Bible Personages In Archaeology Serug, Nahor And Terah -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 08:2 (Spring 1995)
Article: Bible Personages In Archaeology Serug, Nahor And Terah
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Bible Personages In Archaeology
Serug, Nahor And Terah

Bryant G. Wood

The names of many rulers and officials are recorded in the Bible. Many of these individuals are known to us through the discoveries of archaeology. In this column, which we hope to continue in future issues of Bible and Spade, we will explore the extra-Biblical evidence for persons named in the Bible. We will begin with Abraham’s ancestors Serug, Nahor and Terah. First, a few general remarks.

In the early periods of Bible history before the Monarchy, there are very few extra-Biblical sources that bear directly on people and events named in the Old Testament. As a result, nearly all the archaeological references to Biblical personages are from the time of the Monarchy in the first millennium BC. One place we might expect to find allusions to early kings named in the Bible is Egypt, whose history is well documented. Abraham went to Egypt to find relief from famine and, while there, came in contact with the pharaoh (Gn 12:10–20). Likewise, the Israelites came in contact with several pharaohs during the period of the Sojourn (Gn 39-Ex 14).

The difficulty here, however, is that the proper names of the pharaohs in question are not stated in the Old Testament. This is in keeping with Egyptian practice. Until the tenth century BC the title “Pharaoh” was used alone without a proper name. From the tenth century on, “Pharaoh” plus a proper name became the convention (Kitchen 1986). This later usage is also properly reflected in the Bible. The names of Shishak (1 Kgs 14:25, ca. 925 BC), So (2 Kgs 17:4, ca. 725 BC), Tirhakah (2 Kgs 19:9, ca. 688 BC), Neco (2 Kgs 23:29, ca. 609 BC) and Hophra (Jer 44:30, ca. 587 BC) are given for the latter period.

There are, however, a number of indirect references to Bible personages before the Monarchy. Let us first consider Abraham’s forbears. In the genealogical list in Genesis 11, three of the names, Serug, Nahor and Terah, survived as names of towns in south-central Turkey near ancient Haran.

The ancient Near East in the times of the Patriarchs.

This was the homeland of the Patriarchs, called Aram Naharaim, “Aram of the two rivers” (Gn 24:10), or Paddan Aram, “plain of Aram” ...

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