Ancient Babylonia was occupied largely by people belonging to two racial groups, the Sumerians and the Amorites. In addition smaller tribal groups were scattered throughout the region. The most important of the smaller groups were the Chaldeans, who lived in the south of Babylon around the lower reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. In the time before Abraham, the Babylonian rulers were mainly of Sumerian descent and their capital was the Chaldean city of Ur, from which Abraham originally came (Gen 11:28; Acts 7:4). About 2000 BC Babylonians of Amorite descent overthrew the dynasty in Ur and established a new capital at the city of Babylon. (For a map of the region and further details of Babylon’s history see BABYLON.)

Many centuries later, during the period covered by the biblical books of Kings, a Babylonian of Chaldean descent seized the throne in Babylon (about 720 BC). Chaldeans continued to rule till Babylon was overthrown by Persia in 539 BC. As a result of this Chaldean domination, the practice arose of using ‘Chaldea’ as a name for the land of Babylon as a whole, and ‘Chaldeans’ as a name for Babylonians in general (Isa 13:19; 47:1; 48:14,20; Jer 25:12; Dan 5:30; 9:1). The word ‘Chaldeans’ had also a more technical meaning, which had passed down from ancient times when certain Chaldeans became famous as astrologers, priests and wise men. This is the sense in which the Bible uses the name in the expression ‘magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans and astrologers’ (Dan 4:7; 5:7,11).

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