Ezekiel26:7 YLT

For, thus said the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I am bringing in unto Tyre Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, From the north -- a king of kings, With horse, and with chariot, and with horsemen, Even an assembly, and a numerous people.

Ezra 7:12 YLT

Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a perfect scribe of the law of the God of heaven, and at such a time:

Why is the title "king of kings" given to Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar?

  • It is because that is the title they gave themselves - simple!
    – Dottard
    Feb 6, 2022 at 5:37
  • I thought it was their way of saying "emperor": a king whose subjects include other kings.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 6, 2022 at 9:01

2 Answers 2


It would be akin to any Jewish scholar acclaiming one renowned Rabbi as being "Rabbi of Rabbis". Or, of historians comparing the track-record of the most famous of conquerors and declaring that one was "Conqueror of conquerors" (say, Genghis Khan, for example.)

In the prophetic book of Ezekiel, Jehovah God was forewarning the pompous king of Tyre that he had better brace himself for king Nebuchadnezzar, who was to come (at God's sovereign decree). If the reading starts at chapter 26 verse 1, this is made plain. Then turn to chapter 28 and read verses 1 to 19 where details of the prophecy against the king of Tyre are given. One of the reasons for God destroying Tyre and its king was that the king proudly believed, and said in his heart:

" 'I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.' But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god" (ch.28 vs.2).

"Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations" (vss.6-7 NIV)

God's prophet, Ezekiel, also penned other prophetic warnings against Ammon, Moab and Philistia. Read chapter 25.

The language, 'king of kings' is scathing for this is only true of human kings who like to think of themselves as superior to other rulers. Sinful humans love to consider themselves as greater than others, so God uses that phrase to ridicule the king of Tyre, for a greater human king than he is going to be raised up by God to bring the king of Tyre to a humiliating and fatal destruction.

However, in the related text you mention, Ezra 7:12, it is king Artaxeres himself who calls himself "king of kings". God does not call him that. That is how Artaxerxes' letter of authorisation to Ezra, God's priest, starts. This simply confirms that mighty kings back then viewed themselves as superior in kingship to other kings. It was a form of boasting and of giving the impression that their authority superceeded that of lesser kings.

Answer to your question: Why is the title "king of kings" given to Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar? - That title was not given to Artaxerxes by God, but he took it to himself. That title written about Nebuchadnezzar was using scathing language to a human who had such illusions of grandeur that he (the king of Tyre) considered himself to be a god, as the whole of the address goes on to show.


They were emperors. They ruled over rulers of nations. Thus, they were the king of kings. However, this form is the superlative in Hebrew:

(i) The absolute superlative, which manifests the outstanding feature, condition or state of something or someone can be expressed by:

a. A singular noun in the status constructus preceding the indefinite plural form of the same word.

הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים

‍ vanity of vanities = utmost vanities (Eccl. 1:2)‍ -- Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., Kroeze, J., Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., & Kroeze, J. (1999). A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (electronic ed., p. 236). Sheffield Academic Press.

Ezra 7:12 is Aramaic but has similar grammar. This title means greatest king. However, this is a title the kings gave themselves, not a title the Scripture gave them.


King of kings, on account of the vanquished princes, along with Great King, a common title in the inscriptions. -- (Ezekiel 26:7) Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Schröder, W. J., Fairbairn, P., Findlay, W., Crerar, T., & Manson, S. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ezekiel (p. 249). Logos Bible Software.

Ancient texts and inscriptions

To Ashur, his lord, Esarhaddon, king of the world, king of [Assyria], governor of Babylon, king of Kar-Duni[ash], king of kings, k[ing] of E[gypt] (M[uṣur]), Patur[isi] and Nubia (Kûsu), [has dedicated this door/building] for his (own) life and the prosperity (šulmu) of his country.

(3) From a clay barrel found in Ashur and published by E. Nassouhi, ibid, as No. XII, 22 ff. -- Pritchard, J. B., ed. (1969). The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed. with Supplement, p. 290). Princeton University Press.

Ashurbanipal, the great king, the legitimate king, the king of the world, king of Assyria, king of (all) the four rims (of the earth), king of kings, prince without rival, who rules from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea and has made bow to his feet all the (other) rulers and who has laid the yoke (nîru) of his overlordship (upon them) from Tyre which is (an island) in the Upper Sea and (read: as far as) Tilmun which is (an island) in the Lower Sea—and they pulled the straps (abšānu) (of) his (yoke).

(7) From the inscription in the temple of Ishtar published (with autographs, transliteration, and translation) by R. C. Thompson, in AAA, XX (1933), 71 ff. Text: Pls. xc ff. Translation: ibid., 90 ff. -- Pritchard, J. B., ed. (1969). The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed. with Supplement, p. 297). Princeton University Press.

I am Xerxes, the great king, the only king (lit.: king of kings), the king of (all) countries (which speak) all kinds of languages, the king of this (entire) big and far(-reaching) earth,—the son of king Darius, the Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan (ar-ri-i) of Aryan descent (lit.: seed). -- Pritchard, J. B., ed. (1969). The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed. with Supplement, p. 316). Princeton University Press.

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