Ur In The Bible

Ur is the biblical place where Abram lived during the famine. It was the city where God told him to move from Haran. The story of Abram moving to Ur is told in Gen 11:27-32

Ur is mentioned once in the Bible. It is located in the land of Canaan. Abraham, before entering Egypt, sent his servant there to find a wife for his son Isaac. Ur is mentioned only once in the Bible but its name is significant. You will discover the name of Ur’s founder was the pharaoh at the time of Abram and you might be surprised why Abram visited this city.

Biblical history tells us that Abraham, born in the year 19481 B.C., left his native place at God’s command and went into Canaan, taking his father Terah, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot with him. The family went to a place called Haran and lived there until 1876 B.C., when they stopped at a place called Carchemish on their way to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-5). This was during the reign of the king of Babylon, who also reigned over parts of Assyria.

At this time Abram/Abraham changed his name to Abraham as instructed by God and built an altar at Carchemish (Genesis 12:6-8). By 1703 B.C., Abraham traveled to Egypt with Sarah, his wife, and Lot. He did so because he feared some sort of disaster might come upon them in the land where they were living. While there he presented himself before Pharaoh and asked for protection for him and Sarah (Genesis 12:10-20). Pharaoh took Sarah into his household but returned her to Abraham when she became barren (15:1–21). Later in life Sarah gave birth to Isaac, her son by Abraham.

Ur In The Bible

Ur was a city in the region of Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, in what is modern-day Iraq. According to biblical tradition, the city is named after the man who founded the first settlement there, Ur, though this has been disputed. The city’s other biblical link is to the patriarch Abraham who left Ur to settle in the land of Canaan. This claim has also been contested by scholars who believe that Abraham’s home was further north in Mesopotamia in a place called Ura, near the city of Harran, and that the writers of the biblical narrative in the Book of Genesis confused the two.

Whatever its biblical connections may have been, Ur was a significant port city on the Persian Gulf which began, most likely, as a small village in the Ubaid Period of Mesopotamian history (5000-4100 BCE) and was an established city by 3800 BCE continually inhabited until 450 BCE. Ur’s biblical associations have made it famous in the modern-day but it was a significant urban center long before the biblical narratives were written and highly respected in its time.

Ur In The Bible

Ur of the Chaldees (or Chaldeans) was a place in Mesopotamia and is mentioned four times in the Old Testament:

Genesis 11:28 says that Haran (Abram’s brother and Lot’s father) died in Ur of the Chaldees, “the land of his birth.”

Genesis 11:31 says that Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and moved to Canaan. Chapter 12 goes on to explain that this move was the result of God’s call to Abram to leave his home and move to a new land that God would one day give to his descendants.

In Genesis 15:7, God identifies Himself to Abram: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

In Nehemiah 9 the Israelites confess their sins and recount the history of Israel: “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham” (verse 7).

Ur may have been a city, and there have been many sites suggested as the location of Ur, but no theory is definitive. The site that is most commonly suggested is a city on the Euphrates River, about 150 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf.

The Septuagint (an Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) simply calls Ur of the Chaldees the “land of the Chaldees,” and in the New Testament Stephen, reviewing the history of Israel, says that Abraham came out of “land of the Chaldeans” (Acts 7:4).

Many scholars believe that Ur is not the name of a city but simply a word that means “land.” If this is the case, then Ur of the Chaldees is simply the land of the Chaldees. Chaldea was in the area known as the Fertile Crescent. Depending upon the time period, the territory of the Chaldeans varied, but it would have included the lower part of the Fertile Crescent, extending from the upper edge of the Persian Gulf northwest to the area of the city of Babylon. The Chaldeans ruled Babylon for a while. The exact boundaries of their territory are not clear.

The point of the story is that God called Abram out of an area of civilization and prosperity. Ur of the Chaldees, the place where he lived, would have had ample water and land for pasturing and would have been active with commerce. It was “the place” to be. God called him away from that to a place that was unknown to him. Abram would probably have had a hard time imagining any place better than the place where he already was. But Abram believed the promises of God, and God credited that faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). History has been filled with pioneers who have left civilization to seek a better life, but usually these people have been in dire straits, desperate for something better. They left a bad situation knowing that, even though there would be dangers and hardships, they could have something better in the end. Abram’s situation seems to have been the opposite. He lived in a prosperous civilization among his family, who appears to have been wealthy. He walked away from it all, simply trusting that God was going to give him something better, even though he would be a stranger in a strange land and would not see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his lifetime.

Many Christians face the same issue. Those living in ease and luxury can too easily focus on the here and now, forgetting that God has called them, like Abram and his children, to look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

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