The photo captures an ancient scroll, displaying the name "Terah" in Hebrew script, surrounded by artifacts and books referencing biblical history, symbolizing the search for Terah's significance in the Bible.

Who Is Terah In The Bible?

In the Book of Genesis, Terah is an important biblical figure and the father of Abraham. If you’re looking for a quick answer, Terah was the son of Nahor and the father of Abraham, who God later chose to make a great nation under a covenant.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of Terah’s life, ancestry, family, and legacy in over 3000 words.

We will explore questions like where did Terah live, what do we know about his life from scripture, what was his relationship with Abraham, did he worship other gods, and why is the story of Terah significant for understanding God’s greater plan in the Old Testament.

Introducing Terah: His Family and Homeland

Terah’s Immediate Family and Ancestry

Terah was the son of Nahor and grandson of Serug, descendants in the line of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons who repopulated the earth after the Great Flood (Genesis 11:22-26). Terah had three sons: Abram (later called Abraham), Nahor, and Haran (Genesis 11:26).

One of Terah’s descendants would be chosen by God for a special covenant and purpose.

Terah’s son Haran died early on, but not before fathering a son named Lot (Genesis 11:27-28). After Haran’s death, Terah took Haran’s son Lot under his care, so Lot and Abram grew up together like brothers. Terah also had daughters, though none are named specifically.

One daughter married her own brother Nahor (Genesis 11:29). So Terah’s family included his sons Abram, Nahor, Haran, his grandson Lot, and at least one daughter who married Nahor.

Terah’s Home City of Ur of the Chaldeans

The biblical account identifies Terah’s family as originating from “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Genesis 11:28), an important Mesopotamian city in what is now modern-day Iraq. Ur was a thriving urban center, as excavations have revealed highly advanced construction techniques, spacious houses, and evidence of booming commerce and trade.

Estimated population of Ur c. 2000 BC 65,000 inhabitants
Prime location On the Euphrates River for transport of goods

As a business center, Ur connected major trade routes ranging far north into Anatolia and Iran and as far south as the Persian Gulf. Terah’s relocation from Ur later in life must have been difficult, as Ur was truly the pinnacle of sophisticated city-living at that time.

Terah’s Life and Journey to Canaan

Terah’s Age and Timeline

Terah was an important biblical figure as the father of Abraham. According to Genesis 11:26, Terah lived for 205 years. He was 70 years old when he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. This means that Terah was born in the year 1878 B.C. based on biblical chronology and lived until 1633 B.C.

Some key events in Terah’s life include:

  • 1878 B.C. – Terah born
  • 1808 B.C. – Terah fathers Abram, Nahor, and Haran at age 70
  • 1758 B.C. – Nahor fathers Terah’s grandson Uz at age 29
  • 1728 B.C. – Haran dies in Ur at age 40
  • 1723 B.C. – Abram marries Sarai at age 75
  • 1716 B.C. – Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot leave Ur for Canaan at Terah’s age 130
  • 1633 B.C. – Terah dies in Haran at age 205

So Terah lived through most of his adult life in the city of Ur before leaving for Canaan in his elderly years. The Bible highlights his old age at the time of departure from Ur.

The Journey from Ur to Haran and Canaan

According to Genesis 11:31, Terah set out from Ur of the Chaldeans with his son Abram, daughter-in-law Sarai, and grandson Lot. They journeyed to go to the land of Canaan but settled in the city of Haran along the way. Some key points about Terah’s journey:

  • God had called Abram to leave his country and kindred to go to the promised land of Canaan (Gen 12:1). Terah may have decided to accompany Abram’s family, possibly to help guide them on the journey.
  • The route from Ur to Haran was about 600 miles along the Euphrates River valley. The total journey to Canaan was over 1,000 miles. This was a major undertaking for a family group migrating on foot.
  • Terah was already old when they left Ur. Perhaps his vitality gave out mid-journey, influencing the decision to settle in Haran instead of completing the trek to Canaan.
  • After Terah died in Haran, Abram completed the journey to Canaan at God’s renewed call at age 75 (Gen 12:4). Terah’s death freed Abram to fully obey God’s directive.

Terah and Abraham’s Relationship

Abraham Leaves His Father in Haran

According to the Bible, Abraham was originally named Abram. He grew up in the city of Ur with his father Terah. When Abraham was around 75 years old, God called him to leave his homeland and his father’s household and go to the land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1).

Abraham obeyed God’s call, taking his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot with him, and left the city of Ur.

They traveled as far as the city of Haran, where they settled for a time. Terah also left Ur and traveled to Haran with Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Some time later, after Terah died in Haran at the age of 205, God again spoke to Abraham and called him to continue his journey to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4-5).

This time, Abraham left his father Terah behind and completed his journey, settling in the land of Canaan.

So while Abraham and Terah originally left Ur together, Abraham ultimately left his father in Haran to complete the journey that God had called him to. Though they traveled together part of the way, Terah did not share in Abraham’s faith or the promises that God had made to him.

Contrasting the Faith of Abraham and Terah

Abraham is held up in the Bible as a prime example of faith. Despite not knowing where he was going, Abraham trusted God and obeyed his call (Hebrews 11:8). Terah, on the other hand, began the journey with Abraham but settled in Haran instead of completing the journey to Canaan.

There could be several reasons for this contrast:

  • Abraham had a direct revelation and calling from God, which empowered his faith to leave his homeland. Terah did not have this personal encounter with God.
  • Abraham was promised blessings and offspring and a land of his own by God. Terah likely did not stand to gain as much personally from going all the way to Canaan.
  • Terah, as an old man, may have simply been less willing to take on the hardship of completing the long journey all the way to an unknown destination.

So while Terah headed in the right direction by leaving Ur, only Abraham had the full vision and faith to follow through and reach God’s intended Promised Land for him. Terah’s journeying ended halfway, while Abraham became the father of God’s chosen nation through his legacy of faith.

The Significance of Terah in God’s Covenant

God’s Promise to Make Abraham a Great Nation

Terah was the father of Abraham, the patriarch of the Israelites. God chose Abraham to be the father of His chosen people and promised to make Abraham a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). This was a significant turning point in salvation history, as God established His covenant with Abraham.

Even though Abraham was originally from Ur of the Chaldees, it was when he was living in Haran with his father Terah that God called him to go to the land of Canaan and begin the formation of the nation of Israel.

Although Terah did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, his place in the genealogy leading up to Abraham is important. Terah connects Abraham back to Shem, linking him to the blessed line of Noah’s eldest son.

Terah’s decision to leave Ur of the Chaldees with Abraham prevented Abraham from being too entrenched in the pagan culture there. Though Terah did settle in Haran rather than completing the journey to Canaan, his move still facilitated the call and covenant that God would make with Abraham.

So while Terah is not mentioned often, he did play a background role in putting the pieces in place for the growth of God’s chosen nation.

Terah’s Place in Salvation History

Terah lived in the generations after the Flood during the initial stages of repopulating the earth. He descended from Shem and, based on lifespans recorded in Genesis 11, was likely alive during part of Shem’s lifetime.

Though little is known about Terah’s spiritual outlook, his very existence connects the redemptive family line from Noah to Abraham. God would work through Abraham’s descendants the Israelites to prepare humanity’s way for the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

Terah left Ur but settled in Haran instead of completing the journey to Canaan. Still, this move did facilitate God’s subsequent call on Abraham’s life. Some Jewish traditions suggest Terah was himself called to go to Canaan but only made it partway due to difficulties like famine or sickness.

Though this is not recorded in Scripture, it would align with God’s pattern of working through imperfect people throughout history. Just as God used Abraham despite his times of unbelief, He may have used Terah’s partial obedience to set the stage for Abraham.

While Terah is not a major figure like Abraham, tracing his place in the generational line reminds us of God’s sovereignty through history. Despite human failings, God works all things for His purposes. He remains faithful to His covenant people.


In exploring the question ‘Who is Terah in the Bible? ‘, we have covered details on his family, life journey, relationship with Abraham, and ultimately his role in setting the stage for God’s covenant with the Jewish people.

While the Bible does not provide full details on Terah’s life and belief, his mention shows he was a critical early piece that allowed God’s plan to develop through his son Abraham, changing the course of human history.

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