Nimrod was one of the sons of Kush. Kush was the son of Ham, the lowest and least important of Noah's three sons. Nimrod came from a line which was cursed by Noah: "Cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves shall he be unto his brothers."
By birth, Nimrod had no right to be a king or ruler. But he was a mighty strong man, and sly and tricky, and a great hunter and trapper of men and animals. His followers grew in number, and soon Nimrod became the mighty king of Babylon, and his empire extended over other great cities.
As was to be expected, Nimrod did not feel very secure on his throne. He feared that one day there would appear a descendant of Noah's heir and successor, Shem, and would claim the throne. He was determined to have no challenger. Some of Shem's descendants had already been forced to leave that land and build their own cities and empires. There was only one prominent member of the Semitic family left in his country. He was Terah, the son of Nahor. Terah was the eighth generation removed, in a direct line of descendants from Shem. But Nimrod had nothing to fear from Terah, his most loyal and trusted servant. Terah had long before betrayed his family, and had become a follower of Nimrod. All of his ancestors were still living, including Shem himself, but Terah left his ancestral home and became attached to Nimrod. Terah, who should have been the master and Nimrod his slave, became the slave of Nimrod. Like the other people in that country, Terah believed that Nimrod received his kingdom as a gift from the "gods," and was himself a "god." Terah was prepared to serve Nimrod with all his heart. Indeed, he proved himself a very loyal and useful servant. Nimrod entrusted into his hands the command of his armies and made Terah the highest minister in his land.
Terah was short of nothing but a wife. So he found himself a wife, whose name was Amathlai. They looked forward to raising a large family, but they were not blessed with any children. The years flew by, and Terah still had no son. His father was only twenty-nine years old when he, Terah, was born. But Terah was getting closer to seventy than to thirty, and yet there was no son! He prayed to Nimrod and to his idols to bless him with a son, but his prayers were not answered. Little did he know that Nimrod felt happy about Terah's misfortune. For although Nimrod had nothing to fear from Terah, he could not be sure if Terah's sons would be as loyal to him as their father. Therefore, he was inwardly very pleased that his servant Terah had no children, and probably would never have any. But he could not be, sure, and Nimrod was not taking chances. He ordered his stargazers and astrologers to watch the sky for any sign of the appearance of a possible rival.
One night the star-gazers noticed , a new star rising in the East. Every night it grew brighter. They informed Nimrod.
Nimrod called together his magicians and astrologers. They all agreed that it meant that a new baby was to be born who might challenge Nimrod's power. It was decided that in order to prevent this, all new-born baby-boys would have to die, starting from the king's own palace, down to the humblest slave's hut.
And who was to be put in charge of this important task? Why, Terah, of course, the king's most trusted servant.
Terah sent out his men to round up all expectant mothers. The king's palace was turned into a gigantic maternity ward. A lucky mother gave birth to a girl, and then they were both sent home, laden with gifts. But if the baby happened to be a boy, he was put to death without mercy.
One night, Nimrod's star-gazers watching that new star, saw it grow very bright and suddenly dart across the sky, first in one direction then in another, west, east, north and south, swallowing up all other stars in its path.
Nimrod was with his star-gazers on the roof of his palace, and saw the strange display in the sky with his own eyes. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.
"There can be only one explanation. A son was born tonight who would challenge the king's power, and the father is none other than Terah."
"Terah?!" Nimrod roared. "My own trusted servant?"
Nimrod had never given a thought to Terah as becoming a father at the age of seventy. However, if he did become a father, he would surely be glad to offer his first-born son to his king and god! Nimrod dispatched a messenger to Terah at once, ordering him to appear together with his newly born son.
That night Terah and his wife Amathlai had indeed become the happy parents of a baby boy, who brought a great light and radiance into their home. Terah had hoped it would be a girl, and he would have no terrible decision to make. Now he could not think of giving up this lovely baby, born to him at his old age after such longing. He had managed to keep his wife's expectancy a secret. None of his servants knew about the birth of his son. There was a secret passage leading from his palace to a cave in the field. He took the baby to that cave and left it there. As he was returning to the palace, past the servants' quarters, he suddenly heard the cry of a baby. What good fortune! Terah cried. It so happened that one of his servants had given birth to a boy about the same time as his own son was born. Terah took the baby and put him in silk swaddling and handed him to his wife to nurse. Just then the king's messenger arrived.
When Terah with the baby in his arms appeared before Nimrod, Terah declared: "I was just about to bring my son to you, when your messenger came."
Nimrod thought it was mighty loyal of Terah to give up his only son, born to him in his old age. Little did he know that it was not Terah's son who was brought to die, but a servant's.
For three years little Abraham remained in the cave, where he did not know day from night. Then he came out of the cave and saw the bright sun in the sky, and thought that it was G‑d, who had created the heaven and the earth, and him, too. But in the evening the sun went down, and the moon rose in the sky, surrounded by myriads of stars. "This must be G‑d," Abraham decided. But the moon, too, disappeared, and the sun reappeared, and Abraham decided that there must be a G‑d Who rules over the sun and the moon and the stars, and the whole world.
And so, from the age of three years and on, Abraham knew that there was only one G‑d, and he was resolved to pray to Him and worship Him alone. A life full of many and great adventures began for Abraham, some of which we have already related to you in our Talks of past years.