Abraham Part 1 – The Journey

The Journey: 

“Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

Abraham’s family emigrated from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan. Ur was a famous Babylonian/Sumerian city.

Archaeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley claimed that in 1929 he found Ur of the Chaldee, located on the Euphrates river, on a traditional trade route.

As stated in Genesis Ch.12, Abraham was called by God to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel to the land of Canaan. The family made a stop-over in Haran (modern-day Turkey), the Bible records that Terah, Abraham’s father died in Haran (Genesis 11:32).

Ur the city that the family originated from was a famous Babylonian/Sumerian city that is known as Tell el-Mukayyar, located in modern day Iraq (Genesis Ch. 11:31-32). Tell el-Mukayyar (modern day Iraq) was part of the Babylonian empire, and so was Canaan.

For those who claim Abraham never existed (the Minimalists) it’s true that outside of Genesis and her textual equivalents there is no evidence for Abraham. In fact, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; the slavery in Egypt; the conquest of Canaan, etc. are only found in the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions and nowhere else. But as the saying goes…”The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

It’s only from the 7th century BC onwards that there is extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of Israel and Judah. It also happens to be about the time the Hebrew Scriptures were being written, according to most scholars, that is.

It stands to reason that if Israel and Judah suddenly appeared in the annals of history as a kingdom in the 7th century, then they must have originated from somewhere, they didn’t just materialize out of thin air. Also note, that the stories of the patriarchs fit perfectly into the overall ancient near east narrative. So, there is no reason to doubt their existence.

D.G (David George) Hogarth renowned British Archaeologist in his book, The Ancient East states:

“Ur of the Chaldee was the first, and the only Babylonian city,” and, “That all ancient civilizations of the ANE were Semitic.”

Therefore, Abram was a Semite.

According to Hogarth, The Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Canaanites and the Hebrews were all Semites.

The Greeks and the Romans however, were not Semite. The Greeks being of Aryan stock.

Abraham’s heritage as being Amorite is alluded to in Ezekiel 16:3.

Ezekiel 16:1-3

Ezekiel was prophesying to the children of Israel when he had this to say:

“Your birthplace is Canaan. Your father was an Amorite, and your mother was a Hittite.”

“1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

3 “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother, a Hittite.”  (NKJV)

Some modern translations interpret Amorite as Aramean. The King James Bible says Syrian (Deuteronomy Ch.26:5). All mean the same thing according to Professor Cline, Abraham was a “Resident alien” in the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 26:5 “And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: ‘My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous (NKJV). This verse could be referring to Jacob, but Abraham also went down to Egypt and dwelt there because of famine. And I’m certain it will be highly controversial to claim that Jacob is Syrian. Although his wives, Rebecca and Leah were.

In Genesis 12:10 Abraham goes to Egypt because of famine and then returns to Canaan.

“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.”

Was the Land of Canaan like Babylon?

Archibald Henry Sayce in his book Patriarchal Palestine states:

“We know from the Amarna Letters that the culture of Canaan and the culture of Babylon was nearly identical.”

Who was Archibald Sayce?


“The Rev. Archibald Henry Sayce (25 September 1845 – 4 February 1933), was a pioneer British Assyriologist and linguist, who held a chair as Professor of Assyriology at the University of Oxford from 1891 to 1919. [1] He was a contributor to articles in his field, in the 9th, 10th and 11th editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. [2]”


“Proofs consequently are multiplying of the intimate relations that existed between Babylonia and Western Asia long before the era of the Patriarchs, and we need no longer feel any surprise that Abraham should have experienced so little difficulty in migrating into Canaan, or that he should have found there the same culture as that which he had left behind in Ur. The language and script of Babylonia must have been almost as well known to the educated Canaanite as to himself, and the records of the Patriarchal Age would have been preserved in the libraries of Canaan down to the time of its conquest by the Israelites.”

Sayce, A. H. (Archibald Henry). Patriarchal Palestine (p. 8). Kindle Edition.

Was Abraham the first Hebrew or the first Jew?

As the story of Abram unfolds in the Bible, we meet, Abram the Hebrew or is it Abram the Amorite? Abram the Hebrew is first mentioned in Genesis 14:12 and Abram the Amorite, dwelling in the land of the Amorites in Joshua 24:15.

Joshua 24:15. And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Genesis 14:12-13 “They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.”

Genesis 14:12 is a rather puzzling verse, was it Abram the Hebrew or Abram the Amorite or were the allies of Abram, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner the Amorites?

The reason why I say this is because of a conversation I once had with a Rabbi; we were chatting about Abraham, when he put this question to me…”Which Abram are you talking about”? I was rather taken aback with his question and had no answer for him. I haven’t been able to determine whether the Jews believe there are two Abrams or just one with any certainty. But I’m suspicious that there is a belief within some Jewish circles that there are two Abrams in the scriptures. A Jewish Abram and a Gentile Abraham.

In Genesis Ch. 11&12 Abraham is a wandering nomad, rich in blessing and promises but a resident alien nonetheless, who is making his way from one Babylonian city to another (Canaan was under Babylonian control) and suddenly, he became a Hebrew (Ch.14:13).

It is from this statement (Abram the Hebrew) that today’s Jews call Abraham the first Jew. Because by now Abram, had received the Covenant blessing and promise of the land.

What does ‘Hebrew’ mean?


The origin of the term remains uncertain.[11] The Biblical term Ivri (עברי; Hebrew pronunciation: [ʕivˈri]), meaning to traverse or pass over, is usually rendered as Hebrew in English, from the ancient Greek Ἑβραῖος and Latin Hebraeus. In the plural it is Ivrim, or Ibrim.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the terms “Hebrews” and “Israelites” usually describe the same people, stating that they were called Hebrews before the conquest of the Land of Canaan and Israelites afterward.[22] Professor Nadav Na’aman and others say that the use of the word “Hebrew” to refer to Israelites is rare and when used it is used “to Israelites in exceptional and precarious situations, such as migrants or slaves.”[23][24]

Joshua 24: 2-3

“And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River (The word Hebrews-means people from the other side of the (Euphrates) in old times; and they served other gods).

“Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.”

Joshua 24:15. And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Hebrew word for river is Nahar, (the Euphrates).

Abraham’s Timeline:

Abraham fits well into this period in which he was supposed to have lived. Abraham lived 175 years which also places him in later years in Salem (Jerusalem) around 2000 BCE, where he encountered Melchizedek and partook of the sacrament of peace; Bread and Wine. Hogarth claims that Abraham was a contemporary of the great Hammurabi, referred to as Amraphel the King of Shinar (Shinar is Babylon) in Genesis Ch.14. Abraham found himself having to rescue his nephew Lot who was carried away in a Razzia. Although, recently scholars have dated Hammurabi ca. 1792-1750 (Van de Mieroop 2007, 111-15).

The chronology to date Abraham in the Hebrew Bible is as follows:

One Kings Ch.6:1. 480 years in the land before Solomon’s temple.

Exodus Ch.12.  430 years in Egypt.

Solomon’s temple was built approximately, 960 BCE, by adding these dates 960+480+430, we can conclude that Abraham was on the move approx. 1870 BCE.

During this period, we have extra-Biblical evidence that there was considerable movement in the region. Sometimes known as the Amorite Hypothesis.

The Amorite Hypothesis is a hypothesis that originated in the 1930’s by William Albright, a highly acclaimed archaeologist, and historian. According to Albright’s theory, it is conceivable that Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and travelled to the land Canaan, on a popular trade route. History shows that there was upheaval in the region and there was movement between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Professor Cline, states that scholars who don’t accept Albright’s Amorite Hypothesis, do so based on the genealogy and the chronology not adding up and because the average life span was around 40 years. It appears the Hebrews lived two, three or four times longer than the average person. Also, the names and customs found in Genesis span more than the first millennium and spill over into the second millennium. So, an accurate dating is not possible.

From a religious perspective, the three Abrahamic religions will always hold dear the memory of Abraham. To the Jews and Muslims, he will continue to be a physical heir, and to the Christians he will continue to be a spiritual heir. For all three religions, Abraham is a significant person, highly esteemed in the eyes of God and man, because of his faith, obedience and hospitality.

For this article, I added a few different perspectives from sources outside of the religious texts; I believe this is important to understanding how the Hebrews/Israelites fitted into the bigger picture. Christians fail to adequately defend their faith when they rely only on information from within the text, that’s why I always encourage Christians to read widely. It was William Albright who said, “The Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israelite religion must go hand in hand with the study of Ancient near East language and culture.” And so, it should.

Cheryl Mason July 2017


Cline, Professor Eric. “The History of Ancient Israel The Patriarchs Through the Romans Recorded Books LLC”. Lecture, 2006

Hogarth, D. G. The Ancient East. 1st ed. New York: H. Holt, 1915.

Sayce, Archibald Henry. Patriarchal Palestine, By the Rev. A.H. Sayce, … London: Society for promoting Christian knowledge, 1895.

Scripture quotations “NKJV” are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ur: The History and Legacy of The Ancient Sumerian Capital. Charles River Editors, n.d


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