Alas, power has this funny way of getting to people’s heads, and I was no exception. By the age of 40, I was the de facto leader of the Cush tribe, and I was building up quite a reputation for myself. It was around then that our cousins, the Japhethites, decided to pick a fight with us, and leading the charge, I defeated them. The Japhethites were rendered our subordinates, and I, the king over—what was then—most of modern civilization.9
Nowadays, people are familiar with the concept of a king. One man reigns supreme over all others, and has everyone do his bidding. In those days, such a notion was unheard of, and I take pride in introducing this fantastic new idea to the world.10 My intentions were not entirely altruistic, and I utilized my innovation for self-promoting purposes.
There came a point when G‑d was no longer necessary, and I made the bold decision to stand in as His replacement. It didn’t take much convincing to get everyone else on board, and a new religion was formed: Nimrodism.11
Here are a couple of things that we implemented to help cement the new movement:
1) We built a massive temple, several stories high, with a huge throne on the top level. I would sit on the throne and graciously afford passersby the opportunity to catch a glimpse of their new deity.12
2) We had statues made of me and placed throughout my kingdom. Bowing down to my image became a part of the daily ritual.13
3) We began building a tower that was supposed to reach the heavens, effectively enforcing our takeover.14 (More on this later, in “Tower of Babel.”)
When they said everything is hinted to in the Torah, they weren’t exaggerating. “He was a mighty trapper before the L‑rd” is understood by some to refer to my impressive powers of persuasion; I would persuade (“trap”) people into rebelling against G‑d (“before the L‑rd”).15
It was around that time that we all relocated to Shinar—which some associate with Sumer—somewhere in modern-day southern Iraq.16 Its elevation level was significantly lower than the surrounding areas, and legend has it that those who died in the Flood were washed up there. That’s actually how it got its name, “Shinar,” which means “shake out,” because all the dead bodies were “shaken out” over there. It seemed like the perfect place to found a new civilization.17
Here’s an interesting piece of history, which ended up shaping much of the modern world:
My chief advisor at the time was a man named Terach. He was a loyal subject, and I held his opinion in high regard. At a party celebrating a new baby born to Terach, strange things appeared in the sky. A large star was seen shooting across the horizon, and it was swallowing all the other stars in its path.
My astrologers had only one explanation: The star was the newborn Abram, and he was destined to swallow us all. I had no choice: Abram had to die.
Terach didn’t prove easy to convince, and all the money in the world would not make him budge.
“Consider the following scenario,” he argued. “Imagine I was offered a huge sum of money to sell the king’s personal horse; would you suggest I agree to the deal?” That would be ridiculous; money was not exactly an issue at the time, and my horse was very dear to me. “This is precisely what you are asking of me,” he finished off. “What can money do to replace my own child?”
It took a little coercing (and threatening) until I had Terach on my side. He brought me his newborn baby, and I duly crushed his tender skull, eliminating any potential threat.
Or so I thought. It wasn’t until 50 years later that I realized that Terach had duped me, and had brought me one of his slave-children in place of Abram.18 Imagine what the world would look like today if it had been Abram that I killed . . .
Tower of Babel
After that brief hiccup, I enjoyed 25 years of peace and quiet, with my kingdom in Shinar running smoothly.19 Everyone got along very well, almost family-like,20 and we all spoke one language.21 Things would have probably stayed that way, if not for the ingenious suggestion of some of my advisors:22 “Let’s build a tower unto the heavens, and cement our place in history.”
Brilliant idea, right?
In their defense, they did have a number of good reasons to build this ziggurat:
a. Why should G‑d have the heavens all to Himself? We also deserve to have a say in what goes on up there.23
b. Apparently, the heavens collapse every 1656 years, as they did in the year of the Flood. By building this tower, we could offer additional support to the sky.24
c. We would become an undisputed world power, and never have to fear invasion again.25
The idea spread fast, and workers were enlisting by the thousands. Before you knew it, construction had begun, and we had a sizeable workforce of close to 600,000 people.26Everyone seemed to get involved, and some historians suggest that even such high-ranking profiles as Noah, Shem and Abram participated as well.27
Most people don’t know this, but more than 20 years were spent on this project.28 It was an edifice of unbelievable proportions; some posit that the climb from bottom to top would take over a year’s worth of travel! The people’s abnormal commitment to the building caused them to lose sense of their humanity, and a fallen brick came to be a bigger tragedy than a fallen human.29
We all know the end of that story. G‑d humored us for 20 or so years and then undid everything in one fell swoop. Languages got mixed up, the building was destroyed, and we all ended up in different parts of the world.30 You can read more about that over here, in What Was Up with the Tower of Babel?
I stayed behind in the Mesopotamian region, and founded a few more cities.31 I built the city called Babel—which means “confusion”—as a testimony to the confusion that took place when the Tower was destroyed.32 I then built Erekh, commonly known as Uruk,33Akkad (or Accad)34 and Calneh, which is identified by the Talmud as Nofar-Ninfi,35 or Nippur. In my new kingdom, I became known as Amraphel, “causes to fall,” a rather derogatory name referencing the downfall of all those involved in the building of the tower I was accountable for.36
The Return of Abram
It was two years after the tower disaster, and life was slowly getting back to normal.37 Then the “good” news arrived: Terach had tricked me way back then, and his son Abram was still around.
Apparently, he had decided to return home, and was wreaking havoc all over the city. He was on a crusade against idol worship, and was destroying idols wherever he could possible find them.
The rest of the story is well known, and can be read in all its detail here, Abraham’s Early Life.
Here’s the short version:
I had Abram arrested, and it was decided that he deserved to die. We fired up the palatial furnace for three days, and threw him in, his hands tied with ropes behind his back. Miracles of miracles, Abram walked around the furnace as if nothing was going on, and the only thing that got burned was the rope tying his hands.
I’ll share a few lesser-known details of the story as well:
a. It wasn’t only Abram that I threw into the furnace; his brother Haran was thrown in as well. See, I was so furious at having been deceived that I sought retribution from anyone implicit in the crime. Apparently, or so Terach claimed, it was Haran’s idea to exchange Abram for a different baby. I think we can all agree that Haran’s death was not unwarranted.
b. After seeing all the miracles that G‑d did for Abram, I showered Abram with gifts. I gave him two of my servants as well, one named Oni and the other Eliezer, who later became well known as “the servant of Abraham.”38
c. Some claim that I received my name Amraphel (“causes to fall”) as a result of this story. I had attempted to cause Abram to fall, and was therefore given this honorary title.39
Abram had proven to be enough of a nuisance, and I was sure that I was done having to deal with him. You can imagine my frustration when, two years after the furnace incident, Abram came to visit me again, this time in a dream.
I was standing with my men next to the same furnace that Abram had been thrown into, when an image of Abram brandishing a sword emerged, and he began to approach us. As we ran, he threw an egg onto my head, which turned into a great river and drowned all of my men. I survived together with three others, who suddenly appeared dressed as kings. The river then dried up and returned to being an egg, which hatched and a chick emerged. The chick flew towards me and began poking my eyes, at which point I woke up.
The message was clear: Abram was not done.
By the time my men arrived at his house to to arrest him, Abram was gone. Apparently Eliezer had tipped him off, and he had fled the city. He had gotten the better of me—again.40
I’m going to end my story with two military ventures, both which ended in humiliating defeat. The first was in the year 2013, thirteen years after Abraham’s escape, and the second in the year 2021, nine years later.
I had a general by the name of Chedorlaomer, who following the Tower of Babel incident had seceded and became king of Elam. His power got to his head, and he extended his borders all the way to the area of Sodom, taking the resident five nations under his control.
Things went well for him for 12 years, and his subject nations paid their taxes religiously. There came a time, however, when these nations got fed up and staged an all-out revolt against Chedorlaomer.
Sensing his weakness, I seized the opportunity to reclaim my prestige in the neighborhood. I gathered my entire army, a sizeable 70,000 men, and waged war against my former general. Here’s the humiliating bit: With only 5,000 men, he won a decisive victory, and I ended up his subordinate.41
In fact, all the neighboring states became his subordinates, which leads me into my second military humiliation.
After 13 years of unrest in his extended empire, Chedorlaomer decided to quash the Sodom rebellion once and for all. He conscripted all of his allies to participate in the war effort, and off we went to fight Sodom, our five kings against their four.
It was none other than Abram who popped up again. He had gotten wind that his nephew Lot, who was living in Sodom at the time, was taken captive, and he came together with his men to rescue him. We were forced to flee, and returned back home humiliated.42
I had always considered myself to be the fiercest warrior in history, and I didn’t honestly think that I would ever find my match. As I was getting older, though, there was talk of a new up-and-coming star. Apparently, one of Abram’s grandchildren, Esau, had ventured off the straight and narrow and was gaining quite a reputation for himself in the Canaanite underworld.
How he found out about my cloak is still unclear to me, but one thing’s for certain: he was determined to get his hands on it. And blood did not seem to be a hindrance.
Long story short:
We were out on a hunting expedition and were ambushed by Esau himself. My elderly body was no match for his youthful spirit—he was only 13 years old at the time—and he ultimately got the better of me. And, of course, he took possession of the cloak.43
Looks like the prophecies were right all along. Who would have thought that my demise would come through the hands of Abram’s grandchild?
Timeline of events:
1656 (2015 BCE): Flood of Noah
1751 (1920 BCE): Birth of Nimrod
1791 (1900 BCE): Nimrod rebels against G‑d and rules in Babel
1948 (1813 BCE): Birth of Abraham
1973 (1788 BCE): Construction of Tower of Babel begins
1996 (1765 BCE): Tower of Babel destroyed
1996–2008 (1765–1753 BCE): Cities of Sodom serve Chedorlaomer
2009–2022 (1762–1749 BCE): Cities of Sodom rebel against Chedorlaomer
2013 (1758 BCE): Nimrod wages war against Chedorlaomer and loses
2022 (1749 BCE): War of Five Kings against Four Kings
2123 (1638 BCE): Nimrod killed by Esau
Art by Sefira Lightstone
. Our in-house artist, she is an editorial illustrator who creates art to empower the Jewish collective online. Past clients have included the Forward, Mosaic Mag, and the Jewish Press. You can follow more of her work on her personal instagram account where she focuses on activism @sefiracreative.