In Genesis 10:8 we are introduced to Nimrod. If you blink you’ll miss it, which is easy to do because our eyes usually glaze over when we start reading genealogies. But notice that everyone else is given air time for only a fraction of a verse while Nimrod gets three whole verses all to himself. Why? Who is this Nimrod?
I’m just going to mention a few interesting points about him and show how he fits into the big picture.
- Ham is his grandfather. Remember Ham was involved in a super shady scandal with Noah, which earned him a curse (Gen 8:18-27). The curse was actually upon Canaan, who would be Nimrod’s uncle. Nonetheless, Ham’s behavior put a real blight on the entire family. But Noah didn’t just pronounce a prophetic curse, he also released a blessing that further defined God’s choice of bloodline for the coming chosen seed (Gen. 3:15). So what we begin to see is the seed conflict, and Nimrod emerges with a zeal to be a ruler. He seems to have the desire to take the position prophetically given to Shem. How do I know this?
- Nimrod is the first person in the Bible to establish a kingdom; not just a city, but a kingdom. He establishes a massive kingdom starting with Babylon (the infamous enemy of God) and spanning all the way to Assyria (another enemy of Israel). Therefore, Nimrod really is the first world ruler/ emperor.
- The tower of Babel is a project of Babylon. Surely the emperor, Nimrod, is driving the project. The intention was to “build a name for ourselves” and to reach the heavens becoming like God (but against God). Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for “name” is “shem.” So God had granted Noah’s son, Shem, to be one who would carry the chosen name (Gen. 3:15), but Nimrod won’t accept this and is determined to make a “shem” for himself. So, we see Nimrod as the first world emperor and the first antichrist type figure.
- Furthermore, Genesis 10:8 identifies Nimrod as the first on earth to be a “mighty man.” This phrase connects him with the cryptic Genesis 6 passage when the sons of God (angels) took human wives for themselves and produced “Nephillim” (aka giants). These giants (half breeds of angels and humans) became “mighty men.” It is no coincidence that this same name is attributed to Nimrod. Some speculate that Nimrod somehow became a giant, but either way it is a very negative association. And the giants were also known as “men of renown”, which in Hebrew would be “men of shem” (meaning men of the name). And this is exactly the behavior of Nimrod, a covetous pursuit of “the name” (Genesis 11:4).
- Another parallel with the Genesis 6 giants and Nimrod’s tower of Babel is that it brought on the judgment of God. In Genesis 6 there was an explosion of evil as a result of the Nephillim. Rabbinic traditions believe that magic, dark secrets, and the art of war were taught to humanity through this wicked union between angels and men. Genesis 6 paints a picture of an explosion of violence and sexual immorality in the earth which ends in a deluge to cleanse the earth. And in Genesis 11, God comes down to scatter the people in their efforts because they would otherwise tap into a power which would make nothing impossible for them (11:6). So God preemptively scatters them to disrupt the attempt to unify the world into a likeness of God that rages against God (Psalm 2). The Lord does this not because he is fearful of their potential, but because he is merciful and if he allows their project to succeed then it will warrant another judgment like the flood. Apparently, the Lord deems that it is not time for this, so he foils their plans.
- This drive to become like God roots back to the temptation where the serpent promised that the fruit of knowledge would make humanity like God. Never mind that we were already created in his likeness, but the knowledge of good and evil makes us our own gods in that we become our own origin of good and evil. It causes us to be like God, yes, but the serpent failed to mention that it also makes us against God(as Dietrich Bonhoffer would say). So it is no coincidence that we see this same language about Nimrod: “like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord” (10:9). The Hebrew word for “before” is paniym, meaning “face.” Thus, the connotation is that Nimrod is a mighty one like the Nephillim right in God’s face. In other words it could be said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter in opposition to the Lord.”