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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Terah

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(Heb. Te'rach, תֶּרִח, station, (See TARAH); Sept. Θάῤῥα, Θάρα; Josephus, Θάῤῥος, Ant. 1, 6, 5; Vulg. Thare), the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and through them the ancestor of the great families of the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Midianites, Moabites, and Ammonites (Genesis 11:24-32). B.C. 2293-2088. The account, given of him in the Old Test. narrative is very brief. We learn from it simply that he was an idolater (Joshua 24:2); that he dwelt beyond the Euphrates in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:28); that in the westerly migration which he undertook in his old age he went with his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot, "to go into the land of Canaan, and they came unto Haran and dwelt there" (Genesis 11:31); and, finally, that "the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran"(Genesis 11:32). Taking the language of Abraham about Sarah being the daughter, of his father but not of his mother (Genesis 20:1-2) in its natural sense, Terah must have had children by more wives than one; but we have no particular account of his domestic relations in this respect. In connection with this migration a chronological difficulty has arisen which may be noticed here. In the speech of Stephen (Acts 7:4) it is said that the further journey of Abraham from Haran to the land of Canaan did not take place till after his father's death. Now as Terah was two hundred and five years old (the Samar text and version make him one hundred and forty-five, and- so avoid this difficulty) when he died, and Abram was seventy-five when he left Harali (enl. 12:4) it follows that, if the speech of Stephen be correct, at Abram's birth Terah must have been one hundred, and thirty years old; and therefore that the order of anis sons- Abram, Nahor, Haran given in Genesis 11:26-27 is not their order in point of age. Lord Arthur Herve says (Geneai. p. 82, 83), "The difficulty is easily got over by supposing that Abram, though named first on account of his dignity, was not the eldest son, but probably the youngest of the three, born when his father was one hundred and thirty years old a supposition with which the marriage of Nahor with his elder brother Haran's daughter, Milcah, and the apparent nearness of age between Abram and Lot, and the three generations from Nahor to Rebekah corresponding to only two, from Abraham to Isaac, are in perfect harmony." (See ABRAHAM).

From Acts 7:2-4 it appears that the first call which prompted the family to leave Ur was addressed to Abraham, not to Terah, as well as the second, which, after the death of his father, induced him to proceed from Haran to Canaan. The order to Abraham to proceed to Canaan immediately after Terah's death seems to indicate that the pause at Haran was on his account. Whether he declined to proceed any farther, or his advanced age rendered him unequal to the fatigues of the journey, can only be conjectured. It appears, however, from Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14 that Terah was given to idolatry, or rather, perhaps, to certain idolatrous superstitions, retained together with the acknowledgment and worship of Jehovah, such as existed in the family in the time of his great-grandson Laban (Genesis 31:30). This may suggest that it was not in the divine wisdom deemed proper that one who had grown old in such practices should enter the land in which his descendants were destined to exemplify a pure faith.

From the simple facts of Terah's life recorded in the Old Test. has been constructed the entire legend of Abram which is current in Jewish and Arabian traditions. Terah the idolater is turned into a maker of images, and "Ur of the Chaldees" is the original of the furnace" into which Abram was cast (comp. Ezekiel 5, 2). Rashi's note on Genesis 11:28 is as follows: "In the presence of Terah his father in the lifetime of his father. And the Midrash Haggadah says that he died beside his father, for Terah had complained of Abram his son before Nimrod that he had broken his images, and he cast him into a furnace of fire. And Haran was sitting and saying in his heart, If Abram overcome, I am on his side; and if Nimrod overcome, I am on his side. And when Abram was saved, they said to Haran, On whose side art thou? He said to them, I am on Abram's side. So they cast him into the furnace of fire and he was burned; and this is [what is meant by] Ur Casdim (Ur of the Chaldees)." In Bereshith Rabba (par. 17) the story is told of Abraham being left to sell idols in his father's stead, which is repeated in Weil, Biblical Legends, p. 49. The whole legend depends upon the ambiguity of the word עבר, which signifies "to make" and "to serve or worship" so that Terah, who in the Biblical narrative is only a worshipper of idols, is in the Jewish tradition an image-maker; and about this single point the whole story has grown. It certainly was unknown to Josephus, who tells nothing of Terah except that it was grief for the death of this son Haran that induced him to quit Ur of the Chaldlees (Ant. 1, 6, 6).

In the Jewish traditions Terah is a prince and a great man in the palace of Nimrod (Jellinek, Bet hamiidrash, p. 27), the captain of his army (Sepher Hayyashar), his son in-law according to the Arabs (Beer, Leben A brahams, p. 97). His wife is called in the Talmud (Baba Bathra, fol. 91 a) Amtelai; or Emtelai, the daughter of Carnebo. In the book of the Jubilees she is called Edna, the daughter of Arem, or Aram; and by; the Arabs Adna (D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, s.v. "Abraham;" Beer, p. 97). According to D'Herbelot, the name of Abraham's father was Azar in the Arabic traditions, and: Terah was his grandfather. Elmakin, quoted by Hottinger (Smegma Orientale, p. 281), says that, after the death of Yuna, Abraham's mother, Terah took another wife, who bare him Sarah. He adds that in tie days of Terah the king of Babylon made war upon the country in which he dwelt, and that Hazrun, the brother of Terah, went out against him and slew him; and the kingdom of Babylon was transferred to Nineveh and Mosul. For all these traditions, see the book of Jasher and the works of Hottinger, D'Herbelot, Weil, and Beer above quoted. Philo (De Somniis) indulges in some strange speculations with regard to Terah's name and his migration.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Terah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/terah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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