Insulting Nimrod

Guest post by J.M.

“Nimrod” has never been a favorite insult of mine (not that I have a “favorite” insult), but I know what it means. You probably do to.

Or maybe you don’t.

When we hear “Nimrod” we tend to think of a bumbling fool.  (“We” meaning people in America – outside America this definition is not used.) Well, did you know that Nimrod is actually a guy in the Bible – the Old Testament to be specific. You can read his story here  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2010:8-12&version=NIV.

Go ahead and click there – it’s only 5 sentences.

So when you read that, did the  mighty hunter who established Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and a host of other places sound like a bumbling fool to you?

No?

So…what’s going on? Why do we use this guy’s name for an insult?  Is there something hidden in the Hebrew that tells a different story?

Well, some commentaries say Nimrod was a bad dude based on one word. The word used for “hunter.” Because this word is used in Jeremiah 16.16 to refer to those who hunt humans some want to say that Nimrod hunted humans. Um, no. If I say I’m going hunting does that mean I only hunt deer? Nope. The item hunted is not contained in the word “hunted.” English and Hebrew are the same here.

So that’s not where Nimrod’s reputation comes from.

In fact the verse says “a mighty hunter before God.” This actually means he was in good standing before God. The phrase “before God” used in this type of context is a GOOD thing.  Him and God were cool.


Bumbling fools ran from this mighty hunter!

The internet claims that the abuse of the name Nimrod actually comes from the much beloved children’s cartoon Bugs Bunny. Now the funny thing is – if you google this you can find several people talking about it – but no one actually provides hard evidence. According to internet claims an episode made in the 40s started the confusion. Everyone’s favorite bumbling hunter – Elmer Fudd – was, again, no match for Bugs Bunny. Well, Bugs Bunny  – using SARCASM  – calls Elmer “Nimrod.” Sarcasm.

Uh, Nimrod, I’m over here.

Problem….those without a working knowledge of Genesis 10 thought it was a new word that meant a bumbling fool. They completely missed the sarcasm!

Now the problem is that I cannot find any actual evidence of this cartoon. (Youtube has failed me.) Some internet links even  point to an episode that does not use the word nimrod! On a side note – providing a citation that is false does not help your claim.

Now I was able to find a later Looney Toons Cartoon in which Daffy Duck calls Elmer Fudd a “Nimrod.” I had wanted to post a link to a youtube clip of it – but it was taken down for copyright infringement – so you’ll just have to take my word for it that such a clip exists.

Was Looney Tunes really the first to use this word sarcastically and the first to be misunderstood about it? The vast majority of the internet say yes. However, a wiktionary article cites a 1933 dictionary where “nimrod” is defined as a “fool.” This predates the mysteriously absent Bugs Bunny episode (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nimrod). So maybe the cartoonists meant it sarcastically, or  maybe they already took it to mean a “bumbling fool.”

Wherever it was first misused, I highly suspect misunderstood sarcasm is to blame.

So what did we learn today? Three things.

1) Some people don’t get sarcasm.
2) Nimrod was actually a pretty cool guy who was close to God.
3) Every time you call a bumbling fool a “nimrod” you are actually insulting the real Nimrod.

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)

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