Biblical Personalities: Nebuchadnezar’s Good Deeds Part One
King Nebuchadnezar, destroyer of the First Beit Hamikdash, died on the 25th of Adar. (Seder Olam 28, based on Jeremiah 52:31) When King Nebuchadnezar witnessed the miraculous salvation of Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery inferno, he was so impressed that he was prepared to recite before God songs of praises of more grandeur and beauty than those found in the entire Book of Psalms. But an angel descended and struck him on the mouth (Sanhedrin 92b).
All that David expressed in the Book of Psalms, that wicked one included in a single verse: “I, Nebuchadnezar, praise and extol and glorify the Kingdom of Heaven, all of Whose works are truth; His path is justice, and those who walk proudly, He is able to humble (Daniel 4:34).” (Shocher Tov 5:10)
How incredible! The destroyer of the Temple was of such a lofty level that he was able to praise God with words that paralleled, even surpassed those of King David in the Book of Psalms!
Perhaps when we consider how much the Jewish people accomplished in Babylon, the country established by Nebuchadnezar, it is not so shocking to learn that he was a man of awesome potential. God would not send a limited man to destroy Hiss Temple. It had to be a man of tremendous potential who would be able to capture and defeat and destroy Jerusalem. It would have to be a man of such unlimited potential who could establish a land in which the Jews could so thrive for more than 1000 years.
The Sages are teaching us that when such potential is misdirected by arrogance it will end up being used only for destructive purposes. It may plant seeds of growth, even leading to what we have as the Babylonian Talmud. However, this “great” man failed because he did not learn how to properly direct his potential.