27This is the account of Terah.

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.

32Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.
Genesis 11:27-32

In Genesis 11, we have the account of Terah, a key person in Jewish history, although he’s only mentioned in twelve verses, five of which are in Genesis 11. He had three sons, Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran became the father of Lot and then died at a young age. God would later make a tremendous covenant with Abram and rename Abraham.

So we don’t know a lot about Terah. He lived in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans when his sons and grandson Lot were born, but some time after Lot’s father died, Terah packed up the family and set out for Canaan. I’ve often wondered why. What caused him to move? Something motivated Terah to leave Ur. Scripture gives no definitive indication. Three possible sources of motivation come to mind:

  • A desire to remove himself from the wickedness of Ur. It was an exceedingly sinful place. Yet there’s nothing in the text to indicate that Terah was bothered by it.
  • A whispering from the Spirit of God. Scripture says specifically that he left to go to Canaan – perhaps he was sensing a pre-Abrahamic call to the promised land. But Joshua later described Terah as a man who “followed after other gods” and again the narrative doesn’t give us any clues about Terah sensing a call from God.
  • A desire to simply escape the place of his son’s death and move elsewhere. I can’t help but wonder if grief played a part in Terah’s decision to leave. Grief and depression often trigger the escape mechanisms within us. Now to treat the text fairly, we should recognize that it also doesn’t say anything about Terah being overcome with grief.

Terah’s decision to move away from Ur was probably a combination of several motivations, as life decisions frequently are – prompted by things going on around us and God working in us. Which motivation becomes the trigger that thrusts us from our current condition depends greatly on how closely we are walking with the Lord. (I am so glad for Romans 8:28 – He’ll even use the negative to move us toward His plan when we continue to pursue Him.) (See Note1 for another theory on why Terah left Ur.)

I suggest that it may have been grief and depression that triggered Terah’s move because when he reached the halfway point between Ur of the Chaldeans and Cannan he “settled there.” That place was called Haran. I wonder if Terah named the place after his dead son? Perhaps Terah left Ur with the desire to go to a new place of promise, but he somewhere along the way he lost his motivation and settled in a place of mourning his dead son. And there he died himself. (See Note 2 for another theory about why Terah settled in Haran.)

This story suggests a couple of lessons and questions to me:

Lesson 1: Grief (and depression in general) are significant motivation killers. They kill our dreams and ultimately rob us of our lives. When we choose to settle in the place of our loss, depression, sadness or grief, we die there. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a proponent of grieving when grieving is appropriate. (Click here for all of my blogs on grieving. ) Soon I’ll begin a blog about Psalm 84. It will most likely be a series but will specifically address passing through (not dwelling in) the valley of dry places and tears.

Question 1: Have you settled in the place of grief or depression? Don’t do it! Press on by pursuing God despite how you feel. He will respond. Here’s a blog from 2008 titled Recovering from the Circumstances of Life. It provides some practical suggestions to help you move forward.

Lesson 2: Without a clear calling from God, we are simply wandering through life and will settle anywhere…and we will die without fulfilling our life purposes. There is no indication that Terah had that clear calling. Abram, on the other hand, had a clear calling from God, recorded in Genesis 12:1-4. Terah settled in Haran and died there. Abram packed up his family and “they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”

Question 2A: Do you have a clear calling from God? Perhaps it isn’t as “grand” as Abram’s call, but do you have a passion that God has put in your heart to pursue? If not, I strongly encourage you to ask Him for one – a passion or calling for this phase of your life. Do what He’s put in your heart to do, but pray, perhaps even fast, for a great vision or mission. Sometimes our calling doesn’t become clear until other circumstances fall into place. In the meantime, occupy yourself with doing what God has instructed you to do and prepare yourself for what is to come.

Question 2B: Are you pursuing what God has put in your heart to do? If not, rearrange your life and begin to do so. In both the Old Testament and the New, people significantly interrupted the flow of their lives to follow God’s command. You can too! You are never too old or too “settled” to pursue new things in God. Abram was 75 when he left Haran. Noah was nearly 600 years old when he began to build the ark. I was 51 years old when I wrote my first blog.

Don’t settle in Haran! Pursue Canaan…God will surely meet you along the way.


Note1: One commentary suggests it was Abram who prompted the move from Ur because Genesis 12:1 is past tense when it says that God “had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country…’” I don’t see any suggestion in the text that it was anyone but Terah’s idea for the family to pack up and move out of Ur.

Note 2: Some commentaries suggest that Terah was old and in ill health by the time he reached Haran and could not continue. Although they have undoubtedly done more research than me, simple math convinces me otherwise. The details are below, but my calculations conclude that Terah would have lived at least 40 years after leaving Ur of the Chaldeans and it would be unusual for him to be in ill health for many years before dying. That means he would not have settled in Haran because he was too ill to continue to Canaan.

Simple math – ignore this paragraph if you don’t care about the aging details! Terah was about seventy when his first son was born, but it’s likely that he was 130 – 135 years old when Abram was born. (Because Abram was 75 years old when he left for Canaan which was some time (presumably not a lot of time) after Terah’s death at the age of 205 (205 – 75 = 130). Add 20-35 years to allow time for Abram to grow and take a wife, and I would estimate Terah at somewhere between 150 and 165 years old. He lived at least another 40 years (perhaps as much as 55) and it would be unusual for him to be in ill health for many years before dying.

6 Responses to “Terah Settles in Haran – Will You?”
  1. Sharon says:

    A family tree with time lines would make it easier to figure out approximate ages. Terah died at a relatively young age.

  2. Sandy says:

    I looked around the net a bit. Here’s a good family tree site:
    http://www.biblealive.org/Bible_Family_Trees.htm – select “Shem to Abraham” (notice that the years are from the creation of Adam, not the year BC)

    Also – Check out this Bible map that shows the path from Ur to Haran to Canaan.
    You might wonder why didn’t Terah didn’t take a straight route from Ur to Canaan – that would be through the desert and mean sure death. Instead, the followed what is called the “fertile crescent” – a path that allowed them to skirt the desert with plenty of water/vegetation.

  3. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the sites it really helps a lot. I never realized how far apart the different places were but traveling the “road” they did must have taken months to years. I can not imagine them traveling more than 15-20 miles per day, having to stop to make food and camp for they entire group plus keep track of all your animals. It sounds like a lot of work.

  4. Sandy says:

    I totally agree…I’m afraid I wouldn’t make a very good “wanderer.” As much as I enjoy traveling, I really like having a stationary home base.

  5. Ryan M. says:

    According to Gen. 11:32, Terah lived 205 years. Weren’t the years of a man limited to much less than that at Gen 6:3?

  6. Sandy says:

    Thanks for the comment/question, Ryan. I’ve read your referenced verse in several translations, and find that there are a couple of ways that verse might be translated. Was it really a “limit” that God was putting the years of man, or was He saying something along the lines of “(despite their sinfulness), I (God) will graciously give them 120 years to repent”? As one of “them,” I’m thankful that God is a patient God and doesn’t choose to punish us the moment we step out of line. Rather, He is merciful, giving us abundant time to repent.

    The passage you refer to relates to sinful men. Immediately following that passage we have the story of Noah who was a “righteous man” and was 600 years old when God told him to build an ark. Perhaps, when taken in the fuller context, we see that God was making a statement about the number of years of a man’s life as it relates to their faithfulness to God. I don’t know and don’t find it an important issue to pursue.

    I’ve found that focusing on the whole message of the Bible rather than minutia that has little impact on one’s life is most helpful for those sincerely desiring to know God. When we pursue God with a heart to know Him, He responds and we understand things we previously could not. Then, He either gives us answers to those minutia questions (because He is gracious and loves for us to know Him more) or He allows us to accept that the minutia is either (1) unimportant in our life or (2) an area in which we must exercise faith until He provides the answer. For me, this passage falls into the “unimportant in my life” category. For others, it may not, and that’s OK. He’s created each of us with different purposes and passions.

    Your question prompts me to ask, though: Are you sincere in your pursuit of God, Ryan, or simply wanting to distract those who are sincerely pursuing God? I’ve been both places. I’ve found that sincerely pursuing God brings life. Arguing with others about minutia of their faith did not. I pray that you are sincere and hope my discussion has been helpful.

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