Where was Abraham born? 'What kind of a family background did he have? Is there any archaeological evidence on these matters? These are just a few of the important questions to be answered in this vital introductory chapter on the great Patriarch.
The story begins in Genesis 11. Abraham (or Abram as he was originally named) is first mentioned in the Bible in verse 26. He was the son of Terah, a direct descendant of Noah. To explain this 26th verse, Abraham is mentioned first not because he was the oldest of the three sons of Terah, but because of his later importance. It is a matter of prominence, not age. In the same way, elsewhere in the Bible, Shem, although younger, is listed before Japheth, and Moses before his older brother, Aaron. From other scriptures it is possible to determine when Abraham was born in relation to his brother. It is recorded in verse 32 of this chapter that Terah died at the age of 205. Since Abraham departed from the city of Haran, at the age of 75, just after the death of his father, he was born when Terah was 130 (Gen. 12:4). Going back to verse 26 it can be seen that it was Haran who has the oldest and was born when Terah was 70. Nahor was the youngest of the three brothers. It is important to realize into what an important family line Abraham was born. Abraham was a direct descendant of Noah, Shem, and Heber. These were the servants of God responsible for keeping alive the knowledge of the truth in the world! Also consider that the line of Noah, Shem, Heber, and Abraham was the post-Flood continuation of the famous "eight preachers of righteousness" that had served God before the Flood and which includes Seth, Enos, and Enoch! God, by preserving Noah and his family, carried this line through the Flood (Gen. 5). This was the line from which Christ was ultimately to come. Luke 3:23-38 proves that Christ's ancestry goes directly back to the famous individuals listed in Genesis 5 and 11! Abraham's life comprises a key link in this chosen line of people which God preserved unbroken from Adam.
Archaeological Proof of Abraham's Ancestors
Modernist scholars teach that the patriarchs spoken of in Gen. 11 are, nothing more than "legendary heroes" — that they never really existed. Our archaeology proves this to be an outright lie. Here are the facts: During the years 1934 to 1939 excavations by highly trained archaeologists were carefully conducted at ancient Mari on the southwestern bank of the Euphrates river near ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). The amazing discovery was made THAT ANCIENT TOWNS AND CITIES IN MESOPOTAMIA WERE NAMED AFTER EVERY ONE OF THE PATRIARCHS! These unearthed records three millenniums old spoke of the "city of Nahor." Nahor was the grandfather of Abraham (Gen. 11:24) and the city named after him is mentioned in Gen. 24: l0. Nahor was located near the city of HARAN which still exists to this day. "Besides the definite location of the Patriarchal cities of HARAN and NAHOR in northwestern Mesopotamia, hardly less clear indications of Hebrew residence in this region appears in the names of Abraham's forefathers, which correspond to the names of towns near Haran: Serug (Assyrian Sarugi), TERAH (Til Turakhe, 'Mound of Terah,' in Assyrian times) ... REU also corresponds to later names of towns in the Middle-Euphrates valley. PELEG, for example, recalls later Paliga on the Euphrates just above the mouth of the Habur" (Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament). In other words, all the ancestors of Abraham listed in Gen. 11:18-26 had towns and cities named after them and records of these places have been uncovered by archaeologists. Who said these men are legends? And the city of Haran, named after Abraham's older brother, still exists to this day.
Analyzing Genesis Eleven
The eleventh chapter of Genesis is a unique portion of the Bible because of the very important topics presented and because of the length of time covered in human history. Notice that it falls into three main sections: (1) The confusion of languages by God at Babel (verses 1-9); (2) The listing of "the generations of Shem" (verses 10-26); (3) The call of Abraham by God after the death of Haran (verses 27-32). These three divisions illustrate three important factors: (1) The spread of human population over the entire earth from the middle east; (2) The preservation of the knowledge of the true God through one basic line of people; and (3) the unbroken preservation of the line from which Christ would ultimately come. The story of the debacle at Babel (verses 1-9) has been covered in previous chapters. At this point notice the period spanned by verses 10-26, the time of "the generations of Shem." This is one of those remarkable summaries in the Bible. It covers in the briefest possible way the centuries from the Flood to the birth of Abraham, a total of 352 years (2369 to 2017). This is that fascinating and vital period of early post-Flood history when Noah, Shem, Heber, Cush, Nimrod, Semiramis, and Horus were carrying on their wide-ranging activities of government and conquest as the human race was just beginning to grow. THESE CENTURIES WITNESSED A TREMENDOUS STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL OF HUMANITY! The most crucial period in the story of human experience is neglected in most histories. Historians, in private, consider it a very controversial period still requiring much research. What part Abraham played in this over-all picture is the subject of the chapters you are now reading. He came onto the scene at a crucial juncture in human affairs, and, under God's direction, altered world history to an amazing extent. This section of Genesis 11 illustrates the need for history to be written based upon the guidelines and clues supplied in the Bible! God did not need to put all the names, dates, events, and other facts and factors into the bible because these, by long study and research, could ultimately be gotten from other sources. Despite the fact that all this information is not included in scripture, God DOES want us to know what happened during these crucial decades. When the entire story is finally laid out the Bible will take on tremendous new meaning. There was not only a crucial "lost century" in the history of the early true church of God — there was also a vital period of some "four lost centuries" after the Flood. When the true history of this period is fully brought to light, the world will understand to an immeasurably greater extent where its problems really began. Genesis 11, then, moves quickly from the tower of Babel through the generations of Shem to the life and story of Abraham, the great Patriarch. Where and when was he born, what kind of a world was he born into, and how did this affect his life's activities?
Ur of the Chaldees
Much misunderstanding has arisen over the location of Abraham's birthplace. He was born at "Ur of the Chaldees." Abraham lived among the Chaldeans. This Ur was in Mesopotamia. Ur is a shortened name for Urfa. There were two cities named Ur, one in southern Shinar and one in the north. Stephen, in his inspired sermon, made plain that it was the northern Ur in Mesopotamia from which Abraham came (Acts 7:2-3). This is where the Chaldeans first lived — over 400 miles northwest of ancient Babylon. A scripture in the Old Testament definitely proves this fact. Notice Joshua 24:2-3 which records God's words to the people as spoken by Joshua: "Your father dwelt on the other side of the Flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor. . And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the Flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan ...." The expression "the Flood" means the Euphrates river, as any Bible dictionary will state. The Ur of southern Shinar is on this side — the Palestinian side — of the Euphrates, thus the Bible itself makes very clear exactly where Abraham was borne! In relation to this, here is more background of the Chaldeans and the city Urfa: the word "Chaldean" is derived from the Greek language. The actual original Hebrew is Chasdim which "the peoples of Chesed." Genesis 22:22 shows that Chesed was a common name in the family of Abraham, it there being the name of one of Nahor's sons. Carrying this another step farther, consider the original Hebrew for the name "Arphaxad." Most Bible encyclopedias will clearly show that the original Hebrew form is Arfa-chesed — MEANING ARFA THE CHALDEAN"! The Chaldeans came from Arphaxad, the grandfather Heber (Gen. 11:12-14). Abraham was a branch of this stock, a descendant of Arphaxad through Heber. The city of Ur, then, was named after Arfa or Urfa the Chaldean. All of this background proves the fact that Abraham was from northern Ur in Mesopotamia, not the Ur down south in Shinar near the Persian Gulf as Werner Keller and others have supposed.
Abraham a Hebrew
God wanted His plan in earliest history carried out through a certain line of people, the Hebrews. Notice again, Arphaxad the son of Shem (Gen. 11:10). He had a grandson named Eber, also spelled Heber). The name Heber means "a migrant," one who comes from the "region beyond." Shem, together with Heber, traveled far and wide in the post-Flood world to put down the government of Nimrod. These two, along with Noah, were the three most active and influential servants of God in the centuries following after the Deluge. The descendants of Heber are properly known as Hebrews. Heber had two sons, Peleg and Joktan. From Peleg came Abraham (Gen. 11:18-26). Thus Abraham was directly descended from Heber. The ancestor of all Hebrews. Sarah, as a later part of the story will show, was also a Hebrew. God wanted his servants to come from this branch of the human family. In Gen. 14:13 Abraham is specifically referred to as "Abram the Hebrew."