Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for about 80–90% of all liver cancer and is the fourth most common cause of cancer mortality. Although there are many strategies for the treatment of liver cancer, chemoprevention seems to be the best strategy for lowering the incidence of this disease. Therefore, this study has been initiated to investigate whether thymoquinone (TQ), Nigella sativa derived-compound with strong antioxidant properties, supplementation could prevent initiation of hepatocarcinogenesis-induced by diethylnitrosamine (DENA), a potent initiator and hepatocarcinogen, in rats. Male Wistar albino rats were divided into four groups. Rats of Group 1 received a single intraperitoneal (I.P.) injection of normal saline. Animals in Group 2 were given TQ (4 mg/kg/day) in drinking water for 7 consecutive days. Rats of Group 3 were injected with a single dose of DENA (200 mg/kg, I.P.). Animals in Group 4 were received TQ and DENA. DENA significantly increased alanine transaminase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), total bilirubin, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and total nitrate/nitrite (NOx) and decreased reduced glutathione (GSH), glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx), glutathione-s-transferase (GST) and catalase (CAT) activity in liver tissues. Moreover, DENA decreased gene expression of GSHPx, GST and CAT and caused severe histopathological lesions in liver tissue. Interestingly, TQ supplementation completely reversed the biochemical and histopathological changes induced by DENA to the control values. In conclusion, data from this study suggest that: (1) decreased mRNA expression of GSHPx, CAT and GST during DENA-induced initiation of hepatic carcinogenesis, (2) TQ supplementation prevents the development of DENA-induced initiation of liver cancer by decreasing oxidative stress and preserving both the activity and mRNA expression of antioxidant enzymes.