🔼The name Nebuchadnezzar: Summary
- Nebo, Protect Your Servant
- A Prophet Is A Preservative Jar
- From the Babylonian phrase Nabu-kudurri-usur.
- (Jocularly) from (1) the verb נבא (naba'), to prophesy, (2) the noun כד (kad), a jar, and (3) the verb נצר (nasar), to watch, guard or keep.
🔼The name Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible
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 (Esther 8:11) and provided an essential boost to the preservation of the ancient Torah 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 (Jeremiah 25:9, 27:6).
The name Nebuchadnezzar occurs in Biblical Scriptures in three variants: Kings, Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel consistently use נבוכדנצר or נבוכדנאצר (Nebuchadnezzar, spelled with or without an א aleph). Daniel and Ezra use נבוכדנצר and נבוכדנאצר (Nebuchadnezzar) in their first two chapters and then switch to נבוכדראצר (Nebuchadrezzar, with an r instead of an n). Some scholars suggest that this was done to preserve the meaning of the name across a translation from Babylonian to Aramaic: 'Nabu-kudurri-usur' meaning 'Nebo, protect your servant.' But it's also possible that the Biblical variant was issued to forward a Biblical idea.
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)
🔼Etymology of the name Nebuchadnezzar
The name Nebuchadnezzar is foreign and shouldn't be expected to mean anything in Hebrew. But to a creative audience, it could be construed as a compound of three parts. The first part is the same as Nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing. In Hebrew this name Nebo looks like it has to do with the root נבא (nb'), having to do with prophesying:
Root נבא (nb') means to speak on behalf of, or in the stead of, some authority. Noun נביא (nabi') means spokesman or speaker and is also the Biblical word for prophet. Verb נבא (naba') means to prophesy or speak for some authority. Noun נבואה (nebu'a) means prophecy. Noun נביאה (nebi'a) means prophetess.
The noun that means prophet is identical to the Niphal or 'incomplete passive' form of the verb בוא (bo'), to come or bring.
The second part of our name looks like the noun כד (kad), meaning jar:
The verb כדד (kdd) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to toil severely or be very tired. In the Bible this root appears to have to do with fire: glowing or baking. Noun כד (kad) means jar. Noun כידוד (kidod) means spark or red glow. Noun כדכד (kadkod) denotes a gem, possibly a ruby.
The verb כיד (kyd) is also not used in the Bible but in cognate language it means to strive or struggle. The noun כידון (kidon) describes an instrument of war, particularly a dart or javelin.
The third (imaginary) part of our name could come from the verb נצר (nasar), meaning to watch, guard, keep:
The verb נצר (nasar) means to watch, guard or keep. It describes the diligent endeavor of keeping something shielded from an intervening outside world and maintaining this thing's constitutional integrity. Items so kept range from vineyards to single trees and from solitary persons to entire towns. It may describe keeping a promise or covenant or edict, or an attitude of kindness or a secret or one's intentions.
The plural word נצרים (nasarim) describes men engaged in the activity the verb describes: watchmen, safe keepers, protectors. The adjective נציר (nasir) refers to the thing protected or preserved.
Noun נצר (neser) means branch or shoot and describes both a plant's most tender part and its mode of expansion or progression. This noun may actually come from a verb that means to be fresh or green, but since it describes something precious and vulnerable, it fits right into the root that describes protecting and preserving.
The verb נזר (nazar) means to consecrate oneself or become obviously different in certain devotional ways. Although this verb and the previous are not as similar as the English transliteration suggests and are etymologically quite remote, there is a curious overlap between the two.
The noun נזר (nazir) mostly describes a consecrated one, a Nazirite, but it may also describe an unpruned vine. Likewise a Nazirite was recognized from his uncut hair, and it seems that this verb נזר (nazar) emphasizes one's disassociation with the pruning and kembing effect of cultural norms and values (and alcohol, of course), and an attempt to preserve and assess whatever grows naturally in one's heart.
The name Nebuchadnezzar is said to mean Nebo, Protect Your Servant, but its (edited) transliteration into Hebrew appears to convey a willful reverence to this man and what he inadvertently meant to the preservation and evolution of Jewish theology and Scriptures. In Hebrew the name Nebuchadnezzar means something like A Prophet Is A Preservative Jar.