What does the term "nimrod" mean to you? To one without knowledge of the bible or ancient history, it will likely take the definition of an insult. For most people, the term Nimrod denotes an idiot or a moron. However, this is an extremely recent definition. Before the 1980s the term Nimrod denoted a hunter or the biblical character Nimrod in Genesis. How did the name of a bible character become a common insult?
Since the term originates with the bible, I think it's only appropriate to start our search with the bible. Who was Nimrod in the bible? Nimrod is first mentioned in Genesis 10:8 - 10
8 Now Cush fathered Nimrod; he [a]became a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was [b]Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (NASB)
We can see from verse 9 that Nimrod was a mighty hunter. This is where one of the side definitions comes in. Nimrod can denote a hunter. This is where the transition from bible character to insult begins.
The popular rabbit Bugs bunny first fought with hunter Elmer Fudd in the Warner Bros short " A wild Haare" in 1940. Since then, this show has had the two characters encounter each other multiple times. One of Buggs Bunny's favorite insults to use on Elmer Fudd was "nimrod" since Elmer was a hunter. The insult carried a massive irony with it as Nimrod was documented as being a great hunter while Elmer Fudd wasn't. The irony was apparently lost on the children watching as they only saw Elmer Fudd being consistently outsmarted by a rabbit and then being insulted. The irony was lost on the audience but the sarcasm was not. By the 1980s, nimrod had become a popular insult. Many people still use the term today, however, as the children of the 80s, most don't know the origin story of its meaning.
Who was nimrod?
Since Nimrod is a person, who is he? From the bible, we know that he was a hunter and a king in the land of Shinar. He was also a mighty one on the earth. We also know he was prideful and led the construction of the tower of babel which, according to the bible, is where the languages of the world became confused.
Something interesting to note is that Nimrod translates to rebel. In Nimrod's pride, he rebelled against God. The construction of the tower of Babel directly defied God's Command in Genesis 9:1 where God told Noah and his descendants to be fruitful and multiply the earth.
Beyond the bible, there are many legends and tales about him. One such tale is that he had a conflict with Abraham which was seen symbolically as good vs. evil. Supposedly, Abraham defeated him with an army of gnats. Different stories end with different conclusions about Nimrod. Some say he maintained his rebellious lifestyle while others say he surrendered to God and Abraham.
As far as other historical figures and legends go, he is often compared to Gilgamesh in the 'Epic of Gilgamesh.' Both rebelled against God and were worshipped by their subjects. Many scholars are convinced they are the same person who inspired two different stories.
Nimrod has also been associated with historical figures such as Hammurabi and Sargon of Akkad. Some scholars believe that Hammurabi may actually mean "Ham the Great" which would give credibility to the Hammurabi theory as Nimrod was the greatest of Ham's grandson's. The Sargon theory is even more plausible as Sargon of Akkad was the first empire builder and tyrant, much like Nimrod. The tower of babel was also likely built in the city Eridu in southern Sumer. The name Sargon translates to "true and legitimate king" so Sargon's real name is not known as it is likely just a title used to gain legitimacy. If Sargon is the biblical Nimrod, this would make sense as Nimrod would need to establish legitimacy and a title like Sargon would help achieve this goal. It is also known that both Assyria and Babylon refer to themselves as heirs of Sargon's empire. This would coincide with Micha 5:6 in the bible which refers to Assyria as the land of Nimrod.
Why is Nimrod Important?
If you're not religious, he probably isn't (although I think the possibility of him being Sargon of Akkad is kind of cool). However, for those of you who are religious, Nimrod is seen as the father of paganism. Many scholars believe most pagan religions get their deities from Babylon and renamed them. Nimrod takes a minor role in Christianity and Judaism (as seen from the bible references). Nimrod is also mentioned in the Quran so he makes some appearances within the Islamic faith as well.
There is a lot more to say about Nimrod, however, a lot of it hinges on conspiracy. For example, many people believe nimrod is the founder of freemasonry. Also, One could talk about how the trinitarian system of Nimrod's paganism is seen as a bastardization of the Christian belief system, however, that is not topical for this blog.
While Nimrod was only given a few quick mentions in the Bible, there is much to be speculated and learned about him. His role as a hunter has overshadowed all his other roles in religion and philosophy as his name is seen as an insult due to a cartoon hunter's poor hunting skills. Now you know there is a lot more that goes into the insult when you call someone a nimrod.