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Meaning and etymology of the name Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon during the time of the exile, and although the exile is commonly looked on with great lament, it proved to be a catalyst for national protection (Est 8:11) and provided an essential boost to the preservation of the ancient Torahic codes (Ezra 7:10, Nehemiah 8:8). It should be no surprise, therefore, that not Nebuchadnezzar but God Himself realized the exile (2 Chronicles 36:13-21). Through Jeremiah, God even calls Nebuchadnezzar His servant (25:9, 27:6).

Daniel's report of Nebuchadnezzar's seven years of madness (4:28-37) is almost certainly not historical, which leads to the proposition that Nebuchadnezzar's function in Scriptures is disconnected from the historical figure. Perhaps this is the reason why most of the Bible writers don't use his real name (Nebuchadrezzar with an r) but the typically Biblical variant by which he is now most known (Nebuchadnezzar with an n)

Kings, Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, Jeremiah, Ezekiel consistently use Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadnezzar). Daniel and Ezra use Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) in their first two chapters and then switch to Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadrezzar). Some scholars suggest that this was done to preserve the meaning of the name across a translation from Babylonian to Arameic: 'Nabu-kudurri-usur' meaning 'Nebo, protect your servant.' But it's probably more likely that the Biblical variant was issued to forward a Biblical idea.

The name Nebuchadnezzar may be seen as a compound of three parts:

1) Nebo, nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, meaning Prophet (see the names Nebo and Barnabas).

2) kad (kad), meaning jar, and that's a special word.
It comes from the unused root kadad (kdd),which, judging from cognates, means something like toil severely or being very tired. The link between the verb and the noun possibly has to do with either the pounding and kneading of the mortar that will become a jar (see for instance Isaiah 41:25, "...even as the potter treads the clay..."), or the pounding and churning that goes on inside the jar.
It is important to note that in the Bible, a jar is not some vessel that simply sits there, but an item that was brought about with great toil, and which continues to be associated with great toil. Our attention immediately turns to Adam's curse, who was to toil every day of his life (Genesis 3:17), and the name Adam literally means Corporeal or Clay Man.
Jars play a very important role in Scriptures. From Gideon's campaign in Judges 7 (see v16) to Jesus' inaugurative miracle in Cana (John 2) and installation of the Communion rite (Mark 14:13). In Rom 9:21 Paul uses a metaphor that was one of Isaiah's favorites, "Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?"
Isaiah said centuries before, "But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father, we are the clay and thou our potter, and all of us are the work of Thy hand." (64:8, also see 29:16 and 45:9).

3) nasar (nasar), meaning to watch, guard, keep. This verb is commonly used to indicate the office of watchmen. God is said to be the watchkeeper of Israel (Isaiah 27:3) or all men (Job 7:20).

Put together, the historical meaning of the name Nebuchadnezzar fades away in the possible Scriptural meaning: A Prophet Is A Preservative Jar.

Also see the name Accad.



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