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Today, calling someone a “Nimrod” is an insult on par with “idiot” or “buffoon.” But the original Bible character who bore that name was anything but that. He was known as a mighty warrior, perhaps even a king of old.
Nimrod was the son of Cush. Nimrod appears in the list of Noah’s descendants, recorded in Genesis 9–10. While most of the names in this genealogy are given without elaboration, the writer paused at Nimrod’s name to attach a brief biography. Such unique treatment in the genealogy may suggest that Nimrod was well known to the earliest readers of Genesis.
Perhaps he was the subject of some other ancient piece of literature with which the ancients were familiar. Nimrod was renowned as a “warrior” and a “mighty hunter.” The second description generally referred to a hunger for animals, though on rare occasions it referred metaphorically to hunting for people (see, for example, Jeremiah 16:16).
In the ancient Near Eastern culture, such a description could have royal connotations, as the roles of warrior and king often overlapped. Plus Nimrod was described as a great civilization builder, responsible for establishing a kingdom that included Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. The writer of Genesis also credited him with building several cities, including the infamous Nineveh.
For years, scholars have attempted to correlate the biblical Nimrod to some literary or historical figure from the ancient world. Possible candidates have included Gilgamesh and Sargon, one of the earliest Akkadian kings. However, precise identification of Nimrod remains elusive.
The Tower of Babel, described in Genesis 11, was built on a plain in Shinar, part of ancient Mesopotamia. Such a location places it squarely in Nimrod’s territory, giving rise to the tradition (uncorroborated by the Bible) that Nimrod himself supervised construction of the notorious tower.