[b-hebrew] Nimrod?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue Mar 25 17:35:45 EDT 2008

Dear Edward,

First of all, I'll address the very end of your post: if you feel 
comfortable believing that Nimrod was "a rebel and a tyrant", I have 
absolutely no reason to disturb you comfort. Since, unlike your murder trial 
metaphore, no-one's life is at stake here, you are entitled to your belief. 
I only ask that you recognize that your belief is just that: belief.

Now to the point: there is no "secular evidence" as you call it, about 
Nimrod at all, one way or another. He is not mentioned by name (or by any 
other name that we can readily identify) in any contemporary or 
near-contemporary source that we know about. I'd like to know what 
"Sumerian-Akkadian didactic poems report his heroic deeds". The fact that 
Josephus, the various rabbinic sources and the much later Arabic traditions 
record stories about him is neither here nor there, since as far as anyone 
cane prove, they all go back, directly or indirectly, to the same few verses 
in Genesis. So the very question of whether Nimrod even ever existed goes 
back to the much more basic question of how "historical" any of Gen. 1-11 
is. From that perspective, Nimrod is no more or less "historical" than Adam 
and Eve, Cain and Ebel, Enoch, Methuselah or Noah. If you believe that they 
existed because you believe in the historical accuracy of the Bible that's 
fine, but that's not historcial evidence and we should take care not to 
confuse the two.

So all we're left with is what Gen. 10:8-12 tells us. You claim that "lifney 
YHWH" carries a negative meaning, and cite examples of it doing so. So 
here's a counter-example: in 2 Sam. 5:3, all Israel come to make David their 
king, and he makes a covenant with them at Hebron "lifney YHWH" and they 
annoint him king. Here "lifney YHWH" certainly means "before the Lord" in a 
positive way. It is only post-biblical interprative tradition (that is, 
midrash) that understood his name as being derived from the Hebrew root for 
"rebel" and understood that as revealing his character.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Edward Andrews" <edandrews at roadrunner.com>
To: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:52 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Nimrod?

> Yigal:
> I have read many of your posts over the years and I am far from being in 
> your league of expertise in these things, but allow me an innocent 
> question. Must evidence always be absolute, or direct, to reach a 
> conclusion. Are we not able to convict a man of murder without a body or 
> murder weapon? If one has enough circumstantial evidence, does it not 
> qualify as beyond reasonable doubt in a trial where a life is a stake? 
> From my limited reading, I see secular material leaning in favor of a 
> rebellious tyrant. I see scripture barely tipping the scales, but doing so 
> none the less in that direction as well. Let us kind of rate the evidence 
> as we go, as though we are putting pebbles on a scale.
> The rabbinic writings derived the name Nimrod from the Hebrew verb 
> ma·radh´, meaning "rebel." Thus, the Babylonian Talmud (Erubin 53a) 
> states: "Why, then, was he called Nimrod? Because he stirred up the whole 
> world to rebel (himrid) against His [God's] sovereignty."-Encyclopedia of 
> Biblical Interpretation, by Menahem M. Kasher, Vol. II, 1955, p. 79. This 
> seems to be direct implication.
> Nimrod distinguished himself as a mighty hunter "before" (in an 
> unfavorable sense; Heb., liph·neh´; "against" or "in opposition to"; 
> compare Nu 16:2; 1Ch 14:8; 2Ch 14:10) or "in front of" Jehovah. (Gen 10:9, 
> ftn) As you have done, some scholars attach a favorable sense to the 
> Hebrew preposition meaning "in front of," the Jewish Targums, the writings 
> of the historian Josephus, and also the context of Genesis chapter 10 
> suggest that Nimrod was a mighty hunter in defiance of Jehovah. Here our 
> evidence is of a lesser value, but is based more on an inductive 
> conclusion. Anything further removed from direct evidence is undoubtedly 
> weaker, but evidence nonetheless.
> Josephus wrote: "[Nimrod] little by little transformed the state of 
> affairs into a tyranny, holding that the only way to detach men from the 
> fear of God was by making them continuously dependent upon his own power. 
> He threatened to have his revenge on God if He wished to inundate the 
> earth again; for he would build a tower higher than the water could reach 
> and avenge the destruction of their forefathers. The people were eager to 
> follow this advice of [Nimrod], deeming it slavery to submit to God; so 
> they set out to build the tower . . . and it rose with a speed beyond all 
> expectation."-Jewish Antiquities, I, 114, 115 (iv, 2, 3). Here again, we 
> have historical indirect evidence.
> "Scholars have attempted, without real success," says Collier's 
> Encyclopedia, "to identify Nimrod with a number of ancient kings, heroes, 
> or deities, among them Merodach (Marduk), an Assyrian-Babylonian god; 
> Gilgamesh, a Babylonian hero noted as a hunter; and Orion, a hunter in 
> Classical mythology." So a German reference work admits that in reality 
> "we know nothing more about him than what is offered by the Bible 
> account." This is very much true, but it neither helps, nor hurts. One 
> could speculate until the cows come home, but there is not enough to tie 
> Nimrod with any other historical person, or legend.
> Nevertheless, Nimrod did exist. Arabic tradition mentions him. His name, 
> as Nimrud or Nimroud, occurs in the names of places in the Near East. 
> Sumerian-Akkadian didactic poems report his heroic deeds. And Jewish 
> historian Josephus refers to him by name.
> Concerning the name Nimrod, Orientalist E. F. C. Rosenmüller wrote: "The 
> name was given to Nimrod from [ma·radh´], 'he rebelled,' 'he defected,' 
> according to the Hebrew meaning." Then Rosenmüller explains that 
> "Orientals are accustomed not rarely to call their noblemen by names given 
> after death, from which comes the, at times, amazing agreement between 
> names and things done."
> Several scholars share the opinion that the name Nimrod was not a name 
> given at birth. Rather, they consider it to be a name given later to suit 
> his rebellious character after it became manifest. For example, C. F. Keil 
> states: "The name itself, Nimrod from [ma·radh´], 'we will revolt,' points 
> to some violent resistance to God. It is so characteristic that it can 
> only have been given by his contemporaries, and thus have become a proper 
> name." In a footnote, Keil quotes historian Jacob Perizonius as writing: 
> "I would believe that this man [Nimrod], as a ferocious hunter and 
> surrounded by a band of comrades, in order to incite the rest to 
> rebellion, always had in his mouth and geminated that word 'nimrod, 
> nimrod,' that is, 'Let us rebel! Let us rebel!' Hence, in later times, he 
> was designated by others, even Moses himself, by that word as a proper 
> name." This inferential evidence is very weighty and I believe adds 
> substantial weight to the rebellious side of the scale.
> So, the final analysis for me is that Nimrod was a rebel, a tyrant and 
> while it is not conclusive, I can feel comfortable with that fact that the 
> scales are largely tipped in this direction.
> Edward Andrews
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>
> To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Monday, March 24, 2008 11:43 PM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Nimrod?
>> Dear Eva,
>> There is nothing in the short segment that we have on Nimrod in Gen. 10 
>> that
>> indicates that he was in any way rebelious against God. He was "a mighty
>> hunter before YHWH", and the first great king to rule after the flood. In 
>> an
>> article that I published some years ago ("Nimrod the Mighty, King of 
>> Kish,
>> King of Sumer and Akkad", Vetus Testementum 52 (2002), 350-366), I 
>> suggested
>> that the Nimrod of Genesis was a compound literary recollection of the 
>> deeds
>> of the great Sargon of Akkad and of his grandson Naram-Sin, with the name
>> "Nimrod" being a shortened form of the latter. It was later 
>> post-tradition
>> that understood it to mean "Let us rebel" and turned him into an evil 
>> king.
>> Yigal Levin
>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: <thebodyofjesusthenazoraion at juno.com>
>> To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Sent: Monday, March 24, 2008 6:23 PM
>> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] b-hebrew Digest, Nimrod?
>>> First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb
>>> marad, meaning "rebel." Adding an "n" before the "m" it becomes an
>>> infinitive construct, "Nimrod." (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 
>>> 1962:
>>> 597). The meaning then is "The Rebel." Thus "Nimrod" may not be the
>>> character's name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a
>>> representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the
>>> Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as
>>> civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very
>>> prominent.
>>> go to
>>> http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/nimrod.html
>>> My question is, is this true?
>>> Eva Ritsema
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