Terah took Abram his son, Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife. They went from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land of Canaan. They came to Haran and lived there. Bible see other translations

“They came to Haran and lived there.” According to Acts 7:2-4, God first called Abram when he lived in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. Stephen, drawing upon the Old Testament and history that had been faithfully passed down through the generations, said: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your land, and away from your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And when his father was dead, God removed him from there into this land in which you now live.”

That Abram was first called by God while he lived in Ur seems to be also clearly supported by Genesis 15:7 and Nehemiah 9:7. Yet Genesis 11:31 makes it seem like Terah, Abram’s father, was the one who took his clan from Ur to Haran. The apparent contradiction, and Abraham’s seeming disobedience to God in taking his family with him, can be explained by the strength of the cultural norms of the time. God told Abraham to leave his family (Acts 7:3), but he did not (although by “family” it is possible that God may have meant Abram’s more distant family members). Since Abram’s father Terah was going along, culture dictated that Terah, the father of the clan, was the de facto leader of the group. This explains the verbiage in Genesis 11:31, that even though it was Abram whom God called, the text says, “Terah took Abram his son…and Sarai his daughter-in-law…They went from Ur of the Chaldees.”

The Bible has nothing at all to say about the family’s stay in Haran. That should not surprise us, because God called Abram to go to the Promised Land, not go to Haran in Syria. In fact, the Bible does not even say why the family stopped in Haran, although we can set forth an educated guess—it was due to Terah’s age and declining health. From the call of Abram to the Exodus was 430 years (Exod. 12:40; Gal. 3:17), and Abram was called from Ur of the Chaldees. Also, Abram was 75 when he left Haran to go to the Promised Land (Gen. 12:4) and was 100 when Isaac, the “seed,” was born. Furthermore, we know that the length of time between Abram’s “seed” (Isaac) and the Exodus was 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6). But if there were 400 years from Isaac’s birth to the Exodus, and 430 years from Abram’s call to the Exodus, then the call had to predate the birth of Isaac by 30 years, five years before Abraham left Haran. That would mean that Abram was called to go to the Promised Land at age 70, when Terah was 200. The family traveled to Haran, at which point we can surmise that Terah was too weak to travel, so the family stayed in Haran for five years. When Terah died at 205, God called Abram again and he went into the Promised Land. Thus, the five years that Abram stayed in Haran was not something that God wanted but something that He accommodated, so He said nothing about it other than that it happened.

[For a more detailed account of the time periods between Abraham and the Exodus, see the commentary on Exod. 12:40.]

Commentary for: Genesis 11:31