Updated: Jan 29, 2021
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INTRODUCTION. Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon in 605 B. C. and reigned until 562 B. C. Three times he invaded Judah and took captives, deporting them to Babylon. His first siege of Jerusalem came in 605 B. C. during the reign of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1). At that time Nebuchadnezzar carried to Babylon temple treasures and some captives who were nobles. Daniel and his three friends were among these captives. After three years Jehoiakim rebelled against the Babylonians (II Kings 24:1).
Nebuchadnezzar's second siege of Jerusalem was in 597 B. C. It was probably at this time that he bound the rebellious Jehoiakim in fetters to take him back to Baby- lon (II Chron. 36:6). Apparently, however, he killed Jehoiakim instead, casting his body outside the walls of Jerusalem as prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer. 22:18-19; 36:30). Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin then ascended the throne of Judah, but after three months Nebuchadnezzar deported the young king and others, including Ezekiel, to Babylon.
When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah the third time, he completely destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon's temple. Most of the remaining people of the land were taken captive to Babylon including the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, another son of Josiah. The Babylonians killed Zedekiah's sons before him, then put out his eyes and carried him captive to Babylon.
In addition to his military career, Nebuchadnezzar was a great builder, and his capital city of Babylon was a place of great splendor. He fortified the city heavily, building a series of double walls; he also constructed streets, canals, temples, and palaces. His most famous works were the hanging gardens built in terraces to please his wife who missed the hills of her native land of Media. The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the "seven wonders of the ancient world." Sometime during his reign, Nebuchadnezzar constructed a great image of gold, about ninety feet high. He then ordered his subjects to fall down and worship the image at the dedication ceremony. Anyone who refused would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Daniel's three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–refused to worship the image. When they were saved miraculously from the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged once again the Most High God.