Genesis 10 says that Nimrod was a mighty hunter. What does this mean? Does it mean nothing more than that he killed animals and ate them? If so, Nimrod is not a politician, but simply the first Dinty Moore. "He was a very skilled hunter, to be sure." Yeah, he probably was seen on Curt Gowdy's Babylonian Sportsman.
The overwhelming majority of Bible students recognize Genesis 10:8-12 as teaching something about the founding of empires. Most see the founding taking place as Nimrod acts as "an ensnarer of men by fraud and force" (Herder, 1864). Calvin speaks of the "fruits of greatness which does not keep within its bounds; whence has arisen the old proverb, 'Great kingdoms are great robberies.'" Ellul has said "We will understand this remark better if, instead of 'hunter" we translate 'plunderer' or 'conquerer.'" Gill refers to a Jewish writer who says "he was called a mighty hunter because he was all his days taking provinces by force, and spoiling others of their substance." Keil and Delitzsch sum up this school of thought:
[A] mighty hunter founded a powerful kingdom; and the founding of this kingdom is shown by the verb . . . to have been the consequence or result of his strength in hunting, so that the hunting was most intimately connected with the establishment of the kingdom. Hence, if the expression "a mighty hunter" relates primarily to hunting in the literal sense, we must add to the literal meaning the figurative signification of a "hunter of men" ("a trapper of men by strategem and force," Herder); Nimrod the hunter became a tyrant, a powerful hunter of men. This course of life gave occasion to the proverb, "like Nimrod, a mighty hunter against the Lord," which immortalized not his skill in hunting beasts, but the success of his hunting of men in the establishment of an imperial kingdom by tyranny and power. But if this be the meaning of the proverb, . . . "in the face of Jehovah" can only mean in defiance of Jehovah, as Josephus and the Targums understand it. And the proverb must have arisen when other daring and rebellious men followed in Nimrod's footsteps, and must have originated with those who saw in such conduct an act of rebellion against the God of Salvation, in other words, with the possessors of the divine promises of grace.
As possessors of the divine promises of grace, we too see in such conduct (viz., the departure from Patriarchal to political society) as an act of rebellion against the God of Salvation.
A well-governed society is marked by spontaneous respect for Godly authority and a disciplined ability to submit to foolish authority without uncontrolled frustration or rebellion.
It is hardly surprising that when Nimrod left Godly Patriarchy he was left with little else than brute force to shape his society. To understand why, let us consider the concept of authority as it is seen in the contrast between Noah and Nimrod. Calvin draws it out of the context of Genesis 10:
I thus interpret the passage, that the condition of men was at that time moderate; so that if some excelled others, they yet did not on that account domineer, nor assume to themselves royal power; but being content with a degree of dignity . . . had more of authority than power. . . . Now Moses says, that Nimrod, as if forgetting that he was a man, took possession of a higher post of honour. Noah was at that time yet living, and was certainly great and venerable in the eyes of all. There were also other excellent men; but such was their moderation, that they cultivated equality with their inferiors, who yielded them a spontaneous rather than a forced reverence. The ambition of Nimrod disturbed and broke through the boundaries of this reverence. Moreover, since it sufficiently appears that, in this sentence of Moses, the tyrant is branded with an eternal mark of infamy, we may hence conclude, how highly pleasing to God is a mild administration of affairs among men. And truly, whosoever remembers that he is a man, will gladly cultivate the society of others.
This paragraph is so full of remarkable, Godly insight, that we shall devote a few issues of PATRIARCHY to an exposition of its themes. It summarizes the war between Patriarchy and politics. No power, system, or institution can surpass the Family in the ability to instill Godly character. The astonishing ability of the Family to channel God's grace into a child, molding him from a rebel into an adult, has been called "the gentle revolution." No institution has the power of love, nor the blessings of time (Deut. 6:6-9), to nurture the habits of Godliness (see Gary North, An Economic Commentary on the Bible, No. 58, "Social Overhead Capital: Legal Education" (The Chalcedon Report)). Only the Family has the time and resources to invest in the children; institutions cannot give the one-to-one personal care that the Family provides. Sociologist George Gilder concurs:
As we are increasingly discovering in our schools, prisons, mental hospitals, and psychiatric offices, the Family is the only agency that can be depended upon to induce truly profound and enduring changes in its members. The Family is the only institution that works on the deep interior formations of human character and commitment.
This concept is crucial for an understanding of how Godly Families generate Godliness in the next generation. After the Fall, the imparting of Godly character is an uphill struggle. It is the Family that is designed to persevere in this very personal obligation. It takes personal, familial, Godly authority to nurture a child into Godly Dominion.
What kind of authority does Nimrod have? He has left the Godly Family; obviously he despises moderation, spontaneous obedience, and Godly authority. He wants something else.
He clearly wants power; control over others. How will he obtain it? He rejects government by Godly influence. He must rely on external coercion and tyranny, otherwise his society will dissolve in chaos. It is this line of reasoning which leads Calvin and others to conclude that Nimrod was a totalitarian, a despot.
But it is still possible that Nimrod's lessons in the School of Patriarchy were not lost on him. Devious men often pervert God's truth into an antithetical counterfeit of the truth.
Ludwig von Mises, in his definition of the "State" (see our essay which defines important terms), reduced the State to the concept of force. As he puts it elsewhere, "The worship of the state is the worship of force. He who says: the State is God, deifies arms and prisons." There is much truth here, but it is probably exaggerated. If not exaggerated, it misses the point that brute force and physical subjugation are usually the last resort of the State. The State has access not just to guns, but to butter -- the power of propaganda. Communication is the first line of attack.
Contrasted with the Family's ability to produce Godliness is Nimrod's ability to produce unGodliness, and to enlist the support of men for his political programs. The production of unGodliness requires neither the time nor the personal dedication required for Godly character. In the Family, you need only leave the child alone to prepare him for a life of frustration and disobedience. Nimrod could have done nothing, but he probably actively cultivated rebellion by enticing the natural sinfulness of man to full expression. This is the worst possible kind of "leadership." Nimrod's was the power of seduction, leading the Godly astray and encouraging unGodliness in others.
The 20th Century statist, Evita Peron, did not need guns (if we are to believe a currently popular play): "She simply seduced a nation."
Seduction is a major theme in the Bible. Eve was seduced by the Tempter's propaganda of political evolution into godhead (Genesis 3:5-6). Idolatry is often spoken of as harlotry and the kings (idols) as seducers (see "Stars and Idolatry"). Although the guns are always there -- for the "irrational" -- seduction is probably more basic.
Political seduction takes many forms. Ellul has explored some of these forms in his book Propaganda. One type he calls "agitation propaganda," which leads men from resentment to rebellion. Once change has taken place, "integration propaganda" takes over, making men adjust themselves to desired patterns. Ellul points out that modern propaganda cannot work without "education." He calls "education" (or what usually passes for education in the modern world) "pre-propaganda" -- the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as "facts" and "education." Propaganda thus creates pseudo-needs, -- for which it then provides pseudo-satisfactions. And who is more omnicompetent to provide these "satisfactions?" Nimrod knew.
From Genesis through the Prophets (e.g., Micah 5:6) to Revelation, Nimrod's Babylon is associated with seduction. Revelation 18 is particularly graphic, and the boldest element of political seduction seems to be economic: Advertising.
Those men who put themselves under Nimrod's dominion were slaves. Yet as low as a slave is, we must say that Nimrod represents an even more undesirable man, because his power was dependent upon making slaves out of covetous men (Proverbs 22:7).
If Babylon is the great political organizer of men and merchants, it is the Canaanites, or "merchants" (same word) who are the slaves of the slaves (Genesis 9:25); not living for themselves (to say nothing of God) but existing as worker-drones, fulfilling the lusts created by Babylon. We shall pause again to examine Nimrod and the Canaanites.
Home education in God's Law vs. Statist propaganda.
Spontaneous reverence for Godliness vs. totalitarianism and brute force.
Moderation vs. Regulation.
Patriarchy vs. Politics.
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