Nimrod Mythology

Spend any time on the internet (especially Christian sites) and you’re bound to run into a pile of PaleoBabble about Nimrod, a character mentioned only in Genesis 10:8-9; 1 Chron. 1:10 (repeats Genesis 10:8); and Micah 5:6 (reference to the “land of Nimrod”). Here are Genesis 10:8-9 (Tanakh):

Cush also begot Nimrod, who was the first man of might on earth. He was a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord; hence the saying, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord.”

Not much information here.  And yet the internet tells us that Nimrod was one of the nephilim giants of Genesis 6, that he built Babylon with divine technology (the Tower of Babylon was really a time travel portal/stargate), and (perhaps) that he got technological knowledge from those ever-helpful extraterrestrials. All that from these verses?!

Well, not exactly.  Those who put forth this silliness invariably depend on ancient (non-biblical) tradition concerning Nimrod. Putting it generously, tradition in such cases = “sucking it out of one’s thumb.” It’s PaleoBabble.

I thought toward this end that I’d post an old 1990 Harvard Theological Review article entitled “Nimrod Before and After the Bible.” The authors are Karel van der Toorn and P. W. van der Horst, both of them expert in Mesopotamian and biblical languages. Granted, the linguistic discussions will likely be too dense fo rmost readers, but the value of this article is getting a brief glimpse of where the nonsensical material about Nimrod comes from, and the very real academic “data obstacles” to the nonsense.

5 thoughts on “Nimrod Mythology

  1. Hi Mike

    Extraterrestrial stuff aside (I remain blissfully ignorant of this literature) – you must agree that there seems to be more to the Biblical Nimrod than meets the eye…

    The authors here write that although the Biblical author avoids explicitly stating that Nimrod was a divinity – he was portrayed as “more than a a mere human” (I wonder what class of being they have in mind here?!) and that “the prototype of Nimrod must have been a god” (p.8)

    … and I’m guessing you would not agree with the LXX translation of:

    ????? ?????? ????? ????? ??? ??? ???

    You would say Nimrod was not a ‘gigas’?

    Would you agree with the idea that the Biblical author implies that Nimrod was the builder of Babel?

    • ????? ?????? ????? ????? ??? ??? ???

      You would say Nimrod was not a ‘gigas’?

      Would you agree with the idea that the Biblical author implies that Nimrod was the builder of Babel? Ofcc,Yes of course . I’m agreens .

  2. @James Lillis: a couple of notes: (1) you quote the article as saying “that Nimrod must be more than a mere human” – and in doing so, you assume or make it sound like the authors themselves are taking that view. They aren’t. They are talking about the superstitions and beliefs of other ancient people – people who lived centuries after the biblical figure of Nimrod and centuries after Genesis was written. The biblical text doesn’t call him supernatural, which brings me to point #2… (2) the matter of gigas. First, the Septuagint rendering is hardly impressive since it’s the Septuagint. In Christian terms, the Septuagint wasn’t considered the inspired original text – it was a translation, just like our English Bibles are translations. I don’t know if you want to say the Septuagint ought to be considered inspired, but that is a very dangerous position if you are a Christian or Jew who wants to believe in inspiration . . . simply because the Septuagint (LXX) screws up in many places. Second, “gigas” is a frequent translation for Hebrew gibbor, and the translation can have a metaphorical meaning, even in the Septuagint, and all gibbors in the OT were not giants. For example, I don’t know how Psalm 19:5 (18:5 in LXX) makes sense as a giant, and LXX has gigas there (only because the Hebrew was likely gibbor – but how does a giant make sense there?). Same thing for Isaiah 49:24-25 — what requires “giant” as the translation for gibbor? Likewise there are places where gibbor is present in the Hebrew text that the LXX does NOT translate with gigas. Joshua 1:14 is an example (and a number of other places in Joshua). In Judges 6:12 Gideon is called a gibbor — was he a giant, too? How is it that he could be picked as a judge by God and have the “infected bloodline” that would cause him to be a giant? There are naturally other examples of such incongruity, but the main point is this: Nimrod is a gigas to the LXX translator; that *may* mean he thought Nimrod was a giant, but it isn’t a biblical notion — it’s supplied by the translator, quite loosely and without BIBLICAL merit, and quite inconsistently as well.

  3. Hi Mike

    Thanks for the reply. My internet got cut so I wasn’t able to check if you’d got back to me.

    A couple of thoughts:

    First – I should be clear that I don’t have strong feelings on the matter, so I ask out of genuine curiosity. I have never considered Nimrod a giant, firstly because of his ancestry, and also because I don’t regard the LXX as authoritative (for the reasons you outlined). So I think we’re on the same page on this one

    However…

    I will disagree with you on one point…

    You wrote: “They are talking about the superstitions and beliefs of other ancient people – people who lived centuries after the biblical figure of Nimrod and centuries after Genesis was written.

    Not so.

    “Although it must be granted that the biblical author avoids any implications of Nimrod’s divinity, his portrayal of the Mesopotamian hero suggests that the latter was more than a mere human” p.8

    The ‘his’ here refers back to Biblical author, not later commentators.

    :)

  4. @James Lillis: There is no biblical evidence Nimrod was considered a giant, regardless of who says so. WHAT text can they cite? The word itself, gibbor, does not indicate this, and so there is ZERO evidence for it. It’s a simple matter to produce passages where gibbor occurs that don’t have any giant human in view. I would challenge the writers to produce a single text for it. (I could also ask them since I’ll very likely run into them in November at the annual conferences). If one refers to the LXX translation, then my comment stands – it was translated centuries after even the most liberal critics have Genesis being authored.

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