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Great Discoveries of the Bible

— A Landmarks of Faith Seminar —

Great Discoveries Seminar

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Booklet  See notes below.

Portions of this lecture are also available as videos with powerpoint:
Lecture 2b Video: Abraham, Gen. 12:1-3 (Hosted by YouTube: English and Chinese)
Lecture 2c Video: Abraham, Gen. 12:4-14:12 (Hosted by YouTube: English and Chinese)

Lecture #2a:

Or click here for more listening options at Internet Archive.

Great Discoveries of the Bible Lecture #2b ⇨
⇦ Great Discoveries of the Bible Lecture #1b


Lecture #2a Notes


Rom. 4:16: ...those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... Also Rom. 4:12.

Ebla:  Ancient city in northern Syria (Tell Mardikh). An archive of 17,000 clay tablets was discovered (in the 1970’s).

Map of Mesopotamia

Cuneiform script: A type of writing, invented by the Sumerians, in which little wedge-shaped impressions are pressed into clay.

 CHRONOLOGY OF THE BIBLE  (opens in a new window)

Dolmens in the Golan Heights
Dolmens in the Golan Heights

Intermediate Bronze Age: A turbulent 200 year period between the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. Strange stone burials appear in the Golan Heights.


Gen. 11:28: Ur of the Chaldeans

Sir Leonard Woolley: Excavated Ur (Tell el-Muqayyar) from 1922-1934.

Gilgamesh epic: The story of Gilgamesh, king of the Sumerian city of Uruk (the Biblical Erech, Gen. 10:10).

Gen. 11:4: Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower...and let us make a name for ourselves [that is, make ourselves famous] lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth

Suttee: Indian ritual in which a wife is thrown (willingly or unwillingly) into the funeral pyre of her husband and is killed. In ancient times, in many parts of the world, hundreds could be killed at the death of an important leader.

Notes for Video 2b:

Nannar: Sumerian mood god (also known as Sin).

Entu-priestess: A girl of royal descent chosen each year to be the human bride of the moon god.

Josh. 24:2: From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River [the Euphrates], namely Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.


Gen. 11:31-32: And Terah took Abram his son...and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans...and they went as far as Haran, and lived there

Cuneiform Tablet
Cuneiform Tablet

Mari tablets:  Ancient city along the Euphrates in eastern Syria. 20,000 clay tablets discovered (from the 1930’s).

Ancient Assyrian texts mention villages near Haran with the names of Abraham’s relatives: Terah [Til Turahi], the name of Abraham’s father; Nahor [Nahur], the name of Abraham’s grandfather; and Serug [Sarugi], the name of Abraham’s great-grandfather.

Nuzi tablets:  Ancient Hurrian center. More than 4,000 clay tablets were found (1920’s and ’30’s).

Hurrians:  Known in the Bible as the Horites, an important part of the population at Haran. They later ruled the kingdom of Mitanni in the same area.

Hurrian customs mentioned in the Nuzi tablets:

  • 1) Calling your wife a “sister.” Gen. 12:13: Please say you are my sister, so that it will be well with me because of you, and my soul will live on account of you. (Also Gen. 12:11-20; 20:2-18; 26:7-11.)
  • 2) Adopting a servant to be an heir. Gen. 15:2-3: And Abram said, Lord God, what will you give me? For I walk stripped [of children; i.e. childless], and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.
  • 3) A barren wife would provide a slave girl to her husband to bear children. Gen. 16:2-3: And Sarai, the wife of Abram, had not given birth for him. And she had an Egyptian slave girl, and her name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ...Please go to my slave-girl. Perhaps I will be established [as a mother; i.e. obtain children] through her.
  • 4) Taking an oath by placing your hand under the “thigh,” or literally, under the loins of the other person. Gen. 24:2-3: And Abraham said to his servant...Please place your hand under my loins, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth... (Also Gen. 24:9; 47:29.)  Gen. 46:26: All the souls belonging to Jacob that went to Egypt, those that came out of his loins, aside from the wives of the sons of Jacob, all the souls were sixty-six. (Also Exo. 1:5.)
  • 5) The one who held the teraphim (household idols) was the head of the family. Though usually passed down to the oldest son, they could also be given to a son-in-law, making him the head of the family. Gen. 31:19: And Rachel stole the household idols [teraphim] that belonged to her father

household idol
Household idol (teraphim)


Gen. 12:1: And the Lord [Yhwh] said to Abram...

Yahweh:  Possible pronunciation of the four-letter name of God (in Hebrew; Yhwh).

Omens:  Unusual occurrence or event taken as a sign from the gods.

Oracles:  A message given by a priest or priestess in the name of a god.

Gen. 17:1: The Lord [Yhwh] revealed himself to Abram...

Exo. 6:3: And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai [the mighty El], and my name Yhwh I did not make known to them

Gen. 14:22: And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand to Yhwh, El Elyon [El most high], owner of the heavens and the earth

Gen. 14:18-19: And Melchizedek, king of Salem...was a priest of El Elyon [El most high]

Amurru: Westerners, called Amorites in the Bible.


Semi-nomadic: In the Middle East, the lifestyle of living in tents that are moved seasonally over a defined territory, usually within tribal boundaries.

Bedouin: (In Arabic, Badawi) Those who live the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the desert.

The tension between nomadic herdsmen, living in the wide open places, and farmers, living in cities, can be seen throughout the Bible. In Genesis, the Bible always comes down on the side of the herdsmen. Cain, the wicked farmer, who built the first city, fought and killed Abel, the righteous shepherd. Babel is a symbol of sin, but Abraham, who leaves the city of Ur, is a symbol of righteousness.


Notes for Video 2c:

Gen. 12:6: And Abram passed through the land as far as the site [maqom] of Shechem, to the terebinth [or oak, elon in Hebrew] of the Teacher

Map of Abraham's Travels

Gen. 21:33: And he [Abraham] planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Eternal El [El Olam]


Gen. 22:2: And he said, Take now your son, your only one, that you have loved, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and make him go up there as a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I will speak of to you.

Gen. 38:21: And he [Judah] asked the men of the place, saying, Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?


Gen. 28:18-22: So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a standing stone [mazzebah] and poured oil on its top...(And said,) And this stone, which I have set up as a standing stone [mazzebah] will be God’s house...

Standing Stones
Standing Stones (Mazzeboth)

Gen. 31:13: I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a standing stone, where you made a vow to me

Ex. 24:4: Then [Moses] arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve standing stones [mazzeboth] for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Deut. 32:18: You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth

Psa. 18:2: The Lord is my rock; Psa. 18:46: The Lord lives; and blessed be my rock; Psa. 28:1: Unto you will I cry, Lord my rock; Psa. 42:9: I will say to God my rock

Exo. 23:24: You will not worship their gods, nor serve them...but you will utterly overthrow them, and break their standing stones [mazzeboth] in pieces

Stone Altar
Stone Altar

Exo. 34:13: You are to tear down their altars and smash their standing stones

Lev. 26:1: You will not make for yourselves idols, nor will you set up for yourselves an image or a standing stone. (As Deut. 16:22).


Gen. 12:7: And Yhwh revealed himself to Abram and said, To your seed I will give this land. So he built an altar there to Yhwh who had appeared to him

Whole burnt offering: A sacrifice in which the meat from the entire animal was left on the fire until it was completely burned up. In Hebrew, called a going up.

Gen. 8:20: Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and made them go up as a whole burnt offering on the altar

Bedouin Tent
Bedouin Tent

Job 1:5: Job...rose early in the morning and made [burnt offerings] to go up (Also in Job 42:8.)


Gen. 13:3: And he went on his journeys [literally, pulling up of stakes over and over]...

Matt. 5:44: But I say to you, love your enemies...

Copyright © 2015, 2019, 2021 by Jeffrey J. Harrison.
Many of the Scripture verses quoted have been translated or modified by the author to bring out details of the original Greek or Hebrew text. Otherwise: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright the Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.
Unattributed photos are by the author. All rights reserved.