A Page from my New Book on Genesis

by Steve Ray on July 31, 2019

This book has been on the back burner for quite a few years. But I took five weeks off this summer to finish it. About 12 hours a day since June 28 and I am almost done. Just putting the finishing touches on it this week before leaving for the Family Conference in Wichita, two TV shows on EWTN, speaking in Indianapolis and two buses to Poland (yikes!)

Genesis is such an exciting and foundational book. When I am completely finished with it I will miss Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Feel like they are friends after all this research and writing. Well, if I have been a bit quiet over the last month, now you know why.

Here is a section of the book introducing Abram before he leaves Ur in modern-day Iraq. Our filming in Iraq several years ago for our documentary “Abraham, Father of Faith & Works” helped a lot.

Introduction to Abraham

Scripture now funnels the narrative down to one particular line within Shem’s family tree. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah followed by ten generations from Shem to Abraham which are provided here to arrive in our story to a major milestone in the history of salvation—the great patriarch and “the father of us all.” (Gen 10:10–26; Rom 4:16)  Again we see the new chapter in the story with the often repeated “These are the descendants of Shem. (11:10). In his line from Shem to Abram we find the name Eber. (11:16)   Êber in the Hebrew means “on the other side of.”  The ancestors of Israel are described as those who ‘dwelt of old time beyond the River’ (êber ha-nâhâr = ‘on the other side of the Euphrates river’). See Josh. 24:2.”  From his name comes we get the word Hebrew. 

In verse 27 we find again the formula which announces a new phase in the story. A new funnel to direct us toward the line of the Messiah.  “Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot.  Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans” (Gen 11:27–28). Haran means mountaineer, Nahor means snorting, and Abram means exalted father.

We have arrived at a huge juncture on the road of salvation history. We are now introduced to Abraham though that was not the name he was born with.  His given name was Abram.  Only later at the age of ninety-nine will God change Abram’s name to Abraham.  We must also remember that Abram was not a Jew, per se, since at this point Jews did not exist. The word Jew comes from Judah—one of the twelve sons of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.  Abraham was also not an Israelite since Israel was a new name given to Abraham’s grandson Jacob (Gen 32:28). To outsiders Abram was referred to as a Hebrew from the name Eber as we just discussed.

Abram was born in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, also known as the land of the Chaldeans. (Acts 7:2).  Even today Christians from Iraq are called Chaldeans.  The ancient site of Ur is located at Tel el–Miqayyar in Iraq, about 250 miles southeast of Baghdad, near the Persian Gulf.  “The city of Ur is one of the oldest and most famous in Mesopotamia, with a recorded history of over two millennia…. Findings at the tell point to the Early Dynastic III period (2600–2500 B.C.) and the Third Dynasty (2111–2003 B.C.), especially under Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, the first two kings of the Third Dynasty, as the high points in the city’s history. It was during Ur-Nammu’s reign that the famous ziggurat began to be constructed. …  Ur was the center of Mesopotamian worship of Nanna/Sin, the moon god, the same god who was said to reside in Haran, the city to which Terah and his family migrated when they left Ur.”

Still standing in the archaeological site at Ur is the massive ziggurat, a square–shaped multi–leveled temple. While recently visiting Ur in Iraq we climbed to the top of this amazing ziggurat. Even after significant erosion of the the last 4,000 years it is not difficult to image the splendor that entranced the people of Abram’s time. Mesopotamia is a flat land with no natural “high places” to ascend for the worship of the gods. The people of Mesopotamia made bricks to build their own “high places” which were called ziggurats, derived from an Akkadian word meaning to “build higher.” This ziggurat known by Abram was built to worship the god of the moon named Nanna-Sin in the 21st century B.C. The massive step pyramid was 210 ft. in length, 150 ft. in width and 100 ft. in height. The erosion makes it difficult to estimate the full hight. Projections suggest it was a hundred feet high. Saddam Hussein rebuilt portions of the ziggurat including the steps running up the face of the pyramid.

Famed British archaeologist Sir Leonard Wooley uncovered hundreds of tombs near the ziggurat some of which contained the remains of kings and queens with all their royal retinue. Wooley referred to the royal tombs as the Death Pits because the royal personages were surrounded by the skeletons of their entourage carefully arranged to accompany the royalty on their journey into the afterlife. Some tombs had over seventy skeletons strategically arranged around the king or queen, some of whom had declared themselves to be divine. The people of Ur practiced human sacrifice. “In the corridors and in the wells, funerary chariots are found with their teams of equids, their drivers and a whole group of servants and musicians that must have accompanied the king in death. Sometimes more than 80 bodies have been found, certainly sacrificed before the funeral.”

When God called Abram, Abram was a pagan—an uncircumcised gentile living in an opulent land a thousand miles from Canaan. Abram’s ancestors, and certainly Abram himself worshiped Nanna–Sin, the patron god of the city.  Ur was an upscale, wealthy urban center during Abram’s time. The musical instruments, pottery, jewelry and other treasures discovered attest to the wealth and elegance of the city….

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Beggy July 31, 2019 at 3:01 PM

If you need an extra set of eyes as a reviewer, I Noah guy…
Couldn’t resist. ;)

Thomas M Govern July 31, 2019 at 4:12 PM

Cannot wait for this to be available!

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