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In the middle of an otherwise repetitive genealogy in Genesis 10, one man is especially singled out:

Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord." The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city. (Genesis 10:8-12 NIV)

The text makes rather a big deal about him - he's the founder of seemingly Bablyon and Assyria (at least Ninevah), both of which obviously play a major role later in Israel's history. Is there any other record of this "mighty warrior" who founded these cities?

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3 Answers 3

David Livingston says Nimrod ("rebel") was just a nasty name for Gilgamesh.

He has a fascinating article here:

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.

In Genesis 10:8-11 we learn that "Nimrod" established a kingdom. Therefore, one would expect to find also, in the literature of the ancient Near East, a person who was a type, or example, for other people to follow. And there was. It is a well-known tale, common in Sumerian literature, of a man who fits the description. In addition to the Sumerians, the Babylonians wrote about this person; the Assyrians likewise; and the Hittites. Even in Palestine, tablets have been found with this man's name on them. He was obviously the most popular hero in the Ancient Near East.

The person we are referring to, found in extra-Biblical literature, was Gilgamesh. The first clay tablets naming him were found among the ruins of the temple library of the god Nabu (Biblical Nebo) and the palace library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh.

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The passage quoted in the question says that Nimrod's territory was in Shinar. We see Shinar again in the next chapter:

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4 And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'

The people dwelling in Shinar are the ones who built the tower of Bavel, resulting in the disruption of language and the scattering of people throughout the world. It does not surprise me that their leader gets a little extra "air time" to describe him and his territory.

Genesis 11 does not actually name Nimrod as the leader of the tower project. Rashi points out the connection (on 10:8):

he began to be a mighty man: to cause the entire world to rebel against the Holy One, blessed be He, with the plan of the Generation of the Dispersion. — [from Eruv. 53a, Chul. 89a]

Eruvin 53a is pretty much what Rashi quotes. Chullin 89a, discussing the greatness that God bestowed on certain people, says (Soncino translation):

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, I love you because even when I bestow greatness upon you, you humble yourselves before me. I bestowed greatness upon Abraham, yet he said to Me, I am but dust and ashes; Upon Moses and Aaron, yet they said: And we are nothing; upon David, yet he said: But I am a worm and no man. But with the heathens it is not so. I bestowed greatness upon Nimrod, and he said: Come, let us build us a city; upon Pharaoh, and he said: Who is the Lord? Upon Sennacherib, and he said: Who are they among all the gods of the countries? upon Nebuchadnezzar, and he said: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; upon Hiram king of Tyre, and he said: I sit in the seat of God, in the heart of the seas.

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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Nimrod has been identified as Enmerkar. Keeping in mind that the Hebrew script was originally without vowels, the names are very similar. -kar is a suffix meaning 'hunter', so that Enmerkar can be understood as 'Nimrod the hunter'. Enmerkar also built Uruk, making the identification very likely.

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