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It's All in the Name

By: Rav Ari Shvat


Every religious kindergarten child knows that Nimrod is on the list of the “bad guys” in Tanach, but at first glance, there’s even room to say he was a tzadik: “He was a strong hunter before Hashem” could infer that he gave animal sacrifices![1] So how do we know that Nimrod was bad?[2] A deeper analysis inevitably and conclusively proves the negative tradition about him.

The Ibn Ezra himself admits that the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition is a very strong proof. The name Nimrod means “let’s rebel!” Now parents who choose such a name don’t intend that their child will rebel against themselves, and there’s no king at the time, so apparently he was raised in a home where rebellion in general, and most probably against G-d who had recently made the Flood, was in the educational “atmosphere”.

Secondly, one’s name influences the way others relate to him from a young age. As is often the case, we should be careful when choosing a name for our children, for they are often self-fulfilling prophecies.

Alternatively, he may have chosen this name as a title for himself, which proves his rebellious ideology even more.

Lastly, Nimrod may be a nickname given to him by his peers, another form of testimony.

His hobby of hunting is definitely not a moral pastime, dubiously found in the Tanach only by Esav! What kind of person dedicates significant time to killing animals, only two generations after Hashem begrudgingly (!) allowed man to eat meat! Accordingly, it’s more logical to explain the aforementioned pasuk, Nimrod was “a strong hunter in G-d’s face!” (the literal meaning[3]), in other words, despite Hashem’s objection.

Nimrod invented the concept of dictatorship (10, 8-10). Now what kind of person conceives such an idea of ruling over others - especially in a world consisting of only about 100 people, all of which are his parents, uncles, and cousins?! His bullying instilled fear on all others.

He was the king of Bavel exactly at the time of the sinful building of the Tower of Bavel (see 10, 5; ibid, 25), so he obviously was the instigator and/or leader of that rebellion against Hashem.

His obsession with building so many cities (maybe even nine cities, depending how you explain v. 10-12) for so few people, seems suspicious. Especially when the only other city builder mentioned before him is Cain who rebelliously built a city for his son Chanoch immediately following his own punishment (for killing his brother) that he will be a “wanderer” (4, 12-17). Just as Cain’s city was declaring that his fortified metropolis can protect his son from a similar punishment, Nimrod (the king of Bavel who built the City and Tower of Bavel), wanted to rally the people against Hashem after the tragic flood, as if to say, “We’ve had enough of these exiles! We can and need to put an end to G-d’s controlling our destiny!”

Accordingly, we understand that Nimrod and his generation were fittingly punished “Mida k’neged mida”. Hashem “exiled” them even more than Adam (from Gan Eden), Cain, and even further apart than the Flood generation (exiled from the world), scattering them to 70 different nations and languages!

In summation, we must read in between the lines in the Tanach and this will often prove that the Oral Tradition is actually found inside the Written Tradition.


Shabbat Shalom! And may we have that Birkat Shalom on all of Israel and on Y’rushalayim!





[1] Ibn Ezra on Breishit 10, 8.

[2] Based upon my article, "נמרוד: צדיק או רשע- הצעה חדשה לחטא דור הפלגה", טללי אורות ח (תשנ"ח), עמ' 11- 19.

[3] See Rashi, Shmot 20, 3.





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