The Wanderings of Abraham

John Gee

John Gee, “The Wanderings of Abraham,” in From Creation to Sinai: The Old Testament through the Lens of the Restoration, ed. Daniel L. Belnap and Aaron P. Schade (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book), 251‒78.

While Pierce and Muhlestein surveyed the general historical context of the patriarchal narratives, setting the stage for the Israelites and their interactions within the greater ancient Near Eastern setting, John Gee focuses instead on the immediate historical settings in the narrative of Abraham. From Ur to Canaan to Egypt to Moriah, Abraham’s life was one of the nomad, and that is reflected in the texts describing his life. —DB and AS

Abraham was a real person who lived in and traveled between real places. He lived, however, so long ago that the world he lived in is completely foreign to most of those who live now, almost four millennia later. Both Abraham and his world seem unreal to us. Understanding something about his world can make it more real to those of us who are still benefiting from the covenants that he made and who are still inheritors of the promises God made to him. While space will not allow a thorough examination of Abraham’s world, in this essay we will look at the real world in which Abraham lived and traveled and the real places that he visited.


Latter-day Saints know about the life of Abraham from two sources: the Bible and the Book of Abraham. The book of Genesis in the Bible provides a brief biography of Abraham, while the Book of Abraham provides an incomplete autobiography of Abraham. Based on the covenantal form of the Abrahamic narrative, the sources from which the biblical text was compiled can be dated during the late second millennium BC,[1] although there are indications of editorial tampering with the text later (1 Nephi 13:23–27).[2] The earliest manuscripts of the biblical text date many centuries after the text. With the Book of Abraham we have a different transmission history, much of which is conjectural: it may have been transmitted through Abraham’s descendants until it passed into Egypt. A now missing papyrus manuscript was translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith and published in 1842. These two sources provide the basis for reconstructing the life of Abraham, which we will supplement with other contemporary archaeological and epigraphic sources to provide a fuller setting for Abraham’s life. The material is far greater than can be covered in this essay, so we will confine ourselves to a description of the places visited by Abraham in his various travels.

The Setting

In order to set the life of Abraham among contemporary sources, we must know what is contemporary. If all we had were the Bible, starting from the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC and kept track of the cumulative error factors,[3] we would only be able to say that Abraham lived from about 2170 to 1995 BC, ± 158 years.[4] Thus, on the low end, Abraham’s life would have been from 2012 to 1837 BC, while the high end would have been from 2328 to 2153 BC. Since correlation with such absolute dates is rarely achievable for archaeology or ancient history, it is easier to correlate Abraham with archaeological time periods. The high-end biblical dates would place Abraham’s life during the Middle Bronze Age I, while the low-end dates would place Abraham in the Middle Bronze Age IIA. Indeed, Abraham’s life is usually dated to either the Middle Bronze Age I (MB I; approximately 2100–2000 BC) or the Middle Bronze Age II (MB II; approximately 2000–1750 BC) by the other means of argument.[5]

Latter-day Saints, however, have other means of dating Abraham. The Book of Abraham describes how Abraham lived at a time when Egyptians held hegemony over his hometown. This happened at a very specific time in Egyptian history. The Egyptians recorded their military conquest of the area around Byblos during the reign of either Sesostris II or Sesostris III.[6] Their rule over the area lasted until the rule of Amenemhet IV. The record of astronomical observations during the reign of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III provides a chronological anchor to the dates putting year one of Amenemhet III as 1844 or 1843 BC.[7] This gives a maximal time of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom empire from about 1871 to 1788 BC.[8] Abraham chapter 1 will have had to have taken place at this time, which lowers the Ussherian approach by at least a hundred years.[9]

In Ur of the Chaldees

Both the Bible and the Book of Abraham begin his story with him living in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:27–31; Abraham 1:1, 20). The Hebrew here uses the word kasdîm rather than Chaldeans, which may not be the same thing as the later tribe, the kaldu, which we now equate with the Chaldeans.[10] Based on the Akkadian cognate, we would expect the kasdîm to mean “the conquerors.”[11] While the tendency has been to put Ur in the south of Mesopotamia, near the Persian Gulf,[12] a number of scholars have argued for a northern location.[13]

The Book of Abraham places Ur of the Chaldees at the edge of a plain known as the plain of Olishem (Abraham 1:10), which we take as the general area compassed by two catch basins that are drained by two rivers: the Quoeiq and the Sajur, an area that straddles modern Turkey and Syria. There also appears to have been a city called Olishem, which was a major administrative center for the region in Abraham’s day.[14] Its ruler bore a Hurrian name (Šennam) indicative of perhaps a Hurrian population,[15] though some Semitic names (Sin-malik) also appear—suggesting that the population was mixed.[16] The area was noted for its olive oil.[17]

The Book of Abraham suggests that Ur was not the city Olishem itself but instead associates Ur with a smaller location in the surrounding plain,[18] distinguished by a “hill called Potiphar’s Hill” that was located “at the head of the plain of Olishem” (Abraham 1:10). Since the “head” of a river refers to its source (Genesis 2:10),[19] the head of the plain of Olishem probably also refers to the headwaters. Thus, Ur was likely at the northern edge of the plain given the hills, the association with Olishem rather than Aleppo, and the general pattern of drainage. Given the standard population estimate of one hundred people per hectare[20] and sites ranging from one to ten hectares, Abraham’s Ur probably would not have had more than a thousand inhabitants. Given that Ur had an Egyptian priest (Abraham 1:7–8, 20), it would probably have been one of the larger settlements (at least four hectares per four hundred people), but the priest was a priest for multiple deities (Abraham 1:7), so the place was not so large that it could have supported a large and specialized group of priests.

Abraham shows concern with his father’s house and the god of his fathers. The family or “house of the father” (bīt abim) was the “basic nucleus” of Babylonian society[21] and the standard term for a household.[22] Individuals were defined by their relationship to the head of the family.[23] While the father lived, he was “the head of the family, he was their spokesman in court and took part in the sessions of the city elders—if the family enjoyed sufficient social standing to have a representative among the elders.”[24] The city elders were more involved in legal affairs in the south and military affairs in the north.[25] Solidarity with the family was expected.[26] To leave the house of one’s father would be to leave oneself at the mercy of strangers from whom one otherwise had no protection.[27]

One of the challenges Abraham had in Ur was the fact that his father worshipped other deities. The family often had particular deities associated with them, referred to as “the gods of the fathers.”[28] Sources indicate that one could be an official priest of one particular deity but have a different personal god.[29] The family deity would have been “passed on from father to son and from son to grandson. He [the deity] was part of the heritage, so to speak, and as such the god of the patrilineal family.”[30] Some contemporary sources suggest that the god of the fathers could have acted as a mediator between the immediate family and the primary deities. For instance, a letter addressed by Apil-Adad to “the god of my father” reads: “Why have you neglected me? Who could offer to you like I do? Write to Marduk who loves you so that he may release me from my sins. Let me see your face. Let me kiss your feet. Look after my family, young and old. Have mercy on me because of them. May your help reach me.”[31]

Famine in the Land

A challenge for anyone in this time period was the prospect of famine, which unfortunately appears to have been pretty common (Genesis 12:10; Abraham 1:29–30; 2:1–5, 17–21). As one scholar put it, famine “should not be viewed as an abnormal and temporary deviation of the usual state of well-being but rather as a dramatic, albeit recurrent, worsening of endemic conditions of poverty and need.”[32] Abraham certainly experienced his share of famines. One in Ur forced him to move to Haran (Abraham 1:29–2:4), while another forced him to go down to Egypt (Genesis 12:10; Abraham 2:17–21). Certainly, changes in weather and climate would have had immediate and striking consequences,[33] but climate wasn’t the only cause of famine; military crises, drought, or insect invasions had devastating consequences to one’s food supply.[34] Of course, famine affected not just one’s immediate situation but also the future. Food storage systems were generally only designed to store food for the coming year. Harvest rates were generally sixfold at best, and so a sixth of the crop would have to be reserved for the next year’s seed-corn.[35] One bad harvest could obliterate even a wealthy family’s reserves.[36]

A letter roughly contemporary with Abraham describes the problem that the city of Qaṭṭunân faced in famine. The governor of the city, Zakira-Hammu, writes to Zimri-Lim: “This fortress did not harvest grain this year. The (seed)grain has been eaten and the powerful man who has grain has remained while the poor commoner who does not have grain has gone to the river.”[37] It is no wonder that Abraham, after seeing “a fulfilment of those things which were said unto [him] concerning the land of Chaldea, that there should be a famine in the land” (Abraham 1:29), followed the instructions of the Lord to leave his father’s house, his kindred, and his country and travel to Haran (1:1–4).


Abraham arrived in Haran with his wife Sarai; his brother Nahor, his brother’s wife, Milcah; and his brother’s son, Lot, along with Lot’s wife, his father, Terah; (Abraham 2:1–4). Biblical Haran is one of the few towns mentioned in the Ebla archives that can actually be identified with an archaeological site (referred to as Harran).[38] Located on the eastern side of a wadi feeding the Balikh River via the Cullab River,[39] Harran was not only an “area with optimal dry-farming conditions”[40] but also a major stop along the trade routes as one of the crossings of the Balikh.[41] The site of Harran lies at the center of the Harran plain.[42] The Harran plain is bordered on the east by the Tektek mountains and on the west by a series of low hills.[43] Harran is a massive site of some 125 or 150 hectares,[44] which would mean that it had a population of about 12,500 to 15,000 inhabitants. This city dominated the other fifty sites on the plain,[45] most of which did not exceed twenty hectares (two thousand inhabitants).[46] Such a large city, much bigger than Ur or even the district capital of Olishem, would have made a more or less ideal place for a fugitive like Abraham to disappear into.

For Abraham’s purposes, Haran had a major advantage over Ur. Being on the eastern side of the Euphrates, Ur was out of the area dominated by the Egyptians. Crossing the Euphrates required boats or being at one of the few fords,[47] a feat the Egyptians would not accomplish until a few hundred years later.[48] The Euphrates marked a political and cultural boundary, not just a geographic one.[49] According to Abraham 2:5, it is while Abraham is in Haran that he becomes associated with the herding of “flocks.” While one may reasonably assume that “flocks” refers to sheep, it is possible that it included other animals and could consist of cattle (GU4), sheep (UDU), goats (MÁŠ), donkeys (ANŠE), and horses (ANŠE.KUR.RA).[50] As for the size of a herd, herds of up to eleven hundred sheep are known.[51] Cattle tend to be found in smaller numbers, such as a herd of twelve,[52] twenty-four,[53] or sixty-five.[54]

How long Abraham was in Haran is unclear, but we do know that when he left he took all the property he acquired (kāl-rekûšām ʾašer rākāšû) there (Genesis 12:5). The term rekûšām is only used a handful of times in the Hebrew Bible, all in Genesis (12:5; 31:18; 36:6; 46:6). It usually refers to cattle and herds but can also refer to the household (36:6; 46:6). The Hebrew word seems to be a loanword from an Akkadian verb (rakāsu) meaning to bind,[55] and the derived noun (riksu) which is a term for a “knot” or “band” but also for a “treaty,” “agreement,” or “covenant.”[56] The phrase thus indicates that Abraham took all those whom “they had bound to them” with them when they left Haran. The Book of Abraham expresses it as follows: “All our substance that we had gathered, and the souls that we had won in Haran” (Abraham 2:15).

Journey to Canaan

The second half of Abraham’s life, the time he spent in Canaan, was spent dwelling in a tent (Genesis 12:8; 13:3, 5, 12, 18; 18:1–2, 6, 9–10; 24:67), living the life of a pastoral nomad, a “mobile lifestyle [that] leaves few archaeological traces.”[57] When Abraham left Haran, he traveled to Canaan. The area of Canaan in Abraham’s day encompassed the entire Levantine littoral. This entire area had been under Egyptian influence, but with the collapse of the Egyptian empire at the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, the Egyptian influence had lessened. The northern end of Canaan was dominated by narrow coastal plains lying between the sea, the Lebanon range, and the Syrian hinterland.[58] The hinterland was dominated by the major cities along the Quoeiq River (Aleppo, Ebla, and Tell Tuqan),[59] or along the Orontes River (Alalakh, Hama, and Qatna),[60] though many of these cities were on the decline.

When Abraham first entered Canaan, he went “through the land unto the place of Sechem; it was situated in the plains of Moreh, and we had already come into the borders of the land of the Canaanites” (Abraham 2:18). Unfortunately, nothing more is said about this. Shechem’s location near running water may have been a reason for Abraham stopping there.[61] After Shechem, Abraham “removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched [his] tent there, Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east” (Abraham 2:20; Genesis 12:8). In the Middle Bronze II B-C period, Bethel was a fortified city,[62] with walls built of large semi-dressed limestone fitted together,[63] atop a glacis.[64] The town was destroyed by fire[65] at least twice during the Middle Bronze Age, suggesting that the city was strategically important to the powers that be.[66] The text, however, says that Abraham did not dwell there, but rather outside the city (Genesis 13:3). The site of Ai (et-Tell), if identified correctly,[67] had been an impressive military installation during the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3300–2300 BC). Anatolian-style stone axes[68] and Egyptian stone vessels were found there,[69] indicating both widespread trade networks and warfare. At the end of the Early Bronze Age, Ai was destroyed by an earthquake[70] when it was at the peak of its urban development,[71] but its ruins were exposed for centuries.[72] The biblical text only indicates the place as a geographic referent; it does not say that anyone actually lived there when Abraham was in the area. This is reinforced by the ancient name itself, ʿaî, which means “ruins.”[73] While all of these sites are mentioned, there is nothing more that can really be said about their importance to the Abrahamic narrative, though they do highlight an interesting insight that will be reinforced later in the narrative, namely that Abraham seems to have preferred to live in areas outside settlements and near ruins rather than in an urban environment.

Sojourn in Egypt

The area between Bethel and Ai was subject to occasional droughts. So when “there was a continuation of a famine in the land . . . I, Abraham, concluded to go down into Egypt, to sojourn there, for the famine became very grievous” (Abraham 2:21). By the time that Abraham arrived in Egypt, the Twelfth Dynasty, which had given him so much trouble in Ur, had gone the way of all the earth and had been replaced by another dynasty. There is some disagreement on which dynasty replaced the Twelfth Dynasty. Some think it was the Thirteenth Dynasty,[74] and others claim it was replaced by the Fourteenth Dynasty in the Nile Delta and the Thirteenth Dynasty in the Nile Valley.[75] The reason this may be significant is that the Fourteenth Dynasty was not native Egyptian: “The names of the royal house and of the treasurers of the Fourteenth Dynasty are mainly of foreign origin. . . . Notably, most of the cognates are West Semitic.”[76] Archaeologically, there are no signs of an invasion, but starting in Phase E/2 of Tell el-Dabʿa, found in the Nile delta, both Egyptian and Canaanite artifacts appear.[77] If Abraham went to the Egyptian capital, he would have gone through Tell el-Dabʿa, anciently known as Avaris.

Sarah as Wife or Sister

Following a commandment of God (Abraham 2:22–25), Abraham instructed his wife Sarah to say that she was Abraham’s sister. Although many have thought that Abraham was asking Sarah to lie,[78] that is not the case. In the Egyptian of Abraham’s day, there are two words for wife. One (ḥmt) means only “wife”;[79] the other (snt) means principally “sister”[80] but can also mean “wife.”[81] So by using an ambiguous term, Abraham was not saying something that was false. Egyptian kings, at all time periods from the Old Kingdom through the Roman period, at least had the reputation of being able to seize and marry any woman whom they desired.[82] Rather than kill Abraham, Pharaoh pays a bride price of sheep, cattle, donkeys, cattle, and male and female servants (Genesis 12:16). A bride price was typically paid to the family for the intention to marry,[83] though this was typically less than the purchase price for a slave.[84] In this case, two striking things appear in the account: the bride price was much higher than typical,[85] and Pharaoh did not ask for the return of the bride price.[86] For taking Sarah into his household, Pharaoh’s house is smitten with plagues (negāʿîm; Genesis 12:17), using a term associated with death (Exodus 11:1) and disease (Leviticus 13:2–6).[87]

Back to Canaan

After his sojourn in Egypt, Abraham went back to the place between Bethel and Hai (Genesis 13:3). Abraham’s herdsmen and his nephew Lot’s herdsmen did not get along because there was insufficient pasturage there (13:6–9). The normal offer to friends and family is to pasture the flocks together: “Let my sheep and your sheep pasture together. Pasturage is plentiful here.”[88] The eventual agreement between Abraham and Lot may have reflected typical arrangements. An Assyrian text describes just an agreement: “Puli-ila holds wadis while Barḫalanum holds the steppe. Between them is a stela. There is no Barḫalanum entitlement to the wadis.”[89] Abraham and Lot are following a pattern known from their day.


Perhaps one of the more intriguing international elements of the Abrahamic narrative was the military alliance described in Genesis 14. According to 14:1, four kings are listed in an alliance that attacked where Lot lived: Amraphel, king of Shinar; Arioch, king of Eliasar; Chedorlaomer, king of Elam; and Tidal, king of nations (Genesis 14:1).

The elements of the name Amraphel (Amur-pi-el) are well attested in Abraham’s day in names like Amer-kakka,[90] Amur-Ašur,[91] Amurru-ellati,[92] Amurru-naṣir,[93] Amud-pi-el,[94] and Ibal-pi-el.[95] The name of Amud-pi-el is intriguing because it could easily become Amraphel in Hebrew.[96] It is also known that Amud-pi-el, the king of Qatna, had an alliance with Elam at this time.[97] The land of Shinar encompassed Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, Calneh, Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen (Genesis 10:10–12). Babylon and Uruk are in southern Mesopotamia, while Nineveh and Calah are in northern Mesopotamia. Qatna (Tell el-Mishrifeh) is located about 20 kilometers northeast of Homs and 155 kilometers south of Aleppo. Qatna seems somewhat distant to be considered part of Shinar.[98] Finds from the palace during the Middle Bronze Age are known,[99] but the tablets recovered from Qatna date to a later time period.[100] There is an Arriyuk attested at the right time,[101] but he is not king of Cyprus. Chedorlaomer, the Elamite king, has a known Elamite name: Kudur-Lagamar.[102] Tidal (Tidʿal) is the Hebrew version of the Hittite Tudhaliya. A Hittite king Tudhaliya dating before the founding of the Hittite Old Kingdom is known from an account of his military exploits from a manuscript dated to the Hittite Old Kingdom.[103]

The text does not describe an occupation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead the military campaign appears to reflect a quick raid, which was a common military tactic at the time, with the taking of hostages. The hostages would be held until they were redeemed by the immediate family, or, if the family could not afford the hostage price, by a temple or the palace of the affected town.[104]


Central to the Abrahamic narrative are the covenants that Abraham makes with both God and others. The form of the covenant that God makes with Abraham follows the pattern of treaties of the first half of the second millennium BC.[105] In the earliest references to the Hebrew term translated as “covenant” (berît), it refers to a specific obligation that a vassal owes to his sovereign.[106] A covenant expresses an agreement in which an individual agrees to become subject to a master, which is expressed in familial terms.[107] These agreements were accompanied by specific ceremonies or rituals, some of which are mentioned in the context of one of Abraham’s covenants with God (Genesis 15:1–21). Yasim-El provides a contemporary eyewitness account of one of these ceremonies:

All of them got together at Ṣidqum. They began to discuss matters between them (bi-ri-šu-nu); then they sacrificed a donkey-stallion. Before killing the donkey-stallion while they were talking, in front of the representatives from Babylon, Ešnunna, the Turukku-tribes, and the seven kings standing before him, and before all his allied armies, all of them, Atamrum set the following right when he said, “Aside from Zimri-Lim, our father, our brother, and our chief, there is no other king.” As Atamrum was setting this right, the messengers of Babylon and Ešnunna stood and withdrew to the side. Although I was secretly sick, two men were holding me up; I stood opposite the kings to hear the stipulations (ṣi-im-da-tím). Just then, Marduk-nišu, a palace attendant (LÚ.GÌR.SIG5.GA) and messenger of the Babylonian king, who had withdrawn to the side, [objected]. . . .

Before the donkey-stallion was slaughtered, Atamrum summoned Asqur-Adad and told him the following, “You are my son. Stay that way. Let me speak with Ḫaqba-ḫammu and the elders of Numḫa.” He then summoned Ḫaqba-ḫammu and the elders of Numḫa, and took up the matter with them as follows, “Before the donkey-stallion is slaughtered and the oath of these gods is sworn, take some time and tell me what there is for me to contribute to you.” When he said this thing to them, they claimed a cultivated field. . . . They were satisfied. Aside from this field, they did not claim anything else between them (bi-ri-šu-nu). So, by their donkey-stallion (sacrifice) and their discussion, the king was bound by covenant (ra-ki-is) for the whole land. . . . When they agreed, after they consented to their plan (ṭe4-em-šu-nu), and were bound to their agreement (ri-ik-sa-[tim ir-ku-s]ú-ma), the donkey-stallion was sacrificed. Brother made brother swear an oath of god and sat down to drink. When they got together and drank, brother gave gifts to brother. Asqur-Adad arose to his land and Atamrum arose into Andarig.[108]

This account provides a view into a number of facets about Abraham’s covenants (though the list is not exhaustive). (1) The covenant does not deal with equals but creates a situation where an inferior enters into a relationship with a superior. (2) A covenant deals with family relationships, either through birth (Genesis 15:2–4) or adoption (Abraham 2:9–10). The superior is the “father,” and the subordinate is the “son.” Two subordinates are in the relationship of “brother.” (3) The covenant involves exclusive loyalty (faith)[109] on the part of those entering into the covenant (Genesis 15:6; 17:7–8). Those who were not willing to pledge that loyalty were excused from the covenant. (4) Though the subject party can ask for terms, ultimately it is the superior party that sets the terms of the covenant (15:2–5; 18:23–32). (5) A grant of land to the inferior party is part of the covenant (15:18–21; 17:8). (6) An oath is invoked (22:16–18). (7) A sacrifice is also involved (12:8; 15:9–10; 22:2, 13). (8) The same vocabulary (rakāsu) is used for making covenants as is used when Abraham amassed flocks and followers in Haran. The land grant is important because there were two types of land grants; some land (niḫlatum) was given irrevocably and unconditionally while other land was only given on conditions that each succeeding generation covenanted their loyalty (kullu).[110] Service and loyalty to the sovereign was expected of recipients of land grants.[111]


Another element of the narrative that may be hard for a modern audience to understand is Abraham’s multiple wives. Because of barrenness, Sarah offers Abraham one of her handmaidens (šipḥāh), Hagar,[112] as a wife (Genesis 16:1–2). Polygamy was known[113] but not commonly practiced. It was usually under conditions of childlessness, sickness, or misconduct, and with the consent of the first wife.[114] Old Assyrian merchants would have a wife (aššutum) at home and a second wife (amtum) at his second base of operation.[115] With Abraham and Sarah we have two of the conditions that apply that are specifically mentioned in the text: childlessness and not just the consent but the instigation of the first wife (Genesis 16:2).

After her marriage while she is pregnant, Hagar demeans (tēqal) Sarah (Genesis 16:4). Legally, Sarah, as the first wife, takes precedence over the second wife and has power over her.[116] A roughly contemporaneous legal document spells out the situation this way: “Buneneabi and Belissunu have bought Šamašnuri, daughter of Ibišaan from Ibišaan, her father. To Buneneabi she will be a wife and to Belissunu she will be a servant. The day that Šamašnuri says to Belissunu, ‘You are not my owner’ she will shave her and sell her.”[117] The text says that Sarah first oppressed or humbled (teʿannehā) Hagar (Genesis 16:6). Hagar ran away but returned at the command of an angel (Genesis 16:7–15). Fugitive slaves were a serious matter; harboring them carried the death penalty.[118] Later, Sarah’s expulsion of Hagar and her son after provocation (meṣaḥēq; Genesis 21:9–21) was according to standard legal practice of the time but was actually more lenient since Hagar and Ishmael were not sold but set free and sent away.


Abraham’s last trials were the offering of his son, Isaac, and the death of his beloved Sarah. While sojourning in Beersheba, the Lord commanded Abraham to travel to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. Traditionally, Moriah is associated with Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1),[119] but this traditional identification, which is largely identified as such based on typology, may not be accurate. Jerusalem was a fortified city in Abraham’s day[120] and stood at the top of the hill. It is unlikely that Moriah was at Jerusalem. Moriah was, however, some distance from the area in the Negev where Abraham lived (Genesis 22:2–4). Throughout the Book of Abraham, the emphasis is on obedience.[121] Being asked to sacrifice his son, when he himself had almost been sacrificed (Abraham 1:5–20), was the supreme test of obedience for Abraham. Human sacrifice wass known elsewhere in the ancient world[122] but was rejected by later biblical authors.[123] In the end, God provided Abraham with another sacrifice so that he did not have to sacrifice his son.

After the binding of Isaac, Abraham returned to Hebron (Genesis 23:2). There Sarah died (23:1–2). Abraham sought a burial place for Sarah. In the area where Abraham grew up, it was customary to bury individuals under the foundation of a house,[124] but Abraham did not live in a permanent structure, but in a tent (12:8; 13:3; 18:1–2, 6, 9–10; 24:67). So he had to negotiate the purchase of a burial plot (23:3–20). At four hundred shekels of silver (23:15), the price seems very high. Other plots of land purchase from the same time were for 9 shekels of silver,[125] 10 shekels of silver,[126] 11 5/6 shekels of silver,[127] 26 shekels of silver,[128] and 200 shekels of silver.[129] Even though 200 shekels of silver is the mode (most common price), it is still half the price that Abraham paid.

Something of importance lies behind this short episode. A substantial amount of narrative space is taken on the negotiation of a land transaction. Keeping track of land transactions, however, was very important because legal documents were needed to prove ownership, otherwise squatters could just claim land. People kept track of these legal documents (they are some of the earliest documents we have from Mesopotamia)[130] because they were important. Archives were built around them. They thus provide written sources for history. The fact that this narrative was kept argues that it is derived from legal documents that Abraham had, and his family had preserved and shows that the Genesis narrative was built from written sources that arguably derive from Abraham himself.

Mission Back to Haran

Camels have long been considered an anachronism in the patriarchal narratives,[131] though this was generally based on an argument from silence (which is a logical fallacy) and on looking at Assyrian reliefs where the camel first appears in the reign of Shalmaeser III (858–824 BC).[132] Camels were spread across the Levant, the Arabian peninsula, and North Africa already in the Pleistocene.[133] Camels are attested in the Nile Delta by the First Dynasty of Egypt and were already depicted carrying loads.[134] Domesticated camels appear already in the Early Bronze Age.[135] Camel hair ropes are attested in Egypt during the Third or Fourth Dynasty[136] and were depicted as being led by the Sixth Dynasty.[137] Textual evidence listing the camel among domesticated animals is known from the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia.[138] An Old Syrian–style cylinder seal from the eighteenth century BC depicts a camel with a rider.[139] From the Middle Bronze Age, camel bones have been found in the Fayum in Egypt[140] and at Tell el-Far’ah North in Israel.[141] Camels provide a huge advantage over other pack animals because they can be ridden for sixty to ninety kilometers a day for extended periods and can go for days without drinking.[142]

The purpose of the mission was to secure a bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. This narrative has been read as a betrothal type-scene,[143] but it also fits in with what we know from contemporary bridal negotiations. Abraham sends his servant with gifts (migdānōt; Genesis 24:22, 47, 53), which comprise the bride price (terḫatum): the gifts paid to the bride’s family for the bride.[144] Rebekah is given a gold nose ring[145] of a half shekel of weight and two gold bracelets made of ten shekels of gold each (24:22). Contemporary documents show that in negotiating a bride price (terḫatum), the bride’s family was given four talents of silver, and the bride was given a nose ring and a bracelet weighing together 470 shekels of silver.[146] Although it would seem to modern Western society that such arranged marriages were oppressive to the women, we actually have a case of a political marriage that the bride was eager to enter into. Inib-šarri wrote to her sister Šunuḫruḫalu: “About the news that I sent you, I am sending with this the bride-price (ti-ir-ḫa-tum) to my father the king,” and urges her sister to “argue my case forcefully” to her father.[147]


Abraham was a real ancient person. He lived in a real ancient milieu. We have ancient records of his life. These are comparable with both written and archaeological sources from his day. Though coming from a dysfunctional family, Abraham built his own family where he cared for his wife and his children. Though his own fathers were faithless, he became the father of the faithful. He made and kept his covenants, and all his descendants have the opportunity to renew those covenents for themselves. Abraham thus becomes a real example to his descendants because he was a real person. He is not just a myth that we can deconstruct or diminish by philosophizing or theologizing him away. If we can see how he met his challenges within the constraints of his day, he can better become a model for us as we demonstrate our faith and loyalty to God so that it too might be accounted to us for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).


[1] See Kenneth A. Kitchen and Paul J. N. Lawrence, Treaty, Law and Covenant in the Ancient Near East (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012), 3:255–61.

[2] The fragmentary state of the Dead Sea Scrolls means that most of the Abraham story is missing. There are, however, a few textual variants; see Eugene Ulrich, The Biblical Qumran Scrolls (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2013), 1:8–10.

[3] Various manuscripts give the number of years in a king’s reign differently. Therefore, each variant will add an error factor of the largest difference between the variants. Also, most kings will not reign exactly a certain number of years to the day, but their reign will be counted in a whole number of years. Depending on the numbering system of a given country at a given time, we could have the following situation (which would admittedly be the worst-case scenario): Suppose King Dingsbums takes over the country during the last half of the last month of the year that is counted as his first regnal year, with the next month counting as his second regnal year; after two full years, he dies in the first half of the first month of the subsequent year (his fourth regnal year). How long did King Dingsbums reign? The total time of his reign is two years and about a month, but King Dingsbums has had four regnal years. For each change of reign, assuming the worst case scenario, we add ±2 years as an error factor. The error factors are cumulative.

[4] A slightly different addition can be found in Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 258; but note the objections to this in K. A. Kitchen, review of Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, in Journal of Semitic Studies 41, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 123. Redford in his effort to attack inerrantist Christianity (see Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, 257–63, et passim) misses the point; if one does not take an inerrantist position—and while not identical, neither Redford’s nor the Latter-day Saints’ position is inerrantist—one can, and Redford does, still use the Bible as a reliable historical source. Manuscript variants should alert us to particular problems in the record; numbers are among the easiest of textual errors. Redford, in attacking those who try to fit Biblical chronology with the rest of the Near East, acts as though he has never read any of the attempts to make the various chronologies of the Near East fit each other. J.J. Bimson also argues that Biblical chronology dating Abraham from 2167 to 1992 BC fits with archaeological evidence; J. J. Bimson, “Archaeological Data and the Dating of the Patriarchs,” in Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives, ed. D. J. Wiseman and A. R. Millard (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 81–85.

[5] For the generally accepted dates for Abraham, see John Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981), 77–87 (Middle Bronze Age I [MB I]); Bimson, “Archaeological Data and the Dating of the Patriarchs,” 59–92 (transition between MBI and Middle Bronze Age II [MB II]); Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000–586 B.C.E. (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 224–26 (MBII); K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago: Intervarsity Press, 1966), 41–56 (twentieth to eighteenth centuries BC).

[6] James P. Allen, “The Historical Inscription of Khnumhotep at Dahshur: Preliminary Report,” Bulleting of the American Schools of Oriental Research 352 (2008): 29–39.

[7] See Rolf Krauss, “Lunar Dates,” in Ancient Egyptian Chronology, ed. Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss, and David A. Warburton (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2006), 427.

[8] See Thomas Schneider, “The Relative Chronology of the Middle Kingdom and the Hyksos Period (Dyns. 12–17),” in Hornung, Krauss, and Warburton, Ancient Egyptian Chronology, 174.

[9] The Ussherian approach refers to biblical dating proposed by James Ussher in the 1600s. While Ussher followed a “creationism” dating for the antediluvian period, his dating of the historical sequences was surprisingly solid, as he used multiple comparative texts to determine the dating.

[10] See also the Targum Jonathan Genesis 11:28, which does not use the term Chaldeans.

[11] A. Leo Oppenheim, Erica Reiner, and Robert D. Biggs, The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Volume 8: K (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1971), 271–84, s.v. “kašādu”; Jeremy Black, Andrew George, and Nicholas Postgate, A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000), 152.

[12] H. W. F. Saggs, “Ur of the Chaldees: A Problem of Identification,” Iraq 22 (1960): 200–209.

[13] See Douglas Frayne, “In Abraham’s Footsteps,” in The World of the Aramaeans I: Biblical Studies in Honour of Paul-Eugène Dion, ed. P. M. Michèle Daviau, John W. Weve, and Michael Weigl (Sheffield UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 216: “A brief examination of connections between the proper names appearing in the patriarchal Abraham narrative in Genesis 11 with ancient northwestern Syrian toponyms suggests a close connection of the homeland of Abraham and his relatives with the city and countryside of Harran.” See also Daniel E. Fleming, “Mari and the Possibilities of Biblical Memory,” Revue d’Assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale 92, no. 1 (1998): 67: “The Genesis tradition of a north Syrian origin for Abraham and his family is both central to the narrative and difficult to explain in terms of peoples and regional political relations during the lives of the Israelite states, the exiles, or early Judaism.” Finally, Mark W. Chavalas, “Syria and Northern Mesopotamia to the End of the Third Millennium BCE,” in Mesopotamia and the Bible, ed. Mark W. Chavalas and K. Lawson Younger Jr. (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 126: “The writers of the Bible claimed that their ancestors originated in this area from Harran in the Upper Euphrates region.”

[14] Atilla Engin and Barbara Helwing, “The EBA-MBA Transition in the Kilis Plain,” in Looking North: The Socioeconomic Dynamics of the Northern Mesopotamian and Anatolian Religions during the Late Third and Early Second Millennium BC, ed. Nicola Laneri, Peter Pfälzner, and Stefano Valentini (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012), 99–100.

[15] Klaas R. Veenhof, “Across the Euphrates,” in Anatolia and the Jazira during the Old Assyrian Period, ed. J. G. Dercksen (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008), 17; Gernot Wilhelm, The Hurrians (Warminster, PA: Aris & Phillips, 1989), 15.

[16] ARM 14 31, in Maurice Birot, Lettres de Yaqqim–Addu gouverneur de Sagarâtum (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1974), 66.

[17] AbB 2 143, in R. Frankena, Briefe aus den Britischen Museum (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1966), 92–95.

[18] Engin and Helwing, “The EBA–MBA Transition in the Kilis Plain,” 99–100.

[19] The usage of the “head” of a valley in Isaiah 28:1, 4 is, unfortunately, unclear. The “head of Lebanon” in Jeremiah 22:6 appears to refer to the highlands.

[20] William G. Dever, The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 71–72; Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 112; William G. Dever, Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2017), 168.

[21] Karel van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel: Continuity and Change in Forms of Religious Life (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 20.

[22] Ignace J. Gelb, “Household and Family in Early Mesopotamia,” in State and Temple Economy in the Ancient Near East, ed. Edward Lipinski (Leuven: Departement Oriëntalistiek, 1979), 1:8.

[23] Gelb, “Household and Family in Early Mesopotamia,” 29–56.

[24] van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 21.

[25] Andrea Seri, Local Power in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2006), 97–137.

[26] van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 23–24.

[27] van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 22.

[28] AbB 11 15 20–23, in M. Stol, Letters from Collections in Philadelphia, Chicago and Berkeley (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), 10–11; van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 74–75.

[29] van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 67.

[30] van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria and Israel, 72.

[31] AbB 9 141, in M. Stol, Letters from Yale (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981), 88–91; Henry Frederick Lutz, Early Babylonian Letters from Larsa (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1917), pl. L. Read tu-uš-ta-ṭà-a-am in line 4. Line 10 has i-ḫi-i[l-x-x-x]. Marduk was the primary deity of Babylon.

[32] Carlo Zaccagnini, “War and Famine at Emar,” Orientalia, n.s., 64, no. 2 (1995): 93.

[33] Zaccagnini, “War and Famine at Emar,” 93: “Unfavorable climatic situations could have a dramatic impact of the cereal yields, especially in dry-farming areas; therefore we can easily understand why people often fell into debts, pledged or sold their children, relatives, houses and fields and eventually became serfs as an alternative to leaving the country and running away.”

[34] Seth Richardson, “Obedient Bellies: Hunger and Food Security in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 59, no. 5 (2016): 755–56.

[35] G. E. Rickman, “The Grain Trade under the Roman Empire,” Memoires of the American Academy in Rome 36 (1980): 261. Though based on Roman data, it is hard to imagine that the situation could have been appreciably better in Abraham’s day.

[36] James P. Allen, The Heqanakht Papyri (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002), 170–71.

[37] ARM 27 25 10–14, in Maurice Birot, Correspondance des gouverneurs de Qaṭṭunân (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1993), 73; Wolfgang Heimpel, Letters to the King of Mari (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 419.

[38] Walther Sallberger, “History and Philology,” in Jezirah, ed. Marc Lebeau (Turnhout: Brepolis, 2011), 328.

[39] Andrew T. Creekmore III, “Landscape and Settlement in the Harran Plain, Turkey: The Context of Third-Millennium Urbanization,” American Journal of Archaeology 122, no. 2 (2018): 177; Nurettin Yardımcı, Archaeological Survey in the Harran Plain (Istanbul: A Grafik ve Matbaacılık San, 2004), 1:14.

[40] Creekmore, “Landscape and Settlement in the Harran Plain,” 177.

[41] YBC 4490 32, in William W. Hallo, “The Road to Emar,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 18, no. 3 (1964): 60, 64; Creekmore, “Landscape and Settlement in Harran,” 188.

[42] Yardımcı, Archaeological Survey in the Harran Plain, 1:24.

[43] Yardımcı, Archaeological Survey in the Harran Plain, 1:14.

[44] For the lower figure, see Yardımcı, Archaeological Survey in the Harran Plain, 1:23; for the higher figure, see Stefano Anastasio, Marc Lebeau, and Martin Sauvage, Atlas of Preclassical Upper Mesopotamia, Subartu XIII (Turnhout: Brepolis, 2004), 154.

[45] Creekmore, “Landscape and Settlement in the Harran Plain,” 178, 193.

[46] Creekmore, “Landscape and Settlement in the Harran Plain,” 180.

[47] Veenhof, “Across the Euphrates,” 3–18.

[48] Annals of Thutmosis III V 19–22, in Kurt Sethe, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1907), 3:697–98.

[49] Veenhof, “Across the Euphrates,” 3, 16–18.

[50] Jean Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1957), 246–51; compare Marcel Sigrist, Drehem (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1992), 22–43.

[51] ARM 7 224, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 114–15. For a herd of one hundred, see ARM 7 137, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 54. For a herd of two hundred, see ARM 7 227, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 119–20.

[52] ARM 7 91, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 31.

[53] ARM 7 263, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 140–41.

[54] ARM 7 272, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 149.

[55] Black, George, and Postgate, Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 296.

[56] Black, George, and Postgate, Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 304.

[57] Peter M. M. G. Akkermans and Glenn M. Schwartz, The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies (ca. 16,000–300 BC) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 206.

[58] Hélène Sader, The History and Archaeology of Phoenicia (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019), 8–12.

[59] Francesca Baffi and Luca Peyronel, “Tell Tuqan and the Matkh Basin in a Regional Perspective,” in Tell Tuqan Excavations and Regional Perspective: Cultural Developments in Inner Syria from the Early Bronze Age to the Persian/Hellenistic Period, ed. Francesca Baffi, Roberto Fiorentino, and Luca Peyronel (Salento: Congedo Editore, 2014), 14–15.

[60] Akkermans and Schwartz, Archaeology of Syria, 288–94.

[61] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 4.

[62] James L. Kelso, The Excavation of Bethel (1934-1960) (Cambridge: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1968), 10; Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 197, 225.

[63] Kelso, Excavation of Bethel, 10.

[64] Kelso, Excavations of Bethel, 10.

[65] Kelso, Excavations of Bethel, 24–25.

[66] Kelso, Excavations of Bethel, 27.

[67] The site of Khirbet Khudriya has also been proposed: see Joseph A. Callaway and G. Herbert Livingston, “The 1968–1969 'Ai (et–Tell) Excavations,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 198 (1970): 10. For the problem in general, see Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2003), 188–89.

[68] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 138.

[69] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 136.

[70] Joseph A. Callaway and Kermit Schoonover, “The Early Bronze Age Citadel at Ai (Et-Tell),” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 207 (1972): 53; Joseph A. Callaway, Dorothea Harvey, Kermit Schoonover, James M. Ward, Kenneth Vine, and G. Herbert Livingston, “The 1966 ‘Ai (Et–Tell) Excavations,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 196 (1969): 11.

[71] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 141.

[72] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 144.

[73] Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 188; Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baugartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001), 1:815–16.

[74] Daphna Ben–Tor, Susan J. Allen, and James P. Allen, “Seals and Kings,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 315 (1999): 47–74.

[75] K. S. B. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c. 1800–1550 B.C. (Copenhagen: The Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Near Eastern Studies, 1997), 75–78.

[76] Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, 99.

[77] Bettina Bader, Tell el–Dabʿa XIX: Auaris und Memphis im Mittleren Reich und in der Hyksoszeit: Vergleichsanalyse der Materiellen Kultur (Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2009), 40.

[78] For example, see Gershon Hepner, “Abraham’s Incestuous Marriage with Sarah: A Violation of the Holiness Code,” Vetus Testamentum 53, no. 2 (2003): 143–45; Reuven Firestone, “Prophethood, Marriageable Consanguinity, and Text: The Problem of Abraham and Sarah's Kinship Relationship and the Response of Jewish and Islamic Exegesis,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 83 (1993): 332–36.

[79] Rainer Hannig, Ägyptisches Wörterbuch II: Mittleres Reich und Zweite Zwischenzeit (Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2006), 2:1669–78.

[80] Hannig, Ägyptisches Wörterbuch II, 2:2247–52.

[81] For example, see München ÄS 33: Wsḫ–iw mꜣꜥ–ḫrw ms.n Snt snt=f Ḥtpt “Wesekh–iu, justified, born of Senet, and his wife, Hetepet.”

[82] Pyramid Text 317 §510, in Kurt Sethe, Die altaegyptischen Pyramidentexte (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1908–10), 1:261; James P. Allen, The Egyptian Coffin Texts. Volume 8 (Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2006), 293; R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 99; Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–80), 1:40; P. D’Orbiney 11/2–12/8, in Alan H. Gardiner, Late–Egyptian Stories (Brussels: Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1932), 20–22; Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:207–8; Bentresh Stele 5–6, in Adriaan de Buck, Egyptian Readingbook (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1963), 106; Orell Witthuhn, et al., Die Bentresch–Stele: Ein Quellen– und Lesebuch (Göttingen: Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie der Georg–August–Universität, 2015); Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3:91; John Gee, “The Cult of Chespisichis,” in Egypt in Transition: Social and Religious Development of Egypt in the First Millennium BCE, ed. Ladislav Bareš, Filip Coppens, and Květa Smoláriková (Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, 2010), 137.

[83] Raymond Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law (Horn, AT: Ferdinand Berger & Söhne, 1988), 6.

[84] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 55–56, 59–60, 99–101.

[85] For an exception bride price (terḫatum) that included a slave and two–thirds a mina of silver, see VAS 8 4–5, in Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 134.

[86] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 99–100.

[87] At least one Mesopotamian text discusses a type of disease associated with this situation: “If the blood vessels of his temples, his hands, and his feet on right and left are continually stiff and shift, they are bound, and he can lift them, and he continually sees his body, it is the hand of Šamaš because of a man’s wife.” DPS 4 116–17, in JoAnn Scurlock, Sourcebook for Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014), 32.

[88] ARM 5 15 9–11, in Geroge Dossin, Correspondance de Iasmaḫ–Addu, (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1950), 30; Jack M. Sasson, From the Mari Archives: An Anthology of Old Babylonian Letters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015), 105.

[89] A. 3592, cited in Jean–Marie Durand, “Réalités amorrites et traditions bibliques,” Revue d’Assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale 92 (1998): 32; translation in Sasson, From the Mari Archives, 258n69.

[90] ARM 13 1 v 20, in G. Dossin, et al., Textes Divers (Paris: Firmi–Didot, 1964), 5.

[91] ARM 4 76 35, in Georges Dossin, Correspondance de Šamši–Addu et de ses Fils (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1951), 108.

[92] ARM 13 1 xiv 40, in Dossin, et al., Textes Divers, 13.

[93] ARM 13 1 xi 37, in Dossin, et al., Textes Divers, 12.

[94] ARM 7 87 5, in Bottéro, Textes économiques et administratifs, 29; ARM 14 112 10, in Maurice Birot, Lettres de Yaqqim-Addu gouverneur de Sagarâtum (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1974), 188.

[95] For example, see ARM 14 112 8, in Birot, Lettres de Yaqqim–Addu gouverneur de Sagarâtum, 188.

[96] The cuneiform name is written with the signs A.MU.UD.BI.AN. These can be read as A–mu–ud–pí–el, which would be transcribed into Hebrew as ʾmdpl. In Hebrew, the graphic confusion between r and d is pervasive in all periods; see P. Kyle McCarter Jr., Textual Criticism: Recovering the Text of the Hebrew Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 45–46. Thus, a misinterpretation of ʾmdpl as ʾmrpl is well within the range of possibility. See also the discussion Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 568n21.

[97] A.266, in Jean–Marie Durand, “La cité–état d’Imar à l’époque des rois de Mari,” Mari Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires 6 (1990): 40n7; Heimpel, Letters to the King of Mari, 506: “Thus says your servant, Hammi–Šagiš, to my lord: An Elamite messenger, when he went to Halab, sent 3 of his young men from Imar [to Qaṭna]. Hammu–Rapi (of Halab) heard these things and dispatched [. . .] to his border. They seized those men when they returned. And they asked them for news, and they spoke as follows: The Qatanean sent us thus: The land is given to your hand. Rise up! If you rise up, you will not be attacked. Those people are concealed in a village. And that Qatanean has just dispatched two messengers of his, [. . .] having taken before them. My lord must give strict orders. And he must write to the Babylonian, and [those] men must not be allowed to leave.”

[98] It has also been suggested that this refers to Šangar, the area around the Gebel Sinjar in Syria; William F. Albright, “Shinar–Šanḡar and Its Monarch Amraphel,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature 40, no. 2 (1924): 125–33. While this proposal is phonetically possible, it does not seem to match the biblical usage.

[99] Thomas Richter and Sarah Lange, Das Archiv des Idadda (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012), 2.

[100] Richter and Lange, Das Archiv des Idadda.

[101] ARM 2 63–64, in Jean, Lettres Diverse, 124–26; Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 43.

[102] Ron Zadok, The Elamite Onomasticon (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1984), 24–26. Though the name elements are attested, the name itself is not attested outside the Bible.

[103] KBo 1.11 (CTH 7), in Gary Beckman, “The Siege of Uršu Text (CTH 7) and Old Hittite Historiography,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 47 (1995): 23–34.

[104] Codex Hammurapi §32, in E. Bergmann, Codex Ḫammurabi Textus Primigenius (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1953), 8; Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 87; Kitchen and Lawrence, Treaty, Law and Covenant, 1:122–23.

[105] John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 107–13; Kitchen and Lawrence, Treaty, Law and Covenant, 3:69–74.

[106] Black, George, and Postgate, Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 43. Further evidence on this topic will be published by Stephan Wimmer.

[107] Scott W. Hahn, Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 37–48.

[108] ARM 26 404 11–26, 33–41, 48–51, 60–65, in Dominique Charpin, Francis Joannès, Sylvie Lackenbacher, and Bertrand Lafont, Archives épistolaires de Mari I/2 (Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1988), 259–60; Sasson, From the Mari Archives, 93–95; Heimpel, Letters to the King of Mari, 343–46.

[109] For a discussion of the relationship between loyalty and faith, see John Gee, Saving Faith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020), 294–96.

[110] Jacob Lauinger, Following the Man of Yamhad: Settlement and Territory in Old Babylonian Alalah (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2015), 155–61, 189–92.

[111] Lauinger, Following the Man of Yamhad, 187.

[112] The name means “hireling” from Akkadian agru; Black, George, and Postgate, Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 6. It is attested in Neo-Assyrian sources; Simo Parpola, The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1998), 1/1:55–56. It is also attested in Neo-Babylonian sources: John P. Nielsen, Personal Names in Early Neo–Babylonian Legal and Administrative Tables, 747–626 B.C.E. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015), 9. The name Hagar is attested epigraphically in a fifth or fourth century BC seal from Jericho. See Philip C. Hammond, “A Note on Seal Impression from Tell es–Sulṭân,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 147 (1957): 38–39. It is also known from the third century BC bust from Palmyra. See Wilhelm Eilers, “Eine Büste mit Inschrift aus Palmyra,” Archiv für Orientforschung 16 (1952–1953): 311–13. By the Ptolemaic Period, it was synonymous with “Arab”; see Wolja Erichsen, Demotisches Glossar (Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1954), 281.

[113] Gelb, “Household and Family in Early Mesopotamia,” 66.

[114] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 107–9.

[115] Mogens Trolle Larsen, The Aššur-nādā Archive (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2002), xxv–xxvi.

[116] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 110–11.

[117] CT 8 22 b, in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, &c., in the British Museum. Part VIII. (London: British Museum, 1899), pl. 22; Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 119.

[118] Codex Hammurapi §§15–20, in Bergmann, Codex Ḫammurabi Textus Primigenius, 6; Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 84–85; Kitchen and Lawrence, Treaty, Law and Covenant, 1:118–21.

[119] “The significance of the event grows exponentially over the course of the Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism. The name Moriah is an early example, for the only other appearance of that word in the Hebrew Bible occurs in Chronicles, a late book, where it is the name of the mountain on which King Solomon builds his temple in Jerusalem. The implication is clear: the Aqedah has become a foundation legend for the Jerusalem Temple.” Jon D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 89.

[120] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 197, 225.

[121] Abraham 1:2; 2:13; 3:25; 4:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; Gee, Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 47.

[122] Constantine N 57–59, in Karel Jongeling, Handbook of Neo–Punic Inscriptions (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 216–28; Jean–Pierre Albert and Béatrix Midant–Reynes, Le sacrifice humain en Égypte ancienne et ailleurs (Paris: Édition Soleb, 2005); Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); Kerry Muhlestein, Violence in the Service of Order: The Religious Framework for Sanctioned Killing in Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Archeopress, 2011).

[123] See Jeremiah 19:5–6; Ezekiel 20:25–26; Micah 6:6–7; Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, 3–11; Ziony Zevit, The Religions of Ancient Israel (London: Continuum, 2001), 578–79.

[124] Engin and Helwing, “The EBA-MBA Transition in the Kilis Plain,” 97; Akkermans and Schwarz, The Archaeology of Syria, 299, 308, 312.

[125] ARM 8 4, in Georges Boyer, Testes juridiques (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1958), 10–12.

[126] ARM 8 5, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 12–14; ARM 8 14, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 28–30.

[127] ARM 8 13, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 26–28.

[128] That is 1/3 mana + 6 shekels; ARM 8 2, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 8.

[129] ARM 8 8, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 18–20; ARM 8 11, in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 22–24; ARM 8 12 in Boyer, Testes juridiques, 26.

[130] J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (London: Routledge, 1992), 67.

[131] Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 225; Michael Ripnsky, “Camel Ancestry and Domestication in Egypt and the Sahara,” Archaeology 36, no. 3 (1983): 23; Michael Ripinsky, “The Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 71 (1985): 134; Ludovic Orlando, “Back to the Roots and Routes of Dromedary Domestication,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113, no. 24 (2016): 6588; Steven A. Rosen and Benjamin A. Saidel, “The Camel and the Tent: An Exploration of Technological Change among Early Pastoralists,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 69, no. 1 (2010): 63–64, 74; Joseph P. Free, “Abraham’s Camels,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 3, no. 3 (1944): 187–88.

[132] T. C. Mitchell, “Camels in the Assyrian Bas-Reliefs,” Iraq 62 (2000): 187–94.

[133] Michael Ripinsky, “The Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 71 (1985): 134.

[134] Ripinsky, “Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” 136–37.

[135] Rémi Berthon and Marjan Mashkour, “Animal Remains from Tilbeşar Excavations, Southeast Anatolia, Turkey,” Anatolia Antiqua 16 (2008): 30, 35.

[136] Ripinsky, “Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” 138.

[137] Ripinsky, “Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” 138.

[138] W. G. Lambert, “The Domesticated Camel in the Second Millennium—Evidence from Alalakh and Ugarit,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 160 (1960): 42–43.

[139] D. T. Potts, “Camel Hybridization and the Role of Camelus Bactrianus in the Ancient Near East,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 47, no. 2 (2004): 150, 161; Free, “Abraham’s Camels,” 191.

[140] Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 339; Ripinsky, “Camel in Dynastic Egypt,” 138.

[141] Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 339.

[142] Rosen and Saidel, “The Camel and the Tent,” 72.

[143] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 52–54.

[144] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, 6.

[145] See Genesis 24:47, where it is specifically stated in the Hebrew that the ring was placed on her nose (ʿal-ʾappāh).

[146] ARM 1 46, in Georges Dossin, Correspondance de Šamši–Addu et de ses fils, 100–2; Sasson, From the Mari Archives, 104.

[147] ARM 10 75, in Georges Dossin, Correspondance feminine (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1978), 114–16; John Gee, “Love and Marriage in the Ancient World: An Historical Corrective,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 35 (2008): 88–89.