This is the third in a series of articles outlining the origin of this world’s religions
The gospel was diabolically counterfeited centuries before Jesus was born. A civilization began which was founded on a false way of life. Now let us understand the origin and rise of this apostasy which has counterfeited the Truth and engulfed the entire world for 4,000 years.
Noah and the seven people with him had survived the flood, the great punishment on the inhabitants of the earth for their disobedience to God's commands. Was there anyone who would keep the survivors in remembrance of obedience to God? Yes, for II Peter 2:4-5 says, “God saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness.” Ps. 119:172 says, “All thy commandments are righteousness.” Righteousness is obedience. Noah preached obedience to God. Noah was a preacher of obedience and through him the other seven were kept in remembrance of obedience to God.
Everyone on earth after the flood knew of God and why he had drowned the wicked. They feared to do evil, at first. The fact, that they lived under God’s rule for some time, is admitted by the ancients. “For many ages men lived under the government of Jove (God) without cities and without laws, and all speaking one language. Then discord began” Hyginius. p. 114. This group, composed of the only people on the earth (for the others had all been destroyed by the great flood) began migrating from the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4) where the ark had landed: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
It came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. (Gen. 11:1-2). These people now known as Sumerians (Miller’s Ancient History in Bible Light, p. 51), pushing through the mountain of the east, came upon a prodigiously fertile plain built up by deposits of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. This land of Shinar is now known as the ancient Babylonia (Brested’s Ancient Times, p. 107). Here was a land that would produce all they desired in abundance.
Did the people continue to live happily and peacefully under God’s rule, or did they, like Adam and Eve, disobey God and bring trouble upon themselves? The land was productive, but the wild animals were multiplying faster than the people due to the destruction of the former civilization by the great flood. Because of their primitive weapons, there was a great danger of life and possessions (Ex. 23:28-29). What could be done about it?
Nimrod, the son of Cush, was a large, powerfully built black man who developed into a great hunter. It was he who gathered the people together and organized them to fight the wild and ferocious animals: “He began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:8-9). In other words, the name Nimrod was known everywhere for his might. He emancipated the people of the earth after the flood from their fear of the wild animals. His prestige grew. He became the leader in worldly affairs. He was also ambitious.
There was a better way to protect the people from the wild animals that roamed the earth than by constantly fighting them. Nimrod built a city of houses and surrounded this city with a high wall and gathered the people therein. Thus the people were protected and Nimrod was able to rule over them. This arrangement was agreeable to the people for they said, “let us build us a city and make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad” (Gen. 11:4).
The people not only protected themselves from the wild animals by building a walled city but also established authority of their own, “let us make a name.” This was to be a central place of mankind’s authority, the necessity of their obedience to God was not going to be recognized! Nimrod was their leader. Also they built a tower whose top was to “reach unto heaven.” With a tower this high they could do as they wished, disobey God and still be safe from his punishment which had drowned the inhabitants of the earth before. This was mankind’s first act of open rebellion against God after the flood; they thought they had placed themselves out of God’s reach if they wished to disobey him. They, like Satan, thought that if they could “ascend above the heights of the clouds,” they “could be like the most High.” (Is. 14:14.) Cush, Nimrod’s father also had much to do with the building of this tower and city (Hislop, p. 26).
Then it was that Nimrod “began to be a mighty one” and a “mighty hunter before the Eternal” in a ruling sense (the Hebrew word for “mighty is “gibbor” which means “tyrant,”) Nimrod became a tyrant over the people. He made the laws. Not only that, but he was “mighty before the Eternal.” (The Hebrew word “paniym” translated “before” here should be translated “against”). The Bible says Nimrod was against God! Conspiracy and sedition were carried on by him (Epephanius, lib. i., vol. i. p. 7).
Nimrod kept growing in power but the inborn desire of the people to worship must be satisfied. Nimrod and his followers had turned against the True God. They wanted to glorify God in their own way! They “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like creeping things” (Rom. 1:23) -- the snake, and other things -- God had created. (They should have worshipped God in spirit and in truth and not through idols. (John 4:24 and Ex. 20:4-5). With the civil power which he wielded, Nimrod set himself up as the priest of the things worshipped by the people, to obtain a still stronger hold on them and gradually put himself in place of the true God.
Mankind, immediately after the flood knew God, but they did not like his laws, they did not like to be obedient to him. Their carnal minds rebelled. To whom did they turn to worship in his place?
They remembered the Serpent of the Garden of Eden (God’s and man’s adversary), they would worship it, for had it not been through it that they had obtained the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent had not commanded them to do anything. So it came about that the Serpent (Satan) was worshipped as the Enlightener of mankind.
The sun, too, became a favorite object of worship because of the light and heat it gave. They were deceived.
This being the case, the two enlighteners became associated together, for just as the Serpent was considered to be the Enlightener of the spiritual world, so also was the Sun, the Enlightener of the physical world. Thus is came about that one of the commonest symbols of the sun or sun-god is a disc with a serpent around it (Bunsen’s Hieroglyphics, vol. i. p. 497). Moreover the serpent is universally the symbol of the sun (Davie’s Druids, p. 437). Now we are beginning to understand why it is that sun worship is Devil-worship! Satan, by deceptively inspiring mankind, was associating himself with objects mankind tended to worship in such a way as to receive the worship himself! Mankind, at this earliest date, knowing God, did not like God’s laws; so they created gods of their own and ascribed to them laws which better suited their own desires.
This is the time referred to by Paul when, speaking to the Romans he said, “When they knew God, they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things and worshipped the creature (created things) more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:22-25).
The people then were worshipping the creeping thing, the snake, and the created thing, the sun. Fire, giving off light, was regarded by those after the flood as the earthly representative of the sun. It is said that Nimrod himself commenced the worshipping of fire or fire-worship.
Do you remember the great red (fiery) “dragon” of Revelation 12:3? The dragon is identified as a serpent in verse 14 and is further identified as the Devil and Satan in verse 9. Here, symbolically, we see the Sun, the great Fire God, identified with the Serpent or (Satan). The sun, then, becomes the symbol of the Devil himself. The Bible says so.
These, then, were the false beliefs into which the people in Nimrod’s time, who did not wish to worship the True god, were being led. They were Sun-Fire-Serpent worshippers. These were the beliefs Nimrod championed and which made him more powerful than ever. He became the priest of the Sun-god or Bol-Kahn, which means priest of Baal. He did not claim to be the Sun-god himself but did spread the worship of this Pagan deity. He, being thus the priest of the devouring fire to which human victims were offered, and especially children were regarded as a great devourer. He became therefore the priest of Devil worship! Only after his violent death was he set up as though he had been a deity.
Just as Nimrod had emancipated the people from the fear of the wild animals, so also, he emancipated them from the fear of the Eternal God which is the “beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10) and in whose laws alone can true happiness be found.
He was the “mighty one,” the acknowledged leader of the great ones or giants who, in their great apostasy, rebelled against heaven. He led those on the earth to believe a real spiritual change of heart was unnecessary. Drunken and sexual orgies went hand in hand with his expansion of power. It is evident that he led mankind to seek their chief good in sensual enjoyment and showed them how they might enjoy the pleasures of sin without any fear of wrath by a Holy God. In his various expeditions he was always accompanied by troops of women, and by music and song, games and revelries, and everything that could please the natural heart and endear himself to the good graces of mankind (The Two Babylons, p. 50).
In the carnal mind of man (Rom. 7:14) the Babylonian system was not so bad, it brought a measure of happiness, they thought, but what did God do, God who knew the full measure of happiness mankind could have by obeying his laws? Was He going to allow man to destroy himself with his own sins before he had enough time to learn his lesson that sin does not bring happiness? (Rom. 6:23).
“The Eternal came down to see the city and tower which the children of men had builded. And the Eternal said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do, let us go down and confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Eternal scattered them upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore the name of it is called Babel because the Eternal did confound the language and did scatter them abroad” (Gen. 11:5-9).
The word “Babel” means “confusion.” God confused the language of this place and the city was named for that event. He did not destroy it but he did slow down its growth so that man would have time to learn the error of trying to rule himself. Thus by giving various groups of people various languages, He caused these groups to separate. This was the beginnings of the nations as we know them today: the confusion of tongues divided them “after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations” (Gen. 10:5, 20, 31). The people of Babylon started to migrate outward from that point from that time. Each group took its idolatrous Sun-Fire-Serpent worship with him and its memory of Babylon and Nimrod and his wife: but the groups were not under as powerful a Pagan economic, social, political, and religious government as they had been when under Nimrod’s direct control.
People who spoke the same language grouped off and built their houses in the same locality. Sometimes only a few houses would be grouped together and at other times, many more. The largest land owner wielded the most authority. Some of these groups were large.
Did this blow to Nimrod’s plans stop him in his conquest for power? No, it made conditions more difficult and his rule less close-knit, but with increased zeal he extended his power; he did more construction work on the city of Babel. For the protection of three of the larger groups of people who had been dispersed, he built the cities of Erech, Accad, and Calneth and these thereby came under his rule. These cities (Gen. 10:10) comprised the beginning of his empire which was later to expand and cover the known world of that time. From thence he extended his control over much of the land that God had designed for Shem (Ex. 23:31) (Millers’ Ancient History In Bible Light, p. 54).
What made it possible that Nimrod could conquer such vast areas? “There is evidence that down to a late period the priests of the Chaldean (Babylonian) Mysteries knew the composition of the formidable Greek fire, which burned under water, and the secret of which has been lost; and there can be little doubt that Nimrod, in erecting his power, availed himself of such similar scientific secrets, which he and his associates alone possessed” (Salverre, Des Sciences Occultes, p. 415).
It is possible that this “Greek fire” which “burned under water” was a sodium product. Roach and Robertson’s New Practical Reference Library, under “Sodium,” states that sodium is perhaps more abundant than any other metal on our globe and in its metallic form oxidizes rapidly in the air and take fire in water. It was by such means as this that Nimrod became, “a mighty one in the earth” (Gen. 10:8). He “set the world on fire,” it was said.
Bryant, vol. ii. p, 337, says that Nimrod conquered all nations as far as Lybia. This indicates that all the area from Babylon to Lybia was under his sway; thereby including Egypt also. This was a large part of the populated world at that time. Upon these, his religion and government were imposed. Nimrod, then, was the first to form an army, civil, economic, political and social systems. He set the pattern of laws to govern these, but in all this he did not include God, for he turned the people to worship Satan.
Why has God objected all through the Bible to mankind following the Babylonish system? Let us examine closely Nimrod’s way of rule and find why God would object. The characteristics of the Babylonish system of rule as represented by Nimrod’s world-empire are: “rejection of God, denial of his right to rule, refusal to acknowledge man’s dependence upon God for power or happiness, determination to deprive God of the gratitude and allegiance of men, thirst for domination apart from God over this world, the exaltation of man in place of deity.”
“These are characteristics which belonged in supreme degree to Satan, the arch enemy and rebel against God. They are characteristics of the innate heart of humanity; since all unregenerate men are children of disobedience, and their minds are ‘not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7) (Miller’s Ancient History In Bible Light, p. 55.)
Now notice carefully, for this is very important! To the later Jews Babylon was the complete embodiment of the enmity of the heathen world against the kingdom of God, and the idea they formed of Nimrod was influenced by this view. The arrogance of his character which seemed to be implied in his very name was conceived of as defiance of God, and he became a heaven-storming Titan, as such he built the tower of Babel. Jewish legend made choice of Abraham to be his anti-thesis, the representative of God’s kingdom over against the heathen autocrat.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. 17, p. 511). These are all serious indictments against this system.
To summarize why God is against the Babylonish system: God is the Supreme Ruler. This rebellion of human beings against him would, if universal, defeat his very purpose, His purpose of giving to obedient mortals eternal life and thus bring them into His spiritual kingdom of God where He is acknowledged as the Creator and Ruler of all!
Revelation 14:8 speaks of a Babylon which will be destroyed in our day, and Revelation 18:4 tells us to come out of her lest we receive of her plagues! This is really serious! No one will receive eternal life while they are in this system! “Babylon” is not as far away from us as we have always imagined. We shall presently see as we continue our study.
But, what of Noah, the preacher of righteousness? Did everyone join Cush and Nimrod in their apostasy against God, or did Noah stand firm and gather some followers on his side?
Yes, Noah, the preacher of righteousness (II Peter. 2:5) did stand fast and gained a staunch supporter in his son Shem. While Nimrod was expanding his kingdom so rapidly there was opposition from a smaller group which still followed God. “Light was produced by the fire-worshippers when Nimrod was set up in opposition to Shem, the representative of Noah, the great enlightener of the world.” (Hislop, p. 316-317). Nimrod became the representative for the forces of evil in opposing Shem who took over the position of Noah.
With the aggressive Nimrod expanding his government and religion to include all people in the small world of that time, the two groups were bound to come into conflict. How did the conflict resolve itself?
“Ancient traditions relate that the apostates who joined in the rebellion of Nimrod made war upon the faithful among the sons of Noah (Shem and his followers). Power and numbers were on the side of the fire-worshippers. But on the side of the faithful was the power of God’s spirit. Therefore many were convicted in their sin, and arrested and victory declared for the saints. The power of Nimrod came to an end, and with it, for a time, the worship of the sun, and the fiery serpent associated with it. (Hislop, p. 232).
Shem, a very eloquent person, is said to have obtained the aid of a group of Egyptians who overcame Nimrod. Then, Nimrod’s dead body was cut into pieces, these pieces being sent as a warning to various areas against apostatizing. (Hislop , p. 63).
Was this terrible apostasy against God stopped for all time with Nimrod’s death? Who was there as capable as he to carry it on? The carnal nature of mankind was willing to continue the apostasy but they needed a leader! Certainly if a worldwide flood that drowned all but eight people would not stop them, Shem and a few other men could not!
Would Satan allow this worldwide system, which he had built up so that he could secretly receive the worship of the earth, to crumble? We shall find the answer in the next article.