The Chaldeans In The Bible

Some Bible scholars believe that Abraham was Chaldean, and that the Chaldeans were a tribe of Semitic people in southern Babylonia, possibly ancestors of the Arameans. And from there, it is conjectured that the word passed along to one of the greatest empires in world history, which ruled over most of the Near East including Judah for much of the time…

If you’ve been through the Old Testament in your Bible, you may have heard of some people called the Chaldeans. The word Chaldean was used to describe the people from the civilization that was most prominent in ancient Babylonia from the 9th century B.C. to 539 B.C.

Amidst the never-ending monotonous drone of Scripture, there will sometimes come a verse or a word that arrests our attention. We feel attracted to it, and we pause to take it in. We linger on it as though we can’t get enough of it. David did this on an occasion (1 Chronicles 4:22).

Archaeologists have discovered a number of ancient clay tablets and epigraphs that provide insight into the various regions and people not previously explored in the Bible books of Daniel and Jeremiah. It is important to note that there are no specific passages within the Bible that specifically refer to Chaldeans; however, these two biblical prophets were contemporary with the Chaldean civilization and they were probably both referring to the same people. The Chaldeans In The Bible

The Chaldeans In The Bible

This name is taken, 1. For the people of Chaldea, and the subjects of that empire generally; 2. For philosophers, naturalists, or soothsayers, whose principal employment was the study of mathematics and astrology, by which they pretended to foretell the destiny of men born under certain constellations.

The Chaldeans were originally a warlike people, who at first inhabited the Carduchian or Koordish mountains north of Assyria and Mesopotamia, Jeremiah 50:17. As the Assyrian monarchs extended their conquests towards the north and west, the Chaldeans also came under their dominion; and this rough and energetic people appear to have assumed, under the sway of their conquerors, a new character, and to have been transformed from a rude horde into a civilized people. A very vivid and graphic description of the Chaldean warriors is given by the prophet Habakkuk, who probably lived about the time when they first made incursions into Palestine or the adjacent regions, Habakkuk 1:6-11. Of the date of their location in Babylonia nothing is now known. In the reign of king Hezekiah, B. C. 713, a king of Babylon is mentioned, the first of whom we read after Nimrod and Amraphel. About one hundred years later we find the Chaldeans in possession of the kingdom of Babylon. The first sovereign in the new line appearing in history was Nabopolassar. His son Nebuchadnezzar invaded Palestine, as foretold by Jeremiah and Habakkuk, Ezra 5:12 Jeremiah 39:5. He was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach, 2 Kings 25:27 Jeremiah 52:31. After him came, in quick succession, Neriglissar, Laborosoarchod, and Nabonnidus or Belshazzar, under whom this empire was absorbed in the Medo-Persian. The Chaldeo-babylonian dynasty continued probably not more than one hundred years.

The Chaldeans In The Bible

The Chaldeans were people who lived in southern Babylonia which would be the southern part of Iraq today. Sometimes the term Chaldeans is used to refer to Babylonians in general, but normally it refers to a specific semi-nomadic tribe that lived in the southern part of Babylon. The land of the Chaldeans was the southern portion of Babylon or Mesopotamia. It was generally thought to be an area about 400 miles long and 100 miles wide alongside the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

The Chaldeans are mentioned multiple times in the Bible in both contexts. For example, Genesis 11:28 speaks of Abraham’s father Terah, who lived in “Ur of the Chaldeans,” home to the specific tribe or people known as the Chaldeans. We know from verses such as Genesis 11:31 and Genesis 15:7 that God called Abraham, a descendant of Shem, out of Ur of the Chaldeans so that Abraham would follow God to the land that God had promised to him and his descendants.

The Chaldeans were an intelligent and sometimes aggressive, warlike people. In 731 BC Ukinzer, a Chaldean, became king of Babylon; however, his reign was short-lived. A few years later Merodach-Baladan, also a Chaldean, became king over Babylon. Then in 626 BC Nabopolassar, another Chaldean, began what would be an extended period of time during which Babylon was ruled by a Chaldean king. During this time the word Chaldean became synonymous for Babylon, and we see many verses in Scripture where the word Chaldean was used to refer to Babylonians in general (Isaiah 13:19; 47:1, 5; 48:14, 20). Successors to Nabopolassar were Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, Nabonidus and then Belshazzar, “king of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 5:30).

At the height of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans were an influential and highly educated group of people. Some historians believe that, after Persia conquered Babylon, the term Chaldean was used more often to refer to a social class of highly educated people than to a race of men. The Chaldeans influenced Nebuchadnezzar’s decision to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8) and were well known as wise men and astrologers during the time of Jewish captivity in Babylon. (Daniel 1:4; 2:10; 4:7; 5:7, 11). At the time of Daniel, Babylon was the intellectual center of western Asia, and the Chaldeans were renowned for their study and knowledge of astrology and astronomy. They kept detailed astronomical records for over 360 years, which can help us understand how the wise men from the East would have been able to recognize and follow the star that would lead them to the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).

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