The Empire of Nimrod
by Thomas Cosmades
Languages are replete with aphorisms. Hebrew, one of the oldest, abounds with proverbial sayings - like all languages which were used and developed in the regions of the Middle East. Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Turkish have an adage for practically any given situation. Skilful use of aphorisms enriches a person's knowledge of the language. The English referred to an adage as a "saw" (deriving from the Anglo-Saxon "sagu"). Everybody is familiar with the saw, that carpenter's tool for cutting purposes. Apparently the significance of the adage is to accurately cut a conversation with a meaningful maxim.
There are many proverbs in the Bible, with a whole book carrying this title. Of these, the earliest, if not the first, is "like Nimrod a might hunter before Yahweh" (Gen.10:9). The statement (immediately following) is about this might man, who became the founder of Babel, Erech, Accad, Calneh, Nineveh, Rehobothir, Calah and Resen, that is the great city (Nineveh) - eight famous city kingdoms. The first four were situated in Shinar - hebraicised form of Sumer (Babylonia), cp. Gen.11:2 - the latter four in Asshur (Assyria).
The First Empire Builder
At this juncture, it should be mentioned that there is some disagreement among Old Testament scholars about the proper translation of Calneh and also whether "Asshur" should be taken as the subject of the ensuing four cities, or the object of Nimrod's exploits. We'll let students of Hebrew wrestle with the problem, while we proceed so scan this fascinating personality of the Old Testament, whose offspring is none of those known genealogies in sacred history. Nimrod is indeed a mighty achiever, founder of eight, or at least seven important cities, among which is the great Nineveh, with its vastly evolved size and striking expansion, mentioned in the book of Jonah.
Who is this Nimrod? Born to Cush - identified with the Upper Nile region - from the generation of Ham. "The first on the earth to be a mighty man". The Septuagint (LXX) employs the epithet giant, similar to the designation of the nephilim in Genesis 6:4. He stands head of and shoulders above the others, all by himself and quite independent from Cush's other sons and daughters. While his sons and daughters remain unmentioned, cities born through his ingenuity give the appearance of his illustrious progeny. While he does not contribute to the ethnological line of people, he carries immense stature as a foremost historical figure. All too suddenly he appears in the annals of Old Testament history, and then his remarkable accomplishments disappear from the scene (cp. Gen.10:8-12; 1 Chr.1:10; Micah 5:6).
Nimrod's name, like that of the great fighter-hunter Heracles (Hercules) - probably also a real person, though with exaggerated account of exploits - is given to several places. The ruins of Nineveh are referred to by the locals as Birs Nemrut in the south west of Babylon (cp. Micah 5:6). Hermon River in the north of Israel emerges from beneath the western tip of Kala'at Namrud or Mezudat Nimrod. The highest mountain in south west Anatolia (Turkey) is known as Nemrut Daghi. It was in this place that around 100 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes IV built the immense cultic centre in his attempt to to syncretise the Grecian and Persian religious elements, establishing a world-dominating super-cult. On Nemrut Daghi are some of the most mystifying ruins in modern Turkey (cp. Throne Above the Euphrates, National Geographic magazine, March 1951).
Greeks and Romans developed cults and cultic ceremonies based on Hercules, who was ultimately elevated into a mythical figure. People prayed regularly to him, because he proved his point of being their foremost benefactor. The twelve labours of Hercules - originally ten contests with monsters and two of otherworldly nature - were universally acclaimed feats which endeared the hero to everyone. Powerful conquerors of life-threatening monsters and skilful hunters appear as pioneers of civilisation everywhere.
The First of the Mighty
In which period of history is he to be placed? Most certainly to an undetermined epoch! The meaning of his name is interpreted with varying renditions, though not with any certainty: "we will rebel", "valiant", "strong", etc.. It ought to be reaffirmed at the outset that Nimrod is not a mythical character - one about whom myths have come into being and about whom diverse traditional theories merged. The odds of his being a real person, with flesh, bones, blood and massive stock of muscles which he could utilise to full advantage, are weightier than if derived from the work of a skilful compiler. The Koran anomalously makes him Abraham's contemporary, in constant opposition to the patriarch!
In Nimrod's day, the earth was replete with uncontrollable beasts, menacing man's very existence. The age-long hostility between man and beast is one of the many sequels of man's plunging into the abyss of sin. When Noah came out of the ark, God made a striking statement: "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered" (Gen.9:2). His injunction about man's dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28 is now accentuated with a new dimension: "Fear of you, dread of you..."
The friendly harmony between creature man and creature animal is gone. A very unnatural and unhappy development is upon both. The condition described in Romans 8:20 is on the stage of history: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope." The disturbing era of abnormality will only be altered by the appearance of the Prince of Peace (Isa.11:6-9).
In later history, the Lord solemnly warned the sons of Israel that He would loose the wild beasts among them should the abandon their loyalty to Him (Lev.26:22; Ex.23:29). Against such a frightening menace a counter-force appeared to meet the need of the hour. The writer of 1 Chronicles puts Nimrod's rise to prominence in succinct language: "He began to be a mighty one on the earth" (1:10). Nimrod is the one who bean to wield extraordinary power of will and deed.
Leaderless post-diluvian men desperately needed a hero of the stature of Nimrod. With his might, skill and political acumen, he was acclaimed by a wide range of daily intimidated people. He attained the stature of the man not only of the year, but of the century. The chase and subjugation of wild beasts was a preparatory exercise for the art of warfare. Xenophon calls that kind of men "disciples of chase". Very soon people started bestowing honours and veneration on Nimrod. As a person able to manipulate the fears and exploit the weaknesses of people, he discovered early in history the art of imposed government. What a unique opportunity for was open before the son of Cush! He masterfully introduced the art of politics into human stirrings and dealings. He began treading the high road of the first empire-builder in human history. Every dead carcass of a vanquished beast demonstrated that worthiness of the name he bore and served to transform the loose family units and patriarchal clans into city kingdoms. These were eventually to become single monarchies, such as Babylon and Assure.
No threat from wild beasts remains anywhere on earth - if we exclude locust, rat, fly and in certain cases, shark infestation! On the other hand, man has turned into the wildest of all beasts himself, stamping out species of rare animals one after another. And he is eagerly running after the Loch Ness monster and Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. Keep off man's track, Ness and Yeti! If you are anywhere, your tomorrow may not be very bright.
Imagine for a moment the rise of a hero with the mind and skill of Nimrod, who could render a lethal blow to dictators, terrorists, arsonists, kidnappers and drug barons everywhere! If this modern Nimrod could bring these menacing species under his control, flushing them from their hide-outs, how immeasurably mankind would be indebted to him! But. alas, such a hero would soon turn into a might dictator himself. As Lord John Acton put it: "Power tends to corrupt; absolutely power corrupts absolutely." Skinner says that Nimrod is the originator of the concept of a military state, based on arbitrary force. And how firmly established is his prepossession! Might, power and force have been the guiding rule from the moment of their inception.
Who is the Ideal Ruler?
There is an adage in the Middle Eastern countries: "Nimrod never smiles, does not pity, does not spare!" The designation "benevolent dictator" is given to certain types of rulers. But is there such a person anywhere, either from left or right political polarity? Indeed, Nimrod appears as a very benevolent leader, an obliging one at that. Yet, he does not miss the opportunity to exploit those to whom he extends his amicability and generosity: "He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh" (Gen.10:9). Some interpret this as, "being so bad that Yahweh did not take His eyes off him!"
Having ambitious men like Nimrod before Him, the Lord said: "Behold, the are one people, and they have a one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Gen.11:6). The antediluvian earth "was corrupt in God's sight" (Gen.6:11). And sadly, so was the post-diluvian earth (Gen.8:21). The Deluge could not purge the human psyche from the dominion of sin. A far more effective catharsis is needed: conversion to new life through the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ (Yah'shua haMashiach) (1 Pet.3:20-22).
With all his favourable and not-so-favourable traits, Nimrod's place in history cannot be impugned. "Surely the wrath of men shall praise Thee; the residue of wrath Thou wilt gird upon Thee" (Ps.76:10). This fascinating personality ma have been the one who laid the groundwork for the institutions of organised worship and culture, with human government being in the forefront. Yahweh allows administration by mortals in a totally imperfect milieu until the flawless Kingdom of His impeccable Son is established.
In a period when Greece was endeavouring to crystallise the ideal from of human administration, Plato devised the philosopher-ruler concept, entrusting human administration to the hands of supposed experts. In his delightful classic, The Republic, where he expounds the dialogues and teachings of his venerable master, Socrates, he puts forth the concept that the ideal leader will be the one thoroughly trained in all the disciplines which he deems necessary for the making of such a ruler. Almost half a millennium before Plato, mankind's Sovereign Ruler came to King David with a more concrete message:
"The God of Israel has spoken,
The Rock of Israel has said to me:
when one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth from a cloudless morning,
"like the rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth." (2 Sam.23:3-4)
Plato is endeavouring to establish an "aristocracy of talent" [a meritocracy]. He dwells on socially desirable merits and then proceeds to shape the leader who can fill the bill. Shaping the desired ruler he does with all diligence, but not having been enlightened regarding the basic moral-ethical flaws even in the most ideal of its leaders, he makes little provision for the failures of human leadership. George Bernard Shaw said: "Democracy cannot rise above the human material of which its voters are made!" And George Friendrich Hegel with a masterful stroke makes this trenchant comment: "The state is the consummation of man as finite."
People, particularly in the West, are proud of their democratic institutions. Where, however, is the truly democratic axiom to be found? Who is that ideal ruler? Secrecy in high circles demands that much dishonesty, untruth and mendacity be concealed! Carefully guarded government archives hide volumes of hidden ignominy. Most will never be made fully public. How much more horrifying are the secrets buried in the archives of nations that have no regard for free information or historic divulgence.
Who is the worthy ruler, who consults with his subjects on vital issues such as nuclear contaminates, industrial pollutants, or environmental experiments which endanger all species, by causing a multitude of defects and deformities? Which military establishment considers the citizens' safety when conducting low-flying exercises and similar drills? Did the Soviet Construction Authority consider the safety of those who would occupy the high-rise buildings in Armenia when constructing them? Analogous cases can be mentioned ad infinitum.
The First Cities
The first empire builder on the scene of history forcefully demonstrated and implemented the effect of being mighty on earth. It is not only Athens which boasts of a "Golden Age". Long before that, Nimrod established and prided himself on his own "Golden Age". He accepted his initial honour of being the acclaimed founder of a city - Cain's city of Enoch (Gen.4:17), possibly a mere walled fortification - when he laid the foundation of Babylon, that well-known politico-cultural centre which tells us much more about the beginnings of civilisation. Erech was Nimrod's second city - known as Uruk to the Accadians - a great city in Sumerian times. Nimrod's daring and gallantry gathered momentum; at the same time, his thirst for more sublime achievements intensified. He became the founding father of another famous city, Accad, which developed into the capital of Sargon I. This site has yet to be discovered.
As leaderless people were acclaiming him ecstatically, submitting to his by now celebrated rule, his horizons were expanding. He was avidly running after world monarchy. Invitations were pouring in from several family clans to destroy the life-threatening animals and assume leadership at once. Groundwork was laid in Calneh (Calno) next. Archaeologists cannot locate such a city either. Some surmise that the Hebrew word must read as "all of them", with the alternation of vowels (RSV, Jerusalem Bible), in which case the cities of Ur and Nippur are enclosed. The aforementioned cities were in the land of Shinar (Sumer), or Babylonia.
There was no end to our hero's appetite for advance. Covering considerable distance, he moved on to Asshur (we adopt from the RSV rendition in preference to the reading, "From this country came Assure..."). Under his all-attractive banner Nimrod gathered the clans dwelling in the area, which was to become the renowned city of Nineveh, "that is the great city" (Jonah 3:3). People everywhere were amazed at the efficiency and dexterity of this capable leader. His arm gathered fresh might, his thirst to acquire more cities became insatiable.
Rehoboth-ir, "city of open spaces", or "Nineveh with its city squares", may be in the proximity of Nineveh, millennia later incorporated into the great city. (A suburb of Nineveh was called Rebit). Nimrod was constantly gaining the gratitude and allegiance of more people as time went on. All the while he was not failing to exert his indisputable rule over them. Calah appears as the next city which he founded. It lay on the east bank of the Tigris, and is one of the places called "Nemrut" in our day. Extraordinary prizes from the Assyrian Empire (c.900-612 BC) were brought into light at Calah (in present Iraq) in the course of recent years.
Men and women everywhere were gratified by the capable ruler's benefaction. Next, Resen (Res-eni) appears as the eighth city in Nimrod's illustrious inventory. Who can say if he did not found several more unrecorded paces in the crowded tenth chapter of Genesis!
People in every city were extolling the exploits of their intrepid founder-leader, who successfully ushered in the "Golden Age" for men and women who had never experienced the status of being ruled by one mightier than themselves. Each passing day Nimrod was solidifying his city-states with innovations unbeknown to mankind until then. He was introducing the concept of culture, politics and nationhood to everyday life, constantly reminding his subjects of the endowments they enjoyed under his illustrious administration. Due to the might of his arm, it was not long until a dedicated coterie of devotees surrounded him, extolling the feats of prowess emanating from this deft ruler: "And into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all - you are the head of gold" (Dan.2:38). It is also alleged that the institution of slavery started with Nimrod's governmental imperiousness.
The Essence of Rulership
This subject takes our thoughts to a trenchant analysis which Jesus Christ (Yah'shua haMashiach) makes regarding the art and actuation of political power philosophy: "The kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors" (Lk.22:25). Without argument, this description - recorded only by the evangelist Luke - is the most accurate judgement on the actions of earthly governments from whatever shade or stance - democratic, autocratic, right or left wing despotic, sharia, or whatever!
In the book of Judges, Gideon's youngest son, Jotham, relates a fascinating paradigm concerning rulers who are not worth their title. While his parable targets Gideon's son Abimelech, whose mother was a concubine, it comes near the truth concerning a multitude of cruel, conceited, contemptuous rulers that history has recorded until now. "When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, 'Listen to me, you men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them; and they said to them, "Shall I leave my fatness, by which gods and men are honoured, and go sway over the trees?" And the trees said to the fig tree, "Come you, and reign over us." But the fig tree said to them, "Shall I leave my sweetness and m good fruit, and go to sway over the trees?" And the trees said to the vine, "Come you, and reign over us." But the vine said to them, "Shall I leave m wine which cheers gods and men, and go to sway over the trees?" Then all the trees said to the bramble, "Come you, and rein over us." And the bramble said to the trees, "If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon"'" (Judg.9:7-15).
A very interesting paradigm indeed! Olive tree, fig tree and vine - all cherished for their fruitful production. Benefactors already, they don't wish to gain prominence! But the insignificant, unworthy buck thorn is too happy to oblige, "If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in m shade!" he says to the other trees. Alas for anyone who would rely on the protection and shade of the buck thorn! He can only be sparked off to set fire to a whole forest! Such are those whose goal is to be called benefactors.
Pilate asked Jesus (Yah'shua), "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Jn.18:33) Disturbed at his own question, Pilate was pacified by the Lord, "My kingship is not of this world" (v.36). Jesus (Yah'shua), further aiming to put his disturbed inquisitor at ease, posed a question: "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" (v.34).
The original word used by our Lord for 'benefactor' is the Greek, energetes, meaning "doer of good deeds". The name Energetes became a title of honour, adopted by the Ptolemean and Seleucid dynasties, who ruled the Middle East following the demise of the Alexandrian Empire. Several of their rulers affixed the title, Energetes, before their name, reminding their subjects of their brilliant achievements. Christ's disciples were aware to what their Master was alluding. The same postulation was passed on to all future rulers, if not in title, in resolute notion.
We find a cheering assurance of King Jesus (Yah'shua) extended to His disciples (often escaping our attention), "And now I vest in you the kingship which My Father vested in Me; you shall eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom and sit on thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel" (Lk.22:29, NEB). This is an entirely new epoch where new relationships are inaugurated, in which nepotism, cronyism and confidantism are totally eclipsed.
The Lord continues with the following assurance in regard to the dominance of His followers over the nations of the present age, "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken into pieces, even as I myself received power from My Father" (Rev.2:27; Mt.25:31-32).
KRATOS and POLITEIA
Back to Plato! Reflecting on his renowned mentor's views in The Republic, he says, "The state, whose leader assumes his duty with least excitement or compulsion is bound to enjoy the most benign administration, and the state whose leader feels hard pressed to take the helm, the opposite." To this end, Plato is convinced that the proper ruler must be educated under strict conditions in the discipline of philosophy. He ought to love philosophy above all other occupations, especially governmental philosophy.
Those pursuing any sort of gain for what they lack, according to Plato, can never contribute to good government. Conversely, they develop the expertise of rivalry and contention in their pursuit of power. With such fighting the usher in their own ruin and that of the society which they seek to govern. Therefore, Plato continues, the only people to attain political power should be those who have no love or aspiration for it. Plato held that unruly instincts ought to be suppressed - and the instinct to govern is the most unruly of all! His concept of the ideal ruler is that he should sever himself from all distracting loyalties, even that of family. The highest talent of the person ought to be dedicated to the service of society without the least arbitrary motive. The true ruler exercises his authority only in the interest of the overall advantage of his subjects.
Rhetorical sophist Thrasymachus came forward with the notion that rulers are never mistaken. Such concepts and aspirations for good government parade before our eyes throughout the course of history. Reinhold Niebuhr said, "The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world." And Mark Twain quipped rather caustically: "I am not a politician, and all my other habits are good!" The theory of democracy argues that people are not virtuous enough to be allowed to rule others for long. James Madison, father of the Constitution of the United States, held the view that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. Against all bravura of depraved mortals, earthly leadership goes on in pursuance of benefaction and prominence, exactly as described by the One who knows all men and needs no one to bear witness of man. His knowledge of what is in both the ruler and the ruled is impeccable.
Schools or institutes teaching the discipline and science of the fine art of government seek to draw the brightest applicants and to equip them for highly demanding administrative posts. They pride themselves on being efficient centres of learning. Has any political science analyst or don given serious thought to Christ's lucid but probing exposition, linchpin of governmental art and technique? His poignant utterance, in a nutshell, amounts to this: "Rule over people and while exerting authority be called the benefactor!"
With his infinite knowledge, our Lord presents a clear picture of earthly potentates and rulers from Nimrod down to the next president, prime minister or dictator, notwithstanding Socrates' probing views. He, however, puts a practical admonition to His believers everywhere: "But not so with you" (Lk.22:26). Contrary to such explicit reminders, the organised church has ruled hand in hand with earthly governments throughout history, claiming special privileges on behalf of the faithful. Combining Caesar's interest with that of God! The practice can be traced back to Nimrod, who introduced into human economy a combined cultural-national-ritual stance. Certainly a far cry from the teaching and charging of our Lord.
The fact ought to be retained in our minds that the spirit of the founder of Babel was carried right through Babylon and into our very times. The apostle Peter, addressing the exiles of the dispersion - very likely from Rome - sends greetings from the church in Babylon, "She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings" (1 Pet.5:13). The ultimate fall of this Babylon, depicted vividly in Revelation 18, reveals the arrogance, belligerence and perfidiousness which has always been characteristic of this world's egotistically oriented systems.
Socrates, in his discourses with Glaucon, insisted that the troubles of states and of all humanity will only intensify until philosophers become rulers of our world, or kings and rulers are converted into being philosophers. His view is that political power and philosophy must work hand in hand. There is no happiness for mankind and the individual until such an achievement comes to maturity. The highly theoretical concepts of Socrates projected by the able pen of Plato were never implemented. Could they have heard of a different type of philosopher-poet, in a not-too-distant land, whose wisdom was not told even in half (1 Ki.10:7). Alas! His life became shipwreck, leaving behind a split domain. Yahweh ultimately punished the remnant of that kingdom, and afterward, due to the arrogance of the castigator, broke the sword He employed (Jer.25:12; 51:20; 50:23).
"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" said Lord Acton. Human government at its very best leaves much to be desired. Thomas Jefferson said, "That government is best which governs least". Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny; they have only shifted it to another shoulder. "Behold, a king will reign in righteousness" (Is.32:1a).
The Greeks detested the concept of kratos, i.e. the state assuming governmental rule, power and authority, exerting overall control. To the Greeks, there was a world of difference between the kratos (etym. 'physical might', 'rule and authority') and the politeia, i.e. 'commonwealth' - where people have their voice - with the aim and purpose of bestowing benefit to every civitas, who is prominent in the making up and working of the city.
Kratos represented the concept of oppression, coercion, exploitation and tyranny. On the other hand, politeia is synonymous with freedom, dignity and respect. In one writing, kratos appears as synonym with bia (force) (Aeschylus, Prom.12). The word for Plato's celebrated work is politeia. Its translation as Republic is somewhat of a misnomer. In modern usage, kratos conveys the meaning of "organised state" whereas politeia hardly receives mention.
The dissemblance between the two is carried into the New Testament: kratos is mentioned 12 times in all, 11 of which bear direct reference to the mighty power, sovereign rule or exclusive deeds of the Father and the Son, with most employed for doxology and celebration. Its derivation Pantocrator appears as one of the foremost sublime appellations magnifying the Father and the Son. The sole exception appears in Hebrews 2:14 where kratos is mentioned in the milieu of usurped power: the devil holding the kratos of death, against whom the Archogos (Principle) of life and salvation (Ac.3:15; Heb.2:10) wins the mightiest of all triumphs. Contrary to the concept of kratos, the usages of politeia, politeuma, politeuomai (Ac.22:28; Eph.2:12; Phil.3:20; Ac.23:12; Phil.1:27) are invariably considered in favourable application.
Kratos when applied to human rule, had its disparate diabolic exertions on citizenry throughout turbulent human history. In this dark century (20th) it has manifested itself through the pernicious state dictatorships of National Socialism (Nazism) and Communism, both the cause of appalling agonies upon hundreds of millions of helpless citizens. In our days, the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchean (Cambodia) and the ruthless Baathists in Iraq are similar evidences. Their dark legacy is here to stay until the time of regeneration (Mt.19:28).
Whom are We Serving?
The trumpet of the seventh angel and the loud voices from heaven terminate for good the influence and pre-eminence of Babylon or Athens, springboards of war and culture, vis-à-vis "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev.11:15). The main thread of Augustine's thesis of history expounded in the City of God, is that all earthly empires must at last yield to the heavenly. "Yahweh will become King over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and His Name one" (Zec.14:9).
Known governments developed out of clan and city rule. Nimrod stands out as the master executor of this accomplishment. Many have followed in his course, demonstrating varying methods, while the philosophy and practice behind it remains invariably the same. This is exactly as the Lord of lords and King of kings analyses it. "Rule over people, in the process exert your authority and be called their benefactor". If we trace this common principle in the very beginning, we will notice Satan employing its skilfully in the garden. His aim was to rule over man. As one exerting authority, he impressed Eve by appearing to be the couple's foremost benefactor. He succeeded masterfully. Throughout the ages he has been exerting the same method on people unable to extricate themselves from the pernicious grip.
This satanic tactic has been seen at work in several hapless countries where the masses fell under the iron clutch of right or left wing dictatorships. While such rulers crushed the people's freedom, will and sustenance, their propaganda machines constantly ground out their praises. Large portraits and statues of these benefactors embellished and go on embellishing every square. "Poor Romania never enjoyed a self-giving, benevolent guide to compare with the one she has!"
Such was the line of the executed dictator and his wife. How many rulers seriously consider the well-known Pauline dictum? "For he is God's servant for your good" (Rom.13:4a).
The philosophy of present world rulers never concedes to the unselfish axiom put forward by God's Son, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt.20:28). No political persuasion of position, in spite of Socrates' philosopher-rule innovation, has ever succeeded to approach anywhere near this noblest stance because all is of earth, earthy. But He who came from above demonstrated the stance and approach f the heavenly Ruler.
It does not seem befitting for the person of clear Biblical teaching and Christian persuasion to be too closely identified with political positions and packages. Behind the impressive facade of political machine and effective delivery there lies a multitude of iniquitous, audacious acts, subject to no moral or ethical behest. If one moves to Islamic sharia rule witnessed in certain lands of our time, the offensive sight becomes clearer to view. The motivation as set forth by Jesus Christ (Yah'shua haMashiach), aimed at animating the last and least of leaders everywhere, ought to be remembered always.
Can a truly committed follower of Jesus Christ (Yah'shua haMashiach) allow himself to act as a catalyst or propagandist of political packages, be it left or right? Does such an undertaking fall in line with Christ's admonition, "You are the salt of the earth... you are the light of the world"? According to Talmudic tradition, salt is the soul of something - hence the proverb, "Shake the salt and throw the flesh to the dogs." Christ must have meant His disciples to understand, "You are the soul of the earth... the flesh is no avail... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God."
Religion and Politics
Amos and the other mighty prophets of the Old Testament spoke within the royal-political milieu of the time, but not for a moment did they allow themselves to be identified with the systems of their day, or champion their cause. Conversely, as divine messengers they exposed and condemned sin, injustice, sham religion and ethical erosion in low as well as in high circles.
There lived a man in Amos' days by the name of Amaziah, who was the hired priest of Jeroboam II. Today he would be called a well paid palace chaplain, and what a loyal chaplain he was to the idolatrous king! No other thought engaged him than showering laurels and praises on his boss. Amos' bold and unflinching proclamation was too much for the loyalist Amaziah. "O Seer", he yelled, "Go! Flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophets there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom" (Amos 7:12-13). In like manner, Hananiah the prophet opposed Jeremiah (Jer.28:1-17).
One of the snares entangling Christians in the latter part of the 20th century has been positional Christianity; some enthusiastically took their position with right wing causes, and others with equal fervour, the left. Some shouted, "We must arm!" while others, "We must disarm!" Confusing God? Our Lord exposes such a frame of mind luminously: "Just like children sitting in the market places and shouting at each other, 'We piped to you, but you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn'" (Mt.11:17). Heed, too, Paul's heartening admonition, "But live as citizens worth of the Good News of Christ... But we are citizens of the republic of Heaven..." (Phil.1:17; 3:20, William F. Beck trans.).
Politics as introduced into human life by Nimrod has not depreciated. It has evolved into a very intricate art of man's ingenuity. In our times it is refined, matured and complicated. Nimrod too readily deviated from Yahweh's command in Genesis 1:28; 9:1, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it". Whereas Noah remained true to this charge following the deluge (Gen.9:20), Nimrod diverged radically. he began founding cities. "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth'" (Gen.11:4). This venture, of which the seed was sown by Nimrod, ran contrary to the divine purpose or intent. The latter part of the human pronouncement was a direct affront to the divine dictate. Centuries later, Job in his deep agony would describe the Sovereign in these forceful words: "He strips statesmen of their wits, and makes fools of councillors. He dismantles royalty, and drives off kings in chains" (Job 12:17-18, Moff.).
Man's Innovation: Cities
Jacques Ellul, in his provocative best seller, The Meaning of the City, calls cities "counter creation with anti-redemptive tendencies" (p.75), and coldly points out that urban civilisation is a launching pad from which he can declare, 'I killed God' (p.15). While we can take exception to his existential-dialectical approach to the birth of cities within the created order and to his eschatological views, yet there are numerous worthwhile observations in his stupendous treatise. "Man", he says, "the founder of the city became its prisoner, doomed with her to destruction, condemned with her, cursed with her" (p.25). The devastation of apocalyptic nature in haphazardly built Leninakan and other cities in Soviet Armenia bespeak lamentably of this observation. An casual visitor to the vast conglomerations of India, Bangladesh, or South America such as Calcutta, Bombay, Dacca or Recife will be appalled at the repulsive concentration of vast slums where human beings seek refuge and relief. The unbearable population, profligacy and other portents make the modern megalopolis an ominous place of human concentration.
Since the super-city in the plain of Shinar was attempted (and miraculously prevented), a multitude of grandiose cities have arisen, many of them in ruin. Observe the remnants of the ancient world, the imposing harmony of the Greek cities, the fine artistry of mediaeval cities. Contemplate the little-known cities of the autochthonic civilisations on the American continent and of the ancient cities of China. All bespeak of man's aptitude to erect breath-taking cities and to destroy them with equal proclivity and ferocity. Militaristic Sparta destroyed erudite Athens. Much can be said about the rise and devastation of contemporary cities gradually being eaten up, if not by war, by pollution.
It may be a note of interest at this juncture to recall the beginnings of Islam, which partly owes its inception to the rivalry between two Arabian cities, i.e. Mecca and Medina (622 AD). Man's ingenuity, capable of building grandiose metropolises, is incapable of providing order, congruity, salubrity, and tranquility to the same. The universal rush to the city and the formation of agglomerations in our time, along with simultaneous erosion of these, do not portend a salubrious future. Urban migration, creating one megalopolis after another, is certainly a major concern of administrators everywhere.
Pericles (490-429 BC), the renowned Athenian statesman, who encountered a number of setbacks in international engagements, compensated amply for his failures by employing city builders like Pheidias, Callicrates and Ictinus, whom he offered a free hand to implement the Golden Age of Athens in his own name. This also came to an end.
Planners of cities in the class of Rome and Constantinople sought to emulate the superlative features of Zion, but failed. The sad outcome of Babylon the Great is oft mentioned as a metaphor of divine judgement (Is.14; Rev.16:19; 18). How many cities have a similar destiny!
Man dictators has aspired for world-wide dominion with an eye to overall prominence. Their chief passion was to design imposing cities with their own imprint, projecting their own achievements. Peter the Great built St. Petersburg by borrowing that which excelled from wherever he could cast his eyes. Another ruler of Russia, Stalin, likewise in search of greatness, did not care for his predecessor's achievements. He followed a different pattern of building a new Moscow, embellished with his own type of skyscrapers, governmental edifices and impressive metro. Muslim conquistadores left their profound imprint on cities built after their own pattern everywhere, from Bukhara to Cordoba. Imprints of similar nature left by rulers seeking eminence abound.
A serious question should be raised at this point: "Are cities a human community or not?" Let everyone ponder it and find his own answer! There is no question that the explosion of the city happens at the expense of the country where community spirit is paramount. The creator of the city, Nimrod, let the genie out of the bottle, and no one can put it back.
The first city to emerge out of the industrial revolution was Manchester. Instead of reflecting an impressive triumph of man's progress, it became a picture of horror. The awful circumstances was the theme of writers in the same period: child labour, prostitution, widespread injustice on the labour force, eventual introduction of slavery, filthiness and ugliness. The prevailing conditions introduced an anti-urban bias in England. Industrialists and merchants who prospered in the cities built mansions in the country. Writers began visualising the ideal city which never materialised, just as Socrates' ideal ruler never did!
Our Lord shed tears over Jerusalem (Mt.23:37), a city chosen by Yahweh (Ps.68:16; 78:68; 132:13). Jesus (Yah'shua) knew precisely its fast-approaching devastation. How does His believer look at any city? With glee or tears? Jerusalem followed the road to all other cities nit built with spiritual reflection and purpose (Lam.1:1). There waits a day when the Chief Architect (Col.1:16) will unfold His own actualisation; that which has foundations and whose Builder and Maker is Himself (Heb.11:10). John jubilantly celebrates its grandeur: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them'" (Rev.21:2-3).
Isaiah, who prophesies saying, "And the city will be utterly laid low" (Is.32:19) goes on to celebrate a similar realisation with heavy jubilation, "For Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our ruler (lawgiver), Yahweh is our king; He will save us" (Is.33:22). The beloved evangelist of the Old Testament refers in a nutshell to all the three offices of a single Lord who, unlike all others, is our saviour (Is.9:6). Most certainly He will judge according to His justice the succession of nations which followed Nimrod's path (Mt.25:32). He will lay the foundation of the city where He will reign supreme, introducing flawless tranquility and serenity to the whole cosmos.
The prophet Micah, depicting the strifeless, warless days in God's Kingdom, presents an entirely different, probably intermediary order, minus the hubbub of cities: "But the shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken" (Mic.4:4). Then he goes on to climax his prophecy: "The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf" (Mic.7:16).
We are still under the aegis of the economy ushered in by the mighty Nimrod. He is not our jurisdiction. We are not asked to put roots in Nimrod's domain, neither to comply with his methods, nor be animated with achievements handed down from his epoch. His early progeny is not mentioned in Genesis. His descendants, however, controlled by his spirit and insatiable appetite, have penetrated the cities and nations of this world. Unknowingly, the all pay allegiance to the mighty founder. The repercussions of being part of the world order initiated b Nimrod bear witness that his methods have been adopted. Let the person cast his vote as to which kingdom he belongs, "For thou art the glory of their strength; by thy favour our horn is exalted. For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel" (Ps.89:17-18).
Whom Shall We Send, Who Will Go for Us?
There is the casting of a vote in relation to the cities, a most crucial one. If we commit ourselves to Christ's Kingdom, which is both within us and also one that will terminate the tenure of man's rule, we are entrusted with an undertaking of immense accountability. This responsibility is toward states and particularly cities, widely referred to as agglomerations in our era of population explosion.
The most striking evangelistic event in the Old Testament is God's command to the Hebrew Jonah to go and proclaim His message of repentance and forgiveness to the great city Nineveh. The outcome is cheering, though not entirely so to the restrained evangelist. During the captivity of the Hebrews in Babylon, their idolatrous captors required of them to sing "one of the songs of Zion!" (Ps.137:3). What a golden opportunity the were offered to enlighten the disillusioned dwellers of Babylon regarding the belief and worship of Yahweh! The Jews could have invited the menacing Babylonians to be converted to the faith the sought to destroy. But no! "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" (v.4), they cried.
In certain ways, the mood of the exiled Hebrews is reflected in Christian believers living in an cit. "On the willows there we hung up our lyres" (v.2). Churches, Christian institutions and conferences in the city abound. Generally, however, the Christian is like an exile in the city where he lives and works. Urban evangelism, home crusades, inner city missions and other worthy endeavours are praiseworthy. Should not those of us, though, who live in cities do much more? Imagine if every pastor in the city would set up a pulpit regularly on some street corner parallel to his pulpit in the church! Imagine if pastors and assistants would launch a regular prison ministry. The late Karl Barth spent his Sunday mornings in the prison of Basel with the prisoners. Some may not fully agree with him, but no one can find himself in a dispute with this act. Imagine if people of each church would determine to invite those who are in the streets and thoroughfares into their churches, and following the preaching, set a table before them. Should this ministry be relegated to the slum district missions only?
The apostle Paul, a servant very familiar with the cities of his day, considers himself a debtor to Greek and barbarian. We can be certain that he had in mind the Greek and barbarian in the lowest, as well as the highest strata. He became indebted to the whole man, whether philosopher in the Agora of Athens, or magician in the back streets of Ephesus, the Philippian jailer, or the temple prostitutes of Corinth. At one point of his ministry all the residents of Asia heard the Word of the Lord "and this became known to all the residents of Asia and fear fell upon them, all" (Ac.19:10,17). However, such a momentous achievement had its unpleasant moments: "They are disturbing our city... saying that there is another King, Jesus (Yah'shua)... almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned a considerable company of people" (Ac.16:20; 17:7; 19:26).
While the believers of the Old Testament were not quite willing to include the cities within their own range as targets of God's soteriological scope, those of the New Testament were in total commitment to every city and state. They enjoyed no rest or comfort until Zion's peace became the peace of other cities. No wonder that a whole empire gave up resisting the message, but instead joined them. Believers took at face value the promise of their Lord, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Ac.1:8).
(original title, Jesus, and Nimrod's Empire)
Copyright © 1992 Thomas Cosmades, Postfach 22 33 45, D-5900 SIEGEN 21, Deutschland/Germany
Republished with permission and thanks by the New Covenant Church of God
This page was created on 12 June 2000
Last updated on 12 June 2000