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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Nim´rod, a son of Cush, the eldest son of Ham (). Five sons of Cush are enumerated in in the more usual manner of this chapter: but a change of phrase introduces Nimrod. This difference may indicate that while, in relation to the other five, the names have a national and geographical reference, this appellation is exclusively personal. It denotes intensively the extremely impious rebel. Hence we conceive that it was not his original proper name, but was affixed to him afterwards, perhaps even after his death, as a characteristic appellative.

No other persons connected with this work must be considered as answerable for the opinion which the writer of this article thinks to rest upon probable grounds, that the earlier part of the book of Genesis consists of several independent and complete compositions, of the highest antiquity and authority, marked by some differences of style, and having clear indications of commencement in each instance. If this supposition be admitted, a reason presents itself for the citation of a proverbial phrase in . The single instance of minute circumstantiality, in so brief a relation, seems to imply that the writer lived near the age of Nimrod, while his history was still a matter of traditional notoriety, and the comparison of any hero with him was a familiar form of speech. It is also supposed that those, not fragments, but complete, though short and separate compositions (of which eight or more are hypothetically enumerated in J. Pye Smith's Scripture and Geology, p. 202), were, under Divine authority, prefixed by Moses to his own history. Their series has a continuity generally, but not rigorously exact. If we place ourselves in such a point of time, suppose the age succeeding Nimrod, which might be the third century after the Deluge, we may see how naturally the origination of a common phrase would rise in the writer's mind; and that a motive of usefulness would be suggested with it. But both these ideas involve that of nearness to the time; a period in which the country traditions were yet fresh, and an elucidation of them would be acceptable and consonant to general feeling. The following is a close translation of the passage in which mention is made of Nimrod:—'And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a hero in the earth [or in the land]: he was a hero at the chase in the presence of Jehovah; on which account the saying is, Like Nimrod, the hero of the chase, in the presence of Jehovah. And the chief [city] of his dominion was Babel; and [he founded] Ezek and Akkad, and Kalneh, in the land of Shinar.'

Interpreters, with scarcely an exception, from the Septuagint and the Targums down to our own times, understand the whole case thus: that Nimrod was a man of vast bodily strength, and eminent for courage and skill in the arts of hunting down and capturing or killing the dangerous animals, which probably were both very numerous and frequently of enormous size; that, by these recommendations, he made himself the favorite of bold and enterprising young men, who readily joined his hunting expeditions; that hence he took encouragement to break the patriarchal union of venerable and peaceful subordination, to set himself up as a military chieftain, assailing and subduing men, training his adherents into formidable troops, by their aid subduing the inhabitants of Shinar and its neighboring districts; and that, for consolidating and retaining his power, now become a despotism, he employed his subjects in building forts, which became towns and cities, that which was afterwards called Babel being the principal. Combining this with the contents of Genesis 11, we infer that Nimrod either was an original party in the daring impiety of building the tower, or subsequently joined himself to those who had begun it. The former fact is positively affirmed by Josephus; but it is not probable that he could have any other evidence than that of the general interpretation of his countrymen. The late Mr. Rich, not thirty years ago, in the extensive plain where lie buried the ruins of Babylon, discovered the very remarkable mound with remains of buildings on its summit (of which see the figure in the article Babel), which even now bears the name of Birs Nimrod; and this may well be regarded as some confirmation of the common opinion.

As a great part of the ancient mythology and idolatry arose from the histories of chiefs and sages, decorated with allegorical fables, it is by no means improbable that the life and actions of Nimrod gave occasion to stories of this kind. Hence, some have supposed him to have been signified by the Indian Bacchus, deriving that name from Bar-Chus, 'son of Cush;' and, it is probable, by the Persian giant Gibber (answering to the Hebrew Gibbor, 'mighty man,' 'hero,' in ); and by the Greek Orion, whose fame as a 'mighty hunter' is celebrated by Homer, in the Odyssey, xi. 571-4. The Persian and the Grecian fables are both represented by the well-known and magnificent constellation.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Nimrod'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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