The Amorite Origins of the Hebrews

The Amorite Origins of the Hebrews

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

The Biblical names in Genesis seem to indicate an Amorite migration from Ebla/Mari into Canaan.  Nahor and Harran, who are the biblical sons of Terah, are towns in northern Syria. Another town in northern Syria is Abrum or Eber, who is listed in Genesis as an ancestor of the Hebrews. The location of Abrum or Eber is currently unknown, but it is thought to be located in northern Syria somewhere near the western banks of the Euphrates. In addition, the name Terah means expulsion in Arabic which indicates that Abram’s clan was forced out of their native land. According to the Jewish tribes in Arabia as reported in the Quran, Abram’s father’s name was Azr or Hazor in Hebrew which indicates a migration into the north of Canaan. Added to this is the biblical insistence that Abram’s relatives resided in Aram Nahrain (Aram of the 2 rivers; the Orontes and the Euphrates) which indicates a northern Syrian location for their cultural origin. Yacub (Jacob) is an Amorite name as are the names Abram (Barama), David (Daudum), Adam (Adamu), Eve (Hawa), Ishmael, Noah, Laban, Ywel (Joel), Ywab (Joab) etc. So, it appears from the names, Terah’s clan was expelled from northern Syria and travelled into northern Canaan using an ancient Mari-Hazor trade route. According to the article, Trade and Cultural Exchange at Hazor by Kristina J. Hesse:

“Culturally and religiously, the city of Hazor was part of the Syro-Mesopotamian sphere of influence during the Bronze Age, as the city’s artifacts and architecture show. Geographically, however, the city was located at the juncture of northern and southern Canaan. This location between the great commercial centers of Egypt and Syria-Mesopotamia was highly beneficial for Hazor’s cultural and economic development. The city’s position along important trade routes and between areas with different raw materials made it easy to obtain goods for the city’s own use and for export (see map of trade routes).

Documents reveal that between about 1800 and 1750 B.C.E., Hazor was involved in trade and the exchange of gifts, artisans, and emissaries with the great Mesopotamian city of Mari along the Euphrates River. The cities’ mutual relationship was built mainly on Hazor’s need for tin, a commodity that Mari imported from the east and that Hazor imported for internal production and likely also for distribution to Egypt. The city also needed textiles for processing and trade: special Hazor garments are mentioned in a clay document found in the city. This type of garment is also mentioned in a document from the latter part of the Bronze Age, found at tel el Amarna in Egypt. In return, Mari needed processed precious metals, textiles, and perhaps high-quality agricultural products from Hazor. Mari also needed to use Hazor as a transit hub for obtaining Egyptian commodities, such as precious metals and stones. As a consequence, messengers, traders, and craftsmen all met at Hazor and exchanged diplomatic and cultural goods and information.

Hazor continued to function as a transit hub for long-distance trade between Egypt and Syria-Mesopotamia in the latter part of the Bronze Age. During this period we can also see an increase in Cypriote and Mycenaean pottery in the city. Some of the main ports of southern Syria and northern Palestine, where goods from Cyprus and the Aegean arrived, were accessible to Hazor, so the city could choose to use the harbors offering the best terms. Hazor commanded the agricultural and pastoral lands of the fertile Huleh Valley, and at least some of Hazor’s exports from this period were refined agricultural goods. Written documents attest to the production of textiles and wine, and olive production was probably also prominent.

The abundance of imports and other evidence of trade and mercantile activity unearthed in excavations indicate that a trading quarter was located in the lower city. Caravans loaded with raw materials and luxury items may have stopped in this quarter, changed pack animals, rested, reloaded, taken goods on and off, and most likely also paid some kind of tax on their way between the harbor cities and inland areas. This significant location along the main trade routes and between the most important ports on the Mediterranean indicates that Hazor might also have been a transit hub for diverse long-distance luxury items from distant places such as Egypt, Africa, South Arabia, and Mesopotamia, destined for the palaces of the Aegean.”

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In any case, the expulsion from Mari and the trek from Mari to Canaan, during which Terah’s clan allied themselves with the Ahlamu who allied themselves with the Aramu, is indicated in the names of many of the Biblical characters who were personifications of the towns these Amorites travelled thru. To add to these biblical personifications of towns, is the   Quranic name of Abram’s father, Azr or Hazor in Hebrew; a name which pin-points the entry into Canaan of the Amorites, who allied themselves with the Aramaeans during their trek over the centuries. It was this identification with the Aramaeans that prompted the biblical verse in Deut 26:5 to declare that the father of the Hebrews was an Aramaean.

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