Chaldea in Jewish History

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



The Torah teaches that our father Abraham was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldees.  (Genesis 11:31). Prior to the development of scientific archeology it was commonly believed that the Torah is legend and that Ur did not ever exist. We know better today. Ur was actually excavated by the British archeologist J.E. Taylor, with further excavations made by the British museum in 1919 and additional work by the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Today that museum, in Philadelphia, houses a collection of treasures from that ancient city.

Ur was located near the Persian gulf between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers precisely where our forces are now ending the war against Iraq. Therefore the Muslim claim that Abraham was an Arab and a Muslim. They give no explanation of how that is possible, since there were no Arabs in existence in Abraham’s day and Islam was not founded by the prophet Mohammed until the 7th century.

Now we like to say that Abraham was the first Jew. This is true with respect to our religion in that Abraham was the first to understand that there is only one God. However, from a historical perspective, that is not possible, since the word Jew is derived from the word Judah and refers to the descendants of the tribe of Judah who occupied southern Israel until the destruction of Israel by the Romans in 70 and 135 (C.E.). The Romans called all natives of Israel Judeans or Jews. There is one reference to Jews in the Torah. That occurs in 2nd Kings, in which we are told that the kng of Syria “drove the Jews from Eloth.” Other than that the word Jew is never used in Biblical literature. (2nd Kings 16:6).

It is therefore more accurate to speak of Abraham as a Hebrew. That word is derived from the Hebrew word aphar, which means to cross over or to ford. Since Abraham and family forded the Euphrates river to get to the land God would show him, he was called Ivri in Hebrew. Hebrew is the English corruption of Ivri.

Chaldea was located in present day Southern Iraq. The Chaldeans succeeded in defeating the power of the Assyrians, who had ruled Mesopotamia (Greek = between the rivers) for some time. In fact, the Chaldeans ruled ancient Babylon, another name for present day Iraq, for 125 years, and were followed by the Persians, including the infamous Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE), who brought Israel into Babylonian captivity. Of course you know that our Torah ends with this verse derived from the overthrow of the Babylonian kings by Cyrus of the Medes and the Persians (2 Chronicles XXXVL:23): “Thus said Cyrus, King of Persia. All the kingdoms of the earth has the Lord the God of heaven given me - and he has told me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up (to Jerusalem).” In other words, Cyrus permitted the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, where they built the second Temple, to be destroyed by the Romans in 70.

The language spoken in Chaldea was related to Hebrew or did not differ from Hebrew in the earliest days. Later, the Chaldean language was called Aramaic. Aramaic is still in use. It is so close to Hebrew that some of our prayers, the Kaddish for example, are in Aramaic. The Christian community in Iraq and Lebanon speak Aramaic as well as Arabic. We met some Lebanese Christians in Israel who told us they speak Aramaic and Hebrew and Arabic. Evidently the differences are such that someone speaking one of these languages can easily enough learn the other language as well. In short, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic speakers are all related. Just imagine a world in which our Arab enemies would acknowledge this and seek to live together with the Israelis instead of seeking to slaughter every Jew on earth.

The evidence then is that we Jews are the original Iraqis. We were there before Iraq ever existed, and we were there before the Assyrians and the Babylonians, for we were the original inhabitants of Chaldea. Stick that to the hate mongers at the so-called United Nations, whose crazed hatred of America is only exceeded by their hate of Israel and God.

May they learn the lessons of Torah and experiment with love instead of hate. How much more they would gain for their own sake and for that of all who daily suffer the consequences of Arab cruelty and alienation from God and man.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents:  A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2003).

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