Thursday, March 7, 2024

Where in the World is Ur of the Chaldees? The Bible Atlas

Big Idea: Use a Bible Atlas to understand better the history and culture of the Bible and the realities people faced then in order to better interpret and apply the Bible today. 

Where in the World is Ur of the Chaldees?

This is not a trivia quiz.

This is not a geography game.

This is about where Abraham of the Bible, the Patriarch, was born.

Now Terah took his son Abram, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they departed together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran and settled there. Genesis 11:31 NASB20

How would you go about finding it? I tried modern day Google Maps. It says Ur of the Chaldees is “permanently closed.” It is a historic site in modern day Iraq.

To learn about Abraham, it is seriously helpful to find where he came from, moved and traveled to. He got around!

God kept prodding him till He got Abraham to the land destined for him and his descendents. You will find all this in a Bible Atlas!

Why consult a Bible Atlas?

My Holman Bible Atlas

1. See real people in real places

The Bible is not a made up book. It is the story of God revealing Himself to real people in ancient times.

They lived in real places that you can find today on the map. Looking at the topography, their travel on foot or by ship or their life in arid desert tells us a lot about their life.

2. Understand the geographic challenges

a. Getting the layout for battles and war; the Exodus and Exile

b. Seeing the distance people travelled or the proximity to a neighboring town or country.

c. The arid lands show survival in a desert and the importance of wells. The voyages of Paul by ship and shipwreck help us understand his commitment to the gospel.

TOC from my Holman Atlas

3. Gain Historical and Cultural Context

The Bible covers about 1500 years of history.

You can observe how lands and borders change over time. You can see both the allies and enemies of Israel and world powers that had an effect on their land.

An atlas often has a section on people in a given place such as the Egyptians in the time of the Exodus and the Romans in Jesus’ time.

Many atlases provide timelines and charts.

Highly recommended Bible Atlases

I recently bought John Beck’s book, The Basic Bible Atlas. He’s a professor at Trinity who has led many trips to Israel and taught about the land. He calls himself a Bible Geographer!This book is so much more than maps. He tells the story of the Bible from a geography point of view. It is compelling.

The Basic Bible Atlas      Amazon Currently $16.99     CBD Currently $12.99

Free Bible Atlases online

Bible Atlas (from Bible Hub)

The Rand McNally Bible Atlas, by Jesse Lyman Hurburt 1928 (From Gutenberg Press) Though printed almost 100 years ago it remains an excellent source of information. And it is free! Use online or download.

Your Study Bible

Many study Bibles have maps throughout the Bible. After the table of content, there is often a list of maps by page or link. Also the online study Bible at Logos and Logos free basic platform includes maps, images and timelines.

Secular world atlas and online maps

These secular tools can also be helpful to you. Geography does not change a lot over the centuries.

I have used Google Maps to map out the distance to walk from one place to another, such as Nazarath to Jerusalem Temple Mount, which is what Mary and Joseph did when Jesus was 12.

Understanding Biblical context is key to interpretation and application

It is helpful to picture God’s people in the Bible in their non-western world. It is important to see how they coped and how God helped them as father, mother, leader and outcast.

We must realize that God spoke in another culture and setting. But God does not change and His love and His mission does not change.

So understanding the context then and applying the timeless truth to our life is an important Biblical skill.

The Word of God always comes first!

There are many great Bible tools around! Just be sure studying them does not replace the primary importance of the Bible! The Word of God always comes first!

This series is about Bible study tools. There are many types of Bibles and helpful resources like a concordance or Bible dictionary. Information about their book and their electronic version are included. Cost and “how to use” will be addressed.


Previous: My Favorite Bible Tools Come From Rose Publishing
Up next: How can a Bible Concordance Help Me?


1. Look at this map of the second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. Compare it to the Google map of today. Think about what it must have been like to cross the waters and how long it would have have taken to go from one place to the next in an old boat?

2. What does this tell you about the Apostle Paul and his drive to share about Christ? How does this touch you?

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