It’s overwhelming to think of all these names and to realize that they represent whole groups of people, whole nations, who lived and died, for the most part, without God. Perhaps there was more knowledge of God than we are aware of, but what we know of these nations from later history would not indicate that any of them worshiped the one true God.
Nimrod is a case in point. Apparently his name was proverbial in Moses’ day, so that people compared a powerful man to Nimrod (10:9), much as we may say, “a dictator like Stalin.” At first glance, you might think that Nimrod was a good guy, since he is called a mighty hunter “before the Lord.” But the point is rather that Nimrod asserted himself against the Lord.
For this reason, many commentators suggest that when the text says that Nimrod was a mighty hunter, it should be taken to mean not that he was a hunter of game, but a hunter of men. The Hebrew word is used elsewhere in reference to “a violent invasion of the persons and rights of men."
Thus when it says that Nimrod was a mighty hunter “before the Lord,” the Hebrew is, “in the face of the Lord,” or “against the Lord” (as the Septuagint translates it). Moses is reminding his readers that Nimrod’s tyranny did not go unnoticed by God. His name itself comes from a word meaning “we will revolt.” He established his kingdom in defiance of God.
Note also that Nimrod was a nephew of Canaan, who was cursed by Noah. James Boice imagines Nimrod, who would have been aware of this curse, saying, “I don’t know about the others, but I regard this matter of the curse of God on Canaan as a major disgrace on my family, one that needs to be erased. Did God say that my uncle Canaan would be a slave? I’ll fight that judgment. I’ll never be a slave! What’s more, I’ll be the exact opposite. I’ll be so strong that others will become slaves to me. Instead of ‘slave,’ I’ll make them say, ‘Here comes Nimrod, the mightiest man on earth’”
If Christians would stop to ponder the implications of this rather dry tenth chapter of Genesis, racial prejudice would be dissolved. I have often been shocked to hear racist comments from Christians. Sad to say, many chapters of the Ku Klux Klan have Christian pastors serving as chaplains! But the Bible is clear that whatever your skin color, you can trace your ancestry back to one of the three sons of Noah. We’re all brothers and sisters!