Ur Kasdim
Ur Kaśdim or Ur of the Chaldees
Chaldea or Chaldaea , from Greek , Chaldaia; Akkadian ; Hebrew כשדים, Kaśdim; Aramaic: ܟܐܠܕܘ, Kaldo) was a marshy land located in modern-day southern Iraq which came to briefly rule Babylon...

(אוּר כַּשְׂדִים) is a biblical place mentioned in the Book of Genesis that refers to a location that the Patriarch Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 may have been from. Not only is there much debate in interpreting Ur Kaśdim as Abraham's birthplace, but also identifying this location.

Identifying Ur Kaśdim

One of the traditional sites of Abraham's birth is placed in the vicinity of Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 — Both Islamic tradition and classical Jewish authorities, such as Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

 and Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, placed Ur Kaśdim at various northern Mesopotamian sites such as Urkesh
Urkesh or Urkish is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria...

, Urartu
Urartu , corresponding to Ararat or Kingdom of Van was an Iron Age kingdom centered around Lake Van in the Armenian Highland....

, Urfa, or Kutha
Kutha, Cuthah, or Cutha was an ancient city of Sumer on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Upper Euphrates, north of Nippur and around 25 miles northeast of Babylon...


In 1927 Leonard Woolley
Leonard Woolley
Sir Charles Leonard Woolley was a British archaeologist best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia...

 identified Ur Kaśdim with the Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian city of Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, in southern Mesopotamia, where the Chaldeans had settled around the 9th century BCE; Ur lay on the boundary of the region called Kaldu (Chaldea, corresponding to Hebrew Kaśdim) in the first millennium BCE. It was the sacred city of the moon god
Sin (mythology)
Sin or Nanna was the god of the moon in Mesopotamian mythology. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.- Name :The original meaning of...

 and the name "Camarina" is thought to be related to the Arabic word for moon qamar. Camarina is also the name of an ancient city in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. The identification with Ur Kaśdim accords with the view that Abraham's ancestors may have been moon-worshippers, an idea based on the possibility that the name of Abraham's father Terah
Terah or Térach is a biblical figure in the book of Genesis, son of Nahor, son of Serug and father of the Patriarch Abraham, all descendants of Shem. He is mentioned in the Hebrew bible and the New Testament.-Genesis narrative:...

 is related to the Hebrew root for moon (y-r-h). Jewish tradition relates that Terah worshipped many gods, however, the argument along this line remains weak.

Jewish tradition

Ur Kaśdim is mentioned four times in the Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

, with the distinction "Kaśdim" usually rendered in English as "of the Chaldees". In Genesis, the name is found in 11:28, 11:31 and 15:7. Although not explicitly stated in the Tanakh, it is generally understood to be the birthplace of Abraham. Genesis 11:27-28 names it as the birthplace of Abraham's brother Haran, and the point of departure of Terah's household, including his son Abraham.)

In Genesis 12:1, after Abram and his father Terah have left Ur Kaśdim for the city of Harran
Harran was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village of Altınbaşak, Turkey, 24 miles southeast of Şanlıurfa...

 in Aram-Naharaim
Aram-Naharaim is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni...

, God instructs Abram to leave his native land
Native Land
Native Land is a 1942 documentary film directed by Leo Hurwitz and Paul Strand.A combination of a documentary format and staged reenactments, the film depicted the struggle of trade unions against union-busting corporations, their spies and contractors...

 (Hebrew mowledeth). The traditional Jewish understanding of the word mowledeth is "birthplace" (e.g. in the Judaica Press translation). Similarly, in Genesis 24:4-10, Abraham instructs his servant to bring a wife for Isaac from his mowledeth, and the servant departs for Aram-Naharaim. Hence, Jewish scholarship is almost unanimous in identifying Abraham's birthplace as somewhere in Aram-Naharaim. This view was particularly noted by Nachmanides (Ramban). (See Ramban on Lech Lecha.) Nevertheless, this interpretation of mowledeth as meaning "birthplace" is not universal. Many Pentateuchal
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 translations, from the Septuagint to some modern English versions, render mowledeth as "kindred" or "family". However, multiple references to erets moladet in Genesis 24 contained within a directive by Abraham towards his house's eldest servant to take a wife for his son Isaac
Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites...

 seemingly reinforce the traditional Jewish understanding.

The Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 (Yoma 10a) identifies the Biblical city of Erech
Erech according to the Book of Genesis, was an ancient city in the land of Shinar, the second city built by king Nimrod....

 with a place called "Urichus". (See
background on Yoma 10.) T. G. Pinches in The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia A. T. Clay, writing in the 1915 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is a public domain Biblical encyclopedia. This encyclopedia was published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co...

 article Ur of the Chaldees, understood this as an identification of Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

 (biblical Erech) with Ur Kaśdim. However, no tradition exists equating Ur Kaśdim with Urichus or Erech/Uruk.


The Book of Jubilees states that Ur Kaśdim was founded in 1687 Anno Mundi
Anno Mundi
' , abbreviated as AM or A.M., refers to a Calendar era based on the Biblical creation of the world. Numerous efforts have been made to determine the Biblical date of Creation, yielding varying results. Besides differences in interpretation, which version of the Bible is being referenced also...

by "'Ur, son of Keśed", presumably the offspring of Arphaxad, adding that wars began on Earth that same year.
"'Ur son of Keśed built the city of 'Ara of the Chaldees, and called its name after his own name and the name of his father." (Jubilees 11:3)

Jubilees also portrays Abraham's immediate ancestry as dwelling in Ur Kaśdim, beginning with his great-grandfather Serug
Serug was the son of Reu and the father of Nahor, according to Genesis 11:20-23. He is also the great-grandfather of Abraham.In the Masoretic text that modern Bibles are based on, he was 30 when Nahor was born, and lived to the age of 230...


Islamic tradition

The traditional site of Abraham's birth according to Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic tradition is a cave in the vicinity of the ancient Seleucid city Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, now called Şanlıurfa
Şanlıurfa, , often simply known as Urfa in daily language , in ancient times Edessa, is a city with 482,323 inhabitants Şanlıurfa, , often simply known as Urfa in daily language (Syriac ܐܘܪܗܝ Urhoy,Armenian Ուռհա Owr'ha, Arabic الرها ar-Ruhā), in ancient times Edessa, is a city with 482,323...

. The cave lies near the center of Şanlıurfa and is the site of a mosque called the Mosque of Abraham. The Turkish name for the city, Urfa, is derived from the earlier Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

 ܐܘܪܗܝ (Orhāy) and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

  (Orrha). The tradition connecting Ur Kaśdim with Urfa is not exclusive to Islam. The 18th C. anthropologist Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke was an English prelate and anthropologist. He was Protestant Bishop of Ossory and Meath , both dioceses of the Church of Ireland...

 noted in his publication Description of the East that this traditional identification of Ur Kaśdim with Urfa was the universal opinion within contemporary Judaism.

Scholars are skeptical of the identification of Ur Kaśdim with Urfa. Although the origin of the Greek and Syriac names of the city are uncertain, they appear to be based on a native form, Osroe, the name of a legendary founder, the Armenian form of the Persian name Khosrau
Khusro, Khosrau, Khusrau, Khosro, or Khusraw is the name of a mythical Persian leader, in the Avesta of the Zoroastrians known as Kavi Haosravah, with the meaning "with good reputation"...

. Similarity with "Ur" would thus be accidental.

Classical views

Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 in his Rerum Gestarum Libri (chapter VIII) mentions a castle named Ur which lay between Hatra
Hatra is an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate and al-Jazira region of Iraq. It is currently known as al-Hadr, a name which appears once in ancient inscriptions, and it was in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul.-History:Hatra...

 and Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

. A. T. Clay understood this as an identification of Ur Kaśdim although Marcellinus makes no explicit claim in this regard. In her Travels (chapter XX), Egeria mentions Hur lying five stations from Nisibis on the way to Persia, apparently the same location, and she does identify it with Ur Kaśdim. However, the castle in question was only founded during the time of the second Persian Empire.

Eusebius in his Preparation for the Gospel
Preparation for the Gospel
Εὑαγγελικὴ Προπαρασκευή , commonly known by its Latin title Praeparatio evangelica, was a work of Christian apologetics written by Eusebius in the early part of the fourth century AD...

(chapter XVII) preserves a fragment of the work Concerning the Jews by the 1st century BCE historian Alexander Polyhistor
Alexander Polyhistor
Lucius Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor was a Greek scholar who was enslaved by the Romans during the Mithridatic War and taken to Rome as a tutor. After his release, he continued to live in Italy as a Roman citizen...

, which in turn quotes a passage in Concerning the Jews of Assyria by the 2nd century BCE historian Eupolemus
Eupolemus is the earliest Hellenistic Jewish historian whose work survives only in five fragments in the Eusebius of Caesarea's Praeparatio Evangelica embedded in quotations from the historian Alexander Polyhistor and in the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria.A sixth passage...

, which claimed that Abraham was born in the Babylonian city Camarina, which it notes was also called "Uria". (Such indirect quotations of Eupolemus via Polyhistor are referred to as Pseudo-Eupolemus.) This site is identified with the Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian city of Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

located at Tell el-Mukayyar, which in ancient texts was named Uriwa or Urima.

External links

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