Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nimrod: Mighty Hunter, King of Evil

Identified in Genesis as a “mighty hunter,” the Sages describe Nimrod as the archetypal wicked king. As a young man, Nimrod made his reputation as a hunter by supernatural means: he possessed the garments of Adam, which gave him the power to subdue any animal (PdRE 24). Apparently, the garments gave him the ability to sway people also:

Rabbi Eleazar said: "Nimrod used to entice people into idolatrous worship by means of those garments, which enabled him to conquer the world and proclaim himself its ruler, so that people offered him worship. He was called 'Nimrod,' for the reason that he rebelled [himrid] against the most high King above, against the higher angels and against the lower angels." (Zohar, Bereishit, Page 74a)

He later claimed the throne of Cush by feat of arms. In other versions, Nimrod is the king of Shinar who initiated the Tower of Babel project (Chul. 89a; Pes. 94a-b) and had himself worshipped as a god (AZ 53b).

When his court diviners told him of the pending birth of Abraham, he sought to kill the child. In the end Nimrod killed 70,000 infant boys in his quest to slay the newborn Abraham (Ma’asei Avraham Aveinu). Abraham’s father Terach hid his son with the help of the angel Gabriel. Nimrod continued to persecute Abraham as an adult:

Nimrod called Abraham and commanded him to worship Fire. Abraham said to him, "So let's worship water since water has the power to extinguish fire." "Right," said Nimrod, "We should worship water." "In that case, we should worship the clouds, since they carry water." "Yes, we should worship the clouds." "Then we should worship the wind, since it drives the clouds across the sky." "Yes, we should worship the wind [the word ruach also means spirit, a key to the next point of the argument]" "But," said Abraham, "humans have the power to rule over the spirit. Should we worship human beings?" "You're playing with words," cried Nimrod. "I worship only fire, and I am going to throw you into a huge furnace. Let the God you worship come along and save you from it!"
(Midrash Bereishit 38.13)

When the patriarch refused to renounce the one God, Nimrod had him thrown into a furnace (Gen R. 38:13, 42:5) but Abraham walked away from the inferno unharmed. Nimrod was finally slain by Esau (another mighty hunter) in a struggle to possess the awesome garments of Adam (Gen. R. 63:13, 65:16; PdRE 24):

…Nimrod was seeking to slay him [Esau] on account of the garment which had belonged to Adam, for whenever he put it on and went out into the field, all the beasts and birds in the world would come and flock around him. (Midrash Rabbah - Bereishit 65:16).

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! For years now I have been explaining to people that Nimrod was a mighty hunter and the name is not synonymous with "nerd." Yet because of one Warner Brothers cartoon from the 40's where Bugs Bunny (and I simply cannot believe that I wrote that name on a blog dedicated to Jewish mysticism!) points to a bumbling, incompetent hunter and sarcastically says something along the lines of "Some Nimrod." Ah, well. Now thanks to you I have more "ammo" when it comes to setting the record straight. Similar confusion applies to the word "Gunsel" when unknowing censors left the word in the shooting script of The Maltese Falcon (again with the Warner Brothers!) because they thought it referred to the guns carried by one of the characters rather than to his... I will let that go for the nonce. Anyway, I just discovered your wonderful and wondrous blog through witchvox.com. I intend to spend some hours rummaging around, no doubt much to my edification. Peace.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Dennis said...

Bugs Bunny is always welcome on this blog. A Jew for sure (Brooklyn accent, the weak who triumphs over the strong,and bearing a strong familial resemblance to the rabbit chased by a hunter that appears in many illuminated medieval haggadot).

5:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What garment did Nimrod wear of Adams

10:00 AM  

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