Nimrod: Mighty Hunter, King of Evil
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