“Ur of the Chaldeans” (Gen 11:28-31): A Model for Dealing with Difficult Texts

William Barrick | May 24, 2010

Scholars are still puzzled over the appearance of “Ur of the Chaldeans” in Gen 11:28 and 31. Proposed solutions to the problem have either called it an anachronism or an example of post-Mosaic textual updating, or else they hold that Moses wrote the text just as it stands because he knew about the Chaldeans in his day. This article offers linguistic, genealogical, and historical evidence in supporting the last of these options. Linguistically, “Chaldeans” could be a later spelling of the term Kaśdîm in Gen 11:28, 31, according to this option. This solution is consistent with Moses’ knowing the Aramean origins of Abraham and his family as reflected in Gen 10:22; 31:47; and Deut 26:5, but such origins have been issues that have been open to debate. Genealogically, certain connections raise the possibility that the Chaldeans were relatives of Abraham. Historically, the problem is that extrabiblical references to the Chaldeans do not occur until the times of Ashurnasirpal II or III (883-859 B.C.). Yet such is a problem only if one subjugates the early biblical (i.e., Mosaic) references to later secular texts. Secular sources need not have greater authority than the Bible. Extrabiblical evidence itself has some hints that the Chaldeans’ rise to power may have preceded the time of Moses. Though it is impossible at this point to resolve the problem fully, the option supported by linguistic, genealogical, and historical evidence best accords with one’s adherence to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

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William Barrick Faculty Associate, Old Testament B.A., Denver Baptist Bible College M.Div., San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary Th.M., San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary Th.D., Grace Theological Seminary Before joining The Master's Seminary faculty in 1997, Dr. Barrick served with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). In 1981 he and his family moved to Bangladesh. In that ministry Dr. Barrick served as the Exegetical Consultant for Bible translation projects, theological consultant for the Literature Division, and adjunct faculty member of the Baptist Bible Institute of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Theological Seminary, and Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary Extension Program (Singapore). Prior to joining ABWE in 1979, Dr. Barrick had been Professor and Chairman of the Old Testament Department at Denver Baptist Theological Seminary from 1972 to 1978. Beyond his teaching and Bible translation work, Dr. Barrick has been active in a variety of ministries including three years as Director of Church Planting in Chittagong, Bangladesh. He has also had a varied writing ministry from scholarly journals to adult Sunday School materials. Dr. Barrick has been writing in the areas of Bible and theology for forty years. His writings range from adult Sunday school materials, in-house library publications, and newspaper editorials to technical journal articles in English and a commentary on the book of Daniel in Bengali. In addition, as a result of his fifteen years of Bible translation ministry in Bangladesh, he has participated in the production of Bibles, New Testaments, and Bible sections in six different languages. While in Bangladesh he participated in the editing of over twenty books and tracts, including a Bengali translation of Unger's Bible Handbook. During his doctoral studies he worked as a phototypesetter and proofreader for the first fascicle of The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and a number of other major volumes. Dr. Barrick has been involved in writing or contributing to 26 books, and has authored over 125 periodical articles and book reviews. Currently he is the OT editor for the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Logos) and will be writing the Genesis commentary in that series. He has also contributed the essay, “A Historical Adam, Young-Earth Creation View” in the recently released book Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan, 2013). Dr. Barrick has been married to his wife Barbara for 48 years. They have four married children and fourteen grandchildren. He is currently Faculty Associate and Director of Th.D. Studies at The Master's Seminary.

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