Abraham Was from Ur in Mesopotamia . . . Right?

Posted By on May 21, 2009

I don’t think so, and I’m in good company.† Why?† You’ll know that after reading this 1958 article by Cyrus Gordon, one of my favorite scholars: “Abraham and the Merchants of Ura.”† You’ll wonder why it’s been so overlooked.

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8 Responses to “Abraham Was from Ur in Mesopotamia . . . Right?”

  1. Jonnathan Molina says:

    Cool article. Mr. Gordon wrote the following as he closed the last page and I was hoping you could shed some light:

    “The narratives themselves are tendentious: they seek to justify Israel’s possession of the Holy Land through the divine Covenant, and through treaties and purchases, going back to the days of Abraham. Yet the narratives run so true to the social, economic, political, religious, and literary pictures that we get from documents of the Amarna Age that we are obliged to attribute genuine second millennium sources (written or oral) to them.”

    Ok, so when he says “Yet” I read from it that he’s implying that the statement that came before (“they seek to justify Israel’s possession of the Holy Land) is held in skepticism due to what follows (the narratives run so true….we are obliged to attribute…). So, am I understanding his point correctly that he doubts Genesis’ claim of Israel’s possession because the text is too reminiscent of much later documents? If not, what is he saying by his last sentence? Thanks Dr. Heiser.

  2. blop2008 says:

    Then Abraham was not from Ur Chaldea around Babylon but rather from Ur Chaldea in the North east of Palestine around close by Haran. However, this article is quite old, is it the consensus in the ANE/Mesopotamia scholarly community to understand Abraham’s origins in this way. With all the past decade archeological findings and excavations, has anything conflicted greatly with Gordon Cyrus’s view in the 50’s?

  3. Mike True says:

    I’m so glad you posted this article, Mike. Thank God for Cyrus Gordon.

    For several years I have believed that the Garden of Eden (Gobekli Tepe?) and Abraham’s homeland were in modern-day Turkey. The headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates are there, and it would be just like God (or so it seems to me) to re-start human civilization following the flood close to where it first began. Indeed, it would not surprise me that the Tower of Babel was built on the plain of Cinar – southwest of Lake Van and just northwest of Abraham’s home in Ur (near Sanliurfa).

  4. MSH says:

    @blop2008: No one has really dealt with Gordon’s article. Everyone basically assumes Ur = Mesopotamia. Kind of startling.

  5. MSH says:

    @Jonnathan Molina: He doesn’t want to come across as though he believes every “jot and tittle” of the patriarchal material (or the OT for that matter). Gordon was no inerrantist. By today’s standards, though, he’d be in the maximalist camp (and we’re better off speaking of a continuum, with hard line militant maximalists on one end and militant minimalists on the other — and I presume readers know about those terms).

  6. […] For the record, readers will know I don’t buy the Ur (S. Mesopotamian city state) as the place from which Abram came. I’d put him as coming from one of the other regions mentioned that had camels (N. Mesopotamia, Ura; see here). […]

  7. Seth Tipps says:

    So roughly when might this imply Abraham supposedly lived? Does it change from the commonly held hypothetical model? He mentions the Amarna period. Is that reference to the possible age of Abraham or just the age of the narrative itself? If the former it would seem far too late being only a few centuries before when the monarchy was supposed to exist.

    • MSH says:

      I don’t think it resolves the dispute over biblical chronology (which naturally affects the placement of Abraham). That is tied to so many other factors. The Amarna period would not coincide with Abraham (see p. 31, the note about coming within a century of it). That reflects the late chronology, obviously.

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