The Chaldeans of Ancient Mesopotamia

The Chaldeans: Welcome to Mesopotamia!

Detail of the standard of Ur showing a Sumerian Harpist and a Ruler, about 2600-2400 BC.
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The Chaldeans were an ethnic group that lived in Mesopotamia in the first millennium B.C. The Chaldean tribes started to migrate - from exactly where scholars aren't sure - into the south of Mesopotamia in the ninth century B.C. At this time, they began to take over the areas around Babylon, notes scholar Marc van de Mieroop in his A History of the Ancient Near East, along with another people called the Arameans.

They were divided into three main tribes, the Bit-Dakkuri, the Bit-Amukani, and the Bit-Jakin, against whom the Assyrians waged war in the ninth century B.C.

The Chaldeans in the Bible

But perhaps the Chaldeans are best known from the Bible. There, they are associated with the city of Ur and the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who was born in Ur. When Abraham left Ur with his family, the Bible says, "They went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan..." (Genesis 11:31). The Chaldeans pop up in the Bible again and again; for example, they are part of the army Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, uses to surround Jerusalem (2 Kings 25).

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar may have been of partial Chaldean descent himself. Along with several other groups, like the Kassites and Arameans, the Chaldeans kicked off a dynasty that would create the Neo-Babylonian Empire; it ruled Babylonia from about 625 B.C.

until 538 B.C., when the Persian King Cyrus the Great invaded.

Sources:

"Chaldean" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000, and "Chaldeans" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2008.

"Arabs" in Babylonia in the 8th Century B. C.," by I. Ephʿal. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar. 1974), pp. 108-115.