[b-hebrew] Was Abraham Born in Mesopotamia?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Sat Nov 3 09:29:00 EDT 2007
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III:
1. You wrote: “Look at Genesis 11:27-32 in which it unambiguously
states that Terah lived in Ur of the Chaldees.”
The text says nothing of the kind. Rather, Genesis 11: 28 says that Haran
died in Ur, in the presence of his father Terakh. The text never says that
Terakh lived in Ur. That’s because Terakh did not live in Ur. Terakh had led
his family on a one-time caravan expedition from Canaan to Mesopotamia.
Haran had the misfortune of dying on that one-time caravan trip (the only caravan
trip the family every made), at Ur in far-off southern Mesopotamia. Haran’s
father, and Haran’s MWLDT, that is, Haran’s father and Haran’s father’s
descendants, were all there at Ur on that caravan trip to witness Haran’s
unfortunate demise, as Haran died far from home and predeceased his own father.
The Patriarchal narratives never say or imply that Terakh lived in Ur.
1. You wrote: “[T]he Abrahamic Covenant statement in 12:1 [is:] "The
LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's
household and go to the land I will show you' ".
Genesis 12: 1 says nothing of the sort. The word “people”, which is “am”
in Hebrew, and which in both languages always includes (though is not limited
to) ancestors, never appears in the Patriarchal narratives when anyone is at
Ur or Harran. No, the word that is consistently used when a pre-Hebrew or
Hebrew is in Mesopotamia is MWLDT: “father’s descendants”.
At Genesis 12: 1, YHWH accurately tells Abraham to leave Abraham’s MWLDT,
that is, to leave Abraham’s father’s descendants, in leaving Harran. The
accent in the word MWLDT is on one’s living brothers. At this point, Abraham has
only one living brother: Nahor. Nahor must stay behind in Harran to take
care of their infirm father, Terakh, who is too frail to make it back to
Canaan. So in leaving Harran, Abraham is leaving behind Abraham’s only living
brother. Abraham is also leaving behind most, though not all, of his father’s
other descendants. So YHWH’s words are, not surprisingly, completely
accurate. Abraham must leave his MWLDT, and his father, in Harran. But YHWH does
not tell Abraham to leave Abraham’s “people”/“am” in Harran. Abraham’s
ancestors, other than his father, were never in Mesopotamia. So Abraham is not
leaving his “people” or his “am” in leaving Harran.
1. We can see that Terakh was trying to get back to Canaan:
“And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and
Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with
them from Ur of the [Kasdim], to go into the land of Canaan; and they came
unto Haran, and dwelt there.” Genesis 11: 31
Because of infirmity, Terakh cannot make it back to his homeland in Canaan,
but rather gets stuck in Harran, not being able to return home after the long
caravan expedition. Nahor must stay in Harran as well, to look after his
ailing father. That is why Nahor’s descendants, such as Rebekah and Laban and
Leah and Rachel, end up growing up in Harran, as the rest of your post points
out. But Nahor was not a native of Harran. Nahor and Terakh got stuck in
Harran when Terakh was too infirm to make it back to the family homeland in
1. When Abraham dies and is buried in Canaan, the text tells us that
Abraham was gathered to his am/people/ancestors, which makes sense, since the
Hebrews were indigenous to Canaan, both in secular history and in the
“And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of
years; and was gathered to his people [“am”]. And Isaac and Ishmael his
sons buried him in the cave…Mamre [at Hebron, in Canaan].” Genesis 25: 8-9
The word “am”/"people”/ancestors is often used when the Patriarchs are in
Canaan, but is never used when anyone is at Ur or Harran. That’s because the
Hebrews are indigenous to Canaan, not to Mesopotamia.
The text of the Patriarchal narratives has pinpoint historical accuracy, but
we must be very careful to examine exactly what the text actually says. If
we can understand how the author of the Patriarchal narratives uses the key
word MWLDT (“mowledeth”), we can see that the Patriarchal narratives, like
modern historians, see the Hebrews as being indigenous to Canaan, not to
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