Ur Kasdim=Uru(m) Kaldu

As far as everybody is concerned, Hebrew the “Ur of the Chaldeans” (אור כשדים, “Uwr Kas-deem”), of the Bible is the Sumerian Urim and the Akkadian Uru, that is, the Tell el-Muqayyar (“mound of that which is built of bitumen”), at 30°57’40″N, 46° 6’20″E. However, some people reject the identification of Ur with Urim, mostly due to the fact there were Urs all around the Near East. However, the qualifier, “of the Chaldeans”, which the word “Kasdimdefinitely refers to, proves Ur was located in-where else?-Chaldea (the Chaldeans were not Arameans, and were first mentioned in the marshes of Sealand)! The Bible itself explicitly disproves a W. of the Euphrates Ur by saying that Harran was on the road to Canaan from Ur. Joshua 24:2-3, 14 most definitively proves Ur was to the east of the Euphrates. The “linguistic difficulty” of the missing last vowel is paralleled by the example of the name of Tiglath-Pileser III (Tukultī-apil-Ešarra), or Pul (Pulu, Greek Poros).

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

86 thoughts on “Ur Kasdim=Uru(m) Kaldu”

  1. The problem is, however, that Muqayyar (Sumerian Urim) is not to the east of the Euphrates, it is to the west of the Euphrates. It was not in Mesopotamia proper. In very ancient times, it lay on the sea coasts. True, at same point, a subordinate arm of the Euphrates is said to have run through it, but the main body of the Euphrates was to the east of the city. By contrast, the region of Haran, from which Abraham was commanded to leave his country, his birthplace, and father’s house (Genesis 12) is certainly to the east of the Euphrates, in classical Mesopotamia, Biblical Aram Naharaim, and this region is explicitly cited as the land of Abraham’s nativity in Genesis 24, in which a wife for Isaac is sought from amongs Abraham’s own people. Therein is Ur Kasdim most likely to be found, particularly in light of the fact that the offspring of Nahor (Abraham’s brother) in Haran include the names Aram and Kesed (whence Kasdim). Indeed, it is know that the Kasdim (Chaldeans) were closely affiliated, if not a subset of, the Arameans, and entered coastal Babylonia only about 800 b.c.e., and the fact that their origins lay outside Babylonia is attested in ancient sources. It should also be duely noted that in Deut. 26, the patrimony of the Hebrews is described as “wandering Aramean”, not as canal navigating big-city slickers from the Land of Shen’ar.
    In all the cuneiform records found in the Babylonian city of “Ur”, it was NEVER associated with the Kaldu and NEVER named after them. The Akkadian name of the city was Uri(m), and the name in classical literary Akkadian retained the Sumerian form URIM. The conversion to Hebrew Ur cannot be linguistically explained by sa simple “loss of a vowel”. The association of Ur Kasdim with Muqayyar, Sumerian Urim, mostly stems from the excavations carried out by the British Museum in ther late 19th and early 20th centuries, in particular the archeologist Leonard Wooley, but rests on no hard evidence.

  2. @JD

    There might be several explanations for this placing Abraham’s activity in Aram-Naharim.

    1. There are two strands of tradition here- a dominant, pre-exilic one, placing Abraham as entirely from Haran and Naharim, and a secondary, exilic one, placing Abraham and all his “Aramean” family in Ur (a reasonable secular explanation).

    2. Far more likely, the Genesis narrative is implying a South Mesopotamian or North Elamite origin for the Arameans, as I have suggested in “another post”. Genesis 24:4’s “my land” may be taken as referring to all the regions of Mesopotamia in general, not just Aram-Naharim in particular.

    As to other concerns:

    3. While Ur specifically was never ascociated with the Kaldu, the Assyrian records make numerous mentions of the Chaldean tribe of Bit-Yakin (see ISBE link in this post) which, as “any map” makes clear, was in the region of the “marshes of Iraq”.

    4. According to Samuel Noah Kramer, “the Biblical authors had borrowed the name as actually pronounced in Sumerian when not followed by a grammatical element beginning with a vowel” (Kramer, The Sumerians: their history, culture and character, Page 298). The linguistic difficulty, is, therefore, at least partially nullified.

    5. Correct, Ur did lie east of the westernmost branch of the Euphrates. However, there was no real “main branch” of the Euphrates at this time to refer to. There was the Lagash Mouth, the present mouth, and the westernmost mouth (bibleorigins.net/horalhammararchaeologicalsitesmap.html). Since the Euphrates was viewed by the Biblical authors as a river of boundary, the westernmost branch should be considered to be mainly what the Bible’s “Euphrates” is referring to. Note, that, due to salinity, Ur was not located“at” the seashore.

    6. Due to the paucity of exact locators for Ur Kasdim, it is impossible to have any “hard evidence” regarding its location.

  3. Quotation mark fail in the last comment. Also, remove “anymap” at the end of the “world map” bibleorigins link after you click on it.

  4. @pithom
    Thank you for your response. Here a few comments for thought:

    1. The Kasdim are not mentioned anywhere in the Pentateuch as a tribe or nation or geographical territory, as they are mentioned in later books of the Bible. Genesis uses the “Land of Shen’ar” to refer to that region. The only clue given to their origin in the Pentateuch is in Gen. 22.22, where Kesed is cited, together with Aram, as offspring of Nahor, at or near Haran. The later books of the Bible imply that the Kasdim/Chaldeans were latecomers or formerly unknown in Babylon (c.f. Isaiah 23:13: “Behold, the land of the Chaldeans–this is the people that was not, when Asshur founded it for shipmen….” and came from outside Babylon (Job 1:17).
    It seems a bit of stretch to that the Genesis authors/editors/canonizers would risk making the antiquity and authenticity of their narrative appear suspect to readers by bringing tribal allocations from such a late period into early Genesis geography.
    It should also be added that that the Arameans, Chaldeans, Hebrews , Amorites, formed part of a 2nd-1st millenium b.c. “volkewanderung” into the Fertile Crescent, not unlike the migration of Germanic tribes into the territories of the late Roman Empire. Thus late territorial names associated with these tribes are not the same as their place of origin. For instance, The Angles settled in England (“Anglia”), but originated in Angeln, northern Germany. Lombardy is in Italy, but the Lombards originated in the north. Burgundy is in France, but the Burgundians originated in Burgandarholm, i.e. Bornholm (Scandivanian), the Goths from Gothia (Sweden), and so on… The same analogy can be applied to the Chaldeans, and wherever they were actually from in reality, the Bible authors seem to have believed that it was in the City of Nahor, in Aram Naharaim, together with the branch of the Arameans which served as the extended family of the patriarchs.

    2. There is no evidence of Kir of the Arameans being in Elam or southern Mesopotamia. It is also unclear whether the Bible intends to name the place as the ultimate place of origin of the Arameans, since the same passage in Amos cites Egypt as the land out of which the Hebrews were brought. Other locations have nbeen cited as possibilities for Kir’s location (see pg. 137 in “Ugarit at Seventy-Five”, by K. Lawson Younger, online on Google Books).

    3. The “Sealands” of Mat Tamtim associated with the land where Bit Yakin and the Kaldu were settled in the 1st millenium is not the same as the location of Sumerian Ur (despite what some maps might show), but appears to have been located further southeast.

    4. There is a large body of evidence that the Sumerian/Akkadian name, Urim, was pronounced “Uri(m)”, but the occasional dropping of the final “m” is not equivalent to the Hebrew name “Ur”. For explanations of the pronunciation, see the references cited in Ref. 24 of the following link:
    http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/pearl-great-price-revelations-god/7-where-was-ur-chaldees#_edn24

    5. The last word on the ancient coastline of the Persian Gulf does indeed put ancient Sumerian Ur in the 3rd millenium on the coast.) I had a read an article about surveys of the sentimention identified with marine conditions in southern Iraq after rock boring had been carried out by petroleum companies, but I cannot now find the link.) However, the coast bgan receding It is not quite correct to say that the ancient Euphrates lay to the west of ancient Sumerian Urim.

  5. @pithom (continued from above)
    5. (continued)
    The Persian Gulf coast began receding in earnest after the 3rd millenium b.c.
    It is not quite correct to say that the ancient Euphrates lay to the west of ancient Sumerian Urim. In fact it was almost completed surrounded by water. See maps below:
    http://www.christiancdrom.com/maps/Map%20-%20Ur.bmp

    Ur proper was bounded by a western branch of the Euphrates on the west, and by a canal connected to the river on its east. (This branch is referred to in “Studies on the Times of Abraham” By Henry George Tomkins, pg. 4, as a “subordinate channel of the Euphrates”; but, I digress).
    However, Leonard Woolley also cited excavations of residential quarters of Ur (described in “Ur: The Buildings of the Third Dynasty”, by Sir Leonard Woolley), west of the old bed of the Euprhates, 700 hundred meters west of the Ziggurat. So, like Babylon, the best way to described ancient Sumerian Ur is that it was a city ON the Euphrates. And therefore, conceptually for the Biblical writers, Ur, like Babylon, would have been ON the river(s), not what Joshua 24:15 intended as “on the other side of the flood” . c.f. “By the rivers of Babylon…” (Psalm 137:1), “By the river Chebar” (Ezekiel 1:1) (Chebar, being a Baylonian canal Kabaru, near Nippur, not the River Habor).

    In fact, though today we think of Sumer as consituting the core of Mesopotamia, in ancient times it was like a grid of waterways, with a system of numerous rivers and canals running from northwestt to southeast, criss-crossed by canals.
    The modern notion of Mesopotamia being more or less synomous to modern Iraq, dates in large part only to the period at the end of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the British “Mandate of Mesopotamia”.
    Classical authors generally used the term Mesopotamia to exclude Babylonia, and even in the 1911 Britannica it is this northern part of the Tigris-Euphrates system which is taken as Mesopotamia proper.
    http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Mesopotamia
    Biblical Aram-Naharaim, the area of Haran, cited by Abraham as his “the land of his nativity” and his “country”, and the land from which the patriarchs returned to obtain wives from amongst their own kin, formed the core area of what in ancient languages translated as Mesopotamia: “Naharin”, or N-h-r-n in ancient Egyptian records (corresponding to Mitanni), Nahrima in the Amarna letters, “Mesopotamia” in the Koine Greek of the Septuagint and NT, “Gezirtha” in 4th century Syriac, and “al-Jazirah” (“the island”) in Arabic for many centuries.

  6. @JD

    Your response is very much appreciated.

    The Big Questions in this debate appear to be the following:

    1. Could an Ur in Upper Mesopotamia be called “of the Kasdim”? Or, alternatively, how far was the dwelling of the Chaldeans? Do the Assyrian records tell of Chaldeans living in Upper Mesopotamia? Does Job 1:17 refer to nomadic Chaldeans in the same manner as it does nomadic Sabeans? If so, it seems reasonable to conclude “yes” to the first question.

    2. Where did the biblical author picture the Arameans, Chaldeans, and Abraham as originating from? Is Abraham’s land in Genesis 24:4 to be interpreted as referring to all Mesopotamia, in contrast to Canaan, or does it refer solely to Naharim?

    3. How is the phrase “beyond the Euphrates” to be interpreted in the matter of Ur?

    4. Is the final “m” in “Urim” necessarily fatal to the hypothesis Uri(m) is Ur.

    5. Secondarily, what was the configuration of the south Mesopotamian coastline in the Sumerian and later periods? Who is right, Sanlaville or Zarins?.

    To Question 1, I know of no record, Assyrian or otherwise, placing the Kaldu in northern Mesopotamia. The Kaldu were already attested in Shinar in the 9th century BC-modestly far back in time for the biblical authors. The Early Persian Period map I linked to in my first reply plainly put Bit-Yakin west of the River of Babylon-right in the location of Urim. Job 1:17 may full well be referring to a raid of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (there is no implication the Chaldeans were nomadic). Chaldeans are not natively attested in the area east of Damascus or southward. However, the Neo-Babylonian empire did make raids in Transjordan and Arabia.

    To Question 2, I understand that there was really no name for all Mesopotamia in the OT era (except for “beyond the River [Euphrates]”?). However, Abraham does not seem to be specific about his land’s exact location in Gen 24:4-only that it was not Canaanite. Also, Amos 1:5 seems to imply Kir is quite far from Aram. The parallelism in Isaiah 22:6 is not decisive, but quite suggestive.

    To Question 3, I agree you have a point with “by” instead of “beyond”. I might respond Joshua appears to be emphasizing a boundary between Abraham’s previous and present land, not so much as a link between Shinar and Abraham’s family. I have to agree with you only a N. Mesopotamian locality could be described as “beyond” but not “by” the Euphrates. This is one of your strongest arguments.

    To Question 4, I am forced to confess this is by far your strongest arguments. I still am not sure whether the pronunciation of Ur changed during the population transition from Sumerian to Kassite to Chaldean.

    As for Question 5, it would be really thankful for you to dig up that decisive article showing a receding coastline in S. Mesopotamia for the past 7000 years.

    In short, while you have not sufficiently answered the “argument from Kasdim” yet, you have made the location of Ur in Upper Mesopotamia far more plausible than I have originally expected.

    1. At this point I would like to make just a few comments on extra-Biblical evidence which may be relevant to this point, though as I said before, I am not keen on leaning too heavily on extra-Biblical and insciptional evidence when attempting to trace Abraham’s sojournings. Nevertheless, the following are worth mentioning (as mentioned in “A history of Israel”, by John Bright, pg.78):
      1. The names of Abraham’s forebears and relatives are closely related the names of ancient towns in northern Mesopotamia, and specifically in the general region of Haran: Thus Nahor (the name of Abraham’s grandfather and father) closely resembles the name of the town in this region known at Mari as “Nakhur” and in Assyrian texts as “Nakhur” and “Til-Nakhiri”. Assyrian cuneiform texts also refer to a “Til-Turakhi” (Terakh/Terah -Abraham’s father) and a “Sarugi” (Serug, great-grandfather of Abraham) in this region. There was also a “Phaliga” (Peleg) nearby.
      “Jacob” occurs in an 18th century b.c. text from Chagar Bazar, Upper Mesopotamia, refering to “Ya’qub-el”.

      To this, the book adds the following:
      “To be sure, in none of these cases do we even probably have a mention of the Biblical patriarchs themselves. But the profusion of such names in contemporary tests shows clearly that Upper Mesopotamia and northern Syria did in fact contain a population akin to Israel’s ancestors in the Middle Bronze Age and for centuries before. This both reinforces confidence in the antiquity of the tradition and adds verisimilitude to the Bible’s assertion that Israel’s ancestors had migrated from this general area. The fact that instances of certain of these names can be found in texts down into the first millenium in no way blunts this impression. The names are of an early type, and they certainly are not charactersitc of later Israelite nomenclature. Indeed in some cases their significance seems no longer to have been understood by the Biblical writers, who repeatedly had recourse to popular etymologies to explain them. None of the names of the patriarchs themselves and very few ofthe names of those connected with them, ever occur as proper names in Israel again throughout the Biblical period. The patriarchal narratives are thus in this respect most authentic.”

      2. Rather than the tegragrammaton YHWH, the Pariarchal name for their Deity seems to have been El, followed by epithets associated with it, e.g. ‘El-‘Elohei-Yisrael, “El, the God of (the Patriarch) Israel” (Gen. 33:20) ‘El ‘Olam, ‘El Shaddai, ‘El Ro’i, ‘El ‘Elyon, etc.
      But in particular, the patriarchal Deity is called El Shaddai (Gen. 17:1), and this is explicitly alluded to Exodus 6:2-3:
      “6:2 And God spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: ‘I am the LORD (YHWH);
      6:3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as El Shaddai, but by My name YHWH I made Me not known to them.”

      The title “El Shaddai” seems to been closely associated with a northwest Semitic setting. In fact the “Shaddai” was a late Bronze Age Amorite city in northeastern Syria (see “Ancient Israel’s faith and history: introduction to the Bible in context” By George E. Mendenhall, Gary A. Herion, pg. 264). The site of its ruin-mound is called Tell eth-Thadyen, and is associated with the ancient city of Tuttul (coordinates 35° 57′ 27″ N, 39° 2′ 51″ E)
      in the Syro-Mesopotamian region north of al-Raqqah.

      3. There seems to have been mention in the cuneiform tablets at Ebla, a town called ‘Ur’ in the territory of Haran, though I would exercise extreme caution in interpreting any conclusions from this statement. These are the findings reported by Giovanni Pettinato, the Assyriologist who deciphered the Semitic Eblaite language from the cuneiform tablets. However, it seems that the Syrian government pulled the rug from under the Ebla excavations project, the Italian team carrying out the excavations were apparently sent home and split up in acrimony, and Pettinato seems to have been replaced by a Hittitologist. At any rate, the Ebla project has remained in a limbo for the last 30 years and most of the Ebla tablets were never published.

      At any rate, a relevant excerpt from the interview in BAR (Biblical Archeology Review) by Herschel Shanks of Pettinato in 1980 does deserve some scrutiny:

      BAR: Does the city Ur appear in the territory of Haran in the Ebla tablets? Abraham was born in Ur, and travelled with his father to Haran.
      Pettinato: I remember.
      BAR: There has been some dispute about where the Biblical Ur is.
      P: I know.
      BAR: I wonder if the Ebla tablets shed any light on this.
      P: We know from the Ebla tablets that a city Ur was surely in northern Mesopotamia.
      BAR: You know this?
      P: In the territory of Haran. But that is all we can say. It was a city. If this is the city where Abraham came from 200, 300, or 400 or 500 years later, we don’t know.
      BAR: But is this Ur in the territory of Haran?
      P: Yes.
      BAR: And it’s referred to as Ur in the territory of Haran?
      P: Yes. In one tablet, but we have the city itself mentioned often. In one tablet it is mentioned in Haranki, which can mean only in the region, in the territory of Haran. It is important for people to know this.

      4. Back on the subject of the Chaldeans, a few points are worth mentioning.
      Their name in cuneiform is always a form of the Assyrian name “Kaldu”, which forms the basis of the name in Persian, Greek, Latin, and all modern languages. It is never in the Hebrew form “kasdi”in the cuneiform. This implies that “kasdi” may have been an earlier form of the name, as “kaldu” dates from the 1st millenium, well after the Patriarchal narrative in the Bible.

      The book, “The Aramaeans: their ancient history, culture, religion “, by Edward Lipiński (a book almost impossible to track down in hard copy form), pg. 416 and onwards, discusses the Chaldeans. Their west Semitic affiliation is alluded to by the fact that each Chaldean tribe is described as “Bit-PN” (house of PN), with the PN standing for the name of the eponymous ancestor, in a manner closely matching the Aramaeans of Upper Mesopotamia.
      Cuneiorm references to the Chaldeans are, of course, in Akkadian. There is no extensive corpus of Chaldean names, and most of them are of Assyro-Babylonian form. But R.Zadok has shown that the other names -about a dozen- are either exclusively Aramaic or can be explained as Aramaic. Moreover, Aramaic words and grammatical forms occur in letters sent by Chaldeans to Nineveh. Lipinski says that there is sufficent evidence to indicate that the Chaldeans belong to the Aramaean stock of Western Semites.
      There is no sure trace of Chaldeans before they settled in southern Babylonia in the early 9th century b.c. However, a Middle Assyrian document, dating probably from the 11th century B.C., mentions a “KUR Kal-da-ie-e mes”, which does not seem to designate southern Babylonia. Lipinski concludes it is likely the Chaldaeans came down from the northwest in the obscure period of the 11th/10th centuries.

      I did a search based on this form and found some cuneiform links from the University of Pennsylvania containing references to “Kal-da-a” :
      “http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/saa/cbd/qpn/qpn.x001527.html
      So, for instances, there is reference to these ‘Chaldeans’ in Yasumu and Bit-Zamani (around Diyarbekir, in Upper Mesopotamia) (SAA 5, Ch. 5_), and in the Harran census. But what is the significance of these references? I just don’t know.
      http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/oracc?prod=list&project=saao/saa05&seq=volume,ch_no,designation&perpage=25&k0=_all&page=1&item=14&trans=en
      http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/oracc?prod=text&project=saa&text=P334938_project-en&line=P334938_project-en.56&frag=P334938_project-en.53#a.P334938_project-en.53:

      5. On a final note, Lipinski makes an analysis in his book (pgs. 40-41) of the ‘Land of Qir’ of the Aramaeans and comes to the conclusion that a location near Elam or S. Mesopotamia is not justified.
      He mentions that Pilsu-Dagan, king of Emar (Tell Meskene on the Euphrates, northern Syria) in the early 12th century b.c., aso bore the title of “king of the people of the land of Qir”: (Pilsu-Dagan mar Baal-kabar sar Emar sar sabe mat Qiri).
      There is a photo of Qraya, which became a Roman fortress, and the book says this is a dielectal form of ‘qarya’ (village), which is phonetically and even etymologically related to ‘qir’. The “land of Qir” would then correspond to the area between the Jebel al-Bishri and the Middle Euphrates.

  7. Once again, thank you very much for your response.

    The question that you posed, #2 is a very fine question: “Where did the biblical author picture the Arameans, Chaldeans, and Abraham as originating from?” Indeed, I believe that this the point elegantly sums up and underpins my approach to this issue, and it is as a result of reading and rereading the text of the Bible and connecting the dots between the relevant passages in Genesis concerning Abraham that, from a very young age, I looked upon those maps in the Bible of “Abraham’s route” as being highly improbable and not in accordance with the Bible’s intent. Moreover, I should add that I am hesitant to lean too heavily on extra-Biblical and post-Biblical references, including cuneiform inscriptions, when trying to interpret these matters concerning early Biblical figures.

    Let me summarize the main points concerning the Biblical text in response to your question, as I see it:

    1. Genesis 24 makes a point of juxtaposing the Abraham’s new land, i.e. the Land of Canaan, with his original homeland, in order to highlight the need to obtain a wife for Isaac from the old country, while ensuring that Isaac remain in the new, in order to fulfil the terms of the Divine covenant.
    So, for the Land of Canaan, the text of Genesis 24 uses terms like “this land”, while for Abraham’s homeland terms that contrast with this concept are used: “the land from whence thou camest” (24:5), “thither”, or “there” (24:6, 8), “thence” (24:7), etc.
    It is this terminology which is used explicility to refer to all aspects pertaining to Abraham’s origins, i.e. “my country” (artzi), “my birthplace” (molad’ti), “my father’s house” (beit avi), and the “land of my nativity” (eretz molad’ti).
    So, when emphasizing to his servant the absolute necessity of not leaving Isaac in Abraham’s place of origin, Abraham warns:
    “24:7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from MY FATHER’S HOUSE, and from THE LAND OF MY NATIVITY, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: ‘Unto thy seed will I give THIS LAND’; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from THENCE.
    24:8 And if the woman be not willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath; only thou shalt not bring my son back THITHER.”

    This leaves no doubt, firstly, about the conceptual linkage between “the land of my nativity” and “my father’s house”, and secondly, between both of the above and the place from whence a wife for Isaac is to be found. And any remaining doubt as to where specifically this place is to be found is dispelled in the following couple of verses, in which Abraham’s servant knows exactly where to go, and goes exactly “thence”:
    “24:10 And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed; having all goodly things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose, and went to Aram-naharaim, unto the city of Nahor.”

    Earlier in Genesis 24, Abraham uses similar terminology that hearkens closely back to Genesis 12, in which he is initially commanded to leave his original homeland:
    “24:4 ‘But thou shalt go unto my country (artzi), and to my birthplace (molad’ti), and take a wife for my son, even for Isaac.'”
    c.f. Genesis 12:1
    “12:1 Now the Lord said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country (artzekha), and from thy birthplace (molad’tekha), and from thy father’s house (beit avikha), unto the land that I will show thee. ”
    And following this, the fulfliment of this command:
    “12:4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”

    Now the sequence of events is clear in Genesis 11-12. In Genesis 11:31, Terah takes Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai, Abram’s wife, out of Ur Kasdim. They are going TO the Land Canaan, and stop in Haran. The implication here is that Haran is a stop ON the way, not out of the way. More importantly, it is IN HARAN that Abraham is commanded by God to leave his country, birthplace, and father’s house to go to a new land. So in the Genesis narrative, while Ur Kasdim was the starting point of the trip, Haran serves as the main hub, the main “port” from which Abram and co. leave the homeland to go to the new land. As, such Ur Kasdim and Haran should be in the same general region in order for the text to make the most sense.

    Now, I am aware that with respect to the intended meaning of the text, the waters have been muddied somewhat by the common use of the translation “kindred” for “molad’ti” instead of “birthplace” in 12:1 and 24:4, which would seemingly cast doubt on whether the area of Haran was in fact Abraham’s birthplace. Aside from the fact that he also refers to this area unambiguously as “my country” (artzi), an epithet he would be unlikely to use to refer to an out-of-the-way stop on his route, there is good reason to believe that “birthplace” is indeed a much better approximation of the intended meaning than “kindred”.
    In “The five books of Moses: a translation with commentary”, by Robert Alter, in the commentary on Gen. 12:1 “Go forth form your land…to the land I will show you” (pg. 62), Alter explains:
    “Rashi also draws a shrewd connection between the triplet here “your land and your birthplace and your father’s house” – with the triplet in chapter 22 – “your son, your only one, whom you love.” The series in each case focuses the utterance more specifically from one term to the next. thus the Hebrew ‘moledet’ almost certainly has its usual sense of ‘birthplace’ and not its occasional sense of ‘kinfolk’, which would turn it into a loose synonym of ‘father’s house’ (a fixed term for the family social unit). In 11:28 ‘moledet’ appears as part of a genetive construction, ‘eretz moladeto’, ‘land of his birth’. Here those two terms are broken out from each other to yield the focusing sequence: land-birthplace-father’s house.”

    I would further add to this analysis, that the translation “get thee out…from thy kindred” (as opposed to “…from thy birthplace”) in 12:1 would not make much sense in the general context of Gen. 12, given the fact that Abram’s father has just died in the previous verse, and in the following verses Abram takes all the ‘kindred’ with him in Haran – and indeed everything in Haran connected with him – and leaves together with them all in one big ‘caravan’:
    “12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.”

    There are certainly more verses in Genesis connecting the patriarchal traditional homleand with Haran/Aram Naharaim/Padan Aram, not least the verses concerning Jacob’s sojourn in this same area to find a wife for himself from amongst the patriarchal extended family.
    However, at this point I would like to conclude my remarks here on the Biblical narrative with an excerpt from Deuternomy 26:5, which provides a good summary of how the Biblical authors perceived the travels, experiences, and evolution of the early Hebrews:
    “A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.”

  8. @JD

    You have successfully martialled even stronger arguments in favor of a N. Mesopotamian location for Ur Kasdim, your strongest arguments being your etymological argument the Kasdim came from N. Mesopotamia, making it logical Qir should be sought somewhere south of Emar, the use of the term “land of my nativity” for what seems to be restricted to Aram-Naharim in Gen 24:7, the finding of Chaldeans on the Upper Tigris and near Haran, the fact “Urim” was usually pronounced with an “m”, and the fact a way from S. Mesopotamia to Haran would be unusually indirect. The finding of an Ur in the Ebla tablets would be further confirmation of the idea Ur is in Northern, not Southern Mesopotamia. The argument from Deut 26:5, however, ignores the fact the verse might be referring to Jacob, who spent significant amounts of time in the land of the Arameans.

    I concede the arguments you have martialled make it a viable possibility that Abraham’s Ur was a yet unattested(?) Northern Chaldean settlement to the east of Haran. While the southern option remains viable, it is greatly weakened by the argument from Genesis 24:7, Abram’s route, and the pronunciation of “Urim”.

    1. It is ammusing to read how the same issues may be discussed numberless times even if probably already settled in half-way official discussion forums. It is true, I didn´t take yet the burden to publish these results of my research, but we have had them discussed longer ago on the first ANE-list and elsewhere, and I had once the displeasure to read a journalist wrongly quoting my ideas without calling my name in connection with the northern Ur identification. By all evidence, I could gather, the most likely candidate for the identification of Uru Kasdim is the important city of Urkesh, Tel Mozan, on the Chabur. The name Urkesh can be considered as a composite formed by the word UR/URU (city) and Kish. As the region of Urkesh later changed hands and the new lords of the land became the Kassites, whose first historical attestation is from this very region – with a Kashtiliash of Hana – may have the meaning of the name slipped towards an UR/URU of the Kaššu, much favorised by the closeness of the two words, Kish and Kaššu (Kassites). This change of meaning may be reflected by the Gaššim.KI in the Chabur region mentioned by ARM II, 1.

      I can point to W.G. Lambert, in “Ebla 1975-1985- Atti del convegno internazionale”, Napoli ,1987, too, pointing at the shere impossibility that all the numberless references to a city of Kish in the Eblaite sources could all point at the distant city of Kish and not rather to a closer one, sought by him east of Chabur. The clues concerning the position of this city are offered by following references:
      KIŠKI once belonged to Abarsal
      KIŠKI once belonged to Ebla
      Goods of KIŠKI are received in Tuttul and Terqa
      KIŠKI is roughly in the same direction as Mari and Nagar

      Very much later, as the Kish/Kesch part of the city name began to be associated with the Kassites populating the region (Kashshu) this particle went through all changes associated with the name of the Kassites.
      The name of Kaššu was in reality a name coined only by the foreigners onto the Kassites. We know they really called themselves in fact, Galzu/Kalzu – and as Kemal Balkan points a variant spelling, which might denote in fact (according to my opinion) the real way to read this name, Qalduk. A Kassite personal name like Suhur-Galdu (Kaldu) may be somehow related to the previous. Whether or not this is the first apparition of the historical Kaldeans (Kaldu), this may explain the Hebrew name of Uru Kasdim coming from Urkesh, Kasdim being the name currently applied in the Bible to the Kaldeans.

      The archaeological finds in Urkesh/Tel Mozan document a mixed population of Akkadians and Hurrites for the period likely to be Abrahams. Urkesh was the residence of the Chief god of the Hurrian pantheon, Kumarbi. There are hints to the fact, that this pantheon is originally a Semitic one with several Hurrian names applied to the Semitic divinities.

      Besides – the Chabur region is the one where the habiru are the very first time attested in any archives. The discussion concerning the habiru is ongoing – the newest contributions of Durand discard some older silly interpretations – but there is still a lengthy way to go till to the historical Hebrews.

      Best regards

      Michael Banyai

      1. Your idea of Urkesh being corrupted to “Ur Kasdim” sounds plausible to my ears (at the present time, at least) except for the problem of Urkesh’s Mittani-era abandonment. I view the stories of the Patriarchs’ relations with Mesopotamia to be Exilic or Post-Exilic, as there is no reason for the authors of the Bible to mention a Mesopotamian origin for the Patriarchs before this period.

        1. There is a logical fallacy concerning the reason or no reason to mention a Mesopotamian origin. I don´t view the Patriarch stories either as exilic nor as post-exilic. I don´t make my buys in Copenhagen. In fact, I don´t buy anything in Copenhagen. :-) There is thus no problem with the Mittanian gap.

          Best regards

          Michael Banyai

            1. As any belief, the one concerning the dating of the patriarchal stories must allow falsification. If and when possible evidence comes up, which might put this belief under a question mark you have to check both your belief as well as that possible evidence not only the last one. Each one of them can be based as well on some faulty assumption. If you permanently reject theories which could invalidate your belief, you must at a time point sooner or later draw a bottom line and ask: is more evidence speaking against than for my belief?

              Besides, I am not very comfortable operating with beliefs of any kind. When I make an assumption, I try to demonstrate it. When this isn´t possible, I don´t try to make out of this belief a strong point.

              Kind regards,
              Michael

            2. My belief the patriarchal narratives date to the exilic or post-exilic periods is falsifiable (by, say, decisive evidence of use of Mesopotamian realia which could not date to as late as the 6th C BC in the narratives), but I have not yet seen any evidence that has falsified my belief.

            3. It means you indirectly concede not to have any direct evidence for your belief, while I have plenty for the contrary. It´s thus just a question of my current publishing priorities.

            4. My direct evidence is that widespread Hebrew literacy is unknown in Judah before the Iron Age, and that, thus, the patriarchal narratives should date to the Iron Age or later and that the theme of the Patriarchs getting wives from Mesopotamia fits very well in the Persian period, but in no other period that I know of.

            5. What do you call widespread literacy in the ANE? That I don´t laugh. :-) I would state to the contrary, In Judah and Israel was the most widespread literacy level in the whole ANE. Now prove the contrary.

            6. I call ‘widespread literacy’ over 15% of the adult male population being literate. I would disagree with your statement because, while Judah probably did experience a period of widespread literacy in the late 8th-early 6th Cs BC, the only major collection of inscriptions from the period just preceding that in either Israel or Judah is, to my knowledge, the Samaria Ostraca (unless I am forgetting something crucial).

            7. OK, nothing against calling “widespread literacy” something by 15%. How do you compute the adult population? How do you calculate the number of literate persons thereof? Which is you error marge? 90%?
              According to your hint to the Samaria ostraca as only surviving evidence of literary activity, would one be able to construct a perfectly “valid” argument concerning a peak of literacy during ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian antique against an age of deep illiteracy in the XXth century after all electronic media and paper media would be gone. Probably only surviving a couple of monumental letters in Los Angeles could betray some rudimentary kind of knowledge of script. But their overdimensioned unpractical use of signs conveying no significant meaning (HOLLYWOOD) nor sentence, no use of interpunctuation, demonstrate that real knowledge of the alphabet was entirely lost. It was in fact an alphabet-like fetish used by the primitive tribes in the region of Los Angeles.
              Now making earnest – don´t you are aware of the use of completely other perishable media by the Israelites, against the practice in Mesopotamia or Egypt? Ostraca was an expedient used for the cheapest communication, when the real material lacked or was too expensive for the purpose meant. The Hebrews used most rarely monumental carved stone inscriptions because of a taboo laid against it. The monumental inscriptions were like that in Deir Ala written on the wall plastering. No surprise that almost 100% have disappeared. For current use there was only papyrus, which survives only in arid circumstances, likely in Egypt unlikely in Palestine.
              Similar non-sense arguments can be made about the use of Linear B and Linear A for creating exclusively accounting documents, as the only surviving documents in Bronze age Greece, written on clay were the drop-away accounting documents. They were preserved just by the mere destruction of the palaces by fire. They would have been otherwise discarded. The Myceneans and Minoans wrote however their more important documents on wood tablets. I don´t have to explain, that not one has survived the ages. Only some bronze hinges connecting the tablets from once have survived and have been discovered in Mycens. Monumental Linear B inscriptions? Not a single one. Not even a Graffito. Surely not because the Myceneans weren´t able of monumental art, etc.
              Same absurd conclusions could be arrived concerning the Luwians during the Bronze age. All monumental Luwian hieroglyph inscriptions were made by the non-Luwian Hittites. Only a couple of Luwian seals is what survived. As usual, the Luwians wrote during the Bronze age on waxed-wood tablets. Nothing survived. Literacy level? 0%? 5%? 10%? How to quantify, if one doesn´t take any attention to the elementary differences from one culture to the next one and to the elementary rules of preservation of written material?

            8. Adult population can be computed by counting settled area and examining the ratio of adult males to the rest of the population by examining bones from cemeteries. I highly doubt that if we do not count paper and electronic media a picture of a largely illiterate 21st C AD society would emerge-plenty of text would still be found in metal, plastic, ceramic, and stone artifacts. Parchment and papyrus, the most common Levantine writing materials before the Ottoman period, are, indeed, easily perishable. It is true, as you say, that the error margin for estimates of ancient literacy can be quite high, however, there does seem to be a noticeable increase in stone and ceramic inscriptions in Judah in the late 8th C BC.

            9. Hi Pithom,
              even if you could count the population within any acceptable error margin, what I doubt, you still not have the number of the literate males among them. I had already a dispute with Thomas Thompson concerning his population numbers for Jerusalem. His computation basis was risible. He had to make an assumption concerning the dimensions of Jerusalem, which he couldn´t document by any means since he lacked evidence for a city wall in the period. Than he added assumptions concerning the number and density of houses and number of people pro house within, based on a derisory number of discovered houses. The reult was the number he needed for his own agenda. Great wonder?
              As said, you must find different means to determine the literacy level, since you lack several data in your equation. If you do not wish to fill the gaps with your own bias.
              The fact that the Shilo´am tunel has a stone inscription has no statistical value. It is an exception from the biblical tradition of writing on plastered stone because of the wet circumstances in the tunel. Ceramic inscriptions are due to material shortage, Like for example the Lakish ostraka written in an isolated outpost running out of papyrus. They are relevant for the economical circumstances rather than for the frequence of writing.

  9. Long time no see – and I’m sorry for that…

    I don’t have much time to be serious on this subject now either – but, at least, here is something funny for you:

    In a genetic study done by one Dr Eran Elhaik, in which he tries to prove some connection between Ashkenazi Jews and the Khazarian Empire, there’s a part where he tries to determine the “biogeographical origin” coordinates (i.e. where in the world thy most fit genetically) of Eastern European and Central European Ashkenazi Jews, by comparing their DNA to DNA of other people&nations who live today in different places of the world… In this part, he comes up with all kinds of coordinates in the northern parts of the Middle East – depending on who he comperes them to – and the smallest deviations in the geographical coordinates were obtained with Armenians for both Eastern (38 ± 2.7° N, 39.9 ± 0.4° E) and Central (35 ± 5° N, 39.7 ± 1.1° E) European Jews…

    Here’s a link to the study – see there under Fig 3:

    http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/61.full

    Now, try running those coordinates on Google Maps, and you’ll find that the biogeographical centers of Eatern European Jews (38° N, 39.9° E) and Central European Jews (35° N, 39.7° E), are just a bit to the north and a bit to the south of the line between Urkesh and Harran:

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=200194895895720439502.0004dcc0c441bff010f2b

    Funny, isn’t it?

    1. Interesting, but I am not a bit surprised.

      I was looking back these days too because a discussion I just had with Professor D. ( a leading head in the discussion concerning amongst others the hapiru). I made an argument against his fixation on the hapiru as a social class.

      The argument has its great merits, but once one realizes, that the only places where the habiru are autochtonous are the regiosn of Subartu and Canaan (with an exception of Egypt during the 13 Dynasty) it is clear, one has missed some most essential factor. That the habiru/hapiru and the ibrim/Hebrews are temporally and regionally overlaping. I am not going into detail, but Finkelstein made an argument for a cultural and ethnical afinity between the highland settlements of the MBA and of IA I, with a depopulation period (population turning off from sedentarism) during the LBA. I have in the meanwhile added some more evidence to Finkelstein´s.

      BTW, concerning the Mitanni era abandonment recalled by Pithom: one ought to stress the fact, that the whole Chabur region experienced a dark period without quasi any attestation of sedentary population during a quite long period following Ur III, mainly centered on the Assyrian old collonies period. When one should look for a date for “Abraham”, than at the beginning of that void period.

    2. Hallo, I recently read the paper the genetics paper you linked. It has several severely flawed parts and some interesting ones. The idea of a link to the Kazars is a no-starter. The foundation of this ex-acathedra statement is an as well ex-cathedra statement linking the Georgians and the Armenians to the Khazars. Sincerely stating, this is the peak of manipulation, linking genetically two peoples (Georgians and Armenians) to a genetically completely unknown people.The next step; deriving from the real genetic closeness of the Armenians and Georgians to the European Jews to a Kazar link is ill manipulative. Since the Cypriots are at least as close genetically to this Caucasian gene, one should conclude from this, the Cypriots were also Khazars. This shows the manipulation intent, since there is no consequence accorded to the even higher number of “Caucasian” genes in the case of the Cypriots.
      In fact most probably is this “Caucasian” gene most probably a Hurrite gene. They are the only “Caucasian” people which was really in touch with all these peoples. This also explains the importance of the Urkesh link. Urkesh was till the old-Assyrian colonies period the southernmost Hurrite state. There was following to this a temporary retreat of the Hurrites to the north, so that the long contact between Hebrews and Hurrians leading to the genetic mix had to take place before the period of the old-Assyrian colonies.

      1. Hi, Michael. Of course you are right. The guy who wrote this paper (Dr Eran Elhaik) is indeed, well, a kind of an (how to put it gently) idiot…

        You need only to look at his own FIG. 5. to see that Ashkenazi Jews got about the same amount of “Caucasian DNA” (i.e, DNA Markers which are most typical among Georgians, Adygei and Lezgins) as the Cypriots – as well as many Syrians, Lebanese and quite a few Druze people – and they also got about the same amount of “Middle Eastern DNA”. According to FG.5. the only substantial differences between Ashkenazi Jews and current Middle Eastern population are that Ashkenazi Jews got much more “European DNA” than the current Middle Eastern population (although it should be noted that Syrians, Lebanese – and especially the Cypriots – got some “European DNA” as well) and, on the other hand, the current Middle Eastern population has much more “Near Eastern DNA” than Ashkenazi Jews:

        Just as you said, the way that the “Caucasian DNA” is distributed among the populations, makes it quite obvious that this “Caucasian DNA” was already present in the northern parts of the Levant (mainly Turkey) since the Neolithic Period – and probably wondered south to Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Canaan, along with the Hurrians and Hittites, or even earlier… Thus, it is much more probable that the founding ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jewry were Jews from the Levant who brought with them, from Canaan to Europe, both the “Middle Eastern DNA” and the so called “Caucasian DNA” – and then picket some more “European DNA” after they got there (in fact, the presence of a “West European DNA” among the Jews of Eastern Europe suggests that they did not come from the Caucasus in the east, because there is no “Western European DNA” in the Caucasus, at all)…

        Furthermore, when adding Spharadi and Moroccan Jews to the party (something that Elhaik doesn’t do, maybe on purpose) then one can see they are just about as “Khazar” as Ashkenazi Jews:

        http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7303/fig_tab/nature09103_F3.html

        http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7303/fig_tab/nature09103_F2.html

        As for the “Khazars” themselves, according to the historical testimonies it most likely they were not local Caucasian population at the time, but were rather Turkic People who migrated to the Caucasus from north Iran or central Asia – maybe like the Hazara People today:

        https://www.google.co.il/search?q=Hazara+in+Iran&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=rYdAVL_SGojHPcyxgPgO&ved=0CC8QsAQ

        A possible indication for this might be found in the dark brown “Near Eastern DNA” which completely dominates the column of Azerbaijani Jews (who are actually Jews who are living today in the same place were the Khazars have lived) – in our Figure 5…

        Eran Elhiak himself says that this “Near Eastern DNA”, marked in brown, is most probably from some “Turkish” origin. I think that he is right, and I also think that from looking at its distribution among Iranian and Iraqi Jews as well, it is probable that in ancient times this “Near Eastern DNA” was less frequent in the western parts of the Middle East, and more frequent in Persia and central Asia – but it was later distributed in the Middle East by the Turks and Mongols who brought it with them from central Asia, until it reached the high levels of frequency you find in the Middle East Today…

        Anyway, the reason I brought the like here is because after all the fuss with the “Khazar theory” these were the “Biogeographical Origin” coordinates he finally came up with:

        https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=200194895895720439502.0004dcc0c441bff010f2b

        Just like it says in the Bible… :-)

        1. I agree with you concerning the interest of the genetical DNA geographical localization. This marks (Urkesh) the southernmost advance of the Hurrians about 2000BC, where they met the Hebrew ancestors. One of the very earliest Judges mentioned in the Song of Deborah, Shamgar, has a strait Hurrian name.

          Some cypriotic names read in an Egyptian names list were recognized by M. Astour as Hurrian and accepted as such by a later study, so no wonder concerning the Hurrian admixture under Cyprus Greeks. There is also a second list of Alashians (Cypriots) found in Ugarit offering the same pattern.

          The Georgians and Armenians settled on the territory formerly belonging to Urartu, a Hurrian follower-state, so no wonder they also share this gene. It would be a wonder Mr. Elhaik had to explain, why, if this gene ought to be “Khazar”, there is not the slightest trace of the Urartians/Hurrites in the Georgians and the Armenians?

          This study of Elhaik is everything, what qualifies as unqualified study.

        2. Thanks for adding the DNA results for the other Jewish groups. I have very much believed, Elhaik was manipulating the facts as he pleased, and this adds to this evidence.

          Concerning the alleged contact between Hebrews and Hurrians before 2000BC. The composite society in the Chabur region, to which Urkish belonged, broke up about 2000 BC. The sedentarism was cancelled in the whole Chabur region and the Hurrians probably retracted back to the north and left contact with the Semitic population groups for a while. They made their way to the south again much later in two pushes – the last coming ca. 1600 BC. I suppose that a large Hebrew group also left the Chabur region (still preserving to this day the name of the Hebrews) for Canaan. Others – marginal rest groups – stayed and are attested in the later Mari archives.

          I know, I am contradicting here the prevailing opinion concerning the Chabiru, but I have not the least problem with this. At the time of the Chabiru rencontre did the Assyriologists go home following the word, we agree not to agree, and the view identifying the Chabiru as an ethnic group was just underperforming in the past 20 years or so.

        3. The thread here:
          http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/08/ashkenazi-jews-are-probably-not-descended-from-the-khazars/
          is very enlightening regarding the Khazar Hypothesis. My guess is there’s less than 10% Khazar ancestry in modern Ashkenazi Jews, as the surest marker of any Khazar ancestry in the Middle East is East Asian ancestry, and, as Oded’s link to http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7303/fig_tab/nature09103_F3.html shows, while some Ashkenazi Jews do have noticeable East Asian ancestry, it’s a pretty tiny component; much tinier than in Russians and clearly tinier than in Turks or Adygei.
          Elhaik’s results for the biogeographical origin of Jews (which are surely too far East) result from him using way too few and too diverse groups for comparison (obviously, European Jews are closer to Armenians than to French Basques). And, in any case, Romanians and Cypriots aren’t Khazars.

          1. No Pithom. It shows that today´s Jews hold a ca. 66% of their ancestral genes. That so-called Khazar gene is in fact Hurrian/Urartian gene, the result of the contact between the proto-Hebrews and the Hurrians within the Near-East before even the “patriarchal” period. The only explanation of this gene appearing in the mentioned populations is to trace it back to the Hurrians. It is not present in any western European population, sdo it ought to have been contacted in the east.

          2. BTW the Khazars. We can not quantify anything, which is unreliable to the most. The so-called Khazar conversion is not corroborated by any contemporary sources in contact with the Khazars. There is not a single scrap of an object found in the region, pertaining to the period, corroborating at least by a single Jewish symbol the story.
            In fact it is just the Jewish pendant to the contemporary Christian lore concerning the empire of Presbyter Johannes, making the Mongols to Christians. Same historical reality behind, same wishful thinking on both sides, namely zero reality.
            The presence of important Jewish congregations – but in much smaller numbers than one had to assume for Khazaria – in China of the Tang and later dynasties can be well corroborated archaeologically. Why nothing about the Khazars? Because there is nothing to be found – as little as of the Christian empire of Presbyter John.
            So advancing any numbers for some Khazar genetical contribution to the modern Jewry belongs to the realm of pseudo-science despite the mock-up of science presented by Elhaik and others.

            1. Interesting. Never met till now on this piece of evidence. So there is indeed some background for the stories concerning a conversion. But that is for the presbyter John too. :-)

            2. Hi Pithom and Michael – and sorry for the delay.

              About the time of creation and movement of these unique genetic characteristics which define “West European ancestry”, “East European ancestry”, “Caucasian ancestry” etc, according to Alhaik’s paper:

              Well, I think that the unique genetic characteristics that are dominant in specific major population groups – such as the “Western European” ones (marked in red) which dominates in Sardinia and Spain; The “Eastern European” ones (marked in blue) which dominates Russia, Lithuania and Belarus; And the “Caucasian” ones, which are dominant among the Georgians, Lezgins and Adygei people – have evolved, and become dominant, within very-very small groups of populations, which have lived in a very-vary high level of isolation – far away from each other – over a very-very long period of time – long-long time ago… I believe we’re talking Ice Age and Epipaleolithic here – and/or, at the latest, during the Neolithic period. Long before the formation of those ethnic groups – such as the “Hurrians”, “Hittites” etc – which are known to us from the Bronze Age.

              A good example for such genetic characteristics – which have evolved, become dominant, and spread, during the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic periods – are the Y-Chromosome Haplogroups such as:

              Haplogroup R1b – which could be paralleled to (and is probably part of) what is defined here as “West European DNA”:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1b_(Y-DNA)

              Haplogroup R1a (by that I mean R-M17) – which could be paralleled to (and is probably part of) what is defined here as “East European DNA”:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R-M17

              And, of course, Haplogroup J2 (J-M172) – which is the most popular Haplogroup among Ashkenazi Jews – that could also be paralleled to (and is probably part of) what is defined by Elhaik as “Caucasian DNA”, and should be rather “North-Levantian & Caucasian DNA”:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_J-M172

              See also:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakh_peoples#Haplogroup_J2a4b.2A

              The fact that such regional genetic characteristics have been around for so long, is why we don’t necessarily need to see “Hurrian Migration” to Romania in order to explain how the “Caucasian DNA” got there. These “Caucasian” elements must have been present in the DNA of many people, from many different ethnic groups, throughout the northern parts of the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia, since the late Neolithic period; And they could have found their way into East Europe & Romania either long before – and/or long after – the Hurrians existed as a distinct ethnic group (for example, those same “Caucasian” elements also appear in the DNA of people in Spain, and it was probably brought there from the Levant, first by the Phoenicians and Greeks who sailed around the Mediterranean and founded colonies in distant places, and then later by the Muslims who came from the Levant, and invaded Spain in the 7th century AD)…

              However, in the case of Canaan and the ancient Israelites, it is good that we have – in addition to what was said above, and in addition to the Bible stories – some ancient documentation (like many of the names in el-Amarna letters, for example) which proves the presence of people from ethnic groups such as the Hurrians and Hittites (and probably the Biblical “Jebusites” and “Hivites” also refers to such people) which originated in the northern parts of the Levant… If we wouldn’t have such written proof, well, one can only guess what some people would say… ;-)

            3. We shouldn´t confuse the question of the formation of the haplogroups with the one of their spread.

              BTW: language groups have formed under the same isolation circumstances as the haplogroups, so there is a high probability that they could in many cases converge.

              You are looking for a model of spread of the haplogroups which unaware of it assumes a kind of big bang and not several independent contacts between taking place a couple of times under changing circumstances at different stages in time. This is, I suppose, the most unrealistic model to assume.

              Concerning with your problem with the Romanians. The ethnogenesis of the (dominant group aamong the) Romanians didn´t took place on the present-day territory of Romania, but rathermore already in Anatolia. I consider very attractive a theory tracing the ancestors of the Romanians to the ancient Moesians – Moesia inferior was south of the Danube. These Moesians could probably be traced back to an ancient colonisation movement of the Mysians from Anatolia to Moesia during the Middle Bronge Age mentioned by Herodot or Diodor Siculus (I am not sure which of both – I would have to check my notices for this). Keywords pertaining to the self-designation of the Romanians as a people have to be traced back to the root “Mysian / heth. Masa”.

              So for example does a compact group of Romanian people now dwelling in the very core of Transilvania call their region “zara mozilor”= land of the moz´s. (I can not use here the typical Romanian founts for the letter reading like english “z”). An old man is called by the Romanians a “mosh”. The feminine pendant to this, “old woman”, is lexically “moasha”, which however twisted in its meaning to midwife, being replaced in its original meaning by a slavic borrowing “baba”. A landowner is a “moshier”, while the land he owns is “moshie”. and the word for heritage is a composite word “mosh-tenire” (literally a land to hold). We can conclude, that the ancient Romanians called generically their land “Mosh” and their ancestors “Mosh”. Not unlike the Assyrian Mushki, a pobable reflux of colonists now coming from Europe back to Asia, this time in combination with the Phrygians.

              Diakonoff views them (the Mushki) as the proto-Armenians. As a matter of fact the original name of the Romanians is not the way we today have it – making an artificial linkage to the Romans. Romanian groups still existant south of the Danube call themselves not Romanians but instead Aromanians (once more a problem of propper Romanian fonts). This could explain how both the Northern and the southern “Mosh” groups used as a further self designation the name “Armini” or the like. The Romanians were latinized, but that happened to most nations in the Roman empire, excepting the Greeks – this doesn´t account for their name.

              It is also typical for the ways of the soup of the nations, mixed in all directions of the globe.

              Kind regards,

              Michael

            4. This is a fair result to be expected on any nation-people after more than 2000 years of mixing with others. Only the Papua or similar people could be exempted of mix with others.

  10. pithom,

    Why would the Jews, who were living in Jerusalem during the Persian period, invent such stories about Abraham and Jacob coming to Shchem and establishing holy worship places there? Not only were those stories Anti-Deuteronomistic, but they also give some holy status to a place which was deep in the heart of the Samaritan province…

    Same thing goes for the Anti-Deuteronomic worship site in Bethel, and the site of worship established by Abraham in Be’er-sheva – which was also outside the reach of the province of Judea in the Persian period…

    Those stories – which also discuss the relations with the Arameans – seem to me far more relevant to the times of the kingdom of Israel, than to the Persian period… In fact, if those stories were invented in Judea during the Persian period, I would expect Abraham to come from Babylon straight to Jerusalem, and build his one&only worship place right there… Wouldn’t you?

    1. I agree with your arguments. There is not the least detail speaking for a late Persian-period redaction. It is however not fashionable for the moment to attrbute a high age to the most biblical stories. And fashion defies any logic… Excuse me pithom, this is not personal.

      1. First I’d like to add that even in the early framework of the prophecies of Hosea (in the 8th century BC) we already have an explicit mentioning of the tradition about Jacob fleeing to Aram and working to win his wife/wives (Hosea 12:12) – which appears there along with other familiar parts of the Jacob stories … I also think that from the context there, we can understand that this text is relevant to the time of the kingdom of Israel (or at least shortly after it was destroyed around 722 BC), and not some late addition from the Persian period in Judea:

        http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hosea+12

        In the book of Amos – which also deals with the kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BC – we see that “Israel” are/is also called “Isaac” and “the house of Isaac” in the verses:

        1) “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed
        and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined;
        with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” (Amos 7:9).
        2) “Do not prophesy against Israel,
        and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.” (Amos 17:16).

        As for Abraham, we can see his legacy is mentioned in a prophesy from the book of Ezekiel, as something that those people who remained in the ruins of Judea are talking about:

        “Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he inherited the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us to inherit it’…” (Ezekiel 33:24).

        It is also worth noticing that the Hebrew term “Trans the River” (“עבר הנהר”) that clearly refers to the area “beyond the Euphrates River” in Joshua 24 (see also Joshua 1:4), where it describes the homeland of Abraham and his family members, is being used there in the exact opposite way of what the term “Trans the River” (“עבר הנהר”/ “עֲבַר-נַהֲרָה”) meant in the Persian period (then the Land of Israel itself was in the area called “Trans the River”, see: Ezra 4:10, 11, 16, 17, 20; Nehemiah 3:7 [it should be noted that most English versions translate it as “Trans Euphrates” but the original Hebrew simply says here “Trans the River” as in Joshua 24])… To see the term being used anachronistically in a late addition from Persian period, look in the book of kings:

        “Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. For he ruled over all the kingdoms of “Trans the River”, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides”. (1Kings 5:2-4 [English versions: 1Kings 4:22-23]).

        If we also take into consideration the fact that the stories about the Forefathers appear in all Biblical-Sources – E, J, P and D – I think it’s more reasonable to assume that the traditions&stories about those Forefathers were quite ancient and well-known among Israelites – and although some additions and changes were probably made in these stories in late versions, the basic ideas (like the idea that they came from “Aram-Naharayim”) were preserved…

        Having that said, I think that chronologically speaking I find myself somewhere between you and pithom – Between your Ur III period (21st to 20th century BC) and his Persian period (5th to 4th century BC)… I think those stories about Forefathers who came from “Aram-Naharayim” were first born (and based on) real migration/s that took place during the 13th – 12th century BC – around that same time we also hear about the Arameans for the first time…

        Maybe it’s more than just a coincidence that the first altar that ‘Abraham’ established in Cna’an was being established at the same place where Joshua established his altar, in Alon/y Moreh near Shchem… Maybe we’re dealing with the same altar built by a coalition of groups who came from different places to the same area around the same time…

        1. Of course your examples concerning the ancienty of the traditions pertaining the biblical “fathers” are sound. I can not however answer you in detail concerning the chronology of ancient Israel. I am reserving the data for a later publication. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence for conclusively dating the Conquest into the 13th-12th century. The date is quite contrafactual – picking just on an alleged synchronism between the arrival of Philistines and the Exodus. It would be however not the first occasion of anachronistic biblical use of the name “Philistines”, since they occur already in the stories of Abraham et al. So what makes this reference less anachronistic than others? The second element leading to this association with the 13th-12th century is Merneptahs Israel stele, for the moment apparently the earliest use of the name Israel. This is a very weak proof, since there are voices for even earlier attestations of the name in Egyptian texts. See Görg on this matter.

    2. Why would the Jews, who were living in Jerusalem during the Persian period, invent such stories about Abraham and Jacob coming to Shchem and establishing holy worship places there?

      -As Bethel and Hebron had no significance in the Persian period, the mention of places such as Bethel, Shechem, and Beersheba in Genesis is very likely an optimistic and nostalgic reminder of pre-Persian days. As shown by the Exodus story, at least some Biblical authors believed that before the rise of the Monarchy, God’s glory moved around quite frequently, so there would be no point in making Jerusalem the only place where the Patriarchs could worship. Different rules applied to the Patriarchs than to post-Tabernacle Israelites.

      1. Dear Pithom, this kind of argument doesn´t make much sense. You can posit it also: whatever the evidence is, the conclusions will be the same.

        1. Michael, what does not make much sense about this argument? My conclusions are not “the same” “whatever the evidence is”. E.g., if something like the Deir ‘Alla texts are found in an Iron Age context and they mention Abram in Mesopotamia, I will be forced to revise my conclusions.

          1. Dear Pithom, it is sympthomatic for so-called biblical exegesis to bring up scenarios the authors of them don´t deem necesary to bring any positive evidence for. In any other historical dicipline would such a method be considered under average.

            Adding to this kind of hypothesis making, which began already with the invention of the JEDP, a kind of new orthodoxy to which most biblical scholars with parochial background felt compelled because it recquired from them just to switch from one belief to another, there is also some kind of circular thinking to which people feel attached.

            Like your surmise: the biblical material is not of mostly relatively early Iron Age origin, thus one has to expect confirmation of it by a find found in an Iron Age context. The method is known: proposition nr. 1 is an undemonstrated statement, and once real Iron Age texts are discovered (take the example of the Tell Dan inscription) they are promptly declared to be either a forgery or one provides an alternative translation which rather rises questions concerning the sanity of the translator. Byt dwd explained for example as house of the beloved, equated as a porneion, in normal speech, a brothel.

            Concerning the JEDP theory, it behaves the same way as homeopathy. It pretends to cure illnesses obvious to everyone, (like for example the complex editorial process of the biblical text) but refuses any serious survey concerning its eficacity and its theoretical basis is somewhere in the early 19th century.

            1. Michael,

              The one who brought up the “JEDP theory” here, was me – not pithom (In fact, if I remember right, he is not a great supporter of this theory at all). It was me who claimed here above that:

              “If we also take into consideration the fact that the stories about the Forefathers appear in all Biblical-Sources – E, J, P and D – I think it’s more reasonable to assume that the traditions&stories about those Forefathers were quite ancient and well-known among Israelites”.

              You see, most of “Copenhagen-Sheffield boys” (and I’m not saying pithom is one of them) don’t care much for the JEDP theory, because this theory suggests that the Bible was written throughout a *very long period of time*, by different people who came from (or lived in) different places (for example E from the kingdom of Israel and J from Judea), who lived in different times, who had different interests, and who belong to different schools of thought that slowly developed along many generations (for example, D represents a new Deuteronomic school of thought – very different from earlier E and J – which was active from the time of King Josiah on; and P represents an even later school of thought, that took charge when the Priests took charge of Judea in the Persian period)… Furthermore, the JEDP theory also suggests that one can find in the texts different layers of the Hebrew language, which correspond to the different stages in which the sources were written, and which reflect the changes that the Hebrew language went through over this long period of writing time…

              Of course, all of the above does not sit well with the concept of the “Copenhagen-Sheffield boys” who argue that all the Biblical stories were invented by a small group of “Elders of Zion” who converged in Jerusalem and concocted a grand literary scheme, at some point in the early Persian period… However, after carefully checking this “JEDP theory” out (and I’m lucky enough to be able to do it in the original Hebrew) I concluded that there are many positive evidence to support it – maybe not in the exact schematic form suggested in the 19th century, but surely in a “close-enough” way (for example, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the creation stories in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 2 are two entirely different narratives, written by different authors, who had different beliefs and different worldviews, and who wrote each with his own special language – a language which recurs in various other sections of the Torah)…

            2. I know it was you, who embarked on JEDP. But I don´t think the Copenhagen see real problems with compressing the time of writing of the bible because of the JEDP. Once – on the unwitting question of a Copenhagen younger, how long it would take to write the bible – I answered parodistically: 300 scribes=10 years, 3000 scribes=1year.
              I have my problem with these traditional labels, JEDP, which make unwarranted assumptions concerning the editors of the bible, their background, period, motives, etc. As a matter of fact, one can not limit their number to 4.

      2. pithom,

        Indeed, this kind of reasoning that you gave here above, might easily explain why such stories were *preserved* through the Persian period – *despite the fact that they were irrelevant to the “Sitz im Volksleben” of that time, and quite Anti-Deuteronomic in their basic nature* – However, it hardly gives any reasonable positive-explanation as to why Judeans of that time might have *invented* such stories in the first place…

        Making up such stories about Abraham establishing some holy worship place in Shchem, or about Jacob establishing some holy worship place in Beithel, would only make sense if Abraham and Jacob were already well-known and highly respected figures among the target audience of that time (when the story is invented) – and if those holy worship places had some relevancy in the “Sitz im Volksleben” of that time… Making up stories about some Forefathers that nobody ever heard of, establishing some holy worship places that nobody ever goes to (and, in fact, is even forbidden to worship there), would be worse than just a waste of good Cow Skin – it would be counterproductive in more than one obvious way…

        Personally, I think the authors and editors of the Bible were far less stupid than that. I don’t think they just made ​​stuff up, for nothing out of nothing, I think they mostly wrote stories that were relevant to their own times, which served their interest/s at these times of writing, and I think they did their best to use and build-up-on more ancient traditions which were already well known and well appreciated at their time of writing. Moreover, I think they had a principle of doing it while making their best effort to cut out only the minimum necessary of earlier traditions, and to add in only the minimum necessary of new lies and re-interpretations, in order to deliver their message without arousing suspicion and provoking antagonism among their audience… So, if you find a story about Abraham coming to Shchem – it was probably first forged/written in a time and place when&where it was relevant (i.e. early times in the kingdom of Israel) – And, if you find only little hints for Jerusalem in those stories about Abraham (like in the story about “Malki-Tzedek King of Shalem”, or about Mt “Moriyah” in the Issac story), it means that the tradition about Abraham is probably more ancient (and/or comes from a different place) than the stories about Jerusalem, and these little hints are probably small additions made by some author/s in Jerusalem who probably made them in order to somehow retroactively tie the well-known Canaanite/Jebusite city of Jerusalem unto the well-known ancient Israelite figure of Abraham – without arousing too much ridicule among the educated audience of their time (if all the stories about Abraham and Jerusalem were simply made-up by Judeans in the Persian period, then the authors would have no problem writing some clear&simple story about Abraham coming to Jerusalem instead of Shchem)…

        A god example of this principle can be found in the short description in the book of kings that deals with the time of rule of king Jerobam II (2 Kings 14:23-29). It’s quite clear that the author has a huge problem with Jerobam. On the one hand, the King was considered a “sinner” and a “villain” by any deuteronomic standard, on the other hand, he was a very successful king, with a glorious history of military victories, who reigned for 40 years until he died in a good old age… Obviously the author would have never chosen to invent such a figure in the first place, however, since he knew that this king is a well-known historic figure in his time (the time of writing) he also didn’t choose to ignore him completely, to erase his memory off the pages of history, or even to change his character in a blatant manner (he could have tried describing him as a “righteous king”). Instead, he choose to add some “hard to check” detail about some prophecy given by some unknown prophet, that might have something to do with the success of Jerobam, and to make a very long story (40 years of rule), as short as possible (7 verses)…

        After making this appeal to logic clear, if we also take into consideration the fact that references to the Forefathers’ tradition/s are made in early prophesies – in the books of Hosea, Amos and Ezekiel, as I mentioned in my last comment above – I think we’ll be safe now to take the “Persian period” theory, crumple it into a little paper ball, and throw this ball back in the court of the boys from the Copenhagen-Sheffield School of “Biblical-Zionist-Conspiracy Theories”… They got much more work to do before we can start taking them seriously… :)

        1. There are, indeed, too many references to Jacob in the earliest parts of Isaiah to consider the Patriarchs a completely Persian-era invention. I still consider the Patriarchs’ Mesopotamian connections to be a completely Persian-era invention, dating to the days of the first return of some of the Jewish exiles from Mesopotamia to Judah in the late 6th century BC. I have never denied that the traditions of the Patriarchs worshiping at places in Canaan which were uninhabited in Persian days may preserve pre-586 BC (in some cases, pre-720 BC) traditions. Indeed, in the case of Beersheba, the author of Genesis 26 presumes the city was still there (Genesis 26:33!), thus making a Late Iron Age date for Genesis 26’s composition much more likely than a post-Exilic one. I consider the Biblical “Beyond the River” references to start referring to the Persian “Beyond the River” province sometime in the middle of the Persian period. I consider the Mesopotamian connection to the Patriarchs in the Bible to date to rather early in the Persian period due to the optimism of the passages. I consider Hosea 12:12-13 to be an interpolation, as I do not see how its content is relevant in the context of Hosea 12-13, though I accept the authenticity of the Ezekiel and Amos passages you reference.

          1. Dear Pithom: what has optimism to do with the Persian period? How many time is one optimistic, say within 1000 years? Do you date pesimistic old-Babylonian texts short during Cyrus conquest and optimistic ones to the date of Belshazzars orgy (that wine was excellent!)?
            How can this be a sound dating principle?

          2. OK pithom,

            If I understand it right(?), your reason for dating the “Patriarchs’ coming from Mesopotamia” stories to the Persian period, is that those Jews who returned from exile in Babylon, during the Persian period, probably wanted to depict their Forefathers as people who originated from this “Great Mesopotamian Civilization/Culture” that the exiles had witnessed there, and/or as people who made a similar journey to their own – from “Mesopotamia” to “The Land of Cna’an”…

            Did I get it right so far? If so, here are my problems with such hypothesis:

            Except for being highly simplistic and completely speculative, without any solid *positive* evidence to support it (am I wrong here?), there are more than a few minor problems with the hypothesis itself:

            First of all, the very idea of referring to both Babylon and Harran as two integral parts of an area called ‘Mesopotamia’ is completely anachronistic. The term ‘Mesopotamia’ is only first in the Greek ‘Anabasis Alexandri’, which was written in the late 2nd century AD, where it refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. This term is hardly an equivalent to the Hebrew term ‘Aram-Naharayim’ – which only refers to the very northern (Aramean) parts of that ‘Mesopotamia’ area, and which had nothing to do with places in south Iraq like the area of Babylon (see in: Genesis 24:10; Psalm 9:2; 1 Chronicles 19:6). For the Judeans in the Persian period, Harran was in a completely different universe than that of Babylon: It was not in the same “region”, it had a completely different culture, there is no mentioning of any exiled Judeans living there (or even coming through there), and it’s not even close to the way between the area of Babylon and Cna’an:

            So why, then, would the Jews returning from exile in Babylon (and/or Persia) choose to describe Harran area, out of all places, as either the original homeland of their Forefathers, or even as just a major&important stop in the way?

            Furthermore, it’s not just that Abraham and Jacob arrive to Cna’an from Harran in those stories, but *according to those stories* the first place they arrive to – and/or establish worship places in – is Shchem. Why the hell?!?

            …I mean, I get your claim that it was *possible* for the returning Jews in Jerusalem to depict their forefathers establishing all kinds of worship places other then the one in Jerusalem – or at least to preserve such early stories about them doing so – but, if the whole idea behind “inventing” those “new ‘Mesopotamian’ stories” was to “depict the Patriarchs going through a similar journey as the Jews returning from exile in Babylon” you would not only expect the Patriarchs in those stories to come from Babylon itself (or at least from somewhere close to it that is actually mentioned in the exile/returning stories), but you would also expect that the first worship place they establish in Cna’an – according to those “new stories” – would be Jerusalem (or at least you’d expect them to mention it down the road). Wouldn’t you?

            The fact of the matter is, it’s hard to see anything written in the Patriarchs’ stories which could be relevant to the Persian period. No mention of Persia or Persians, no mention of Babylon, no mention of the term “Beyond the River” (the first use of these words is only in the book of Joshua – and even there it means the opposite of what it meant in the Persian period), and worst of all: hardly any mention of Jerusalem (no mention at all in the Isaac and Jacob stories, and only few hints in the Abraham story)… There is also hardly any connection that can be made between the idea/stories about the Patriarchs’ origin&blood ties in Harran, and the places were Jews lived during their exile in Babylon – and the only thing we are left with here is that dubious mentioning of “Ur Kasdim/Ur Kashdim” that may, or may-not, refer to the famous ‘Ur’ in south Iraq…

            As for that specific case of “Ur Kasdim/Ur Kashdim” itself – this could be solved in one of two ways: Either it’s indeed a late addition from the Persian period referring to a place near Babylon – in which case it would stand in contradiction to earlier stories which refer to Harran as Abraham’s “Homeland and house of his father” (and also the place where Jacob finds his family members) – or either its a case of a late misinterpretation&misrepresentation of the name “Urkesh” – in which case it would sit perfectly with an ancient tradition about “Forefathers migrating from Aram-Naharayim” around 13 century BC…

            Now, about the context of the Jacob story in Hosea 12:12-13, it’s a long and interesting story – that has to do with confronting ʾĒl, the ancient Canaanite god of Israel and the Patriarchs (in the shape of a bull/golden-calf), with Yahwah, the desert-god of Mosses (which Hosea falsely claims “took Israel out of Egypt”) – maybe I’ll have more time to deal with it in a few hours (YEA, I am aware of the fact that the last time I wrote something like this in this Blog, with in few hours a war called “Pillar of Cloud” broke in my own Land of the Bible;))…

  11. OK pithom,
    If I understand it right(?), your reason for dating the “Patriarchs’ coming from Mesopotamia” stories to the Persian period, is that those Jews who returned from exile in Babylon, during the Persian period, probably wanted to depict their Forefathers as people who originated from this “Great Mesopotamian Civilization/Culture” that the exiles had witnessed there, and/or as people who made a similar journey to their own – from “Mesopotamia” to “The Land of Cna’an”…
    Did I get it right so far? If so, here are my problems with such hypothesis:
    Except for being highly simplistic and completely speculative, without any solid *positive* evidence to support it (am I wrong here?), there are more than a few minor problems with the hypothesis itself:
    First of all, the very idea of referring to both Babylon and Harran as two integral parts of an area called ‘Mesopotamia’ is completely anachronistic. The term ‘Mesopotamia’ is only first in the Greek ‘Anabasis Alexandri’, which was written in the late 2nd century AD, where it refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. This term is hardly an equivalent to the Hebrew term ‘Aram-Naharayim’ – which only refers to the very northern (Aramean) parts of that ‘Mesopotamia’ area, and which had nothing to do with places in south Iraq like the area of Babylon (see in: Genesis 24:10; Psalm 9:2; 1 Chronicles 19:6). For the Judeans in the Persian period, Harran was in a completely different universe than that of Babylon: It was not in the same “region”, it had a completely different culture, there is no mentioning of any exiled Judeans living there (or even coming through there), and it’s not even close to the way between the area of Babylon and Cna’an:

    So why, then, would the Jews returning from exile in Babylon (and/or Persia) choose to describe Harran area, out of all places, as either the original homeland of their Forefathers, or even as just a major&important stop in the way?
    Furthermore, it’s not just that Abraham and Jacob arrive to Cna’an from Harran in those stories, but *according to those stories* the first place they arrive to – and/or establish worship places in – is Shchem. Why the hell?!?
    …I mean, I get your claim that it was *possible* for the returning Jews in Jerusalem to depict their forefathers establishing all kinds of worship places other then the one in Jerusalem – or at least to preserve such early stories about them doing so – but, if the whole idea behind “inventing” those “new ‘Mesopotamian’ stories” was to “depict the Patriarchs going through a similar journey as the Jews returning from exile in Babylon” you would not only expect the Patriarchs in those stories to come from Babylon itself (or at least from somewhere close to it that is actually mentioned in the exile/returning stories), but you would also expect that the first worship place they establish in Cna’an – according to those “new stories” – would be Jerusalem (or at least you’d expect them to mention it down the road). Wouldn’t you?
    The fact of the matter is, it’s hard to see anything written in the Patriarchs’ stories which could be relevant to the Persian period. No mention of Persia or Persians, no mention of Babylon, no mention of the term “Beyond the River” (the first use of these words is only in the book of Joshua – and even there it means the opposite of what it meant in the Persian period), and worst of all: hardly any mention of Jerusalem (no mention at all in the Isaac and Jacob stories, and only few hints in the Abraham story)… There is also hardly any connection that can be made between the idea/stories about the Patriarchs’ origin&blood ties in Harran, and the places were Jews lived during their exile in Babylon – and the only thing we are left with here is that dubious mentioning of “Ur Kasdim/Ur Kashdim” that may, or may-not, refer to the famous ‘Ur’ in south Iraq…
    As for that specific case of “Ur Kasdim/Ur Kashdim” itself – this could be solved in one of two ways: Either it’s indeed a late addition from the Persian period referring to a place near Babylon – in which case it would stand in contradiction to earlier stories which refer to Harran as Abraham’s “Homeland and house of his father” (and also the place where Jacob finds his family members) – or either its a case of a late misinterpretation&misrepresentation of the name “Urkesh” – in which case it would sit perfectly with an ancient tradition about “Forefathers migrating from Aram-Naharayim” around 13 century BC…
    Now, about the context of the Jacob story in Hosea 12:12-13, it’s a long and interesting story – that has to do with confronting ʾĒl, the ancient Canaanite god of Israel and the Patriarchs (in the shape of a bull/golden-calf), with Yahwah, the desert-god of Mosses (which Hosea falsely claims “took Israel out of Egypt”) – maybe I’ll have more time to deal with it in a few hours (YEA, I am aware of the fact that the last time I wrote something like this in this Blog, with in few hours a war called “Pillar of Cloud” broke in my own Land of the Bible;))…

  12. OK, I’m back…

    First, after reviewing my last comments here, I’d like to apologize for the many mistakes in them – me no speak English very well – me being a bit dyslexic even when writing fast in (my native tongue) Hebrew… So please forgive!:)

    Now, back to the Bible:

    The way I see it, the complicated historical narrative that describes the formation of the people of Israel, as it appears in the Bible, was composed of three main themes: The “Patriarchs’ coming from Aram-Naharayim” theme; The “Going into and coming out of Egypt” theme; And the “Wandering in the desert” theme. Each of these themes originated in one of three main different groups of population that came together and composed the ‘People of Israel’ in Cna’an during the early Iron Age: One was a group from the local population that centered around Shechem during the LB, which had preserved (and developed stories about) vague memories from the Hyksos period (hence the Joseph and Exodus stories); One was a population of migrants who came to Cna’an from Aram-Naharayim during the 13th century BC (hence the “Patriarchs’ coming from Aram-Naharayim” theme); And finally, one was a population of Shasu nomads who came from “the land of Shasu-y/iw” somewhere which is mentioned in Egyptian sorces from the LB as some place around Mount Seir:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahweh_(Canaanite_deity)#Evidence_from_ancient_Egypt

    It’s easy to see how after many generations, when the long-united Israelites had to deal with such conflicting traditions about their past, they chose to stitch them all together into one long&uniting story – in which the Patriarchs’ come to Cna’an from the North, then they went West from Cna’an to Egypt, then they came out of Egypt, took a very long trip in the South – where they first learned that “El-Shadai” the god of their forefathers is actually called “Yahwah” – and then, eventually, they returned to Cna’an from the East, to finally conquer the land…

    In reality, the first formation of ‘Israel’ as a united-group of people was probably done in the form of some social&political covenant that was forged between different groups of population who lived, and/or settled, in the highlands of Cna’an during the late LB period. Obviously, like most covenants in the ancient ME, this covenant had also a religious aspect to it, and was probably forged in some sacred place of worship and had a custodian deity who served as a witness guardian to this convent&union. Given the fact that the name of this union was Isra-el, I’m willing to take a wild guess here, and assume that this deity was ʾĒl – the well-known and respected father of the West-Semitic pantheon, also known in Ugarit as “Shor-El = Bull-El” (as in Hosea 8:5-6 “זָנַח עֶגְלֵךְ שֹׁמְרוֹן, חָרָה אַפִּי בָּם… כִּי מִי שְׂור-אֵל, וְהוּא–חָרָשׁ עָשָׂהוּ, וְלֹא אֱלֹהִים הוּא כִּי-שְׁבָבִים יִהְיֶה, עֵגֶל שֹׁמְרוֹן”), or more commonly “El the god of Israel”, “El-Shadai”/”The god of the Forefaters” etc.

    As one can understand this is not the same god as ‘Yahwah’ – which was brought by the Shasu nomads who came from “the land of Shasu-y/iw”, and was chosen as a “new-god” who served as “King-god” of Israel only at a later stage (mentioned in the song of Deborah “יבחר אלוהים חדשים”). In fact, the verse “I am Yahwah. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El-Shadai, but by my name Yahwah I did not make myself known to them” (Exodus 6:2-3) are just a cover-up for this problem of having different gods – one of the forefathers and one that came from the desert – by claiming they are in-fact “the same one”…

    Unfortunately, it appears like in the days of Hosea not all people were aware of this fact, and some were still considering them to be two different gods – and were even arguing about who is more important El which was the guardian of Jacob, and was worshiped in a form of a bull (i.e. “a Golden Calf) or Yahwah… It seems like Hosea mocks the tradition of Jacob, hinting that it’s a bit funny that Jacob forced El to give him his blessing and become his guardian by beating him up – and that El’s guardianship&blessing are probably “not that great” if Jacob had to flee to Aram and work so hard to get a wife… Yahwah, on the other hand, is the one who managed to take Israel out of Egypt by sending the Moses, and therefore is a real/better god (but of course we should know Hosea is lying – it was the bull-El who is the original god of the Exodus stories, not Yahwah!)… :)

  13. There is also the Urfed of the Kasidim; sons of Tubal in Anatolia; place where the biblical scholars believe where Abraham came near Eber’s land as his ancestor Eber lived before the discovery of Ur of the Chaldeans in Sumer.

  14. Don’t forget that Göbekli Tepe lies near Harran. This worship place was the reason why they settled there for a very long time.

  15. No, its not too old. The biblical name of Göbekli Tepe is Eden and the hurrian name of the nearby bronze age city was Ursu (see Landberger, B.: “Über die Völker Vorderasiens im dritten Jahrtausend”). I’m working on a paper that deals with the connection between Göbekli Tepe and Eden and I hope I can publish it someday.

    1. No; that makes no sense. Garden in Eden would only be in South Iraq, not northern. Havilah=South Arabia. Kush=Kassites.

      Yes, it’s too old!

      1. Hawilah also Guzana according to an Armenian medieval lexicon. Hawilum mentioned in an inscription an early Hurrian king Atalšen roughly contemporary with the dynasty of Akkad. It concerning an offering to “Nergal, Lord of Hawilum” by Atalšen the good shepherd, king of Urkiš and Nawar.

        It is a “mirrored geography”, name present besides of Arabia also in the region of Subartu too. BTW Subartu is written SU-EDEN.

          1. Hawilum: Copper plate of Samarra, in I.J.Gelb, MAD 2, 1961, 16 No. 1e

            Concerning the lexicographic entry, I must correct myself. Not an Armenian, but a Syriac lexicograph.

            For this: Amir Harrak, discussion of G.Wilhelms , The Hurrians, in Bibliotheka Orientalis, XLIX, No. ½, 1992, pp 185-186

            “The Syriac lexicographer Bar-Bahlũl (10th century) mentions the toponym HWYL´ (Hwilā, Huwaylā, and in one exemplar of his lexicon H/Kwilā or H/Kuwaylā); which he associates with the city of GWZN (vocalised Gawzan; Lexicon Syriacum ed. R.Duval [1888-1896] col. 426 and n .25). It is tempting to associate Syriac GWZN with cuneiform Guzana.”

            And of course is the Hawilah associated with the Eden, etc. the northern one. And of course does the Bible make a difference on this. And of course does the Bible know of two different (if not even 3) Hawilahs. The most clear evidence is provided by Genesis 10, enlisting a Cush, son of Ham (along with Havilah in Gen. 10, 6 most probably different from the second one in Gen. 10, 29, surely with an Arabian location: Ha´il the capital of the Šammar kingdom, the Aulitae of Plinius, nat. hist. VI 28 [32], 157, or else).
            And of course is the geographic problem already long ago solved by me.

      2. Did you notice the rippled surface on top of the T-shaped pillars? It prevented the fruits from falling down.

          1. ??? If anything, than the custom of placing a stone on a grave. But these are no graves, isn´t it?

            1. Sorry, it would take several hundred pages to explain this. But l have an idea regarding the kingdom of Adini at Til Barsip. I dont’t think that this was an aramean kingdom. There was a chaldean ruler wich was called Adini and his kingdom lies in shinar. Two kingdoms with the same name, one chaldean and one aramean? It’s not very plausible. It would be more probable if one chaldean tribe split during his migrationin in two parts, one which stayed at Til Barsip and another one who wandered further. Maybe the biblical redactor has the chaldean kingdom of Adini at Til Barsip in mind when he localized Ur.

    2. Consider Urfat of the Kesedim sons of Tubal in Anatolia [Kissuwatna Kingdom] near Eber’slands land is the possible Abrahamic city…..genetics of the Israelite cattle from there Anatolia….

    1. This is a good reason not to post anymore anything to public domains. The link to Urkish was provided by me on the ANE 1 list, and Mrs. Berlyn makes use of my research without even mentioning her source.
      Disgusting.

      1. Well, Mrs. Berlyn thinks that “The journey of Terah” is a genuine historical description of a real journey taken by a real person called “Terah” – and you probably don’t want your name linked to that anyway… ;-)

        I only brought this story up as a hint that links the entire description of Abraham’s “home-land”, and all the places mentioned in it, to the same area in the north…

        I think that the story of Abraham & family was inspired by etiological hieros-logos that originates in this area of Harran in the north, and this is the area in which we should be looking for our “Ur-Kasdim” – not in the Akkadian Uru at Tell el-Muqayyar, which is too far to the south…

        1. This is of course an entirely puerile paper but plagiarizing is plagiarizing – that should know even a first-grade student in the school.

          Here a link from 1999 leading to my reference to Urkish http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2000-June/007580.html
          and
          http://oi-archive.uchicago.edu/research/library/ane/digest/1999/v1999.n360

          I had in those early years also a downloadable more detailed paper on the subject online.

          I generally assume in analogy to the list of early Assyrian kings, that the list of Hebrew eponyms involves a confusion between maybe 3 real kings and a parallel column featuring ethnic eponms. There are no serious reasons, why else Abraham should be Eber, or Jacob – Israel.

          All else names are either fantasy or ethnic eponyms.

  16. So you think “Terah (Turahi)”, “Sereg (Sarugi)”, “Nahor (Nahor)”, were names of people, and not just names of towns in the same area – like in the case of “Zelophehad’s Daughters” (who were actually all names of towns in the northern Samaria and Gila’ad)?

    (BTW, I see that my name signature has changed to “Yaakobi Oded” – which is my real name – so, just to set things straight, I am the same “Oded Israeli” who wrote here above)

    1. No, of course not, I mean quite the contrary. I mean, that there was a list of ethnical eponyms which partly overlapped with the list of early kings: Abram and Israel overlapping with Abraham and Jacob. That´s all. Terah, Sereg, Nahor, Bilha, Zilpa are belonging to a list of ethnonyms or cities of the region on the Balich neighboring to the kernel region of the Hebrews/habiru, along the Chabur (nomen est omen).

  17. Pithom said: ” Why Til-Barsip?”

    Because Til-Barsip was the capital city of a Chaldean kingdom by the name Adini.

    By the way, the former name of Göbekli Tepe was Adini. Adini (akkadian): until now….not yet (see Amos 1:5; Ecc 4:3; Gen 2:5).

      1. :-) No. It is entirely futile to make such speculations concerning a mound which ceased to be visited for more than 7000 years.

      2. No, the Elohim buried the circular buildings in Göbekli Tepe, but there was another PPNB site with T-shaped pillars in Urfa (Hamzan Tepe). Furthermore, the farmers überlieferten the drama of the elohim by playing it over and over again. But I realize it’s hopeless here. Bye.

    1. Ecclesiastes 4: 3 is just a spelling mistake. It writes “עֲדֶן” (Aaden), which seems like a name, but it should have been writen “עֲדַיִן” (Aadayin) – meaning “yet/stil”. So the meaning of the verse would (and should) have been:

      “But better than both is the one who has *yet* to have been (i.e, not been born), who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun”.

  18. Following along in general agreement with a few comments above. The “original” Ur of the story was quite certainly in the north, where all the other names are located and from where Rebakah and Rachel came — the land of Eber-nari and Aram-Naharaim. There’s no question that’s considered the “native home land”.

    The strongest probability seems to be Urfa. Josephus and certain rabbinical traditions agree with the northern siting.

    It is possible that “Kassites” had something to do with the transformation of the story from the north, ultimately ending up with the anachronistic “Chaldees” but that’s an angle I haven’t done much to check on.

    However, the texts weren’t actually redacted and written until the Persians had conquered and by that time – subsequent to the Neo-Babylonian period — a lot of material had gotten thoroughly mixed up. (E.g. Nebuchadnezzar is confused with Nabonidus. and Abraham’s camels are 1,000 years too early — which is a whole ‘nother argument.)

    So either the reference is a pure anachronistic interpolation, or the original wording got corrupted in transmission.

    Of course the story is an etiological legend. Eber-nari can be geographically located. However, the “Hebrews” as a class seem to be interchangeable with the habiru, or hapiru/ apiru (known as SA.GAZ in Sumerian).

    Note in the texts that among the specifically named ancestors of the “chosen people” were Amorites, Hittites, and Aramaeans. There were also Edomites and others who were incorporated. Basically, there was a northern confederation and a southern confederation which were never more than allies at times and feuding at others.

    It’s best not to take the bible too literally in general, but there are clues among the fables and competing traditions.

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