The Torah tells us the following about Nimrod (Bereishis 10:8-9, alhatorah translation):

ה֣וּא הֵחֵ֔ל לִֽהְי֥וֹת גִּבֹּ֖ר בָּאָֽרֶץ׃ הֽוּא־הָיָ֥ה גִבֹּֽר־צַ֖יִד לִפְנֵ֣י י״י֑ עַל־כֵּן֙ יֵֽאָמַ֔ר כְּנִמְרֹ֛ד גִּבּ֥וֹר צַ֖יִד לִפְנֵ֥י י״יֽ׃

He began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before Hashem. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Hashem.”

While nothing here describes an evil person, various Mefarshim and Midrashim paint Nimrod as a very evil character (see here for potential justifications). For example, Rashi writes (based on a Midrash):

להיות גבור – להמריד את כל העולם כלוא על הקדוש ברוך הוא בעצת דור הפלגה.

להיות גבור TO BE A MIGHTY ONE – Mighty in causing the whole world to rebel against the Holy One, blessed be He, by the plan he devised for the generation that witnessed the separation of the races (דור הפלגה) to build the Tower of Babel (Genesis Rabbah 23:7).

On the other hand, there is a dissenting view. Ibn Ezra here tells us that Nimrod was "one of the good guys".

וטעם לפני י״י – שהיה בונה מזבחות ומעלה אותם החיות עולות לשם.

Lifnei Hashem - that he would build altars and bring those animals [that he trapped] as Olah sacrifices to Hashem.

Are there any other opinions in the Mefarshim or Midrashim that follow the Ibn Ezra, in suggesting that Nimrod was a good guy?

  • 3
    The Radak writes "Some scholars understand the words לפני ה'' as meaning that Nimrod offered some of the animals he had hunted to G’d as a sacrifice, acknowledging His help. " This alludes to multiple voices, yes, but the Tur Ha'Aroch says that the Ibn Ezra is wrong according to most everyone. Even the Ibn Ezra hints to another view. Does his explaining a pshat indicate his endorsement as a normative assessment, or just accounting for literal language?
    – rosends
    Nov 22, 2018 at 15:15
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    Some might argue (probably Ibn Kaspi) that bringing sacrifices makes you one one of the bad guys.
    – Alex
    Nov 22, 2018 at 15:56
  • 2
    Targum Yonasan attributes the good actions Rashi says Ashur did to Nimrod. Something like מן ארעא ההיא נפק לאתור instead of אתוראה like Onkelos.
    – Heshy
    Nov 22, 2018 at 23:48


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