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Haran (city)

The city where Terah settled on his departure from Ur (Ge 11:31 f); whence Abram set out on his pilgrimage of faith to Canaan (Ge 12:1 ). It was probably "the city of Nahor" to which Abraham’s servant came to find a wife for Isaac (Ge 24:10 ). Hither came Jacob when he fled from Esau’s anger (Ge 27:43). Here he met his bride (Ge 29:4), and in the neighboring pastures he tended the flocks of Laban. It is one of the cities named by Rabshakeh as destroyed by the king of Assyria (2Ki 19:12; Isa 37:12). Ezekiel speaks of the merchants of Haran as trading with Tyre (27:23).

The name appears in Assyro-Babalonian as Charran, which means "road"; possibly because here the trade route from Damascus joined that from Nineveh to Carchemish. It is mentioned in the prism inscription of Tiglath-pileser I. It was a seat of the worship of Sin, the moon-god, from very ancient times. A temple was built by Shalmaneser II. Haran seems to have shared in the rebellion of Assur (763 BC, the year of the solar eclipse, June 15). The privileges then lost were restored by Sargon II. The temple, which had been destroyed, was rebuilt by Ashurbanipal, who was here crowned with the crown of Sin. Haran and the temple suffered much damage in the invasion of the Umman-Manda (the Medes). Nabuna`id restored temple and city, adorning them on a lavish scale. Near Haran the Parthians defeated and slew Crassus (53 BC), and here Caracalla was assassinated (217 AD). In the 4th century it was the seat of a bishopric; but the cult of the moon persisted far into the Christian centuries. The chief temple was the scene of heathen worship until the 11th century, and was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th.

The ancient city is represented by the modern Charran to the Southeast of Edessa, on the river Belias, an affluent of the Euphrates. The ruins lie on both sides of the stream, and include those of a very ancient castle, built of great basaltic blocks, with square columns, 8 ft. thick, which support an arched roof some 30 ft. in height. Remains of the old cathedral are also conspicuous. No inscriptions have yet been found here, but a fragment of an Assyrian lion has been uncovered. A well nearby is identified as that where Eliezer met Rebekah.

In Ac 7:2,4, the King James Version gives the name as Charran.

Additional Material

HARAN (place) hâr’ ən (חָרָ֖ן; Χαρράν, G5924); KJV NT CHARRAN, kâr’on. A city of Mesopotamia situated c. twenty m. SE of Urfa (Edessa) on the river Balikh, a tributary of the Euphrates. It was an important commercial center because of its location on one of the main trade routes between Babylonia and the Mediterranean.

Excavations show that Haran flourished from at least the 3rd millennium b.c. It was conquered by Shalmaneser I in the 13th cent. b.c., and is mentioned by Tiglath-pileser I (c. 1115 b.c.) in a prism inscr. For a long time it was an Assyrian provincial capital, but was destroyed because of a rebellion in 763 b.c., an event apparently referred to in 2 Kings 19:12. It was restored by Sargon II. The last king of Assyria, Ashur-urballit, made Haran his capital in 612 b.c., after the destruction of Nineveh by the Babylonians, but he was forced to abandon the city in 610 b.c.

In ancient times, and until about the 11th cent. a.d., Haran was the center of successive forms of the worship of Sin, the moon-god. It was successively ruled by Zoroastrians, Nestorian Christians, Moslems, and Crusaders.

Haran has been continuously occupied and has retained its name (Harran) from its recorded beginnings until the present day, although now a small Arab village. Excavations begun in 1951 by the joint Anglo-Turkish Expedition have recovered remains going back to the 9th cent. b.c.


W. F. Albright, “The Role of the Postdiluvian Patriarchs in Hebrew History,” JBL, XLIII (1924), 385-393; S. Lloyd and W. Brice, “Harran,” Anatolian Studies, I (1951), 77-111.