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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. Commented 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
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 21:59
  • @Yahweh-Elohim - see express.co.uk/news/science/1381279/… and learnreligions.com/…. also biblearchaeologyreport.com/2021/07/16/…
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 4:17
  • 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. Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 20:54
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Henry Milman’s History of the Jews Vol 1 published in 1863 states that Sir Henry Rawlinson (Persian Scholar) was the first to place Ur @ Warka (Uruk) he also states that Terah & his 3 sons … Abram, Nahor and Haran’s native district was Ur, north east of the region and above the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates which was to be come the seat of the Great Babylonian monarchy.

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    – agarza
    Commented May 28 at 3:14
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I would like to suggest a linguistic solution to the problem: namely that "beyond the River" in Josh. 24 was a designation of a geographical region that included Ur. In other words, although it was referred to (in modern terms) as "Trans-Euphrates," the river itself was not a firm border, excluding towns on or near its western bank.

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It may also be the case that Ur's "urban sprawl" reached beyond the Euphrates as well. Moreover, the position of the city and the course of the river both changed over the centuries. Some maps show Ur as straddling the river In any case, from the standpoint of the biblical writers, Ur was a city in a far-distant land to the East. Whether it was literally beyond the Euphrates or merely on/near the Euphrates is unimportant.

Conclusion: It could be that, historically speaking, Abraham came for a different "Ur." Certainly the tourist board of Urfa in southern Turkey, as well as most Muslims, would like us to think so. However, it is not implausible that he came from the most famous city of that name.

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If the Ur was indeed added later as a point of difference, it is interesting that it is used in the context of Abraham (Genesis and Nehemiah) and not the Chaldeans elsewhere. Therefore the use of ur could be a loan word to signify the "place of", or more specifically "origin or homeland of", instead of the noun Ur. This is in contrast to the 3 uses of Kasdimah in Ezekiel referring to Chaldea the place.

I propose that kasdim , or specifically the singular "kasd", refers to a class of people, namely a princely (Kastriya) or ruling class that has been outcast or not fitting of their position. During Abraham's time, a social change was occuring in the Indus Valley where people started to consume meat and alcohol, which was against the practices and beliefs of the time. These people were considered to be of high status, but were looked down upon by those who adhered to the Vedic teaching. Many Indo-Aryan tribes "fell" in this regard, however such communities would have looked up to Abraham and his God and teachings. Psalm 146 alludes to this.

These are the "good" kasdim so to speak.

When the term is applied to Chaldeans, it is done so negatively in that whilst they became rulers of Babylon, they were usurpers who did not have a strong cultural history, nor sense of righteousness. Ezekiel 15:23 describing this notion "looking like captains all of them in the manner of Babylon". In effect a "low caste" ruling class against Israel and its God. Kesed could be the origin of these people, and keeping the reference of kasdim to Nahor's son could be symbolic also.

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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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