The great military villains have usually been brilliant, determined and, it is often suggested, megalomanic. In which case they are very much the spiritual descendants of Nimrod.

Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, is described in Genesis: “He began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before God; wherefore it is said: ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before God.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and …. in the land of Shinar… Out of that land went forth Ashur, and he built Nineveh…” (Genesis 10:8-11).

The inclusion of Babel in the list of Nimrod’s kingdoms is the Torah’s way of revealing that he was the mastermind behind the notorious Tower of Babel. The reference to Nimrod as a “mighty hunter before God” is interpreted to mean that “He ensnared people’s minds with his speech and misled them to rebel against the Omnipresent” (Genesis Rabbah 37:2). Nimrod wanted people to fear him, instead of fearing God.

But Nimrod returned to power even after his great tower was destroyed. According to the Midrash, Nimrod was the ruler of Padan Aram, before whom Terach hauled his “heretical” son Abraham (who had just smashed all of Terach’s idols and told his father that they had destroyed each other). Nimrod told Abraham: “‘Worship the Fire!’ Abraham replied: ‘Shall I then worship the water, which puts out the fire!’ Nimrod told him: ‘Worship the water!’ [Abraham] replied: ‘If so, shall I worship the cloud, which carries the water?’… [Nimrod responded] ‘You pile words upon words, I bow to none but the fire – in it shall I throw you, and let the God to whom you bow come and save you from it!…’” (Genesis Rabbah 38:13). (Don’t worry, God saved him.)

Nimrod, the first great empire builder, was later killed by Abraham’s grandson Esau in a “hunting accident.”

Read more about Nimrod on Rabbi Buchwald’s Message.

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