Nebuchadnezzar and Archaeology

By Wayne Jackson

Nebuchadnezzar II reigned as king over the Babylonian Empire from 605-562 B.C. He was the son of Nabopolassar, founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 625 B.C.

Nebuchadnezzar plays a prominent role in the history of the Israelite people. He is mentioned numerous times in nine different Old Testament books. This monarch’s defeat of Pharaoh Neco at Carchemish (about sixty miles west of Haran [Genesis 11:31, 32]) in 605 B.C. established Chaldean supremacy in Syria and Palestine, and the southern kingdom of Judah became subject to the new ruler.

At this time, many of the Hebrew upper class were taken captive into Babylon. Daniel and Ezekiel were among these prisoners. Nebuchadnezzar again invaded Judah in 597 B.C. and took thousands more captive to Babylon, including king Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:14, 15). This event has been strikingly confirmed by archaeological discoveries.

In London’s British Museum, there is a baked clay tablet (just under three inches) inscribed in cuneiform writing (wedge-shaped characters) which records the activities of king Nebucadnezzar between the years 605-594 B.C.

In the entry which deals with the seventh year of the king (598-7 B.C.), mention is made that in the month of Kislimu, the king of Akkad (Nebuchadnezzar) marched his army to Hatti-land (Syria-Palestine) and encamped against the capital city of Judah. On the second day of the month Addaru (15/16 March), he captured Jerusalem and its king. He appointed a new ruler (Zedekiah [cf. 2 Kings 24:17]) and took heavy tribute (cf. 2 Kings 24:13), which he sent to Babylon. This is remarkable confirmation of the biblical record.

Also in the London collection is an ancient kiln-fired brick (thirteen inches high) which bears the name of the Chaldean ruler. It commemorates the rebuilding of the temples of Marduk and Nabu in Babylon. The inscription refers to “Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon . . . eldest son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon.”

Of further interest is the fact that this brick also has an Aramaic inscription of a man’s name—zbn'. The same name is found in Ezra 10:43—Zebina (zbn'), a Hebrew who was among those who had married foreign wives in Babylon.

There is no way of knowing if the name on the brick refers to the individual mentioned in Ezra. However, the name Za-bi-na-a’ occurs on five other cuneiform sources, and in one instance the father and son of this person are designated Tobiah and Baaliah respectively.

The ending of both of these names corresponds to the Hebrew—yahu, the divine component) of Yahwah—which clearly reveals that, in this instance at least, Zabina was a Jew (see Mitchell 1988, 77).

Sources/Footnotes
  • Mitchell, T. C. 1988. The Bible in the British Museum. London, England: The British Museum.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.