Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty King of Babylon, reigned for forty years. He was so commanding a figure that, according to the Midrash, his own son, Evil-Merodach, was afraid to assume his father’s throne:
“During the seven years [of madness] that passed over Nebuchadnezzar, they took Evil-Merodach and made him king in the former’s place. When Nebuchadnezzar returned, he took Evil-Merodach and confined him to prison…When Nebuchadnezzar died, they again approached Evil-Merodach to appoint him king. He said to them, ‘I shall not heed you; the first time, after I listened to you, he took me and imprisoned me, this time he will slay me.’ And he did not believe them until they dragged Nebuchadnezzar[’s dead body] forth and cast him before him” (Leviticus Rabbah 18:2).
The ancient Greek historian Berossus appears to view Evil-Merodach’s reign as impure, which some suggest means that he went against the priests and the laws set in place by Nebuchadnezzar. One such act to which this might be referring are the closing verses of II Kings, the only Biblical reference to Evil-Merodach:
“And it came to pass in the 37th year of the captivity of Yeho’yachin king of Judea, in the twelfth month, on the 27th day of the month (27 Adar, today’s Hebrew date) that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, did lift the head of Yeho’yachin king of Judea out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon. And he changed his prison garments, and [Yeho’yachin] ate bread before him [Evil-Merdoch] continually all the days of his life. And there was a continual daily allowance given to him by the king, all the days of his life” (II Kings 25:27-30).
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