Rambam famously describes how idolatry began in the days of Enosh (Hil. Avodah Zara 1:1-2) and finishes off by writing:

"but the Rock of Ages, not a man was there to recognize Him or know Him, save some individuals in the whole world, for example, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, and Eber. And, on this path the world continued its course of circuity until the birth of the firmest pillar of the world, Abraham our father."

Presumably, though, the development of idolatry was halted with the flood (most of mankind being wiped out), and Noach presumably taught his sons to worship Hashem. Is it known when the development of idolatry re-started, i.e. in whose time/which generation it began once again?

  • Rashi on Bereishis 21:9 explains that מצחק means worshipping idols. This is in the time of Avraham Avinu. So maybe that is when it started all over again?
    – Shmuel
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 22:04
  • @mvs might be, but on the other hand, so many other midrashim about how Avraham left idolatry in his youth, how Haran died from that, etc.
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 4:08
  • From Bereishit Rabba 38:6 it sounds like the dor haflagah was idolatrous.
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 6:06
  • also Sforno on Genesis 11:4 explains Tower of Babel as idolatrous... sefaria.org/…
    – code613
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


Post-Flood Idolatry reemerged on Earth בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר when the Kushites desired נִמְרֹד Nimrod to rule over all nations instead of maintaining obedience to YHVH in [Bereshit 11:4]. - Nimrod's rebellion against YHVH is described in [Pesahim 94b:1] : "The disciple in corruption of Nimrod the wicked, who caused the entire world to rebel against Me during his reign by advising the generation of the dispersion to build a tower in order to fight the Hosts of Heaven".

[Erubin 53a:7] identifies אַמְרָפֶל (from Bereshit 14:1) as the idol Nimrod : Why was his name called Nimrod? - "Because he caused the entire world to rebel [himrid] against God during his reign."

Rashi attempts to explain why Kushites were attracted to Nimrod above YHVH, stating : "He [Nimrod] ensnared the minds of people by his words, misleading them to rebel against the Omnipresent" (Genesis Rabbah 37:2).

Sforno explained the allure of Nimrod's power & provisions for Kushites in his commentary of [Bereshit 10:10] :

"Because of Nimrod’s powerful and relatively civilised kingdom all the people moved to the valley of Shinor to be within the orbit of his power and influence. The illusion of great power, augmented by unity of purpose, led to their insurrection against G’d, and to their downfall."

Thus the first idol (post-flood) appears to be associated with Nimrod a.k.a "King Amraphel of Shinar".

  • 1
    There are certainly sources that point towards the idolatrous aspect of Nimrod and his activities... but none of the sources you present explicitly state that this was the FIRST expression of idolatry in the post-diluvian era. For example, Yosef Da'ath on Zevahim writes: גם לאחר שאבדו הברורים שבין הרשעים נשארו בעולם עבודה זרה ופולחנותיה ותקרובותיה שלא סרו מהם בני האדם קודם המבול וגם דבקה בהם לאחר המבול בבני חם ובבני יפת וגם ברבים מבני שם בן נח Indicating that idolatrous impulses emerged almost right away, not 8 to 10 generations later. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 17:40
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    @Deuteronomy interesting. What the Yosef Da'at says is a bit similar to an Arab tradition I read recently which was likely passed on to them by Jews. Per the tradition, brought in a book called The Book of Idols, the pre-flood idols survived the flood and floated to Arabia, where they were re-discovered post-flood. The tradition doesn't indicate, however, that the entire world became idolatrous from those old idols.
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 17:45
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    @Harel13 interestingly the "Book of Idols" records 5 idols from the generation of flood, one of which was Nasr. In our midrashim, Nebuchadnezzer made an idol out of a plank from Noah's ark and deemed it Nisrokh... coincidence? Perhaps, perhaps not. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 23:29
  • @Deuteronomy great catch! I didn't notice that one. The reason I think it's based on a midrash or a few midrashim is because the tradition is said to have been passed down from an Arab in pre-Islamic Medina where there were many Jews and where Muhammad probably learned most of what he knew of Judaism, and the pre-Flood portion is quite similar to both midrashim on the start of idolatry in the time of Enosh and the Rambam's explanation for the start of idolatry. On Nasr specifically, I wonder if it comes from the Hebrew word for plank, nesser נסר.
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 4:18
  • @Deuteronomy never mind, scratch the last part. Nasr was an ancient pre-Islamic deity. But perhaps it was that story and the word נסר, which the gemara says is the origin of the name Nisroch that led the Arabs to relate the story to Nasr.
    – Harel13
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 4:37

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