NIMROD


NIMROD (Heb. נִמְרוֹד, נִמְרֹד), son of *Cush and grandson of *Ham son of *Noah (Gen. 10:8–12; I Chron. 1:10). He is described in the Table of Nations as "a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord" (Gen. 10:9) whose exploits as a hero of the chase became proverbial. He was also "the first man of might on earth" (Gen. 10:8), i.e., the first to found a great empire after the *flood. He is said to have ruled over the famous capitals of southern Mesopotamia, Babylon, Uruk (Erech), and Akkad as well as, apparently, over the great cities of Calah and Nineveh in the land of Assyria. The term "land of Nimrod" appears as a synonymous variant of Assyria in Micah 5:5. The etymology of the name is uncertain as is also the identification of Nimrod with an historical personality. E.A. Speiser connects him with Tukulti-Ninurta 1 (13th century B.C.E.), who was the first Mesopotamian ruler effectively to have combined Babylon and Assyria under a single authority. However, the association of Nimrod with Cush son of Ham presents a difficulty if Cush refers to the area south of Egypt. Another possibility is to connect it with the Kassites who conquered Babylon in the second millennium (cf. Gen. 2:13), in which case a confusion of genealogical traditions is to be presumed. The extraordinary notice about Nimrod in the Table of Nations indicates the existence of a well-known and widespread narrative about him. U. Cassuto has postulated that the five verses in Genesis 10 derive from an ancient epic devoted to his heroic exploits.

[Nahum M. Sarna]

In the Aggadah

Nimrod is the prototype of rebellion against the Almighty (Ḥag. 13a), his name being interpreted as "he who made all the people rebel against God" (Pes. 94b). As the first hunter, he was the first to eat meat and to make war on other peoples (Mid. Ag. to Gen. 10:8), and he eventually became a king (PdRE 24). His physical prowess came from his coats of skin, which God had made for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21) and which Noah had preserved in the Ark. When the animals saw Nimrod wearing these coats, they knelt before him. He became the first man to rule the whole world and he appointed Terah, Abraham's father, his minister (PdRE 24). Elated by his glory, he became an idolator (Sefer ha-Yashar, Noah 9a, 1870). He built the Tower of Babel (which is called by the rabbis, "the house of Nimrod") for idol worship (Av. Zar. 53b) and he had the whole world pay divine homage to him (Mid. Hag to Gen. 11:28). When informed of Abraham's birth, Nimrod ordered all male children to be killed (Ma'aseh Avraham, in: A. Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash, 2 (19382, 118f.) and he later had Abraham cast into a fiery furnace because he refused to worship fire (Gen. R. 38:13).

Nimrod (identified with *Amraphel) became a vassal of his rebellious general Chedorlaomer, and was later defeated by Abraham (see Gen. 14; Sefer ha-Yashar, loc. cit.). He was slain by Esau who was jealous of his success as a hunter and who coveted his magic garments (PdRE 24). In messianic times Nimrod will testify before the whole world that Abraham never worshiped idols (Av. Zar. 3a).

In Islam

Namrūd (Namrūdh) b. Kūsh (Cush), or b. Kanʿān (Canaan), is not mentioned by name in the *Koran. The commentators are justified, however, in their contention that Suras 21:69; 29:23; and 37:95, in which it is said that the courtiers and the people of *Abraham suggested that he be thrown into the fiery furnace, refer to Namrūd. In the discussion between the ruler of the land and Abraham (Sura 2:260), another allusion is made to Namrūd. The allusions to the Jewish aggadot about Abraham in the fiery furnace are sufficiently evident. At a later period Nimrod b. Cush (Gen. 10:9), or b. Canaan, is mentioned by name. The theme of Abraham, who worships God and is persecuted by the ruler, recurs in various popular literary works. In a fragment of the qaṣīda (poem) attributed to Samawʾal al-Quarẓī, found in the Cairo *Genizah, the following stanza appears: "It was only in the case of one man [among our ancestors] that the fire which encircled him was changed into fragrant and bowing garden plants." The influence of Muslim legend is most clearly evident in late Jewish legend. These same descriptions are again to be found in the writings of later commentators on the Koran: Zamakhsharī (p. 888; 12th century) and Baydāwī (vol. 1, p. 620; 13th century).

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. Falkenstein, in: ZA, 45 (1939), 36; E. Dhorme, Les Religions de Babylonie et d'Assyrie (1945), 102, 128–31; E.A. Speiser, in: Eretz Israel, 5 (1958), 32–36; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (1964), 200 ff.; D.O. Edzard, in: H.W. Haussig (ed.), Woerterbuch der Mythologie, 1 (1965), 114–5; E. Lipinski, in: RB, 73 (1966), 77, 93. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 1 (1909), 175–9, and index. IN ISLAM: Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, 1 (1357 A.H.), 142, 201; Thaʿlabī, Qiṣaṣ (1356 A.H.), 80–81; J.W. Hirschberg (ed.), Der Diwan des as-Samauʾal ibn Adijā… (1931), 33, 63–64. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: EIS2, 7 (1993), 952–3 (includes bibliography).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.