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Ruler of the Babylonian Empire from 605 to 562 B.C. an autocratic but competent king who developed Babylon into one of the great cities of the world. His army besieged Judah, killed King Jehoiakim, and deported ten thousand of the finest Judaeans, including Jehoiachin, the king's son (II Kings 24:10-16). The most intelligent of these deportees were restrained for service in Nebuchadnezzar's court. Among these was Daniel, who rose rapidly in the king's estimation because of his skill in interpreting dreams (Daniel 1:1-7). In Judah, Zedekiah was installed as a puppet king, but after a few years he revolted and once again Nebuchadnezzar's forces sacked Jerusalem. Zedekiah was killed and another vast deportation took place. Finally, in the year 582 B.C., the unrest continued and a third and final invasion reduced Judah to a wilderness. "Where a thousand vines used to be," mourned Isaiah, "worth one thousand pieces of silver, all will be briar and thorn" (Isaiah 7:23). During this long period of turmoil the prophet Jeremiah incurred bitter resentment among his people because he repeatedly prophesied Nebuchadnezzar's victories and warned the people that they deserved their impending fate because of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh (Jeremiah 26:12-15). Accordingly, Jeremiah himself was treated by the victorious Babylonians with great respect and was given his freedom (Jeremiah 39, 40).
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.