[b-hebrew] Was Abraham Born in Mesopotamia?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Nov 5 13:34:40 EST 2007

You wrote:  “Did anyone raise the issue that Ur Kasdim didnt exist during the 
time  Avram was supposed to have lived?  and that since Ur was a major 
sophisticated city during Babylonian exile  it is plausible that the editors of the 
tanakh in the 6 century BCE inserted an  Ur background to abraham to lend an 
air of sophistication to Avraham and  his
No one here has raised those issues.  In my controversial view, those issues  
are without merit. 
    1.  In my controversial view of the case, the  secular historical time 
period of the Patriarchal Age is the  mid-14th century BCE.   Everything that’s 
in the Patriarchal narratives fits that narrow,  specific, peculiar time 
period (except a tiny handful of phrases that were  inserted later by an editor).
    1.  Ur was a major Babylonian provincial city in the  mid-14th century 
BCE.   It was still wealthy, though it no longer wielded any political  power.  
Because the Babylonians  always made a point of bragging that Babylonia 
included Ur (the pre-Babylonian  capital of Mesopotamia), ancient Ur’s former 
glories remained fairly well  known throughout the 2nd millennium BCE.
    1.  As to “Kasdim”, consider who the rulers of  Babylonia were in the 
mid-14th century BCE:  the “Kassites”, the KS people.  And as to the individual 
ruler of  Babylonia in the mid-14th century BCE, we know from the Amarna  
Letters that the first four consonants of his name were KDSM.  If one simply 
inverts the order of the  two middle consonants we get KSDM, or “Kasdim”.  Thus 
in my controversial view,  “Kasdim” in the Patriarchal narratives   is a play 
on “Kassites” and “KDSM”.  The fact that two consonants are  inverted as to 
the individual ruler’s name does not reflect a “mistake”, in my  judgment, 
but rather reflects the negative attitude of Egypt toward Babylonia  in the time 
period of the Amarna Letters, which the Hebrew author of the  Patriarchal 
narratives, who lived during this same time period in my  controversial view, is 
picking up on.
    1.  During the Babylonian exile, Ur became  permanently extinct.  Ur had 
been  nothing but a virtual ghost town since about the 10th century  BCE.  
People still remembered Ur,  though, and experts argue whether a few religious 
buildings still remained in  place in the 1st millennium BCE.  But for the most 
part, Ur virtually  did not exist in the 1st millennium BCE, except as a 
nearly  abandoned relic.
    1.  Nothing good about Ur is stated in the  Patriarchal narratives.  
Abraham’s  brother Haran is stated to die there, and YHWH reminds Abraham that 
YHWH had  done a good thing in not letting Abraham suffer his brother’s 
unfortunate fate  of dying in far-off Ur.  Thus I  see no attempt whatsoever “to lend 
an air of sophistication  to Avraham and his descendents” by mentioning Ur.  
For example, Abraham and YHWH are  portrayed as speaking Hebrew, not as speaking 
    1.  The most unusual aspect of ancient Ur had been  its peculiar 6-month “
year” concept.   In 5,000 years of human history, the only place that 
celebrated a  multi-day New Year/Akitu festival both in the spring, and 6 months 
later in  the fall, was ancient Ur.  Thus by  making Ur the very first 
geographical reference in the Patriarchal narratives  (which begin at Genesis 11: 26, 
with Ur being mentioned at Genesis 11: 28),  the author alerts us that the ages 
of the people in his story may be set forth  in terms of 6-month “years”.  
Thus  Terakh was not 70 years in 12-month years when he sired Abraham.  No way.  
Terakh was age 70 “years”, in terms of  6-month “years”, when he sired 
Abraham, which is age 35 regular years.  Likewise, Terakh cannot die at age 205  
regular years.  Those two facts  stated in chapter 11 of Genesis clue us in to 
the fact that all ages of all  characters are set forth in the text in terms of 
6-month “years”.  Terakh died at age 205 “years” in  terms of 6-month “years
”, meaning that Terakh died at age 102½ regular  years.
    1.  Every single story, without exception, in the  Patriarchal narratives 
relates to the particular secular historical time  period of the mid-14th 
century BCE, in my controversial view of the  case.  That was virtually the only  
time in history when a pre-Hebrew family could have a semi-realistic chance 
of  making a one-time caravan expedition to Mesopotamia, and selling the luxury 
 goods obtained there to Egypt for a huge price.  That is exactly what is 
portrayed in  the opening chapters of the Patriarchal narratives, in my view.  
Such a caravan trip would be a fantasy  in most any other secular historical 
time period, but it was realistic in the  time period of the beginning of the 
mid-14th century  BCE.
The reason why Abraham’s “am”/people/ancestors are never stated to be in  
Mesopotamia in the text is because Abraham’s ancestors had lived in Canaan, not  
in Mesopotamia.  The text always  refers to “mowledet”/MWLDT as to relatives 
in Mesopotamia:  descendants of Abraham’s father, who  were in Mesopotamia on 
a one-time basis only, for one caravan expedition.  Abraham’s father Terakh, 
and Abraham’s  brother Nahor, get stuck in Harran when they cannot make it 
back to Canaan due  to Terakh’s infirmity. 
Abraham was not a native Akkadian speaker from Ur, or a native Hurrian  
speaker from Harran, who came to Canaan for the first time as an old man and  spoke 
broken Hebrew.  No way.  Rather, Abraham spoke perfect Hebrew  from day #1, 
having learned pre-Hebrew on his mother’s lap -- in  Canaan. 
The one thing odd about the caravan expedition is that Abraham does not  sell 
the luxury goods from Mesopotamia to Lebanese middlemen for a moderate  
price.  Instead, pursuant to divine  advice, Abraham goes straight to Egypt and 
sells the luxury goods for a sky-high  price in Egypt.  Though that was  
something of a long shot in the mid-14th century BCE, it was  nevertheless possible, 
for a monotheistic tent-dweller.  That was the only time in the long  history 
of ancient Egypt when Egypt was moving in the direction of  monotheism.  Also, 
the pharaoh’s  heir was having a terrible time trying to sire a son by his 
main wife #1.  So Pharaoh could have been sympathetic  to Abraham, both because 
both were semi-monotheistic, and because both were  experiencing a terrible 
problem regarding siring a son.  The one and only time period in which  this 
story is realistic is the mid-14th century BCE. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois 

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