NIMROD: A MIGHTY HUNTER

Introduction

            Nimrod was a great hunter. That we understand from the biblical translations to English. Many Bibles translate the sections pertaining to Nimrod as “as a mighty hunter before the Lord,”[1] or something equally ambiguous. This research will point to an understanding of Nimrod that does not find him to be a follower of Yahweh, but an evil ruler. It will also point to the lands he ruled over.

 

Nimrod and Meaning

            Nimrod, as a word, means “to rebel” in the Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary.[2] Nin-Marad or En-Marad means “lord of Marad” which is a title of the king of Marad.[3] E.G.H. Kraeling points to the king of Marad being on Babylonian seals and says they depict Nimrod as a lion killer.[4] J (of the documentary hypothesis) tells of Nimrod’s being a Cushite in the Table of Nations. Cush was sometimes equated with Arabia and Ethiopia.[5]

 

Against the Lord?

            Early scholars often depicted Nimrod as a hero, rather than an evil person, lauding him on his skill and bravery.[6] Conservative scholars today, however, note that his skill and bravery were that of a hero but his character was not. The events at the Tower of Babel have most likely have led to the “retroactive” decision of his being an evil ruler.[7] As king, he bears some responsibility for building projects, yet we have no idea if he approved them or not. It is best assumed that his ideology was in line with the people who wished to build a Tower to worship and “make a name”[8] for themselves.

He ruled what?

            Shinar may well be a form of “Sumer,” but it is more generally believed that the word applies to Mesopotamia, in whole or part.[9] Levin agrees that ‘Cush’ often applied to Ethiopia and south-western Arabia.[10]

 

Was he real?

            The question of whether Nimrod was a demi-god or a human being is difficult.

Despite connections with characters from the Epic of Gilgamesh[11], there is nothing in the text to lead us to believe Nimrod was anything other than a real person.[12] There is also the possibility that he is an amalgamation of people that turned into a legend. It has been suggested that the J source had a full-length poem as a source for the Genesis portions about Nimrod.[13] The full story has been lost and it is up to Jewish tradition to leave its mark. That is, that the first human king was an evil one.[14]

 

Conclusion

            Nimrod remains the example of an evil ruler. He did this at a time before Israel received their first king, Saul. It is possible that the Mesopotamian-Sumerian was the personification of why Yahweh was to rule people directly. This theocracy brings up questions of Holy War and communal living, but Yahweh’s rule over people through conscience, law, and now grace represents the ideals of Judeo-Christian living during the dispensations they reflect. Maranatha!


[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009) Genesis 10:9. All Scripture references are taken from this translation unless otherwise noted.

[2] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1987) Nimrod.

[3] E.G.H. Kraeling, “The Origin and Real Name of Nimrod,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures Volume 38 (1922): 214.

[4] Ibid., 217.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Mary Katherine Y. H. Hom, “’…A Mighty Hunter before YHWH’: Genesis 10:9 and the Moral-Theological Evaluation of Nimrod,” Vetus Testamentum Vol. 60 (2010), 64.

[7] Ibid., 68.

[8] Genesis 11:4.

[9] Yigal Levin, “Nimrod, the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Summer and Akkad,” Vetus Testamentum Vol. 52 (2002), 352.

[10] Ibid., 354.

[11] Ibid., 357.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 364.

[14] Ibid., 365.

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