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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

Conclusion

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Chapter Fourteen

Observed throughout this book is the fact that noted scholar and Archbishop James Ussher was derailed by his sources.  While some folks maintain he had better sources that have been lost since his day, just the opposite is the case.  He adopted a wrong date for the Flood because his sources failed him.  Today’s Bible students need not be bound by his inferior sources and resulting faulty interpretations.  This chapter looks at historical errors which led to his incorrect Flood date while the next chapter identifies errors of interpretation that resulted from forcing the incorrect Flood date on Scripture.  While most of these bad ideas have been mentioned, several will be examined in considerable detail.  But to start, here is one not previously told, a humorous one involving the Father of History himself, Herodotus.


1. Inflated Numbers Regarding Pharaoh Khufu’s Tomb

History reports that 100,000 slaves labored 20 years to construct Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb called the Great Pyramid located across the Nile River from Cairo in Egypt.  The famous Greek historian Herodotus whom Cicero called the Father of History memorialized this historical blunder.  Although born in Turkey during the Persian Empire Herodotus moved to the democratic city of Athens and became a contemporary of Socrates.  About 450 B.C. he toured Egypt and saw the Great Pyramid.  His Egyptian guide told him 100,000 slaves labored 20 years to build the pyramid.  Herodotus marveled at the ego of a man who would expend such vast resources to build his tomb.  He said the Egyptians still hated Khufu for forcing them to raise the pyramid and could barely bring themselves to speak his name.  The historian carefully preserved those statistics for posterity.  For 24 centuries his statistics were repeated as fact millions of times over. 

Now the truth is out—no slaves, no 20 years and no 100,000 workers.  Herodotus swung three times and struck out.  In recent years new ways have been found to get at the facts of pyramid construction.  One is to study the remains of villages where the pyramid workers lived.  An architectural firm that provides project management services for massive construction projects around the globe worked with archaeologists to research the issue.  Their findings were published in the June 1999 issue of Civil Engineering Magazine under the title Program Management B.C.[1] 

Working closely with leading Egyptologists in both Egypt and the United States, the team concluded that a paid full-time work force of 14,000 completed the Great Pyramid in under ten years.  Five thousand of these were highly skilled—miners who extracted stones from quarries; stone cutters who shaped each block on site; masons who prepared the mortar; carpenters who built the transport sledges and other tools; scribes who recorded everything; soldiers who organized and supervised the work force; and most importantly, the officials and planners who brought the largest structure ever made by man within one tenth of a degree of true north—three years to prepare the site, five years for construction and two years for the finishing touches.

Assisting the full-time professionals, skilled craftsmen and general labor force were the 26,000 seasonal workers who transported the two and a half ton stones from nearby quarries to the site and then moved them up to their place in the pyramid.  Debate surrounds these temporary laborers.  Pharaoh was believed to be a god and, therefore, all his subjects would benefit from his successful advance into the afterlife.  On the other hand were tax levies.  Farmers idled by the annual inundation of the Nile provided a large labor force.  Regardless of how willingly they worked on the pyramid, they were well cared for by ancient standards.  Regulations have been found covering the maximum amount of work allowed per day, the wages received and holidays each worker was entitled to. They were well fed.  Their rations included two jugs of beer a day.  Animal bones in garbage dumps brought the calculation of 4000 pounds of fresh meat provided daily.  They probably ate better for this short time than during the entire rest of the year. 

A recent movie used a half-mile ramp on which to move the huge stones up into place.  It’s a good thing Hollywood was not in charge of the project because their method would have taken more material for the ramp than for the pyramid!  Archaeologists discovered remarkable efficiencies—the ramps would have been a part of the pyramid itself—switchbacks or spirals up the sides.   Rather than using the huge labor-intensive stones to fill the pyramids, less expensive methods were employed.  One was forming chambers inside the pyramid and filling them with sand.  Another was building the pyramid on a rock outcropping.  A third was filling the interior with mud brick.  These earlier pyramids received more care than later pyramids which were smaller, less well built and often hastily constructed. 

As to Herodotus, modern historians are remarkably forgiving, explaining that it shouldn’t be surprising that he got it wrong because by the time he visited the site the structure was already twenty centuries old and much of the truth about it was shrouded in the mists of history, concluding, “Indeed, many of the stories Herodotus relates to us are probably false!”[2]  Of how many ancient authorities whom Ussher consulted could this be said?

This obvious historical blunder, while totally secular in nature and unrelated to the Bible, has an application to our subject, Ussher’s 2348 BC Flood date.  Clearly it is a matter of sheer faith to claim that Ussher had better sources than are available today.  Herodotus’ blunder, repeated for over 2000 years, advises us to take Ussher’s writings with caution.  It also has a second application, one to do with early post-Flood populations which will be addressed in a later chapter.


2. Deficient Text of Exodus 12:40

Biblical scholars of the past failed to recognize the many missing generations between Amram and Aaron partly because of a deficiency in the Masoretic Text of Exodus 12:40.  This error in the transmission of the text allowed the view that 430-years elapsed from Abraham’s arrival in Canaan until the Exodus and that Israel was in Egypt only 215-years.  Ussher was a victim of his times and perpetuated that mistake in his chronology.  Two centuries later Keil and Delitzsch could write that hardly an eminent Hebraist remains that still holds to the wrong text of Exodus 12:40. 

 Nearly 150 years since Keil and Delitzsch issued their commentary on Exodus, devout Christians are still writing books stating that the deficiency in the text of Exodus 12:40 contains the correct words.  They stand with the KJV which reads “Now the sojourn of the sons of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”  Because this translation says that the sons of Israel sojourned 430-years, not that they sojourned in Egypt 430-years, they argue that the location of the sojourn was Canaan as well as Egypt.  From this incorrect rendering they spin an entire web of misinterpretations to conclude that the Flood happened in 2348 BC or so.  It took about twenty errors to end up with that conclusion and that is why HB is so long.  Each error is a battle in this web of errors leading to that faulty date. 

The correct text reads something like the ESV: “The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430-years” (Exodus 12:40).  Hundreds of English translations read this way.  Obviously, this reading leaves no room for ambiguity.  As to how this affects our subject, once the text of Exodus 12:40 was clarified all could see that more generations than Kohath’s and Amram’s stood between Levi and Aaron.  With this, biblical scholars learned for certain the Old Testament practice of abbreviating Hebrew genealogies. 

Some might be shocked, thinking that we are criticizing the Bible.  This historical error and the next two pertain to the transmission of Scripture, not the writing of Scripture.  The doctrine of inerrancy pertains only to the original authors who were enabled by the Holy Spirit to record without error what they wrote.  Through the ages the Scriptures have been copied by generation after generation of scribes, mostly as faithfully as possible.  But scribal errors as well as deliberate changes, which will be seen next, entered the original writings on occasion to produce the incorrect views and interpretations we address.  Nevertheless, the standard Bible translations through the ages have always been sufficient to lead people to Christ and teach them how to live a godly life.


3. Addition of “and in the land of Canaan” in the LXX

Due to the above early corruption of the text of Exodus 12:40, it is not surprising that “and in the land of Canaan” was added to the LXX so that the 430-year sojourn would clearly span both the time in Egypt and the time in Canaan.  What follows is how this error went through two languages to end up in an English translation.  First a Hebrew text with the error was available and is reproduced below.  Next, the erroneous Hebrew text was selected to be translated into the Koine Greek to produce the Septuagint (LXX) text about 250 BC.  Then the Greek LXX was translated into English in modern times.  (Earlier, many other translations of the LXX were made.  One was the Latin translation which Ussher used.)   

Here were the steps in this process (underlining ours):

Original Hebrew text used by the LXX translators.  (We use Greek letter equivalents although some Hebrew pointing is missing):  Ή δέ κατοίκησις των υίών Ισραηλ, ήν κατώκησαν έν γή Αιγύπτώ και έν γή Χανααν, έτή τετρακόσια τριάκοντα, 

Resulting LXX text:  E de katoikEsis tOn uiOn IsraEl, En katipskEsan en gE AiguptO kai en gE Canaan, etE tetrakosia triakonta.  Exodus 12:40. 

Resulting English translation:  The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt and in the land of Canaan was 430-years.  

The words “and in the land of Canaan” were added at some unknown point.  The phrase was either in the version of the Hebrew text used for the LXX or was added at the time that Hebrew text was translated into Greek.  Since the Hebrew Masoretic Text of Exodus 12:40 bore its own corruption in Ussher’s day, it more likely existed before the LXX was translated.  Thus, it was a stumbling block from before 250 BC until modern scholars were finally able to get to the bottom of the corruption and establish the correct text within the guidelines of modern scholarship. 

So whether the Church Fathers were using the LXX which included “and in the land of Canaan” or the Masoretic Text with its textual deficiency, the result was the same: Israel was in Egypt 215-years, not 430-years; the Levi genealogy of Exodus six was complete; Hebrew genealogies do not contain gaps; the Flood happened about 2348 BC.  Between the corruption of Exodus 12:40 in the Masoretic Text which would have occurred before 250 BC and this deliberate addition in the LXX, the belief that Hebrew genealogies were complete prevailed and this view continues to be an article of faith to many in the creation movement today.  By believing that the total time in Canaan and Egypt was 430-years, the very words of God in Genesis 15 and Stephen in Acts 7 plus numerous events in the lives of Abraham and Jacob had to be interpreted in unusual ways. 

Further, these errors led to the misidentification of Abraham’s birth country.  As a result, most everyone located Abraham’s birthplace, Ur of the Chaldees, somewhere near Haran in north western Mesopotamia—the LXX, Josephus, the Church Fathers, and even the so-called prophets Muhammad and Joseph Smith.  Then came discoveries at an Ur 700 miles to the southeast in Babylonia.  Here was a city “worthy of Abraham” wrote archaeologist Leonard Woolley.  Most concluded this really was the country God asked him to leave.  More recently scholars have had second thoughts.  Claus Westermann sums up the case: “[In the Bible] there is not a trace of any connection with Ur in the south; there is only the name.”[3]

Of course, our interest is what the Bible says, which is considerably more than Westermann acknowledges.  Like the controversy over the correct OT text in chapter eight of HB, this issue is not easily settled, but we would concur with Alan R. Millard who wrote “The case for identifying [Abraham’s hometown] with…southern Babylonia remains strong, although the available information precludes certainty.”[4] 


4. The Mislocation of Ur

The call of God to Abraham (originally Abram) contained four elements.  God said to “Go from your country [1-Abraham must leave his home country, the land he was born in, behind], and your kindred [2-he must leave his relatives behind] and your father’s house [3-he must leave his immediate family behind] to the land that I will show you [4-destination not disclosed; divine leading required].”  Genesis 12:1.  Four times the Old Testament names Ur of the Chaldees in speaking of this country Abraham was to leave:

Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans.  Genesis 11:28.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai 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.  Genesis 11:31.

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

You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham.  Nehemiah 9:7.  (Emphasis ours.)

Of the three Genesis passages only the words of God in Genesis 15:7 specifically states that Abraham was brought out from Ur of the Chaldees.  The Nehemiah verse quotes Genesis 15:7 and contains no new information.  Genesis 11:28 says that Abraham’s brother, Haran, died in Ur of the Chaldees which was the land of his kindred.  Since Abraham was one of his kindred, it would also be Abraham’s land.  In a similar fashion Genesis 11:31 speaks of Terah taking his family including Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan.  So in a roundabout way four verses do state or imply that Abraham’s country was Ur of the Chaldees.  (The ESV renders “Chaldees” “Chaldeans.”)

Now for the historical blunder.  The Septuagint (LXX) changed “Ur of the Chaldees” to “land of the Chaldees” in all four passages.  This substitution is repeated in the Samaritan Pentateuch.  The well-established history of the Chaldeans exposes this to be an error.  Thousands upon thousands of cuneiform documents have been discovered in Mesopotamia, mostly in the last 100 years.  Only in modern times have scholars learned to decipher them.  Important here is the general record of Chaldean migration.  Documents place them in Northern Mesopotamia in the second and third millennia BC.  Not until after 1000 BC did they come to be a dominant people group in Southern Mesopotamia. 

The Ur of Southern Mesopotamia also has a documented history, in its case going back before 3000 BC.  Some claim it may have been the first city in the world.  By 2800 BC it had a centralized government.  By about 2200 BC, for a brief time, it was the wealthiest and most powerful city-state in Mesopotamia.  Its location on the Euphrates River close to the head of the Persian Gulf accounted for its great wealth as it conducted trading from India to East Africa and controlled shipping entering the Euphrates.  Semitic peoples added to its Sumerian population during its growth years.  Thus, the Semitic origin of Terah and his relatives fit this country’s population profile.  But erosion from the Tigris and Euphrates moved the mouth of the Gulf further and further to the east.  As Ur’s prime location slipped away, so did its key to prosperity.  Its population declined.  Then the Euphrates shifted course and every direction from Ur turned to desert.  Today the ruins of Ur are in a vast desert plain 140 miles from the Persian Gulf. 

Meanwhile many other locations in Mesopotamia adopted the name “Ur” or something close—Ura, Ure, Uri and Uri’m, etc., etc.  Finally, there was a day around 400 BC when the original Ur was abandoned.  By the time of the LXX, the location of Abraham’s Ur was forgotten but the history of the Chaldeans was known.  It was common knowledge that back in Abraham’s day the Chaldeans dwelt in Northern Mesopotamia.   So those producing or responsible for the LXX changed “Ur of the Chaldees” to “Land of the Chaldees” thinking “land of the Chaldeans” would be clearer than “Ur of the Chaldeans.  Thus, readers would look for an Ur where the Chaldeans lived in the days of Abraham—in Northern Mesopotamia.  Scholars then looked at the many Ur’s available and decided it should be one around Haran (today spelled Harran) since Abraham’s party settled in Haran on their way to Canaan. 

Sanliurfa Turkey, today called the City of Abraham, was the most popular choice.  Josephus preferred that site.   A travel blog states “In everyday conversations, Sanliurfa is shortened to Urfa.  The extension of the name happened in 1984 to recognize the part Sanliurfa played in the Turkish war of independence [1919-1923].  ‘Sanli’ means glorious...it is popular with Muslims because the town is thought to be the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.”[5]  Muhammad incorporated that identification into the Koran along with stories of specific things that happened to Abraham in Urfa.  So the entire Muslim population of the world is more or less duty bound to support this location as the city where Abraham was born.  Sanliurfa is a mere 23 air miles northwest of Harran (the modern spelling for the biblical “Haran”). 

This historical inaccuracy also tripped up self-declared prophet Joseph Smith.  He saw Egyptian manuscripts which he said were written by Abraham and Joseph.  He translated these hieroglyphics and called the one with Abraham’s writings The Book of Abraham which was later designated by his Church as Scripture.  In it are extremely unbiblical ideas such as numerous references to the “gods,” creation of the universe from previously existing material and that after sacrificing five virgins one of the Egyptian priests tried to make Abraham a human sacrifice but that an angel delivered him.  This was said to have happened in Urfa, Abraham’s birth place and home town so he fled to nearby Haran.  Smith’s manuscripts disappeared for 100 years then fragments were found and positively identified.  Both Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists examined them.  They were first century funerary texts and had nothing to do with Abraham. 

Mormon apologists continue to defend the idea that Abraham’s Ur of the Chaldees was none other than Urfa as the histories of Smith’s day taught.  After all, a true prophet couldn’t be wrong.  Brigham Young University apologist Paul Hoskisson presents an impressive case for Urfa being the correct location for Abraham’s Ur of the Chaldees.[6] 

Modern Harran lies in the middle of a large, fertile plain divided up into visible fields of green crops as seen in Google Maps.  It has a population of 10,000 while the Harran district numbers 87,000.  Sanliurfa has a population exceeding two million and is located on the northwest rim of the Turkish Harran District plain.  The driving distance from Harran to Sanliurfa is 30 miles by the main highways none of which are direct.  Today no visible physical obstacle would prevent Abraham from travelling directly from Sanliurfa (Ur) to Harran (Haran), but the topography may have changed greatly over the last 4000 years. 

One obvious difficulty with this location for Abraham’s Ur is that it did not receive the name Urfa until Turkish times.  The Greeks called it Odessa while Syriac Christian literature called it Orhai.  Another difficulty is the disproportionate distance between Sanliurfa and Haran (25 miles) and the distance between Haran and Shechem Canaan where Abraham journeyed next (560 miles).  It seems unproportionate for the first stage of the journey to be a mere 1/22th of the distance of the second stage.  Strange, for sure.  But if the first half of the journey began at the southern Ur which is 700 miles from Haran, that would be proportional (700 for the first stage of the journey and 560 for the second stage).  But these difficulties have not stopped those who oppose the southern location.  Nevertheless, this author cannot find any reason to support Odessa/Urfa/Sanliurfa as Abraham’s city of birth. 

So, what difference does it make, whether Abraham’s country was a northern Mesopotamian area like Sanliurfa or the southern Mesopotamian city-state of Ur?  It has to do with the purpose of God, all God said He would do through Abraham in the original call.  It is hard to see how that purpose could be realized if Abraham moved just 25 or 30 miles from his homeland, kindred and relatives where those idolatrous influences prevailed. 

Abraham did not reach Canaan until he was 75 years old.  Those years were divided between Ur and Haran.  We spent much of chapter three visualizing those years, first 60-65 years in Ur, then the next 10-15 years in Haran. Within that time period was his first experience of daily dependence on God as he followed God’s leading for the 700 miles from Ur to Haran.  Then in Haran he began learning about the true God.  Hebrews says he journeyed to Canaan by faith (Hebrews 11:8-10).  That faith in the true God was established in Haran.  There he began building altars as demonstrated by his building two altars immediately upon arriving in Canaan.  There he won over his father’s house or at least a substantial portion of it to the true God.  There he trained 318 born in his own house to be as skillful as any solder in the army of Ur.  

Since God was going to make of Abraham a people for Himself, He could not lead Abraham to Canaan until his father was out of the picture.  Hence God kept the Abraham party far away from the destination until Terah died.  Further, Abraham could not begin building the strongest possible relationship with God until he was totally away from the influences of Ur that continued from his birth until the move to Haran.  Seven hundred miles did the trick.  Then when his father died Abraham was prepared.  God renewed the call and Abraham immediately followed Him from Haran to Canaan.  The biblical evidence is convincing for the location of Ur.  It was in southern Mesopotamia, 700 miles from Haran and Urfa. 

But even before the change in the LXX, there was an earlier change in the Hebrew text.  Merrill F. Unger believes that the original text, the only inspired text, simply read “Ur” and nothing more.  Then it was changed by later scribes to “Ur of the Chaldees” as Chaldeans came to settle in and control southern Mesopotamia.  Nebuchadnezzar was a Chaldean.  So, to point to the right Ur, scribes changed the text in all four places.  But Middle East scholars correctly observe that never, in any cuneiform document discovered to date is “Ur of the Chaldees” mentioned.  Never.  If Moses were using materials from Abraham or his son Isaac or grandson Jacob, those people would have been filled with stories of the glory of the Babylonian Ur and the word “Ur” would be sufficient in their thinking to identify Abraham’s home country.  Here is how Unger explains this first change of the original text:

It was [not an anachronism, as many critics contend, but was] rather an instance of numerous archaic place names being defined by a later scribal gloss to make clear to a subsequent age where and what these places were when their history and locality had been forgotten.[7]

When might this scribal gloss have happened?  Most likely it happened as the Southern Kingdom of Judah got more and more into idolatry and its history became more and more confused.  It could have happened any time in the 300 years preceding the end of the Babylonian Captivity.  This was over a millennium before the tradition of the care given the text by the Masoretic scribes. 

We started off with the change made in the LXX.  But, as just shown, we believe the text was changed twice, first as Unger explains, then as we recounted, after the demise of Sumerian Ur.  But even further, we came across seven so-called biblical arguments (and undoubtedly there are more) plus non-biblical arguments from modern scholars to support the Ur near Haran and now these must be addressed. 


Arguments against a Southern Ur

In defending the southern Ur Millard lists five arguments given against it and answers each.[8]  First, “it is said that the southern Ur is too far from Haran.”  Millard argues that merchants and others routinely traveled long distances, that they were using major trade routes and gives illustrations.  We think the biblical answer is that God was using this long distance to help Abraham learn to follow Him day by day and to get the party so far from Ur that it could no longer be an idolatrous influence on them.  Moving from Urfa to Haran, a distance of 25 miles, hardly accomplished God’s specific command for Abraham to leave his country.  Urfa and Haran were all part of the same neck of the woods.

Secondly, they dismissively note the route from southern Ur to Canaan via Haran is quite roundabout.  Cyrus Gordon states this objection more bluntly:  he refers to Genesis 11:31 which says they went out from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan and then reasons “by no stretch of the imagination would anyone go from Sumerian Ur (in southern Mesopotamia) to Canaan via Haran.  A glance at the map shows that Haran is much too far out of the way.”[9]  The most obvious problem here is the view that Terah knew before leaving Ur that the destination was Canaan.  Such thinking completely disregards the clear words of Scripture that Abraham was to leave Ur and follow God’s direction.  He had no idea where God was leading him or where the destination was.  Hebrews says it even more clearly: “And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). 

Third, Millard addresses the argument that Abraham’s nomadic lifestyle was inconsistent with the urban setting of the southern Ur.  Abraham had certainly enjoyed all the comforts of Ur.  Millard then gives many sound answers, mostly centered around Abraham’s new purpose in life.  The bottom line is that Abraham looked for a better city, one whose builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:10). 

Fourth, arguments from the biblical phrase “beyond the river” or “crossing the river.”  It is true that if one journeyed directly from Ur to Canaan, one would not cross the Euphrates River.  In chapter three we explained that saying “crossing the river” was like waving one’s arm to indicate a great distance.  By following the leading of God, Abraham did cross the river, in fact he crossed it twice— first to journey to Haran and then to journey from Haran to Canaan.  Millard says “For anyone living in the Levant, Babylonian Ur would have lain conceptually ‘beyond the river,’ whatever the precise geography.”

Fifth, the Sumerian Ur is never called “Ur of the Chaldees” in any of the numerous references to Ur in the cuneiform tablets.  We answered this objection above. 

Sixth, a more serious objection not directly listed by Millard but advanced by Cyrus Gordon is that “Genesis 24:4, Genesis 24:7, Genesis 24:10 and Genesis 24:29 tell us that Abraham’s birthplace was in Aram-Naharayim where Laban lived.” [10]  This is completely untrue.  Rather than Abraham telling his servant to go to his “birthplace” to find a bride for Isaac, Abraham tells him to “go to my country and to my kindred” (Genesis 24:4).  In 24:7 Abraham continues with “The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you.”  Then in 24:10 “[The servant] arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.”  In 24:27 “the LORD has led me to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”  In 24:40 “[My master had said] you shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house.”  Nowhere does the word “birthplace” or similar word appear.  Gordon has overstated his case.

Nevertheless, there are words in the passage that need clarifying.  When the original call came, Abraham did leave his country (Ur) and kindred (relatives).  But his father refused for his household to be separated and in effect he and his household accompanied Abraham on the journey to the land of promise.  When the leading of God stopped, the party looked for a place to live.  They chose Haran.  It was particularly promising because it bore the name of Terah’s oldest son who had died in Ur.  We suggested in chapter three that Terah had some earlier connection with this major trading center, possibly getting his start there and to commemorate the wealth he had gained there, he named his first son after it. 

Now, a century later, as Terah accompanied his son Abraham who was born when he was 130, they found themselves in the vicinity of Haran.  Since the leading stopped, they had to make a home somewhere and selected Haran.  There they lived for the next 10-15 years.  At some point Abraham’s brother Nahor moved to that general area with his 12 sons.  Then another century passed.  Terah had died long before.  Now Abraham himself was 140 years old.  He had lived in Canaan for 65 years after living in Haran for 10-15 years.  His brother Nahor was a grandfather and the scion of a large clan in the Haran area.  The southern Ur had ceased to be Abraham’s country nearly a century before.  So, in sending his servant to find a bride for Isaac, he refers to the area around Haran as his country and certainly that is where the remainder of his fathers’ house was and where his brother Nahor had moved. 

So the references in Genesis 24 in no way declare Abraham was born in the Haran area but they do recognize that he had moved from Ur to a new country and his kindred came to settle there.   Those who make this mistake, for the most part, even wonder if Abraham was a real historical person and therefore have little confidence in the scriptural details of his life.  So Genesis 24 is not evidence for Abraham being born in a northern Ur.  Gordon’s assertion that “the Biblical evidence is by itself conclusive in placing Ur of the Chaldees in the Urfa-Haran region of south central Turkey, near the Syrian border, rather than in southern Mesopotamia where it is located on so many ‘Biblical’ maps”[11] cannot possibly be conclusive since his only evidence from the Bible is the distortion of the biblical reports.

Seventh, some claim the order of events in Genesis supports the northern Ur.  Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 11 that reports the move to Haran.  So the call came after the move.  We answered this argument in chapter three as well.  It can be summarized as follows: often Scripture finishes one narrative before beginning another, especially in Genesis.  The fact that the call is recorded in Genesis 12:1-3 does not mean that it came after the events of chapter 11.  Rather, the Abraham section of Genesis begins with the call because the call is the very reason for the thirteen-chapter section on Abraham beginning with Genesis 12:1. 

Eighth, Woolley’s “glamorous/spectacular” finds in southern Ur is said to have swayed public opinion.  Granted.  Woolley’s successful excavations certainly pushed thinking in the direction of his Ur.  But this does not negate our previous and next arguments for the southern Ur being the true location of Ur. 


Biblical Arguments for a Southern Ur Overlooked by Scholars

Now we must offer a final support from Scripture, one that does not even appear in the scholarly articles so far examined.  Stephen says Abraham moved to Canaan after his father died (Acts 7:4).  Those who adamantly declare that Levi’s genealogy in Exodus six is complete are forced to say the record correctly reports what Stephen said, but he was confused and misspoke.  (They are defending a 215-year sojourn in Egypt.  A 430-year sojourn in Egypt means that Levi’s genealogy in Exodus six is incomplete.) 

While this interpretative device (that Scripture correctly reports people’s verbal errors) is sometimes needed, much other evidence must exist to require its use.  No such compelling evidence can be found except the many incorrect interpretations that require this one for the sake of consistency.  To the contrary Scripture says Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5) and it speaks of his wisdom (Acts 6:10).  His words must be accepted as accurate and consistent with what the Old Testament says.

Leaving Haran after his father died at the age of 205 also means Abraham was not the oldest son of Terah.  Terah began fathering sons at the age of 70 but Abraham was not born until he was 130.  This fact also is rejected by Ussher supporters.  Stephen cites God in saying that Abraham’s offspring would be afflicted in a land belonging to others which is also incorrectly interpreted to mean in Canaan as well as Egypt by the Ussher view even though God promised Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. 

But Stephen’s belief in a southern Ur is seen in his clear distinction between Abraham’s original country and living in Haran.  Acts 7:2-4 records him beginning his comments with 2“The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, 3‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’  4Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran.”  Stephen clearly says that God appeared to Abraham when he lived in Mesopotamia and told him to leave that country.  Stephen calls it “the land of the Chaldeans” (7:3).  Then Stephen says Abraham did as God directed and lived in Haran. 

So in Stephen’s mind Haran was outside the country Abraham left.  Mesopotamia was a vast area, so in journeying to Haran Abraham would have to travel a vast distance to leave this vast country.  The idea that Abraham traveled 25-30 miles from Urfa to Haran in obedience to God violently conflicts with what Scripture actually says. 

In spite of the two later changes to the text, Stephen still had the right concept.  Abraham left his country of birth for an entirely new country that eventually became “his” country and, after his father died, God’s leading reappeared and Abraham took the vast wealth that he had inherited from his father to Canaan. 

While the location of Ur was lost for centuries of history, Christians today need to focus on the fact that this portion of Scripture now makes sense.  Consequently, knowing the right location of Ur helps correct interpretative errors in the life of Abraham.  In the same way the growing body of accurate information related to the Old Testament helps us to see the abbreviating of Shem’s genealogy and solve the strange situation of two brothers separated by many generations, examined in the preceding chapter.

 

 

 


 


[1] Craig B. Smith, “Program Management B.C.,” Civil Engineering Magazine, June, 1999: 10 pages.  http://www.ekt.bme.hu/CM-BSC-MSC/ProgramManagementBC.pdf. 

[2]     “Khufu’s Great Pyramid.”  www.unmuseum.org/kpyramid.htm. 

[3] Claus Westermann, Genesis 12-36: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985), 139.

[4] Alan R. Millard, “Where Was Abraham’s Ur?  The Case for the Babylonian City,” Biblical Archaeological Review 27:3 May/June 2001: 52.

[5] Natalie (a freelance travel blogger), “Sanliurfa (Urfa): The City of Abraham in Turkey.” https://turkishtravelblog.com/sanliurfa-urfa-city-of-abraham/

[6] Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Chapter 7: Where Was Ur of the Chaldees?”  H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989): 119–36.  https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/pearl-great-price-revelations-god/where-was-ur-chaldees. 

[7]     Unger, Dictionary, 1127.

[8] Millard, “Where Was Abraham’s Ur?” 53.

[9] Cyrus H. Gordon, “Where is Abraham’s Ur?” BAR 3:2 (June 1977), 21. https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/3/2/5.

[10] Ibid., 20.

[11] Ibid., 20.

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