Monday, April 22, 2013

The Original Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-14)

Who was a great grandson of Noah, “the first on earth to be a mighty man”? Nimrod (Genesis 10:8)

The tenth chapter of Genesis is comprised of a genealogy commonly referred to as the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:1-32). This passage immediately succeeds the account of the Great Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:28) and traces the lineage of Noah’s three surviving sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 10:1).

The Table of Nations follows a standard formula and much like Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24) in the Bible’s previous genealogy (Genesis 5:1-32), one character breaks the pattern, a descendant of Ham named Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-14). Nimrod is the son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah.

Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one 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 Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim. (Genesis 10:8-14, NASB)
Nimrod is a true outlier. He stands out from his contemporariess as the only character in the genealogy provided with biographical details. The deviation recounting Nimrod’s enterprises is especially striking in context as the chapter is meticulously structured and the information concerning Nimrod disrupts the arrangement.

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) observes:

The only major departure from the stylized narrative is the treatment of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-9). In a structural way, the peculiar digression on Nimrod is parallel to that of Enoch in Genesis 5:22-24. The difference is that Enoch is assessed theologically whereas Nimrod is celebrated politically. This is what might be expected as the narrative moves closer to identifiable historical reality. (Brueggemann, Genesis (Interpretation: a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 92)
Laurence A. Turner notes:
The reference to Nimrod has all the indications of being a parenthetical note in the genealogy. Interestingly there are six genealogical lists in Genesis 10:2-7 (Japheth, Gomer, Javan, Ham, Cush and Raamah). Genesis 10:8 begins the seventh list. However, it reverts to Cush, who has already been mentioned (Genesis 10:7a), and concerns the exploits of Nimrod, son of Cush who was omitted from the previous list. The deletion of Nimrod, highlighted and distinguished in this way from the other genealogical elements, would reduce the actual total to 70. (Turner, Genesis (Readings: A New Biblical Commentary), 51-52)
Despite relaying several facts about Nimrod, most of the information provided in the table is ambiguous. Gerhard Von Rad (1901-1971) speculates:
The statements are so general, and connected to one another so loosely, that one senses how remote and legendary the information about Nimrod was even in the ancient Israelite period; only particular recollections have been preserved. Our list considers Nimrod as the first wielder of power of earth, the first ruler of historical significance, the first in the series of those great men whose will become determinative for the fate of entire nations. (Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 146)

Even Nimrod’s name is enigmatic. Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1941) researches:

The etymology of Nimrod is...uncertain. Most writers have connected it with the Hebrew verb mārad, “to rebel.” In the Haggadah (T.B. Hag. 13a; Pes. 94b) Nimrod is pictured as the prototype of rebellion, the builder of the Tower of Babel, and the one who led the people in rebellion against God. Mitchell J. Dahood [1922-1982] has noted that at both Ebla and Ugarit some proper names combine an animal and a deity. He notes particularly Ugar. ni-mi-ri-ya (which translates “panther of Yah”), which leads him to suggest that Nimrod means “panther of Hadd” (i.e., Baal), analogous to nqmd (“victory of Hadd”). (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), 338)
Nimrod is so lauded that it might be assumed that he would be featured prominently throughout the Bible as well as extra-biblical sources. This is simply not the case. The potentate’s name appears only four times in the Biblical text: twice in the Table of Nations, in another genealogy in I Chronicles and in Micah which refers to northern Mesopotamia/Assyria as the “land of Nimrod” (Genesis 10:8, 9; I Chronicles 1:10; Micah 5:6).

More surprisingly, Nimrod is evidently unknown elsewhere in ancient literature. To bridge the gap between Scripture and history, many have conjectured as to which known luminary could correspond to Nimrod. Ironically, commentators have spent a great deal of time trying to identify the most famous man of his time. Humans, deities, demigods, an archetypical ideal (as opposed to real person) and a composite character have all been suggested.

Claus Westermann (1909-2000) surveys the usual suspects:

Benno Jacob [1862-1945] gives a detailed account of the explanations offered for the name Nimrod and concludes: “But there is no sign at all of a Nimrod or similar name.” Likewise John Skinner [1851-1925] and others, and the situation has not changed despite more recent attempts. The name is linked with Marduk, the tutelary god of Babylon (A.H. Sayce [1846-1938], Julius Wellhausen [1844-1918]); with Nuzi-Maruttash, a king of the Kassite dynasty (Paul Haupt [1858-1926], H.V. Hilprecht [1859-1925]); as nu-marad (man from Marad) with the middle Babylonian city Marad (Franz Delitzsch [1830-1890]); with the constellation Orion, who appears as a mighty hunter in Greece and later as a hunter translated to the sky; in Syriac the constellation is known as gabbār; with Amen-Hotep III (1411-1375) who is called neb-ma-re, in the Amarna letters Nimmuri (Kurt Sethe [1869-1934]); with Gilgamesh, who is described as gibbōr in the epic, and presented as a hunter in sculpture (so many interpreters); with the Babylonian god of war and hunt Ninurta (Heinrich Zimmern [1862-1931], KBL); more recently (E.A. Speiser [1902-1965], Eretz-Israel V[1958] 32-45) with Yukulti-Ninurta I, of the 13th century, the first Assyrian master of Babylon; as Ninos a figure of Greek story. (Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary, 515)
Joseph Blenkinsopp (b. 1927) updates:
The list of candidates includes Sargon, founder of the dynasty of Akkad in the late third millennium BC (Yigal Levin [b. 1963] 2002); Tikulti-Ninurta I (ca. 1244-1208 BC), a great builder who was the first Assyrian ruler to conquer Babylon (E.A. Speiser [1902-1965] 1958; 1964: 72-73), Ashurnasirpal II (878-707 BC), who made Calah (Kalhu, now Nimrud, on the east bank of the Tigris south-east of Mosul) his capital; and Sargon II (721-705 BC), whose new capital at Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad) was abandoned after his death (Christoph Uehlinger [b. 1958] 2003; Arie van der Kooij [b. 1945] 2006). To these we may add Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC), last significant ruler in the long succession of Assyrian kings, in spite of the fact that “the beginning of his kingdom’ was Assyria not Babylon. (Blenkinsopp, Creation, Un-creation, Re-creation: A discursive commentary on Genesis 1-11, 161-162)
Each suggestion has its limitations and there is no consensus among scholars.

Whoever Nimrod was, he was impressive. Three times the text uses the word “mighty” (Hebrew: gibbôr) to describe him (Genesis 10:8-9). The only other time this word occurs in Genesis is in relation to the Nephilim (Genesis 6:4). In Genesis 10:8, in addition to “mighty” (ASV, CEV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV), the word is also translated “great” (MSG) “heroic” (NLT) and “powerful” (HCSB). The word means “strong, mighty” and can be equated with “champion” though the context is clearly does not fit sports or games.

Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) defines:

The association of “mighty warrior” (Genesis 10:8) with the prowess of the hunt (“mighty hunter,” Genesis 10:9) reflects the early traditions of Egyptian and Mesopotamian kings famous for this practice. In both expressions gibbor (“mighty”) refers to the strength of Nimrod as a champion warrior. It is reminiscent of Genesis 6:4, which describes the infamous heroes of the past. Usually the term occurs in the context of military achievement (e.g., Joshua 10:2; Amos 2:14, 16). (Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26 (The New American Commentary), 450)
Nimrod is characterized as a mighty hunter (Genesis 10:9); Esau is the only other hunter mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 25:27). Robert Alter (b. 1935) analyzes:
The Hebrew, which says literally, “he began to be a mighty man,” uses the same idiom that is invoked for Noah’s planting a vineyard. The implication, is that Nimrod, too, was the founder of an archetypical human occupation. The next verse suggests that this occupation is that of hunter, with his founding of a great Mesopotamian empire then introduced in Genesis 10:10-12 as an ancillary fact. Perhaps his prowess as a hunter is put forth as evidence of the martial prowess that enabled him to conquer kingdoms, since the two skills are often associated in the ruling classes of older civilizations. Numerous Neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs depict royal lion hunts or royal bull hunts. (Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary, 43)
Some have supposed that his fellow humans are the game that Nimrod hunts. Martin Kessler (b. 1927) and Karel Deurloo (b. 1936) interpret:
The cultural innovation was no cause for rejoicing. Anyone who knows the Assyrian hunting reliefs in the British Museum in London understands that Nimrod was not a prince on a safari. The king was the “lord of animals,” a caricature of the (exemplary) man of the stripe of Noah who dominates the animals as a human in God’s image. A man like Nimrod hunted predators of the semi-chaotic field that adjoined the cultivated land. He was superhuman in his power, “a hero in hunting before the face of YHWH.” A greater superlative cannot be imagined. Or does the author intend to express a limitation of his power? (Kessler and Deurloo, A Commentary on Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, 89-90)
Yael Shemesh documents:
The midrash views Nimrod, of whom the Bible reports that “he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Genesis 10:8-9), with extreme disfavor. According to Midrash Aggadah...on Genesis 10:8, Nimrod was the first person to eat meat: “Before Nimrod human beings did not eat meat, until Nimrod came and hunted and ate them. This is why it says that ‘he began to be a [that is, was the first] mighty hunter.’” The midrash’s disapproval of the hunter is evident from what comes next: “‘He was a mighty hunter’: This means that he hunted men [beriyot] and killed them. ‘Before the Lord’: This means that he knew his Master and intended to rebel against him: “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord’: This refers to Esau, who is called ‘a skillful hunter’ (Genesis 25:27).” The midrash evidently draws a link between harming animals and harming human beings: someone who overcame the basic human revulsion at shedding the blood of animals is a villain who also hunts and kills human beings. As for “before the Lord,” which might be interpreted as favorable, the midrash reads it negatively: even though he knows the Lord, Nimrod intends to rebel against Him. (Athalya Brenner [b. 1943], Archie Chi Chung Lee, Gale A. Yee [b. 1949], Genesis (Texts @ Contexts), 117)
Unlike the shepherd kings from the Ancient Near East applauded in the Bible, Nimrod is able to exert his will and parlay his unique skills into becoming the world’s first potentate. He builds an empire. Before Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), Genghis Khan (1162-1227) and Adolph Hitler (1889-1945), there was Nimrod.

John Goldingay (b. 1942) portrays:

Nimrod is the Bible’s first individual “champion” or outstanding warrior, following on the Fallen of Genesis 6 who were also “champions” or warriors; there will be no more “champions” in the Torah (except God). Further, Nimrod is the only hunter in the Old Testament except Esau. And he is this “before Yahweh”: even by God’s standards, Nimrod is impressive. Yet further, he is the first person in Scripture with whom words such as king or reign are associated, the first person in the Bible with a kingdom. The comments about him suggest an anticipatory judgment on earthly kingship and kingdom. The existence of powerful states and powerful rulers is at best an ambiguous development in the world’s unfolding story. (Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-16 123)
Nimrod vastly expands his territory. Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1941) traces:
Four (or three?) cities are connected with Nimrod. Three of them are well known: Babylon, the ancient capital city of Mesopotamia, situated on a branch of the Euphrates, southwest of Baghdad; Erech (ancient Uruk, modern Warka), an important Sumerian city (especially 4th-3rd millennium B.C.), located about 160 miles southeast of Baghdad; Accad (also spelled Akkad or Agade), the capital city of the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad, situated on the Euphrates in northern Babylonia, though its site has never been discovered...The city about which there is uncertainty is Calneh. Amos 6:2 mentions a city by this name, along with Carchemish, Hamathm and Arpad, as cities conquered by the Assyrians, and hence pointing to northern Syria. It is difficult, however, to identify this northern Calneh with the one in Genesis 10, which is specifically designated as being in the land of Shinar, that is Sumer, which is in the south, unless the northern Calneh (Amos 6:2), is to be seen as a commercial colony named after the mother city in the south (Genesis 10:10). Furthermore, the extant cuneiform literature has no references to a southern (i.e., Babylonian) Calneh. (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), 339)
Nimrod became so celebrated that a proverbial saying developed around his name, the way a great basketball move today might be described as “Jordanesque” in deference to Michael Jordan (Genesis 10:9).

Robert Davidson (1927-2012) compares:

Just as biblical names have come down to us embedded in proverbial sayings – we speak, for example of someone having ‘the patience of Job’ –so the Hebrews knew of a proverbial saying in which the name of an ancient non-Hebrew hero Nimrod appeared. (Davidson, Genesis 1-11 (Cambridge Bible Commentaries on the Old Testament), 102)
Like most of the material involving Nimrod, the aphorism is cryptic. Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) explains:
The proverb “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD” is unclear about how the author interprets the expression. “Before the LORD” has been taken as God’s favor toward Nimrod, or conversely, suggesting sinful rebellion as in the thought of Psalm 66:7: “He [God] rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations—let not the rebellious rise up against him.” Some conclude alternatively that the phrase is neutral, only expressing a superlative, thereby indicating that Nimrod’s activities stood out especially. Lexical connections between the Nimrod narrative and the tower event (Genesis 11:1-9), however, encourage the reader to interpret Nimrod’s activities, as the founder of Babel, in the same negative light the Lord “saw” the efforts of the tower builders. (Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26 (The New American Commentary), 450)
Bill T. Arnold (b. 1955) views Nimrod’s exploits as indicative of far reaching ramifications:
This note also gives the etiological understanding of an early aphorism in ancient Israel (Genesis 10:9): “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” This presumably hints that post-flood humanity has already reverted to pre-flood despotism. (Arnold, Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary), 116)
The name Nimrod persists today with two widely disparate meanings, a hunter and a person deemed silly or foolish. The prevalence of the latter has trumped the former. Amazingly, the second meaning likely derived from the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. The wily rabbit used the term in its original sense to refer to his nemesis, the asinine hunter Elmer Fudd, whom he called a “poor little Nimrod.” Eventually, the name became more associated with the characteristics of the inept animated hunter than the great biblical warrior.

The original Nimrod, however, was the most influential person of his and the surrounding generations. Nimrod utilized his entrepreneurial spirit to become a world changer.

Who are today’s “mighty men”? What historical figures are comparable to Nimrod? Who will stand out in your generation? How is the world different because of Nimrod; what impact did he have? How did the original readers view Nimrod, as a hero or a villain? How should Nimrod be remembered?

Nimrod is remembered for personal prowess and political power, traits loved by the world. Yet the Bible is not so clear as to whether Nimrod should be as revered as he was in his own lifetime.

Donald E. Gowan (b. 1929) remarks:

The note is neutral in tone, like Genesis 4:17-22 and Genesis 9:20. It does not follow the pattern of the stories of Cain and Abel or the tower of Babel, which express negative judgments about what has gone wrong in human culture. This is somewhat remarkable in that the list of cities includes Israel’s deadly enemies, Babel and Nineveh. (Gowan, Genesis 1-11: From Eden to Babel (International Theological Commentary), 113)
Miguel A. De La Torre (b. 1958) expounds:
Not much is said about Nimrod, except that he is reckoned as the world’s first potentate. Although we are not told anything about his relationship with God except that he was a mighty hunter in Yahweh’s eyes, his name might betray his character. The Hebrew word “to rebel” (marad) may be the root of the Hebrew word Nimrod. But what was it about Nimrod that was rebellious? Nimrod is credited with building an empire that included Babel (Babylon), Erech, and Achad. From there he continued to Assyria and built Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. If there is any connection with the word “rebellion” and Nimrod’s name, Walter Brueggemann [b. 1933] suggests it might be that empire building is a rebellion against Yahweh. (De La Torre, Genesis: Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible, 132)
Traditionally, Nimrod is typically depicted negatively. Later Jewish traditions portray the potentate as the builder of the infamous Tower of Babel and the originator of idolatry. Josephus (37-100) envisions Nimrod (called Nebrodes following the Septuagint) as a tyrant who is actively hostile towards God and builds the Tower of Babel in preparation for another Flood (Jewish Antiquities I.113-199). Philo (20 BCE-50 CE) stretches by translating his epithet as the condemning “a mighty hunter against the Lord” (Questions and Answers on Genesis II.82).

Though tradition links Nimrod as the impetus behind the Tower of Babel, he is not included in the biblical account (Genesis 11:1-9). Even so, Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) sees a linguistic connection:

The narrator foreshadows the Tower of Babel narrative by key words in the biographical note about Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12). Both Nimrod and the tower builders “build,” bānâ, “cities,” ‘îr (Genesis 10:11-12, 11:4-5), in “Babylon” and “Shinar” (Genesis 10:10, 11:2, 9). Moreover, in both of these narratives the narrator inserts the only two references to “the LORD” in the book. Both pertain to God’s sovereignty over the godless humans and their cities. Nimrod’s deeds were “before the LORD” (Genesis 10:9), and the “LORD came down to the city [Babylon]” (Genesis 11:5; cf. Genesis 11:6, 8-9). (Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 163)
Interpretations of Nimrod hinge on the enigmatic expression “before the LORD” featured in the proverb (Genesis 10:9). It can mean either in the Lord’s presence or in the Lord’s estimation.

John E. Hartley (b. 1940) examines:

The text states twice that Nimrod achieved fame as a hunter “before Yahweh.” This phrase elevates Nimrod’s achievement to a superior level. It also shows that Yahweh was involved in the course of the development of the nations. (Hartley, New International Biblical Commentary, 121)
Kenneth O. Gangel (1935-2009) and Stephen J. Bramer (b. 1953) posit:
The relevance of this expression is not clear. Nimrod was in the line of Ham, not Shem, through whom Abram would descend. Perhaps this statement about the Lord was included to signify that not all of Ham’s descendants would be under the curse of Canaan (Genesis 9:25), or it could signify that this was done in God’s presence, as Genesis 11:5 points out. (Gangel and Bramer, Genesis (Holman Old Testament Commentary), 105)
W. Sibley Towner (b. 1933) deduces:
The interesting thing about him here is that the narrator offers a proverbial saying, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:8-9). Whoever Nimrod was, he was not outside the interests of Yahweh. In the view of the Priestly genealogist, he lived out his life of greatness by the grace of the creator of all peoples. (Towner, Genesis (Westminster Bible Companion), 104)
Despite many traditions to the contrary, Nimrod has found supporters. He has been seen as a reminder that God can use those outside of the chosen people, like Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1), to accomplish the divine will.

John Rogerson (b. 1935) presents:

A possible key verse for the understanding of the chapter is Genesis 10:9, where Nimrod is described as a ‘mighty hunter before the LORD’...If, as seems most likely, the verse is taken to be a compliment to Nimrod, then we have a non-Israelite described both as a founder of civilization in Babylon and Assyria, and as standing in some sort of relationship to God. From this we could conclude that the chapter is saying not only did the nations consist of men and women created by the God worshipped by Israel, but that among these nations were individuals who enjoyed the favour of the God worshipped by Israel. We must not overlook the fact that the Old Testament has a strong sense that foreign nations can be used of God (cf. Isaiah 10:5, 45:1), and that God’s purpose in calling Abraham is to bring blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3). (Rogerson, Genesis 1-11 (T and T Clark Study Guides), 74)
Joseph Coleson (b. 1947) adds:
The significant prepositional phrase, lipnê yhwh, occurs twice in Genesis 10:9. Most often it is translated, “before the Lord/Yahweh,” but that does not reflect its full significance in this context. It was not just in Yahweh’s presence, or estimation, that Nimrod was a master of the hunt. It was by God’s will, even by God’s grace (E.A. Speiser 1902-1965] 1964, 51, 64; Victor P. Hamilton [b. 1952] 1990, 335, see, e.g. Numbers 32:20-22). This insight militates against understanding the name Nimrod as meaning “rebel.” Taken seriously, it also has the potential to revise our (usually negative) opinions of Nimrod. (Coleson, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (New Beacon Bible Commentary), 273-74)
Leon R. Kass (b. 1939) justifies the potentate by noting that Nimrod’s actions are understandable:
He was...the founder, presumably by conquest, of an empire of cities in the plain of Shinar, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). By means of a large kingdom, Nimrod attempts to overcome by force the division of mankind. We should not be too quick to blame him: if what lies behind the human world is only chaos and instability, man must make his own order. Human ordering is the theme fo the story of Babel. (Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis , 222)
In spite of this praise, the context is flooded with negative associations. The term “mighty” connects Nimrod with the cause fo the “flood’ (Genesis 6:4). In the preceding chapter, Nimrod’s grandfather, Ham, and his descendants are cursed (Genesis 9:20-27). On top of this, as a son of Cush, he appears to be a Hamite, yet his entire kingdom is in Shemite territory.

Paul J. Kissling (b. 1957) connects:

That Nimrod became a mighty warrior...(gibbōr) probably alludes to the “heroes”...(hěggibbōrîm) of Genesis 6:4. Nimrod’s violence is thus linked to the violence that brought on the divine judgment of the Flood. That Nimrod is later associated with the founding of the great kingdoms of Israel’s experience leads the audience to be reminded of the violence of kingdoms with their secular views of authority (whether it be Egypt who enslaved them or Babylon who exiled them matters little.) They start from a man whose name means “we will rebel” and who became a warrior like the warriors destroyed in the Flood. (Kissling, Genesis, Volume 1 (The College Press NIV Commentary), 365)

Joseph Blenkinsopp (b. 1927) contextualizes:

Like Cain, Nimrod built a city (Genesis 4:17), and like the Nephilim destroyed in the deluge, he was one of the gibbōrîm, the ‘mighty men’ of old, though clearly a different type of gibbôr. While the brief narrative about Nimrod is not explicitly prejudicial and negative, in the broader context of Genesis 1-11 these associations suggest a negative verdict on his political and military accomplishments and a further stage of deterioration according to the Yahwist’s realistic and disenchanted view of human affairs. (Blenkinsopp, Creation, Un-creation, Re-creation: A discursive commentary on Genesis 1-11, 161)
Mark G. Brett (b. 1958) sees empire building in general as problematic:
A unifying principle among the Hamites is urbanism, and this feature is reflected especially in...Nimrod...who somehow founds the urban centres both of Babylon and of Assyria. Nimrod is an empire builder, indeed the prototype of empire builders. And the implicit suggestion from the editors of Genesis is that empire builders...are guilty of crimes of dominance...More than that, empire builders are guilty of improper ambition. (Brett, Genesis: Procreation and the Politics of Identity, 46)
Thomas L. Brodie (b. 1940) concludes:
He should have been a terrifying figure—the personification or incarnation of overwhelming power. But the story demystifies him. In the figure of his ancestor Ham, the weakness of his foundations have already been seen; ultimately his fate is not mightiness but servitude. The description of him as “mighty...mighty...mighty” recalls the mighty men who were washed away by the mightier flood (Genesis 6:4, 7:18-20). To emphasize God’s presence, Nimrod’s hunting is placed “before Yhwh,” in other words, subject to Yhwh (Genesis 10:9). (Brodie, Genesis As Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary, 194)
The final verdict on Nimrod’s virtue is left to the reader. Perhaps he is like most people, possessing both good and bad traits. From the Biblical perspective, a person’s greatness should not be assessed based upon worldly accomplishments but rather relationship to God. By this standard, Enoch who leaves no political legacy (Genesis 5:21-24) is far greater than Nimrod who shaped the ancient world (Genesis 10:8-14).

What is Nimrod’s relationship to God? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with building empires? What is the barometer for greatness? Who do you consider to be great?

“Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.” - Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), Life Thoughts: Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher, 1858