Genesis 10 follows the story of Noah and the flood. It possibly one the most "scintillating" chapters in the Bible, complete with Hittites, Hamathites, Girgashites, and Mosquitobites (Okay. I made up the last one.) Actually, when reading the Bible through, I always considered chapter 10 to be one of those canonical speed bumps on the way to the good stuff. As turns out, there is a lot more in this little passage than I realized.
Chapter 10 is called the “Table of Nations.” It gives an account of the origins of each of the peoples known to the Israelites at the time Genesis was authored. Each origin is traced back one of Noah’s three sons, Japheth, Ham and Shem. There are a total of seventy different people groups listed. This is significant because the numbers seven and ten signified completeness. Seven multiplied by ten signified a large complete number. The number seven is used in a variety of ways in this passage.
In addition to the genealogy, there is a very important side note:
8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
The literal meaning of the name Nimrod is “We shall rebel.” Nimrod was a descendant of Ham through Cush. At the end of Chapter 9 we learn that Ham’s brothers Shem and Japheth were blessed. Ham’s youngest son Cannan was cursed and no blessing is given to Hams other sons. The curse was, in effect, a curse upon Ham’s entire line. Cannan was mentioned in symbolic connection between Ham and Cannan as youngest sons. Nimrod is among the cursed.
When verse 9 talks about “mighty hunter” it is not talking about his deer hunting abilities. It means the Nimrod was a predatory conqueror. The phrase “before the Lord” is a superlative to emphasize that so great was Nimrod’s prowess that it could not escape the Lord’s attention.
Where the rest of the genealogy is given in terms of people groups that were established, Nimrod’s accomplishment is given in terms of the great cities he built on the plains of Shinar (modern day Iraq.) These cities were not simply places of economic commerce. These cities were more like mystical temples. For instance, the name Babili, Babylonian for Babel, means “Gate of God.” It was referred to also as the “seat of life.”
Cain was cursed, went into the east to the land of Nod (wandering) and settled. (Moving east symbolized regression since the sun rose in the east and set in the west.) He started a family and a city to initiate his life apart from God. He sought to create an illusion that would reinforce his delusion of autonomy and power. Likewise Nimrod was cursed and migrated east to the plains of Shinar. He was the impetus behind the creation of the first great cities with their cultic life. He too, was about creating illusions to reinforce his delusions but with even greater audacity. The Spirit of Cain was back.