Genesis 10, 11 – The Nimrods of Babel
It’s really too bad that most of the biblical names we see in modern American society are only from the more popular and well known characters. Aside from my earlier mentioned affinity with Enoch, we’re missing out on such exciting options as Magog, Togarmah, Erech, and Joktan. It sounds like a veritable Star Trek convention of Klingon cosplayers.
There’s not too much here of interest among the genealogical record-keeping, but we do get this gem about Nimrod being a mighty hunter before the Lord, which gave rise to that old saying we all know and love, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” Got a bit of poetry to it, don’t you think? It seems that he was the founder of Babel, which may have contributed to the fact that we commonly use this name in the modern day as an insult to someone’s intelligence. But since it simply means a great hunter in every place aside from America, we really have Bugs Bunny (using it in poorly understood context) to thank. No, I’m not kidding.
This family tree really only seems to try and account for the existence and spread of the several nations after the flood. I realize that “nations” doesn’t have an equivalent meaning with the way we understand nations in the modern day, but the most interesting sections top note in this chapter are undoubtedly verses 5 and 31. These explicitly point out that each nation was separated out according to their families, lands, nations, and most importantly languages.
This may be just a big snore along with the roll call, except when put into context with chapter 11, which begins by saying that “now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.” It’s arguable that all those people mentioned previously only separated into nations after the tower of Babel incident (sorry, spoilers), since Nimrod was the founder of this city and only 3 generations removed from Noah. Once again the bible fails to equip us with an adequate understanding of the chronology and proves itself to be confusing and poorly written storytelling.
And once again I find myself at odds with the traditional church narrative on how things went down. I was always told that Yahweh caused the tower to crumble and confused their languages because they were arrogant people who tried to rival and challenge god with their project. Sounds to me more like a collaborative enterprise to build a nation and do great works. Sure they mention that the tower will reach into heaven, but they don’t talk about rivaling god or his power. In fact, the only one who’s mentioned this idea so far is Yahweh himself when he kicked out Adam and Eve in a fit of paranoia.
His inherent fear of being overthrown by his creation is documented explicitly here when he says,
“Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”
This feels more and more like Yahweh learned his paranoia from all the other Mesopotamian and Greek myths about creator gods being overthrown by younger generations (Tiamat/Marduk, Ouranos/Chronos, Chronos/Zeus, etc.). He speaks not as if they are arrogant and forget their place in the cosmological hierarchy, but as a threat to be swiftly dealt with lest they actually gain the power to usurp him.
If this were true, why does Yahweh allow large, cooperative enterprises like skyscrapers now? Could it be that this thought doesn’t bother us because we no longer think that he literally resides in the clouds (even though we still depict him this way in cartoons)?
Hell, maybe he’s just a capricious prankster god with a mischievous sense of humor.
And there’s sadly no mention of a Barad-dûr-like cascading demolition of the tower. In fact, it’s presumably left undisturbed, for all that we hear about it. The only thing we’re told it just that the trickster god Yahweh switched all their languages around so they couldn’t collaborate any longer and whisked them around the planet. Is this where biblical literalists think that the Native American, Australian, and Pacific Islander peoples and languages came from? And that they gained that kind of genetic diversity over a period of a few thousand years?
At least human lifespans are getting down to a more reasonable range of four hundred years or so, though how this is in line with Yahweh’s pronouncement in Gen 6:3 is anybody’s guess. Nahor is the first person noted to fall within the decreed lifespan boundaries, and this isn’t until humanity is eight generations removed from Noah. Could it be that he’s simply titrating down the actuarial tables to avoid system shock? Who knows…
And then we get another anomaly when Nahor’s son Terah lives to be two hundred and five. Not that I wouldn’t like some of those genetics, but I’m beginning to suspect that this data is untrustworthy…