A universal flood had covered the earth. Noah and his wife had been floating around in a large ark for a year. With them were their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Each son was accompanied by his wife. A host of animals were also present. Many of them slept all year.
When the ark finally came to rest on dry land, the sleepy animals woke up, yawned, and left the ark. In modern terms, all of them were endangered species. Some species became extinct, but many survived.
Noah and his family noticed that the world was not the same as it was before. Instead of extensive plains and hills with pleasant slopes, volcanic activity had raised huge mountains into the air. In fact, the ark had come to rest on the slopes of a lofty peak that eventually became known as Mount Ararat.
God blessed Noah with a host of grandchildren. In fact, since he lived to the ripe old age of 950 years, he was able to enjoy his great-grandchildren and several later generations as well.
For a while, the extended family lived in the vicinity of Mount Ararat. However, Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, was dissatisfied with this locality. His discontent was connected with the universal flood. Since this deluge was recent history, Nmrod had heard about it from early youth. His relatives frequently talked about it. Nimrod constantly heard that violent men used to inhabit the earth and that God had drowned them all.
Nimrod regarded these violent men as heroes, and he wanted to walk in their footsteps. He hated it when his acquaintances spoke of their demise. The very mention of the ark irked him greatly, and he deplored the fact that they were living so close to its final resting place on Mount Ararat. He sometimes felt impelled to run away and found a separate settlement, but such a course of action would frustrate his basic goal in life. He wanted to become the dominant element in the budding society. He wanted all men to be his subjects, even Noah himself.
From chance words spoken by Noah, Nimrod thought of a plan whereby he could achieve his goal. Noah often spoke of the wonderful topography that the earth enjoyed before the flood ruined everything. He decided to look for a land somewhat resembling the antediluvian world. By dynamic, charismatic leadership, he would then bring the whole human race to a new home. People would then look up to him. They would almost regard him as a god and implicitly obey his every command. In addition, they would forget about the ark, since they no longer lived in its vicinity.
Nimrod took his Uncle Canaan along on his expedition of discovery. Canaan was a weak character. He loved to drink wine, and Nimrod gained influence over him by catering to his vice.
The two men first headed northward. When they came to the Caucasus, Nimrod immediately realized that the terrain did not match Noah’s description of antediluvian topography. So they headed south again until they reached the Tigris River. Then they followed the river downstream.
When the two men arrived at the land of Shinar, Nimrod decided that this was the place where the human race would make its new home.
When Nimrod told his relatives about the land that he had discovered, the reaction was mixed. Most of the older people did not want to leave the only home in which they had ever lived, but Nimrod had gained a lot of influence with the younger generations, and most of them were eager to go.
At this time, Noah and Shem were still the dominant figures in the society. Though Nimrod had gained a lot of influence, he was not yet strong enough to challenge the patriarch Noah and his influential son. Before he could execute his plan to lead the people to a new home, he had to secure the consent of Noah and Shem.
Although Noah longed to live in this wonderful new land, he wondered whether it was wise to uproot the people from their current location, where they had lived for many years. Shem shared his father’s ambivalent attitude. However, Shem’s wife and his two brothers were eager to go, as were the wives of Ham and Japheth. For several days, they begged Noah to agree to the plan of Nimrod. Moreover, Noah remembered that his own wife had suffered ill-health because the weather around Mount Ararat disagreed with her. She had died not long after the flood. Chiefly for this reason, Noah consented to the plan of Nimrod.
Nimrod made wise plans for the migration and executed them perfectly. They arrived at Shinar without a hitch.
When they arrived at their destination, he allotted plots of land to each settler and supervised the construction of their houses. He saw to it that everyone had ample food until their initial crops matured. Since the results were so good, people willingly obeyed the commands of Nimrod. They looked up to him as their leader and got used to taking orders from him.
After many years of uninterrupted prosperity had elapsed, Nimrod thought that the time was ripe to make himself the absolute ruler of the whole human race. He laid his plans carefully. With consummate demagoguery, he appealed to the pride of the people. He proposed to build a monument so magnificent that their names would be remembered for generations and generations. He managed to persuade the overwhelming majority of the populace.
Under his direction, the people would first build a marvelous residence for Nimrod. Not far away, he planned to erect a lofty tower. Its top would reach the heavens. Around these two structures, he planned to build a mighty city. His nephew Canaan would oversee the work.
While Nimrod vividly described these ideas in his speech to the people, he did not yet reveal the purpose of the tower. This lofty structure was to serve as a temple, not for the true God, but for some divinities that he planned to invent. Nimrod wanted to give the people a new religion in which the first and most important commandment was absolute obedience to himself as king.
Even though Noah and Shem did not know about the new religion that Nimrod was about to foist on the people, they opposed the construction project. However, they could not stop it. The patriarchs were no longer in power. Nimrod had effected a successful coup d’etat.
The residence of Nimrod was completed in three months. It was an admirable building that served as a model for royal palaces in subsequent generations.
Nimrod marked out the spot where the tower was to rise, but he decided to defer its construction until after the completion of the rest of the city.
Within a year, the most important buildings in the city were completed. Nimrod decided that it was time to begin the construction of the tower. By this time, he felt bold enough to discuss the purpose of this lofty structure. In a speech that rivaled the later efforts of Demosthenes and Cicero, he introduced the people to the pantheon that he had fabricated and enthusiastically praised their glorious works. He explained how each god and goddess had assisted them in the past. Finally, he captivated the hearts of his more lascivious subjects by appointing temple prostitutes.
Noah and Shem did not hear this speech. After the coup d’etat, they had retired from civic affairs and spent most of their time praying for the people. As a result, considerable time passed before they heard about the idolatrous worship that Nimrod was instituting.
Japheth had heard the speech. Up to now, he had gone along with the plans of Nimrod, but the idolatry troubled him. He hesitated to tell Noah, Japheth did not want to grieve his father, and he was afraid that his father would get hurt if he openly opposed the innovation.
Noah and Shem eventually found out about it in the following manner. Noah had invited his three sons and their wives to a feast. Ham was tipsy when he arrived. When his father opened the meal with prayer, his drunken son made the clumsy remark: “Don’t you know that we have new gods now?”
Noah received the remark with shocked silence. Shem demanded an explanation. Ham’s wife, who knew the truth, was embarrassed and unsuccessfully tried to ameliorate the situation by skillful lies.
Up to now, Japheth had not discussed the matter with anyone, not even with his wife. However, his wife suspected that something was wrong, since her husband suddenly stopped helping with the construction projects.
Now, however, Japheth was forced to speak. He explained in detail the idolatrous system that Nimrod had invented.
The next day, Noah and Shem went to the construction site, and Noah began to magnify the name of the Lord and denounce the innovation. Nimrod was alarmed. He knew how persuasively Noah could speak, so he quickly put an end to his sermon. He had trained a corps of elite guards, and he commanded them to arrest Noah and Shem. They were the first inmates of the brand new city prison.
The next day, five men came to Nimrod and humbly begged him to pardon Noah and Shem. Nimrod commanded that they be arrested. He made sure that they were confined in a room where they could neither see nor hear Noah and Shem.
Japheth had also been thinking of appealing to Nimrod. However, when he saw what happened to the first five suppliants, he changed his mind. Instead, he tried to think of a way to help his father and his brother escape. He discussed the matter with Ham, but the latter merely laughed at the plight of the prisoners.
The appeal of the five men alerted Nimrod to the fact that Noah still had the sympathy and perhaps the support of some of his subjects. To solve the problem, he decided to order his guards to convey Noah and Shem to some secluded spot, to kill them, and to bury their bodies. They were to act with utmost secrecy. When they returned to the city, they were to sound an alarm and announce that Noah and Shem had escaped from prison and fled.
However, when Nimrod called the captain of his guards and explained what he wanted them to do, the captain merely gazed at him with a blank look on his face. Nimrod repeated his instructions, but the result was the same. The captain did not obey his commands, even when Nimrod began to curse and shout at him. Finally, Nimrod drew his dagger and charged the captain. The captain precipitously fled.
In the meantime, Canaan had some serious problems while supervising the construction of the tower. Everyone was ignoring his commands. Worse than that, they seemed to be mocking him. With apparently seriousness, they were talking gibberish whenever they addressed him.
Canaan ran to consult with Nimrod. However, while Canaan was speaking, Nimrod had a blank look on his face. Strangely, Nimrod also spoke gibberish when he replied.
After fortifying himself with a healthy draft of wine, Canaan returned to the construction site and began to utter commands in a tipsy fashion. The workers began to leave.
Canaan went home. He was relieved when he discovered that his wife could speak sensibly with him. However, most of his children were talking gibberish.
Eventually Canaan saw two people conversing with one another in gibberish. After observing them for a while, he concluded that they were speaking intelligently, but were using words with which he was not familiar.
A lot of people were leaving the city, and Canaan decided to follow their example. With his wife and with one of his unmarried children, he moved eastward to a site that later became the city of Ur. By sign language, he persuaded a few friends to accompany him.
The new language that Canaan spoke was akin to Hebrew. As he was leaving the now desolate city, he called it Babel in his newly-acquired language. With this name, he wanted to indicate that the city was a spot where confusion prevailed. The name stuck.
Canaan soon quarreled with his friends. He left the land of Shinar and headed westward. He eventually settled in the area immediately to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. This area later became known as the land of Canaan.
Because of the confusion, Japheth was able to release Noah and Shem from prison. He had already figured out that the Lord had miraculously made people speak different languages, so he was not surprised when he could not understand anything that his brother Shem was saying. The two brothers left the city and headed in different directions. Since Noah was speaking the same language as Shem, Shem took his father with him.
Nimrod eventually realized that people were speaking several different languages. Because of the language barrier, he could no longer persuade the people to accept his domination. He was also hindered by the fact that people were migrating to every corner of the earth.
However, he did not give up. Since persuasion was useless, he attempted to force people to do his will. He attempted to build an empire and reduce people to servitude. As a result, history has branded him as a mighty hunter before the Lord.