Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest and most powerful of all the Babylonian kings. He was the son of Nabopolassar, a great warrior who had delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. After serving as commander of the army, Nebuchadnezzar became king upon his father's death in August of 605 B.C.
He routed the Egyptians and then brought Syria and Phoenicia under this rule. He also subdued the whole of Palestine. Nebuchadnezzar proved himself to be not only a great warrior but a shrew politician, consolidating his empire by marrying the daughter of Cyaxares, uniting the Median and Babylonian dynasties.
Nebuchadnezzar is perhaps most famous for destroying the southern kingdom of Judah. His campaign began when Jehoaikim, who had reigned in Jerusalem as a Babylonian vassal, rebelled against Babylon. He marched against Jerusalem, which yielded. The slain body of Jehoaikim was thrown over the wall of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoaikim's 8 year old son Jehaoichin on the throne, but was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar a few months later along with thirteen thousand other men which included a young man named Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar put Zediekiah on the throne of Judah, but the new king (also the last) entered into an alliance with Egypt, and rebelled against Babylon. This brought about the final siege of the city, which was totally destroyed, including the famous temple of Solomon. Zedekiah himself was taken prisoner, and had his eyes put out by order of Nebuchadnezzar, who made him a prisoner for the remainder of his life.
Nebuchadnezzar's further exploits involve Daniel, who interpreted several of the king's dreams including one of a giant statue of a man. [see Nebuchadnezzar's Dream]
Soon after an incident in which he threw three of Daniel's friends into a burning furnace, the king found himself afflicted with some peculiar mental aberration involving his imagined transformation into a beast.
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
He eventually recovered but died a few years later after a reign of forty three years.
He was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach.