The Greek Name Nimrod & The Egyptian Name Shinar
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
Nimrod is described in Genesis 10:9 as the founder of Babylon, the city which was the site of the tower of Babel; a mythical tower built by the ancient inhabitants of southern Babylonia, which was known to the authors of Genesis as Shinar. To prevent the construction of the tower, YHWH (the Hebrew god) confounded their languages so the builders could not understand one another. This episode is the biblical explanation for the many languages that were spoken in urban centers as Babylon. The name Nimrod has been the subject of much research as no known ruler of Babylon has ever been called Nimrod. However, the Septuagint version of Genesis 10:9 may solve the problem of Nimrod.
Greek transliteration & translation of Gen. 10:9:
houtos n gigas kyngos enantion kyriou tou theou;
This one (Nebrwd/Nimrod) was a giant hunter with hounds before YHWH Elohim.
dia touto erousin Nebrwd gigas kyngos enantion kyriou.
On account of this they shall say, As Nebrod a giant hunter with hounds before YHWH
The word kyngos means hunter but the translator of this passage chose to include hounds, which, of course, is reference to the constellation Orion and his two hounds Sirius (Canis Major) & Canicula (Canis Minor). (The Greek word ‘kyngos’ means ‘hunter’ in Greek and is derived from the Greek word ‘kuon’ which means ‘dog’, thus the word ‘kyngos’ means a ‘hunter who uses dogs to hunt’.). Orion as a hunter, is uniquely Greek. This constellation was known as SIPA.ZI.AN.NA, “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “True Shepherd of Anu” in Babylon. In Egypt, according to the Wikipedia article Orion:
“In ancient Egypt, the stars of Orion were regarded as a god called Sah. Because Orion rises before Sirius, the star whose heliacal rising was the basis for the Solar Egyptian calendar, Sah was closely linked with Sopdet, the goddess who personified Sirius. The god Sopdu was said to be the son of Sah and Sopdet. Sah was syncretized with Osiris, while Sopdet was syncretized with Osiris’ mythological wife, Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, from the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, Sah was one of many gods whose form the dead pharaoh was said to take in the afterlife.”
The constellation Orion has many different names in many different cultures. The earliest ancient Near East name with the closest connection to Orion is Aqhat of Ugaritic myth which dates to the 14th Century BCE. According to Wikipedia article entitled ‘Anat’:
“In the North Canaanite story of Aqhat, the protagonist Aqhat son of the judge Danel (Dn’il) is given a wonderful bow and arrows which was created for ‘Anat by the craftsman god Kothar-wa-Khasis but which was given to Danel for his infant son as a gift. When Aqhat grew to be a young man, the goddess ‘Anat tried to buy the bow from Aqhat, offering even immortality, but Aqhat refused all offers, calling her a liar because old age and death are the lot of all men. He then added to this insult by asking ‘what would a woman do with a bow?’
Like Inanna in the Epic of Gilgamesh, ‘Anat complained to El and threatened El himself if he did not allow her to take vengeance on Aqhat. El conceded. ‘Anat launched her attendant Yatpan in hawk form against Aqhat to knock the breath out of him and to steal the bow back. Her plan succeeds, but Aqhat is killed instead of merely beaten and robbed. In her rage against Yatpan, (text is missing here) Yatpan runs away and the bow and arrows fall into the sea. All is lost. ‘Anat mourned for Aqhat and for the curse that this act would bring upon the land and for the loss of the bow. The focus of the story then turns to Paghat, the wise younger sister of Aqhat. She sets off to avenge her brother’s death and to restore the land which has been devastated by drought as a direct result of the murder. The story is incomplete. It breaks at an extremely dramatic moment when Paghat discovers that the mercenary whom she has hired to help her avenge the death is, in fact, Yatpan, her brother’s murderer. The parallels between the story of ‘Anat and her revenge on Mot for the killing of her brother are obvious. In the end, the seasonal myth is played out on the human level.”
While Aqhat is not mentioned in Biblical texts, Anat is mentioned in Judges 19:38 and Judges 1:33. There was a temple, Beth-Anat, dedicated to this goddess in the territory of Naphtali. So, the legend of Aqhat and Anat was alive among the Hebrews. The Septuagint authors may have brought the legend into Egypt with them and, under Ptolemaic influence, Aqhat became Orion, the Lord of the Bow or Nb r rwD or Nebrwd.
Another candidate for the Semitic Orion may be the Edomite god Qws or Qysh in Hebrew but transliterated into English as Kish in the Bible. Kish/Qysh was a name popular with the Merari Levites and the Benjamites which should not be surprising as the Levites and Benjamites originated as Edomites. Qws/Qysh means bow. According to Arabic legend, Qws was the bow of the god Quzah; apparently a storm god. Since Orion is depicted as carrying a bow, the constellation may have been the origin of the Edomite god. The legend regarding this Edomite god has been lost, so a connection to the constellation Orion has not yet been confirmed.
The Septuagint name Nebrwd is Egyptian. Nb, V30-A1, means lord, husband, master, owner in Egyptian. ‘rwD’ has many different meanings. ‘rwD’ means, bow D21-G43-D46-T12 as well as firm, strong, enduring, effective, prosperous, successful, and dominant. So, the word Nebrwd means Prosperous Lord or Prosperous Husband; a reference to the Egyptian constellation sAH (Orion) S29-Aa17-G1-V28-D61-N14-A40 who represented the ancient Egyptian father of the gods, sAH. The name Nb also means husband. The Egyptians thought the constellation Orion to be the god sAH and they thought the ‘dog star’ Sirius represented his wife, Sopdet, M44-X1. The word rwD, meaning bow, is a homonym for the word rwd whose meanings are mentioned above. The connection to the word bow or rwD suggests a hunter and so may be a reference to Orion’s death from an arrow shot by the bow of the Greek moon goddess, Artemis. Also, in the constellation, Orion’s extended left arm has been variously depicted as holding a bow, a shield or a lion skin.
The name Nebrwd, spelled in Egyptian as Nb r rwd and transliterated into Greek as Nebrwd, would be an alternate name for sAH. Nb V30-A1 means lord, master, owner and husband, r D21 means of, and rwD D21-G43-D46-T12 means bow as well as successful, strong etc. So, the name Nebrwd would mean Lord of the Bow as well as Lord of Strength, Prosperity. An alternate name resembling the one applied to Nebrwd was also applied to Re who was also addressed as Nb r Dr (V30-D21-M36-D21-G7) which means Lord of All. That name was eventually co-opted by Osiris who ascended the throne of Ra. Osiris became the god of law and order and was identified with the constellation Orion. So, Nebrwd could be read as Nb r wD or Lord of Order. In any case, whether one interprets the name, Nebrwd, to mean Lord of the Bow or Lord of Order, or that the name applies to sAH or Osiris, it all boils down to the fact that Nebrwd means the constellation Orion; at least to the writers of the Septuagint.
So, the Septuagint authors had a very different image of Nimrwd/Nebrwd than that of a Mesopotamian king as currently interpreted. However, the Egyptian interpretation in the Septuagint is the correct interpretation. Nimrwd is described as a son of Cush or Nubia (Gen 10:8). The Septuagint authors were faced with a conundrum. If Nimrwd was a Cushite, then the Babylonians were also Cushites even though they were clearly Semites. It appears the Septuagint authors attempted to use the word ‘Cush’ as a derogatory term and not one that referred to ethnicity. This would explain why the Bible includes Babylon, Canaan and a host of other Semitic territories as sons of Ham the father of Cush or Nubia. The discrimination can be linked directly to the Ptolemies whose origin was the Greek (Macedonian) Ptolemy Soter who became king of Egypt and established the Ptolemaic dynasty under which the Septuagint authors wrote, interpolated and translated the Septuagint texts. The Ptolemies were enamored of Greek culture and attempted to impose that culture on their Egyptian subjects whom they saw as inferior to their Greek conquerors. The prejudice shows up in the Bible as the sons of Ham bear the curse of Ham mentioned in Genesis 9:25 which was visited upon his son, Canaan. In any case, Genesis 9 & 10 can be traced to the Ptolemies.
As for the name Shinar, etymological speculation for the name indicates that it is derived from the Akkadian word ‘Sin’, the moon god, and the Akkadian word ‘eru’ which means to waken. The Akkadian word ‘eru’ became the basis for the Hebrew word ‘iyr’ which means city. Strong’s says that the word ‘iyr’ means “a place guarded by waking or a watch.”According to Strong’s, the root for the word ‘iyr’ is ‘uwr’ which means to waken. So, Shinar means ‘City of the moon god Sin’ or Babylon. According to Wikipedia’s article entitled Sin:
“Sin /?si?n/ (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.”
The Egyptian name for Babylon was sngr Aa18-Z1-N35-Z2-W11-D21-N25 and pronounced as sengery. Sen is the moon god Sin and the word ‘gery’ is a dialectical pronunciation of the Akkadian word igaru which means wall and refers to a walled city. The Egyptian word for Babylon or Sengery, then, is derived from the Akkadian words Sin and igaru. So, the word sngr/sengery or Babylon in ancient Egyptian is a dialectical pronunciation of the Akkadian words Sin and ‘igaru’ which means Wall (walled city) of the moon god Sin or Babylon. According to Strong’s, the Hebrew word for city, iyr, is derived from the word ‘uwr’ which means to waken. However, Strong’s interpretation of the word Shinar is seriously mistaken. The word Shinar most likely derives from the Akkadian word for the moon god Sin and the Akkadian word for wall or ‘igaru’. The Egyptian derivation for this word sngr/sengery is a more accurate word for Babylon than the Hebrew word Shinar as a common feature for ancient cities was a defensive wall.
The word igaru became the Hebrew word qiyr and the Arabic word qarya. Both words mean village. The Hebrew word, according to Strong’s, derives from the word qiyr meaning wall. Qiyr derives from the Akkadian word igaru which means wall. So, the word for wall and village became identical in Hebrew. The question then becomes, how did Sngr become Sinnaar in the Septuagint and Shinar in Hebrew? This transformation may have to do with dialectical pronunciation involving the letters ‘s’, ‘sh’, gimel, qof and ayin. The letter ‘s’ is often pronounced as ‘sh’ in Hebrew. There is no letter ‘sh’ or ayin in the Greek alphabet which explains the Greek letter sigma and the double alphas in Sinnaar. In Hebrew, Shinar is spelled with a ‘sh’ but the shift from ‘s’ to ‘sh’ is a common one in Hebrew.The shift from ‘g’ in the Egyptian word sngr to the letter ayin in the word Shinar may be an Egyptian idiosyncrasy. Even today, the Arabic letter ‘q’ (no letter ‘g’ in Arabic) is pronounced as an ayin in Egypt so that the word for heart or ‘qalb’ becomes ‘alb’ in Egyptian. The pronunciation of the ‘q’ as an ayin may a hold over from a time before Arabic became the spoken language of Egypt. It could very well be that both the letters ‘q’ and ‘g’ were pronounced as an ayin. This would explain why Shinar is spelled in Hebrew with an ayin instead of a gimel. The same goes for the Greek word Sinnaar which lacks the Greek letter ‘gamma’. The word sngr was transliterated from dialectical Egyptian into the Greek word Sinnaar by the Septuagint authors and then into Hebrew as Shinar by the Masoretes who wrote the sigma as a sheen and the double alphas as an ayin.