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Babylon and the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II (Fall 2012)

            King Nebuchadnezzar II accomplished many feats in his lifetime. He conquered many empires and built great cities. Additionally, his religion was directly challenged by a few outstanding individuals. He was transformed by what he saw in Belshazzar, or more comely known as Daniel from the Bible. He went from being a proud polytheistic king, to a more humble monotheistic ruler. The main history forces that brought King Nebuchadnezzar to this decision include: Religion and Philosophy, Role of Specific Individuals, Interaction and Exchange, and Economics.

            Before Nebuchadnezzar assumed the throne, his father King Nabopolassar had overthrown the Assyrian empire and claimed himself the king of Babylon. There was of course reasons for this. The ruling class in Babylon started to adapt the idea that the one with the most passion would be victorious. The Assyrians, at the time, where a very greedy and oppressive nation. Their passion was for material things. The Babylonians had a passion for freedom. They believed that they would win the war if they had more passion for freedom than the Assyrians had for material things. The force that brought the Babylonians to be the rulers of the world was Religion and Philosophy. Also, they were motivated by the history force of  Economics because Assyria was oppressive and greedy in the world market.

            After the overthrow of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar was declared the prince of Babylon. This decision to declare Nebuchadnezzar the prince of Babylon was influenced by the history forces of Personal Identities, and Politics and Government. It was influenced by Personal Identities because it was common in this day to pass the throne down to your first born son. It was influenced by Politics and Government because their form of government, a monarchy, required a prince to be declared if there is a man that is authorized to fulfill that position. After King Nabopolassar had officially defeated the throne of Assyria in Nineveh, he kept his son, Nebuchadnezzar, in charge of a large Babylonian army. Nabopolassar forced Nebuchadnezzar to lead this army because of the history force of Personal Identities. Nabopolassar wanted Nebuchadnezzar to learn how to be an honorable king that could rule and protect his empire with the use of the military.

One of Nebuchadnezzar's first tasks was to destroy the remainder of the Assyrian resistance. He lead the armies north into northern Syria to destroy what remained of the Syrian empire. As soon as Nebuchadnezzar finished this task, he was commanded to take down the Egyptian empire. He faced the armies of King Necho, the ruler of Egypt, in the city of Carchemish, and defeated him there. As he celebrated his victories in Egypt, his father, King Nabopolassar, died. He passed away about three months after Nebuchadnezzar's victorious battle in Egypt. This gained him much of the land in Egypt. It also gained him the land in Judah. As he claimed and captured Judah, he also took a number of high officials and scholars. The most notable among these men is a man known from the Bible: Daniel. The history forces that influenced this action of military strategy was multifaceted. Most of the forces that influenced this event had to do with the expansion of Babylon, its power, its religion and the pride of its king. For these reasons the following history forces influenced the conquests: Politics and Government, Economics, Personal Identities, and the Role of Specific Individuals.

            Upon hearing the news of his father's death, Nebuchadnezzar rushed home to Babylon and assumed the throne. After being crowned the king of Babylon, he decided to continue his invasion of Egypt. His conquests had little success in extinguishing the enemy and his army suffered from heavy losses. Soon afterward, Judah rebelled against the throne of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded with a military attack on Jerusalem, but it was not successful. In an attempt to seek out his vengeance on the rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar sent assassins to kill King Jehoiakim, the king of Judah. Once  the King of Judah was killed, Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed more victories in Judah. He destroyed battlements and wiped out cities.

            After the death of Jehoiakim, a new king was crowned in Judah. His name was King Jehoiachin. Soon after being crowned king, he plotted his rebellion against Babylon. His plan was to team up with Egypt in order to eliminate the oppression of Babylon on Judah and Egypt. At the crucial moment, Egypt decided to bail out. Judah was left standing alone against the great King Nebuchadnezzar. The consequences of this battle, were much more severe. Large portions of Judah were destroyed, along with the temple in Jerusalem. Religious artifacts were taken from the temple and many of the inhabitants were killed. Additionally, a large population of the Jews were taken out of Judah as exiles. There were brought to Babylon and were treated poorly by the Babylonians. While in Babylon, a few outstanding individuals in the Jewish community effected Nebuchadnezzar to the point where he changed his religion.

            In addition, King Nebuchadnezzar was a great builder. While he mainly worked on infrastructure, he also made many great religious monuments to his gods and also to his wife. Firstly, Nebuchadnezzar put lots of time and energy into fortifying the city of Babylon. The total area that was fortified was about 500 acres. To the north it was protected by the Euphrates river. It had massive bridges along these rivers that were built up with battlements. To the south it was protected by a massive stone wall. In some areas this wall was more than 30 feet thick. In most places, there was triple lined walls. It was protected furthermore by moats and large cedar gates in other areas. For its day and age, the city was thought to be impenetrable. In addition to the practicality of the wall, there was beauty to be found in it as well. For example, consider the Ishtar gates, the main entrance into the city. It was made mostly out of blue glazed brick, and it had images of animals on it. These animals were made to honor the gods that Nebuchadnezzar cared so deeply about. These animals included bulls, dragons, and lions.

            Not only did Nebuchadnezzar fortify the city of Babylon, but he also fortified almost all of the cities within the Babylonian Empire. The amount of building that was undergone in King Nebuchadnezzar's reign was never before seen in history. He built up massive city wall in many places, and restored and built new temples in others. He helped create infrastructure in most of the cities and restored government buildings in others. Additionally, he worked to renew some aesthetics in Babylon such as restoring the Lake of Sippar. He helped create commonwealth building projects such as opening a port on the Persian Gulf, and building the protective Mede Wall between the Tigris River and Euphrates River to protect the people from attacks from the north. He also created colossal temples such as the temple of Marduk. Nebuchadnezzar was a very religious man and he constructed a great many temples to many of the Babylonian gods.

            In addition to his mainly public work he created many number of structures for his own personal pleasure. For example, he created a thirty foot tall golden statue of himself in honor of his awesome kingship. Also, he completed the royal palace that was started by King Nabopolassar. This palace was made with the finest materials and imports, including: gold, silver, bronze, cedar wood, and rare precious stones. Additionally, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered the construction of the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This was considered one of the original seven wonders of the world. Shaped in a similar fashion to that of the ancient pyramids of Egypt, it was referred to as a ziggurat. It was very well built as it even had stone arches in some of the entrances to it. Plants of many different varieties hung from its walls and were tended to tediously by King Nebuchadnezzar's servants. The Hanging Gardens were created for Nebuchadnezzar's wife, Amyitis. He made it for her because she felt homesick. Amyitis was married to Nebuchadnezzar for political security between the Medes and the Babylonians. She missed her homeland in Media Persia, which was rugged and mountainous. Nebuchadnezzar created the hanging gardens to replicate a beautiful vegetated mountain like the ones in Persia for Amyitis.

            Although many of these projects were aimed at helping the people of Babylon, there was a large number of slaves and forced workers that underwent the labor of these monumental construction jobs. Also, Nebuchadnezzar's building projects employed many of the people in the Babylonian Empire. It was estimated that at one point in the history of Nebuchadnezzar's reign that 90% of Babylon's people were employed as construction laborers for King Nebuchadnezzar.

            The person that most influenced Nebuchadnezzar about religion is Daniel, from the Bible. After Nebuchadnezzar quelled the rebellion of King Jehoiachin of Judah, he ordered many of the Jews to be exiled from Judah to Babylon. As he did so he made many of them slaves and servants. He also took many of the Jews who were gifted in literature and the sciences, and put them in his courts. Daniel was one of those men. In fact, Daniel was the most adept learner in all of Babylon. Also, noted among these men is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, all considered to be heroes from the Bible. One night Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He was troubled and asked all of his sorcerers and magicians to tell him and interpret his dream. None could. Finally, Daniel was brought before the king and he was able to tell the king his dream and its interpretation. His dream was that a statue made of a gold head, a silver chest, a bronze thighs, and clay-bronze feet was smashed by a huge stone that came from the sky. The interpretation was that the gold head was Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, and the other parts were of kingdoms to come, and that they will all be brought low before God. Nebuchadnezzar only was interested in the fact that he was the gold head. This fact made him even more proud of himself and his own accomplishments. He also was impressed by Daniel and decided to make him the second most powerful man in Babylon.

            The pride of Nebuchadnezzar was strong, and he didn't turn from his pride even after he was confronted by the power of God for a second time. This time it was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that made an impression of their God onto Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar created a statue of himself made from pure gold and placed it on the plain of Dura for people to bow down and worship him there. Those who would not bow down to the idol were cast into a great furnace. When the trumpets sounded, three men stood while the crowds of men all knelt down to worship the king of Babylon. Those men were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. As they were thrown into the fire, the men that threw them in were killed, but the three survived the furnace. After they came out of the fire, Nebuchadnezzar praised the God of heaven for doing such a great work, but he was harbored pride in his heart. Shortly after, he boasted about his works: how he rules the kingdom and how he built up and fortified all of the cities in Babylon.

            After seeing the boastfulness of the king, God was set to destroy the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar. He sent his servant, Daniel, to tell Nebuchadnezzar that he would be driven out from society and that he would eat grass in the fields like the cattle for seven years. And so it was. King Nebuchadnezzar lost his speech and he became like a beast of the fields. Meanwhile, Daniel ruled the Babylonian Empire, and there was peace for seven years. When Nebuchadnezzar regained his sanity, he professed that God is the only living God, and that He is higher than any other, and that He builds up kingdoms by His own will.

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