Much of our journey may be defined by our family. Abraham is no different.
When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
(Genesis 11:26–32 ESV)
The first mention of Abraham is Genesis 11:26 in the account of Terah. As you can see above, Abraham’s name was originally Abram, and this is what he will be called until Genesis 17:5 when the Lord changes his name to Abraham. The same holds for his wife Sarah, whose name before the action of God was Sarai. Until we arrive at Genesis 17, we will follow the example of Scripture and refer to this couple as Abram and Sarai.
So, Daddy Terah has three sons in his advancing years -Abram, Nahor, Haran. Of the three brothers, Nahor and Haran are more important for their progeny than for their actions. Haran has a son, Lot who will tie his cart to Abraham’s horse for a season. Nahor is the grandfather of Rebekah who will later marry Abraham’s son.
On to the more central characters. Abram is married to Sarai. She is his half sister, Terah’s child by another woman, a fact not told to us until it becomes relevant to the narrative in Genesis 20:12. (It is helpful to realize the author of Genesis, the Holy Spirit through the hands of the Moses with perhaps additional redactors, economizes words. Only critical details are given and only when necessary, not before. Details we might wish to know, such as a description of Sarai’s bone structure or the name of the pharaoh so enameled with her, go unmentioned. This is history in the sense that it is His Story with the details the Spirit deems important presented)
Haran’s daughter Milcah also married her uncle Nahor. This raises the “ick” factor today and was later to be outlawed in the law of Moses but was apparently considered kosher at the time. It speaks perhaps of a great desire to keep the family together, a desire that Abraham and Rebecca will exhibit later when looking for spouses for their sons. Even so, following God will often divide families as Abraham will soon learn.
One crucial detail should not be overlooked: Sarai is barren. With that in mind, we have one more introduction: Lot. Son of Abram’s deceased brother, Lot appears to be adopted by his uncle as the potential heir of the childless couple. Sarai and Lot will have their own journey’s of faith along with Abram. Sarai’s will be commendable like Abram, Lot’s less so. Their stories will run in the background of Abram’s, but there are there for us to see and learn from as well. Sarai’s barrenness raises important questions. Will Sarai’s life be productive? Will Lot be Abram’s adopted heir? Will Abram have an heir? Does this family have a future? Does a man in a culture in which family is paramount, have a future if he cannot produce a son? From this perspective, Abram’s future is very much in doubt, and he would have known it.
But Abram is not the leader of the family just yet. That would be Terah. Even such great men as Abraham have a past that is fostered upon them – beliefs, traits, and ideals that are absorbed from the family and leadership of those that had come before. Terah led Abram before God did. Even tough God’s call came to Abram in Ur, the moving van is registered in Terah’s name. We are told that it was their intention to relocate all the way to Canaan, but they stop less than halfway there. Here, Terah is content to stay. Perhaps the call was felt but Terah also, but not as deeply. Nonetheless, God calls to Abram and says “Go.”
More to follow