HARAN (Harran) (Heb. חָרָן; Akk. Harrāni (m), "caravan station").
Name and Location
Haran is located some 10 miles north of the Syrian border, at the confluence of the wadis which in winter join the Balikh River just below its source. It is strategically located about halfway between Guzana (Gozan) and Carchemish on the east-west road which links the Tigris and the Mediterranean, at the very point where the north-south route along the Balikh links the Euphrates to Anatolia. It is thus the traditional crossroads of the major routes from Mesopotamia to the west and the northwest (cf. Ezek. 27:23), and its very name in Akkadian (and Sumerian) implies as much. The biblical name Paddan-aram (Gen. 25:20 et al.), "the Aramean highway," seems to identify the same site by a synonym reflecting its later role as a center of Aramean settlement.
In the "Patriarchal Age"
Written sources first mention Haran in an Old Babylonian itinerary as an important crossroads and in a letter addressed to Yasmah-Addu (= Adad), the Assyrian viceroy at Mari (c. 1790 b.c.e.). Another letter shows that Haran was an important center of the semi-nomadic "Benjamites." It alerts the king of Mari to the conclusion of a formal alliance between Asdi-takim, who was then king of Haran, and the (other) kings of Zalmaqum on the one hand, and the sheikhs and elders of the "Benjamites" on the other hand. This alliance was concluded in the temple of the moon-god Sin at Haran. The land of Zalmaqum was the object of an extended campaign by Šamši-Addu (= Shamshi-Adad) i of Assyria (c. 1815–1782 b.c.e.) and probably became subject to him together with Haran. With his death, however, the Old Assyrian Empire broke up and Haran was thus, apparently, an independent principality at the very time when, presumably, the biblical traditions reflect the sojourn of the Terahides in the area (Gen. 11:25). The migration of the Terahides parallels what appears to have been the movement of the moon cult from Ur to Haran, and the personal names of the Terahides reflect the geographical names of the Haran area. Specifically Serug, the grandfather of Terah, may be compared with the town of Sarugi (modern Seruj), some 35 miles west of Haran, and Nahor, his father (and second son) with the town of Nahur, probably located on the Upper Habor River due east of Haran. Terah's own name has been identified with Til (-sha)-Turahi on the Balikh south of Haran and his third son, Haran, recalls the name of the town, although the two names are spelled differently in Hebrew. At all events, the Mari letters document a political, social, and economic state of affairs in the latitude of Haran which makes entirely plausible the settlement there of at least five generations of pastoral Terahides. Albright has further suggested that they took advantage of the strategic position of Haran to engage in a far-flung trade, based on donkey caravans, in conjunction with Abraham and Lot, the son of his brother Nahor, who, he suggests, journeyed onward to Damascus, Canaan, and Sinai.
In the Late Second Millennium
Haran is not mentioned in the cuneiform sources of the Mitannian period. However, it probably belonged to that Hurrian state and was captured by the Hittites along with other Mitannian centers when it is first heard of again in the 15th century. Matiwaza, son-in-law of Shuppiluliuma, conquered the legitimate Mitannian ruler, Shuttarna iii, with the help of Shuppiluliuma's son Piyashilli of Carchemish and presently had to cede Haran and his other conquests west of the Habor River to the latter. The first mention of Haran in Middle Assyrian documents occurs under Adad-Nirari i (c. 1304–1273 b.c.e.), who briefly conquered the Hittite vassal states as far as the Euphrates. His son Shalmaneser i (c. 1272–1243 b.c.e.) repeated these feats, as did his grandson Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1242–1206 b.c.e.), but in the 12th century newly entrenched waves of Aramean settlers began to make the region their own and the invasions of the Sea Peoples (c. 1200 b.c.e.) upset all of the traditional balance of power in the Near East. By the end of the 12th century, Haran was a center of Aramean settlement ruled by pretended or actual successors of the early Hittite royal houses. Hence the biblical names of this region, Aram Naharaim and Paddan-aram.
As Assyrian Crownland
While it is uncertain precisely when Haran passed under direct Assyrian rule, it is clear that it was one of the first of the more distant provinces to do so, for it always enjoyed a special status within the empire; was loyal to the king when other provinces revolted; never the object of a recorded Assyrian campaign in the first millennium; and even harbored the last Assyrian defenders when the cities of Assyria proper had already collapsed. In the years 615–12 b.c.e., the last king of Assyria, Ashur-uballit ii, made a final desperate attempt at Haran to save the empire, and it was not until he fled Haran in 609 b.c.e. that the fate of Assyria was finally sealed. In the Neo-Babylonian period Haran was one of the centers of Nabonidus' religious-political activity.
Haran is identified with Sultan Tepe. An important library from the Babylonian period has been uncovered nearby.
chw. Johns, An Assyrian Doomsday Book (1901); W.F. Albright, in: jbl, 43 (1924), 385–93; idem, in: basor, 163 (1961), 36–55; G. Dossin, in: Mélanges Syriens… R. Dussaud (1939); J. Levy, in: huca, 19 (1945–46), 405–89; B. Maisler (Mazar), in: Zion, 11 (1946), 1–16; R.T. O'Callaghan, Aram Naharaim (1948); Seton Lloyd and W. Brice, in: Anatolian Studies, 1 (1951), 77–112; D.S. Rice, ibid., 2 (1952), 36–84; C.J. Gadd, ibid., 8 (1958), 35–92; D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (1961); H. Tadmor, in: Assyriological Studies, 16 (1965), 351–63.
[William W. Hallo]