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For other things named "Nimrod", see the disambiguation page Nimrod.
In the Bible and in later legends, Nimrod (Hebrew נמרד Nimrod or Nimrōdh), son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah, was a Mesopotamian monarch and "a mighty hunter before the Lord". He is mentioned in the table of nations (Genesis 10), in the First Book of Chronicles, and in the Book of Micah. In the Bible he is an obscure figure; in later interpretations, as recorded by Josephus and the rabbis who compiled the midrash, he is the subject of innumerable legends. The most prominent of these was the story that he built the Tower of Babel.
Mention of Nimrod in the Bible is rather limited. Nimrod was the son of Cush, who was the son of Ham. Thence he was a great-grandson of Noah. He is called "the mighty hunter before the eyes of the Lord" and the first to become "a mighty one on the earth". He is connected with the Middle-Eastern towns Babel, Erech, Accad, Calneh, Nineveh, Resen, Rehoboth-Ir and Calah. (Genesis 10:8-12) Thence he is considered an evil person and a tyrannic ruler. He is said to be the founder and king of the first empire after the Flood.
Though not clearly stated so in the Bible, he has since the ancient times been believed to be the one who lead the people to build the Tower of Babel. Since his kingdom included the towns in Shinar, it is believed likely that it was under his direction the building began. This is in agreement with ancient traditions, such as the writings of Josephus and the Targums. Some sources, however, assert to the contrary that he left the district before the building of the tower.
Called a "mighty hunter" it is believed likely that his rulership included war and terror. He was a hunter not only of animals, but also a person who used aggression against other humans. Since some of the towns mentioned were in the territory of Assyria, which is connected to Shem's son Asshur, he is believed to have invaded territory that did not belong to him.
Historians and mythographers have tried to link the Biblical Nimrod to figures from other mythologies and from history, with varying success. One such identification is with Ningirsu , and Ninurta who inherited his role, the Sumerian and later Akkadian god of war, hunting, and agriculture; Marduk, who shared attributes with these earlier gods, is also included. Nimrod's imperial ventures described in Genesis may be based on the conquests of the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I (Dalley et al., 1998, p. 67). Alexander Hislop, in his anti-Catholic tract The Two Babylons (Chapter 2, Section II, Sub-Section I) decided that Nimrod was to be identified with Ninus, the Mesopotamian king of Greek legend and husband of Semiramis (see below), with a whole host of deities throughout the Mediterranean world, and with the Persian Zoroaster. For the latter he may have followed the identification of Nebrod (the Septuagint's transliteration of Nimrod) found in the Clementine homilies (Homily IX).
David Rohl, like Hislop, identified Nimrod with a complex of Mediterranean deities; among those he picked were Asar, Baal, Dumuzi, and Osiris. In Rohl's theory, Enmerkar the founder of Uruk was the original inspiration for all these figures, because the story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (which see: ) bears a few similarities to the legend of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel.
Someone (possibly Rohl) has identified Nimrod with Resheph of northern Semitic mythology .
In some interpretationes graeca he was identified with the hunter Orion, and thus with the constellation Orion. At the beginning of the century he was linked with either Marduk or Gilgamesh. (See the Jewish Encyclopedia linked below.)
According to Hebrew traditions, he was of Mizraim by mother but came from Cush son of Ham and expanded Asshur which he inherited. His name has become proverbial as that of a "mighty hunter". His "kingdom" comprised Babel (Sumerian logogram Nun.Ki.), Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar, otherwise known as the land of Nimrod. (Gen. x. 8-10; I Chron. i. 10; Micah v. 5)
"Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power..."
"Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion..."
One tradition, of unknown provenance, suggests that Nimrod died a violent death. Another tradition, also of unknown provenance, says that he was killed by a wild animal. Still another, its origin equally obscure, says that Shem killed him because he had led the people into the worship of Baal.
- The Legacy of Mesopotamia; Stephanie Dalley et al. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998)
- Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery; Stephen R. Haynes (NY, Oxford University Press, 2002)
- Nimrod, entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia
- WebBible entry
- Against World Powers: A Study of the Judeo-Christian Struggle in History and Prophecy - Modern Christian writings, redolent of apocalypticism, which follow David Rohl's view on the legends of Nimrod, but add the theory that he was an agent of Satan. Another page from this site summarizes Rohl's theory of Nimrod and Enmerkar
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