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Title: Terah  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Abraham, Nahor, Haran, Lot (biblical person), Sarah
Collection: Abraham, Noach (Parsha), Torah People
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Illustration of Terah in Latin from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Born before 2000 BC, Ur
Died Haran
Children Abram
Nahor II
Parent(s) Nahor ben Serug
Terah is also a place, Terah (Exodus)

Terah or Térach (Hebrew: תֶּרַח / תָּרַח, Modern Téraḥ / Táraḥ Tiberian Téraḥ / Tāraḥ ; "Ibex, wild goat", or "Wanderer; loiterer") is a biblical figure in the Book of Genesis, son of Nahor, son of Serug and father of the Patriarch Abraham, all descendants of Shem's son Arpachshad. Terah is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible[2] and in the New Testament.[3]


  • Genesis narrative 1
    • Family tree 1.1
  • Jewish tradition 2
    • When Terah begot Abram 2.1
    • Terah's occupation 2.2
    • Leader of the journey 2.3
    • When Abram leaves Haran 2.4
  • Samaritan tradition 3
  • Christian tradition 4
  • Islamic tradition 5
    • Abraham's advice 5.1
    • Wreckage of the idols 5.2
    • Abraham is thrown into the fire 5.3
  • References 6

Genesis narrative

Most of what is told about Terah is recorded in Genesis 11:26–28. Terah's father was Nahor, son of Serug, descendants of Shem.[v.10] They and many of their ancestors were polytheistic.[4] Regarding his children, Terah had three sons: Abram (better known by his later name Abraham), Haran, and Nahor II.[v.26] His daughter Sarai, by a second wife, was also his daughter-in-law, wife of Abram.[5] The entire family, including grandchildren, lived in Ur of the Chaldees.[v.31] One of his grandchildren was Lot, whose father, Haran, had died before the family left Ur.[v.28] Terah's son Abram had an encounter with God, who directed him to take the entire family, leave Ur, and move to the land of Canaan.[6] Terah coordinated the journey, intending to go to this new land, but stopped in the city of Haran[v.31] along the way, where he died at the age of 205.[v.32]

Family tree

Sarah Abraham Hagar Haran
Ishmael Milcah Lot Iscah
Ishmaelites 7 sons[7] Bethuel 1st daughter 2nd daughter
Isaac Rebecca Laban Moabites Ammonites
Esau Jacob Rachel
Edomites Zilpah
1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Dinah
7. Gad
8. Asher
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
12. Joseph
13. Benjamin

Jewish tradition

When Terah begot Abram

Genesis 11:26 states that Terah lived 70 years, and he begot Abram, Nachor, and Haran. Rashi [8] comments on the subsequent elaboration on the story of Abraham that Abraham was the gem of the chronology of Genesis 11 which the Torah wanted to focus on. In the Jewish tradition, Genesis (11:26) teaches that Terah was 70 years old when he begot Abram. The Talmud [9] says that Abraham was 52 years old at year 2000 AM (Anno Mundi), which means that he was born in the year 1948 AM. Rashi [10] explains this based on Abram being born when Terah was 70. While it is a given in Jewish tradition that Genesis (11:26) relates that Abram was born when Terach was 70, upon which the current Jewish year is based on, there is yet a question whether Abram was born first as listed, or perhaps last, and is listed first as the wisest similar to Shem, Ham, and Jafeth where Shem was the youngest but wisest. Seder Olam Rabbah holds that Abram was the eldest,[11] but the Talmud [12] leaves the above question open.

Terah's occupation

According to rabbinical tradition Terah was a wicked (Numbers Rabbah 19:1; 19:33), idolatrous priest (Midrash HaGadol on Genesis 11:28) who manufactured idols (Eliyahu Rabbah 6, and Eliyahu Zuta 25). Abram, in opposition to his father’s idol shop, smashed his father’s idols and chased customers away. Terah then brought his unruly son before Nimrod, who threw him into a fiery furnace, yet Abram miraculously escaped.(Genesis Rabba 38:13). The Zohar says that when God saved Abram from the furnace, Terah repented (Zohar Genesis 1:77b) and Rabbi Abba B. Kahana said that God assured Abram that his father Terah had a portion in the World to Come (Genesis Rabbah 30:4; 30:12).

Rabbi Hiyya's relates this account in Genesis Rabba:

Terah left Abram to mind the store while he departed. A woman came with a plateful of flour and asked Abram to offer it to the idols. Abram then took a stick, broke the idols, and put the stick in the largest idol’s hand. When Terah returned, he demanded that Abram explain what he'd done. Abram told his father that the idols fought among themselves and the largest broke the others with the stick. “Why do you make sport of me?” Terah cried, “Do they have any knowledge?” Abram replied, “Listen to what you are saying!”

Leader of the journey

Terah is identified as the person who arranged and led the family to embark on a mysterious journey to Canaan. It is shrouded in mystery to Jewish scholars as to why Terah began the journey and as to why the journey ended prematurely. It is suggested that he was a man in search of a greater truth that could possibly be found in the familiar[13] land of Canaan, and that it was Abram who picked up the torch to continue his father's quest, that Terah himself was unable to achieve. [14]

When Abram leaves Haran

In Jewish tradition Abram left Haran before Terah died as an expression that he would not be remiss in the Mitzvah, of honoring a parent, by leaving his aging father behind.[15] The significance of Terah not reaching Canaan, was a reflection of his character, a man who was unable to go “all the way”. Though on a journey in the right direction, Terah fell short at arriving to the divine destination — in contrast to Abram, who did follow through and achieved the divine goal, and was not bound by his father’s idolatrous past. Abram's following God’s command to leave his father, thus absolved him from the Mitzvah of honoring parents, and as Abraham, he would go on to create a new lineage distinct from his ancestors.[16] However in Christian tradition Abram left Haran after Terah died, see below.

Samaritan tradition

In the Samaritan Pentateuch Terah dies aged 145 years and Abram leaves Haran after his death.[17]

Christian tradition

The Christian views of the time of Terah come from a passage in the New Testament at Acts 7:2–4 where Stephen said some things that contrast with Jewish Rabbinical views. He said that God appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia, and directed him to leave the Chaldeans—whereas most Rabbinical commentators see Terah as being the one who directed the family to leave Ur Kasdim from Genesis 11:31: "Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram's wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran's child) and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan." Stephen asserts that Abram left Haran after Terah died.[18]

Islamic tradition

In some Islam sects, Abraham's father is believed to have been an ignorant man,[19] who refused to listen to the constant advice of his wise son. In fact, the earliest story involving Abraham in the Qur'an is his discussion with his father. The name given for this man in the Qur'an [20] is Āzar (Arabic: آزر‎), though Arab genealogists related the name of Abraham's father as Tāraḥ (Arabic: تارح‎).

Abraham's advice

As a father, Azar required his son's most sincere advice. Abraham, after receiving his first monotheism would never be fought, Abraham dissociated himself from him.[27]

Wreckage of the idols

The Qur'an states that the people of Abraham were idolaters. When Abraham had become older, he decided to finally teach his community a lesson. He said to himself that he had a plan for their idols, whilst they would be gone away.[28] The Qur'an goes on to narrate that Abraham subsequently broke the idols, all except the largest, which he kept intact.[29] When the people returned, they began questioning each other over the wreckage, until some of the people remembered that the youth, Abraham, had spoken of the idols earlier.[30] When Abraham arrived, the people immediately began to question him, asking him whether he had anything to do with the broken idols. Abraham then, in a clever taunt, asked the people as to why they do not ask the largest of the idols, which, they believed, could indeed hear and speak.[31] The people of Abraham were then confounded with shame, and admitted that the idols were incapable of anything.[32]

Abraham is thrown into the fire

After the incident of the idol wreckage, the people of Abraham, while having admitted their fault, are said to have ignored Abraham's warning and instead retaliated by throwing him into a fire and exclaiming "protect your gods".[33] Although the natural nature of fire is one of intense heat, God commanded the flame to be cool and peaceful for Abraham.[34] Abraham, as a result, remained unhurt both physically and spiritually, having survived the fire of persecution. The people continued to taunt and persecute him, but to no avail, as the Qur'an says that it was they "that lost most".[35]


  1. ^ Genesis 20:12 "Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife."
  2. ^ Genesis 11: 26, 27; 1 Chronicles 1:17–27
  3. ^ Luke 3:34–36
  4. ^ Joshua 24:2
  5. ^ Genesis 11:29Genesis 20:12
  6. ^ Genesis 11:31
  7. ^ Genesis 22:21-22: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, and Jidlaph
  8. ^ on Genesis (37:1)
  9. ^ Avodah Zara 9A
  10. ^ ad loc
  11. ^ Seder Olam Rabbah, Chapter 2
  12. ^ Sanhedrin 69B
  13. ^ Sforno, Bereishit 12:5
  14. ^ Goldin, Shmuel. Unlocking the Torah Text Bereishit, Vol. 1, (ISBN 9652294128, ISBN 978-965-229-412-8), 2010, p. 59, 60
  15. ^ Compare Rashi, Bereishis 11:32 with Bereishis Rabbah 39:7
  16. ^ (Haggadah shel Pesach) – Levene, Osher C. People of the Book, (ISBN 1568714467, ISBN 978-1-56871-446-2), 2004, p. 79-80
  17. ^ https:/
  18. ^
  19. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Abraham and his father
  20. ^ (6:74)
  21. ^ Quran 19:44
  22. ^ Quran 19:42
  23. ^ Quran 19:43
  24. ^ Quran 19:45
  25. ^ Quran 19:46
  26. ^ Quran 19:47
  27. ^ Quran 9:114
  28. ^ Quran 21:57
  29. ^ Quran 21:58
  30. ^ Quran 21:60
  31. ^ Quran 21:63
  32. ^ Quran 21:65
  33. ^ Quran 21:68
  34. ^ Quran 21:69
  35. ^ Quran 21:70
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