of Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon was transformed into one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world as the King embarked on the construction of some of the world’s most magnificent buildings and gardens. The Ishtar Gate, which was the eighth gate into the inner city, was constructed in 575 BCE on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar.


The gate was made from exquisite glazed bricks ornamented with lapis lazuli. These gave the gate its characteristic gleam. King Nebuchadnezzar had the Ishtar Gate constructed as both a defensive and political manoeuvre. The gate is named after the goddess of love, sex, and war, Ishtar. Ishtar was also associated with political power, and she was well matched to Nebuchadnezzar who was a fierce world conqueror.


The gates were a symbol of the great wealth and strength of Babylon, but they were also important to the Babylonian religion; hence Mesopotamian gods and goddesses were used as decorations both in human and animal form.


Nebuchadnezzar and Religion

burney queen of the night
Queen of the Night Burney Relief, 1750-1800, via the British Museum


According to the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar had strong religious beliefs. In the Book of Daniel, from the Old Testament, it is stated that King Nebuchadnezzar had magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortune tellers who worked for him.


“… the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers…”
Daniel 2:2


These people were deemed to be skilled in both natural and supernatural arts, so King Nebuchadnezzar took counsel from these men. He believed the gods could help him to rule. However, there was one man, an exile from the Hebrews named Daniel who surpassed all the king’s magicians.


Daniel had a strong influence on King Nebuchadnezzar’s religious beliefs. In the Bible’s version of events, Daniel’s God ultimately proves to be the supreme God, above all ancient gods. Nebuchadnezzar came to rely on the God of Israel, Daniel’s God, after demanding that the magicians tell him what he had dreamed of and what his dream was about. In the biblical story, they all fail to do so, except for Daniel, who explains to the king that only his God could accomplish this task. Daniel both tells the king about his dream and interprets it (Daniel 2:24-49).


daniel interpreting a dream
Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, by Franz Von Hauslab the Younger, 1815-1883, via the Met Museum


According to the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar had more visions from God than any of the other ancient heathen kings. He even saw messengers (angels of God), and his kingship was full of visions and demonstrations of God’s miraculous powers.


For example, in one story King Nebuchadnezzar creates a sixty cubit by sixty cubits golden image of himself for worship. Three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into a furnace for refusing to worship the statue. Nebuchadnezzar sees the deliverance of the three Hebrew boys — and although he orders the furnace should be made seven times hotter than normal — he sees an angel in the furnace with the boys.


However, the greatest encounter King Nebuchadnezzar has with the Israelite God is when he boasts of his mighty power, equating himself to a god. A voice from Heaven informs him that God has stripped him of his royal authority. God shifts from speaking to him through dreams and communicates with him through a voice from above.


nebuchadnezzar returning to sanity
Nebuchadnezzar Recovering His Reason, by Robert Blyth, 1750-1784, via


“This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with wild animals, you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes…”
Daniel 4:31-32


Nebuchadnezzar lives like an animal for seven years. Unlike any other king to live on earth, he rules over men and beasts, experiencing both the human and animal kingdom’s ways of life.


nebuchadnezzar insanity
The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar, by Casanovas J, 1881, via Universal History Archive


This encounter or experience was the one that had a profound impression on him and he acknowledges the Hebrew God as the highest. In the Bible, he writes to the nations and people of every language throughout the earth:


“It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”
Daniel 4:2-3


Nebuchadnezzar: King of Men and Beasts

nebuchadnezzar the great
Nebuchadnezzar-The Greatest, by Mahdi Dawood, 2015 via


Nebuchadnezzar’s royal authority was so great, that in the Bible, even Heaven acknowledges his greatness. Nebuchadnezzar has a vision of a tree (Daniel (4:1-27), but he learns the tree symbolizes himself. Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness and strength had grown so much it reached the sky. His dominion had extended to distant parts of the earth. He had almost become the king of the world.


Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion grew so much that he was like a god and he thought himself to be a god who ought to be worshiped. He boasted of his glory. His power was great and spread to the rest of the world. He was a king of humans and beasts.


king nebuchadnezzar
King Nebuchadnezzar, by Jean Victor Adam, 1850, via


According to the prophet Daniel, the God of heaven gave King Nebuchadnezzar authority over men and animals.


“Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all.”
Daniel 2:37-38

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By Tendai KashiriBA TheologyTendai is a Theologian who loves simplifying Christian doctrines so that everyone can understand the Gospel. Fascinated by the power the entertainment industry has on people, I express the simplicity of the Gospel through writing and recording gospel music. As an upcoming Gospel artist, reaching people with the Gospel in melody opens up interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds. I see the Gospel explained in different cultures. This fuels my passion to write about the Christian Gospel that transcends culture, race and age.