[b-hebrew] Terah

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Jun 3 11:25:39 EDT 2010

I'm not sure why, but I'll have a go at it.

Jim, in answer to Karl:
The text says Kasdim/K%DYM, not Chaldeans. [The Chaldeans are 1st millennium
BCE people who lived long after the Patriarchal Age.] That's Ur of the

As usual, Jim, you are partially correct, and totally wrong. Yes, the Hebrew
text says "Kasdim", not "Chaldeans". But all "Chaldeans" is is the Greek
rendering of "Kasdim", which was adopted by most English translations as
well. The Bible uses "Kasdim" for the 1st millennium Babylonians in books
like Kings, Jeremiah and Daniel, because at that time, the Neo-Babylonian
Empire was in fact ruled by a "Kasdi/Chaldean" dynasty (this includes the
infamous Nebuchadnezzar). And yes, during the Amarna Period (that is, what
in Canaan we call the Late Bronze Age), Babylon was ruled by the non-Semitic
"Kassites". But the fact is, that Genesis calls Abraham's birthplace "Ur
Kasdim", NOT "Ur Kassim". As far as I know, the Kassites are not mentioned
in the Bible at all. Now IF "Ur Kasdim" is the famous southern Ur, then
calling it Ur Kasdim in Genesis is an anachronism - which I personally have
no problem with. On the other hand, the reference COULD be to a more
northern Ur (such as the long-standing tradition of identifying Abraham's
birthplace at Urfa), in the Kasdi homeland in northern Syria, nearer to
Haran (which makes a lot of sense anyway), precisely in order to distinguish
it from the southern Ur. The main thing that leaves me undecided is the
fact, which Jim pointed out, that both Haran and (southern) Ur were known
centers of the cult of Sin, the moon-god, and I do think that the names
Terah, Laban ("Whitey"), Milkah and Sarah (both referring to the Queen of
Heaven) hint that Terah's family were moon-worshippers. But that's not
really proof of anything.

Jim, you are correct in saying that the Terah family's names are all
Western-Semitic. Which is one more reason to think that their home was in
Syria, not southern Iraq. But even in the "Kassite" period, most people in
southern Mesopotamia spoke and wrote Akkadian. The (non-Semitic) Kassite
language was used mostly by the ruling class of Kassite invaders.

Yigal Levin

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