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Most scholars still think that Abraham came from Ur in southern Mesopotamia / Sumer.

This seems strange for a number of reasons, including:

-The Ur in Mesopotamia is NOT beyond (East of) the Euphrates, although in Joshua 24:3 we read: "I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates River and led him through all the land of Canaan..."

-The specific nomenclature "Ur-kasdim" seems to indicate that an older document was edited after the Chaldeans took control of Ur (sometime after the 9th century BCE). The scribe may have been attempting to make sense of a city name that either no longer existed or that he was not aware of. It's not standard practice to follow the name of a city by the people-group currently ruling over that city... at least I don't know of any other examples in the Hebrew Bible.

-Abram and his wife Sarai clearly came from a different cultural background. If they were from an Akkadian milieu, why do their names not appear to be Akkadian names? And why did they need to change their names to actual Semitic-sounding names? (They didn't adopt Yahwistic names, which is the main reason for name changes in the HB)

May I suggest that Abram (which sounds more Indo-European-ish) was from Urkesh, the capital of the Hurrian region in the Upper Habur from roughly 2300-1800 BCE? (No, I'm not claiming to be the first person to suggest this)

What would be an incredibly long journey from Mesopotamia to Syria is not discussed, even in summary. Instead, immediately after leaving his hometown, Abraham temporarily stays in Haran (Haran is quite close to Urkesh).
Also, his brother's name just happens to be Haran, which may hint at the geographical origin of the family (this sort of explanation for city names is common in Genesis).

What do you think?

By the way, I am not necessarily arguing for the historicity of the figure of Abraham, but am interested in what the original authors of the story meant when they wrote the name of the city he was from

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Yes, I agree with you on this one. Sumerian Ur in the southern Mesopotamia doesn't make much sense to me. Like you pointed out, it doesn't agree with Joshua 24:3.

But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond (meeber) the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan …

If Abram lived in the Sumerian Ur on the western bank of the Euphrates, he wouldn't have to cross the river to get to Canaan. But by the Canaanites he was called the Hebrew because he did it.

13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew (haibri); for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. (Genesis 14)

Chaldeans were nomads, just like Abraham, that originated in the northern Mesopotamia and migrated to the south well after the times of the patriarchs. Why than anyone would identify Abraham's Ur with the Sumerian city?

The distance from Sumerian Ur to Haran is about twice as long as from Haran to Canaan. That would make Terah's journey greater than Abraham's. It makes more sense theologically if Terah after leaving Ur settled not far away from there.

Many biblical characters related to Abraham came from the northern Mesopotamia (Rebeca, Leah, Rachel). Even Balaam the prophet who knew JHVH came from there.

Some traditions identified Ur of the Chaldees with Urfa in southern Turkey. I haven't heard about Urkesh before. Then again in Septuagint the name Ur is completely omitted in Genesis 11, and we read ”the country/land of the Chaldees”.

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The matter at issue here is the identification of the Hebrew word: כַּשְׂדִּי (Kasdi or Kasdimah) which is uniformly translated Chaldea. That is, כַּשְׂדִּי is identified with the ancient Chaldean empire, or ancient Babylonia. See Gen 11:28, 11;31, 15:7, 2 Kings 24:2, 25:5, 5, 10, 13, 24, 25, 26, 2 Chron 36:17, Neh 9:7, Job 1:17, Isa 13:19, 13:19, 23:13, 43:14, 47:1, 5, 48:14, 20, Jer 21:4, 9, 22:25, 24:5, plus more in Jeremiah, Ezekiel Daniel, Habakkuk, etc.

Notice that whatever we might make of the ancient words, the same words were used much later by writers familiar with the then current events such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

That the Chaldean empire/Babylon/Sumer was located in Mesopotamia (= "between the rivers" of Tigris and Euphrates), has been established beyond reasonable doubt by archaeological records dating to 2000 BC.

If one wishes to correct the Bible record, then such a correction would be based far more on what is unknown than what is known. I see no difficulty identifying כַּשְׂדִּי with ancient Chaldea, or the empire of the Chaldeans.

Lastly, I have seen Chaldean records, specifically from Ur that contain the (apparently common) name "Abram". Therefore, Abram appears to be have been a name in common use in that area at the time.

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  • Thanks! I'll have to look into the presence of 'Abram' as a name in Mesopotamia. If you know of a primary or secondary source that contains this data, please let me know. What about Joshua 24:3 where it says Ur-kasdim is beyond the Euphrates? Perhaps one could argue the journey took him across the river and back again. Jun 16, 2022 at 21:02
  • @Yahweh-Elohim - of course Mesoptamia was beyond the Euphrates - one had to cross the river to enter Mesopotamia! That is, throughout the OT, the Euphrates formed a defacto boundary between Mesopotamia and the area largely controlled by the Israelites
    – Dottard
    Jun 16, 2022 at 21:59
  • Of course, technically "Mesopotamia" is by definition East of the Euphrates. However, the city of Ur is West of the Euphrates, which is what I was referring to. Jun 18, 2022 at 20:54
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Didn’t Abraham get sent to live with Noah in some cave somewhere due to Nimrod wanting him dead? Maybe he was born in Ur and his dad was a high priest to Nimrod but lived far beyond the Euphrates with his great… grandpa Noah. This info was ascertained from extra biblical books. Godspeed.

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