Nimrod

NIMROD (nĭm'rŏd, Heb. nimrōdh). In the “Table of the Nations” (Gen.10.1-Gen.10.32) many of the names seem to be those of cities, e.g., Sidon (Gen.10.15); countries, e.g., Canaan (Gen.10.6, Gen.10.15); or tribes, e.g., “Heth and the Jebusites” (Gen.10.15-Gen.10.18); but Nimrod stands out clearly as an individual man and a very interesting character. The beginning of his kingdom was in Babylonia, whence he moved northward and became the founder of Nineveh and other cities in or near Assyria. He became distinguished as a hunter, ruler, and builder. Many legends have grown up around the name of Nimrod, some claiming that he was identical with “Ninus,” an early Babylonian king or god. Again, some have associated Nimrod with the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen.11.1-Gen.11.9). Others have identified him with the ancient king of Babylonia, Gilgamesh, but there is no proof that the two were identical.


NIMROD nĭm rŏd (נִמְרֹ֑ד, נִמְרֹ֑וד, LXX Νεβρωδ). The son of Cush, an early warrior and hunter who founded a kingdom in Babylonia later extended to Assyria (Gen 10:6-8).

The name.

The name Nimrod is of uncertain etymology and there have been many attempts at explanation from both Sem. and non-Sem. sources. It has been suggested that it may be a play on mrd, “to rebel,” but this remains a hypothesis. An Akkad. personal name Namratu(m) is known. As “son of Cush” (1 Chron 1:10) he is related to the Hamitic Cush of Genesis 10:6 so that a non-Sem. origin is probable. Various proposed identifications are given below.

Person.

Nimrod is described as the first to be a gibbôr or skilled warrior (Gen 10:8, 9) and, as a related art, “a hero in hunting” (gibbôr ṩayĩd). That he was a “mighty hunter before the Lord” (KJV) may be a way of expressing “a renowned hunter” or simply “...in the land.”

Kingdom.

This included the great cities of Babel (Babylon), Erech (Warka), Accad (Agade) and “all of them” (Calneh; KJV) in the land of Shinar. This covers the ancient kingdom of Akkad in northern Babylonia. From that land he went out to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir (possibly a description of Nineveh), Calah and Resen (Ras al-’Ayin?) between Nineveh and Calah, i.e. inner Assyria, called “the land of Nimrod” by Micah (5:6). Archeological support for the presence of southerners in prehistoric and Sumer. times is found in the lower levels of these sites. See Assyria.

Identification.

These include the following hypotheses: a) The view that Nimrod reflects the sagas of the gods sees him as the Akkad. god of war and hunting, Ninurta (a form Nimurta is not found) under his title lugal. marada, “king of Marad, or great strength.” He could possibly be Marduk (Sumer, amar. ud [u]), the hero god of battle, but he seems to play little part in the pantheon until the 14th cent. b.c. E. A. Speiser sees in Nimrod the prototype of Ninus, the classical founder of Nineveh. b) As a Cushite (Nubian/Ethiopian) he has been identified with the Egyp. king Amenophis III who ruled 1411-1375 (von Rad). This would imply a transference of ideas since this ruler never reached the River Tigris. c.) The view that Nimrod was Gilgamesh rests solely on the fact that the epic heroking of Erech (c. 2700 b.c.) marched northward and was a well-known hunter. In its favor is the quoted proverb “like Nimrod a might hunter before the Lord” (v. 9) since the Gilgamesh Epic was widely quoted throughout the ancient Near E. The frequent mention of Nimrod in place-names (see Calah) e.g. Birs Nimrūd and in the early Islamic texts may stem from the OT. The dissimilarity of names, however, makes this view unlikely. d) Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (c. 1246-1206 b.c.) as the first Assyrian king of Babylonia is contrary to Genesis 10:10 which envisages Nimrod as originating in the S. e) Sargon I of Agade, c. 2300 b.c., undertook building work at Nineveh and Ashur as was renowned in early omen lit. This view would require that he be related to the Kašši of the eastern hills (=Cush), but no evidence for this is extant.

Bibliography

E. A. Speiser, “In search of Nimrod,” Eretz Israel 5 (1958), 32-36.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


Nimrod has not been identified with any mythical hero or historic king of the inscriptions. Some have sought identification with Gilgamesh, the flood hero of Babylonia (Skinner, Driver, Delitzsch); others with a later Kassite king (Haupt, Hilprecht), which is quite unlikely; but the most admissible correspondence is with Marduk, chief god of Babylon, probably its historic founder, just as Asshur, the god of Assyria, appears in verse 11 as the founder of the Assyrian empire (Wellhausen, Price, Sayce). Lack of identification, however, does not necessarily indicate mythical origin of the name.

See Astronomy, sec. II, 11; BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA, RELIGION OF, IV, 7; MERODACH; ORION.