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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Chapter Three

The Abraham section of Scripture (Genesis 12-25) is a bombshell.  Containing more chapters than the creation account, preflood life, the Flood and repopulation of the world combined, it presents two lines of evidence supporting the view that the sons of Israel sojourned 430 years in Egypt.  The first relates to Abraham’s involvement with Elam.  But besides the Elam account, eight other passages regarding Abraham support 430 years.  In addition, the Abraham section correctly places Elam date-wise, which is a strong proof for the Bible’s divine origin.

Before Abraham reached Canaan at the age of 75, the country to the east of Mesopotamia, then called Elam, invaded Ur and enslaved its population.  This event and time are well known to modern secular history.  Years later, when Elam took Lot prisoner, Abraham freed him.  Elam’s domination of Mesopotamia was brief and would not be repeated until it joined forces with Persia over 1500 years later.  A 430-year sojourn fits Elam’s military exploits in Mesopotamia and Sodom-Gomorrah while a 215-year sojourn places Abraham too late for involvement with Elam. 

Expositors of the past have interpreted events in Abraham’s early years to fit the 215-year view.  This chapter corrects the record, beginning with the birth order of Terah’s three sons and Abraham’s relationship with Lot.  Then it delves into those first 75 years of preparation for a lifetime of accomplishing God’s purposes.  After that, it relates his amazing victory over the Elamite consortium.  Finally, HB lists many biblical reasons for God’s call coming in Ur, not Haran.  Thus, the eleven chapters of Scripture devoted to Abraham, other parts of Scripture and history’s record of Elam’s invasion of Ur demand a 430-year Hebrew sojourn in Egypt.

Foundational Issues

Abraham: Youngest of Terah’s Sons

Piecing together those 75 years before the move to Canaan requires determining the birth order of Terah’s three sons.  Stephen said that Abraham moved to Canaan after Terah died (Acts 7:4).  He died at the age of 205 (Genesis 11:32).  Then God’s leading reappeared and brought Abraham to Canaan.  Since Abraham was 75 at the time (Genesis 12:4), he was born when Terah was 130 (205 – 75 = 130).  Because Terah began fathering his three sons when he was 70, Abraham had a brother who was 60 years his senior (130 – 70 = 60).

But Abraham is generally considered the oldest son.  Twice Scripture names Terah’s three sons and in both cases the order is Abraham, Nahor and Haran (Genesis 11:26, 27).  People assume the sons are named in the order of their birth.  While this is the normal practice of Scripture, sometimes it names sons in the order of their importance or impact in the plan of God.  Such is the case here.  Abraham would touch the entire world.  Nahor would supply wives to Abraham’s descendants.  Haran died in relative obscurity.  A fertility problem could explain why the three brothers were born over a period of 60 years.  This explanation seems reasonable because Terah’s daughter Sarah was barren, his granddaughter Rebekah also was barren and even his great-granddaughter Rachel was barren. 

As to the birth order of Abraham’s two older brothers, Nahor and Haran, Scripture provides important hints to work with.  First, Nahor married Haran’s daughter Milcah.  Second, Haran’s name suggests Terah enjoyed business success at the trade route town by that name before moving to Ur.  Third, Haran died before Abraham left Ur.  These three details point to Haran being older than Nahor.  Thus, it was Haran who was born when Terah was 70.  When was Nahor born?  He married one of his older brother’s daughters, had eight sons by her and was no longer living with his father when God called Abraham.  Further, Abraham was attached to Lot, the son of Haran, not his next older brother Nahor.  These details indicate Nahor would have been at least 30 and maybe even 40 years older than Abraham. 

More details emerge.  Terah took a second wife.  Why?  Maybe the first one died.  The second gave him a daughter who was ten years younger than Abraham.  Abraham married this half-sister.  Since the age for adulthood was 25 at the time, most likely, Abraham married her after she reached that age.  Unlike Nahor’s wife, over time it became apparent Sarah was barren.  These marital details add to the view that Abraham lived many adult years in Ur.  If they had been married for 25 years, the call of God would have come when he was about 60.  Thus, living 35 adult years in Ur allowed Abraham to learn and achieve much and drink deeply from Ur’s culture while 15 years of mature adult life in Haran would have been enough time to become wealthy both materially and spiritually.

Lot: Abraham’s Big Brother Figure

With Lot’s father 60 years older than Abraham and Lot’s sister marrying Abraham’s next older brother, Lot himself must have been some years older than Abraham.  Does this fit the context?  Actually, Lot being older than Abraham makes better sense of what Scripture reveals of their relationship than the traditional view.  One gets the impression that Abraham was more attached to Lot than Lot was to Abraham which would be expected if Lot were older than Abraham.  

Abraham’s real older brother, Nahor, was preoccupied with a growing family.  Meanwhile Lot continued to live in the household of his grandfather.  So Lot, not Nahor, became the “big brother” figure in Abraham’s life.  This bonding would be a new explanation for why Abraham was so loyal to him and would also explain why Abraham offered Lot first choice of the land when they separated (Genesis 13).  It would further explain how Lot could go his separate way and seek out Sodom rather than staying close to Abraham.  He thought for himself.  He had his own views.  He did what he pleased.  In summary, if Lot were the elder, he would have been something of a big brother in Abraham’s childhood and this early relationship colored Abraham’s relationship with him in adulthood. 

As to Terah, he was becoming infirm and dependent on others.   His oldest son was dead and the second was living on his own.  Abraham was the only son left to care for him when God’s call came.  As it played out, this youngest son and Terah’s daughter cared for him until his death.   These also became Terah’s heir although Lot must have received some inheritance in place of his father who was the oldest son.  This would also explain where Lot got the vast herds that forced him and Abraham to separate shortly after arriving in Canaan.   

75 Years of Preparation

God prepared Abraham to accomplish His purposes.  By pondering how God did it, most readers will gain an entirely new appreciation for this one God used to raise up the Jewish people and the Savior. Those years were not unlike the preparatory years of Moses, Paul, Joseph and David whose stops and starts laid groundwork for their future ministries.  Understanding these puts flesh on the bones of Abraham’s life of growing faith.  Although sinning and doubting along the way, this man who worshipped idols in Ur with his kindred, (Joshua 24:2) came to build altars to the one and only true God in Haran.  The proof for this?  When he arrived in Canaan his first response was to build an altar (Genesis 12:7-8).  How did all this happen?

Life in Ur

Of all the cities on the face of the earth in which to live in Abraham’s day, Ur would have won top honors.  It was the Paris of its time, even more advanced than any city in Egypt, leading in wealth, education, security, comfort and pleasure.  Standing at the head of the Persian Gulf, it controlled the mouth of the Euphrates.  Thousands of tablets have been recovered from the site that reflect this period.  Numerous royal graves were found unrobbed and filled with historical artifacts.  The temple complex housed a school.  Sir Leonard Woolley excavated the levels of Ur from 1922-1934 and learned from student work tablets the extensive knowledge taught its youth, even high school level math.  Consequently, the free population was both well-educated and highly capable of problem solving.  The monarchy and worship of the moon god unified the nation. 

Archaeologists report that most of Ur’s population consisted of servants/slaves. If 90% were not completely free and the country’s total population numbered 250,000, then only 25,000 were actual citizens.  Abraham’s kin could have numbered in the hundreds and wielded a significant influence within the free population.  Ur had a powerful and successful army.  At one point during this period, it was the dominant force in Mesopotamia, establishing hegemony all the way up the Euphrates to the Mediterranean.  Free citizens made up the higher echelons.  If Abraham had followed a military career, he would have studied military science and worked up to a significant command position. 

Call of God

When the call came in Ur, even Abraham’s idolatrous father must have been awed by his son’s claims that if he followed the true God’s leading, he would become a great nation and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).  Apparently once Terah realized that he could not talk his son out of this insane plan to walk away from his life in Ur, he began to wonder if maybe God did appear to him after all.  Terah had taken delight in his son’s impressive achievements in Ur and had the strongest confidence in this only son still in his household.  In the end, with his final years looming, his only option was to accompany his son although some of this remains a mystery.  As to Abraham’s willingness to leave his beloved country we can only surmise but history reveals difficult times were ahead for Ur.  God often uses circumstances in His leading.  Perhaps in this case the winds of war were already in the air.  Whew, away from that!

Along the journey the family most likely questioned Abraham: “What next?”  God had said “to go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).  Hebrews 11:8 concurs:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

In a way not explained by Scripture God was showing Abraham where to go just as He had said.  At each fork somehow God led him.  As they journeyed from Ur Abraham confidently told his party whether to go left, right or straight ahead.  Because this went on for nearly two months Abraham’s party must have felt better and better about the move with each passing day.  Then suddenly about 700 miles from Ur Abraham didn’t know which way to go.  Whatever method God used to lead him stopped, vanished, disappeared into thin air.  So there they waited and waited.  Not a sign, not a hint from God.  Finally, after some days, heavy with disappointment, they began to discuss what went wrong.  Abraham knew—while he had separated from his country and relatives, he had not separated from his father’s idolatrous household.  Now what? 

Abraham’s Growing Faith in Haran/Arrival in Canaan

The decision was made to settle in Haran.  Scripture doesn’t tell how far Haran was from where the leading stopped but it does report that “when they came to Haran, they settled there” (Genesis 11:31) even though Abraham eventually learned that the destination was Canaan.  After all this divine leading and the visitation that triggered it, Abraham would never be the same.  Now he knew there was a great difference between the idolatrous gods of Ur and the true God who spoke to him in Ur and led him as far as Haran.  He must know this true God.  Information was available to those so motivated and Abraham began to gather that information and seek this God.  In time, he began to build altars, worshipping the true God as those before him had done. 

During the next years (HB estimates about 15), Abraham got to know the true God better and better and worshiped at the altar more and more frequently.  This in itself is remarkable but an even more remarkable thing began to happen.  The members of Terah’s household began joining Abraham at the altar.  Eventually, apparently Terah’s entire household worshiped at the altar.  Terah was in his final days and now totally dependent on his son.  Very possibly before the end he also joined with the others at Abraham’s altar.  Oh, how marvelous was the grace of God in allowing this family situation to play out in Haran over those years.

When his father died in Haran the leading of God reappeared.  This time Abraham reached the intended destination, Canaan.   He immediately built an altar and worshipped.  This and subsequent evidences of faith such as ascribing faith to Lot (II Peter 2:7), choosing for Hebron and the suicidal mission of rescuing Lot from the Mesopotamian armies was the outcome of his growing faith in Haran. 

Spectacular Confirmation of Scripture

Genesis 14 provides a remarkable fit of Scripture and history.  In an astonishing military victory Abraham defeated a coalition of four armies to rescue Lot.  Secular history records that Ur reached its zenith during the 97 golden-year rule of the five kings of the Third Dynasty.  It is an historical fact that its end came suddenly at the hands of Elam.  Elam broke Ur’s control of the lower Euphrates in a military invasion that overwhelmed the capital itself, burned its palace and enslaved its population.  Had Abraham not left Ur in obedience to God, he would have lost his freedom and wealth if not his life.  Following its victory over Ur, Elam rapidly extended its power all the way to the Jordan Valley in a strange and unusual alliance only specifically reported in Scripture. 

Sodom’s Rebellion/Elam’s Retribution

Control of the Sodom-Gomorrah civilization bowl included tribute.  After serving Elam 12 years the population center where Lot moved rebelled, not paying tribute in the 13th.  Elam came in the 14th to teach them a lesson (Genesis 14:4).  Scripture is clear about this military force that retaliated (Genesis 14:1-16)—its size, objective and success.  The king of Elam, Chedorlaomer, was joined by three allies—Amraphel king of Shinar (Babylon), Arioch king of Ellasar (Larsa, longtime rival of Ur) and Tidal, king of Nations (possibly from Upper Mesopotamia).  The campaign lasted the better part of two years.   

These four kings represented an enormous area, from Upper Mesopotamia to well beyond Lower Mesopotamia, 500 to 1500 miles distant from Sodom.  One commentator suggested this force could have numbered 100,000 soldiers.  Their columns stretched for miles.  As they left the Euphrates and marched southwest towards Sodom, notorious raiders disrupted their progress.  Distracted from their original mission they began fighting people group after people group in the badlands to the east of their route (Genesis 14:5).  Eventually they fought all the way to Eilat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba (Genesis 14:6).

Turning west they encountered and defeated the desert people that occupied the lands south of Sodom (Genesis 14:7).  Finally, well into their second season, they reached their objective, attacking in a surprise maneuver only hinted at in Scripture.  The defenders expected the enemy to approach from the south but seem to have been attacked from another direction.  This would point to an unexplained backdoor route descending the hills to the west and only lightly guarded by the defenders.  Trapping them against bitumen pits, the consortium utterly crushed the five kings that governed the heavily populated Sodom-Gomorrah civilization bowl.  With no opposition remaining, the victors began the long march home loaded with plunder and the population whom they would sell into slavery.  Abraham’s “big brother” was headed for a miserable future.

Abraham’s Private Army

An escapee brought the bad news to Abraham who immediately gathered his forces to free Lot.  The odds at this point appeared to be 100 to 1.  This was certain suicide, unless Abraham was a military genius.  Scripture suggests as much, relating that Abraham “led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them.” (Genesis 14:14).  Abraham had his own private army. 

Until now Scripture had said nothing about Abraham training his servants for combat.  From what happens in the battle one must conclude that they had military skills equal to the invaders who were battle hardened professional soldiers.  With Abraham about 84 years old the youngest of his fighters would have been born when Abraham was 64 years old or 11 years before he left Haran for Canaan.  The fact that they were born in his house indicates he began their training at an early age and that this practice had been going on for many years. 

What did these trained fighters look like?  As a general over his army Abraham trained them to handle lethal weapons and kill.  His forces knew how to work together to overcome far superior forces.  They were cunning, strong and had tremendous endurance.  Where could Abraham possibly have gained this military knowledge?  You guessed it—in Ur, not Haran.  During his many years in Ur its army was having great success.  Now he had an army like Ur’s in his very own household.  His men could face the best from Mesopotamia.  Would it be too much to say Abraham’s 318 were among the best fighters alive in their day?

Abraham’s Amorite Confederates

Even more surprising, Abraham had Amorite confederates who joined this suicidal venture.  Why?   They had to have confidence in Abraham’s knowledge of warfare.  This explains another mystery.  Why would the Amorites share their land with Abraham in the first place?  Shortly after arriving in Canaan the range land proved insufficient for Abraham’s and Lot’s cattle so they separated.  Lot set his tent towards Sodom while Abraham moved to Hebron. 

What Scripture doesn’t explain is that Hebron was the highest ground in Israel, even higher than Jerusalem which is a half mile above sea level. It was one of the most out of the way and unnoticeable locations Abraham could choose.   Furthermore, it had limited access.  It was at a dead end.  All this made it extremely defensible.  Abraham literally took the high ground.  But it was occupied by Amorites.  So while this act displays great military savvy, how would the Amorites ever be persuaded to share their land with him?

First, Abraham proved to be a diplomat and a business man.   Somehow, he showed them that his presence would be to their advantage.  Second, he must have shared his military experiences from Ur.  The Amorites had never heard such things.  They were impressed.  His fighters and the Amorite fighters would have contests.  Abraham’s men were superior.  Abraham began telling them how he trained his fighters.  Through what they learned from him, their fighters increased in skill.  At some point, the Amorites and Abraham formed a mutual defense alliance.  By the time the Elamites captured Lot, the Amorites had considerable military skills and came to have unflagging confidence in Abraham. 

A Military Victory for the Books

Now Lot and his family were prisoners.  Abraham loved his nephew and saw his interest in the true God (“righteous Lot” II Peter 2:7).  But what chance did Abraham have against the ocean of invaders?  Again, his knowledge of warfare.  He would know that once the invader’s campaign was successful, the kings and most of their soldiers would head for home at top speed with the best of the spoils.  At a much slower pace a small but adequate force would return with the vast plunder and the many slaves.  Possibly only 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers remained, but the odds were still great, at least ten to one (c. 600 vs 5,000 to 10,000).

Abraham had one more ace up his sleeve.  He knew that discipline would be almost non-existent now that the army had vanquished all opposition.  The coalition had worn itself out with combat.  Now it was time to relax and celebrate.  Those celebrations typically came in the form of nightly drunken orgies at the expense of the female prisoners.  Apparently even nighttime reconnaissance patrols were neglected.  From his days in Ur Abraham understood the various plans for night watches, passwords, trumpet signals, command structure and camp layout. 

He also knew the typical contingency plans for night attacks.  In other words, he knew the military science of Southern Mesopotamia.  Further, he and senior members of his household knew the various languages of Mesopotamia and could use those languages to get inside the enemy’s defenses.  Further yet, he had grazed his flocks for years through the entire area and knew every trail like the back of his hand.  Undoubtedly, he sent scouts ahead to gather intelligence.   HHHHere in abbreviated fashion is the scriptural account:

And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.  Genesis 14:15.

Abraham’s plan was to strike in a night attack from multiple directions.  This plan employed a major strategy of military science—surprise.  But it also violated two principles—attacking at night and dividing one’s force against a superior force.  It was very, very risky.  There would be either great reward or great loss.  Abraham would have gone over the plan in considerable detail with his senior officers and the Amorites.  Now each party began its implementation.  Possibly this force numbered 600-700.  They caught up with the invaders where the city of Dan would later be established on the northern boundary of Israel, about 110 air miles north of Hebron.  The forced march could hardly have been accomplished in four exhausting days.  Along the way they encountered injured and dead prisoners and a trail of their discarded possessions.  By the time they reached Dan, though exhausted, they were highly motivated. 

Abraham’s night attack was a complete success.  He could have found wounded or dead soldiers along the way and taken their uniforms to dress some of his troops to infiltrate their lines.  Perhaps he impersonated a commander of the invaders and gave guards contradictory orders, using his mastery of the languages of Lower Mesopotamia and his intimate knowledge of their military operations.  Whatever strategy he used, he utterly surprised and routed the invaders.  He drove the fleeing confederation fifty miles, to a place called Hobah somewhere north of Damascus.  He knew that if the army regrouped and counterattacked it would all be over for him and his allies.  No enemy soldier could be spared; it was either complete victory or eventual disaster.  Even one escapee could provide the information needed for a retaliatory strike the next year. 

HB has Col. R. B. Thieme Jr. to thank for many of the above insights.  Col. Thieme’s military genius was followed by international Bible teaching from studying the original languages of Scripture.  Thieme served his country in World War II, becoming the youngest man ever, up to that point, to make full colonel in the US Army.  After the war he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1950 (Th.M.) with the intention of entering the Hebrew doctoral program in the Fall.  That summer found him as the interim pulpit supply at Berachah Church in Houston Texas where he was made pastor and served that church until 2004, maintaining a unique schedule of seven hours of Bible teaching at his church weekly.  Tapes of those studies circled the globe. 

Here is another thought to chew on:  Elam’s having conquered the Jordan Valley just years before Abraham arrived in Canaan would explain why he could move about so freely.  The long-established powers of the land had been shaken to their roots and were busy recovering and rebuilding after Elam swept through so they paid little attention to this man and his many flocks and shepherds.  This unusual freedom also vouches for HB’s dates. 

Dating Elam’s Foray into Mesopotamia

Abraham lived at the end of the glorious years of the Third Dynasty of Ur.  Secular history gives a range of dates for this period which Elam suddenly ended.  Those dates are based on a multitude of ancient cuneiform documents.  They are consistent in their content: the names of the five kings of the Third Dynasty, the number of years each reigned and the major achievements of each.  It was the second of five who raised Ur to dominance.  However, secular findings have not been able to anchor the 97-year Third Dynasty reign to a fixed date.  Instead, it offers a range of dates, from early, to moderate, to late, etc.  The earliest range ends in 2150 BC and the latest ends in 1995 BC. Thus, secular history’s best effort are dates covering a 155-year span that ended the 3rd dynasty.

By way of contrast, the Bible narrows that span to between a few years and perhaps a decade or two with strong evidence for just a few years.  This is because Scripture gives so many specific numbers to work with:  Abraham lived 175 years; Isaac lived 180 years; Jacob lived 147 years and appeared before Pharaoh at the age of 130.  Abraham was 75 years old when he arrived in Canaan and 100 years old when Isaac was born.  Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born.  Working back from Isaac’s birth, Abraham was 84ish when he rescued Lot.  Less certain numbers include HB’s view that Abraham lived most of his adult life in Ur, 15 years in Haran and moved there two years before Elam conquered Ur. 

The commonly held inerrancy Exodus date of 1446 BC combined with the two Egyptian sojourn views (215 and 430 years) give Abraham’s lifetimes as either 1951 BC to 1776 BC or 2166 BC to 1991 BC.  Thus, when he was 62, the 215-year view dates him to 1889 BC while the 430-year view dates him to 2104 BC.  Clearly, 1889 BC is too late for Elam while 2104 is well within secular history’s range of dates for the fall of Ur (2150-1995).   Elam’s venture into Macedonia is possibly the clearest secular historical date for resolving the 215/430 controversy.  It rules out the 215-year view while fitting well with the 430-year view.  Scripture alone must receive credit for this good match between the dates for Abraham and Elam. 

Today, in contrast with the above, researchers use many extra-biblical methods to date the Flood.  As a result, dates for Abraham based on their findings are wrong.  Their methods range from hieroglyphic inscriptions to historical solar notations to radiometric dating to early authorities such as Josephus, the church fathers and the LXX.  HB stands on the testimony of Scripture alone, but it welcomes clearly established secular dates that confirm Scripture.  Isn’t this the best approach?

Abraham’s Best Defense

The next spring, when armies go to war, found Abraham knotted up in fear.  This would be the time when Elam would return to wreak vengeance on him and his allies.  Where does this idea come from?  The very next chapter records how God appeared to him in a vision.  God’s first words reveal Abraham’s fear: “Fear not, Abram…”  Then Genesis 15:1 continues: “…I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 

Abraham had dared to strike the power dominating Mesopotamia.  Now he feared the worst.  But he did not have to fear because the God of Creation would be his shield.  Further, apparently, he was receiving criticism for refusing “to take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that [belonged to Sodom] lest [the king of Sodom] should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’” Genesis 14:22-23.  Had that been the right thing to do?  Yes, because God would bless Abraham with vastly more.  This divine visitation gives strong support for the truthfulness of Abraham’s military success and refusal to take the spoils of Sodom recorded in the preceding chapter.


Scriptural Support that Abraham’s Call Came in Ur

While Abraham’s involvement with Elam verifies a 430-year sojourn, certain hyper literalists disagree.  Turning a blind eye to all other evidence, they interpret the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3 to mean that God called Abraham in Haran, not Ur and that Abraham immediately followed God to Canaan.  Then after he and his descendants sojourned 215 years in Canaan and another 215 years in Egypt God gave Israel the Law on Mount Sinai.  To fit this view, they misinterpret the details of Abraham’s life.  Book after book repeats these ideas.  The Apostle is their only hope.  When they deal with the four witnesses of chapter 2, they always start with Paul. 

Nevertheless, what saith the LORD?  The first half of this chapter ruled out such an interpretation through Abraham’s involvement with Elam.  The remainder of the chapter gives biblical statement after statement that God’s call came in Ur, not Haran.  The arguments are numbered.  Altogether, this overwhelming testimony of Scripture makes God’s call coming in Ur satisfyingly certain.

Old Testament: Eight Passages Argue for “Ur”

1.  Genesis 15:7.  God Himself said He brought Abraham out from Ur.  If the call had come in Haran, God would have said “I am the LORD who brought you out of Haran.”

And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Genesis 15:7.

2.  Genesis 12:1.  In the call God told Abraham to separate from his father’s household.  That would make sense if the call came in Ur because his father had compromised with the idolatry of that city and God wanted to get Abraham away from his father’s influence.  But if the call came in Haran after his father died, there would be no father with his idolatry to separate from.  Death would have done the job.  Further, by the time his father died, his father’s household had turned from the idolatry of Ur and was worshiping the true God at Abraham’s altar in Haran. 

3.  Genesis 11:31.  At God’s prompting the journey began in Ur, not Haran.

Terah took Abram [Abraham] his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai [Sarah] his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 

This verse was written in retrospect.  It clearly says they departed from Ur, not Haran, to go to Canaan.  While Terah was the patriarch and therefore nominally in charge, his son Abraham was determined to obey God and go to a land God would show him, so in effect, Terah was accompanying his son, not leading his son. 

4.  Genesis 11:28 says that “Haran [Terah’s oldest son] died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans.”  Terah’s kindred which we would call relatives lived in Ur, not Haran.  Since one of the conditions of God’s call to Abraham was to leave his kindred, the call must have come where Abraham’s kindred lived—Ur. 

5.  Genesis 11:27-25:11.  Argument from the organization of Genesis.  The 215-year view notes that the death of Terah is recorded in Genesis 11 while the call is recorded in Genesis 12.  They conclude that the call was issued after Terah’s death.  When they read “Now the LORD said to Abram…,” they understand it to be saying, “Then the LORD said to Abram…” Genesis 12:1.  But, are these events sequential?  Does the fact that the record of the call follows the notice of Terah’s death prove God issued the call after Terah’s death?  Not at all. 

Genesis arranges biographical material in logical groupings.  First one life or episode is stated, then another life or episode is presented.  Terah’s life is presented in Genesis 11:27-32.  Abraham’s life follows in Genesis 12:1-25:11.  This is followed by Ishmael’s in Genesis 25:12-18, Isaac’s  in Genesis 25:19-26:35, Jacob’s in 27-35, Esau’s in 36, then Joseph’s and so on.  What could be more important in the Abraham section than his call?  Thus, the Abraham chapters begin with his call.  The fact that Abraham’s call is recorded following the end of the section on Terah says nothing about when it was issued. 

6.  Nehemiah 9:7-8. Other Old Testament books refer to Abraham’s country as Ur, not Haran.  Abraham was told to leave his country.  Since his country was Ur, the call came when he was living there. 

7You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham.  8You found his heart faithful before you and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite…. 

Nehemiah ranks high among pious Old Testament Jews in prominent places.  He mourned and wept with fasting and prayers for days when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem had not been repaired.  Then when he was performing his task of setting wine before the emperor of the Persian Empire, Artaxerxes, the king noticed his sadness.  The story came out and Nehemiah was allowed to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  Once there, he organized the people and in the face of much opposition, the walls were rebuilt in just 52 days.  Following this was a time of intense spiritual renewal.  He records the Levites praying the words quoted above.  They acknowledged that God had brought Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans.  Thus, for fifteen hundred years the descendants of Abraham had believed that God first called Abraham in Ur and later, in Canaan, made a covenant with him to give his descendants that land.  God’s bringing was from Ur, not from Haran. 

7-8.  Joshua 24:2-3.  Two arguments come from these and additional verses:

2Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Long ago your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor, and they served other gods.  3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many…”  Joshua 24:2-3.

Joshua specifically states that the fathers of Israel, Terah, Abraham and Nahor, practiced idolatry (“served other gods”) before God took Abraham from where they lived (“beyond the Euphrates”) to Canaan.  Their idolatry was real.  They did this in Ur.  God broke Abraham’s idolatrous ways by separating him from the powerful idolatrous culture of Ur.  In Haran Abraham established the worship of the true God in Terah’s household.  This worship continued during the lifetime of Isaac and was the faith Jacob was raised in.  On the other hand, Nahor followed Terah and Abraham to the general area around Haran but kept his idols.  His grandson still held to them when Jacob came to live with him.  Abraham’s break with idolatry began when he moved from Ur, not from Haran.  Therefore, the call came in Ur, not Haran.

Joshua’s use of the phrase “beyond the Euphrates” also points to the call coming in Ur, not Haran.  Altogether this phrase or similar words occur a dozen times more in Ezra and Nehemiah.  The Euphrates is 1000 miles long.  It begins near the mountains of Armenia, flows somewhat west, curves south and finally heads southeast to empty into the Persian Gulf.  Haran is across the Euphrates River but the expression is mostly used for more than simply crossing the river.  It is like a sweep of the hand to indicate a great distance.  In most of its occurrences this phrase refers to Lower Mesopotamia.  Thus, it also confirms that the call came in Ur. 

New Testament: Stephen Says “Ur”  (See also chapter two)

9.  In the days following the resurrection of Christ, Stephen was full of grace and power, doing great wonders and signs among the people.  Those who disputed with him could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke, so they found people who falsely charged that Stephen spoke blasphemous words against Moses and God (Acts 6:8-11).  This caused a disturbance that landed Stephen before the council where additional false charges were made.  Stephen defended himself by reciting major events in the history of Israel, especially showing how the nation had established a pattern of rejecting God’s messengers, last of all, the Messiah.  Speaking by the Holy Spirit, he began with Jewish history that none could deny:

2Brothers and fathers, hear me.  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3and said to him, “Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.”  4Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran.  And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land.  Acts 7:2-4. 

Stephen said exactly what this book maintains are the facts and which those who add the numbers in Shem’s genealogy deny.  His words are clear.  They can’t be interpreted to mean something else.  So, in this case, the numerologists don’t deny or put a spin on what he said.  Rather, as explained in chapter two, they say he made a slip of the tongue; what he said was erroneous.  They say that inerrancy only guarantees that Stephen said these words, not that he had his facts straight.  They say maybe he was under pressure and was rattled or maybe he was a young believer and didn’t have a good grasp of the Old Testament.  Somehow, Stephen misstated.  Their numbers usurp his words. 

It is true that inerrancy assures us of what someone said, even when they speak error.  For instance, God had told Adam he would die if he ate fruit from a certain tree.  Then the serpent said to Eve that she would not die if she ate from that tree (Genesis 3:4).  Scripture accurately reported that the serpent said this even though what he said was untrue.

This interpretative tool is useful, but used wrongly is dangerous.  It can be used against any of the people in Scripture that said something the critic disagrees with.  There must be strong evidence that the speaker spoke in error.  Where is this evidence?  Their only evidence is that it conflicts with their interpretation of what Paul said in Galatians three.  So they say Paul was right; Stephen was wrong.  We suggest both Stephen and Paul were right.  When Paul’s words are correctly understood, his words will agree completely with the words of Stephen.  Invoking this extra ordinary use of the principle of inerrancy is incredulous, strained.  After all, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit:

5Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.   8Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.  10They could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.  Acts 6:5, 8, 10.

Recognizing that Stephen did speak accurately, others find a different interpretation of Acts 7:4 in order to maintain that Abraham was the firstborn of Terah’s sons.  They observe that three personalities are found in verses 2-4: God, Terah and Abraham.  While verse four speaks of “his father,” it uses the personal pronoun four times.  They say “he removed him” refers to Abraham removing his father Terah, not God removing Abraham.  So rather than God leading Abraham on to Canaan after Terah died, this view says that sixty years after Abraham arrived in Canaan, his father died.  Abraham then returned to Haran and brought his father’s body to Canaan for burial.  They emphasize that this is consistent with the Hebrew mindset of the importance of where one was buried and are adamant about this interpretation. 

Such an explanation is strained and unnecessary.  Why would Stephen begin his address with where Abraham’s father was buried rather than that God Himself led the founder of the Jewish race to Canaan?  This bad explanation demonstrates just how far the numbers over words folks will go to uphold their chronology from Shem to Abraham.  They seem to suffer from over-literalism.  This chapter previously showed another example of over-literalism.  When Scripture says that at the age of 70 Terah fathered three sons, Abraham, Nahor and Haran, it was not implying that they were triplets or that this was their birth order.  Rather, Scripture was naming them in the order of their importance.  Terah was 70 when he fathered his first son.  Abraham was born 60 years after the birth of that son.  Abraham was the youngest, not the oldest. 

Hebrews 11 makes it clear that by faith Abraham obeyed, going out to an unknown destination but ultimately expecting a city with better foundations, one whose builder and maker is God.  Exactly what he left is very important: the world with all its idols, wealth and glamor.  That was Ur, not Haran.

The Silence of Scripture Says “Ur” 

10.  While Scripture specifically says the call came in Ur as seen in the many references above, nowhere in the Old or New Testaments does it say or even hint that the call came in Haran.  Arguments from silence in themselves do not establish a truth of Scripture.  But when combined with positive declarative statements, they do add validity to the concept under consideration.

In summary, the conditions of Abraham’s call, to leave country, kindred, family and go to a land God would show him could only apply to the time when Abraham lived in Ur.  Why is that so important?  Abraham had to replace the idolatry that gripped Ur with faith in the one true God.  Was he ready for that?  He was ready to leave his kindred and Ur, but leaving his father’s household was a road block.  Refusing to stay behind they also would need to leave their idol worship and that was not easily done.  So Haran became an important first step.  Ur cannot be dismissed which the call coming in Haran view does.  

Brief Chronology of Abraham --- Focusing on Elam’s Defeat of Ur

Overview:  Based on a 1446 BC Exodus date (all dates BC):

1876 – Beginning of 430-year Hebrew sojourn in Egypt

2006 – Birth of Jacob (130 years before sojourn began)

2066 – Birth of Isaac (60 years before Jacob was born)

2166 – Birth of Abraham (100 years before Isaac was born)

Firm (f) and estimated (e) dates for events in Abraham’s early years:

2166 (f) – Birth of Abraham in the country of Ur, Mesopotamia

2156 (f) – Birth of Sarah

2131 (e) – Abraham marries Sarah when she reaches adulthood 25; he is 35

2106 (e) – No children after 25 years of marriage; Sarah is obviously barren

2106 (e) – God calls Abraham to leave his country;

                           Abraham, accompanied by his father’s household, follows God’s leading

                           The leading stops somewhere before they reach Haran

         The entire party settles in Haran

Elam crushes Ur– 2104 (e)

2097 (e) - Elam puts the Jordan Valley pentapolis under tribute

2091 (f) – Terah dies; Abraham is 75; God leads him from Haran to Canaan

2082 (f) – Mesopotamian armies defeat Jordan Valley pentapolis; Abraham rescues Lot

2081 (f) – Abraham fears retaliation; God will protect him (Genesis 15)

2081 (f) – Elam does not retaliate (indicates the end of Elam in Mesopotamia)

2080 (f) – Birth of Ishmael

2066 (f) – Birth of Isaac (when Abraham is 100 and Ishmael is 14)

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