JETS 56/2 (2013) 273–305
IDENTIFYING NIMROD OF GENESIS 10 WITH SARGON OF AKKAD BY EXEGETICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL MEANS
I. INTRODUCTION Perhaps one of the more intriguing and enigmatic characters in the OT is Nimrod, though his name appears only four times throughout the entire Bible (Gen 10:8, 9; 1 Chr 1:10; and Mic 5:6). His biography is narrated in Genesis 10, and opinions about his identity and character have abounded since ancient times. In Philo’s Questiones in Genes in 2.82, which dates to the first half of the first century AD, he refers to Nimrod as a giant who opposes God, and the original and chief of sinners. In Ant . 1.113–114, Josephus considered not only that Nimrod was alive during the tower of Babel incident, but that he was the one who changed the government into a tyrannical one and incited those at Babel into building the infamous tower, in outright defiance of God. At present, opinions on the identity and character of Nimrod have continued to abound, and a discussion of some of the more noted options ventured will proceed shortly. For now, suffice it to say that Nimrod is thought by some to be heroic, while by others to be devious; he is considered by some to be a mere mortal, though by others to be divine. Thus the goal of this essay is to sift through the diversity of options for the identity of this enigmatic figure named Nimrod, and to determine—if at all possible—whether his biography can be matched precisely with any known figure from antiquity. In order to accomplish this endeavor, the task will require a careful look at relevant exegetical data, and at the archaeological record that serves to inform the field of ancient Near Eastern (hereafter ANE) historical studies, a vital cognate to biblical studies. The task will be accomplished by proceeding through the following steps:(1) presenting a working translation that will act as a reference point for the reader;(2) investigating the various words, phrases, and constructions that act as exegetical clues to illuminate what can be known for certain about Nimrod biographically;(3) reviewing and critiquing some of the more popularly held opinions on the identification of Nimrod; and (4) presenting an alternative candidate for Nimrod with the help of archaeology and the support of the exegetical work that will have been done up to that point. Finally, a conclusion will be presented, and the reader will be able to judge whether the present writer has made a successful case.