Aram-Naharaim (Aramaic: ארם נהריים) is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni. In Genesis, it is used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah's family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan. Paddan Aram refers to the part of Aram-Naharaim along the upper Euphrates, while Haran is mainly identified with the ancient Assyrian city of Harran on the Balikh River. According to one rabbinical Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) was also situated in Aram-Naharaim.
Location and etymology
Both Josephus and the Septuagint translate the name as Mesopotamia. Ancient writers later used the name "Mesopotamia" for all of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. However the usage of the Hebrew name "Aram-Naharaim" does not match this later usage of "Mesopotamia", the Hebrew term referring to a northern region within Mesopotamia. The Book of Jubilees 9:5 places Aram's portion between the Tigris and Euphrates, and lying north of the Chaldeans, who are south of the Euphrates:
And for Aram there came forth the fourth portion, all the land of Mesopotamia [Naharaim] between the Tigris and the Euphrates to the north of the Chaldees to the border of the mountains of Asshur and the land of 'Arara.
The translation of the name as "Mesopotamia" was not consistent - the Septuagint also uses a more precise translation "Mesopotamia of Syria" as well as "Rivers of Syria". Josephus refers to the subjects of Chushan, king of Aram Naharaim, as Assyrians.
In Hebrew, Ashur denotes the region of Assyria proper on the Tigris, and is listed as distinct from Aram Naharaim in Jubilees. Aram Naharaim lay west of Ashur, as it contained Haran. Haran lies on the west bank of the Balikh, east of the Upper Euphrates. The traditional Jewish location of Ur Kasdim (at Edessa) and the Balikh itself lie west of the Khabur, and the latter may have been considered one of the "two rivers" delineating this Aramaean homeland, the other being the Euphrates. Jubilees, however, clearly associates the city of Ur Kesed (Ur Kasdim, "Ur of the Chaldees") not with the descendants of Aram who received Aram Naharaim as an inheritance, but rather with those of Arpachshad, his brother, who was Abram's ancestor.
- Ramban on Lech Lecha Archived 2006-08-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- Judges 3:8
- Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 3:2