Nebuchadnezzar
Graig Huber

We have dedicated some articles to historical figures in our York Rite degrees, however, none of the articles have touched on what one might say is a “nefarious character”. Nebuchadnezzar is a crucial figure in the Royal Arch degree despite not being portrayed in the degree and only mentioned twice during the entire conferral. While Joshua, Haggai, and many others are important, a question to ask is “Could the Royal Arch Degree exist without Nebuchadnezzar?” and I would answer: No. We know from the Royal Arch degree that he burned the temple and carried away the Holy Vessels but what about some historical information on this ancient monarch.

The man we refer to as Nebuchadnezzar (debate among scholars to his actual name) was the longest serving and most powerful king of a short lived empire in the Middle East: The Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean Empire. The empire was only is existence for roughly 100 years and encompassed the territories of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and parts of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Chaldean Empire began when Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, rebelled against the Assyrian Empire and established himself King of Babylon around 620 B.C. He reigned for about 15 years until his death in 605 B.C. at which time Nebuchadnezzar ascended to the throne of the Babylon. According to scholars, much of the new King’s time was spent consolidating his power and handling internal rebellions within his new and sprawling territory. One of these internal rebellions led him to Jerusalem around 587 B.C. and, we, as Capitular Masons, know the story of the siege of Jerusalem. Toward the end of his life, according to historical accounts, he began to act irrationally and might have suffered from some mental or psychological disorder. Upon his death in 562 B.C., the Chaldean Empire began to fade. Over the 20 years following the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean Empire had at least 4 kings each of which were less effective and lost territory to neighboring adversaries. In 539 B.C. the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great invaded the eastern borders of the Chaldean Empire and destroyed the Chaldean Army and captured Babylon ending the existence of Nebuchadnezzar’s once mighty Empire.

Though not covered in this article, Nebuchadnezzar is a central figure in the Book of Daniel.

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