A scant 16 km west of Nassiriyah is Ur (a.k.a. Ur Kasdim, Ur of the Chaldees), home to the greatest model of obedience next to Mary: Abraham. You won’t find Ur on any map, what’s left of Ur now are ruins and archaeological excavation sites, incredibly preserved to this day.
If you picture Abraham as a nomad living with his family in a tent on a desert with goats, sheep, and camels – and nobody else around him and his family for miles and miles around—you have the wrong picture.
Abraham came ten generations after Noah, plenty of time for blast-to-the-future type of changes to come about. Not surprisingly, Ur Kasdim in Abraham’s time – estimated to be around 2000 B.C to 1980 B.C. or 4,000 years ago – was a bustling commercial hub of 24,000 to 65,000 people.
Picture narrow streets crammed with craftsmen’s shops selling everything from leather goods to precious trinkets, with the river (a confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) busy with cargo vessels fed by cattle carts and donkey caravans that linked Ur and Mesopotamia with present-day Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
It was here in Ur Kasdim that Abram received his marching orders (more accurately, his walking orders) from God.
Gen 12:1 “The Lord had said to Abram, `Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.'”
How do we know this happened in Ur Kasdim?
Stephen tells us in Acts 7:2-3: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. `Leave your country and your people,’ God said, `and go to the land I will show you.”
Nehemiah confirms this in Neh 9:7: “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans.”
The Lord Himself reminded Abraham later, when he was in Canaan: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it” (Gen. 15:7).
Not as the crow flies (straight line between two points), but as the ass plods along winding roads, a journey from Ur Kasdim to Haran would be about 700 miles (1,126 kms), from Haran to central Canaan, roughly 950 miles (1,528 kms) more, or a total of 2,654 kms, roughly the distance from Manila to Davao and back, on foot!
You can just imagine the logistics that the trip involved. After Ur Kasdim, there’s only one supply point –Haran– and it’s 1,528 kms of no civilization before they reach their destination!
Food they take along in the form of “rolling stock” – goats and sheep; but what about water? How about food and water for their livestock? What about if they had pregnant women, nursing babies, or the elderly, or the infirm with them? What about venomous snakes, scorpions, poisonous lizards and spiders? And, yes, how about bandits and slave traffickers? Other caravans may also be plying the route, but would they be friendly?
The caravan likely included the people above plus retainers (servants, slaves, their families), goods, and animals on a hard trek, probably walking with possessions and provisions loaded on asses, covering perhaps 10- 20 miles for each day on the road. There were no camels then.
One Rabbinic tradition has it that Abram was given a test, in fact, not just one test, but ten, the most popular being the aborted sacrifice of Isaac. One other is his having to circumcise himself with a flint knife at age 99. But the very first one is Gen 12:1: “The Lord had said to Abram, `Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.'”
The Lord “wanted to see” if Abram would obey or not. Like Mary, Abram had the freedom to say “NO,” and for some very good reasons: he was already 75 when he left Haran for the final leg of his journey; he prospered big time in Haran; and, in the language of Protestants, Abram had a thriving ministry in Haran, converting many.
Yet Abram fulfilled his destiny, and completed the delayed journey to Canaan. That’s obedience for you. (firstname.lastname@example.org)