Have you ever wondered the point of the factual list-type passages in scripture? I always did too and usually just skimmed them over enough to say I had read them. In Genesis 10 we find what is known as the Table of Nations and that gives us a basic introduction and understanding into how the races and cultures began to form after the flood. The family lines of each of Noah’s 3 sons are given here. Just a long list of names that are hard to pronounce!
As I read through the list in Genesis 10, one paragraph jumped out at me because it was different. Right smack dab in the middle of the lists one man in particular is singled out and expanded on. It is here that we are introduced to a man called Nimrod, who is the grandson of Noah. He is in the family line of Ham, the son that Noah cursed to serve his brothers after the drunken incident in the previous chapter. There is a 4 verse paragraph describing him:
8 Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).
~Genesis 10: 8-10
On first read, he seems like a pretty decent guy- he’s called mighty one, mighty hunter before the Lord and we are given a pretty good sized list of cities that he established. But…
When you dig a little further into history, into both biblical and non-biblical texts, we find that there is a much deeper meaning to that passage and a much more sadistic character involved.
Nimrod, in fact, means ‘Let Us Rebel’ and the ESV version of the Bible translates him being “the first on earth to be a mighty man.”
Let’s back up a bit for some history. Noah and his family finally settled in the valley of Shinar following their exit of the ark and it is in this land that they began to repopulate the earth. Nimrod, Noah’s grandson being the first mighty man on the earth, was the one to establish the city of Babel and was the builder of the Tower of Babel. The Bible tells us that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and he actually was the founder of Ninevah among a few other cities. This is the first kingdom mentioned in the Bible and the start of all the pagan cultures that would be against the Isrealites as the Old Testament unfolds.
Pre-Babel, the ancient texts that have been discovered all tell a similar story from creation right up to Babel, although the names of the people and cities in the accounts differ according to the culture/language from which it was written. Although there is no other information found in scripture about Nimrod, non-biblical ancient texts tell the story of a vile and filthy man, a man who was a very evil and tyrannical ruler over his kingdom.
It is interesting to note here that evil had found its way back to human kind. Nimrod’s kind of evil was similar in intensity to the evil found in the pre-flood civilization. Matthew Henry brings the perspective that “the spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men and men of renown, Genesis 6:4, revived in him.” The spirit of the giants were called ‘sons of god’ in Genesis chapter 6 and were most likely demonic in nature. Nimrod may have found popularity in being a literal mighty hunter and protecting people from the mighty beasts in those early post flood days, but his true intent was to hunt for people and lead them away from God. This was why God needed to intervene in a big way, resulting on the language confusion and disbursement of the people!
There seems to be much debate if the building of the tower of Babel was actually in defiance or disobedience to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” given in Genesis 9, but regardless, Nimrod’s heart intent was not to worship or please God. As his name suggests, he was acting in rebellion to God.
Given insight into history via other historical accounts, it seems likely that the Tower of Babel was not a tall tower reaching to the heavens, but a building that was dedicated to worship. Maybe proposed and built with the pretense of worshiping God, the Tower of Babel ended up serving the religious purposes of Nimrod and his wife. It was likely a failed prototype of the later ziggurats that the ancient peoples used somehow as a religious building. The Isrealites did not use them, so there is no Hebrew word for them. We do not know for sure of its stature, however because there are no remains left today.
One thing we do know is that Babylon developed from that early city of Babel and Babylon means “the city of babbling or confusion”. Revelation makes it clear that Babylon is the source of all pagan religions (Revelation 17:5), which further backs up Henry Morris suggestion that Nimrod and his wife were under Satan’s control and had established a false religious system around the celestial beings that God intended to have reflect His promises. They were likely successful at establishing their religion with someone within each family before the disbursement and therefore made it possible for the pagan religion and traditions to survive the language confusion.
Another point of interest is that the record of the rise of civilization in the Bible stops here. We are given the account from creation through the establishment of the first empire and then from there it is other non-biblical historical accounts that record man’s accomplishments and endeavors.
It is just plain fascinating! I always wondered the purpose of those factual list type passages and I had no idea all that lay beneath those 4 short verses! I’m so glad I took the time to dive in deeper!