Sometimes we come across things in the Bible that throws up a bit of a red flag or raises questions. The person of Nimrod is one such instance of this. Nimrod only appears in some measure of detail once in the entire Bible, then he appears as a passing comment on two more occasions in the Old Testament. Raising up the grand total of times this character is mentioned to four times. For a man who is termed as being “the first on earth to be a mighty man”, the Bible is remarkably silent on this man, and what his life included. The big question we need to be asking ourselves here is why?
In this article, we will be taking a look at Nimrod and trying to piece together what we can about him using the information we do have on him in the Bible, while being minimal, is enough information to build somewhat of a picture of him and his life.
Please note that the extra-Biblical text of Jasher contains a lot more detail on the life of Nimrod, however, we will not be covering the content on Nimrod included in Jasher in this post. We may do it in another post which will be linked to this one.
Nimrod’s Main Mention
Nimrod’s main mention in the Bible is found in Genesis chapter 10. One of two chapters covering the Table of Nations, let’s have a look at what it says:
“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.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.” – Genesis 10:8-11 (ESV)
So what can we tell from this short passage? Well, we know that he was the great-grandson of Noah. Nimrod was the son of Cush, Cush was the son of Ham, and Ham was the son of Noah. So he is only three generations removed from Noah. This also gives an indication of the time period, probably being within 100 to 200 years after the flood. Bishop Ussher, in fact, dates the Tower of Babel to 106 years after the flood. We’ll get on to Babel shortly. We also know that Nimrod was a mighty man, a mighty hunter, and a mighty king, a builder of many cities, two of which are very well known if you know enough history of the Old Testament. Those two cities being Ninevah (Jonah) and Babel. But it is in the naming of these cities that we get a hint of the kind of character Nimrod was, and the kind of intentions that he had for what he did in his life. So let’s move on now and take a look at what these names tell us.
As a side note, the name Nimrod means “the rebel” or “rebellion”.
The Cities That Nimrod Built
According to Genesis 10:8-11, Nimrod built 8 cities. Of which in that fact there is a measure of spiritual significance when compiled with the names of the cities that he built.
The eight cities that Nimrod built were:
Each of these names could possibly lead us to a fuller understanding of Nimrod and his intentions. Let’s start by looking at Babel.
If you’re reading this article, you’re possibly saying to yourself something like, “I already know about Babel, the tower was there”, and that is 100% correct. But there is more to Babel than the account of it which is found in Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. The word Babel means confusion, so if we keep that in the midst of the discussion for now, and we’ll come back to it. Babel would later become Babylon, the city that the Babylonian empire would eventually come from and conquer the Israelites, this in my estimation has spiritual significance. Note that it’s interesting that the first city that Nimrod built in his kingdom building project was called confusion. I would go into too much of the history of Babylon in this article, but it’s worth remembering that Babylon held the people of Israel captive for 70 years, and after the experiences of the Jews in that place, Babylon became the go-to nickname of any empire that conquered them, we see this in the New Testament when Peter refers to Rome as Babylon. So for now, let’s put a highlight over the word confusion and move on to the next city that Nimrod went out and built, the city of Erech.
Erech, often referred to as Uruk was a city in Mesopotamia which eventually became part of the Babylonian empire. It was the second city that Nimrod built, and many tie Gilgamesh, an ancient Sumerian king, to Erech as it’s king. The word itself means long or length. Suggesting that the city in some way tied it’s identity to length. Uruk stood for a long period of time having inhabitants remaining there as late as 700 AD. If my maths is correct then Erech would’ve been built somewhere between the 1,755th and 1,763rd year from creation, round about 100 years after the flood. But going back to the Gilgamesh point, some scholars have suggested that Gilgamesh and Nimrod may be in fact the same person, as they both match up remarkably to the fuller explanation of Nimrod found in Genesis 10. So like with Babel, let’s put a pin in the meaning of Erech, length, and move on to the next city, Accad.
Accad by all accounts was the political center of Sumeria. The name Accad means fortress, and if you’re going to be the political stronghold of a mega-power like Sumeria, then you need to strong, you need to be fortified, you need to be a fortress. Accad is only mentioned in Genesis 10, after this, it is not mentioned again in the Bible. Accad eventually became the capital city of the region known as Akkad. The Accadians may have come up with the method of writing using pictorial hieroglyphs, which would be later adopted and popularised by the Egyptians, who had ties to the Accadians through Nimrod’s family line linking him to Mizraim who founded Egypt. Now let’s move on to Calneh, but as we do let’s keep in mind the meaning of Accad, fortress.
Not too much is known about Calneh outside of what information we get of it in the Bible. The word Calneh is thought to mean the fortress of Anu. Anu was the father of the Sumerian god’s and was thought to act as a dome covering a flat earth. Much debate is held about where Calneh was, or if it even existed, however, the Bible mentions Calneh in Amos (6:2) and Ezekiel (27:23), and Isaiah (10:9). Granted Calneh appears in various forms across these texts, the fact that references to Calneh appear consistently suggests that Calneh did at one point exist. Now let’s move on to our next city, Ninevah, but keep the fortress of Anu in mind as we will be taking all of the meanings of the names of these cities and putting them together later on.
This will be the other extremely well-known list out of the list of cities that Nimrod built that we are given in Genesis 10. Ninevah will be well-known to many as the city that Jonah was instructed to go and preach to and encourage the people to turn away from their rebellious ways (see the link to Nimrod yet?). Jonah refuses to do this because of how evil the people of Ninevah are. Anyways, you probably already know the story of Jonah well enough to know where it ends, with the people of Ninevah being saved. The name of Ninevah most likely means the dwelling of Ninus. Ninus according to Assyrian mythology is the son of Nimrod. Other sources suggest that Ninus could mean fish, a pagan god who had something to do with fish, or just simply a pagan god or goddess. Either way, the name of the city is still thought by many to mean the dwelling of Ninus, let’s keep that in mind as we move on to Reheboth-Ir. We’re almost there with the cities that Nimrod built, five down, three to go.
Reheboth-Ir, another of Nimrod’s building projects. Much debate is held today as to whether this an independent city like the likes of Accad, Erech, or Babel, or if it was a suburb of Ninevah, or maybe a connecting city. In our time Reheboth-Ir could be better understood as a twin city (two cities that are in close geographic proximity and then grow into each other over time) or a divided city (one which, as a consequence of political changes or border shifts, that at one point constituted two separate entities). The name Reheboth-Ir technically means city of room, this may be better understood as broad places, streets, or wide spaces. For the purpose of this article, we will pick up on the wide spaces definition and move on to look at Calah.
Calah is the penultimate city on the list of the cities that Nimrod built whilst being in power. It may be better known as the Assyrian city Kalhu, which would later be named Nimrud, after the name of its founder, Nimrod. In the mid-1800’s, Austin Henry Layard who discovered the city of Ninevah did some excavation on Calah and determined that this was part of the wider province of Ninevah. The remaining parts of Calah would be destroyed in 2015 by an Islamic terrorist group due to the city’s “un-Islamic” Assyrian nature. The province of Ninevah is part of modern-day Northern Iraq. The name Calah (it’s Biblical name) to a Hebrew audience would most likely mean vigour, which would bring up images of newness and freshness. So as we move on to look at our final city, the city of Resen, let’s keep in mind the word new when it comes to Calah.
Known as the great city in Genesis 10, Resen is the last city to be named of the cities that Nimrod built as king. Interestingly, the locations of the city are not known to us today. Now there have been other lost cities that had reputations of greatness in history, that we don’t know where they are today, or if they in fact ever existed, cities such as Atlantis, Z, El Dorado, and Lyonesse. Today Resen fits into that category of lost cities that were apparently once great. Unlike Atlantis, Z, El Dorado, and the various other cities, Genesis 10 is the only time Resen is mentioned in the Bible. What we do know of Resen from the Biblical account is that is was a part of Assyria, which would place it in modern day Iraq. The location of Resen in the text itself suggests that Resen could be close to the city of Ninevah as Rehoboth-Ir and Calah were cities that bordered onto Ninevah and were likely part of the wider region of Ninevah. The name Resen means jaw or halter, the latter led Alfred Jones to translate Resen as meaning bridle. A bridle is a piece of equipment going round the head of a horse that ultimately seeks to gain control of the horse by putting pressure on sensitive areas around the head, including the jaw. Now, let’s move on to see what this tells us about Nimrod and the intentions he had in building his kingdom, so as we move on let’s take the word control, the word that probably bests relates thematically to the name of the city of Resen.
So our eight key terms for the next section are:
Confusion, length, fortress, fortress of Anu, dwelling of Ninus, wide spaces, new, and control.
Putting Together the Meaning of Nimrod and His Cities
So as we established earlier in the article that the name Nimrod either means “rebellion” or “the rebel”. So let’s keep that in mind as we try to build a picture of who Nimrod was from what clues we get in the Bible.
We can safely assume that the naming of the cities that Nimrod built was not accidental. The ancient Hebrews (which Nimrod would’ve been) had such a regard for the spoken word, that the meanings of the word tended to central to the naming of people and places. So the naming of these cities would logically operate in the same way, meaning that they were named the names they were because of the meaning of those words. So with that understanding, we can say that part of Nimrod’s vision for his overall kingdom was confusion, length, fortress, fortress of Anu, dwelling of Ninus, wide spaces, new, control, and rebellion.
So here is my best guess based on the clues that we have, so here goes:
Nimrod sought to build a new kingdom of rebellion, confusing the people with pagan worship, fortresses, and dwellings for the god’s associated with the cities that he built. He built his kingdom with the ultimate aim of leading people away from the one true God, YHWH, doing this out of a sense of deep hatred towards God, seeking to avenge his forefathers for the flood that God had sent upon the world.
There is a lot more investigation that can be done on the person of Nimrod. As I mentioned the extra-Biblical text, Jasher, contains a lot more information on Nimrod, including how he died. Josephus also talks about Nimrod and his motivation for building the tower of Babel.
But before we close let me put another thought out there, as it is one that is intriguing me quite a bit, and that is the name Nimrod. As mentioned the name Nimrod means “rebellion” or “the rebel”. The reason for the “the rebel” definition is because the root of the name Nimrod is the Hebrew word Marad, which has an n placed before the m when transliterated. The addition of the n before the m makes the word marad take the form of an infinitive construct. So it is entirely possible that the name Nimrod is not a name at all, but more of a title. This is quite possible actually when we take into account people such as Pharaoh, and the Devil himself. Lucifer is referred to as Lucifer very infrequently in the Bible and the term Lucifer is derived from the Latin Vulgate, therefore Lucifer may not have been the devil’s name in heaven. Likewise, the Pharaoh in the Exodus account is never referred to by name. So there is precedence in the Bible it seems to refer to prominent enemies of God and Israel by titles rather than the names they may or may not have had. So a more literal of the text of Genesis 10:8 could read more like “and Cush father the rebel”. This would make sense when linked up with Jonah.
There is so much more study and research that could be done on the person of Nimrod, who he was, what he did, why he did it. This article is a start to carrying out that research. Some of the answers to the question may never be found. But it’s an interesting line of investigation, to say the least.