Ur Kasdim (Ur of the Chaldees)

Abraham's Cave in the Mosque at Urfa - photo courtesy of vagabondjourney.com
אור כשדים


Fascinating to see what happens if you google this name on a computer that doesn't allow Wikipedia. 


Fabpedigree.com provides a full genealogical table that regards him as an alternative name for Ur-Nammu, and makes him the great-great grandfather of Av-Ram - he probably wasn't, but Ur-Nammu is worth knowing about anyway, because he produced the earliest known law-code, about 300 years older even than Hammurabi's. 

Myheritage.com tells us that he was born in 2035 - it fails to say BCE - to Kesed Ben Arpachshad and Bint Assur Ben Shem, and that his father, Kesed, was born on 2070 BC, in Canaan, Israel, while Asshar was born on 2183 BC, in Ur, Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. This Ur had 4 siblings: Cornebo Chaldea Ben Serug Sorogh Sargun Sarug Saragh and 3 other siblings. Ur married Girl Kesed (born Ahar). They had one daughter: Ora Bat Hebrew (born Ur). Ur passed away in 1925. (check the link if you think I have mis-typed the text; check your pocket calculator if you want to work out how old he must have been - 2183 minus 2035 equals...).

Or there is Ancestry.com, which also gives Ur ben Kesed a Daughter named Ora and claims that he died in 2004, again leaving out the BCE. This too claims that he was "aka Ur Nammu ben Kesed", and that he died in 1874. 

Where do all these websites get their information? Wikipedia perhaps? I thought Wikipedia got its information with a robot that trawled all the other sites and dragged in whatever unchecked and unverified information it happened to find there. Or maybe it's both of these: the one trawls for the rotten fish in the ocean, and then others come along and monger the rotten fish back into the sea, which Wikipedia then re-trawls... and on and on, until we cannot rely on any of these sites to be giving us factual, verifiable information. And more importantly, to question that information, to seek more than one piece of evidence for it, to reveal that evidence, to debate its alternative explanations, and to do the same for the alternative explanations as well. 

And then there is Genealogieonline.nl, which claims he was "born about -2113 in Founder Of 3rd Dynasty Of Ur", and "died about -2096", which would have made him 17 years old. 

Or Geni.com, which says he was born in 2292 (BCE please!), the son of Kessed and Ninsun, brother of Hua Mu'ak and Ura , father of Ora Chaldees, all of whom are further linked to still more unfounded pseudo-information, any of which an innocent student might assume had substance to it, most of which is actually flagrant nonsense. Or not nonsense, because Ur-Nammu was almost certainly a historical figure - just not the historical figure that we are seeking under the name Ur Kasdim.


And then there are the mystical texts, such as the Book of Jubilees, which states that the city of Ur was named for a descendant of No'ach named Ur Ben Kesed, an evil ruler who forced his people to worship idols. This Ur's daughter, named Orah, married Re'u, whose son was Serug, and whose grandson was Nachor the Elder. Cf Genesis 11:18, which echoes most of this and was likely its source.

Ur is the Chaldean form of the Hebrew Ir/עיר= city; thus any city might include it as part of its name (Uru-Salim, for example, is thought to be one of the earliest known names for Yerushalayim; though thre great archaeologist of the region, Kathleen Kenyon, was not convinced that Uru-Salim and Yerushalayim were the same city), in the same way that the Latin castra = "fort" has become integral to dozens of cities around the world. Here it might mean "the city of the Kasdim", or "the city of Kesed", if there were such a person, or such a people. See the pages on Kesed and Arphachshad, rather than my repeating them here. See also the page on Erech, which is also known as Uruk and Warak, and may be the city intended by Ur Kasdim, though this is unlikely. 

The problem arises because, according to Genesis 11:28 and 15:7, Av-Ram's family came from Ur Kasdim, and this has always been understood as Babylon, probably because Ezra and the team that were compiling the Tanach had themselves just returned from Bavel (Babylon), and it made for a compelling historical symmetry. But Deuteronomy 26:5 tells us, and the phrase was considered important enough that it became a key phrase that accompanied the sacrificial offerings in the Temple, and remains one of the important discussion points in the Haggadah for Passover today, that: "אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי - my father was an Aramaean journeyman", and there is no question that Aram and Bavel are not the same place, but Charan in Padan Aram most definitely is Aramaean. 

Is it feasible then that Av-Ram's ancestors were never in Babylon at all, that they were Aramaeans from much farther north in the fertile crescent? Close by Charan there is a town named Urfa, and the tradition at Urfa is that was the birthplace of Av-Ram and his family, including the burial-ground of Terach, Av-Ram's father. The cave in the town's main mosque is called the Cave of Ibrahim; see the illustration at the top of the page.




Copyright © 2015 David Prashker

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