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Abram From Ur of the Chaldees

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

The biblical Book of Genesis 11 is quite emphatic that Abram and his family originated in Ur of the Chaldees; an assertion that has been hotly contested by archaeologists and biblical ‘historians’ alike, who maintain that the patriarchal origins of the tribal confederation of Israel were almost certainly Canaanite. However, the Genesis assertion may prove to be historically true.

The biblical authors made it quite clear that Jacob’s family was not Canaanite, but Aramean. According to Gen 24:

Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

And, according to Deut 26:5:

5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.”

Neither Abram, nor Jacob, nor Laban, nor Rebecca nor Joseph were Canaanites. The reference to Harran, of course, is a reference to the route that the tribal confederation to which Abram belonged used as an extended stop on their journey back to Aram and then into Canaan. The story of Abram recalls that they were Aramaeans who migrated from the Levant into Mesopotamia and then returned to Aram before migrating into Canaan. According to Wikipedia:

The emergence of the Arameans occurred during the Bronze Age collapse (1200–900 BC), which saw great upheavals and mass movements of peoples across the Middle East, Asia Minor, The Caucasus, East Mediterranean, North Africa, Ancient Iran, Ancient Greece and Balkans, leading to the genesis of new peoples and polities across these regions.

The first certain reference to the Arameans appears in an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115–1077 BC), which refers to subjugating the “Ahlamû-Aramaeans” (Ahlame Armaia). Shortly after, the Ahlamû rapidly disappear from Assyrian annals, to be replaced by the Aramaeans (Aramu, Arimi). This indicates that the Arameans had risen to dominance amongst the nomads; however, it is possible that the two peoples had nothing in common, but operated in the same area. By the late 12th century BC, the Arameans were firmly established in Syria; however, they were conquered by the Middle Assyrian Empire, as had been the Amorites and Ahlamu before them.

The Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1050 BC), which had dominated the Near East and Asia Minor since the first half of the 14th century BC, began to shrink rapidly after the death of Ashur-bel-kala, its last great ruler in 1056 BC, and the Assyrian withdrawal allowed the Arameans and others to gain independence and take firm control of what was then Eber-Nari (and is today Syria) during the late 11th century BC. It is from this point that the region was called Aramea…”

Here is Wikipedia again on the subject of Arameans in Babylonia (Ur of the Chaldees, Kasidim etc):

“Unlike the East Semitic Akkadian-speaking Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians, whose ancestors had been established in Mesopotamia since at least the 30th century BCE, the Chaldeans were not a native Mesopotamian people, but were late 10th or early 9th century BCE West Semitic Levantine migrants to the southeastern corner of the region, who had played no part in the previous 3,000 years or so of Sumero-Akkadian and Assyro-Babylonian Mesopotamian civilization and history.[12][13]

The ancient Chaldeans seem to have migrated into Mesopotamia sometime between c. 940–860 BCE, a century or so after other new Semitic arrivals, the Arameans and the Suteans, appeared in Babylonia, c. 1100 BCE. They first appear in written record in the annals of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III during the 850s BCE. This was a period of weakness in Babylonia, and its ineffectual native kings were unable to prevent new waves of semi-nomadic foreign peoples from invading and settling in the land.[14]

Though belonging to the same West Semitic speaking ethnic group and migrating from the same Levantine regions like the earlier arriving Aramaeans, they (the Chaldeans/Kaldi/Kaskiy) are to be differentiated; the Assyrian king Sennacherib, for example, carefully distinguishes them in his inscriptions.

The Chaldeans were able to keep their identity despite the dominant Assyro-Babylonian culture although some were not able to, as was the case for the earlier Amorites, Kassites and Suteans before them[citation needed] by the time Babylon fell in 539 BCE.

The Chaldeans originally spoke a West Semitic language similar to but distinct from Aramaic. During the Assyrian Empire, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III introduced an Eastern Aramaic dialect as the lingua franca of his empire in the mid-8th century BCE. As a result of this innovation, in late periods both the Babylonian and Assyrian dialects of Akkadian became marginalised, and Mesopotamian Aramaic took its place across Mesopotamia, including among the Chaldeans. This language in the form of Eastern Aramaic neo-Aramaic dialects still remains the mother-tongue of the now Christian Assyrian people of northern Iraq, north-east Syria, south-eastern Turkey and north-western Iran to this day.

One form of this once widespread language is used in Daniel and Ezra, but the use of the name “Chaldee” to describe it, first introduced by Jerome, is linguistically correct and accurate in the sense that the Chaldeans were using this language.

In the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Abraham is stated to have originally come from “Ur of the Chaldees” (Ur Kasdim).”

So, it is clear that the Aramean tribal confederation to which Abram belonged migrated from Aramea into Babylonia (Ur of the Chaldees) where they settled until they migrated back to their homeland in Aram some time later. From Aramea, the clan of Abram migrated into the land of Canaan where they settled, intermingled with the locals and, in conjunction with the local tribes, formed a tribal confederation which founded the kingdom of Israel. The clan of Abram further formed alliances with the Midianite tribal confederation in the south. This tribal confederation, however, did not form the kingdom of Judah to the south.

The Aramean tribe of Judah was named after the Aramean conquered Neo Hittite state Sam’al known as Ya’udi to the Arameans. This supposition is confirmed in 2 Kings 14:28 which states that the Aramean capital Damascus and the Aramean conquered Neo Hittite state of Hamath ‘belonged to Judah’:

” As for the other events of Jeroboam’s reign, all he did, and his military achievements, including how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?”

The tribe of Judah anciently known as Ya’udi, briefly joined the Edomite-Midianite tribal confederation, which comprised the Kingdom of Edom, sometime in the early Iron Age or between the 10th and 9th Centuries BCE based on the events in the shaky translation of the Tel Dan Stele. (Judging from the Aramean conquest of Hamath and Ya’udi (Sam’al), the Aramean tribe of Judah (Ya’udi) most likely entered Canaan between the 11th and 10th Centuries BCE or before the entrance of Abram et al from Ur of the Chaldees in the 9th Century BCE). The Edomite-Midianite confederation very likely included clans and tribes from Moab as well as the Arabian Peninsula. This tribal confederation was known to the Egyptians as the Shasu of Yhw. The story of the trials and tribulations of these Shasu, who worked the copper mines at Timna and Punon under Egyptian hegemony in the late Bronze Age, gave rise to the story of Moses and the Exodus. This sequence of events means that the story of Moses and the Exodus arose in the late Bronze Age while the story of Abram, Jacob et al arose in Iron Age I.

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