16 July 2003 Updated and Revised through 09 March 2011
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Scholars are divided as to Ur's location, positing it is either Urfa in modern Turkey or Ur in Babylonia, modern Tell Mughayir alternately rendered Mugheir, Mugayyar, Muqayyer, Muqqayir or Muqqayyar. This brief article investigates the claims made by both sides. Professor Sarna, favoring it to be Babylonia, notes that the term "of the Chaldees (Hebrew: Kasdim)," dates the Abrahamic narrative to no earlier than the 7th century B.C.:
"The difficulty, however, lies with the designation "Ur of the Chaldeans." The name "Chaldeans" as applied to lower Mesopotamia does not appear before the eleventh century B.C.E., many hundreds of years after the patriarchs. The city of Ur itself could not have been called "of the Chaldeans" before the foundation of the Neo-Babylonian empire in the seventh century B.C.E. The characterization therefore, as distinct from the tradition, would seem to be anachronistic." (p. 98. "The Problem of Ur." Nahum M. Sarna. Understanding Genesis. New York. Shocken Books. 1966. reprinted 1970)
If Professor Sarna is correct, that the term "Ur of the Chaldeans" must have arisen after the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire of the seventh century B.C., then Genesis and the Pentateuch was probably composed no earlier than this period.
2 Kings 25:27 gives a date of ca. 562-560 B.C., this period of time being the reign of the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach, suggesting the sixth century B.C., for the composition of the National History (Genesis to Kings). "Ur of the Chaldeans" serves as a marker that the text is not earlier than the seventh century B.C. (Ur not being a part of Chaldea before that date). The Medus myth of the 7th century B.C. is another marker, it being cited by Darius I's Median general, Datis, as one of the reasons for Persia's invasion of Greece in 490 B.C.
A Jewish savant writing at the time of the Hasmoneans (2d-1st century B.C.) notes that Terah and Abraham FLED Ur of the Chaldees, when their MONOTHEISTIC CHALLENGE was "rejected" by the POLYTHEISTIC populace.
Note that this author understands his Hebrew ancestors were ORIGINALLY CHALDEANS _NOT_ARAMEANS (contra De 26:5), and that ORIGINALLY THEY LIVED IN CHALDEA _NOT_ ARAM (Syria and Haran, here rendered "Mesopotamia"). He also understands that AS CHALDEANS THEY WORSHIPPED MANY GODS, but while IN CHALDEA they came to be aware that there was only ONE GOD, and they were driven from Chaldea (Babylonia) by their CHALDEAN KINSMEN for refusing to worship any longer the ancestral gods. In other words, this anonymous Hasmonean Jewish savant understood that "monotheism" began with Yahweh revealing himself to Terah and Abraham in Chaldea (cf. Ge 11:31-32) rather than at Haran in Aram/Syria (cf. Ge 12:1-4).
Judith 5:5-9 RSV
"Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him, "Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant, and I will tell you the truth about this people that dwells in the nearby mountain district. No falsehood shall come from your servant's mouth. THIS PEOPLE IS DESCENDED FROM THE CHALDEANS. At one time they lived in Mesopotamia, because THEY WOULD NOT FOLLOW THE GODS OF THEIR FATHERS WHO WERE IN CHALDEA. FOR THEY HAD LEFT THE WAYS OF THEIR ANCESTORS, and they worshipped THE GOD of Heaven, THE GOD they had come to know; hence THEY DROVE THEM OUT FROM THE PRESENCE OF THEIR GODS; and THEY FLED TO MESOPOTAMIA, and lived there a long time. Then their God commanded them to leave the place were they were living and go to the land of Canaan. There they settled, and prospered..."
(Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. [Revised Standard Version]. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
Where possibly is the anonymous author of Judith getting his notions of Terah and Abraham being originally polytheists? Perhaps it is from Joshua's statement that Terah, Nahor and Abraham worshipped "many" gods:
Joshua 24:1-3 RSV
"Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "YOUR FATHERS lived of old beyond the Euphrates, TERAH, the father of ABRAHAM and NAHOR; and THEY SERVED OTHER GODS. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many."
Genesis has Yahweh revealing to Abraham just how to worship him. In light of the above assertion by the anonymous Jewish Hasmonean Savant, it would appear that Abraham's concepts of the deity _ought to be traceable_ to CHALDEAN precepts, or some "re-working" and "transformation" of CHALDEAN beliefs regarding the relationship between man and God:
Genesis 26:5 RSV
"...Abraham obeyed my voice and KEPT my CHARGE, my COMMANDMENTS, my STATUTES, and my LAWS."
Scholars understand that "Ur of the Chaldees" is an _anachronism_ when applied to Abraham who is understood to have flourished circa the 22d century B.C. (Others suggest the 21st, 20th, or 19th Century B.C.). The city did not become a part of Chaldea until the 8th-6th centuries B.C., when Chaldean tribes who inhabited the marshlands south of Babylonia and extending to Elam, seized the area and ruled it under a "Chaldean dynasty". Thus the 2nd century B.C. Hasmonean savant is applying the term Chaldean to Abraham from a "late" Jewish geographical convention which equated Babylonia with Chaldea and Babylonians with Chaldeans since the 8th-6th centuries B.C.
The following articles suggest for me, that Ur is in Lower Mesopotamia:
Kasdim (Old Babylonian "kasdu"), referred originally to the Babylonians *before* the Chaldeans took control of Babylon in the 8th century B.C. It was only after Babylon became a Chaldean city, that the older term Kasdim was transferred to the Chaldeans themselves.
Weisberg notes a location appearing in Babylonian texts from the time of Nebuchadnezzar called "Pikhat Khusetu sha Khashidia (URU NAM khu-si-e-tum shakhash-di-ia), which looks to me like Hebrew Kasdim (cf. entry 13, p.75. "Index of Geographical Names, Cities, Towns, Forts, Gates, Wharves, Regions." David B. Weisberg. Texts From the Time of Nebuchadnezzar. [Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts, Vol. XVII], New Haven. Yale University Press. 1980)
Weisberg also mentions a location called Uru, followed by Uruk (Unug.ki, cf. the 23rd & 24th entries, p.75), could these be the biblical Ur and Erech of Genesis fame?
T. G. Pinches noted that some Jews of the Talmudic era had identified Uruk (south of Babylon) as being Ur of the Chaldees:
"The tradition in the Talmud and in certain early Arabian writers, that Ur of the Chaldees is Warka, the `Orecha of the Greeks and the `Orech of the Septuagint, need not detain us, as this site is certainly the Erech of Gen 10:10, and is excluded by that circumstance."
(p.193, "Abraham," Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, , revised edition of 1908)
Cottrell (1965) on Loftus (1850s) observation that Moslem traditions understood Ur of the Chaldees, the birth place of Abraham, was Uruk/Warka:
"Loftus elected to travel by the land route influenced by a twofold object; that of examining the geology of the Chaldean marshes, and that of exploring the ruins of Warka, to which native tradition assigns the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham."
(p. 51. "The Discovery of Erech." Leonard Cottrell. The Quest for Sumer. New York. G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1965)
Excerpts from appended articles follow, below (ABD is the Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, 6 vols. by Doubleday):
Joel C. Slayton (ABD, "Chesed," 1992):
" CHESED (PERSON) [Heb kesed]. The fourth son of Nahor and Milcah (Gen 22:22). Although it occurs only once in the Bible, this name has been associated with the people known in the Bible as the Chaldeans. Chesed is orthographically and phonologically related to the Kasdim (Heb kas d m), and this group is identified throughout the Bible with the Chaldeans (e.g. Gen 11:28; Job 1:17; and elsewhere). The Old Babylonian term kasdu, which became kaldû in Assyrian documents, is the equivalent of this term, which the LXX translates chaldion. A connection could be drawn between the clan of Chesed and these Mesopotamian "Chaldeans," but to do so based on the similarity of terms only is unadvisable."
Professor Hess on Chaldea:
"A. The Form of the Name and Its Appearance in Genesis
The distinction between the Heb kas d m (cf. also Aram) and the Gk chaldaioi (cf. also Akk kaldu) may be explained linguistically either as the "sibilant + d" being assimilated to ld in Akkadian (Millard 1977: 70-71), or as an original Arabic (?) consonant "d\" lying behind both forms (Edzard RLA 5: 296). The LXX follows the Akkadian rather than the Hebrew/Aramaic spelling. The Chaldeans are associated with Ur, where Haran, brother of Abram, died, and whence Terah, Abram, and their family set forth for Harran and Canaan (Gen 11:28, 31; 15:7; Acts 7:4). To Nahor, Abram's other brother, was born Kemuel, father of Aram, and Chesed (Gen 22:22; cf. however Saggs 1960: 208-09). The Hebrew consonants of Chesed and kas d mare identical.
B. Other Biblical References
The Chaldeans were a people with whom Judah sought an alliance which the prophets condemned using images of lust and harlotry (Ezek 16:29; 23:14-16). The Chaldeans were understood to have been brought against the people of God as a judgment (Job 1:17; Ezek 23:23; Hab 1:6). The term is applied to the Neo-Babylonian army which brought to an end the kingdom of Judah (2 Kgs 24:2; 25: 4, 5, 10, 13; 2 Chr 36:17; Jer 21:4; 22:25; 32:4-5, 24-25, 28-29; 33:5, 43; 37:5, 8-11, 13-14; 38:18-19, 23; 39:8; 43:3; 52:7, 17) and who supervised the land afterward (2 Kgs 25:24-26; Jer 40:9-10; 41:3, 18)...the Deuterocanonical narrative of Judith, the Chaldeans are a polytheistic people from whom Israel is descended (Jdt 5:6-7)."
(cf. p. 886. Vol. 1. Richard S. Hess. "Chaldea." David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 6 volumes. 1992)
In conclusion, then, I would suggest that the term Kasdim (Old Babylonian "kasdu") doesn't have to apply only to the Chaldean era (8th-6th centuries B.C.), it could apply to the pre-Chaldean period, giving the Abraham narratives a pre-8th century basis, and making them not neccessarily "a late tradition". But the notion that there is *no extra-biblical evidence* suggesting Ur of the Chaldees is not Babylonia/Chaldea, is not supported by some Jewish traditions as early as the 2nd century B.C.
Things haven't changed much since Pinches' day (1908) in regards to the various choices one can pick from on Ur of the Chaldees' location.
Pinches covers all the proposals of his day (which seem to still be with us today) for the identity of Ur of the Chaldees (Ur kasdim). He discusses each at some length. They are, Urfa in Northern Syria, Tell Mugheir/Muqayyar (south of Babylon, ancient Uriwa/Uru), and his own proposal that Ur is the region of northern Babylonia called Akkad by the Semites, but Uri by non-Semites (cf. pp.122 & 193, T. G. Pinches, The Old Testament, In the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, London: S.P.C.K. 3rd edition: 1908).
"Eusebius quotes the following from Eupolemus concerning Abraham:
"He saith, moreover, that in the tenth generation in a city of Babylonia, called Carmarina (which, by some, is called the city of Urie, and which signifyeth a city of the Chaldeans), there lived, the 13th in descent, (a man called) Abraham, a man of a noble race, and superior to all others in wisdom." (p.146. Pinches)
"Nicolas of Damascus, apparently wishing to glorify his own city, states that Abram was king of Damascus, and went there, with an army, from that part of the country,which is situated above Babylon of the Chaldeans, afterwards transferring his dwelling to the land which was at that time called Canaan, but is now called Judea. Justin also states that Abraham lived at Damascus, from which city he traces the origin of the Jews." (p.147, Pinches)
"We see, therefore, from the 11th chapter of Genesis, that Abraham was a Babylonian from Ur, now known as Mugheir (Muqayyar), or (better still) from that part of the country which lay north of Babylon, known by the non-semitic inhabitants as Uri, and by the Semitic population as Akkad." (p.147. Pinches)
"There have been many discussions as to the position of Ur of the Chaldees. Some, on account of the distance from Canaan, apparently, have contended that Ur of the Chaldees is the same site known for many hundreds of years as Urfa, in Mesopotamia...Urfa or Orfa, called by the Greeks Edessa, was known as Orrha at the time of Isidore of Charax (date about 150 BC). Pocock, in his Description of the East, states that it is the universal opinion of the Jews that Orfa or Edessa was the ancient Ur of the Chaldees, and this is supported by local tradition, the chief place of worship there being called the mosque of Abraham, and the pond in which the sacred fish are kept being called Bahr Ibrahim el-Halil, 'the Lake of Abraham the Beloved." (p.193. Pinches)
"It is noteworthy that the transcription of the Babylonian name of the city, Urie, contains traces of the Akkadian termination -iwa (Uriwa) which is absent in the Hebrew form Ur. This is important, as it shows that at a compartively late date (Eupolemus lived just before the Christian era), the ending in question made itself felt in the transcription of the word, and that the form in Genesis, Ur, does not quite agree, as traces of that termination (two syllables in the Akkadian form) are altogether wanting in it. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the theory that Abraham lived and passed his earlier years at the Ur which is now represented by the ruins of Mugheir, originated with the Jews during their captivity at Babylon and in the cities of Babylonia. Eupolemus, as a student of Jewish history, would naturally get his information from a Jewish source, and the Jews had in common with most of the nations of the earth, a tendency to attribute to their own forefathers, whom they venerated so highly, the glory of being connected with any renowned city of great discovery of earlier ages. Thus, it arises that Eupolemus, following his Jewish informant, makes Abraham to be the inventor of astrology and Chaldean magic, and to have dwelt at Ur. It must have been the Jewish captives exiled in Babylonia who first identified Ur with the renowned city Uru or Uriwa, quite forgetting that the form of the name could not have been Ur in Hebrew, and that there was another Ur, much more suitable as the dwelling-place of a nomad-family like that of Terah and his sons, namely, the country of Akkad itself, called in non-Semitic idiom, Uri or Ura, a tract which included the whole of northern Babylonia." (p.197. Pinches)
Professor Clay (1923) noted that some Jews thought that Arabic Warka, ancient Uruk (Genesis' Erech) was Ur of the Chaldees (he favoring Ur to be ancient Mari):
"The identity of Mugheir in Southern Babylonia with Ur of the Chaldees, although possible, is by no means certain, and especially since the Jews who lived in Babylonia did not know the site, thinking that Warka (ancient Erech) was Ur, and also because St. Stephen refers to Ur as being in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2). I have given reasons elsewhere for believing that `Ur (`wr) is to be identified with Mari on the Euphrates in Mesopotamia..."
(p. 43. Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions, Hebrew Legends in Babylonia and Israel. New Haven. Yale University Press. 1923)
I am not aware of any "extra-biblical source" existing before the second century B.C. (Judith 5:5-9) in regards to pin-pointing what region Ur of the Chaldees is in.
As noted earlier, the Book of Judith (5:5-9), believed by some scholars to date from the late 2nd century B.C., identifies Israel's ancestors as being "polytheistic" Chaldeans _not_ Arameans. Eupolemus who flourished ca. 150 B.C., (the 2nd century B.C.), also understands Abraham is from Babylonia/Chaldea. Nicholas of Damascus (late 1st century B.C., a contemporary of Herod the Great) identified Damascus as Abraham's city. Now Urfa is in Syria like Damascus, so perhaps the notion that "Ur is in Syria" arose in the 1st century B.C., or sometime thereafter?
Ur is probably to be identified with ancient Uriwa/Uru, (Tell Muqayyir) south of Babylon, not Northern Syria and Urfa near Harran. Sarna's observation that Ur in Babylonia did not become a part of Chaldea until after 612 B.C., dates the composition of the Abrahamic narratives to no earlier than the 7th century B.C., Chaldea being earlier called Kaldu by the Assyrians, and associated with the marshlands to the south of Babylon and Ur.
Some scholars have noted that a number of motifs appearing in Genesis also exist in earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths and have proposed that the Hebrews at some later time borrowed, reinterpreted and transformed these motifs about the earlier pagan gods of Lower Mesopotamia and ascribed them to their God, Yahweh-Elohim. I concur with such proposals.
In the 2d millennium B.C. Flood myth called Atrahasis, the king of the city of Shuruppak, called variously, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim or Atrahasis, is warned by the god Enki (called in Semitic Ea, Aya or Ayya) of the coming Flood and to build an ark to save his family and animals. In another myth Enki tells his servant Adapa not to eat the bread and water which will be offered him by the supreme god Anu for it is the bread and water of death. In reality, if consumed, it will bestow upon him and through him, all of mankind, immortality like a god. Enki does however give Adapa forbidden wisdom reserved for the gods only. A number of scholars suggest these motifs were reworked by the Hebrews into Yahweh-Elohim warning Adam and Eve not to eat of the two trees in Eden or they would surely die, and I agree. Another Mesopotamian myth has Enki confounding the ONE language of the world into a babel of many languages.
How does one account for these parallels between Genesis' Yahweh-Elohim (Moses' "I AM that I AM," Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, Hebrew: hayah [Exodus 3:14]) and Enki/Ea/Aya/Ayya? A possible answer is to be found in the Bible. We are told Terah and Abraham are originally of Ur of the Chaldees, identified by some scholars with Tell al-Muqayyar to the south of Babylon. Ur is actually located south of Shuruppak the city Enki appeared in to warn the Mesopotamian Noah, Ziusudra, of the coming Flood. To the south of Ur lies the city of Eridu which was the main shrine or residence of Enki, a location also famed for Enki's sacred fruit orchards (please click here for a map showing Shuruppak, Ur and Eridu). If the Bible is correct in identifying Ur of the Chaldees as being the original home of Terah and Abraham, it would make sense that the myths about Enki and mankind were perhaps transformed by either Terah or Abraham into a new story about One God, Yahweh-Elohim and Adam and Eve in Eden (Eden being a transformation of the Mesopotamian land of Dilmun in the marshes near Eridu). Perhaps Terah and Abraham's migration to Haran was because the local inhabitants rejected their "new vision" of God? That is to say, they hoped a less hostile audience at Haran might accept their reinterpretations of the Lower Mesopotamian myths about the relationship between the Gods and Mankind?
The notion that Yahweh-Elohim creates a world in 6 days and nights, resting on the 7th day, the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat) and intending this to also be a day of rest for mankind, I have identified as a later Hebrew transformation and reworking of Lower Mesopotamian myths associated with the Flood in the Epics of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis. Please click here for the "Pre-biblical Origins of the Hebrew Shabbat" from the Mesopotamian Flood myths. In these myths vengeful gods in 6 days and nights destroy the world attempting to annihilate mankind for disturbing the gods' rest with his unceasing noise or clamor. These myths explain that man's clamor is because the gods WILL NOT GIVE ANY REST from his god-imposed toil. Instead of giving man a "rest from toil" they seek to annihilate him. When he is destroyed by the 6th day in the Flood (except those on Utnapishtim's ark), the clamor ceases and now, on the SEBITTU DAY, the SEVENTH DAY, _ALL_ the gods are able to REST. I have argued that a Hebrew savant, perhaps either Terah or Abraham, via an INVERSION, turned the 6 days of destruction of the earth into 6 days of creation. The demise of man on the 6th day becomes his creation on that day and the ALL the gods resting on the 7th day, the Sebittu day (Sebittu means "seven" in Akkadian/Babylonian) becomes only ONE God resting. The god's DENIAL of rest to mankind becomes Yahweh graciously setting aside a day of rest on the 7th day for mankind.
Leick on Ur, and its long history as a repository of written accounts of the myths of Lower Mesopotamia, which I understand Terah and Abraham were exposed to and reworked and transformed while residing there (Genesis 11:31); I also understand that Israel's observance of New Moons as a type of Sabbath are because Terah and Abraham dwelt at two cities, Ur and Haran, that were centers of the Mesopotamian Moon-god cult :
"Ur, modern Tell Muqqayir, in southern Iraq (originally by the ancient coast of the Arabian Sea); ancient Sumerian city which spans the whole of Mesopotamian history. Ur was the city of the Moon-god; it was also the seat of several dynasties and one of the most important Mesopotamian sites, and a large number of Sumerian and Babylonian texts have been found there, dating from all levels of the city's occupation." (p. 174. "Ur." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)
"What we define here as Babylonian myths are a number of texts which were written Akkadian during the second millennium BC...Most of these compositions, however, are preserved on tablets that were found in the great Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian archives, notably those of Nineveh, Uruk, _Ur_ and Babylon. We know from colophon entries and other reports that the majority of the texts were copies of older material...The oldest editions of some texts date from the Old Babylonian period...The Babylonians inherited the culture and religious structures of the Sumerians. The scribes of the Old Babylonian period copied and translated a number of Sumerian mythological texts...But there is also much that owes more to Syrian and Amorite concepts than Sumerian tradition." (pp. 23-24. "Babylonian Mythology." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)
Leick's above observation about some of the mythological material's indebtedness to Syrian (Called "Amorite") influences, recalls to mind for me the statement in the Bible that Israel's father was "a wandering Syrian, ready to perish," (De 26:5) alluding perhaps to Abraham's second "homeland" of Haran in North Syria. Were Terah and Abraham "Syrians" who ancestors had earlier settled at Ur of the Chaldees, and who, from a Syrian point-of-view, objected to the portrayal of the relationship between gods and man in the myths? Thus they reworked these myths into what was later the Genesis story via a series of "inversions"?
Leick also noted a shrine honoring Enki existed at Ur:
"Enki...one of the major Mesopotamian gods...Enki was considered to be the most approachable among the 'great gods'...His main cult-centre was the lagoon-based Eridu...but as one of Mesopotamia's most prominent dieties he also had numerous temples elsewhere...Babylon...Ur, Uruk, etc..." (p. 40. "Enki." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)
Leick on Eridu and its god of Wisdom, Enki, being honored, revered and preserved at Ur:
"All these narratives about Enki and Eridu emphasize the connection between the locality, especially the apsu, creation and fertility. Eridu is both primorial and immanent, the place where the world first became inhabitable, where brick and the city were invented...Fuad Safar had hoped that, in the excavation of the ruins of Eridu, 'being the most ancient and important shrine of Ea-Enki, as well as the seat of an important oracle, we should expect to find a Sumerian temple library, or at least, groups of tablets, connected with a centre of theological learning.' No such library was discovered. Except for a few inscribed bricks, no written records were found...As early as the Uruk period Eridu was tied to Ur. Some cities operated like twin cities, one as the symbolic religious centre, the other as the administrative and residential quarters...During the Ur III empire, the revitalization of ancient cult centres became a priority to further legitimacy of the great gods of Sumer. Enki's shrine was not only local, it was also one of the most ancient and prestigious. The vast expenditure on the ziggurat of Enki was justified as a means of re-establishing the proper functioning of the shrine -for the benefit of the whole country, courtesy of the king of Ur. At Ur there was an important scribal centre and most of the texts concerning the god Enki were preserved and perhaps composed at Ur...Throughout the ages, Mesopotamian tradition identified Eridu as the most ancient of cities, as a holy place, the very site of creation." (pp. 26-29. "Eridu Stories." Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2002)
Leick on Eridu being the Mesopotamian equivalent of Genesis' "Garden of Eden":
"Eridu is the Mesopotamian Eden, the place of creation...the Mesopotamian Eden is not a garden but a city...mankind is created to render service to god..." (pp. 1-2. "Eridu." Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2002)
Kramer on Enki's visit to Ur and his blessing of it on behalf of the god Enlil:
"Enki then goes to Ur, no doubt the capital of Sumer at the time our poem was composed, and decrees its fate:
"To Ur he came, Enki, king of the abyss, decrees the fate: "O city, well-supplied, washed by much water, firm standing ox, shrine of abundance of the land, knees opened, green like the 'mountain', Hashur-forest, wide shade...heroic, thy perfected decrees he has directed, 'the great mountain', Enlil, in the universe has uttered thy exalted name; O thou city whose fates have been decreed by Enki, O thy shrine Ur, neck to heaven mayest thou rise." (p. 60. Samuel Noah Kramer. Sumerian Mythology, A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium BC . Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1944, revised 1961; reprint 1972. ISBN 0-8122-1047-6 pbk)
It would appear to me, that Enki and his exploits would be "well-known" to the citizens and residents of Ur of the Chaldees, including Terah and Abraham.
Please click here for my article arguing that Eridu is _one of the prototypes_ behind Genesis' Garden of Eden.
Professor Allan R. Millard has an on-line article noting that Urfa of modern day Turkey near Harran (favored by the late Jewish scholar Professor Cyrus H. Gordon) and Ur south of Babylon (favored by Millard), as sites being in contention with each other for the honor of being Ur of the Chaldees; cf. his article titled "Where was Abraham's Ur?"
I have argued, along with others, that the Hebrews have apparently transformed the Mesopotamian myths in Genesis, but how does one account for this from a biblical point of view? Where's the "LINK"? Perhaps the "MISSING LINK" is _Ur of the Chaldees_, where lived Terah and his son Abraham before their departure to Haran in northern Syria? Excavations at Ur (Tell el Muqqayar, south of Babylon) have uncovered tablets from all periods of the city's long history, and some preserve the myths of this region dating back to Sumerian times. Leick noted that at times Syrian (Amorite) influence is detectable in some of these myths, they are not "purely" Sumerian, they have been reworked and augmented. Perhaps Terah and Abraham's ancestors were Syrians who had earlier settled at Ur? Did a "Syrian" Terah and Abraham later come "to make a break" with the local myths and develop their own interpretation of the relationship between God and Man, via inversions of the local myths? Did they leave Ur because the local populace rejected their new insights or "revelations" and return to their ancestral homeland of Haran, to promulgate their new vision to a less hostile audience?
Professor Kramer on Abraham of Ur being Genesis' "missing link":
"To be sure, even the earliest parts of the Bible, it is generally agreed, were not written down in their present form much earlier than 1000 B.C., whereas most of the Sumerian literary documents were composed about 2000 B.C. or not long afterward. There is, therefore no question of any contemporary borrowing from the Sumerian literary sources. Sumerian influence penetrated the Bible through the Canaanite, Hurrian, Hittite, and Akkadian literatures -particularly through the latter, since, as is well known, the Akkadian language was used all over Palestine and its environs in the second millennium B.C. as the common language of practically the entire literary world. Akkadian literary works must therefore have been well known to Palestinian men of letters, including the Hebrews, and not a few of these Akkadian literary works can be traced back to Sumerian protoypes, remodeled and transformed over the centuries.
However, there is another possible source of Sumerian influence on the Bible, which is far more direct and immediate than that just described. In fact, it may well go back to Father Abraham himself. Most scholars agree that the Abraham saga as told in the Bible contains much that is legendary and fanciful, it does have an important kernel of truth, including Abraham's birth in Ur of the Chaldees, perhaps about 1700 B.C., and his early life there with his family. Now Ur was one of the most important cities of ancient Sumer; in fact, it was the capital of Sumer at three different periods in its history. It had an impressive edubba [scribal school]; and in the joint British-American excavations conducted there between the years 1922 and 1934, quite a number of Sumerian literary documents have been found. Abraham and his forefathers may well have had some acquaintence with Sumeriabn literary products that had been copied and created in their home town academy. And it is by no means impossible that he and the members of his family brought some of this Sumerian lore and learning with them to Palestine, where they gradually became part of the traditions and sources utilized by the Hebrew men of letters in composing and redacting the books of the Bible." (p. 292. "The Legacy of Sumer." Samuel Noah Kramer. The Sumerians, Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press.  reprint 1972. ISBN 0-226-45237-9. paperback)
Below: A map of Ur of the Chaldees, the home of Abraham (cf. p. 167. map titled: "Plan of the City of Ur, according to the latest Excavations." James Henry Breasted. Ancient Times A History of the Early World. Volume I, The Ancient Near East. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1916, 1963. Second Revised Edition).
Hilprecht citing Taylor (1854) who excavated at Eridu mentions it is in the midst a great valley, a dried-up inland sea (Taylor said nomadic arabs told him this valley sometimes becomes a great sea as a result of the Euphrates' flooding; the above satellite photo suggests they were correct; by the end of Summer these sebkhas "disappear" leaving an empty inland sea):
"The first aspect of the mounds is that of a ruined fort, surrounded by high walls with a keep or tower at one end, placed on a eminence nearly in the centre of the dry bed of an inland sea. They are concealed in a deep valley about fifteen miles wide, and only towards the north open to the Euphrates."
(p. 179. "J.E. Taylor." Herman V. Hilprecht. Explorations in Bible Lands During the 19th Century. Philadelphia. A. J. Holman & Company. 1903)
Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (reigned circa 2112-2095 BC) who built ziggurats at Ur, Eridu, Nippur and Uruk, might have been a contemporary of Abraham. Professor Finegan at the University of Berkeley, California, noted some scholars date Abraham circa 2166-1991 BC, leaving Haran for Canaan in 2091 BC aged 75 years (cf. p. 202. Table 104. "Dates in Lives of Patriarchs, Reckoned from Exodus in 1446 BC and with Egyptian Sojurn of 430 Years." Jack Finegan. Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Principals of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. 1998 Revised edition).
Leick on Eridu and its god of Wisdom, Enki, being honored, revered and preserved at Ur (emphasis mine):
"All these narratives about Enki and Eridu emphasize the connection between the locality, especially the apsu, creation and fertility. Eridu is both primorial and immanent, the place where the world first became inhabitable, where brick and the city were invented...Fuad Safar had hoped that, in the excavation of the ruins of Eridu, 'being the most ancient and important shrine of Ea-Enki, as well as the seat of an important oracle, we should expect to find a Sumerian temple library, or at least, groups of tablets, connected with a centre of theological learning.' No such library was discovered. Except for a few inscribed bricks, no written records were found...As early as the Uruk period Eridu was tied to Ur. Some cities operated like twin cities, one as the symbolic religious centre, the other as the administrative and residential quarters...During the Ur III empire, the revitalization of ancient cult centres became a priority to further legitimacy of the great gods of Sumer. Enki's shrine was not only local, it was also one of the most ancient and prestigious. The vast expenditure on the ziggurat of Enki was justified as a means of re-establishing the proper functioning of the shrine -for the benefit of the whole country, courtesy of the king of Ur. At Ur there was an important scribal centre and most of the texts concerning the god Enki were preserved and perhaps composed at Ur...Throughout the ages, Mesopotamian tradition identified Eridu as the most ancient of cities, as a holy place, THE VERY SITE OF CREATION."
(pp.26-29. "Eridu Stories." Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2002)
Leick on Eridu being the Mesopotamian equivalent of Genesis' "Garden of Eden":
"Eridu is the Mesopotamian Eden, the place of creation...the Mesopotamian Eden is not a garden but a city...mankind is created to render service to god..."
(pp. 1-2. "Eridu." Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2002)
Wood (1992) thought Eridu was probably the Mesopotamian equivalent of the Garden of Eden, its sacred kiskanu tree becoming Genesis' Tree of Life (My notes:At Eridu existed a second sacred tree called the Mes or Mesu-Tree, so Eridu had TWO sacred trees presaging Eden's TWO wonderous trees, a tree of life and a tree of knowledge):
"Eridu...The Sumerians believed that it was the site of the mound of creation, the first land which rose from the primal sea at the beginning of time...This was the dwelling place of Enki...the god of wisdom...Here too in a walled garden stood the sacred Kiskanu tree, which gleamed like lapis lazuli, perhaps the prototype of the Tree of Life in the Biblical garden of Eden.
Eridu had to wait till 1949 before there was a full-scale excavation deep into the mound below the platform of the temple ziggurat built in 2000 B.C. by the kings of nearby Ur. When the archaeologists dug into the temple hill they uncovered nineteen levels below the ziggurat, going back to the founding of the shrine around 5000 B.C. At the bottom was a liitle sand mound surrounded by a reed fence with a tiny chapel, marking the site of the mythical mound of creation. If anywhere, then, here is the origin of the Biblical story of the garden of Eden, For what the Bible calls paradise, Eden, was simply the Sumerian word Edin, the wild, uncultivated grassland of the south, the natural landscape which lay outside the artificial landscape of the city. And picking over the debris of paradise, it is not hard to see the psychological truth of the Bible story: that the very beginning of our ascent to civilization was also the fall, when we tasted the fateful fruit of the tree of knowledge: the means by which we would become masters of the earth and yet eventually gain the power to destroy it and ourselves."
(pp. 21 & 24. "The First Cities. Iraq: The Cradle of Civilization." Micheal Wood. Legacy: The Search For Ancient Cultures. New York. Sterling Publishing Company. 1992)
Losch (2005) on Ur being a port-city at the "mouth" of the Euphrates in antiquity:
"When it was in its prime, Ur was a major port on the mouth of the Euphrates, very close to the Persian Gulf. Over millennia the gulf coast has moved back and the Euphrates has shifted its course, flowing about ten miles east of the now inland ruins of the city."
(p. 243. "Ur of the Chaldees." Richard R. Losch. The Uttermost Part of the Earth: A Guide to Places in the Bible. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2005)
Despite numerous scholars' claims over the past 100 years (since 1881) that the Persian Gulf extended to the vicinity of Ur in antiquity, Georges Roux was able in 1960 to demonstrate that several 2nd millennium B.C. settlements existed near a now defunct channel of the Euphrates river to the east of Ur. This region was called in antiquity the mat tamti or mat tamtim "land of the sea" or "sea lands," and texts of the 2nd millennium mention this region's settlements which provided Sumer with trade goods such as cattle, dates, grain and timber. Unfortunately _not many are aware_ of Roux's discoveries in this area and still _in error_ portray the Persian Gulf's shore as near Ur and Eridu.
Please click here for a commentary by Professor D.W. Potts on Roux's discoveries with Roux's archaeological map showing the 2nd millennium B.C. settlements he found within the "sea lands" (the marsh lands east of Sumer and Ur and west of ancient Elam).
The pre-biblical prototypes or antecedents of Genesis' Garden of Eden are drawn from several Mesopotamian myths and locations. However, Eridu stands head and shoulders above all the others. Why? It is here that a god warns man, his servant "Do not eat the forbidden food or you will die," and this man forfeits for himself and mankind a chance at immortality, themes associated in Genesis with Yahweh's Garden of Eden.
Abraham, while living at Ur of the Chaldees probably knew of stories about Ea/Enki and Adapa of Eridu and believing he had a revelation from his God recast these motifs about man's lost chance at immortality into the Adam and Eve story. As noted by Leick, Ur's kings preserved myths about Enki/Ea, a shrine dedicated to him was excavated by archaeologists at Ur, and Ur's kings funded Eridu's rebuilding and priestly staffing.
The Sumerian God Enki (Akkadian/Babylonian Ea) is credited in some myths with instigating the creation of man at three different locations: (1) Eridu, where he lives; (2) Nippur where the god Enlil lives; and (3) Babylon where the god Marduk (biblical Merodach) dwells. In every case the creation of man is for the purpose of caring for a god's garden (a city-garden, within as well as outside of the city walls) surrounded by the uncultivated plain known in Sumerian as edin/eden (Akkadian/Babylonian: Tseri, Seru, Zeru). In Genesis it is Yahweh-Elohim who causes a man (Adam) to be created and placed in his garden _in_ Eden to care for it on his behalf:
Genesis 2:8 RSV
"And the Lord God planted a garden _in_ Eden, in the the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed."
The Mesopotamian equivalent of Genesis' Garden of Eden where man lost out on a chance to obtain immortality, is "next door" to Ur and both sites are within view of each other when one stands atop their ziggurats built by the king of Ur, Ur-Nammu, Abraham's contemporary.
Eridu was famed for its "oracle" tree by 2600 B.C. some 500 years before Abraham's birth at Ur circa 2100 B.C. Did Abraham recast the oracle tree at Eridu into Eden's Tree of Knowledge?
Several Liberal PhD scholars at the turn of the century (1890-1920) thought Eden's Tree of Knowledge might be a recast of an Oracle Tree mentioned in cuneiform inscriptions and associated with Eridu; the purpose of an oracle is to dispense KNOWLEDGE about the future to the inquirerer.
Professor A. H. Sayce (1899):
"...at Eridu...a magical tree...grew in the midst of the garden of Eden, or plain of Babylonia...At all events it is 'the holy tree of Eridu,' of whose 'oracle' Arioch calls himself 'the executioner.'"
(p. 241. Archibald Henry Sayce. Babylonians and Assyrians, Life and Customs. The Semitic Series. New York. Scribner's & Sons. 1899)
Peters (1904) on inscribed bricks from the Nippur ziggurat:
"Among the bricks of other kings found by me in the ziggurat were those of Bur-Sin of Isin, 2600 B.C., who calls himself "the powerful shepherd of Ur, the restorer of the oracle tree of Eridu..."
(p. 165. vol. 1. John Punnett Peters. Nippur or Adventures on the Euphrates. The Narrative of the University of Pennsylvania to Babylonia in the years 1888-1890). New York. G. P. Putnam's Sons; Philadelphia, Department of Archaeology of the University of Pennsylvania. 1904)
Subtract 2100 B.C., Abraham's birth (?), from 2600 B.C. and the mention of Eridu's Oracle Tree and we have 500 years for Ur's residents to have developed stories about a magical tree at Eridu that dispenses knowledge (oracles) to man much like Eden's tree dispensed knowledge to Adam.
Professor George has noted that Gilgamesh is equated with Sin the moon-god of Ur and Enkidu with Ea the water-god of Eridu they being referred to in the text by their sacred numbers 30 for Sin, 40 for Ea/Enki. He also noted that some texts have Gilgamesh the king of Ur rather than of Uruk (Sumerian: Unug). He noted that Ea was on occasion identified with the crescent moon. I have noted that on some cylinder seals a crescent moon appears nears Ea/Enki's head. Could this moon be an allusion to his identity with a phase of the moon? I have noted elsewhere that some scholars believe Enkidu and Shamhat of the Epic of Gilgamesh have been recast as Adam and Eve. Also of interest is that Ea (Enki) of the Adapa and the Southwind myth is believed to be one of the prototypes of Eden's god and serpent, Adapa being recast and fused to Enkidu to become Adam. New Moons were observed by Israel, perhaps recalling Ur (Muqqayyar) and Haran (Charrae) where Abraham lived and maybe (?) Sin/Nanna of Ur and Ea of Eridu as personifications of the moon and its worship.
Professor George (2007):
"This article presents a unique tablet of Gilgamesh, not previously published, on which is preserved
part of the episode of the taming of Enkidu. However, the proper nouns Gilgamesh and Enkidu are replaced with
gods' names: d30 (Sîn) and d40 (Ea). No compelling explanation for this can be found. The tablet is probably of
early Middle Babylonian date, from the Sealand."
"The only reason for not immediately identifying the text as a witness to an intermediate version of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh is the proper nouns. Where we expect Gilgamesh, we read d30 (ll. 5, 6, 16, 17, 18, 39, 83); where Enkidu is wanted, we find d40 (ll. 80, 88, v 3', 7'); and the city where the former resides is not Uruk, but Ur (ll. 5, 12, 33, v 3', 7'),
except on one occasion when d40 is invited to Uruk, not Ur (l. 65). The prostitute's name, Shamkatum in the Pennsylvania tablet and Sham⁄at in the Standard Babylonian version, is conditioned by her calling and not altered (90: sa-am-[...]).
The two spellings d30 and d40 elsewhere represent respectively Sîn, the moon god, on account of the thirty-day month, and Ea, the god of the subterranean waters, for reasons which are obscure. The substitution of Ur for Uruk is the least intractable of the three substitutions. It has long been known that in some historical traditions Gilgamesh was considered to have been a king of Ur, not of Uruk. This is seen clearly in the Letter of Gilgamesh, a fictional composition known from first-millennium copies. In it Gilgamesh describes himself as sar Urim mar Kullab “king of Ur, native of Kullab", where Kullab is part of Uruk (STT 40 // 42, 2). “This association [of Gilgamesh] with Ur as well as Uruk must be a distant legacy of the efforts of Ur-Nammu and Shulgi of Ur to identify themselves in their considerable literary output as brothers of the great hero" (George 2003: 119). Ur...Just as we understand urim (fiEfi.UNUG)ki as Ur, replacing uruk(UNUG)ki , so too we are encouraged to understand d30 and d40 in the normal way, as Sîn and Ea, replacing Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Let us then suppose that what the scribe had in mind in writing d30 and d40 that Gilgamesh was somehow Sîn and Enkidu somehow Ea...There was a notion that the waxing moon, when shaped like a kidney from the sixth to tenth days of the month, was Ea (Livingstone 1985: 47); but they equated the immediately preceding and succeeding phases with Anu and Enlil, so that the idea here seems to be not that Sîn had a special relationship with Ea but that the moon in its different phases encompassed all cosmic forces...What we currently know of Sîn and Ea does not open the text to an additional exegesis of the plot of the epic. For the moment the scribe's purpose in replacing Gilgamesh and Enkidu with these two deities is obscure..."
Andrew R. George. "The Civilizing of Ea-Enkidu: An unusual tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic." pp. 59-80. Vol. 101.
Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale. Presses Universitaires de France. 2007.
In regards to Ea being Enkidu as the cipher d40 I note that earlier scholarship, circa 1898 rendered Enkidu as Eabani, "created by Ea," is this earlier form of Enkidu why Ea is being equated with Enkidu, that is to say Ea is being equated with Eabani? George notes in his article abbreviations were used in place of proper names, did Eabani become shortened to Ea and thus rendered d40 as a cipher for the god Ea?
Andrew on abbreviated names (the cedar guardian monster Huwawa being abbreviated to Hu, Huwa. Note: George's fi renders "sh" dGilfi =dGilsh):
"Sîn = Gilgamesh, Enki = Enkidu, Ur = Uruk?
Of course, Ea is Enki by another name, so that d40 = Ea might be interpreted as an
abbreviation for the name Enkidu. Until recently the only name that appeared in abbreviated form
in the Babylonian Gilgamesh was Gilgamesh's, in the second millennium often written dGIfi and
once dGIfi.BIL. That has changed. Enkidu is also abbreviated, to den, in the larger of the Old
Babylonian tablets now in Norway (OB Schøyen2, ed. George 2003: 224–40). In the same tablet
·uwawa is d⁄u and d⁄u-wa. So there seems to have been a tradition of abbreviation of names of
the poem's dramatis personae. Abbreviations utilize the first sign after the divine determinative
(dGIfi, den, d⁄u), and sometimes also the next (dGIfi.BIL, d⁄u-wa). Nowhere is an abbreviation
taken from the end of a name, so reading d30 in the present text as des is not a probable solution to
the problem. And if d30 is not an abbreviation, then perhaps d40 is not either."
Below, a cylinder seal showing Enki/Ea (Ea pronounced Aya or Ayya according to Leick) of Eridu seated with two streams of water gushing from shoulders and a crescent moon before his face. Perhaps the crescent moon is an allusion to his association with a phase of the moon during the 6th-10th day of the month as noted above by George citing Livingston? Enki/Ea's shrine exists at Ur and has been excavated so he might have been known to Abraham as a type of moon-god. Israel observed holy days for Yahweh, Moses' Ehyeh asher Ehyeh "I Am that I Am" (Ex 3:14). Did the Aramean ear at Haran hear Akkadian/Babylonian Aya or Ayyah as Ehyeh assimilating moon-worship at Ur and Haran of Aya, Ayyah and Nanna/Sin to Moses' Ehyeh? If so, then Israel's honoring of New Moons (1Chr 23:21; 2Chr 2:4, 8:13, 31:3; Ne 10:33; Isa 1:13-14; Ezek 45:17, 46:3; Hos 2:11) might be linked via Abraham to moon-worship at Haran and Ur of Aya/Ayyah (Ea/Enki) of nearby Eridu in the Edin of Eridu. Moses' Ehyeh (Yahweh) is credited with man's creation and placement in his garden in Eden, denying him knowledge and immortality, similar motifs earlier associated with Aya/Ayyah (Ea/Enki) at Eridu (Adapa of Eridu becoming Adam; Aya/Ayya becoming Ehyeh/Yahweh).
Below, a map of Ur (note the "disappearance" of the canal in the city linking the two harbors) showing the location of a temple or shrine dedicated to the Sumerian god Enki, Akkadian (Babylonian) Ea, the god of nearby Eridu (Eridu is 12 miles SW of Ur). Professor Archibald Henry Sayce of Oxford University, England, in 1887 identified Eridu as being the Mesopotamian prebiblical prototype for the Garden of Eden. Professor Stephen H. Langdon of Oxford University agreed (1931) and suggested that Adapa of Eridu had been recast as Adam in the Garden of Eden, for he, like Adam, had acquired godly forbidden knowledge, warned not to eat the food of death or he would die by his god Ea, presaging Yahweh's warning to Adam, and had lost out on a chance to obtain immortality for himself and mankind just like Adam. That is to say, the Mesopotamian equivalent of Genesis' Garden of Eden, Eridu, was only 12 miles away from Ur of the Chaldees which preserved Enki stories and had a shrine in his honor. Did Abraham while at Ur of the Chaldees learn of Enki/Ea and recast the tale of Adapa and the Southwind (the Mesopotamian account of "why" man does not have immortality) into Adam losing out on immortality for himself and mankind in a Garden in Eden? The kings of Ur funded the building of Eridu's ziggurat, temple quarters, and priesthood. Ur of the Chaldees then "preserved" the story of how man lost out on a chance to obtain immortality and Abraham, while at Ur, perhaps learned of this story and recast it as Adam in the Garden of Eden. So, Ur and Abraham are the key linch-pin links to Eridu and its motifs regarding the (1) creation of man by Enki/Ea to care for his garden in the edin, (2) his denying man godly forbidden knowledge, (3) his denying man immortality, (4) the removal of "man" from his garden for an act of rebellion instigated by the walking serpent of Eridu. Please click here for the details.
Eridu's ziggurat (the mound of Tell Abu Shahrein) is understood from its inscribed bricks to have been erected by Ur-Nammu (circa 2112-2095 BC) the Sumerian king of Ur. Perhaps Eridu's ziggurat was intended to be modeled somewhat after the Ur ziggurat also erected by this same king? If so, cf. below, a drawing of what the Ur ziggurat may have looked like, and, consequently, what Eridu's ziggurat would have looked like too? (cf. p. 173. "Ur, Iraq, Sumerian City, circa 4500-400 BC." Jacquetta Hawkes. Atlas of Ancient Archaeology. New York. McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1974).
Roaf on Ur-Nammu's ziggurats at Ur and Eridu:
"The most impressive monument of his reign was the ziggurat at Ur...The ziggurats built by Ur-Nammu at Ur, Eridu, Uruk and Nippur were the first certain examples of this type of structure."
(p. 100. "Charismatic Kings." Michael Roaf. Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. New York. Facts on File. 1990)
Professor Hilprecht (Professor of Assyriology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) on the months of May, June and July being the time of high flood water for the area about Ur, making it "like an island" and that the area is so flooded this site can be reached only by boat at this time of the year:
"At the beginning of 1854...excavations were also undertaken at Muqayyar...The ruins of Muqayyar are situated upon a slight elevation six to seven miles southwest from the modern town of Nasriye. The country all about is so low that frequently during the annual flood of the Euphrates, i.e., from March till June or July, the ruins form practically an island in the midst of a large marsh, unapproachable on any side except in boats."
(pp. 171-172. "J. E. Taylor." Herman V. Hilprecht. Explorations in Bible Lands During the 19th Century. Philadelphia. A. J. Holman & Company. 1903) Hilprecht on various spellings: Mugayer, Muqueijer, Mughyer, Mugeyer, Mughair, Megheyer, Meghaiir, Umghyer, Umgheir, meaning: "Cemented with Bitumen" or "Bitumined" (p. 171. Note 2).
The King James Version of the book of Joshua appears to be calling the Euphrates "the flood" in verses 24:2, 3, 14. Abraham, living at Ur, and being a tent-dwelling shepherd would know that the Euphrates flooded seasonally the area about Ur and he would have had to move his livestock from the area. Perhaps via Abraham who may have called the Euphrates "the flood" this bit of archaic information was preserved and passed down by his descendants?
Joshua 24:2, 3, 14, 15 KJV
 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of
the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood..."
Below, a map made in 1919 showing Ur in the midst of an area called the "Chaldean Marshes." Please note that the site on this map marked as Eridu is _an error_, it is actually Ur! The map site labeled Ur is _incorrect_, it is actually Eridu!
As can be clearly seen, Ur was in the midst of a seasonal marsh in the months of May through July when the Euphrates floods (cf. Sir William Willcocks. Map titled "The Garden of Eden and the Four Rivers of Genesis" from his book titled From the Garden of Eden to the Crossing of the Jordan. Cairo. The French Institute of Oriental Archaeology. 1919). Hilprecht (1903) noted that seasonal flooding by the Euphrates caused marshes to form about not only Ur but Nippur (Nuffar/Niffur) and Warka (Uruk, biblical Erech):
"The ruins of Warka, the largest in all Babylonia, are situated on an elevated tract of desert soil slightly raised above a series of inundations and marshes caused by the annual overflowing of the Euphrates...From February or March to July the inundations of the Euphrates extend frequently almost to the very base of the ruins."
(pp. 144,151. Herman V. Hilprecht. Explorations in Bible Lands During the 19th Century. Philadelphia. A. J. Holman & Co. 1903)
Below, a satellite photo of Tell Muqqayar, Ur of the Chaldees:
Below, artist's reconstruction of Ur based on the above site map showing its two harbors and Euphrates encircling the city. North is viewer's right, south is viewer's left, east is the bottom of picture, west is the top of picture.
Below, a satellite photo (taken 06 June 2006) of the vicinity of Ur of the Chaldees and Eridu showing three huge freshwater sebkhas about Eridu created by a seasonally flooding Euphrates river. I have drawn in ink the modern levee highway between Eridu and Ur and the four modern levee walls about Eridu. The seasonal flooding neccessitates the modern levee walls and highway. Eridu, is where, in Mesopotamian myth, a man (Adapa) obtained godly forbidden knowledge (upsetting the Akkadian/Babylonian god Anu, Sumerian: An) and lost out on a chance to obtain immortality for himself and mankind because he was tricked by his god Ea, who as Sumerian Enki, bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal (ushum=serpent, gal=great). Both An/Anu and Enki/Ea were worshipped at Eridu. These motifs reappear later in altered and recast form in Genesis' Garden of Eden story of a cunning walking, talking serpent. From the top of Ur's ziggurat one can still see today (2009) the ziggurat at Eridu, both being built by Abraham's contemporary Ur-Nammu, king of Ur. That is to say Abraham standing atop the Ur ziggurat could look down upon the Mesopotamian equivalent of Genesis' Garden of Eden, Eridu, just next door (12 miles away), where a walking, talking serpent, a god who bore the title ushumgal, conned a man (Adapa of the Adapa and the South Wind Myth) out of chance to obtain immortality.Please click here for the details.
I understand that Ur of the Chaldees (Muqqayyar) and its resident Abraham are the "linch-pins" connecting the Sumerian pre-biblical notion of a man (Adapa) being conned by a walking talking serpent (Ushumgal Enki/Ea) out of chance to obtain immortality for himself and mankind and the motif about a tree of knowledge (Eridu's Oracle Tree, the Kiskanu Tree). Enkidu and Shamhat became Adam and Eve. It is interesting that some texts have Gilgamesh the king of Ur (Urim) where Abraham lived rather than of Uruk. In the standard Gilgamesh Epic texts Enkidu accompanies Shamhat to Uruk (Unug in the texts, a logogram for Uruk). Gilgamesh seeks knowledge, knowledge about how to acquire immortality, a snake deprives him of an herb conferring youthful regeneration, themes some scholars associate with Adam, Eve, the forbidden fruit and Eden's serpent. Abraham was of Ur, and confusingly too Gilgamesh, Shamhat and Enkidu as well? Characters who came to be recast as the protagonists in the Garden of Eden myth by Abraham's descendants.
Please click here for my article on various PhD scholar's proposals for "who" was later recast into Eden's walking, talking serpent by the Hebrews; Don't forget to click here for part two on Eden's serpent's identity (PhD proposals 1859-2009).
Woolley (1954) noted that several ziggurats exist at Ur. The first was erected in the Jamdat Nasr period, succeeded by another in the Early Dynastic period, both of these being engulfed in the 3rd Dynasty by Ur-Nammu's ziggurat of three stages, itself being built over much later by the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus, who erected a 7 stage ziggurat.
"We know that after the Jamdat Nasr period the Ziggurat and its surrounding religious structures were rebuilt..."
(p. 99. Sir Leonard Woolley. Excavations At Ur, A Record of Twelve Years' Work. London. Etnest Benn Limited. 1954)
"The Early Dynastic Ziggurat is completely buried inside that of Ur-Nammu, and we made no attempt to excavate it...it was a good deal smaller..." (p. 100)
"The recovery of the form of the Ziggurat was one of the most gratifying results of our work at Ur, for besides giving us a clear picture of the city's most important monument it helps to solve problems on other sites where similar buildings once stood. Thus the Ziggurat of Babylon only the ground plan survives, but it is identical with that of Ur (though somewhat larger) and as it too was built by Ur-Nammu we can safely conclude that its elevation was also the same, so that looking at the Ziggurat of Ur we can visualize the Tower of Babel." (p. 134)
Woolley on Ur's Ziggurat as reconstructed by Nabonidus:
"Instead of three stages the Neo-Babylonian Ziggurat had seven." (p. 219)
Woolley on Ur-Nammu's 3 stage ziggurat's terraces being covered in soil and trees to resemble a tree covered mountain:
"The terraces of Ur-Nammu's staged tower were not paved with brick but were covered with soil, and in this trees were planted...Thus we have to imagine trees clothing every terrace with greenery, hanging gardens which brought more vividly to mind the original conception of the Ziggurat as the Mountain of God..." (p. 133)
Wooley noted that the god Ea of Eridu was worshipped at Ur in addition to Nanna(r) the moon-god, finding a temple or shrine at Ur and a stele showing Ea/Enki with two streams of water erupting from his body, so perhaps Israel's worship of Yahweh combines in a recast manner the worship of Nanna(r) and Ea by Abraham before he became a Monotheist? Israel did worship Yahweh on the day of the Full Moon and on the day of the New Moon, which would align with a polytheistic Abrahamic worship of these two gods at Ur and at Haran.
New Moons observed by Israel (see 1Ch 23:31, 2Ch 2:4, 8:13, 31:3; Ezr 3:5, Ne 10:33, Isa 1:13-14, Eze 45:17, 46:3, Ho 2:11)
1 Chronicles 23:31 RSV
"and whenever burnt offerings are offered to the Lord on sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, continually before the Lord."
Isaiah 1:13 RSV
"Bring no more vain offerings to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of assemblies..."
Ezekiel 45:17 RSV
It shall be the prince's duty to furnish the burnt-offerings, cereal offerings, and drink offerings at the feasts, the newmoons and the sabbaths...
Ezekiel 46:3,6 RSV
"The people of the land shall worship at the entrance of that gate before the Lord on the sabbaths, and on the new moons...On the day of the new moon he shall offer a young bull without blemish..."
Hosea 2:11 RSV
"And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts."
Woolley on Ur's Sumerian moon-god Nanna(r) (Akkadian/Babylonian: Suen or Sin) being addressed as the "god of the New Moon" in an inscription found at Ur:
"For Nannar the princely sun who shines in a clear day, who listens to prayers and supplication...I, Warad-Sin the reverent prince...when the god of the new moon had revealed to me his favorable omen...had commanded me to build his temple...E-temen-ni-gur, I built for him. As the ornament and wonder of the land it stands forever..."
(p. 140. Woolley)
Woolley noted that Ur's moon-god was fed a morning and evening meal daily, and the Bible notes the same morning an evening meals for Yahweh and he is also fed a special meal of a bullock on the day of the new moon like Ur's Nannar:
"On the north-west side of the Ziggurat...we have here the 'kitchen' in which the food of the god was prepared...we found...big inscribed copper cylinders; three of them bore the name of Nur-Adad king of Larsa (c. 1750 BC) and one of Marduk-nadin-akhe of Babylon (c. 1100 BC); apart from the difference of names the texts were practically duplicates, and they speak of the 'great cooking-pot' and the preparation of the 'evening and morning meals' of the god."
(p. 135, Woolley)
2 Chronicles 2:4 RSV
"Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it ti him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him and for the continual offering of the showbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God as ordained for ever for Israel."
Ezekiel mentions kitchens and the boiling in a cooking-pot (?) of offerings near Yahweh's temple to prepare his meals in rather like the kitchens found in association with Ur's moon-god Nannar:
Ez 46:24 RSV
"These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple shall boil the sacrifices of the people."
As can be seen from all of the above, Israel's honoring of Yahewh duplicates somewhat the manner of Ur's honoring of their moon-god Nannar, the god of the new moon, with morning and evening meals, boiling pots, and kitchens near the temple.
Israel never questioned "WHY" their god had to be fed twice a day (morning and evening). Its all rather silly! God is immortal, he shouldn't need to fed; the purpose of food is to sustain mortal life: No food, you die of starvation!
So where is Israel getting its notion from that its God needs to be fed daily for all of eternity as per Ezekiel?
The answer lies in the findings of archaeology.
The cuneiform tablets found in Mesopotamia reveal that in the beginning the gods had bodies of flesh and lived in the floodplain called Edin in ancient Sumer. They could be killed and wind up after death in the underworld. To sustain their fleshly bodies they planted fruit-tree gardens in association with the cities they built and lived in. Later, they tired of all this labor and created man. Man will bear the toil of the gods, man will provide the gods with life's necessities: food, shelter, clothing, freeing the gods for ever of earthly toil. Man will care for the gods' city-gardens of edin and feed the gods daily in temples the produce of edin's gardens, to keep the gods alive. No food for the gods means they will die of starvation, thus the reason "why" the Bible _insists_ that Yahweh MUST BE FED IN PERPETUITY, FOR ALL TIME, or continually BY HIS PRIESTS IN JERUSALEM!
Ezekiel on Yahweh's being fed in perpetuity by his priests after Israel's return from Exile in the Messianic Age, "continual offerings" understood to be for ever:
Ezekiel 46:15 RSV
"Thus the lamb and the meal offering and the oil shall be provided, morning by morning, for a continual offering."
Woolley on Ur's residents honoring the Sumerian god Enki (Akkadian/Babylonian Ea) by placing tiny clay boats into their city drains:
"...as we dug deeper and came to the lowest rings of drains...we had another surprise. At the bottom of each were quantities of small clay vessels of the two types which we knew to have been regularly used for religious offerings -for instance on the tables of the gods' and terracotta model boats. They had been dropped down the drains, but not by accident, for in a single drain we might find as many as forty intact vases as well as fragments...the Sumerian pantheon includes gods of the nether world, prominent among them Ea, Lord of the waters that are under the earth;
in connection with him the ancient texts speak of the 'apsu', the dark mysterious place that reaches down to the waters of the underworld. Now there is nothing strange in the idea of pouring libations to an earth god into a pit, a hole in the ground or a well -in this way your offering goes more directly to the god, and the practice is common with many peoples. I think our 'drains' are a humble version of the 'apsu'."
(p. 109, Woolley)
Woolley on a stele found at Ur bearing a 3rd Dynasty (circa 2112 BC) image of Ea:
"Another antiquity belonged, apparently, not to the Museum but to the temple building. In front of one of the side doors of the antechamber of Dublal-makh there lay a round-topped limestone relief on which was represented the god Ea, paton deity of the ancient city of Eridu whose ruins break the horizon some twelve miles to the southwest of Ur. According to the old Sumerian convention the god is shown holding a vase from which two streams of water are pouring to the ground, while fish are swimming up and down in the streams; as lord of the waters of the Abyss Ea holds the source from which rise the twin rivers Tigris and Euphrates, givers of life to the land of Mesopotamia. The relief may have decorated the space above the door, but if so it was re-used, for it has nothing to do with this Late Babylonian building but is a product of the great art of the Third Dynasty." (p. 238, Woolley)
Woolley on Enki's (Ea's) temple found at Ur, indicating he was worshipped there along with the moon-god Nanna:
"Towards the south limits of the town there stood on the wall line a temple dedicated to En-ki, the Water-god of Eridu - Eridu, by tradition the oldest of Sumerian cities, lies twelve miles away to the south, its ruins visible from the mounds of Ur, so that the site of the temple seems to have been chosen as one from which En-ki could see his own Ziggurat rising in the distance. This was a Third Dynasty foundation restored in the Larsa period..." (p. 165, Woolley)
Some scholars have suggested that the great bronze basin mounted atop 12 bulls cast in bronze associated with Solomon's temple is possibly a recast of the Apsu basins found in association with Mesopotamian temples. The Apsu was the dwelling of Ea (Enki) at Eridu. If they are correct then Solomon's basin recalls the Apsu dwelling of Ea, Leick's Aya or Ayya who may have become Moses Ehyah asher Ehyah "I AM that I AM."
Cuneiform documents found at Abraham's Ur of the Chaldees held the secret of "why" God (Yahweh) was honored with sacrifices on Full Moons and New Moons and "why" he must be fed a morning and evening meal by his priests for all of eternity.
In other words Abraham the polytheist upon becoming a monotheist, may have recast the worship of many Sumerian gods and goddesses assimilating them to one God, Yahweh-Elohim, and the New Moon and Full Moon observances dedicated originally to Ur's Nanna were likewise transferred to Yahweh. Ea of Ur (and of nearby Eridu) apparently had his feats ascribed to Yahweh too.
Ea, like Nanna, was associated with the crescent moon (as noted earlier, above) and he creates man to care for the gods' city-gardens of edin at Eridu, Nippur and Babylon in myths. Ea/Enki warns one man (variously called Ziusudra, Atra-Khasis, or Utnapishtim) of a flood who's intent is to annihilate all life and to build a boat to save the seed of animal and man for a replanting after the flood (recast as Yahweh warning Noah). Ea/Enki and Nannar/Suen/Sin of Abraham's Ur appear to have been combined and recast as Abraham's god Yahweh-Elohim of Jerusalem.
Yahweh is portrayed as being a "married God," married to his bride Israel. Nanna and Ea were, like Yahweh, "married gods" too. They had goddesses for wives. Apparently Abraham in reconfiguring Ur's gods and goddesses, portrayed his god Yahweh as having no goddess for a wife, his people, Israel, replaced the goddesses (Ningal being Nanna's wife and Damkina being Ea's wife).
In other words Israel's religion is naught but a monotheistic reconfiguration of Ur's polytheistic religion and its two major gods Nanna and Enki/Ea. Sumerian religious beliefs of the 4th-3rd millenniums BC are alive and well today in disguised forms as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Below: A 3rd millennium BC stele of Ningal and Nanna(r), the moon-goddess and moon-god of Ur of the Chaldees found at Ur. Between them in a cult vessel a date palm tree seedling with date clusters overhanging the rim of the vessel. This is a digitally modified rendering of the stele which showed Ur's king standing before the vessel in an act of homage. This god of the Full Moon and New Moon would be later recast as Yahweh, and his wife Ningal recast as Israel, the wife of Yahweh. The date palm fruit-tree, extensively grown in Sumer's gods' city-gardens of edin, would be recast as Eden's Tree of Life (cf. Ge 3:24, 1Ki 6:29, Ez 41:18).
Thus concludes this investigation from an Anthropological and Secular Humanist point of view.
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