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A Study of Genesis 10:8-12

Introduction

Do your enjoy fishing? Do you enjoy hunting? I used to go fishing when my children were younger, but it’s been a long times since I’ve gotten out to do that. Have you ever noticed how some people have a special knack for fishing or hunting? They always seem to know exactly the right spots to go and usually return with their limit. Although I spent some time fishing, I never got into hunting, except for occasionally putting out mouse traps!

The person we are going to learn about in these few verses in the Bible was known as a mighty hunter whose name was Nimrod. Except for these few words written about him, we know very little about the man. These five verses are right in the middle of the long genealogies in Genesis 10 sometimes referred to as the "Table of the Nations." All the sons of Noah are mentioned with their many descendants. Interrupting this long list of descendants is this little biography of the great-grandson of Noah who was apparently quite a special person.

Verses 8-12

Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth.

He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord."

And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah,

and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

This section of Genesis seems to be very ancient. Shinar pre-dates the Babylonian kingdom and probably refers to the Southern Babylonian kingdom founded by the Sumer. Nimrod is credited with organizing the main cities of the area including Babel which would later become Babylon. Next, it is said Nimrod went to Assyria and built more cities. I would imagine that these were more like settlements instead of cities – the beginnings of small villages which would later become famous cities.

The fact that Calah is mentioned as the principal city of the region over Nineveh testifies to its antiquity. Nimrod’s memory may have been preserved in the Akkadian god of war and hunting Ninurta who was called, "the Arrow, the mighty hero." It is interesting that by the Assyrian time, Accad (or Akkad) was virtually unknown indicating whichever documents Moses was using for this section in Genesis 10 were very ancient. Erech, mentioned in verse 10, was the setting for the famous Gilgamesh epic poem written about 2000 BC.

Nimrod’s name has been preserved in the area where he ruled. The ancient city of Calah which is mentioned in verse 10 is the present city on the Tigris River which is named Nimrud. There is a city southwest of Babylon named Birs Nimrud., and the oldest ruins of Nineveh are given the name of Nimroud. From this archaeological evidence we know of Nimrod’s ancient influence, and yet it is interesting that the literature from Babylonia and Assyria as far back as 2300 BC do not mention Nimrod. He apparently had been forgotten by the time of Sargon I in the region, and yet Nimrod’s name is recorded in the Hebrew writings. This means that the Bible gives a more ancient witness than the Babylonian writings from the third millennium BC. In fact, in Micah 5:5-6 the area of Assyria is referred to as "the land of Assyria, and the land of Nimrod" preserving this ancient witness.

Because the Hebrew name for Nimrod comes from a root word which means to rebel, the early Jewish and Christian commentators considered Nimrod an unworthy man responsible for the building of the tower of Babel. But the Bible tells us nothing like that. The arguments these commentators use is that the Hebrew phrase discussed below could mean "against the Lord," but this argument is very weak. There is little to support it, and there is no indication in everything written in the Bible about Nimrod that he was anything but a special person used of God for a particular occasion. So I prefer to take a look at Nimrod as he is presented even though I apparently represent a minority viewpoint. In my large library of commentaries, I did find two other Bible scholars that agree with my assessment. I quote from both of them in this article.

As we take a look at this remarkable man, I would like to examine the little that we know about him from these scriptures and see what we can learn about Nimrod’s life that might be an example for us.

Nimrod began as a proficient hunter

Nimrod did not start off to be a ruler of men. He was a hunter. And so hunting is what he did. He did what he enjoyed doing and became proficient at it. What are your talents or gifts from God? Many Christians feel they can’t do anything important for God because they can’t preach or teach or sing or play a musical instrument. Nimrod did not try to be something that he was not. He was a hunter, he enjoyed hunting, and so that’s what he did. What can you do? Do it for God. Later on, God would use Nimrod’s persistence for other work, but he started off a hunter. Anyone who is currently doing what we would call a great ministry for Christ started off by doing something small and insignificant. They were faithful at it and became proficient at it, and God was able to take them to the next step of their faith journey. Whatever God has for you to do, do with all of your ability.

Lange comments, "He began the unfolding of an extraordinary power of will and deed, in the fact mentioned, that he became a mighty hunter in the presence of Jehovah. The hunting of ravenous beasts was in the early times a beneficent act for the human race. Powerful huntsmen appear as the pioneers of civilization.... And so the expression, ‘Nimrod was a mighty hunter before Jehovah,’ may mean that he was one who broke the way for the future institutions of worship and culture which Jehovah intended in the midst of a wild and uncultivated nature."

Nimrod hunted before the Lord

Nimrod didn’t just hunt, he hunted before the Lord. The Hebrew for this phrase before the Lord is < hwFhy: yn"p;li> lipney yahweh, and it means in the presence of the Lord or before the face of the Lord. When Nimrod went out to hunt, he did it as before God or as in God’s presence. He was willing to be guided by God’s presence. He was willing to spend time in prayer. He was willing to dedicate his skills to the Lord. I am sure there were many times when Nimrod asked for God to lead him to where the game was located. I’m sure there were times of danger when Nimrod depended on God for his protection.

Whatever you do, be willing to commit it to God. When we allow God to be part of our activities, we will find that we do a much better job. As long as we try to do things in our own abilities, we will fail. Because even though we may think we are strong and intelligent and skillful, there are times when we find we are weak, and there are times when we do stupid things, and there are times when our skill leaves us. But when we depend on God, then he is there for us during those times of weakness and failure to lift us up, to protect us, and to show us the right way.

Nimrod gained a reputation because he was exceptionally skilled

There apparently was a common saying that the writer of this portion of Genesis is quoting – "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord." Because Nimrod had followed God, he had been successful. And because of his success, he had a reputation as a mighty hunter. This reputation caused people to respect him and to listen to him.

As a result of this admiration, Nimrod was able to take the next step in his faith journey. Not only was he going to be a skilled hunter, but now God would use him as a ruler. As the population began to grow in the area there was a need for leadership and settlements. God raised up Nimrod for this task. He was successful as a leader of men because he had established a reputation among the people as a mighty hunter.

What reputation do you have at work? In the community? Among your family or friends? Do people see you as a reliable worker, a conscientious person, and someone who is willing to do a good job? If we do things as unto God, we will strive to always do a good job. And we too will gain a reputation which will cause others to see Christ in our lives.

Notice that God did not have Nimrod be a leader of men or a builder of villages at the beginning. Nimrod was a hunter and God helped him to be a good hunter. There were lessons of faith and obedience that Nimrod had to learn as a hunter before he would be ready to lead people. God may be preparing you for some future work or ministry. Are you learning faith and obedience in your present endeavors? Are you willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit?

Nimrod settled in Shinar and began to organize settlements

Nimrod began in Shinar which is in present day Iraq organizing settlements for the people. The way this is worded in verse 10, some of these settlements may have already been in existence, but Nimrod unified them and possibly strengthened them. Perhaps because of his hunting in the area friends had come to him about the need to be joined together for mutual protection. There were probably not too many people in the region so they would be prey to bandits and marauders. By organizing them in their settlements, they would be safer and have mutual protection with one another. Whatever the reason, Nimrod became the ruler of this area.

Jamison-Fausset-Brown tell us, "Altogether, the Scripture account conveys the impression that he was a remarkable man, who, along with the possession of physical qualities such as extraordinary strength and stature, ... was endowed also with great energy of mind. It is a laconic, but very significant account, and evidently implies that, like the apostles, who were first fishers, then fishers of men, Nimrod, from being a mighty hunter of beasts, became a mighty ruler of men, giving laws, maintaining military discipline, and establishing a political organization. In short, he laid the foundation of his great authority and dominion in the same way as the Assyrian and Persian monarchs, at a later date, were trained to war and government, by hunting in the field. He impressed his own character upon that of his age...."

After learning his lessons as a hunter before God, Nimrod was ready to take the next step and organize his friends and be their ruler. Since some of these people were probably already there in settlements, it would have been a next step in consolidating the kingdom to organize these settlements into cooperating villages. God had trained Nimrod to be ready for this next step, and he was willing to take it. What next step has God trained you for? Are there some friends or family members that you need to be helping? Are your skills at organization or administration needed? Whatever God has for you, be willing to take that next step. God will be there to help you succeed.

Nimrod moved onto Assyria and built cities

After unifying the area to the south, God sent Nimrod to the north to actually build villages. We don’t know how long it was before this happened. I would imagine it took many years – perhaps decades. There was much to do to organize the people in Shinar. But there came a day when possibly the population was growing and it was time to move north. By establishing villages to the north, this would also protect the original settlements against invasion. So Nimrod and some of the people moved to the north and this time they built the cities. Some of these cities became famous and large centuries later, but I don’t think they were much more than small villages when Nimrod originally built them.

Notice the progression in Nimrod’s training before God. First, he was faithful in his personal area of work – hunting. Next, God used him to organize the people in Shinar. Now, God is using him to build the cities of Assyria. God had gradually given Nimrod more and more responsibility as he proved his faithfulness. What job is God preparing you for? Are you proving your faithfulness?

Nimrod was a remarkable man. But remember his career all started because he was willing to be a man before the Lord. He wanted God’s guidance and God’s blessings. Let us learn from his example and make our own famous saying by filling in these blanks:

(your name) , a mighty (your work) before God!

Footnotes:

This study of Genesis 10:8-12 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Verse 8 is also repeated word for word in 1 Chronicles 1:10

Micah 5:5-6 "And this One shall be peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land, and when he treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princely men. They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he comes into our land and when he treads within our borders."

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Genesis, pg. 349, Zondervan Publishing House

Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary, electronic version 1996 by Biblesoft

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