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Was Abraham At Elba?


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Was Abraham At Ebla?

A Cultural Background of the Book of Abraham

(Abraham 1 and 2)

JOHN M. LUNDQUIST

The great archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler is reported to have said, "Archaeology is not a

science, it is a vendetta." Anyone seeking to refute the truthfulness of such a claim would do well

to avoid examining the Ebla excavation. Probably no other Middle Eastern excavation in his tory

has been so thoroughly politicized as this one. And yet, long after such words as "spectacular,"

"sensational," and "stunning" have lost their meaning through overuse, I think that they will still

be accurate if used as superlatives to describe the nature and impact of the Ebla finds. In this

paper I will not be discussing the political implications but rather would like to examine certain

aspects of the excavation and, particularly, possibilities of applying the results to Abraham and to

the cultural background of the Book of Abraham.

Abraham's World

The Euphrates River, one of the most important waterways in the world throughout history,

bisects the country of Syria, then turns to the East and flows through Iraq. The Tigris River,

farther to the East, also arises in Turkey and follows its way south. The Tigris and the Euphrates

come very close together near Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. They then separate and flow into the

Persian Gulf. The area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers is commonly known as

Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers. And it is this region which is commonly thought by

scholars to have given rise to the earliest civilizations which have recorded texts. Elba (Tell

Mardikh) is a fair distance to the West of the Euphrates River. The main epigraphic finds of

Elba, which are to be dated approximately to the mid-part of the third millennium B.C. (about

2500-2300 B.C.), have caused scholars to reassess and to expand their concept of what

constituted ancient Mesopotamia. Instead of viewing all the great cultural achievements in the

earliest stages as coming from the south, from Sumer, in what is today southern Iraq, the Ebla

finds have forced scholars to take a broader view of Mesopotamia, and to include northern Syria

into the scope of that area which gave rise to the earliest recorded historical civilizations of

mankind. Abraham lived in this region, according to the traditional chronology, in approximately

the 20th century B.C. (in the 1900s B.C.). He was born in Ur of the Chaldees; he lived in Haran

and was told by the Lord to leave Haran and to travel south to Canaan. Haran is located in

Turkey, approximately to the northeast of Aleppo, Syria, just north of the modern-day border

between Syria and Turkey. We do not know where the Ur is in which Abraham was born, but

more and more scholars today assume that it was in Turkey, near the site of Haran, the location

of which we know with certainty.

The biblical narrative itself (e.g., Gen. 12:1, 5; 24:4, 7; Josh. 24:2-3) clearly denotes Haran and

the area of northern Mesopotamia in general as the land of Abraham's and of his ancestors'

births. The narrative describing his journey to Canaan, from Ur of the Chaldees via Haran, surely

does not imply a long journey up the Euphrates from Sumerian Ur to Haran, and from there

southwest to Canaan. The narrative implies that "Ur of the Chaldees" and Haran are in the same

geographical region. This was the view held for many years by scholars until Sir Leonard

Woolley popularized the notion that Sumerian Ur was Abraham's birthplace, based on Woolley's

excavations at Ur (Tell el Mukayyar) during the 1920s and 1930s.

More recently, Cyrus Gordon has called our attention to a Hittite city of "Ura," in Anatolia,

along with the northern Armenian referent of "Chaldean." Indeed, Giovanni Pettinato, the former

epigrapher of the excavations at Ebla, reported the appearance in the third-millennium- B.C. Ebla

texts of the city "Haran in the territory of Ur." Although Pettinato's identification of this text is

contested, the fact remains that much evidence exists for the placement of "Ur of the Chaldees"

in Anatolia (Turkey) near Haran.

The Book of Abraham itself is clear on this point, placing Potiphar's Hill in "the land of Ur, of

Chaldea" (Abr. 1:20). Potiphar's Hill was "at the head of the plain of Olishem" (Abr. 1:10),

which Olishem has been identified in texts of the Akkadian King Naram Sin as being located in

northern Syria, in the region of ancient Ebla (see discussion below).

Now we come to the site of Ebla itself, which is to the southwest of Haran, in Syria. The 150-

acre site of Tell Mardikh, the modern name for the ruin mound which we now know to be the

ancient city of Ebla, is surrounded by an enormous fortification system, visible even today to the

visitor. Archaeologists have worked there since 1964 and have uncovered many parts of the

ancient city. In the middle of the site stood the public buildings, the temples and the palaces of

the anc ient city. In the area between the outlying wall and the internal acropolis, or place of

public buildings, was the lower city where the masses of people would have lived. According to

estimates, about fifty or sixty thousand people lived within those walls. A great palace existed in

that city at a time which is debated by archaeologists, perhaps 2500 B.C., perhaps as late as 2300

B.C. It was in this phase of the excavations that a great archive of cuneiform tablets was

excavated in the rooms off the audience courtyard of the king of Ebla. Cuneiform tablets were

the major form of writing of people in the time of Ebla and the time in which Abraham lived.

Cuneiform tablets are clay tablets which were molded and impressed with a wedge-shaped

writing system, by means of a pen- like stylus. Cuneiform is the name of the writing system

which was used to express a number of ancient languages. And of course the presence of

cuneiform tablets in an excavation means that that society was literate. Archaeologists have

reconstructed the way in which some of these tablets may have been stored and shelved in the

palace archives.

It is important to note that of all the area excavated at Ebla, only one period has yielded a major

archive of cuneiform tablets, the period of the great palace, dated either to 2500 B.C. or to 2300

B.C. After the palace was destroyed, the city was rebuilt, a great gateway was formed, and an

extensive wall surrounded the city. But large numbers of tablets have not been recovered from

this later period, the period in which Abraham lived. During Abraham's period, Ebla was a large

flourishing city. It was a city of great temples and palaces, made wealthy and both politically and

culturally important as a result of the natural and human resources that it controlled, but it was

the earlier period that has yielded the main archive of cuneiform tablets.

Abraham and Ebla

My article bears the title, "Was Abraham at Ebla?" The title could have been, "Is Abraham at

Ebla?" Each of these titles would have asked a significantly different question. The first, "Was

Abraham at Ebla?" asks whether the historical figure Abraham, who, according to internal

biblical chronological evidence would have lived in the 20th century B.C. (that is, in the 1900s

B.C.), would ever have resided in or passed through the ancient city of Ebla. The second

question, "Is Abraham at Ebla?" is a very different question, namely, are Abraham's name, or

any episodes connected with his life, mentioned in the cuneiform tablets excavated since 1974 at

Tell Mardikh? Since Abraham's traditional dates fall in the 20th century B.C., or what

archaeologists call the Middle Bronze I period, and since the two possible dates suggested for the

archive of cuneiform tablets are 2500 B.C. (which is the date assigned by Giovanni Pettinato, the

former epigrapher on the dig), or 2250 B.C. (assigned by Professor Matthiae the archaeologist),

it is obviously unlikely that the answer to the second question can be yes. In other words, we

cannot expect to find Abraham's name or any episodes associated with him in the archives of

tablets from Ebla, simply because the dates do not match. But scholarship consists not always in

answering questions but rather in discussing the possibilities that exist.

Now, back to the first question, "Was Abraham at Ebla?" We do not know. Although no major

archive of texts has been discovered from the Middle Bronze I levels of the city of Ebla-the

period between 2000 and 1800 B.C.-of course it is very possible and indeed probable that

Abraham would at least have passed through the city. The city stands then as now on the major

road south into Palestine. What then is the meaning of Ebla when applied to Abraham? As

recently as 1969, Professor Morton Smith of Columbia University was able to deliver what he

felt to be a fatal blow to the then prominent view that Abraham was a prosperous donkey

caravaner and merchant, plying the trade routes from North Syria to Palestine during the Middle

Bronze I period, or about 1900 B.C. In an image of withering sarcasm he pretended to see

Abraham moving south with a band of donkeys so weighted down with cuneiform tablets that

they could hardly stumble along the road. The view of Abraham as a prosperous merchant

presupposed that he was a literate member of a highly sophisticated society. To Professor Smith,

of course, the image of the donkey staggering under the load of cuneiform tablets was intended

to bring forth hilarity. It was a very sarcastic image, since Professor Smith held Abraham to have

been, if anything, a barely literate nomad whose ill-defined journey south from Syria to Palestine

was magnified out of all proportions by later generations of Israelites and equipped with many

anachronistic features when the record itself was written down. Furthermore, when Morton

Smith made this statement in 1969, the general scholarly consensus held North Syria, which we

know to have been the homeland of Abraham, to have been a cultural backwater, rather off the

beaten track of the great, literate urban Mesopotamian culture of the time.

So his image, cynical as it was at the time, cannot help but have met with a startled but

grumbling acceptance. At that time, 1969, Professor Paolo Matthiae, of the University of Rome,

had only worked for five seasons at Tell Mardikh. And the scholarly world had simply not taken

much note of rumblings that another picture of North Syria might be in the offering. It was

during the 1970s that a series of archaeological excavations along the Euphrates river in Syria,

along with the continued excavations at Tell Mardikh, began to drastically change our view of

cultural development in North Syria during the late third millennium and the early second

millennium B.C. With these finds, north Syria suddenly emerged as the center of a thriving

interrelated network of large cities. Extensive economic and diplomatic relationships emanating

from Ebla encompassed the entire Near East. An extensive scribal cuneiform tradition of

literacy, complete with the full panoply of deities, temples, and religious literature came into

view. Suddenly, the image Morton Smith created in 1969, meant to demolish the credibility of

Abraham's historicity, begins to crumble, while the historical Abraham begins to appear credible.

The Ebla tablets, as well as archaeological remains from a number of other sites in Syria

excavated during the 1970s, have suddenly filled in the historical, cultural, and religious

landscape of North Syria in the centuries between about 2500 and 1800 B.C. It was during thelatter part of this period that Abraham would have lived in a presumably northern Ur (called Ur

of the Chaldees in the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price) and after that in Haran, the location of

which we know without question to have been in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. As he

traveled southwest to Canaan, he doubtless would have passed Ebla, on the main trade route

connecting the north with the south. Although his donkeys may not have been so weighted down

with cuneiform tablets that they could have hardly moved along the road, the idea that Abraham

was fully familiar with the literate and sophisticated cuneiform culture of his time and place by

no means seems so far- fetched now as it might have in 1969. This will not have been the first

time in the history in scholarship that a dogmatic, sarcastic statement made by a scholar will

have returned to haunt him some years later. It is against this background that I would now like

to examine some of the accounts of Abraham in the Book of Abraham.

Insights Into the Book of Abraham

With one exception, which I will discuss presently, I do not claim any direct confirmatory

connections between the Book of Abraham accounts and information found in the Ebla tablets or

elsewhere in recent archaeological discoveries. Yet certain cultural features such as information

on the names of deities, religious and cultural customs, and the names of places found in the

Book of Abraham and set clearly in a North Syrian background-while absent from the Biblical

narratives of Abraham- in my opinion fit in a circumstantial way what we now know to have been

a North Syrian cultural, religious, political environment during the early second millennium B.C.

Since I assume that Abraham lived in the 1900s B.C., his name cannot occur in the Ebla tablets,

which date to 2300 or 2500 B.C. But the city Ebla was large, flourishing, and prosperous in the

time that Abraham lived in North Syria. The accidents of archaeological discovery simply have

not yet yielded large numbers of cuneiform documents from Ebla which date to the later period

of time, and which could possibly be related to Abraham himself.

The Book of Abraham implies a very strong Egyptian presence in northern Syria. This presence

is stated in the form of a priest of Pharaoh, sacrificing individuals to idols that are named in the

first two chapters of Abraham. An Egyptian presence in northern Syria is welldocumented for

the 12th and 18th dynasties, periods later than that with which we are dealing. But what about

the period of the great Ebla palace itself? If we combine the evidence of the inscriptions of the

Dynasty Six Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi I (about 2350 B.C.) which depict his campaign into Asia,

along with an alabaster jar lid inscribed with the name of Pepi I found in the destruction levels of

the great royal palace at Ebla, then we can see that it is perfectly acceptable to see a strong

Egyptian presence in northern Syria in the time of the Ebla archive. And although we know,

again, that this is not the period in which Abraham lived, we do know from other evidence,

particularly from the site of Byblos, the Lebanese coastal city, that there were extensive

relationships between 12th dynasty Egyptian Pharaohs (about 200 B.C.) and northern Syria in

the time in which Abraham lived. The story of Sinuhe, also set during the 12th Egyptian dynasty,

relates the account of an Egyptian government official who fled Egypt upon the death of the

Pharaoh whom he served. The story relates in a very charming way his travels into northern

Syria and gives us a very clear picture of cultural features of that time.

The inscription which describes Pepi I's campaign into Syria indicates that the Egyptian army

included a full entourage of Egyptian priests and other religious functionaries, along with

interpreters and various other royal bureaucrats. In other words, the Book of Abraham is giving

us an accurate picture of a full- fledged Egyptian presence in northern Syria, complete with

priests, bureaucrats, and all the benefits that an Egyptian Pharaoh would like to enjoy on a

campaign.

What we know about Ebla as a center of fine craftsmanship of wood and cloth also finds echo in

the Book of Abraham, where emphasis is laid on the manner of workmanship of the altar which

the priest of Pharaoh used to carry out the sacrifices. The book of Abraham emphasizes the place

of manufacture of the altar as well as the style. It says that it was styled after Chaldean forms of

workmanship and "built in the land of Chaldea" (Abr. 1:8, 13). The excavations of Ebla have

particularly emphasized the extraordinary beauty and originality of wood craftsmanship at Ebla

as well as the large role furniture-making played in Ebla's exports. Matthiae notes "the

flourishing trade in high-quality furniture." His team excavated remains of some very highquality

furniture in Room L. 2601 of the Royal Palace of which "probably a considerable part

was destined for export." Matthiae further notes that the extraordinary expertise in wood

furniture carving was unique to North Syria at this time, these craft skills being unknown in

southern Mesopotamia.

A major feature of the Book of Abraham is the polytheism, the worship of many gods, in the

society in which Abraham lived. This is pointed out quite clearly in the Book of Abraham, in

which some of the various gods that were worshipped in that time are mentioned by name in

Abr. 1 and 2. Each of the gods/idols mentioned in Abr. 1:17 appears in the compilation of some

3800 Mesopotamian deities published in 1950 by Anton Deimel. The god "Elkenah" appears as

dIl-gi- na, where "gi" can also be read "ki," and where the supralinear "d" stands for the Sumerian

determinative "dinger," meaning "god" (#407, 5 in Deimel's list). "The god of Libnah" appears as

dLa-ban (#96, 25). "The god of Mahmackrah" appears as dMa-mi- hi-rat (#639, 48). And "the

god of Korash" appears as dKur-ra-su-ur- ur, certainly a variant on "Korash" (#668, :P. The Book

of Abraham translation of the deities' names actually comes through as a very literal rendition of

the names as they would appear in Akkadian: "the god of. . .," rendering the Akkadian "d(name

of deity)."

The Ebla archives gives us a vivid picture of a North Syrian polytheistic society in the late third

millennium B.C. Chief among the deities were the well-known Semitic deities Dagon, Baal,

Sipish (also known as Shemesh, the sun God), Kemosh (later the god of the Moabites), Ashtar

(the male version of Ishtar, who is thus the god of love and war), and Hadda (the well-known

weather god). A most interesting god attested in the Ebla texts is Kakob, "Star," attested in the

list of obscure deities compiled by Deimel. There was also a temple at Ebla during this period

called E-Mul, in Sumerian, the "temple of the star." This is most interesting, though not

necessarily with any connection, in the light of Abr. 3:13: "And he said unto me: This is

Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star. And he said unto me:

Olea, which is the moon. And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, which signifies stars, or all the great

lights, which were in the firmament of heaven." We are told in the first verse of Abr. 3 that

Abraham was using the Urim and Thummim that was given to him in Ur of the Chaldees in order

to receive the revelations that we know as the content of the third chapter of Abraham. So the

presence at Ebla in North Syria of a deity known as "Star," possessing his own temple, may or

may not be of interest in connection with the Book of Abraham, but it is a very rarely attested

name of a deity in the ancient Near East.

We can certainly assume that astronomy would have played a major role in the temple cult of an

idol bearing the name "Star." And here also we can see in Ebla an authenticating background

detail to the account of Abraham's astronomical activity. Along these same lines, in reference to

Abr. 3:2-18, Deimel lists a deity dKa-la-bu, "the god Kolob." Professor Pettinato believes that

although the Eblaites were polytheists, there was a distinct movement within their society toward

monotheism, or what he calls "proto- monotheism." His chief evidence for this is the fact that in

many of the religious texts the chief deity of Ebla, who was Dagon, is not referred to under that

name, but is simply as Dinger Be, namely, "Lord."

I would like to deal now with one possible final connection between northern Syria and the Book

of Abraham. However, in this case it has only a very indirect relationship to the Ebla texts. There

is a text which is attributed to the great king of Akkad, Naram Sin. The dyna sty of Akkad was

established by Sargon the Great around 2370 B.C. at a city which he built which has never been

found by archaeologists but which probably is located near modern-day Baghdad. Sargon's

grandson Naram Sin followed in the line of the great Akkadian kings, and he extended the

influence of his dynasty far and wide in the Middle East. In fact, he was apparently and

presumably a major opponent of the Eblaic dynasty of kings at its height of power. There is a

text in one of Naram Sin's inscriptions which reads as follows: "Never, since the time of the

creation of mankind, did any king, whatever, set Arman and Ebla to sword and flame. Now did

Nergal [which is a deity] open up the path of Naram Sin the strong and he gave him Arman and

Ebla. He also presented him with the Amanus, the Mountain of Cedars and the upper sea. And

with the weapon of Dagon, who aggrandizes his kingdom, Naram Sin the strong, defeated

Arman and Ebla and from the banks of the Euphrates as far as Ulisum, he subdued the peoples

whom Dagon had given him, so that they carried the corvee basket for his god, Aba, and he

could control the Amanus, the Mountain of Cedars."

Now this is the famous text which Professor Matthiae uses to associate the destruction level of

the palace at Ebla, which he dates about 2250 B.C., with Naram Sin as the conquerer. The thing

that interests me in this text is the word Ulisum. The Akkadian text makes it clear that Ulisum, in

this instance, is the name of a place, and furthermore that it is the name of a place near Ebla in

northern Syria. In Abr. 1:10 we read: "Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of

Pharaoh offer upon the altar which stood by the hill called Potiphar's Hill, at the head of the plain

of Olishem." It is very possible that Ulisum of the Akkadian text of Naram Sin, and Olishem of

the Book of Abraham are linguistically the same form. Both the "u" of the Naram Sin name, and

the "o" of the Book of Abraham term, as well as the "s" of the Naram Sin word, and the "sh" of

the Book of Abraham word can be explained as equivalent on linguistic grounds. It's very

possible that the "s," in fact, can be explained on the basis that in the time of Naram Sin, texts

which used the letter "s" were, in fact, pronounced "sh" and probably in later times were written

with an "sh" instead of with an "s."

It should be noted that the Book of Abraham speaks of the plain of Olishem and not the city of

Olishem. A Sumerian text of Gudea, king of Lagash, a southern Sumerian city, states, "from the

city of Ursu situated on the Plateau of Ebla, he imported pine logs, large fir trees, trunks of plain

trees and mountain trees." That means that a city can also give its name to the surrounding plain.

Olishem, then, would be a city, and the plain that it controls or dominates would be given the

same name, Olishem. I think that this has most significant possibilities. If this interpretation

holds, I believe that this would be the most significant external verification of a Latter-day Saint

scripture up to this point in time, the verification of a place name found in the Book of Abraham

and also in a roughly contemporary ancient Near Eastern historical inscription discovered for the

first time in 1928. The Book of Abraham is a true book. The accounts found in it pertaining to

Abraham, his life, his background, the places where he lived, the customs that were prominent in

his lifetime, are all true facts. They are not the product of the imagination of the Prophet Joseph

Smith, but rather are authentic details of Abraham's life. Therefore, we need not be surprised if

these details are found in the form of the names of places, people, or deities in the contemporary

texts of that time.

In the final analysis, it may be that there will never be any firm connection possible between

Ebla and Abraham. But we need not worry about that. Even so, I think that there is a very

delicious irony, if that proves to be the case. The city about which it was said, "Never since the

time of creation of mankind did any king whatever set Arman and Ebla to the sword and flame,"

the city renowned in its own time, is now sunk into the debris of the ages, forgotten and

recovered by the accident of the archaeologist's spade in recent years. The man Abraham in all

probability, I believe, would have passed Ebla unknown to the inhabitants of the city. Possibly an

obscure man in his time (although Hugh Nibley would dispute that), I think he would have been

obscure in this great, spectacular city that is now sunk into the dust. This is Abraham, who has

been called "the most pivotal and strategic man in the course of world history."

This article was given as a public lecture in a somewhat different form on two occasions: (1) At

the 28th Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, Provo, Utah, 8 December

1979; and (2) as a Fall Faculty Lecture, Religious Instruction, Brigham Yo ung University, 4

November 1981.

Notes

1. See G. Buccellati and M. Kelly- Buccellati, "Terqa Preliminary Reports, No. 1," Syro-

Mesopotamian Studies 3 (1977):7.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

2. I.J. Gelb, "Ebla and the Kish Civilization," in La Lingua di Ebla, ed. Luigi Cagni (Naples:

Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1981), pp. 53, 69, 70-73; Giovanni Garbini, "Considerations of

the Language of Ebla," ibid., pp. 77-78; W. Von Soden, "Das Nordsemitische in Babylonien und

in Syrien," ibid., pp. 360-61.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

3. C.J. Gadd, "Ur," in Archaeology and Old Testament Study, ed. D. Winton Thomas (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 87-101.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

4. C.J. Gordon, "Abraham and the Merchants of Ura," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 17

(1958):28-31.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

5. Nahum M. Sarna, "Abraham in History," Biblical Archaeology Review 3 (1977):5-9.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

6. Paolo Matthiae, Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981).

7. Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981). p. 12.

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price,

p.235

8. Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, pp. 53-55.

9. For this view see William F. Albright "From the Patriarchs to Moses: I. From Abraham to

Joseph," The Biblical Archaeologist 36 (1973):5-32.

10. Morton Smith, "The Present State of Old Testament Studies," Journal of Biblical Literature

88 (1969):26.

11. Margaret S. Drower, "Syria Before 2200 B.C.," in The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. I.E.S.

Edwards, et al. (Cambridge: The University Press, 1971), vol. I, pt. 2:315-21. See also Pettinato,

The Archives of Ebla, p. 32, for further similar views.

12. David Noel Freedman and John M. Lundquist, eds., Archaeological Reports from the Tabqa

Dam Project- Euphrates Valley, Syria, Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 44

(Cambridge, Mass.: The American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979).

13. J.N. Postgate, "Harran," Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archaologie 4

(1973):122-25.

14. W. Stevenson Smith, Interconnections in the Ancient Near East (New Haven: Yale

University Press, 1985), pp. 1-21.

15. Paolo Matthiae, Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, p. 9.

16. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed.

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), pp. 227-28 (for the Pepi I inscription); pp. 18-22

(for the Story of Sinuhe).

17. For a more complete account of this phenomenon, see Hugh W. Nibley, "The Unknown

Abraham," The Improvement Era, March 1969, pp. 76-84. For Nibley's views on the problem of

Ur of the Chaldees, see "The Unknown Abraham," The Improvement Era, April 1969, pp. 66-72.

18. Paolo Matthiae, Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, p. 181.

19. Ibid., p. 195. See also Pettinato The Archives of Ebla, p. 202.

20. Anton Deimel, Pantheon Babylonicum, Sumerisches Lexicon, vol. 4, pt. 1 (Rome: Pontifical

Biblical Institute 1950), pp. 48, 10, 69, 75. For additional very valuable study of these names, see

Hugh W. Nibley, "Facsimile No. 1, by the Figures," The Improvement Era, August, September,

October, 1969, pp. 75-87, 85-95, 85-88, respectively.

21. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, pp. 246, 303, 105, 209, 210, 216, 222.

22. Anton Deimel, Pantheon Babylonicum, p. 6 (#15, 15).

23. Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, p. 14. For the original text, see Hans Hirsch, "Die

Inschriften der Konige von Agade," Archiv fur Orientforschung 20 (1963):73-75.

24. I.J. Gelb, Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar, 2nd ed., Materials for the Assyrian

Dictionary, 2 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961). For the s/sh shift, see p. 34; for

the u/o shift, see E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, 2nd English ed., trans. A.E.

Cowley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), pp. 48-49.

25. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, p. 16.

26. "The Unknown Abraham," The Improvement Era, January 1969, pp. 26-33; April 1969, p.

67.

27. Quoted in Hugh W. Nibley, ibid., p. 30.

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I don't understand why the city of Ur is constantly referred to as "Ur of the Chaldees." In the Bible, it can be explained away as a later insertion in order to clarify which Ur it was, but why is it in a text that was written at the time of Abraham? It seems like it is akin to finding a text dated to the 5th century AD mentioning San Francisco of the Californians.

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John W and I had an interesting conversation on the matter in another thread here. For me, the interesting thing I found out was that Ur was often a general reference to the whole land from the Persian gulf up the rivers to the mountains from whence they sprang. Also that the term may have originally had reference to the north parts and a city (Turkey) of that region.

Also as I recall, looking at the geography of the place, John W's proposal for Olishem on the Mediterranean Sea (perhaps near enough to the aforementioned broad definition of Ur, perhaps not) has a distinctive plain nearby in contrast to the more typical hilly regions. It also seems to be on a major Egyptian route of trade and influence (for the time period in question) which speaks to the BoA report that Abraham was almost sacrificed by them.

That's the one.

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