Mesopotamia during the time of Abraham (Genesis 15)

Near the end of the third millennium B.C., the Sumerian Third dynasty of Ur lost the predominant influence it had enjoyed over most of Mesopotamia. The entire region experienced severe political instability as its city-states continually challenged one another, as well as those in northern Syria, and power frequently changed hands.

Kings with Amorite names ruled many of these city-states during the patriarchal period. The Amorites comprised a large and diverse group of Northwestern Semitic tribes from Syria-Arabia. Many scholars once thought them to have been mostly nomadic invaders who brought with them the wide-spread political instability mentioned above, as well as the urban decline characterizing the end of the third millennium B.C. However, texts from Mari and elsewhere indicate that the Amorites included both semi-nomadic pastoralists (raisers of livestock) and sedentary groups, generally organized around patriarchal figures who began settling in Mesopotamian villages and urban centres as early as early as the middle of the third millennium B.C. This cultural pattern is similar to the one we see occurring in portraits of the patriarchs of the Bible.

By the turn of the third millennium B.C. even lagrer numbers of Amorites had migrated south into Canaan and southeast into Mesopotamia, perhaps pressured by the Hurrians from the north. Many Amorites worked their way into positions of leadership. The most famous of these were Shamshi-Adad I in Assyria (late nineteenth to early eighteenth centuries B.C.) and Hammurabi in Babylon (early to mid eighteenth century B.C.).

The Biblical patriarchs most likely lived within this early second-millennium period. The cross-cultural interaction taking place among the Sumerians, Akkadians and Amorites as well as the Hurrians and Hittites to the north, is clearly reflected in the patriarchal narratives in terms of social customs, laws and languages. Far from being anachronistic, the details of the Biblical stories of the patriarchs fit well into the historical environment of the late second millennium B.C. There is no evidence that hould lead scholars to question their authenticity.

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