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Ur of the Chaldees: Where was it? A Jewish Perspective & Life in Sumerian Society

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.

Who were the Chaldeans?

"The Chaldeans were an ethnic group that lived in Mesopotamia in the first millennium B.C. The Chaldean tribes started to migrate—from exactly where scholars aren't sure—into the south of Mesopotamia in the ninth century B.C. At this time, they began to take over the areas around Babylon, notes scholar Marc van de Mieroop in his A History of the Ancient Near East, along with another people called the Arameans. They were divided into three main tribes, the Bit-Dakkuri, the Bit-Amukani, and the Bit-Jakin, against whom the Assyrians waged war in the ninth century B.C.

The Chaldeans in the Bible

The Chaldeans may be best known from the Bible. There, they are associated with the city of Ur and the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who was born in Ur. When Abraham left Ur with his family, the Bible says, "They went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan..." (Genesis 11:31). The Chaldeans pop up in the Bible again and again; for example, they are part of the army Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, uses to surround Jerusalem (2 Kings 25).

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar may have been of partial Chaldean descent himself. Along with several other groups, like the Kassites and Arameans, the Chaldeans kicked off a dynasty that would create the Neo-Babylonian Empire; it ruled Babylonia from about 625 B.C. until 538 B.C., when the Persian King Cyrus the Great invaded." from the article: The Chaldeans of Ancient Mesopotamia

What was Abraham’s Religion before God Called Him?

Abraham is called the friend of God, the father of the Jews, and the father of the faithful. He is honored by Jews, Muslims, and Christians as a great man, but what religion did he follow before being called by Yahweh?

Abraham was born and raised in Ur of the Chaldees, which is in modern Iraq, near Nasiriyah in the southeastern part of the country. Joshua 24:2 says that Abraham and his father worshiped idols. We can make some educated guesses about their religion by looking at the history and religious artifacts from that period.

Ur of the Chaldees was an ancient city that flourished until about 300 BC. The great ziggurat of Ur was built by Ur-Nammu around 2100 BC and was dedicated to Nanna, the moon god. The moon was worshiped as the power that controlled the heavens and the life cycle on earth. To the Chaldeans, the phases of the moon represented the natural cycle of birth, growth, decay, and death and also set the measurement of their yearly calendar. Among the pantheon of Mesopotamian gods, Nanna was supreme, because he was the source of fertility for crops, herds, and families. Prayers and offerings were offered to the moon to invoke its blessing..." from the article: What was Abraham’s religion before God called him?

People walking out of a town
Abraham Leaving Ur of the Chaldees

Sumerians and their Civilization

"The Sumerians were a civilization that would go on to influence the entirety of the Ancient Middle East, and their accomplishments and innovations echo in diverse ancient cultures such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ethiopia, and more." from video introduction.

Life in Ancient Sumer

"The sheer importance of Sumerian culture in regards to world culture as a whole is impossible to overstate. This civilization is single-handedly responsible for some of the most major innovations in nearly every field relevant to maintaining a civilized society - this includes religion, lawmaking, architecture, schooling, art, literature, and even entertainment. They gave us both the benevolent, caring monarchs and cruel, punishing tyrants; the educated child and the spoiled brat; the hard-working agrarian and the drunken reveler; and the epic empires as well as the pathetic remnants of them. The Sumerians did it all, and they did it first." from video introduction.

The Ancient City of Ur

"The Biblical “Ur of the Chaldees” where Abraham was supposedly born. The site near which the earliest human cultures were found. The site which held the most glorious Sumerian Dynasty in ancient history. This is the story of the city that was destined to die and be reborn every millennium or so, a city full of intrigue, magnificence, tragedy, and glory." from the video introduction.

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