Ur of the Chaldees in the Old Testament
For more than 2,000 years efforts have been made to identify the site of this city, often associated with Abraham in the Bible. The writers of the Septuagint, either being unfamiliar with the site, or not considering it a city, wrote Grk: chora, "land," instead of Ur. Eupolemus, who lived about 150 BC, spoke of it as being a city of Babylonia called Camarina, which he said was called by some Ouria. Stephen (Acts 7:2,4) regarded the place as being in Mesopotamia. The Talmud, however, as well as some later Arabic writers, regarded Erech (the Septuagint Grk: Orek) as the city.
The cuneiform writing of this city, Urnki, would seem to support this view, but Erech is mentioned in Genesis. Ammianus Marcellinus identified the city with the castle of Ur in the desert between Hatra and Nisibis, but this was only founded in the time of the Persians. Owing to its nearness to Haran, and because Stephen placed it in Mesopotamia, Urfa or Oorfa, named Edessa by the Greeks, has also in modern times been identified as the city. But Seleucus is credited with having built this city.
The most generally-accepted theory at the present time is that Ur is to be identified with the modern Mugheir (or Mughayyar, "the pitchy") in Southern Babylonia, called Urumma, or Urima, and later Uru in the inscriptions. This borders on the district which in the 1st millennium BC was called Chaldea (Heb: Kaldu).
This, some hold, accords with the view of Eupolemus, because Camarina may be from the Arabic name of the moon Heb: qamar, which refers perhaps to the fact that the ancient city was dedicated to the worship of the moon-god. Another argument which has been advanced for this identification is that Haran, the city to which Terah migrated, was also a center of moon-god worship.
This, however, is precarious, because Urumma or Urima in Abraham's day was a Sumerian center, and the seat of Nannar-worship, whereas Haran was Semitic, and was dedicated to Sin. Although these two deities in later centuries were identified with each other, still the argument seems to have little weight, as other deities were also prominently worshipped in those cities, particularly Haran, which fact reminds us also that the Talmud says Terah worshipped no less than 12 deities.
It should be stated that there are scholars who hold, with the Septuagint, that Ur means, not a city, but perhaps a land in which the patriarch pastured his flocks, as for instance, the land of Uri or Ura (Akkad). The designation "of the Chaldeans" was in this case intended to distinguish it from the land where they were not found.
Still another identification is the town Uru (Mar-tu) near Sippar, a place of prominence in the time of Abraham, but which was lost sight of in subsequent periods (compare Amurru, 167). This fact would account for the failure to identify the place in the late pre-Christian centuries, when Urima or Uru still flourished. Western Semites--for the name Abram is not Babylonian--lived in this city in large numbers in the age when the patriarch lived.
The Babylonian contract literature from this, as well as other sites, is full of names from the western Semitic lands, Aram and Amurru. This fact makes it reasonable that the site should be found in Babylonia; but, as stated, although the arguments are by no means weighty, more scholars at the present favor Mugheir than any other site.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).