Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Josephus:  Regarding Nimrod and the origin of the social welfare state.

Josephus wrote a "translation" of the Bible from Hebrew to Greek that includes a number of juicy additions.  I won't claim that the differences reflect anything more than a folklore that was present in the 1st century, but this one from Nimrod and regarding the origin of the Tower of Babel (~3,000BC) stands out:

"Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!" - Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 4.2

The Bible provides different data in comparison:

"Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, 'Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.' The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.  From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city." - Genesis 10:8-10

Nimrod's name shows up in a genealogy in Chronicles, and there is one more reference in Micah:

"They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword." - Micah 5:6

This is a prophecy of the conquest of Assyria.

Just to make the comments of Josephus more interesting, there is the Epic of Gilgamesh from Assyria which features the hero Gilgamesh.  The story is contemptuous of all things celestial as Gilgamesh and Enkidu triumph over the gods and revenge themselves by killing the Bull of Heaven.  The Babylonians have a story of the flood, but it talks of building a Ziggarut for salvation, while the god who tries to destroy mankind is tricked.  It would seem that any discussion of these Babylonian myths would need to take into account Josephus, since the Jews were well connected to Babylon.  But a lot of caution is also required in making too many claims.

With all this, the Jews are eventually driven into exile to Babylon - the land of Assyria - and the Bible gives this command:

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'" - Jeremiah 29:7-8

This was mentioned on Sunday at church.  Of course the West is becoming one great Babylon.

1 comment:

Delirious said...

"The West is becoming one great Babylon" Ain't it the truth?