The post-diluvian genealogy of Noah and his sons after the flood is a dry listing of begats, save for a digression about Nimrod the son of Cush.
“Cush also begot Nimrod, who was the first man of might on earth. He was a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord; hence the saying ‘Like Nimrod a might hunter by the grace of the Lord.’
The mainstays of his kingdom were Babylon, Erekh, Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. From that land, Asshur went forth and build Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah and Resen between Nineveh and Calah, that is the great city.”
Nimrod has not been positively identified, but some scholars believe he was Naram-Sin, the grandson of Sargon I of Akkad, known in Sumerian literature as the ‘King of the Four Quarters of the World.’ His name might be a play on the Hebrew marad, to rebel. In the Sumerian legend he defied the gods, hence the Torah depicts him as a famous ancient hero, to the extent of quoting a proverb about his prowess and being, like Noah, in God’s favour. The implication is that if you were a skilled hunter in the chase, you were called a Nimrod.
Among hunters today this idiom is still used. (Some of you may remember that in Marvel's X-Men comics, Nimrod was the name of an artificial intelligence created by humanity to hunt and exterminate mutants!) Most of the midrashim however do not depict Nimrod as being in God’s favour but depict him as a locked in verbal battles with Abraham over worshipping the elements vs. worshipping the Lord.
The Torah tells that his kingdom was Babylon, Erech, Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. We know that Babylon, Erech and Accad were all in the region known as Shinar. Where is Calneh?
The late Rabbi Dr. Shalom Paul (z”l) (1936-2022), a friend of Rav Baruch, and my Bible teacher at the Hebrew University in 1981, taught that this word contains a vocalization error. Don’t read Calneh as a physical place. Read it: vekhullana “all of them.” That is: Babylon, Erech and Accad, all of them were in Shinar.