GEN 10:1, 10:6-12, 11:1-9
Before the Lord
The Three Beginnings
‘Cush became the father of Nimrod. He began to be a warrior on the earth.
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 Babylon, Erech and Accad,
All of them in the land of Shinar.
From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir,
Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Galah - that is the great city'
We could see in these verses nothing more than a record of a descendant of Noah who became renowned throughout the earth for being the first mighty hunter in the Lord's eyes.
The word 'hunter' (Strongs Heb number 6718) is used of Esau in Gen 25:27-28 where Isaac is said to have eaten of what he caught. Gen 10:9 could mean, therefore, no more than Nimrod (after man had been given the right to eat flesh - Gen 9:3) was the first one to be recognised as being successful at hunting and catching game, one who was proverbial from that time onwards in the cultures of many people.
As a kingdom is spoken of we also see that he was in some ways a king for it was founded in the plain of Shinar upon the three cities Babylon, Erech and Accad, which eventually extended itself into neighbouring lands (v.11-12 in the RSV by comparison with Micah 5:6 which speaks of Assyria as being 'the land of Nimrod').
We could, therefore, see the record of this man and note that he obviously made quite an impression upon the men of his day that his name should be recorded and some of his exploits written down for future generations to be reminded of.
But there is more to the passage than that! There are five specific things that we should note about these verses that warn us that things aren't that simple:
The name 'Nimrod' (Strongs Heb number 5248) perhaps comes from a Hebrew root and means 'rebel' but the exact derivative of the name is by no means certain. Wenham, in his commentary on this passage (Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary), would see the name mean 'we shall rebel' if this line is adopted though he admits that the etymology is by no means certain.
Names mean things in the Bible and are no mere idle labels that can be ignored and laid aside. If Nimrod's name means 'rebel', then it gives us a commentary upon the characteristic of his life - it was one of rebellion.
b. Before the Lord
or 'in the Lord's eyes', does not necessarily imply that it was the Lord's will and something that He delighted in. It only means that the Lord recognised that Nimrod was a mighty hunter, it does not have to infer that he found favour in God's sight as a result of this characteristic of his life.
In some translations, the Hebrew word is translated 'Babel' (Strongs Heb number 894) along with it's occurrence in 11:9 of the same book. However, this obscures the location as being Babylon, the more common name of the city and area.
The word is derived from the Hebrew word which means 'confusion' as the Bible shows in 11:9, but the word also comes from the Akkadian and Sumerian language and there it carries the meaning 'the gate of God'.
If Nimrod was responsible for beginning Babylon, a name for a city that is in constant rebellion against God, His people and His purposes throughout Scripture's pages, then we should take a closer look at how Babylon began in the Scriptural record of 11:1-9. It's foundation was laid by Nimrod whose name, as we've already seen, probably means 'rebel'.
The Heb word often translated 'mighty' (Strongs Heb number 1368) is used three times - twice in the compound 'mighty hunter' and once translated 'warrior' though many translations use the phrase 'mighty one’.
TWOTOT comments 'The Hebrew root is commonly associated with warfare and has to do with the strength and vitality of the successful warrior’
It was used to describe Goliath the Philistine in I Sam 17:5 where the RSV translates it 'champion', and of those of David's armies in I Chr 11:26-47. In each case, the word does not just describe one who was a warrior but those who were mighty warriors, those who demonstrated their strength.
But, the word is used in Gen 6:4 with the Hebrew word for 'man' to describe the offspring of the illicit union between angels and women. These were the 'mighty men' of old. The inference here, then, is that Nimrod was regarded as being more than merely a man. His strength was seen as being greater than the offspring of a man and woman could possess. There was, it appeared, the blood of a fallen angel flowing through his veins - though I am not saying that that was definitely the case.
While it is true that the Heb word is usually used to denote the hunting of game, there are no other qualifying words in the passage to make our interpretation inevitably take this meaning.
All we are told is that he was a hunter without having the object of his skills defined for us.
These points all sound alarm bells ringing in our ears that the passage under consideration is not as simple as we would first make out. While the verses make good sense in a general read of the chapter, when we take a closer look at some of the words used, we are forced to admit that lying below the surface there appears to be something that is necessary for us to grasp hold of and be warned about.
The book of Genesis is a book of beginnings (as its title suggests) and, in the passages listed above, there are three specific beginnings that are mentioned and which we must consider here which instruct us about Nimrod and the rebellion that he began shortly after the conclusion of God's judgment of the Flood.
2. The Three Beginnings
Strongs Heb number 894
Heb 'Confusion', Akkadian and Sumerian 'Gate of God'
Gen 10:10 - 'The beginning of his kingdom was Babylon...'
No end is ever mentioned to Nimrod's kingdom. It has a start which continues relentlessly on throughout Scripture, infiltrating the people of God and causing them to stumble.
In Joshua 7:21, it was 'a beautiful mantle from Shinar (the plain in which Babylon was located - Cp Gen 10:10, 11:2)' that was instrumental in tempting Achan to disobey the Word of God (Joshua 6:17-18) when the Israelites were in the process of annihilating Jericho. It was a desire for a worldly item that led one of God's people away from obedience to the revealed will of God.
Satan at one time had his seat in that geographical location as the prophecy of Is 14:11-20 shows, which is directed against the 'king of Babylon' (14:4). It was Babylon that finally took God's people into exile (II Chr 36) and who were condemned in passages such as Jeremiah chapters 50-51 for their pride and violence.
When the Jews found themselves far removed from the promised land they took to heart the Lord's words through Jeremiah to seek the land's welfare (Jer 29:7) so much so that they became entangled in the Babylonian ways and did not wholeheartedly return to the land when they were granted permission under Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-5). Repeated warnings to His people about removing themselves from Babylon so that God would judge the nation went unheeded (Jer 50:8-10, 50:28, 51:6, Zech 2:6-8) so that He withheld His hand.
In Rev 17:5, Babylon is called 'mother of harlots and of earth's abominations the one that is responsible for slaying God's servants (Rev 17:6) whether that be removing physical life from them or spiritual. It is the source of what is abominable in God's eyes, and it rules over the kings of the earth (17:18).
Babylon began its history under Nimrod and remains the name given to a system that is actively opposed to the will of God on the earth. Babel/Babylon was the beginning of man's organised rebellion against God, the beginning of a dominance that draws its adherents away from following after the ways and purposes of God.
Yet again, God calls His people to 'come out of her' this time in Rev 18:4 and He promises destruction and judgment upon the Babylonish systems that are so opposed to His will (18:2).
Let us be warned!
If, like the Jews in exile, our lives are so integrated into the present world systems, when God executes judgment upon them for our benefit we will not respond with the Hallelujah chorus of 19:1-3, but we will fall with it.
Any world system that pulls us away from serving God must be removed from ourselves.
Although there is a freedom in Christ, it is not a freedom that is licentiousness, an excessive liberty (Jude 4) that causes us to become entangled in pursuits that rob us of the life of God (II Tim 2:4).
Strongs Heb number 5248
Genesis 10:8 - '[Nimrod] began to be a warrior on the earth' (Pp I Chr 1:10)
Nimrod began to be a 'warrior' or 'mighty one' (see point d under the introduction). The Scripture does not say that he was but that he began to be. Like his kingdom which is spoken of in verse 10, his renown as a warrior begins but it has no end.
In similar language, the Bible speaks about 'all that Jesus began to do and teach' (Acts 1:1) meaning that His earthly ministry was only the start of what He continued to do through His followers after He'd ascended into heaven (Mark 16:20).
This calls for a rethink in our interpretation of the passage. Whereas it is right to see Nimrod as a historical figure who laid the foundation of his own kingdom in the land of Shinar, we need to realise that he is a type of the one who is the instigator of the movement of rebellion against the rule of God (as Nimrod's name suggests - see point a under the introduction).
Therefore, in a passage previously mentioned above (Is 14:4-20), the prophecy directed at the 'king of Babylon' (who is, in Genesis, Nimrod) speaks about satan (v.11-20).
Satan’s strategy in the garden of Eden had been to pull God's creation away from a pure relationship with Him by deceit and lies (Gen 3:1-5). Now, after the flood, he aims to unite man together (Gen 11:4) in a movement that is in rebellion against God's purposes.
Nimrod is spoken of as being both a hunter and a king (by inference of him having a kingdom), but these two characteristics are incompatible. Ungers writes 'Whereas a hunter gratifies himself at the expense of his victim, the shepherd expends himself for the good of the subjects of his care'
Nimrod, therefore, was not God's choice of leader.
His hunting abilities were aimed at men - he hunted them to bring them under his own sovereignty and control. This was where his own strength lay, not in his prowess of catching game, but in capturing men to do his own will.
Satan, like Nimrod, is a hunter-king and not a shepherd-king. As previously noted, a hunter-king rules at the expense of his victim and it is this that satan does when he captures men to do his will. As it says in Is 14:17 - satan '...did not let his prisoners go home', meaning that his rule was not one of liberty but of continual bondage.
Nimrod is the name here given to the power behind the man who began to hunt out and capture men to establish its own dominion of rebellion against God throughout the entire earth.
NB - It is satan's intention to destroy mankind (Gen 3:15), but he uses men to do his will in as much as it destroys both God's creation and undermines God's will.
Nimrod's end is in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) where he will be punished forever. The spirit of Nimrod will be banished from the earth along with the Babylonish systems over which it rules.
c. The Tower
Genesis 11:6 - '...this is only the beginning of what [mankind] will do'
Should we see Nimrod as being the instigator of the group's commitment to work together (11:4)? Or is the fact that they abandoned the work on the city (11:8) sufficient for us to decide that Nimrod took up building where they left off, perhaps years later?
While it is impossible to say one way or the other, Nimrod is so inextricably bound up with Babylon's foundation that we shan't be going too far wrong to see in the incident of Gen 11:1-9 another aspect of Nimrod's kingdom that had implications throughout the course of subsequent history and that is connected with him.
The men that came together in the plain of Shinar had three purposes (11:4):
a. The building of a city
b. The building of a tower
c. Making a name for themselves
which can be summarised as an attempt at unity - the city was a place that they all intended living in, the tower a place that they all intended worshipping on and earthly reputation was what they wanted corporately (the Scripture says that they wanted to make 'a name' not 'names' for themselves).
The earth had one language after the Flood (11:1) which meant that there was a natural unity amongst all mankind - it was God's provision. However, fallen man under the direction of Nimrod attempted to bring themselves into a position of unity that was stronger than that which already existed (11:6a - 'Behold, they are one people...'). The natural unity of language that they had was exploited to produce a unity among themselves that God had not intended to be achieved.
Indeed, they tried to put off God's command to 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth' (Gen 9:1) by attempting to establish themselves in one area (11:2 - 'they settled there' and 11:4 - 'let us build'). Even in what appears to be a noble cause, there is rebellion lurking behind the scenes.
Notice that the building of a tower '...with its top in the heavens...' is an attempt at religious unity (11:4). In ancient times, the high places were places of sacrifice so that the tower would have been a place where each one of them performed various religious rites. Having its top in the heavens is a way of saying that they were attempting to reach up to God, to ascend back into a relationship with Him through their own efforts, whereas the cross speaks to us of God's descent to man and of our impotence to restore ourselves into covenant relationship with God.
Even though their reach is to heaven, God still has to come down to see what's going on - they fall too far short of their target (Gen 11:5).
God is concerned for mankind, taking an active part in human affairs by descending to earth to witness men's deeds. He did this again before judging Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:21), when He came to deliver His people out of Egypt (Ex 3:8), when He gave commandments to Israel (Ex 19:11,20) and, ultimately, when He came to earth to secure an eternal redemption on behalf of His people (Eph 4:9-10, John 1:1,14).
[It is said of satan, the king of Babylon, 'You said in your heart "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High"' (Isaiah 14:13-14) which may be a comment on this passage in Genesis. Satan's intention was to establish a place from which he would challenge the rule of God.]
Man's attempt at unity brings confusion (11:9). God imparts different languages to the community so that the unity that they had been aiming for is destroyed. And their fear of being scattered over the face of the earth (11:4) is exactly what they end up reaping (11:9)! (Notice Gen 10:25 which appears to relate to this incident - '...for in his days the earth was divided').
'The tower of the gateway of God' proved to be 'the tower of confusion' (by comparison of the two different origins of the name for Babylon - the Hebrew derivation is a direct comment on what Babylon was supposed to be).
The tower of man’s attempts to reach God results only in chaos and fails to meet its objective. Man’s religion does not have a divine origin but an earthly one that seeks the Divine union and blessing upon the things that it wants to do. But God is the originator of all true spirituality.
Nimrod is the 'rebel' who established 'confusion' in the earth, by claiming that his kingdom brought to man the 'gateway to God'.
The end of nationalism, tribalism and patriotism is only possible in Christ as a work that God brings about (Gal 3:28, Eph 2:14-16). Just as a diversity of tongues brought about confusion and disunity to mankind, so a diversity of tongues inspired by the Holy Spirit brings unity (Acts 2:1-4,44-45).
We must beware lest we are carried along on the wave of ecumenicalism, thinking that by uniting with religions that appear similar to Christianity, we are uniting for strength. Far from it - a religious union will only produce confusion and will ultimately result in destruction. The only 'unity' is that which is imparted by the Holy Spirit as a gift of God through conversion and immersion in the Holy Spirit. In aiming to unite men and women together in Christ, we are aiming for the target that they might be converted by God to serve Jesus and be brought into unity by the power of the Holy Spirit. It does not come through religious tolerance or compromise.
Whether there will be one world ruler or not is difficult to be dogmatic about. It may be that the false leader is a ruler over a large proportion of the globe or over the most powerful and influential of the nations (as the emperors of Rome were), but one thing is certain - that ultimately it will not bring a lasting unity but disaster, just as man's first attempt at unity ended up with confusion (II Thess 2:3-4,8 - notice that 'rebellion' is spoken of which is the meaning of the name Nimrod and also that every existing religion is superseded by that one individual who claims supremacy over all thereby bringing religious syncretism which the construction of the tower was the first attempt at achieving).