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"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." Genesis 10:8-9
There is surely more meaning in this brief reference to Nimrod than is usually attached to it. These parentheses of Scripture are always intimations of something to be specially noted, something important, something without which there would be a break or a blank in some part of the sacred story, - something without which a link would be awanting somewhere in that wondrous chain of history which begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation.
Somewhere, we say, not necessarily at the precise point where the parenthesis stands, but perhaps ages, centuries after.
He Who sees the end from the beginning, and from Whom the Bible comes to us as a perfect whole, not merely as a bundle of fragments, throwing in a word at the beginning to serve as a link at the end, four or five thousand years afterwards, inserting a verse in Genesis for the purpose of casting light upon a chapter in the Revelation. And we confess that we love to look at this aspect of the subject as bringing out to us more of God, and making His Word less like man and more like Himself.
Later historians introduce into their works illustrations of earlier annals, for they can only look backward. But God, Whose one pen writes the history of six thousand years, in the beginning of His wondrous narrative casts in a sentence whose use or meaning may not be perceptible till towards the close.
We do not apply these remarks so much to Nimrod's history, here so briefly given, as to the whole of this chapter, with its names of men and places, all set in such special array before us by the Spirit of God. These names here preserved, but totally forgotten and unknown elsewhere, are now coming up out of their graves on the plains of Assyria.
The inscriptions at Nineveh, and the attention given to the old local traditions and broken names, are now verifying these inspired enumerations, making even the infidel stand in awe at the accuracy, the strange accuracy, with which the Bible speaks even when naming a name, and silencing his crude objections when he has been telling us that it was literally impossible that cities, so many and so mighty, could have sprung up, like tropic palm-trees, in one single district and in one single age.
But let us look at Nimrod, and, brief as the record is, we shall find something in it for instruction in righteousness.
1. HIS NAME
His name is Nimrod, This name occurs only four times in Scripture; twice in the passage before us; once in 1 Chronicles 1:10; and once in Micah 5:6, where we read of the land of Nimrod, or Babylon.
It means 'the rebel,' and is evidently meant to designate the nature of the man. Like all the early names, it has a meaning, a meaning in striking conformity with the individual's bold, lawless history. How or when he was given his name we know not, but it is evidently given us as affording a key to his history and character. As Nimrod, 'the rebel,' he stands before us as synonymous with the Church's great adversary, the king that does 'according to his will' (Daniel 11:36), 'that Wicked (the lawless one)' (2 Thessalonians 2:8), the Antichrist, whose names are all expressive of disobedience, imposture, wilfulness, and apostasy.
Each age has had its Nimrod, its rebel chief, and the world's last age is to have the truest Nimrod, the worst and most daring rebel that the earth has ever seen, the man of sin, the son of perdition.
2. HIS RISE
The expression, 'he began to be a mighty one,' used not here only, but again in 1 Chronicles 1:10, seems to imply something respecting his origin, or at least uprise. It was a new thing in the earth. He was the first specimen of giant tyranny after the flood, He was not raised up to power, nor did he come by inheritance into it, but shot up above all his contemporaries, rising out of the midst of them and yet overtopping them all.
Just so is Antichrist described as the man that 'exalteth himself;' and the little horn is shewn as coming up 'among' the other horns (Daniel 7:8); and it is said, 'out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great' (Daniel 8:9). The rise of Antichrist is truly like his predecessor and prototype. He shoots up above his fellows, like some new and strange thing, so that all the world wonders after him.
3. HIS GREATNESS
Three times over in these two verses, and once in the book of Chronicles, he is said to be 'mighty,' implying that there was something of pre-eminent might and elevation about him, not merely in his own eyes, but in the eyes of all who looked upon him.
The word occurs about one hundred and sixty times in the Old Testament, and always in the sense of peculiar greatness, especially warlike greatness, so that the expression 'mighty warrior' would express the force of it as well as any single word. In Genesis 6:4. we read, 'the same became mighty men.' In 1 Samuel 17:51, Goliath is called the champion, or literally the mighty one of the Philistines. Frequently, in the historical books, we read of 'mighty men of valour.' In Daniel 11:3, we read, 'a mighty king shall stand up.'
Nay, it is the word applied to Messiah in Psalm 45:3, 'Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Most Mighty,' and Psalm 89:19, 'I have laid help upon One that is Mighty.' Isaiah 9:6, 'His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God;' and it is the epithet applied more than once to God Himself (Jeremiah 32:18), 'The Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is His Name.'
Some of the old translations render the word 'giant,' identifying Nimrod with the old race of giants of whom we read not infrequently in Scripture, and still oftener in fable. But mighty as Nimrod was, raised up in his greatness above the mighty of his generation, there is a mightier than he among the sons of men, of whom he is but the type.
The man of sin is the man of might. He rises up 'great in power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree' (Psalm 37:35). His coming is said to be 'with all power' (2 Thessalonians 2:9), and to be after or by means of the 'working (energy) of Satan,' or, as it is elsewhere, 'the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority' (Revelation 13:2); and again it is added, more than once, 'power was given unto him,' nay, 'power and strength' are given to him (17:13). He is set before us as the great rebel, the Nimrod, the mighty one of the last days, the man that 'exalteth himself' and seizes the dominion of the whole earth, compelling all its inhabitants to fall down before him.
4. THE EXTENT OF HIS GREATNESS
The words 'in the earth' mean more than merely upon this earth. Taken in that sense, they are unmeaning. They point to the extent of his dominion. He not only rose high, but he stretched his branches wide on all sides. He added city to city. tribe to tribe, that he might sit alone in the midst of the earth (Isaiah 5:8).
Ambitious of power, he enlarged his kingdom, circle after circle, himself the Mighty One in the midst of the far-ranging territory and towering cities. Hear the list of the cities that owned him for their founder: Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar; nay, not content with these, 'he goes forth (verse 11, margin) to Assyria, and builds Nineveh, and Rehoboth, and Calah; and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; the same is a great city' (verse 12).
Romulus builds Rome, and is famed throughout the world as the founder of a mighty city. But here is a man who, in a less favourable, less populous age, builds eight cities, cities such as Babylon and Nineveh, cities, of the most unknown of which (Resen) it is said, 'the same is a great city.' He surely was no common chieftain or warrior that achieved such marvels.
As the ambitious man of might, we see him widening his dominions on every side; but it is as the able and far-seeing statesman that we find him rearing eight vast cities, for the consolidation and perpetuation of his empire. Thus, in after ages, do ye read of the Assyrian, at once the successor of Nimrod and precursor of Antichrist.
'Behold' says Ezekiel, 'the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature... The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers... His height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long,... All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations' (Ezekiel 31:6).
And Isaiah describes him as boasting, 'Are not my princes altogether kings?' and, enumerating the kingdoms that have fallen under his yoke, 'Is not Calno as Carchemish? Is not Hamath as Arpad? Is not Samaria as Damascus?' (10:8-9).
And in Nebuchadnezzar, another of Nimrod's successors and Antichrist's precursors, we have another instance of the same wide-stretching ambition. Daniel thus addresses him:
'Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all' (Daniel 2:37-38).
And the true Antichrist of the last days fills up the type, and presents us with the specimen of the true Nimrod reigning over the kings and cities of the earth, claiming not only their submission, but their worship.
5. HIS RESTLESS AMBITION
He was 'a mighty hunter.' That he was so literally there seems no reason for doubting. In his hunting, his superior strength and skill first had play. As the great hunter he would be known far and wide; and as such he would be honoured in an age when not only physical accomplishments were held in esteem, but when the too rapid multiplication of the beasts of the field and forest rendered such qualifications as his very needful. In hunting, two things are essential, strength and skill.
And these two characteristics first getting scope in a lower field, soon ripened themselves and found vent in a higher sphere. Leadership in the perils of the chase, soon led to generalship in the dangers of the battle-field. The mighty hunter of the forest is soon the mighty soldier in the plain. The subduer of the savage beast is soon the conqueror of his fellow-men. Such is the restless ambition of Antichrist, such the mixture of strength and craft that marks him, the strength of royalty, the craft of priesthood; for he unites both in his world-wide hunting.
The whole line of Antichristian pretenders, from Nimrod downwards, have conjoined these two things; and in the last Antichrist we see them more fully conjoined than ever. While he subdues the nations of the earth, he commands that they worship him and receive the mark of his name, He is the great huntsman of souls; his name is 'the spoiler,' 'the destroyer,' and his employment is to wear out the saints of the Most High, and shed their blood upon the earth; a true Nimrod in his rebellion, in His apostasy, in his lust of sway and spoil.
6. HIS DEFIANCE OF JEHOVAH
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord, It was in the sight and presence of Jehovah that he acted thus, as one who was ready to brave the divine displeasure. The presence of Jehovah (whether the expression denote something visible or not) restrained him not.
He did not, like Cain, go out from the presence of the Lord, but perpetrated all his wickedness and indulged all His ambition under the very eye of Jehovah. Possibly there may be more than this, as some have supposed, in the expression. It may be that he claimed to be worshipped as divine, or at least set himself up as priest as well as king. Universal monarchy and universal priesthood, these were the two great ideas of His ambition. His assumptions were religious as well as political, and these assumptions (as in all ages such have been) had reference to the woman's seed.
From ancient tradition and history, we learn that he called himself by the name of Belus, the sun-god, and, as such, he was worshipped in later ages in Babylon, He stood in the position of an Antichrist, the first of the great Antichristian dynasty, presenting himself not only for obedience but worship, and in all likelihood, as the seed of the woman, sent to establish the universal monarchy upon earth.
In Nebuchadnezzar's setting up the great image for worship, we have an instance of the same thing; for it was not so much the image, as himself, that he sought to be worshipped.
And Antichrist is to avow the blasphemy, and present his own person in the temple of God for worship. 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; 1 will be like the Host High' (Isaiah 14:13-14). In Nimrod, we see Antichrist in the bud, the great rebel, the great apostate, the adversary of God, the supplanter of Christ, the aimer at universal monarchy and priesthood.
So great had been Nimrod's eminence; and such the position he had secured for himself, that his character passed into a proverb, and as we should say of some one, he is as ambitious as Alexander or Napoleon, so it was said ages after, he is like Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord. Awful greatness of ambitious rebellion and apostasy! remembered for oppression, and profanity, and defiance of Jehovah. 'My soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour be not thou united' (Genesis 49:6).
To Nimrod there is born no son. At least so we judge from the remarkable fact that none is recorded, He is written childless. He rises up and then passes away. He has successors, but no heirs. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, in that he had no father; so Nimrod seems a type of Antichrist, in that he has no son.
Great as are the pretensions of Antichrist, and vast as is the height to which he rises, yet in the pride of power and pomp of greatness, he passes away. He comes to his end, and there is none to help him. He has neither son nor heir. His kingdom passes from him; and the true seed of the woman, the very Christ of God, ascends the throne and establishes the universal dominion, the priestly royal monarchy of which there shall be no end.
And as it was Babel that was the beginning of his empire, so is 'Babylon the great' its consummation and close. There were, doubtless, heard shouts of triumph when first the walls of Babel rose under the eye of Nimrod. There shall rise yet a louder shout of more universal acclamation when the walls of the greater city, like Jericho of old, fall prostrate, and the cry is heard, 'She is fallen, she is fallen, Babylon the great' (see Isaiah 14 and Revelation 18).
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