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Before Nebuchadnezzar II became the second king of the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty, he was Nabopolassar’s oldest son and trusted general. As Nabopolassar sat on the throne in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar led some successful military campaigns against the Egyptians in 605 BC at Carchemish and Hamath. Nebuchadnezzar’s victories over Egypt established the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty as a true empire, essentially taking most of the Assyrian Empire's land. The victories also helped ensure that Nebuchadnezzar II would be accepted by the Babylonian nobility, thereby guaranteeing a smooth transition to the throne. <ref> Kuhrt, p. 590</ref>
Wars and Expansion====
Not long after Nebuchadnezzar II became the king, he marched with his army back into the Levant to assert Babylonian supremacy in the region. According to the primary text known as the “Babylonian Chronicle,” the campaign was done for punitive reasons and a show of strength to any city thinking of either going to Egypt to support or assert their independence.
“Year seven, month Kislimu: The king of Akkad moved his army into Hatti land, laid siege to the city of Judah, and the king took the city on the second day of the month Addaru. He appointed in it a (new) king of his liking, took heavy booty from it, and brought it into Babylon.” <ref> Pritchard, James B, ed. <i>Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament.</i> 3rd ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 564</ref>
Nebuchadnezzar II then appointed Zedekiah to be king of Judah because he would have presumably been more pliable, but it turned out that he was just as recalcitrant as his predecessors. Angered at the situation, Nebuchadnezzar II did what any ancient king of the Near East would have done – he invaded the kingdom, destroyed their most holy site, and took most of the population into captivity. The sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Solomonic Temple took place in the year 586 BC. <ref> Kitchen, p. 45</ref>
The central part of Babylon, which was on the Euphrates River banks, was remodeled in a truly extravagant manner. The king’s palace was built in the center of it all with the newly constructed Etemenanki Ziggurat – the ziggurat of the god Marduk and what was more than likely the inspiration for the “Tower of Babel” in Genesis 11: 1-9 – nearby. <ref> Frankfort, Henri. <i> The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient.</i> (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 203 </ref> Marking the way into Nebuchadnezzar II’s inner city was the famed Ishtar Gate, which was dedicated to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war. The beautifully done gateway was made of glazed bricks and covered with numerous depictions of mythological bulls and dragons. <ref> Frankfort, p. 205</ref>
Conclusion====In the centuries after the collapse of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar II’s reputation progressively worsened, thanks in large part to his portrayal in the Old Testament. Although many of the biblical passages that relate to Nebuchadnezzar II are true, especially those in II Kings, the fact remains that he was a significant figure in the ancient Near East. Nebuchadnezzar II was a great conqueror who established a Near Eastern empire that was essentially the Assyrian Empire's geographical equivalent. Still, perhaps just as important were his building activities. Through his ambitious building program, the Babylonian king made sure that his city would once again become one of the greatest in the ancient world and that even more than 2,000 years later, people would still view some of those monuments with awe.