His name, in the Babylonian orthography Nabu-kudur-uzur, means "Nebo, protect the crown!" or the "frontiers" or the "heirs". In an inscription he styles himself "Nebo's favourite." He was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. He married the daughter of Cyaxares, and thus the Median and Babylonian dynasties were united.
Necho II, the king of Egypt, had gained a victory over the Assyrians at Carchemish. This secured to Egypt the possession of the Syrian provinces of Assyria, including Palestine. The remaining provinces of the Assyrian empire were divided between Babylonia and Media. But Nabopolassar was intent on reconquering from Necho the western provinces of Syria, and for this purpose he sent his son with a powerful army westward. In the furious Battle of Carchemish in 606 BC the Egyptians were defeated and driven back, and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the sway of Babylon. In 605 BC, Nabopolassar died and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend to the throne.
Nebuchadnezzar then went on several campaigns to increase his influence in Syria and Judah, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC, bringing King Jehoiachin to Babylon. Another siege on Jerusalem occurred in 586 BC, ending in the city's destruction and the deportation of many prominent citizens to Babylon. These events are described in the Bible.
A clay tablet, now in the British Museum, bears the following inscription referring to his wars: "In the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Egypt Misr to make war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad." Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and inflicted chastisement on Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar now set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon, and constructed canals, aqueducts and reservoirs.
After his death ca. 561 BC, in the eighty-third or eighty-fourth year of his age, after a reign of forty-three years, he was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach, who, after a reign of two years, was succeeded by Neriglissar (559 - 555), who was succeeded by Nabonidus (555 - 538), at the close of whose reign (less than a quarter of a century after the death of Nebuchadnezzar) Babylon fell under Cyrus at the head of the combined armies of Media and Persia.