Ur of the Chaldees (or Chaldeans) was a place in Mesopotamia and is mentioned four times in the Old Testament:
Genesis 11:28 says that Haran (Abram’s brother and Lot’s father) died in Ur of the Chaldees, “the land of his birth.”
Genesis 11:31 says that Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and moved to Canaan. Chapter 12 goes on to explain that this move was the result of God’s call to Abram to leave his home and move to a new land that God would one day give to his descendants.
In Genesis 15:7, God identifies Himself to Abram: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
In Nehemiah 9 the Israelites confess their sins and recount the history of Israel: “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham” (verse 7).
Ur may have been a city, and there have been many sites suggested as the location of Ur, but no theory is definitive. The site that is most commonly suggested is a city on the Euphrates River, about 150 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf.
The Septuagint (an Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) simply calls Ur of the Chaldees the “land of the Chaldees,” and in the New Testament Stephen, reviewing the history of Israel, says that Abraham came out of “land of the Chaldeans” (Acts 7:4).
Many scholars believe that Ur is not the name of a city but simply a word that means “land.” If this is the case, then Ur of the Chaldees is simply the land of the Chaldees. Chaldea was in the area known as the Fertile Crescent. Depending upon the time period, the territory of the Chaldeans varied, but it would have included the lower part of the Fertile Crescent, extending from the upper edge of the Persian Gulf northwest to the area of the city of Babylon. The Chaldeans ruled Babylon for a while. The exact boundaries of their territory are not clear.
The point of the story is that God called Abram out of an area of civilization and prosperity. Ur of the Chaldees, the place where he lived, would have had ample water and land for pasturing and would have been active with commerce. It was “the place” to be. God called him away from that to a place that was unknown to him. Abram would probably have had a hard time imagining any place better than the place where he already was. But Abram believed the promises of God, and God credited that faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). History has been filled with pioneers who have left civilization to seek a better life, but usually these people have been in dire straits, desperate for something better. They left a bad situation knowing that, even though there would be dangers and hardships, they could have something better in the end. Abram’s situation seems to have been the opposite. He lived in a prosperous civilization among his family, who appears to have been wealthy. He walked away from it all, simply trusting that God was going to give him something better, even though he would be a stranger in a strange land and would not see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his lifetime.
Many Christians face the same issue. Those living in ease and luxury can too easily focus on the here and now, forgetting that God has called them, like Abram and his children, to look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).