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Such irreverence was nothing new to Nimrod. A half-century earlier he had encouraged [Abraham], who'd publicly renounced idolatry even though his father manufactured and sold graven images: how ridiculous, he reasoned, to worship clay figures that had been made the day before! Thus did Nimrod have Abraham thrown into a fiery furnace, from which, according to Midrashic legend, he emerged unscathed. Unlike Nimrod, Abraham eschewed power in favor of teaching ethics and morality to his people.

In the intervening years Nimrod concerned himself with the building of great cities as testimony to his own power and invincibility. And in 1996 (B.C.E.) he is said to have commissioned the mother of all monuments — the Tower of Babel — from which he could wage war against the Heavens. Yes, echoed the people: "Come, let us build a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves." (Genesis 11: 4) For this deed, the Bible tells us, mankind was scattered over the face of the earth to form no fewer than 70 different nations, each with its own language and self-interest. Strife and discord ensued.




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