“And Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”
Excavations north of Baghdad, in Iraq, are helping us to understand one of the most famous Old Testament characters. The more than 4,000 ancient documents that have been found there shed detailed light on the life and times of Abraham. Abraham was from Haran, which was an important city in the Hurrian empire.
Scholars are finding that many of the sometimes puzzling activities of the patriarchs make sense in view of Hurrian laws and customs. For example, you will remember that Abraham twice tried to pass off Sarah as his sister. This was evidently his rather strange attempt to avoid being murdered by someone who might want her. Isaac later tried the same ruse. Hurrian documents reveal that they were simply invoking the Hurrian custom of wife-sistership. This was a legal arrangement one step above wife status. Under Hurrian law, Sarah was probably Abraham’s sister in this sense. This explains why the same strategy keeps turning up.
Another occurrence that seems strange to us took place when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew. However, Hurrian documents show that it was common to sell one’s birthright, often for items of small value. When Sarah was unable to have a child and offered her handmaiden to Abraham, she, too, was only following Hurrian law.
As we learn more about the world of the Bible, we find that the Bible’s integrity remains solid. That doesn’t surprise those who accept the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.
I thank You, Lord, that You have revealed Your Word to us and have preserved it over thousands of years. Forgive me for those days when I thought I was too busy to study Your Word and fill me with new eagerness to learn more. Amen.
West, Stuart A. 1981. “The Nuzi tablets.” Bible and Spade, v. 10, n. 3-4. p. 65.