Who Was Abram? – 1996 B.C. & Abraham’s Homeland

Now I understand why there are different languages and nationalities.  So I guess You’re the author of segregation?

The Flood was bad, but You liked Noah.  What was the next good or bad event that occurred, and did You like anyone else, not that Noah’s dead?

When Noah cursed Ham (Gen 9:25) he blessed Shem and Japheth and the LORD honored all three of Noah’s requests. 

Approximately 248 years later Abram was born (God changed his name to Abraham later), a descendant of Shem (Gen 11:10-26), and 43 generations later came Jesus Christ (Matt 1:1-17).

The Bible doesn’t say what happened in between the building of the Tower of Babel (2242 B.C.) and the birth of Abram (1996 B.C.). 

It’s impossible to be exactly certain of the dates of things in the Bible, the dates I use come from the revised issue of The Annals of the World, by James Ussher, first published in 1658. 

Excavations at Mount Ebal have uncovered a worship site with a large altar (30 x 23 feet/9.1 x 7 m) constructed of unhewn stones, accessed by a gently sloping ramp. The pottery dates to the Israelite settlement (cf. Josh. 8:30–32). This perhaps is the altar that Joshua built or is built on top of Joshua’s altar.

I’m using dates of the Gregorian calendar, rather than the Julian Period simply because that’s what our astronomers use today.

“And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of iscah.

But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law…and they went forth with them from Ur (Abram’s birth place)…to go into the land of Canaan, and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there” (Gen 11:29-31).

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan, they came.

Click on the Image to read more.

Abraham was born in Ur c1996 B.C. Ur was one of the major cities of Sumer (home of the Sumerians) which is located in the south of modern day Iraq. Abraham was 75 years old before receiving God’s calling in Haran. Haran (now Harran) is some 1000km north west of Ur in north western Mesopotamia. From the age of 75 Abraham spent the next 100 years travelling south west through Damascus and Shechern before reaching Zoan. From Zoan he travelled north east to Hebron where he died at the age of 175. Despite wandering for 100 years Abraham never received the Promises.

And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.  And the Canaanite was then in the land.

And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:1-8).

Note: Abram did not ask where he was going or why, he just obeyed and trusted in God.  As Noah had not left the ark until God told him to do so (Gen 8:15-16)

Unlike Adam and Eve that disobeyed and was greatly punished (Gen 3:1-19).

ABRAHAM’S HOMELAND
Chalcolithic Period – 4500-3300 B.C.

The Bible is an intensely geographical book, telling the story of God’s redemptive work in human history.  It’s revealed through the nation of Israel, the early church, and supremely in Jesus Christ.  Specific geographical and cultural settings form the backdrop of this divine drama. 

Geographic position often plays a crucial part in the history of any people.  Cultural influences, military and economic alliances, and the political importance of a given people all are determined to some degree by geographical location.  Moreover, physical environment left a deep imprint on ancient societies since they were linked much more closely to the land than we are today. 

Terrain determined the location of villages and cities as well as the roads that linked them.  Climate, soil conditions, and availability of water affected agriculture, location of settlements, everyday diet, even religious beliefs.  The land provided the raw materials for household utensils, tools, weapons, houses, and other necessities of daily living.

Most of the biblical drama unfolded in the Ancient Near East. Today the modern states of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey occupy that area. 

The cradle of civilization Some of the earliest complex urban centers can be found in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (early cities also arose in the Indus Valley and ancient China). The history of Mesopotamia, however, is inextricably tied to the greater region, which is comprised of the modern nations of Egypt, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, the Gulf states and Turkey. We often refer to this region as the Near or Middle East.

The Ancient Near East has been called the “Cradle of Civilization” because many important cultural and technological advances took place there.

James Breasted coined the phrase “Fertile Crescent” to describe a band of land where conditions favored the establishment of early agricultural settlements.  Beyond the Sinai, south of the Fertile Crescent, lay Egypt. 

Favored by nature with the Nile River and its abundant water, Egypt played a vital part in the Ancient Near East.  From about 3200 B.C., Egypt, like Mesopotamia, became a powerful center of civilization. 

Historically, the cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia dominated the history of the Ancient Near East, at least until the campaigns of Alexander the Great (334-323 B.C.).

Mesopotamia was an integral part of the biblical landscape in many periods. Genesis locates Abraham’s homeland in Mesopotamia (Gen 11-12).

 Mesopotamian kings from  Assyria and Babylon appear frequently in the historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament.  Jewish captives from Jerusalem spent many years in exile near Babylon.  Descendants of those exiles were present at Pentecost.

Mesopotamia, literally the land “between the rivers” describes those lands boarding the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  Today Iraq, northern Syria, and extreme southeastern Turkey occupy the area of ancient Mesopotamia. 

To the south and west the great expanse of the Syro-Arabian desert forms the border beyond which settled life based on agriculture is not possible. 

To the north and east, mountains ring Mesopotamia.  In Bible times these mountains harbored less-advanced people who often threatened Mesopotamian kingdoms.  Mesopotamia gave birth too many great civilizations, including the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian.

The Chalcolithic period, or “Copper Stone Age,” brought several important changes.  The first known use of metal (copper) for utensils and weapons occurred in this period.  Settlements in the Near East became more numerous and somewhat larger, although, curiously, they were seldom well fortified.  In Mesopotamia a series of cultures emerged identifiable by their beautiful multicolored pottery.

By 3500 B.C., the Sumerians settled in southern Mesopotamia, where they developed an elementary writing system and erected larger temples (Gen 10:10; 11:2; 14:2).  Biblical Shinar reflects that important cultural advances came from this region.  The stage for the development of more  sophisticated societies had been set.

In Palestine, metal smiths produced a remarkable number of copper objects in this period.  Several sites in the vicinity of Beer-sheba show high craftsmanship, especially in ivory work.

However, the cultural achievements in Mesopotamia during the Chalcolithic period far outstrip any other region of the Near East.

Picture Catal Huyuk Located in southern Turkey. All the houses were built side by side. Houses were entered by the roof, and they were usually 1 or 2 stories tall. 270 square feet was the average size for each house. Made of mud bricks. Believed to be one of the first cities, built around 7,000 B.C.

From 3300-3300 B.C. an “Urban Revolution” produced the first true civilization in the Near East.  Towns and a few larger cities developed alongside the smaller villages of earlier periods.  Improved agricultural practices generated food surpluses, which increased societal needs for other occupations, like craftsmen, administrators, architects, and scribes. 

Although these changes took hundreds of years and didn’t affect every part of the Near East equally, they signaled the first true urban period.  And it’s not surprising that these developments came from regions by great river systems: southern Mesopotamia and Egypt.

From 3500 – 2371 B.C. the Sumerian civilization dominated Mesopotamia and laid the foundations for inventions of writing, monumental building, and the development of a complex social structured headed by a king.  Important cities such as Kish, Uruk (biblical Erech), Nippur, Lagash, and Ur formed the basis of Sumerian civilization.  Canals connected the cities located in the plain away from the rivers.

The most impressive evidence of Sumerian culture comes from the Royal Tombs of Ur.  These tombs contained beautiful objects of art and equipment buried with members of royalty at Ur.  Gold  jewelry and daggers, helmets made of electrum, and lyres decorated with bull heads illustrate the artistic skills of  Sumerian craftsmen.

The Sumerians produced a wide variety of literature ranging from ordinary economic documents to great epics.  As well as law codes, medical treatises, and agricultural manuals.

The Akkadian period, about 2371 to 2230 B.C., followed the Classical Sumerian Age in Mesopotamia.  The Akkadians coexisted peacefully with the Sumerians for centuries.  Larger populations of Akkadians inhabited central and northern Mesopotamia. 

About 2371 B.C., Sargon became the governor of Kish and defeated the most important Sumerian ruler, Lugazagessi of Uruk.  Sargon subdued all the Sumerian cities and united most of Mesopotamia under his power.  Known as historians as Sargon the Great, he and his descendants ruled the Akkadian Empire for approximately 160 years.

Under the great conqueror Sargon, the city of Akkad created the first great empire of the Middle East. This empire, and its government, would become the model for many of its successors throughout Antiquity. This lesson examines the empire’s government

The Akkadian Empire bequeathed to later Mesopotamia cultures two important legacies: 1) the concept of one strong ruler who controlled a large territory, and 2) the Akkadian language.  Later, Babylonian and Assyrian kings styled themselves “king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four corners of the earth.” 

Akkadian became the common language of diplomacy, economics, and literature until the first millennium B.C.

The Akkadian Empire collapsed after the death of Naram-Sin.  The causes are obscure, but mountainous tribesmen called Gutian overran most of Mesopotamia and a period of decline in civilization ensued (ca 2230-2113). 

King Utuhegal of Uruk overpowered the Gutians and appointed Ur-Nammu as military governor over Ur.  Ur-Nammu especially the 3rd Dynasty of Ur (Ur III), inaugurating a period of cultural achievements known as the Neo-Sumerian Revival (2113-2006 B.C.). 

From this era came the first ziggurats (towers consisting of a series of superimposed platforms made of mud brick with a temple on top), including the famous ziggurat at Ur.

One of the earliest known codes of law, the fragmentary “Law Code of Ur-Namm,” dates from this era.