[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 
Patriarchal narratives:
“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  
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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