Nimrod was a powerful ruler who had thrown Avraham into the burning furnace for not believing in idols. Avraham was miraculously saved . Nimrod is first singled out in this week’s Torah portion of Noach amongst the genealogy of Cham. “And Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty man in the land. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land emerged Asshur, and he built Nineveh and Rehoboth ir and Calah. And Resen, between Nineveh and between Calah; that is the great city” (Breishis 10: 8-12).
The Radak on these pesukim says the reason why Nimrod was singled out from the rest of the children of Kush, son of Cham, was because of his power and kingship that was mentioned in the Torah. He used his power and strength to capture many nations and became king over them. Before him there was no person who had the desire and will to fill his heart with such power to rule a whole nation. The Torah mentions all the nations he conquered because he was the first king, before him each nation was led by a group of judges or leaders (possibly like a democracy. This all took place after the incident of the Tower of Babel.
The Torah also mentioned how Nimrod controlled and overpowered vicious wild animals, trapping them with his strength and tricks, to the point that people were so awed over how he controlled them. They created an axiom when people of that generation and generations after saw someone subdue and catch vicious wild animals, they would say he is like Nimrod. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It’s striking to point out that Nimrod became more known for his hunting than his monarchy. He was the first person to overpower and impress upon nations to rule over them as an authoritarian king. He set a precedent for all kings after him, all that power and wealth, the way kings carry themselves, the aura of royalty all stemmed from Nimrod, yet the Torah testifies he was not known for his kingship but rather people remembered him for being a keen hunter, a circus master in essence, why is that?
It would seem that dazzling tricks and a show of “cool prowess,” in a nutshell, celebrity fame is more memorable than cunning skill and force to mobilize and build up an empire, in the eyes of people.
The Radak goes on to say that Nimrod first captured Bavel and ruled over it and then he captured Erech, Achad, and Kalneh. Those 4 were in the land of Shin’ar. He then captured other lands that were not mentioned. But then Ashur, who probably came from the line of Shem (see pasuk 22 here) settled in the land of Shina’ar. Ashur (predecessor of Assyria) either captured it from Nimrod or from his children after Nimrod died and he became king of that land. Ashur was King of Bavel and the surrounding areas. The children of Cham were displaced from those areas, the children of Kesed, the kasdians, from the lineage of Shem, also settled there.
This entire story is to inform us, “the whole world and everything within it belongs to Hashem” (Tehillim 24:1). “And not by strength does man overtake another” (Shmuel Alef 2:9). And He can take the kingship of a land and give it to another, whatever He sees fit, as it says: “And He gave to who He saw fit in His eyes” (Yirmiyahu 27:5). Everything depends on their deeds “for He is a G-D of faith, and there is no injustice” (Devarim 32:4). All this story, as we already wrote, that even though Ashur conquered many lands and built great countries, and the monarchy of Assyria ruled over them for a very long time, still in all the monarchs of Bavel took them over, namely, Merodach, Baladan Ben Baladen, Nevuchadnetzar, and his children, and after that the kings of Persia conquered them, and so on and so forth from king to king. This is how it is in all the lands throughout history, in order to prove that the land belongs to Hashem.
If one delves into the history of one nation conquering another they might find methods and strategies for how it happened but to understand why empires are constantly being toppled, and seemingly powerful kings like Nimrod and nations like Bavel, Assyria, Persia, and even Greece and Rome all topple, the logic only points to the fact that there must be an All Powerful G-D that runs the world and He is in charge of how history ultimately plays itself out. Learning about history through a Torah perspective will enhance your appreciation and strengthen your belief and trust in Hashem. The very fact that Nimrod was known as the hunter and not as the father of all kings throughout history is a testament to this fact that ultimately Hashem is the King Of All Kings and He’s the one who ultimately runs the world.
What’s incredible to contemplate is the fact that all the displacement and even loss of life during each war and conquest all ultimately are for the sake of realizing Hashem’s authority and power in this world. By focusing on this and getting more clarity that the only answer to all the mysteries is that there must be a G-D running the show, will bring one closer to Him and it will ultimately be a great comfort to know that someone is “running the show” in a world which on face value seems to be so chaotic, but on a deep level there is a master plan and we have the ability to watch it all unfold with peace of mind and serenity.
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder