Who was Nimrod in the Bible?Nimrod is one of the descendants of Noah listed in what's known as the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. The Table of Nations is a list of seventy descendants of Noah that help map out the different people groups living in and around Israel. It is not a complete list of all the people groups in the world at that time, but it does lay the foundation for the specific groups the Israelites would face throughout their history recorded in the Bible.
Nimrod is listed as Noah's great-grandson born of Cush, who was a son of Noah's son Ham. Genesis 10:8–9 introduce Nimrod by saying, "Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, 'Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.'"
Nimrod's name uses the same Hebrew letters as the word "rebel." So when the Bible says he was a mighty hunter "before" the LORD, it could also be translated to understand that he was an animal slayer "in opposition to" the LORD. His renown as a hunter was so great that there was a saying people used elevating Nimrod's name any time someone had success in hunting.
The phrase "mighty man" can also be translated as "warrior, chief, or tyrant." In fact, the following verses record that Nimrod started his kingdom by building Babel (Babylon) and extending his kingdom "in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia)." He then turned his attention northward and "went into Assyria and built Nineveh" and other cities (Genesis 10:11). Nimrod was a conquering warrior and reigning tyrant and is actually believed to be the first person to have worn a crown. He was concerned with elevating his own name and relying on his own strength and power.
Nowhere is this self-promoting attitude better displayed than in the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. As the founder and ruler of Babel, Nimrod was surely involved when "they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth'" (Genesis 11:4). After the flood, God instructed Noah and his descendants to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1). So this desire not to disperse over the face of the earth was in direct rebellion to God's command. Furthermore, this desire to make a name for themselves is in contradiction to, as Moses later expressed, "proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God" (Deuteronomy 32:3).
The evidence points to Nimrod being a rebellious and powerful man concerned with his own strength and renown. However, as is evidenced by God's intervention at the Tower of Babel, "our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Psalm 115:3) and "those who walk in pride he is able to humble" (Daniel 4:37).
Ironically, the term nimrod in current American vernacular connotes a socially awkward, inept geek. That understanding of the term was popularized by Bugs Bunny teasing his continuously unsuccessful nemesis, the hunter Elmer Fudd, by sarcastically calling him "nimrod" (a term used to connote a hunting expert) in the cartoon Looney Tunes. Nimrod's legacy has been humbled indeed.
Of course, because Nimrod was a conquering warrior, renowned hunter, and founder of many ancient cities, his name appears in many legends and myths throughout the ancient world. However, the Bible only provides these few details about Nimrod listed in Genesis 10:8–12 and about his city's disastrous attempt to establish its own greatness in Genesis 11:1–9. His name is also listed in a genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:10, with the indication that he "was the first on earth to be a mighty man," and his name is associated with his land in Micah 5:6. Any added storylines are mere legend and mythology.
Even with only those few details, Nimrod stands as a warning example against rebellious and prideful leadership, encouraging people to instead be "a people humble and lowly [who] seek refuge in the name of the LORD" (Zephaniah 3:12).
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