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The family of Abraham (Abram) began their migration to Canaan from Ur, the ancient Sumerian city in southern Mesopotamia. Genesis offers few details of either the route or time involved in the journey. Some scholars have connected the patriarchal journeys with the larger movements of peoples between 2000 and 1700 B.C. particularly the Amorite migrations. However, the patriarchs likely were not part of any mass movement of peoples. The Bible depicts smaller units involving families or clans, possibly of Amorite stock, who carried with them herds of goats and sheep with a few cattle (Gen. 13:2–18:7). They lived in tents (Gen. 12:8; 13:18) pitched in regions with adequate water and forage for their animals.
The lifestyle of the patriarchs portrayed in Genesis is essentially pastoral and nomadic. Although they periodically settled in a particular area from time to time, perhaps growing an occasional crop of wheat or barley (Gen. 26:12), the family moved as the change of seasons and the needs of their animals dictated. A similar lifestyle appears in the Mari Texts (1900–1700 B.C.) among tribal peoples, who were essentially nomadic breeders of small cattle. These groups accommodated themselves to certain features of settled life and maintained various types of contacts with villages and towns, yet still maintained tribal and pastoral ways.
By Thomas V. Brisco
Holman Bible Atlas, Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 45.