What can killers such as Nimrod and Herod teach us?
Tim Moore: Professor Doug Petrovich of Brooks Bible College has joined me to help answer this question. Doug possesses a wealth of understanding from studying ancient Hebrew and Egyptian hieroglyphics as an expert in Archaeology.
Doug has learned quite a few things about Nimrod that he’s been made into a book. So, Doug, tell us what can we expect when your book comes out?
Doug Petrovich: In 2013, I published a peer-reviewed journal article about Nimrod. It ended up being the one article I’ve published that more people have looked up and downloaded than any other article I’ve ever written. For some reason, people are just fascinated by the character Nimrod from Genesis 10. Surprising, since the story is very short.
I connected Nimrod to a historical figure — the first empire builder in human history — named Sargon of Akkad. Sargon was the first king of the Akkadian Dynasty. I believe he is connected with the man that the Bible refers to as Nimrod. So, in my book, I go into great detail discussing who Nimrod was and why I believe we can connect him to Sargon of Akkad.
Tim Moore: What does Nimrod’s name actually mean? The Bible describes Nimrod as “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:9). But, that’s not necessarily what his name harkens to. What have you found?
Doug Petrovich: Yes, I found that there are some maybe, let’s just say, not “completely perfect” translations within that text, and “mighty hunter” is one of them. Certainly, the ancient Near Eastern kings are famous for going on hunting trips. And so, there’s a sense in which we can understand why some translators would have translated this reference as a hunter. But really, it’s not the greatest translation.
Essentially, the best translation would be that Nimrod was a “powerful slaughterer.” This term, actually, in its bare essence, has something to do with food itself, yet it’s not fair to call him “powerful foodstuff” or something to that effect. It’s also a word that its cognate forms in other Semitic languages focus not just on food, but that the food is essentially an animal that’s been offered up as a sacrifice. The idea is, this a person who sacrifices an animal. What does he do? He slaughters animals. He takes a sharp knife, cuts off the head or whatever else will end its life, and that animal never lives again.
So, in this same sense, this is the term that’s used to describe Nimrod. He was a powerful slaughterer. But, note this, it wasn’t sacrificial animals that he was slaughtering — it was people!
Tim Moore: Besides being a killer, Genesis 10 also describes Nimrod as a mighty builder. People tend to be drawn to mighty builders, great architects, and leaders who are able to inspire and motivate their people by the power of sheer will and force. They motivate people to come together to build something.
Likewise, when we think of Herod the Great, what exactly was he known to be great at? He was great in terms of building buildings. To this day, we can see structures in Israel that hearken back to Herod’s day. Herod revitalized the Second Temple. He was not a great king in terms of being good or godly, but he certainly did motivate the people in his day and age to engage in great building projects.
Humanity still reveres these people, not due to their violent character, but because they can force people to do things by the power of their leader’s will. That may have been the case with Nimrod?
Doug Petrovich: Sure, with your example about Herod the Great — that’s perfect. He’s still called Herod the Great by us today. Herod was not great because he was a spiritual leader in Israel guiding people to the Messiah who was about to come. Instead, he did just the opposite. Herod elevated himself and considered himself to be great. All of his building projects merely reflected his own desire for personal glory, a glorified name, and a great reputation.
Tim Moore: Also following in the footsteps of Nimrod, as you described, Herod was a great slaughterer of the innocent. When Jesus was born, Herod became so outraged that a new king had come threatening his kingship that he slaughtered all of the youngest male children in the region of Bethlehem. And, later at his death, Herod even commanded that people were to be killed so there would be some sort of mourning in the land, because he knew that most people would never mourn him personally.
Doug Petrovich: Yes, Herod essentially followed in the footsteps of Nimrod. Nimrod provides the model for any ancient Near Eastern king who elevated himself for the purpose of being revered throughout his kingdom, to advance his kingdom even further, and to have all peoples know of his glory. Well, that’s a pretty bad model! That’s not how Jesus came, is it? He came as the King of kings, and yet, He came as a servant to all.
Tim Moore: Too often today we have been witnessing numerous dictators and misguided elected leaders, even in the democratic parts of the world, attempting to push themselves onto their people as being worthy of reverence and respect. They long for the honor and glory due God, but they don’t give any glory to God.
Tim Moore: What is the lesson to be learned from Nimrod? How can we learn from the life of Nimrod, from Herod the Great, and from other supposed leaders who aspire to accomplish something incredible but never give God the glory?
Doug Petrovich: Very few of us are ever going to be kings, presidents, or prime ministers. So, we are never going to have a position that’s elevated high in the public’s eye. But, still, many of us hold positions of leadership. So, we must question ourselves about just how we are dealing with the people who are under our influence. Whether you have authority on a job, in the neighborhood, or in the church — wherever you may be — we must self-check how we are treating those whom God has put under our care and for whom we are responsible. If we are the kind of leaders who don’t elevate ourselves, never make it about personal glory, and don’t make it about our own egos, then we have the opportunity to be like Jesus. We should model Christ by placing ourselves below all others. Why? Because we value them as more important than ourselves. That’s what the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2 advised Christians that we need to do, and that will make God happy.
Tim Moore: That advice pertains even in the closest of relationships — between a husband and wife. Paul told us that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church.
This relationship of being submissive between one and another models servant leadership by modeling Christ in the way that we serve and honor others. In doing so, we point all glory to God Himself.