7. Where Was Ur of the Chaldees

Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Where Was Ur of the Chaldees?” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 119–36.

Where Was Ur of the Chaldees?

Paul Y. Hoskisson

Paul Y. Hoskisson was an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

Though empirical evidence will never prove the main thesis of the Bible, that God acts in history,[1] most people still desire to see the concrete, physical settings of the scriptural accounts they accept as sacred.[2] In this respect few things have fascinated the Latter-day Saints more than the extra-biblical contemporary milieu of the story of Abraham. We enjoy reading about Abraham’s wanderings and his sojourn in Egypt.[3] As John Sorenson has pointed out, if we do not have a peg in the wall on which we can hang the geographical setting of our scriptures, we have missed an essential part of the sacred record.[4]

The physical setting becomes particularly important when a scholarly consensus places a scriptural site at a known geographical location. On this basis scholars augment and supplement our body of scriptural knowledge with empirical data made available from previously known facts about the site. For instance, the placing of the Ur of Abraham at the Ur in southern Mesopotamia suggests that Abraham had contact with and was influenced by the dominant cult of that Ur, the cult of the moon god. I will review the reasons for placing Abraham’s Ur in southern Mesopotamia and why those reasons are not convincing. With the aid of the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, I will suggest a more plausible location.

To avoid confusion and ambiguity, I need to clarify two purely technical concerns. I will consistently separate the Ur of the Chaldees in the book of Genesis and in the book of Abraham from the southern Mesopotamia site, al-Muqayyar, also called Ur. For “Ur of the Chaldees” I use simply “Ur,” and for reasons that will become clear later, al-Muqayyar, the southern Mesopotamian site, I term “Uri(m).”

For the purposes of this study, I assume that Abraham lived during the first half of the Middle Bronze Age.[5] A date in the latter end of the Early Bronze, though not impossible, is less likely. I must reject a date later than the first half of the Middle Bronze period because of the time required by the number of events between Abraham and Moses (assuming that the Pharaoh of Moses was Ramses II).

The Present Scholarly Theory of Its Location

Before the turn of this century, there were three prevailing scholarly opinions, each supported by one or more Classical, Jewish, or Moslem source, concerning the location of the Ur of the Chaldees: (1) at modern Urfa on the Balikh River within the great western bend of the Euphrates, (2) at a site west of the Tigris River and between Hatra and Nisibis [Turkish text here], and (3) in southern Mesopotamia, usually at Tell (Arabic for a ruin mound) al-Muqayyar.

With the first European excavations and expeditions in the Near East in the last century and the subsequent deciphering of cuneiform writing more than a hundred years ago, Mesopotamian textual evidence began to play a part in determining which of these three sites best fit the evidence. As early as 1854 the English scholar J. E. Taylor conducted the first formal excavation of al-Muqayyar, but he made no mention of Ur or Uri(m) in his report.[6] In 1878 C. F. Keil could state, based on epigraphic evidence found at al-Muqayyar by Taylor and others, that the Ur of the Chaldees was not to be found in northern Mesopotamia but “most likely at the ruins of al-Muqayyar because the phonetic pronunciation of the Assyrian ideographic name for this place is said to be Uruu.”[7] Three years later Friedrich Delitzsch stated that the home of Abraham was the Mesopotamian Uri(m),[8] and apparently also based this conclusion on two points, both epigraphic: (1) Chaldea is the Hebrew equivalent of a late (Iron Age) native name for Babylon, Kaldū[9] (more on this later), and (2) though this is never explicitly stated by Delitzsch, Hebrew ‘ūr (the source of the English toponym Ur) is similar to Uri(m).[10] By 1890 Ludwig Abel and Hugo Winckler saw no objection to equating the cuneiform signs for Uri(m) with the “city Ur,” no doubt with reference to the Genesis Ur.[11]

This identification of a southern location for Ur of the Chaldees gained adherents.[12] Just after the turn of the century one of the foremost scholars of the relatively new discipline of Assyriology, T. G. Pinches, would write in an article for Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible that the “received opinion of scholars at the present time, is, that Ur of the Chaldees is the modern Mugheir, or, more correctly, Mukayyar.”[13] Pinches, however, did not accept Delitzsch’s conclusions without raising a question on phonetic grounds concerning the equivalence of Hebrew ‘ūr with the Mesopotamian “ Uru.”[14]

By 1910 most scholars had come to accept the southern location for Abraham’s Ur, but popular belief often lags behind the scholarly consensus. It simply takes time for “scientific results” to filter down to the masses, and it frequently also requires a sensational event. Sir Leonard Woolley supplied the opportunity for sensationalism with his excavations at the ancient site of Uri(m), al-Muqayyar, from 1922 to 1934.[15] It was not long before the London Times printed in 1923 an article on Woolley’s work at Uri(m), “the Chaldean city of Ur . . . mentioned in the Bible as the original home of Abraham.”[16] However, the sure sign of the popular identification of this site with the Ur of Abraham came in the United States in 1930 when the National Geographic stated this as fact in an article.[17]

Today, nearly all Bible study aids printed in the last forty years identify the Ur of Abraham with the Uri(m) of southern Mesopotamia. For instance, the Interpreters Bible, 1:13–14, states, “Ur of the Chaldeans [of Abraham] is the city of Ur[i(m)] in southern Babylonia,” and cites Woolley’s book Ur of the Chaldees published in 1930.[18]

As I hope to demonstrate to the satisfaction of all Latter-day Saints, this Uri(m), al-Muqayyar, has never been proven to be the city of Abraham, and indeed cannot be the city of his youth. As long ago as 1969, Hugh Nibley stated, “any way we look at it, Abraham’s ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ was not the great city of the south identified in the 1920’s by Sir Leonard Woolley.”[19] The Ur of Abraham is to be located in northwest Syria or the area immediately across the border in southern Turkey, and not in southern Mesopotamia.[20]

The Evidence for the Scholarly Conclusion

On what evidence is the scholarly consensus based that al-Muqayyar might have been the Ur of the Chaldees of Abraham? Aside from the fact that ancient tradition allows a southern Mesopotamian location (as well as two northern ones[21]), there are four pieces of evidence. First, the ancient name of the tell, Uri(m), is similar in sound to the Hebrew ‘ur, rendered in English as Ur. Second, the Chaldeans could be equated with the Kaldū, a people located in southern Mesopotamia around Uri(m) during the first millennium B.C. and from among whom the neo-Babylo-nian dynasty, including Nebuchadnezzar, arose. Third, the figure of a “goat ‘caught’ in a bush” found during the course of the excavations at al-Muqayyar reminded many scholars of the “ram caught in a thicket” in the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.[22] And fourth, because the Uri(m) in southern Mesopotamia was one of the major sites of the moon god cult, and Haran, where Abraham settled for a time, was also a major moon god cult center, then Abraham could easily have been from the Uri(m) in southern Mesopotamia.[23] Let us look at these pieces of evidence in this order.

The first supposition assumes the Hebrew Ur is identical with the ancient Mesopotamian name of al-Muqayyar, Uri(m). In the original cuneiform documents before and after the time of Abraham, the ancient Mesopotamian name is usually written in Sumerian with the signs ŠEŠ-UNUG/ABkiMA, to be vocalized in Babylonian and probably also in Sumerian”Uri(m).”[24] This may be similar to the Hebrew “Ur,” but it is not a one hundred percent congruence and presents serious problems. If the Hebrew were based on the original Mesopotamian name for al- Muqayyar, it would have to disregard the final vowel of the Sumerian and possibly the final but unnecessary “m.”[25] Phonetic problems of identifying the Biblical Ur with the Uri(m) of southern Mesopotamia were pointed out long ago,[26] but have been disregarded in contemporary scholarship. Thus, while the Hebrew “Ur” could be the equivalent of the cuneiform “Uri(m),” this identification has serious and probably fatal problems. It cannot be used as a sufficient reason for locating Ur at Uri(m).

The second supposition assumes the biblical Chaldeans are the Babylonian Kaldū of southern Mesopotamia. It is true that a highly organized group of people moved into southern Mesopotamia sometime around or after the year 1000 B.C. They were possibly related to the Aramaeans of northern Syria, but the native documents refer to them as Kaldū. They settled among other places in Babylonia around the ancient city of Uri(m) and from these positions began to challenge the supremacy of the Assyrians in southern Mesopotamia. Under Merodach-baladan II, they captured Babylon twice only to lose it again. In 627 B.C. Nabopolassar, the founder of the neo-Babylonian empire and a member of the Kaldū himself[27] seized the throne of Babylon again and, together with the Medes, destroyed all Assyrian military and political domination of the Near East. His more famous son, Nebuchadnezzar, fell heir to nearly all that had been Assyrian, including Judea. Because Nabopolassar belonged to the Kaldū, his dynasty is referred to as the Chaldean by later authors of the Bible[28] and by modern authors.[29]

Equating the Kaldū of the cuneiform documents with the Chaldeans of Genesis[30] raises two problems; one is based on an anachronism and the other is phonetic in nature. As most scholars are quick to point out, the Kaldū did not arrive in southern Mesopotamia until long after the time of Abraham; therefore, any mention of the Kaldū in Genesis is an anachronism. They would cite this as another example of the ignorance of the Hebrew scribes, the same scribes responsible for our present form of the Hebrew Bible, because they added to the Bible anachronistic material from the wondrous and new milieu of the Babylonian Exile. After all, the Kaldū under Nebuchadnezzar had absorbed most of the old Assyrian empire and had taken the Judeans into captivity to the shores of the Euphrates. Would not the Judean scribes want to see their ancestors connected with the most powerful and cultured people on earth, the ruling class of Babylon, the Kaldū?

The phonetic problem raised by equating the Kaldū with the Chaldeans of Genesis lies in the Hebrew word behind the King James Version “Chaldees.” This English form is not derived from the original Hebrew word in Genesis, kasddīm, but takes its form from the Greek word xaldaioi found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, commonly called the Septuagint. In fact, the Hebrew kasddīm need not be the Kaldū of the first millennium B.C. at all. There are two possible referents for kasddīm, if their presence in Genesis is anachronistic (and most Bible scholars believe it is): (1) it actually refers to the Kaldū of southern Mesopotamia of the first millennium, or (2) it refers to the Kassites of southern Mesopotamia of the second half of the second millennium.

If the former possibility is taken seriously, then the phonetic differences between Kaldū and kasddīm must be explained. The endings present no problems, since long “-ū” is an Akkadian plural and the “-īm” is a Hebrew plural. The change from “1” to “s” presents no difficulties and could be explained by the fact that the Hebrew scribes knew that in the middle and later stages of the Babylonian and Assyrian languages (both members of the East Semitic language branch) a sibilant before a dental changed to a liquid,[31] i.e., the “1” in cuneiform Kaldū could represent an original “s” in an as yet unattested Urform, Kasdū[32]

This means that the Hebrew scribes knowingly employed anachronistic form unknown from any other source because they knew that the contemporary Babylonian form developed from an earlier form. These scribes apparently were not as ignorant of historical philology as might be inferred from their supposed clumsy, anachronistic placing of the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia during the Middle Bronze Age. If these same scribes knew their historical philology, then, by analogy it is untenable to suggest that the Hebrew scribes created in the Book of Genesis an historical anachronism based on the usage of kasddīm during the neo-Babylonian and subsequent periods.

The Kassites, the other possible referent of the Hebrew kasddīm, moved into Mesopotamia from somewhere in the north and became the ruling class during the Middle Babylonian period.[33] They were a non-Semitic group that quickly became cultural Babylonians in every way except their personal names and seem to have been accepted by the native Babylonian population without reservation. Equating kasddīm with Kassites presents no serious phonetic problems. Yet, just as with the Kaldū, it is an anachronism to place the Kassites in southern Mesopotamia in Abraham’s day. If we rule out anachronistic uses of “Chaldeans,” then this term cannot refer to the Kassites.

We may conclude that the Hebrew Bible does not necessarily force the equation of the Chaldees of Abraham with the Kaldū or the Kassites of southern Mesopotamia.

The third reason for connecting Ur with Uri(m) involves an artifact, a goat, that Woolley found while excavating in Uri(m). This goat, as it has been reconstructed, is “caught” in a bush.[34] This is compared with the “ram caught in a thicket” in Genesis 22:13, thus establishing a link between the sacrifice of Abraham and the goat of Uri(m).

This connection between the goat of Uri(m) and the ram of Abraham is at best dubious. Only a naive urbanite would allow a goat and a ram to be equated in a biological sense. In addition, the figure was found in the Meskalamdug phase of Uri(m), that is, before the first dynasty of Uri(m), and therefore belongs in the Early Dynastic II period, several hundred to a thousand years before the time of Abraham. Furthermore, the Sitz im Leben of the reconstructed goat “caught” in a bush is entirely lost. In fact, it appears to me that the goat, as it has been reconstructed, is not caught, but is standing on its hind legs to reach the leaves of the bush, as goats often do, and is definitely not regretting it. The only connection of the Uri(m) goat with Abraham’s ram is imagination. Therefore, any connection between Ur and Uri(m) based on this nonparallel is untenable.

The fourth reason for equating Ur with Uri(m) would suggest that since Haran was a major cult site of the moon god, Abraham went there and not another place because he must have come from a major cult site of the moon god. Therefore, as the theory goes, only Uri(m), of all potential sites, comes into question. This theory is based on the assumption that Abraham and his father would have wanted to move to a location where the same cult prevailed. This assumption is not warranted because as we will see below, it was precisely to get away from a cult that Abraham left Ur. That Uri(m) and Haran were major sites of the moon god cult says nothing about the location of Ur. This fourth reason by itself is neither sufficient nor necessary, even if valid, and is totally without merit.

The four reasons given above for locating the Ur of Abraham in southern Mesopotamia have all proven to be questionable at best.

The Evidence from the Pearl of Great Price

Now that it has been demonstrated that placing the Ur of the Chaldees of Abraham in southern Mesopotamia has little to recommend it, we may turn to the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price for further evidence. From this book it becomes clear (1:1) that Abraham’s ancestors[35] resided in the land of the Chaldees and that Abraham was to be offered as a sacrifice by the priest of Pharaoh on an altar at Potiphar’s Hill in the plain of Olishem (1:10), which was in the land of Ur of the Chaldees (1:20).

From the land of the Chaldees, this land of Egyptian influence, Abraham went to a place called “Haran” by him, his father and his nephew Lot (2:3–4), and stayed there until he eventually moved on to Canaan. It is also important for establishing relative geographic locations to realize that in the midst of a famine God told Abraham to leave the land of the Chaldees, partly because the priest of Pharaoh had put his life in danger and partly because the ultimate territorial goal God had in mind for Abraham was not Ur of the Chaldees but Canaan (2:4).

With this background in mind it is possible to draw some conclusions about the location of Ur based on the book of Abraham.

First, the land of the Chaldees, or at least part of it, was under strong Egyptian influence on the cult and religion,[36] and probably on culture and politics. It is even possible that the land was under Egyptian hegemony. Therefore, we must limit our search for Ur of the Chaldees to areas that could have been under Egyptian sway during Abraham’s day. Working negatively first, we may exclude from consideration all areas outside the Near East. We may also exclude all of Mesopotamia before the Late Bronze Age because there is no evidence Egypt ever exercised cultural or religious influence on Mesopotamia at any time before the Late Bronze Age (1600 B.C.) . In fact, no evidence exists that Egypt and Mesopotamia were even aware of each other during the Middle and Early Bronze periods.

The only area that ever came under Egyptian influence, especially in the Middle Bronze period or earlier, was the Levant. During the Late Bronze Age Egyptian influence ranged as far north as the present Syrian-Turkish border and as far in land as Damascus and Carchemish. It has become apparent from the Ebla excavations that during the Middle Bronze period Egyptian cultural and/or economic influence reached Ebla, just south of present day Aleppo but still west of the Euphrates. However, the absence of any mention of Egypt in the Middle Bronze archives of Mari[37] would tend to preclude any Egyptian influence in Syria further east than Ebla. It is possible that that influence extended into lower Turkey west of the Euphrates, but that is uncertain. We are left with a strip of land along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, somewhat wider than present day Lebanon and extending from Turkey in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south.

God’s ultimate territorial goal for Abraham was the land of biblical Canaan, an area that included approximately present day Lebanon and Israel. Because we cannot expect Abraham’s starting point to be identical with the ultimate goal, we must rule out Canaan, i.e., Palestine and parts of southern Lebanon, as the land of the Chaldeans. When all these factors are considered, i.e., the areas east of the Euphrates and south of Beirut in Lebanon are eliminated, we are left with an area comprising approximately present-day northern Lebanon, western Syria from about Aleppo to the coast, and possibly north into the plains of Adana in southern Turkey.[38]

Second, when Abraham left the land of the Chaldees, he probably went immediately to a place outside the direct influence of Egypt, that is, away from the reach of Pharaoh and his priest. The discussion above should make it evident that Abraham would have moved away from the land of the Chaldeans but not in a direction radically away from the land of Canaan. Abraham’s first prolonged stop was in Haran, a site that may be located with relative certainty on the east of the Euphrates on the Balikh River just north of the present day Syrian-Turkish border.[39] Therefore, we must look for an Ur from which, in relation to Canaan, Haran would not be far removed or present a circuitous route. This would rule out all of Lebanon and probably all of Syria south of Aleppo.

Third, when Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees there was a famine in progress. Apparently, that famine also held sway in Haran when Abraham arrived there (2:4–5). For the same famine (if it were the same famine) to have held in both places, Ur of the Chaldees must lie within the same ecosystem with Haran and must not have been a great distance away. Haran lies within an upland area of the Fertile Crescent[40] that receives adequate rainfall to sustain agriculture without the necessity of artificial irrigation. The area thus far delineated above as a possible location for the land of the Chaldees also lies in the same ecosystem with Haran. Uri(m) of southern Mesopotamia lies in a low plain which, though technically within the Fertile Crescent, can only be fecund with artificial irrigation. It is unlikely that both would have experienced a water or elevation related famine at the same time, unless the conditions causing the famine applied to vast areas over of an extended period of time for the entire ancient Asian Near East.[41]

Fourth, while a case could be made that the mentioning of Chaldeans in Genesis is anachronistic,[42] the same cannot be said of the book of Abraham. The content of the book of Abraham did not pass through numerous revisions, the hands of countless scribes, and does not rely upon material and information available only during or after the Babylonian exile. It purports to be a rendering of an ancient document originally composed by Abraham himself. Therefore, the use of “Chaldeans” in the book of Abraham cannot be an anachronism. Because we may safely date Abraham to at least the first half of the Middle Bronze Age, possibly earlier, and because neither the Kassites nor the Kaldū, the two possible referents of the Hebrew kasddīm, were in southern Mesopotamia by 1600, the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the Ur of the Chaldees of Abraham must be sought in an area other than southern Mesopotamia.

If it may be assumed that the Hebrew kasddīm were either the Kassites of the Late Bronze Age or the Kaldū of Iron Age Mesopotamia, it may prove fruitful to look for a location of these peoples prior to their movement into southern Mesopotamia.

The Kassites moved into Babylon sometime after the sacking of that city by the Hittites in 1595 B.C. Immediately before occupying Mesopotamia they might have been in the upper Euphrates River valley around the confluence of the Habur and the Euphrates. Most Assyriologists maintain that before moving into southern Mesopotamia the Kassites entered the Euphrates River valley from the north, probably from somewhere in Asia Minor, where they may have been for several centuries before moving into Mesopotamia. This would place the Kassites, one of the possibilities for the Hebrew kasddīm, somewhere north of Mesopotamia at the time of Abraham, definitely a long distance from the Uri(m) of southern Mesopotamia, and possibly within the northern parts of the area delineated above.

The other possibility for the kasddīm, the Kaldū, are first mentioned in the ninth century B.C. If they are Arameans or related to the Arameans, and this is not certain, we may safely seek their origin in northern Syria and southeastern Turkey where the oldest Aramaic inscriptions, none of which predate the first millennium, have been found.[43] Again, in the case of the Arameans, the Ur of the Chaldeans cannot be located in southern Mesopotamia but must be sought in an area comprising present-day Syria, Lebanon and the southeastern parts of Turkey bordering Syria. Again, the area delineated above falls within this possible homeland of the Kaldū.


There is no convincing reason to locate Ur of the Chaldees in southern Mesopotamia, as most of the Bible commentaries continue to do. The book of Abraham presents more compelling reasons to place Ur of the Chaldees elsewhere. If all the actual and possible restrictions and requirements suggested by the book of Abraham are taken into account, the Ur of Abraham is to be found in northwestern Syria[44] or southcentral Turkey, i.e., from the Syrian coast inland as far as Ebla, north to Maras, in Turkey, then west and eventually south to include the plains of Adana on the coast of Turkey.


[1] Hans Heinrich Schmidt, Die Steine und das Wort: Fug und Unfug biblischer Archäologie (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1975). The entire book treats these themes. For a short synopsis see 250–53.

[2] For instance, Abrahamic lore and related subjects have fascinated our Western culture. Recently this became evident again through the Ebla literature. See Mitchell Dahood, “Are the Ebla Tablets Relevant to Biblical Research?” Biblical Archaeology Review (1980) 6/5:54–60, with the reply by R. David Friedman in the “Letters to the Editor,” Biblical Archaeology Review (1981) 7/6:20–23; and especially the series of articles by Giovanni Pettinato, e.g., ‘The Royal Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla,” Biblical Archaeologist (1976) 39/2:44–52; “Ebla and the Bible-Observation on the New Epigrapher’s Analysis,” Biblical Archaeology Review (1980) 6/6:38–41; and “Ebla and the Bible,” Biblical Archaeology (1980) 43/4:203–16. For a bibliography of the Ebla materials see Scott Beld, William W. Hallo and Piotr Michalowski, The Tablets of Ebla: Concordance and Bibliography (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1984).

[3] Our fascination with anything Egyptian goes back to the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the production of the Egyptian grammar. Lately, witness the prolific pen of Hugh Nibley on the subject of the Egyptian connections of Abraham. See for instance his extended monthly series (except for two months, December 1969 and February 1970) of articles on Enoch and Abraham in the Improvement Era, January 1968 to May 1970, and his two books on Abraham and Egypt, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975) and Abraham in Egypt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981).

[4] I believe this is a fair summary based on a reading of his book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985). For his own words see especially xvi–xvii.

[5] The Middle Bronze Age includes the years 2100–1600 B.C. The LDS Bible Dictionary puts Abra(ha)m’s birth at 1996 BC. (page 636).

[6] See his articles in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1855) 15:260–76 and 404–15, entitled “Notes on the Ruins of Muqeyer” and “Notes on Abu Shahrein and Tel el Lahm,” respectively.

[7] Genesis und Exodus (reprint of the third, “verb [esserten] Aufl [age] von 1878, Giessen: Brunnen, 1983), p. 153. The German reads, “Ur der Chaldäer ist weder . . . in dem Ur . . . zwischen Hatra und Nisibis unweit Arrapachitis zu suchen, noch in . . . dem heutigen Urfa, . . überhaupt nicht in Mesopotamien, sondern in Babylonien, wo nach den Keilsinschriften, wenn sie richtig gelesen sind, das Land Kaldi (d.i. Chaldaea,) lag, und höchst warscheinlich [sic] mit dem Ruinenorte Mugheir [al-Muqayyar] südlich von Babylon am west lichen Euphratufer zu identificieren, da dieser Ort in assyrischen Ideogrammen phonetisch Uruu lauten soll.”

[8] Wo Lag das Parodies? Eine biblisch-assyriologische Studie (Leipzig: Hinrich, 1881), p. 69.

[9] 200–201.

[10] 226–27. He gives for the Sumerian pronunciation of the cuneiform signs for Uri(m), Urum, and for the Semitic pronunciation, Uri.

[11] In Keilschrifttexte zum Gebrauch bei Vorlesungen (Berlin: Spemann, 1890), p. 95, entry 217, he equates the Mesopotamian Uri(m) with the “Stadt Ur.”

[12] This is particularly true among the small but very influential group of German and English scholars who came from a biblical educational background but who newly devoted themselves to the still young but growing study of cuneiform documents unearthed in the Near East, and who came to be known as Assyriologists.

[13] James Hastings, ed., “Ur of the Chaldees,” A Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols. (Edinburgh: Clark, 1902), 4:835–37.

[14] Ibid. This is as implied.

[15] Woolley published the results of his excavations in Antiquaries Journal, beginning in October 1923 with volume 3:311–33. The title of the first article, “Excavations at Ur of the Chaldees,” contains the connection of the site Uri(m) with the biblical Ur and therefore with Abraham. But Woolley was not the first excavator of al-Muqayyar. As mentioned above, Taylor excavated in 1854, but I could find no evidence that he claimed Uri(m) was Ur. From February to May 1919, H. R. Hall had conducted excavations for the British Museum at al-Muqayyar and two other sites in southern Mesopotamia. In the introduction to a report he gave before the Society of Antiquaries it was stated that he”showed slides of the recent excavations of the British Museum at Tell el-Mukayyar (Ur ‘of the Chaldees’)” (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Second Series [20 November 1919–24 June 1920]: 32:22 ff).

[16] In reporting on the excavations at al-Muqayyar, the article states that “an ancient temple in the Chaldean city of Ur” was discovered and that that city “is mentioned in the Bible as the original home of Abraham” (The Times, Thursday, 22 February 1923, p. 10f.).

[17] M. E. L. Mallowan, “New Light on Ancient Ur: Excavations at the Site of the City of Abraham Reveal Geographical Evidence of the Biblical Story of the Flood,” National Geographic 57 (January 1930): 95–130.

[18] (New York: Abingdon, 1952), pp. 567–68. For other examples see Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972), 16:2–3; Bibel-Lexikon (Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1968), 1801–2; and Oxford Bible Atlas, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford, 1974), 54–55.

[19] “The Unknown Abraham,” Improvement Era 72 (April 1969): 68. The title of Woolley’s first excavation report, “Excavations at Ur of the Chaldees,” more than hints at the connection he made between the Biblical Ur and Mesopotamian Uri(m). See his excavation reports in Antiquaries Journal beginning in 3 (1923): 311–33 and running through 10 (1930): 315–43.

[20] See also John A. Tvedtnes, “Where Was Abraham’s Ur of the Chaldees?” a paper delivered at the Society of Early Historic Archaeology 1980 symposium held at Brigham Young University. I have in my possession an expanded, typescript copy of Tvedtnes’s paper, wherein he also argues for a northern location, albeit from a different standpoint than presented here. His emphasis is on Classical sources, and on Jewish, Christian and Moslem traditions.

[21] Besides J. Tvedtnes’s work cited above, see the article by T. B. Pinches, as cited in note 13.

[22] E.g., Woolley, “It is obvious that the figures cannot be illustrations of an event which is claimed to have happened nearly fifteen centuries later, but the parallelism is not to be altogether overlooked,” ( Ur Excavations. Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania to Mesopotamia [London: Oxford, 1927], 2:pt. 1:266; and Mallowan, on a caption of a picture, “For the first time, this heraldic symbol has emerged in the round and is reminiscent of the ram caught in a thicket, vouchsafed by God to Abraham as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac,” (“New Light on Ancient Ur,” National Geographic 57 (1930): 94.

[23] This is conjectured by E. A. Speiser in Genesis: The Anchor Bible, 44 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 1:80–81.

[24] The cuneiform signs ŠEŠ-UNUG/ABkiMA can be read Uru/a / im or Uru/a/i (with the various numerical designations for the signs, see Rykle Borger, Assyrisch-babylonische Zeichenliste [Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1978], 138). The preferred vocalization is Uri(m), with or without the final “m.” The four column syllabary 82–2–16,1 in the British Museum, line 42, column 1, demonstrates that the final vowel is “i.” The “MA” is either a phonetic compliment, indicating the first sign is to be read with a final “ma,” or, more likely, it is a grammatical complement and would also indicate a final “m” consonant. (See Marie-Louise Thomsen, The Sumerian Language, Mesopotamia 10 [Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1984], 161 for the genitive postposition /-ak/ that would account for the final “a” of the “MA” if the “m” is part of the name.) Because the “MA” is not always rendered in the texts (final consonants often are not expressed in the writing in Sumerian), the “m” is not deemed necessary. D. O. Edzard,G. Farber, and E. Sollberger (Die Orts-und Gewässernamen der präsargonischen und sargonischen Zeit, Répertoire Géographique des Textes Cunéiformes 1, Beiheft zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B. [Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1977], 7/l:176),and D. O. Edzard and G. Farber (Die Orts-und Gewässernamen der 3. Dynastie von Ur, Répertoire Géographique des Textes Cunéiformes 2, Beiheft zum Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B, [Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1974], 7/2:218) both employ ‘OJri(m),” while Brigitte Groneberg (Die Orts-und Gewässernamen der altbabylonischen Zeit, Répertoire Géographique des Textes Cunéiformes 3, Beiheft zum Tübinger Atlas des vorderen Orients, Reihe B [Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1980] 7/3:247) reads “Urim.”

[25] With the Hebrew word kisē, a recognized borrowing from Sumerian, the final vowel of the Sumerian is preserved in Hebrew. One would expect the same of the final vowel of Uri, especially if at times it was protected by a following “m.” If the Sumerian form always ended with an “m,” then the Hebrew “Ur” would definitely not be a borrowing from the Mesopotamian name and therefore would not be identical to Uri(m). The similarity would be coincidence.

[26] Pinches, in Dictionary of the Bible, pointed out several problems with identifying Uri(m) with the Hebrew ‘ūr but glossed over these problems.

[27] This has never been proven but can be assumed. See William W. Hallo and William Kelly Simpson, The Ancient Near East, a History (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 145 with footnotes 25 and 26.

[28] That is, from Isaiah and II Kings through Ezra and Nehemiah.

[29] See footnote 27.

[30] The equation of Kaldū with the Hebrew kasddīm is no problem for the later books of the Bible, e.g., 2 Kings 24, Ezra 5:12, Isaiah 13:19, etc.

[31] Wolfram von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik, Analecta Orientalia (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1969), 33/47:§30g.

[32] Delitzsch, p. 128–129, connects the “Kassû,” the Kassites, with the “Kaldu,” the Chaldeans, as one and the same people. While historically they occupied the same territory, temporally they are removed. However, in this context Delitzsch states that the Babylonian name is “Kašdu” and the Assyrian name is “Kaldu.” Other than one very questionable reference, he does not justify the otherwise unknown form “Kašdu.”

[33] Their native word for Babylonian was Karduniash. Notice that the main element of this name, Kaldū, also contains a liquid, just as does the later name, Kaldū.

[34] For a photograph see Eva Strommenger, Fünf Jahrtausende Mesopotamien (Munchen: Hirmer, 1962), black and white plate #80 and color plate #XIV. The translated version in English is 5000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia (New York: Abrams, n.d.), all else being the same.

[35] There is some question about whether the land of the Chaldees was the land of Abraham’s birth or the land of his relatives or the land where he spent his youth. For a partial discussion of this issue see H. W. F. Saggs, “Ur of the Chaldees: A Problem of Identification,” Iraq (1960) 22: 201.

[36] Egypt and/or pharaoh appear in verses 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, and 27 of chapter 1 of Abraham.

[37] Mari was a city state on the middle Euphrates that controlled both sides of the river as far north as the confluence of the Balikh and Euphrates.

[38] It is possible that Cyprus was under Egyptian control or cultural influence, but as far as I am aware, this was not the case until late in the first millennium.

[39] For the location of this site in the Middle Bronze Age see Brigitte Groneberg, p. 92, “Harrānum.” All Bible atlases with which this author is familiar place Har(r)an at this location.

[40] For a discussion of the Fertile Crescent and its significance see W. Hallo and W. Simpson, The Ancient Near East, a History (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971) pp. 11, 14

[41] Egypt of course lies in an entirely unrelated ecosystem and would not necessarily be effected by climatic conditions in the Asian Near East.

[42] Whether it is intentionally or ignorantly anachronistic has no bearing.

[43] Note that Aramaic was one of the official languages of the late neo-Assyrian empire. Apparently, the Arameans had penetrated most of the previously Semitic Near East by at least 1000 BC. In the tenth century petty Aramaic city-states vied with each other for petty territorial scraps. When Assyria began to assert itself westward in the ninth century their first task was to subdue these petty Aramaic city-states, and it proved to be a most difficult enterprise. As for the dates, “the oldest extensive Aramaic inscription” is probably no older than 850 BC. < lang="FR">(J. Fitzmyer, “[Review of] La statue de Tell Fekherye et son inscription bilingue assyroaraméenne by Ali Abou-Assaf, Pierre Boudreuil, and Alan R. Millard, Etudes assyriologiques 7 [Paris: Editions Recherche sur les civilisations, 1982],” Journal of Biblical Literature [1984] 103:266).< lang="FR">

[44] It would be tempting here to equate the book of Abraham 1:10 Olishem with the Ulisum of a Naram Sin inscription (Cyril John Gadd, Ur Excavation Texts I, 275, 11:13), as John Lundquist proposed in “Was Abraham in Ebla,” in Studies in Scripture, vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price, R. Millet and K. Jackson, eds. (Salt Lake City: Randall, 1985), pp. 234–35. If this identification proves reliable, it would again be proof that Ur of the Chaldees was not in southern Mesopotamia because Ulisum is to be located in the area around Arman and Ebla, i.e., northwestern Syria.