THE ORIGIN OF THE LEGEND OF NIMROD
The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan). These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth (Gen. 9: 18-19).
This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood . . . the sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan . . .Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The first centres of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah – which is the great city (Gen 10: 1; 6-12).
The Bible gives very little information about Nimrod, a significant figure in the evolution of the false religion which infiltrated the nations of the ancient world and still powerfully influences the world today. We have to rely on the findings of archaeology and tradition to build a picture of this man and his contribution to what is called “Babylonian Mystery Religions”.
. . . First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m”, it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative of a system that is epitomized by rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very prominent.
In Genesis 10:8-11 we learn that “Nimrod” established a kingdom. Therefore, one would expect to find also, in the literature of the ancient Near East, a person who was a type, for example, for other people to follow. And there was. It is a well-known tale, common in Sumerian literature, of a man who fits the description. In addition to the Sumerians, the Babylonians wrote about this person; the Assyrians likewise; and the Hittites. Even in Israel, tablets have been found with this man’s name on them. He was obviously the most popular hero in the Ancient Near East.
The Gilgamesh Epic
The person we are referring to, found in extra-Biblical literature was Gilgamesh. The first clay tablets naming him were found among the ruins of the temple library of the god Nabu (Biblical Nebo) and the palace library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh. Many others have been found since in a number of excavations . . .
How does Gilgamesh compare with “Nimrod?” Ancient historian Josephus says of Nimrod,
Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah – a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny – seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his own power.
He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers! (Ant. I: iv: 2)
What Josephus says here is precisely what is found in the Gilgamesh epics. Gilgamesh set up tyranny, he opposed YHWH and did his utmost to get people to forsake Him . . .
After the Flood, there was, at some point, a breakaway from YHWH. Only eight people descended from the Ark. Those people worshipped YHWH. But at some point an influential person became opposed to YHWH and gathered others to his side. I suggest that Nimrod is the one who did it. Cain had done similarly before the Flood, founding a new city and religious system.
Our English translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 10: 8-10 is weak. The author of this passage of Scripture will not call Gilgamesh by his name and honor him, but is going to call him by a derisive name, what he really is – a rebel. Therefore, we should translate Genesis 10:8-10 to read,
Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a tyrant in the Earth. He was a tyrannical hunter in opposition to the Lord. Thus it is said, ‘Nimrod the tyrannical opponent of YHWH.’
Likewise, Gilgamesh was a man who took control by his own strength. In Genesis 10 Nimrod is presented as a type of him. Nimrod’s descendants were the ones who began building the tower in Babel where the tongues were changed. Gilgamesh is a type of early city founders.
Two of the premiere commentators on the Bible in Hebrew have this to say about Genesis 10:9,
Nimrod was mighty in hunting, and that in opposition to YHWH; not ‘before YHWH’ in the sense of according to the will and purpose of YHWH, still less,… in a simply superlative sense… The name itself, ‘Nimrod’ from marad, ‘We will revolt,’ points to some violent resistance to God… Nimrod as a mighty hunter founded a powerful kingdom; and the founding of this kingdom is shown by the verb with consecutive to have been the consequence or result of his strength in hunting, so that hunting was intimately connected with the establishing of the kingdom. Hence, if the expression ‘a mighty hunter’ relates primarily to hunting in the literal sense, we must add to the literal meaning the figurative signification of a ‘hunter of men’ (a trapper of men by stratagem and force); Nimrod the hunter became a tyrant, a powerful hunter of men (Keil and Delitzsch 1975: 165).
“in the face of YHWH” can only mean ‘in defiance of YHWH’ as Josephus and the Targums understand it (op. cit.: 166).
And the proverb must have arisen when other daring and rebellious men followed in Nimrod’s footsteps and must have originated with those who saw in such conduct an act of rebellion against the God of salvation, in other words, with the possessors of the divine promise of grace (loc. cit.).
I have included this lengthy quote to set the scene for our investigation of the origins of the false religious system originated by this man we know as Nimrod, and his evil wife, Semiramis.
A variety of legends grew up around Nimrod. He reappeared in the pagan religions of other countries, together with his wife, by different names, but with the same history, myths and beliefs surrounding them.
In Egypt, Semiramis and Nimrpd were known as
Isis and Osiris
Ashteroth and Baal, in Phoenicia,
Aphrodite and Adonis, n Greece,
Venus and Cupid, In Rome.
We shall learn more about these two people and the religion they founded as we continue in our study of the pagan origins of Christmas, Easter and Hallowe’en.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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