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Icons of the Bible: Ur of the Chaldees

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Ur of the Chaldees: Where was It? A Jewish Perspective

Video from Joe Back

"This video explores where the potential location of Ur of the Chaldees was according to Jewish tradition. Since the Woolley expedition in the 1920s it has been assumed by most scholars that the city of Ur and the biblical Ur of the Chaldees were synonymous. We will explore alternative sites." from video introduction

Icons of the Bible: Ur of the Chaldees

“God is in the midst of the city. It shall not be moved. God will help it when morning dawns.” Psalm 46:5

God has always been at work in all things, all places and all people, from the very first cities and even in all the cities around the world right now. His purposes will not be thwarted. his grace is available to you in all circumstances to help you do and think things you could not do on your own.

You are part of the Body of Christ, you are the church, so be the church no matter where you are. Do good and let your thinking and doing be a witness to the world!! - Andy

Which Ur is Abraham’s Ur?

Everyone knows where Abraham’s hometown of Ur is, right? We’ve all been taught that it is in southern Iraq. It is common for Bible teachers to present a biblical explanation or interpretation as if it were an undisputed fact. Often this is because they do not know there are any other explanations. One reason this blog exists is to inform Christians about information and plausible alternative interpretations debated among scholars which somehow never filters down to the person in the pew.

Sometimes these sequestered ideas are very consequential to our faith, and others are mere curiosities. One such example of a disputed “fact” that falls in the curiosity category is the location of “Ur of the Chaldees.”

Have we erred about Ur?

Until the 1920’s there was general consensus among Christians, Jews, and Muslims that Abraham’s Ur was in northern Mesopotamia in what is today southern Turkey. In the 1850s, British archaeologists identified Tell el-Muqayyar as the ancient Sumerian city-state of Ur. Tell el-Muqayyar is in southern Iraq about 150 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf. A tell (aka tel or tall) is a word meaning “mound.” Ancient cities were usually elevated above their surroundings.

Leonard Woolley excavated at Tell el-Muqayyar in the 1920s and his notes referred to the site as “the biblical home of Abraham.”[1] Woolley publicly championed the site as the biblical Ur and his descriptions of the ruins captivated the public’s imagination. Woolley’s claim that Tell el-Muqayyar was Abraham’s Ur took firm hold.

Accepting Wooley’s claim, most Bible scholars have concluded that Tell el-Muqayyar is Abraham’s Ur. Not everyone agrees however. Woolley failed to convince his excavation partner, Cyrus H. Gordon, that Tell el-Muqayyar was Abraham’s hometown. In fact, Gordon argues that biblical Ur was in northern Mesopotamia.." from the article: Which Ur is Abraham’s Ur?

Map of Ur of the Chaldees in Abraham's Time

map of Middle east
Map Ur of the Chaldees during the Time of Abraham

Where was Ur of the Chaldees?

"Ur of the Chaldees (or Chaldeans) was a place in Mesopotamia and is mentioned four times in the Old Testament:

Genesis 11:28 says that Haran (Abram’s brother and Lot’s father) died in Ur of the Chaldees, “the land of his birth.”

Genesis 11:31 says that Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and moved to Canaan. Chapter 12 goes on to explain that this move was the result of God’s call to Abram to leave his home and move to a new land that God would one day give to his descendants.

In Genesis 15:7, God identifies Himself to Abram: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

In Nehemiah 9 the Israelites confess their sins and recount the history of Israel: “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham” (verse 7).

Ur may have been a city, and there have been many sites suggested as the location of Ur, but no theory is definitive. The site that is most commonly suggested is a city on the Euphrates River, about 150 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf.

The Septuagint (an Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) simply calls Ur of the Chaldees the “land of the Chaldees,” and in the New Testament Stephen, reviewing the history of Israel, says that Abraham came out of “land of the Chaldeans” (Acts 7:4).

Many scholars believe that Ur is not the name of a city but simply a word that means “land.” If this is the case, then Ur of the Chaldees is simply the land of the Chaldees. Chaldea was in the area known as the Fertile Crescent. Depending upon the time period, the territory of the Chaldeans varied, but it would have included the lower part of the Fertile Crescent, extending from the upper edge of the Persian Gulf northwest to the area of the city of Babylon. The Chaldeans ruled Babylon for a while. The exact boundaries of their territory are not clear.

The point of the story is that God called Abram out of an area of civilization and prosperity. Ur of the Chaldees, the place where he lived, would have had ample water and land for pasturing and would have been active with commerce. It was “the place” to be. God called him away from that to a place that was unknown to him. Abram would probably have had a hard time imagining any place better than the place where he already was. But Abram believed the promises of God, and God credited that faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). History has been filled with pioneers who have left civilization to seek a better life, but usually these people have been in dire straits, desperate for something better. They left a bad situation knowing that, even though there would be dangers and hardships, they could have something better in the end. Abram’s situation seems to have been the opposite. He lived in a prosperous civilization among his family, who appears to have been wealthy. He walked away from it all, simply trusting that God was going to give him something better, even though he would be a stranger in a strange land and would not see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his lifetime.

Many Christians face the same issue. Those living in ease and luxury can too easily focus on the here and now, forgetting that God has called them, like Abram and his children, to look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10)." from the article: Where was Ur of the Chaldees?

artifact from UR
The Royal Standard of Ur

Ancient Sumerians - Bible Lands Museum

"Join Bob Stancell as he discusses the ancient Sumerian civilization. In particular, he discusses two replicas of well-known Sumerian artifacts: a Sumerian Star Chart and the Standard of Ur." from video introduction

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