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Elon Musk, with his technology and trolling, mirrors the biblical Nimrod

And just as the ancient world was ambivalent about the mighty hunter, we're not quite sure what to make of the business magnate
Elon Musk at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 19, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Elon Musk at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 19, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

With Elon Musk buying Twitter, now is a good time to consider the נiblical king Nimrod. He is the ruler whose kingdom spans as far as “Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar” (Genesis 10:10). It is Nimrod, according to the Midrash, who is the mighty ruler under whom all the people of the earth build the Tower of Babel.

The Midrash also calls Nimrod an apostate, taking its cue from the Bible’s description of Nimrod as “a great hunter before God” (ibid, verse 9). Not content to destroy God’s creatures on earth, Nimrod turns to building a great technology to challenge God’s hegemony up in Heaven.

That is the midrashic take anyway. But another possible reading of the text is one of Nimrod as truly pious. As many point out, God commands Abraham himself to “walk before Me” (Genesis 17), implying that acting before God — be it through walking or hunting — may indicate saintliness, not wickedness. Yes, Nimrod is a hunter, but one at peace with nature and the Divine — along the lines of a model we may be familiar with from pre-colonial cultures throughout the world. Indeed, Nimrod’s kingship seems associated with Nineveh (Genesis 12), the metropolis where, centuries later, and at the behest of their king, man and beast atone for their sins side by side (Jonah 3:7). Perhaps Nimrod hunts as a lion hunts: not as a figure affronting God’s kingdom, but as an inextricable part of it. 

It is not hard to draw comparisons between Nimrod and Musk. On the one hand, through Tesla, Musk has arguably done more to advance clean technology than most people alive. In a world where human tech has overtaken nature, he has made incredible strides in bringing the two closer together in harmony. In this role, Musk is what we might call Nimrod One. At the same time, he is also known widely — and at least sometimes deservedly — as a brazen troll who is capable of pettiness and chaos-mongering, particularly on Twitter. This second role would fit well in the cacophony of Babel. Musk the Troll is Nimrod Two. 

I won’t use this space to offer advice to Elon Musk based on the story of Nimrod. I am sure Musk doesn’t care what I have to say anyway. But Nimrod’s story is not just Nimrod’s alone. According to Rashi, Nimrod’s heresy becomes a lens through which we can view all heretics to come. “Whenever a man acts brazenly…to rebel [before God], it is said of him: ‘Like Nimrod, the mighty hunter’” (Rashi, Genesis 10:9). In an age when we’re all making choices of how we participate in the technological Babel, we are all given a small version of the same decision that Nimrod had, and that Musk has. It is not just Elon Musk who must decide which Nimrod he wants to be; each of us must decide for ourselves.

Are we using our might to connect God and nature and humanity, or are we using it to pull it all apart? Whatever we decide, nothing less than the future is at stake — and God and His theologians are watching.

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The opening of this article is inspired by the first sentence of Gabriel Blair’s viral Twitter thread from 2020. Some translations of the Biblical text and Rashi taken partially from Sefaria.

About the Author
Abe Mezrich is a Jewish writer and tech marketer trying to make sense of both sides of his experience. He is a regular contributor to the Tanakh site 929 English, and his articles and poetry have appeared in outlets including The Forward, Hevria, Tablet, The Lehrhaus, and elsewhere. His most recent collection of poems, Between the Mountain and the Land Lies the Lesson, is available from Ben Yehuda Press.
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