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Abraham Lived in Haran, Which Did Exist at the Time!

Abraham Lived in Haran, Which Did Exist at the Time! July 22, 2021

In my previous installment, I established that the city of Ur (present Urfa) in Turkey was in existence when Abraham (c. 1813- c. 1638 BC) was born there. I know it sounds ridiculous; I am deliberately being silly to poke fun at the excessive skepticism of atheists and theological liberals, who are always defining people away as myths and legends (their brains being particularly fertile birthplaces for new myths).

My goal, in many recent articles on biblical archaeology, is to relentlessly show that the Bible and archaeology (for the most part, and often remarkably so) are in harmony with each other.

We can’t find out much about Abraham. We don’t even know much — apart from the Bible — about King David, who lived some 650 years later. But we can at the very least show that cities mentioned in the Bible as having been visited or lived in by Abraham, did indeed exist before and during the time period involved. If they didn’t exist, then that would present a problem for a Bible passage that stated that they did. It doesn’t “prove” the Bible’s inspiration, but it does support its historical accuracy and it refutes attempted skeptical disproofs of biblical accuracy.

Genesis 11:31 (RSV) Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sar’ai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chalde’ans [Ur Kasdim] to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

Genesis 12:4-5 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. [5] And Abram took Sar’ai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

Acts 7:2-4 And Stephen said: “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopota’mia, before he lived in Haran, [3] and said to him, `Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ [4] Then he departed from the land of the Chalde’ans, and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living;

Gary Rendsburg, Professor of Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, refers to Haran / Harran in his article, “Ur Kasdim: Where Is Abraham’s Birthplace?” (Torah.com, 2019):

Ḥarran is a city in southeastern Turkey, 16 kilometers north of the Turkish-Syrian border; it is still called by that name today. The city is well known from cuneiform sources, in both Eblaite and Akkadian, reaching back to the 3rd millennium B.C.E., and continuing through the 2nd and 1st millennia B.C.E. as well. . . .

[Footnote] For a comprehensive overview of the evidence, see Steven W. Holloway, Aššur Is King! Aššur Is King!: Religion in the Exercise of Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 388‒399. For a more concise survey, though without reference to the abundant Eblaite evidence, see William W. Hallo, “Haran,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan: 2007), vol. 8, pp. 343‒344.

The journey from Ur to Haran was 44 kilometers or 27 miles. Wikipedia (“Harran”) provides the basic evidence of the existence of this city during the time of Abraham:

During the Early Bronze Age (3000-2500 BCE) Harran grew into a walled city. The city-state of Harran was part of a network of city-states, called the Kish civilization, centered in the Syrian Levant and upper Mesopotamia. The rise of Harran closely mirrored the similar rise of its trade partners, EblaUgarit, and Alalakh, in a process called secondary urbanization. . . .

The earliest records of Harran come from Ebla tablets (late 3rd millennium BCE). . . . 

[Footnote] Holloway, ibid. (see above), p. 391.

Royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle of the Euphrates, have confirmed that the area around the Balikh river remained occupied in c. the 19th century BCE. A confederation of semi-nomadic tribes was especially active around the region near Harran at that time.

[Footnote] G. Dossin, “Benjamites dans les Textes de Mari, ” Melanges Syriens Offerts a M. Rene Dussaud (Paris, 1939), 986

A temple of the moon god Sin was established sometime at the end of the Neo-Sumerian Empire (circa 2000 BCE). . . .

By the 20th century BCE, Harran was established as a merchant outpost of the Old Assyrian Empire due to its ideal location. The community, well established before then, was situated along a trade route between the Mediterranean and the plains of the middle Tigris.

[Footnote] Green, Tamara M. (1992). The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran. Brill. ISBN 9789004095137., pp. 19-20.

It lay directly on the road from Antioch eastward to Nisibis and Nineveh. The Tigris could be followed down to the delta to Babylon. . . . Not only did Harran have easy access to both the Assyrian and Babylonian roads, but also to north road to the Euphrates that provided easy access to Malatiyah and Asia Minor. . . .

In its prime Harran was a major Assyrian city which controlled the point where the road from Damascus joins the highway between Nineveh and Carchemish. This location gave Harran strategic value from an early date. Because Harran had an abundance of goods that passed through its region, it became a target for raids. In the 18th century, Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BCE) launched an expedition to secure the Harranian trade route. . . .

Genesis 27:43 makes Haran the home of Laban and connects it with Isaac and Jacob: it was the home of Isaac’s wife Rebekah, and their son Jacob spent twenty years in Haran working for his uncle Laban (cf. Genesis 31:38&41).

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Photo credit: Abraham Casting Out Hagar and Ishmael (cropped) (1657), by Guercino (1591-1666) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: I document how the city of Haran (or, Harran) in ancient Anatolia (Turkey) was in existence and flourishing at the general time period that Abraham was said to have dwelt there.

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