1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nimrod
NIMROD (נמךך נמךוך; Septuagint, Νεβρώδ: various reading in Gen. x. 8, Νεβρών Vulg. Nemrod). Nimrod is only mentioned in three passages in the Bible; in Micah v. 6 Assyria is called “the land of Nimrod,” and 1 Chron. i. 10 quotes a portion of the third, the most important reference, Gen. x. 8-12. The last named is ascribed to one of the oldest writers of the Pentateuch, the Yahwist; but not perhaps to the oldest stratum of his work (Ball, Sacred Books of the Old Testament). In Gen. x. 8, as Jabal was the inventor of music, so Nimrod was the first warrior, gibbôr, the first hunter, “he became a mighty hunter, gibbôr çayidh, before Yahweh, so that it is said, A mighty hunter before Yahweh like Nimrod ”; the first builder of cities and ruler of a widespread dominion, “the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Out of that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (the same is the great city).” The general statement that Assyria was originally an offshoot and dependence of Babylon is substantially in accordance with Assyrian and Babylonian authorities. As the chapter stands, Nimrod is a descendant of Ham, cf. verses 6 and 8; but as Babylon and Assyria were Semitic, cf. verses 21, 22, and as verses 6, 7, on the one hand, and verses 8-12, on the other, come from different documents, we must dissociate the two consecutive paragraphs, and regard the “Cush” of verse 8 as the Babylonian Cash or Cassites, a people quite distinct from the Cush of verse 6, which is Ethiopia; the text and interpretation of portions of Gen x. 8-12 are doubtful. The “mighty hunter before Yahweh” has been variously explained as “a divinely great hunter” (Spurrell); “a hunter in defiance of Yahweh” (Holzinger); “a hunter with the help of Yahweh” or “of some deity whose name has been replaced by Yahweh” (Gunkel, Genesis, p. 82).
The name Nimrod has not been found in any ancient (say older than 500 B.C.) non-Israelite document or inscription; and there is no conclusive evidence for identifying Nimrod with any of the names found in such documents. In the absence of evidence, the theories are naturally endless, especially as both the legendary and the historical heroes of the ancient East were often “mighty hunters.” Nimrod would suggest to a Jew or Syrian the idea of “rebel,” mrd = rebel; but this is not likely to be the etymology. By regarding the “N” as per formative, Nimrod has been identified with Merodach, the god of Babylon (Pinches, Hastings's Bible Dict.). He has also been identified with Gilgamesh, the hero of the epic which contains the Babylonian Deluge story (Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte des alten Orients), with various historical kings of Babylonia, with Orion, &c., &c. As the name Nmrt (Petrie, Nemart) frequently occurs in Egyptian documents of the XXIInd Dynasty, c. 972–749 (Petrie, Hist. of Egypt, iii. 242, &c.), the story of Nimrod is sometimes (E. Meyer ap. Holzinger, Genesis) conjectured to be of Egyptian origin. Some support might be obtained for this view by supposing Cush in verse 8 to be Ethiopia as in verse 6; but it seems impossible to reconcile it with the statements in Genesis and Micah which connect Nimrod with Babylon and Assyria. It is possible that the Nebrod of the Septuagint (similarly Philo and Josephus) is the more ancient form of the name (Cheyne, Ency. Bibl.).
Many later legends gathered round Nimrod; Philo, De gigantibus, § 15, allegories more suo. Nimrod stands for treachery or desertion, accordin to the derivation from mrd mentioned above. According to Josephus, Ant. I. iv. 2, vi. 2, Nimrod built the Tower of Babel. According to the Rabbis (Tzeenah u Reenah, Hershon's tr., p. 59), Nimrod cast Abraham into the fire because he refused to worship idols. God, however, delivered him.
Nimrod, in the form Nimrud or Nimroud, is an element in many modern place-names in western Asia. (W. H. Be.)
- So, Revised Version text with Kautzsch, Dillmann, Gunkel, Holzinger, &c.; Revised Version marg., “Out of that land went forth ‘Asshur’,” less probably following Septuagint, Vulgate, Authorized Version, &c.
- Dr Cheyne's reconstructions in Ency. Bibl., article “Nimrod,” are generally regarded as far too sweeping. Ball, Sacred Books of the Old Testament, marks verse 9, which describes Nimrod as “a mighty hunter,” as a later addition, giving a mistaken explanation of the gibbôr of verse 8.