Abstract

The figure of Nimrod in Gen 10:8–12 remains enigmatic: while the passage clearly depicts a Mesopotamian figure, no consensus has been reached on attempts to identify Nimrod with any historical or mythological character. I argue that the passage dates from the mid-seventh century and should be understood in light of the literary-historical memory of Sargon of Akkad and the Akkad dynasty then circulating in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. With royal support, Assyrian court scholars used omens, chronicles, epics, and geographic lists to present the Neo-Assyrian Empire of the seventh century as the heir to the legacy of Sargon’s empire a millennium and a half earlier, a process that culminated in the refounding of the city of Akkad by Esarhaddon in 674 BCE. The identification of Assyria with Sargon of Akkad served as an ideological justification for imperialism, and the Nimrod pericope should be understood as a response to and a critique of Assyrian imperial ideology.

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