David Rohl, a highly-regarded Egyptologist, points out that to discover who Nimrod is, we must consider all the names by which he is known – for there are many historical or quasi-historical figures which allude to the biblical Nimrod.
- Assur [one such name] lived in the city of Nineveh’ and was the eponymous founder of the Assyrian nation, while Ninus founded Nineveh – as did Nimrod. It appears that we are dealing here with a single historical character who established the first empire on Earth and who was deified by many nations under four main name groupings:
- Early Sumerian Enmer, later Mesopotamian Ninurta (originally Nimurda), biblical Nimrod, Greek Ninus.
- Old Babylonian Marduk, biblical Merodach, later known as Bel or Baal (‘Lord’);
- Late Sumerian Asar-luhi (a principal epithet of Marduk, Assyrian Ashur, Egyptian Asar (Osiris);
- Sumerian Dumuzi, biblical Tammuz, Phoenician Adonis, Greek Dionysius, Roman Baccus..
Rohl is correct to say that there are many, many names ascribed to Nimrod. Unfortunately, the popular favorite, The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop, gets in trouble partly by naming too many gods that tie to Nimrod. However, based on my study, Hislop is far more right than wrong on this count. Yes, he trashes Catholicism and likely makes too much of the mother and child motif, which runs throughout mythology in many parts of the world. However, he appears to do this only to pin the tail on the Roman Catholic Church and its veneration of Mary as another falsehood and justification for which Protestants should despise Catholics. However, on the matter of a core myth seeding many of the most significant myths in the history of humanity, Hislop nails the linkage. Rohl also confirms that studies in archeology, Egyptology, and global mythology vindicate much of what Hislop asserts. But does it all originate with Nimrod, as Hislop says? Probably not.
And yet the search for the link between Nimrod and historical records remains the favorite mission for many. Still, after numerous arguments advanced by many scholars for hundreds of years, I see only two acceptable possibilities in the Mesopotamian region that refer to the biblical Nimrod: Sargon I (aka Sargon the Great) and Gilgamesh. We know about both by detailed cuneiform records and the Sumerian King List. And these two are often described by various legends that mimic the Bible’s account.
In trying to make sense of it, the names we encounter in archeology primarily reflect either Enmerkar or Ninurta. These personages range from wholly human to fully divine (with other examples somewhere in-between). Variations of these names occur, such as Marduk, Merodach, Ashur, and Dumuzi. (For good reasons, African names such as Menes and Narmer may also be relevant.)
We must understand that archeology is an empirical science. It is different from evolutionary theory, which seeks to explain the origin of life and how the species of life emerged. Artifacts pulled out of the ground supply the basis for its claims. And when it comes to Egyptology and Mesopotamian archeology, there are many more items than pottery and arrowheads to examine. An enormous volume of written records tells the stories of Sumer and Egypt.
Cuneiform tablets preserve history from those primeval times in Mesopotamia, taking us back to roughly 2850 B.C. or earlier. Most scholars believe that the first light of civilization in a conventional sense originates in Sumer circa 3200 B.C. (in the Jemdet Nasr period). “The Sumerian Bronze Age began in 3150 BCE when far-ranging trade networks were established.”
The beginning of civilization traces to the beginning of the Bronze Age (circa 4500 B.C., according to standard archeological dating). But the location of the first dynasty was known as Kish (a derivative of biblical Cush). Kish was the first city with hard records identifying its beginnings in 2850 B.C. As the reader may recall, Cush was the son of Ham. In Egypt, monuments and “wall inscriptions” (hieroglyphic graffiti, as it were) tell the tale. Likewise, Egypt originates in this same era. Having extant written records in stone or clay from long ago carries great weight with archeologists, Egyptologists, and anthropologists.
The academic view follows the biblical perspective in many respects: The Bible indicates that Egypt began with Mizraim (a name
that means Egypt). Mizraim was the son of Ham, along with three other offspring fathered by Ham. His son Cush had five sons chronicled together: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. From Raamah came Sheba and Dedan, the ancestors of Arabia. [Note: There are two other Shebas and one other Sheba and Dedan pair in the genealogies that confuse who is, in fact, the forebears of the peoples on the Arabia peninsula and from whom they descend.]
In general, the names of Mizraim’s offspring are unfamiliar. Neither are Cush’s children except Nimrod, Cush’s sixth son, identified distinctly from the other five. But there are names among Canaan’s descendants that are most familiar, as these were the peoples populating Canaan whom Israel battled after the Exodus. For example, the reader likely recognizes the names Amorites, Hittites, and Jebusites. According to academic Egyptology, Egypt’s pre-dynastic period began about 3100 B.C. The first pharaoh is sometimes known as Narmer (also Menes) and dates circa 3000 B.C. (I have proposed this timeframe is slightly early in my book Rebooting the Bible, Part 1, preferring to see Narmer in full array and on the scene circa 2800 B.C). Indeed, a case can be made that Nimrod was the figure known as Narmer. If so, Nimrod/Narmer (a son of Cush) was usurping Mizraim’s claim to Egypt. David Roehl’s study, mentioned earlier, supplies details regarding the conflict between the lineage of Mizraim and Cush in the founding of Egypt. This detail suggests that the migration away from the area of the Tower of Babel was in stages. To explain:
We know that the history of China begins with the Sinites (from Sino), possibly descendants of Canaan. “Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, The Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward, the clans of the Canaanites dispersed.” (Genesis 10:15-18, ESV) And the Sinites certainly dispersed the most, going all the way to China, which they founded and where they thrived. Recall that Sino is even used today (e.g., “Sino-American relations” refers to geopolitics between China and the USA).
Now, archeology tells us that the ancient history of China goes back well beyond the traditional biblical date of Adam and even the more extended chronology presented in the Septuagint. Some contend that cultures like China and perhaps Central Africa appear to begin before 10,000 B.C., which leads to speculation that there was a “Pre-Adamic Race” before the Garden of Eden and the unique creation of Adam and Eve. However, these races and their cultures were predecessors not traceable back to the Sinites or other sons of Noah. Regardless, we have several impregnable time markers for the Sinites and China: Bronze artifacts supposedly date to 3100 B.C. And the first dynasty began with Fu Xi in 2850 B.C., according to Sima Qian, the “Grand Historian who collected the traditional tales of China into an epic history,” reports Susan Wise Bauer in her History of the Ancient World. This account of the Chinese Dynasty aligns, timing-wise, with Bauer’s Archaic Period in Egypt, specifically Egypt’s Dynasty 1 (3100-2890 B.C.). Furthermore, to confirm the validity of this date, Bauer points out that India, too began (approximately) at the
same time, 3102 B.C. Bauer writes, “The date itself appears in many histories of India; firm dates in ancient Indian history are hard to come by, so historians who cling to this one do so more from relief than from certainty.” [From Bauer, op. cit.] Nonetheless, this is the best archeology can identify for Asia, and it fits closely with what the Septuagint chronology implies. The Canaanites dispersed – widely. And the dispersal seems to be in all directions and relatively simultaneous to many lands.
Nevertheless, the fact that the genesis of these ancient civilizations all coalesces at the same juncture – the thirty-first century B.C. (i.e., late in the fourth millennium B.C.) – suggests that a single event “exploded” at a central location in the “navel” of the globe pushing peoples everywhere. It’s no minor point to underscore that the Tower of Babel in the land of Sumer represents a central location on the world map. Thus, the circumstantial evidence demonstrates the reasonableness of the claim that Babel was the explanation. Likewise, suppose the failure of the Tower of Babel rebellion happened as the means to disperse “the collective” gathered in rebellion at Shinar. In that case, fixing the date of Babel at this juncture seems inescapable. Of course, some would object, given that Peleg was purportedly born at the time of Babel (when nations were divided). But this misunderstands the Bible’s meaning. Peleg was born two centuries after Babel!
So, what does this imply about Nimrod? Could he have been the leader of the Babel rebellion, given where he sits in the lineage of Ham? In a word: No. Dating Nimrod as the emperor of the ancient world at this moment is just too early. The facts show he wasn’t the leader of the rebellion at Babel. On the other hand, his father, Cush, may have been.
Recall from my statement above that Fung Xi commenced his reign in China circa 2850 B.C. And when we examine the Sumerian King Lists, such as those presented by Egyptologist and historian David Rohl, we see the lineage of Kish (Cush) beginning only about 150 years earlier. Rohl, Meskiag-KASH-er (Cush), the first in the Uruk I Dynasty, appeared about 3000 B.C. Enmerkar, the son of Cush, begins his reign circa 2850, according to Rohl’s educated reckoning. And Rohl stipulates that Enmerkar is archeology’s name for Nimrod. The point: There is too much consistency in these records, stretching from Egypt to China, to disregard near-simultaneous starts. With Rohl, we have it on good authority.
To recap: The Great Flood occurs about 3360 B.C. The rebellion at Babel happened roughly 200 years later, circa 3150 B.C. Perhaps 50 years before that date, Mizraim may have moved to Egypt and the Sinites to China. Generally, ancient civilizations begin building (or rebuilding) cities sometime between 3100 and 3000 B.C. These events famously transpire in Sumer and Egypt at the same time. India and China commenced not long afterward.
Henry Freeman summarizes the situation well when he writes, “While the Sumerians were the first urban civilization, their neighbor Egypt was considered … the world’s oldest coherent nation-state that emerged in the valley of the Nile.”Freeman also tells us that the Indian civilization at the Indus River traded with Sumer very early on. Thus, humankind seemed to rebound on a global basis almost simultaneously. This wasn’t coincidental. It bespeaks the Babel event birthing the post-Flood world.
Nevertheless, the chronology of the Septuagint tells us that when it occurred, it was still a hundred years before Nimrod was ready to become the world’s first emperor.
 See Rohl, David. From Eden to Exile: The 5000-year History of the People of the Bible. Lebanon, TN: Greenleaf Press. 2002. p. 73. Note: Rohl is sympathetic to the biblical view but remains agnostic
 Note: Hislop also subscribes to a historical Semiramis, supposed mother, and wife of Nimrod, as the purveyor of the Babylonian Mystery Religion, which is somewhat conventional nowadays thanks to Hislop’s book. This is a modicum of truth, but far less than many assert.]
 See Freeman, Henry. The Sumerians: A History from Beginning to End. Hourly History Limited (2016). Kindle Edition. p. 14.
 Note: This date comes from working forward from the date of the Flood held to be 3360 B.C. in the Septuagint Old Testament and the dating of Egypt’s Sothic Cycle
 Note: Sino comes from sinae, the Latin word for China – thus, the biblical root remains intact.
 See Bauer, Susan Wise. The History of the Ancient World. New York: W.W. Norton. 2007. Kindle Edition. Location 1090
 See Rohl, op. cit. p.71
 See Freeman, op. cit., Kindle Edition. p. 1