Gleanings In Genesis
16. Nimrod And The Tower Of Babel
Genesis 10, 11
In Genesis 10 and 11 we have the historical links which connect for us the time of Noah with the days of Abraham. Uninteresting as they may appear to the casual reader they furnish most valuable information to the prayerful student. Without these two chapters and the genealogies which they contain, we should be quite unable to trace the fulfillment of Noah’s wonderful prophecy; we should be without any satisfactory solution to the ethnological problem presented by the variety and number of the different nations and tongues; and, we should be left in ignorance concerning the cause (from the human side) which led up to God abandoning His dealings with the nations and singling out Abram to be the father of His chosen people Israel.
Genesis 10 and 11 give us the history of the postdiluvian world; they show us the ways of men in this new world—in revolt against God and seeking to glorify and deify themselves; and they set before us the principles and judgments upon which this world is founded. For the understanding of the chapters it is necessary to pay careful attention to their structure and chronology. Chapter eleven historically antedates much of Genesis 10, furnishing us with a commentary upon it. Verses eight to twelve of chapter ten and verses one to nine of chapter eleven should be read as two parentheses. Reading them thus, we find, that outside of these parentheses, these chapters furnish us with the genealogical descent of Abram from Noah. Upon these genealogies and origins of the various nations we shall not now comment, preferring to dwell at some length on the parenthetical portions.
Like everything else in Genesis, the historical events recorded in these brief parentheses are remarkable in their typical significance and reach. In the clearer and fuller light of the New Testament we cannot fail to see that Nimrod foreshadowed the last great World-Ruler before our Lord descends to earth and ushers in His millennial reign It is deeply significant that the person and history of Nimrod are here introduced at the point immediately preceding God calling Abram from among the Gentiles and bringing him into the Promised Land. So will it be again in the near future. Just before God gathers Abraham’s descendants from out of the lands of the Gentiles (many, perhaps the majority of whom will be found dwelling at that very time in Assyria,—see Isaiah 11:11), there will arise one who will fill out the picture here typically outlined by Nimrod. We refer of course to the Antichrist. As the Antichrist is a subject of such interest and importance—his manifestation being now so near at hand—we digress for a moment to say one or two things about him.
To begin at the beginning. We need not remind our readers that Satan is the avowed and age-long enemy of God and that all through the course of human history he has been opposing his Maker and seeking to secure the scepter of earth’s sovereignty. Further, we need not dwell upon the fact, so plainly revealed in Scripture, that Satan is an imitator, parodying and counterfeiting the ways and things of the Lord. But the climax of all Satan’s schemes has not yet become history, though the inspired Word shows us clearly what form this climax will assume. God’s purposes for this earth are to be realized and consummated in a man, "the man Christ Jesus" who will yet reign over it as King of kings and Lord of lords. Satan’s designs will also head up in a man, "the man of Sin" who will for a short season reign over the earth as its acknowledged King. This man will be, preeminently, energized by Satan himself (2 Thess. 2:9). He will assume the right to enforce his autocratic dictates on all alike—"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:16, 17). He it was who was before the Psalmist when he said, "He (Christ) shall wound the head over many countries" (Ps. 110:6). He was the one pictured by the prophet when he wrote—"Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people," etc., see Habakkuk 2:1-8. This Man of Sin (2 Thess. 2:3) will be the super-man of whom the world is even now talking about, and for whom it is so rapidly being prepared. He will be the "Lord of Light"—the great Mahatma—for whom Theosophists and Bahaists are looking.
The Antichrist is not only the subject of Old Testament prophecy, but he is also the subject of Old Testament typology. Most of the characters brought before us in Old Testament history are types of one of two men—the Christ or the Antichrist. Much attention has been paid to the study of and much has been written about those personages which foreshadowed our blessed Lord, but much less thought has been devoted to the consideration of those who prefigured the Man of Sin. A wide field here lies open for investigation, and we doubt not that as his appearing draws nigh the Holy Spirit will furnish additional light on this little-studied subject.
One of those who foreshadowed the Antichrist was Nimrod. In at least seven particulars can the analogy be clearly traced. First: his very name describes that which will be the most prominent characteristic of all in the one whom he typifies. "Nimrod" means "the Rebel," reminding us of one of the titles of the Antichrist, found in 2 Thessalonians 2:8—"The Lawless One" R.V. Second: the form which Nimrod’s rebellion assumed was to head a great confederacy in open revolt against God. This confederacy is described in Genesis eleven and that it was an organized revolt against Jehovah is clear from the language of Genesis 10:9—"Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord," which (as we shall see) means that he pushed his own designs in brazen defiance of his Maker. Thus it will be with the Antichrist; of him it is written,"And the King shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god (ruler), and shall speak marvelous things against the God of Gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he shall magnify himself above all" (Daniel 11:36, 37). Third: four times over the word "mighty" is used to describe Nimrod. Here again we are reminded of the Lawless One of whom it is said "Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9). Fourth: Nimrod was a "hunter" (Gen. 10:9), probably a hunter of men. This is precisely what the Lawless One will be. In Psalm 5:6 he is denominated "the bloody and deceitful man." Fifth: Nimrod was a "king "—the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Gen. 10:10), and, as we have seen in Daniel 11:36 the Antichrist is also termed "king." Sixth: Nimrod’s headquarters were in Babylon, see Genesis 10:10 and 11:1-9; so also, we find the Man of Sin is called "the king of Babylon" (Isa. 14:4), and in the Apocalypse he is connected with "mystery Babylon" (Rev. 17:3-5). Seventh: Nimrod’s supreme ambition and desire was to make to himself a name. He had an inordinate desire for fame. Here, too the antitype agrees with the type. "Pride" is spoken of as the condemnation of the Devil: it was an impious ambition which brought about his downfall. The Man of Sin will be fully possessed by Satan, hence, an insatiable pride will possess him. It is this Satanic egotism which will cause him to oppose and "exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4).
We have now prepared the way for a more detailed, yet brief, exposition of the two parenthetical portions of Genesis 10 and 11.
"And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth" (Gen. 10:8). The first thing we note here is that Nimrod was a descendant of Ham, through Cush; in other words, he sprang from that branch of Noah’s family on which rested the "curse." Next, we observe that it is said, "he began to be mighty," which seems to suggest the idea that he struggled for the preeminence, and by mere force of will obtained it. Finally, we observe that he "began to be mighty in the earth." The intimation appears to be that of conquest or subjugation, as though he became a leader and ruler over men, as indeed he did. "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord" (Gen. 10:9). In so brief a description the repetition of these words, "mighty hunter before the Lord" are significant. Three times in Genesis 10 and again in 1 Chronicles 1:10 the word "mighty" is applied to Nimrod. The Hebrew word is "gibbor," and is translated in the Old Testament "chief" and "chieftain." The verse in Chronicles is in perfect agreement with these in Genesis—"And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be mighty upon the earth." The Chaldee paraphrase of this verse says, "Cush begat Nimrod who began to prevail in wickedness, for he slew innocent blood and rebelled against Jehovah." Observe, "a mighty hunter before the Lord." If we compare this expression with a similar one in Genesis 6:11—"The earth also (in the days of Noah) was corrupt before God," the impression conveyed is that this "Rebel" pursued his own impious and ambitious designs in brazen and open defiance of the Almighty. As we shall see, the contents of Genesis eleven confirm this interpretation.
"And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel"(Gen. 10:10). Here is the key to the first nine verses of the eleventh chapter. Here we have the first mention of Babel, and like the first mention of anything in Scripture this one demands careful consideration. In the language of that time Babel meant "the gate of God" but afterwards, because of the judgments which God inflicted there, it came to mean "Confusion," and from here onwards this is its force or meaning. By coupling together the various hints which the Holy Spirit has here given us we learn that Nimrod organized not only an imperial government over which he presided as king, but that he instituted a new and idolatrous worship. If the type is perfect, and we believe it is, then like the Lawless One will yet do, Nimrod demanded and received Divine honors; in all probability it is just here that we have the introduction of idolatry. Here, again, we learn how wonderfully the first mention of anything in Scripture defines its future scope; from this point Babylon in Scripture stands for that which is in opposition to God and His people—it was a Babylonish garment (Joshua 7:21) which led to the first sin in the promised land, while from Revelation 17 we learn that Romanism, which will gather into itself the whole of apostate Christendom, is termed "Mystery Babylon."
Out of that land he went forth into Assyria (marginal rendering) and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah; the same is a great city" (Gen. 10:11, 12). From these statements we gather the impression that Nimrod’s ambition was to establish a world-empire. But we must turn now to the next chapter, asking our readers to study carefully the first nine verses in the light of what we have said above.
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there" (Gen. 11:1,2). These geographical and topographical references have a moral force, just as we read of "going down to Egypt," but "up to Jerusalem." Here we are told that men journeyed "from the east," i.e., turned their backs upon the sunrise. Note further, "a plain (not a "mountain") in the land of Shinar."
Nimrod is not mentioned at all in Genesis 11, but from the statements made in the previous chapter we learn that he was the "chief" and "king" which organized and headed the movement and rebellion here described.
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4). Here we discover a most blatant defiance of God, a deliberate refusal to obey His command given through Noah. He had said, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Gen. 9:1); but they said, "Let us make us a name lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
As we have seen, Nimrod’s ambition was to establish a world-empire. To accomplish this two things were necessary. First, a center of unity, a city headquarters; and second, a motive for the encouragement and inspiration of his followers. This latter was supplied in the "let us make us a name." It was an inordinate desire for fame. Nimrod’s aim was to keep mankind all together under his own leadership "lest we be scattered." The idea of the "tower" (considered in the light of its setting) seems to be that of strength—a stronghold—rather than eminence.
"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel (Confusion); because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth, and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth" (Gen. 11:6-9). Another crisis had arrived in the history of the world. Once again the human race was guilty of the sin of apostasy. Therefore did God intervene, brought Nimrod’s schemes to naught by confounding the speech of his subjects and scattered them throughout the earth. Here was one of the mightiest and most far-reaching miracles of history. It finds no parallel until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost when another miracle of "tongues" was performed. The effect of God’s intervention was the origination of the different nations and after the destruction of the Tower of Babel we get the formation of the "world" as we now have it. At this point the nations were abandoned to their own devices—"God gave them up" (Rom. 1)—but not until the race had twice enjoyed a revelation of God’s mercy (first to Adam and then to Noah) and had twice forsaken Him before and now, after the Deluge.
To sum up. In Nimrod and his schemes we see Satan’s initial attempt to raise up a universal ruler of men. In his inordinate desire for fame, in the mighty power which he wielded, in his ruthless and brutal methods-suggested by the word "hunter"; in his blatant defiance of the Creator, (seen in his utter disregard for His command to replenish the earth,) by determining to prevent his subjects from being scattered abroad; in his founding of the kingdom of Babylon—the Gate of God—thus arrogating to himself Divine honors; inasmuch as the Holy Spirit has placed the record of these things immediately before the inspired account of God’s bringing Abram into Canaan—pointing forward to the re-gathering of Israel in Palestine immediately after the overthrow of the Lawless One; and finally, in the fact that the destruction of his kingdom is described in the words, "Let us go down and there confound their language"(Gen. 11:7)— foreshadowing so marvelously the descent of Christ from Heaven to vanquish His impious Rival, we cannot fail to see that there is here, beneath the historical narrative, something deeper than that which appears on the surface; yea, that there is here a complete typical picture of the person, work and destruction of the Anti-christ.
Much more might have been written upon this interesting and suggestive incident, but we trust sufficient has been said to indicate the broad outlines of its typical teaching and to stimulate others to further study for the filling in of the details.