The Old Testament (Genesis 10:8-12) places Nimrod, an ancient conqueror, very near the beginnings of the New Earth that emerged after the cataclysmic Great Flood destroyed virtually everything.
Therein, he is recorded as the son of Cush, who was the son of Ham the son of Noah; Noah being the grand patriarch whose family was the sole survivor of the Great Flood. Historically, though, the character Nimrod is difficult and elusive to identify, but certain clues bring him into rather sharper focus. And his ancestry, my findings say, is not quite as the Old Testament (OT) puts it.
Although the OT does not directly say so, many researchers have associated Nimrod with the Tower of Babel, whose story features in the very next chapter after Nimrod, i.e. Genesis 11. This was a tower that mankind built to “reach the heavens”, but which was destroyed by God because it was an audacious project made possible by the fact that we all spoke the same language at that time and could cooperate. We will soon see why such an association is presumed, although my findings indicate that the god Marduk, not Nimrod, was the cause of the Tower of Babel enterprise (explained in other articles).
Was Nimrod really the son of Cush and grandson of Ham? Cush is presumed to be an eponymous name for southern (Lower) Egypt, extending beyond Ethiopia to Sudan: i.e. the where the darker-skinned African people lived. Yet Nimrod is strongly associated with Babylon in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and is considered to be its historical founder. So where and when did he actually arise? This depends on which of the two or three strong candidates for this legendary figure one decides on.
The first plausible candidate is Enmerkar, the second king of Uruk/Erech, a Mesopotamian city. Firstly, his name may be spelt N-M-R followed by “Kar” which some interpret as “hunter”, thus “Nemer the hunter” just as Genesis says. Secondly, the ancient text Enmerkar and the Lord of Arrata records that the Lord of Aratta’s excuse for not helping Enmerkar build a palace/temple for a certain goddess was that he could not understand what the king of Uruk was saying, blaming “the recent scrambling of languages in the aftermath of the Tower of Babel”!
Other researchers believe in King Sargon, who actually founded and built Babylon – a necessary requirement for one to be a strong candidate for Nimrod. The third and last credible candidate is Sargon’s grandson Naram-Sin. He became an even mightier conqueror than Sargon and thus better fits the biblical accolade of being a mighty ruler of Babel (Babylon), Erech/Uruk, Akkad and Calneh; i.e. the world’s first empire builder of note. Moreover, his name – we will see – better fits the name “Nimrod”. Actually, what the OT compilers did was to telescope and merge the three characters from Sumerian sources.
Although it is highly tempting to calculate and assert that N-M-R (Namer) is the root of the name “Nimrod”, “Naram-Sin”, we will see, is an even better fit. It means “Beloved of Sin”. Who is this “Sin”? He was a Mesopotamian “god” whose proper name is “Su-en”, meaning “Multiplying (Fertile) God”. Using Setswana to help us better decipher the name, we easily relate su/zu to the Setswana term tsho (“dark”) which in turn alludes to fertile soil, which is typically dark. Setswana goes even further and relates Su-en with both the Egyptian god “At-en”, pharaoh Akhenaten’s “god above all gods”, and the similarly titled Hebrew god “Ad-on”. Indeed, “At” (ata in Setswana), and “Ad” (root of “add”) – both mean “multiply”, and En (ene) and “On” (one) both mean “The One” in Setswana – thus the very same “Multiplying God”! Indeed, by appending the Hebrew “ai” to “Sin” and “Adon” and we get Sinai/Adonai! Interestingly, Su-en’s daughter Inana/ Ishtar/ Semiramis (Artemis) is the one goddess who features prominently in the ambitions of the three candidates (plus a god called Dumuzi/Tammuz), and this common factor has confused many.
It is easy to see that “Naram” is a metathesis of “Namer” (i.e. the syllables were transposed). “Menes”, in turn, is a metathesis of “Namer”. Indeed, Namer and Menes are both cited as the first “mortal” pharaohs of Egypt. In Setswana, “Namer” as meaning “beloved” makes perfect sense: ne-a-ameha (the r and the h are pronounced like the French r). In protolanguage terms, ameha and ami/amour (French for “liked” and “love”) are cognates (have same roots). According to Zecharia Sitchin’s insightful book The Wars of Gods and Men, it was Inana’s ambition to be the next Enlil (Lord of the Illu/Elohim) that eventually rubbed the gods the wrong way. She broke many protocols and soon the gods, even her father, could not defend her actions as she steered first Sargon, then Naram-Sin, to conquer more and more lands – even Egypt and Canaan which were out of bounds. This, I have deciphered, is what happened next.
When even her doting father was forced to condemn her and her lover Naram-Sin, Inana changed the name “Naram-Sin” to “Naram-Utu” (or “Namer-Utu”) – “the beloved of Utu”, named after her brother-twin who, evidently, was still prepared to stick with her. My calculation is that it is from “Namer-Utu” that we get the name “Nimrod”. Everything else then fits into place. It is through Inana that Naram-Sin enjoyed the titles and legacies of both Enmerkar and Sargon; especially being a ruler and conqueror of all the choice lands of the time. All these were merged into one in the OT.
One last thing needs to be corrected. Naram-Sin’s grandfather, Sargon, was one of the many “Amarru” that came into Mesopotamia soon after Enlil’s “Bull of the Sky” (his personal plane) was downed by Gilgamesh, the fifth King of Uruk, in an earlier and famous encounter. Many, it seems, were driven by sheer curiosity as legend of Enlil’s “downfall” spread. Amarru, it is clear, were Westerners: white people, not black people. As such, they cannot be the descendants of Cush or Ham as he is popularly described.
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