Abraham: From Ur to Haran

Not much is known about Abraham prior to Genesis 12:1 where God first called to him and said, “Lech Lecha!” which is Hebrew for, “Go, go out!”What kind of world did Abraham live in and leave behind when he left Ur? Why did he leave in the first place?  Was Abraham truly a pagan before he decided to trust in the voice of the one true God and heed His call? These questions and more we will try to sort out as we examine the world Abraham grew up in, why he left, and what it meant for him to believe in monotheism, and beyond this, to follow the true God in a world of polytheism.

To begin, we must first briefly examine the world of Abraham (his name was first Abram but later it was changed to Abraham in Genesis 17:5, but we shall just refer to him as Abraham to avoid confusion.) Abraham lived in the region of Mesopotamia, which is a Greek term meaning “land between two rivers.” These rivers would be the Tigris and Euphrates and this land would be found in modern day Iraq and Iran. Mesopotamia was a very rich and fertile place due to the existence of these two massive rivers which helped balance the region. Mesopotamia can be divided up into the Southern Plain, Northeastern Foothills, and the Steppe Area which is located in the northwest. The climate today is very much like what it would have been in the time of Abraham around 1950 BC, and apart from the shifting of the rivers since then, examining the geography can help us pinpoint key areas Abraham would have lived. But let’s examine the geographical setting a little more.

The Southern Plain has dry, subtropical summers, yet at the same time winter can fall below freezing. In the south, it generally receives ten inches of rain annually, which in turn massive irrigation systems were developed in the biblical world and still are utilized today. The irrigation system was also needed due to the salinity levels which are given off into the soil from the Tigris and Euphrates. In the region of the Southern Plain barley became the chief crop prior to Abraham and continued flourishing.

In the Northeastern Foothills, the climate would have been temperate much like it is today, rainfall sufficient which meant a lack of dependence on irrigation such as found in the south. However, despite the significant levels of rain and moisture, the terrain was difficult and contained poor farming land, which meant dependence on trade and transporting certain grains and foods from other localities.

Finally, the Steppe area can be found in the northwest part of Mesopotamia. These vast lands, fertile and rich, have led to many discoveries of ancient mounds which have unearthed ample evidence of vast settlements in and around this region. Also, an interesting note was the discovery of cities and towns with walls being erected around them, which begs the question, what were they afraid of and why did they feel they had to lay out defenses?

During the periods of Halaf (5500-4500 BC), Ubaid (5300-3750 BC) and Protoliterate (3750-2900 BC) we see incredible changes take Mesopotamia by storm. We see an increase in pottery design and decoration, the smelting of copper and other metals which replace stone tools and weapons, we see towns increase in size by the thousands, enhanced irrigation systems put in place, temples grow larger and higher, and fertility become a focal point of the peoples. During these times nearly 70% of all children under age five died, and with deaths increasing from people in battles a sense of the progression of life was focused upon. To the peoples of these periods, they also saw fertility as the earth giving back, and pantheons of gods and goddesses began to develop so that by 3000 BC there were over four thousand deities worshiped in the region as mankind worshiped and adored the creation instead of the true Creator.

However, in the later Protoliterate Period, the north of Mesopotamia began to stagnate as cultural unity was lost, while the south flourished and expanded. The fast potter’s wheel was developed which vastly increased production, the stamp seal was replaced with the cylinder seal, the chariot was invented, metals were in full swing of being used. We also see free standing columns and sculpture, the development of writing, and the massive Ziggurat’s were constructed. This would give way into what is known as the Early Dynastic Period where kings began to rule, establish kingdoms which led to city-states, and of these the kings of Ur became very powerful and strong as they believed their dynastic powers came from the heavens.

During the Akkad Period (2334-2193 BC) a strong king named Sargon expanded and unified all of Mesopotamia making his capital the city of Agade. Cuneiform writing was implemented and other massive changes occurred through the work of stone, bronze, silver, and wood.  During his rule the city-state was replaced by the centralized government and widespread law developed. However, this would be short lived for around the year 2112 BC a people called the Guti, who were mountain people invaded the land and ruled for 100 years. During this time they naturally created political unrest, yet soon Ur was rebuilt (for the third time) and founded by a man named Ur-Nammu. This ushered in a Sumerian type of renaissance as peace was restored and father-son succession of throne kings was instituted. At this time the kings ruled absolute and were believed to be gods.

Ur-Nammu developed the oldest known law codes, which predate the Code of Hammurapi by 300 years, with an emphasis on justice. However, this incredible era of change and splendor would close with another invasion yet again in 2004 B.C. when the Elamites would burn Ur to the ground. It would be at this time, shortly after the destruction of Ur III, that Abraham would be born. He would be raised in a world with a strong, proud past, that was civilized and had established life which stretched back thousands of years. In fact, ancient Mesopotamia had more freedoms for people then many countries today in the 21st century.

In Genesis 11:26-29 we see the first mention of Abraham (mentions him as Abram). Through a genealogy we see people such as: his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and in verse 29 we see his marriage with Sarai, later to become Sarah. Now, the Bible does not actually state that Abraham was born in Ur, but it does say in 11:28, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” Since Ur is considered the “native land” of Haran, we can then presume this is where Abraham was born and lived as well. Yet, before we move on, one interesting thing is where it states, “Ur of the Chaldeans.” This is the first time in the Bible where the reference to the people of the Chaldeans, is mentioned. The other two major occurrences outside the book of Genesis are in Nehemiah 9:7, and Acts 7:4. What is interesting is that during the time of Abraham the people called, Chaldeans did not exist and when Nehemiah and Acts were written, the Chaldeans had come and gone. So what is this saying then? Well, the book of Genesis is the key. Basically, when Moses wrote what is now called “Genesis” or “Beri’shit” in Hebrew, meaning, “beginning,” the Chaldeans did exist, but there were at least four places called Ur. So Moses attached the people group to the specific city so his readers would know which “Ur” he was speaking about. Thus, we get in all three cases, Abraham being named as coming from Ur of the Chaldeans, or the Ur where the Chaldeans would later settle by. Problem solved.

Now, let’s continue. During the time of Abraham when he was growing up in his father’s house, Mesopotamia was made up of thousands of gods and goddesses with each city having its chief or central god. Some of the main deities we see at the time were: Sin/Nanna god of the moon, Anu the chief god who was replaced by his son Enlil. Enlil would take on many titles, such as “King of the Earth” or “Lord of the Earth.” Enlil was seen as the god of wisdom, protector of arts, crafts, science, literature, and magic which was one thing that highly interested the people of that day. We see the god of sun and magic Marduk, take his place in Babylon, and others such as Ishtar (later Asherah) goddess of sex and war, Shumuqan god of cattle, and Baal god of crops and storms. Amulets were made to keep in homes or wear for protection, and priesthoods were created to be mediators between mankind and the pantheons that ruled the heavens. Pagan worship became very ritualistic as sacrifices (sometimes human) were made, the gods were fed by placing food before them, temple prostitutes appeared as important in matters of fertility, and people adopted household gods to serve. This is the era and world Abraham grew up in. There is no doubt that he would have been influenced heavily by his surroundings.

Many people, both Jewish and Christian, see Abraham as a man who had always rejected the notion of multiple gods. They conjure up a man who, when God called him, obeyed right away because he had never believed in polytheism to begin with. Most likely, this is not an accurate depiction. Did Abraham obey God? Yes he did! Did God call out to Abraham to leave his country? Yes, He did. Genesis 12:1 says that God told Abraham to leave his country, and Acts 7:2 states that God called for Abraham to leave “before he dwelt in Haran” which would mean, when he lived in Ur. In Genesis 12:4 it states that after Abraham heard the word of the Lord he departed, and when he had left Haran he was seventy-five after the death of his father of which the Bible is very clear. From there, he journeyed to Canaan where God would show Himself and bring Abraham to a place of dependence. Simply said, Abraham was a man of faith and believed what God told him.

Yet, was Abraham ever a pagan before God called him? This is possible. There is a story in the Midrash (Jewish collection of stories, translated as ‘to seek, study, or inquire’) where Abram, as a boy, was working for his father who was an idol maker. Abram had come to doubt the validity of idols as being “gods” and so when his father was absent one day, Abram smashed one of the idols and put a hammer into the hand of one of the other idols. When his father returned he was naturally upset and demanded to know what had happened. Abram told his father that one idol had attacked the other and smashed it. His father then declared this to be impossible, for idols were lifeless creations of stone, wood, and metal. Therefore, Abram proved his point, the idols were only man-made, not God. Thus, according to the Midrash, Abram began his journey to discover the real God. Even in the book of Joshua 24:2, it clearly reveals Abraham’s father and family as being pagans. It is then very likely, that having grown up in this home and in a polytheistic city, that Abraham could have spent a portion of his 70+ years either willingly practicing paganism or else in the least going through the motions to please his father. Certainly, he was raised in a pagan home and was heavily exposed to this influence.

It is likely he would have been familiar with stories of past generations from before Noah, the flood and some of the descendants who followed after God (Gen. 5-6) but simply knowing these stories does not entirely mean Abraham followed the true God when he was younger. Even being well versed in the stories of earlier generations, such as Enoch or Noah, does not completely absolve Abraham from the possibility of being a pagan in his early days, as polytheism often syncretizes other beliefs, even adding other ‘gods’ to their pantheons. This can be compared to other pagans in the Bible who, either obeyed a message from God or were said to have believed in God yet, did not completely abandon their polytheism (i.e. people of Nineveh in Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, or Cyrus of Persia). However, knowing of these earlier men who “were righteous before God” could indeed point towards a doubt that may have simmered for years in Abraham’s mind as to the possible existence of the gods compared with the One True God. Whether Abraham was a pagan or not, one thing we know for sure, that out of this pagan family and environment he lived in, the True God called out to him and Abraham obeyed. In years to come, he would become the father of the Hebrew nation (Israel) as well as a ‘father of many nations.’

We know that for ourselves in the world we have grown up in, it is nearly impossible to separate oneself from our culture, it is a trademark stamped upon ourselves, almost written into our DNA. It can define us, rule our thoughts, and guide us. Our culture is identity and part of our makeup, it is what is familiar, how we talk, sometimes what we believe spiritually, what we do for fun, where we work, and shapes our thinking. Culture is powerful, and to leave ones culture is a very drastic major life choice. This is exactly what Abraham did, but not right away.

In Genesis 11:31 was see an interesting circumstance develop. It states that Terah took his son Abraham, his grandson Lot, and his daughter-in-law Sarai to go to the land of Canaan, but they only made it as far as Haran and he decided to live there. Now, this is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the Bible names the main people of importance in this account as Abraham, Lot, and Sarai, yet along with Terah he would have taken his entire household. This would mean animals, servants, concubines, other children of less stature then Abraham, and anybody else associated with him. This was not four people wandering in the desert but a community. When we see Abraham later on moving from Haran to Canaan in Genesis 12:5, again we see that he took even more people that he had acquired there.

But, why did they move to Haran in the first place, apart from God speaking to Abraham? Could there also have been something else to play a part in the move? Since moving to new lands at that period in time was seen as extreme and out of the ordinary, there had to be a purpose to it for Terah to ask such a thing of his family. The Bible does not give us our answer, apart from telling us there had been a word spoken to Abraham from God earlier, but history may also shed some light on this interesting predicament. At the time we find Abraham living in Ur, we see a couple things happen. The Elamites had invaded and continue to be a major problem, we see major crop failures particularly on the barley yields, and political unrest as well as economic strain was prevalent. So, this clearly could have been a strong motivator to find fresh pastures, and for Terah to pack up his belongings, take his family out of Ur, head for Larsa, decide to cross the Tigris, and head to Haran.

Now, one of the final things we will cover is to answer, why Haran? Why did Terah stop there? In Genesis 11:31b it definitively states “…and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” Now, if one examines a map, Haran definitely is not Canaan. But why did Terah stop? Well, let’s take a glimpse at what Haran was like in those days and perhaps we will find our key. First, Haran was a caravan city, it was politically stable, and was flourishing. These are all very good reasons to stop, but I think the final one may be the hidden key, and that is Haran’s chief god was Nanna the god of the moon. Why is this so important? Well Nanna or Sin, was also the chief god of Ur, where Terah had just left. Joshua 24:2 says, “And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.'” Thus, it is possible Terah found a new home in Haran, and wanted to stay because that was a city that honored and worshiped a god he would have revered all his life, Nanna the moon god. So, essentially we get a familiar religious scene, a good economy, and a location which is safe. Although we cannot know for sure why, these could still very well be clues at why Terah chose to live in Haran.

So, why did Abraham stay in Haran and not just move on if God had called him? Well, unlike today and our societies definition of independence which involves people freely moving and traveling and often living very far from family, in Abraham’s day it was not so. The culture in Mesopotamia was a patriarchal society. So, Terah as the father ruled and his sons and extended family obeyed. In this case, Abraham simply acted in a culturally acceptable way by following his father and bidding his time. We clearly see that by the time Terah did die, Abraham would assume the role as patriarch. Then we see everyone following Abraham, just as he had obediently demonstrated his place as a son to Terah in Ur.

In conclusion, the life of Abraham was a real life account and not a myth. He was a man of God who followed and demonstrated a faith which has been modeled after for centuries and centuries. His step of faith was very significant and went completely against the norms of his age and the world at that time. To believe in one God would have been seen as foolish, strange, and weird, but God called Abraham and he obeyed. We do not see him arguing about journeying to Canaan, or lamenting and wanting to return to Ur, we see him as a hero of the faith, and a man whose heart and mind was opened to the incredible character and nature of the God who had created him, and this would forever change history.

39 responses to “Abraham: From Ur to Haran

  1. keep researching. Good info and very useful. Remember that Joshua tells us for sure that Abram was an idolator in Ur.

    • Lee,

      You’re answer is very exhaustive and because of that I will not be posting it as I’m not keen on filling up my comment wall with lengthy ‘lectures’. I also think you have grossly misunderstood my aim and intent. First, I am aware that it states Abraham’s father and descendants were pagans, and that it doesn’t bluntly state Abraham was a pagan. However, according to Jewish tradition, ancient paganism, Mesopotamian culture and human nature, it is very possible and a reality that Abraham obviously would have been influenced by pagan worship, seen pagan worship and would have gone through the motions early on as a child growing up in UR. Do you believe that Abram was born into a monotheistic belief of the One True God from the womb? Even though his family were pagan? Did he always reject paganism from birth? There is no evidence to support your argument that Abraham wasn’t a pagan prior to God’s call on his life. You are just speculating and your ignoring the culture. According to that culture, if Abraham’s parents, family, relatives and society were pagan, Abraham would have, in the least, been influenced by this. It is like a little child that grows up, let’s say, in a Christian home. The parents teach that child about their beliefs, pray with that child and tell that child about God and the Bible. But that child still needs to make a conscious choice in believing in God later in life. We are in fact, born into sin with an old nature that rejects God. It is only through God’s revelation that we even see a need for Him and trust in Him. We are sinful individuals given to satisfying our old nature, in the same way as Abram would have been at birth. But then God called him.

      The men of the Bible you cite, all grew up in an established Jewish worldview and faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even Noah’s descendants were righteous and grew up in a relationship with God, walking with God (Gen. 5). Noah even found this favour/grace (Gen. 6:8) in the eyes of God. But Abram’s family were pagan. Abram didn’t have this generational walking with the Lord. UR was pagan and his family were pagan, thus it is not a stretch to believe that he would have been influenced by this. Even Jewish tradition asserts Abram as a pagan prior to God revealing Himself to him. Your lecture is noted, but like I mentioned, I feel your missing my point. Obviously we don’t see eye to eye on this issue, but writing a critical lecture that drags on is a turn-off. My article was making a simple point, the life of Abraham, the culture he was a part of, the history of events and his great step of faith to follow God. History would never be the same. It is clear to me you know your Bible and that is great. Definitely your Biblical literacy is admired, especially in this day when so many people are Biblically illiterate. But your message to me went far beyond what I was trying to get at. Moses, David, and many others would not have worshipped other gods…I agree with you…but they also had a faith background that Abram did not. Abram was the first, the father of many nations and the father of the Hebrew nation. Like our personal human-state prior to accepting Christ and recognizing the God of Israel, Abram was in a similar place, lost without God and given to his old nature which wanted to strive after ungodliness, meanwhile surrounded by a pagan society and a pagan family. Out of this he was called by God and obeyed…but it was a step by step. That is my point. I accept comments and do not shy away from criticism, but writing ‘novels’ of criticism is a bit much. God Bless.

      • I hear you my friend and I appreciate your commendation. Your writing sounds as if I have offended you and if I did I am sorry and did not meant to cause any offence. Like Jesus and in obedience to him I have to bare witness to the truth.

        Why I went on the defence is due to the statement you made saying: ” It is clear from Joshua 24:2 That Abraham was a pagan worshipper. I then reply in relation to that scripture because it was in no way referring to Abraham, rather to his forefathers.

        it is true that culture was an important thing back then; But I am afraid to say that your response regarding Abraham being influence does not hold water, with no offence. I think you are forgetting Abraham linage.

        Enoch the forefather of Abraham was a righteous man and was said that he “kept walking with God” (Genesis 5:24) in the sense that he did what was right in God’s eyes.

        Also were Noah and his sons, which is possible that these legacy of Godly fear would have been handed down and Abraham would have heard about such righteous acts by Noah and his sons and how God blessed them due to their Godly fear and obedience and how other family members perished in the flood due to disobedience and lack of Godly fear.

        He would also heard about Adam and Eve and the rebellious course they chose and how they suffered and plunged the human family in to sin and death. Not to be overlook is that he could also have been influenced by Abel’s righteous course and learned about Cain’s unrighteous acts and how God responded to both individuals. It would have also been clear that Cain and not Abel followed their parents murderous course, showing it is possible even as a child not to be influence by culture. You mentioned about a child being raised in the culture of the parents would no doubt obediently follow that course; that is true and I agree with you from that stand point; but that does not make the child guilty of idolatry because the child is innocent of the fact that they are taught something contrary to God’s will.

        That is different from when a mature person who is able to think and make decision for themselves and then makes that conscious choice to serve pagan gods.

        Daniel and his Hebrews friends were taken away as youths and raised in an environment and a household of pagan worshippers and yet they refuse to worship any other gods or take part in any pagan rituals. they were steadfast in worshipping the true God. And so was Moses with the help of just his biological mother against the odds in a foreign land..

        Regarding the faithful men I mentioned, they too had a legacy of knowledge about their forefathers some who walked in integrity and others who did not and those men made a choice for themselves to follow a righteous course.

        Remember the scriptures always speaks of worshippers saying: “It was not like their forefathers” or “like their forefathers”, showing that some followed a good example and some followed a bad example.

        I am not looking for publicity so with all due respect it is your choice whether to post my comment or not. I am just doing what the greatest teacher ever walked the earth and the Creator want me to do. (Nehemiah 9:20; Acts 20:20).

        Paul was humble to say that he acted in ignorance to the knowledge of God (1 Timothy 1:13) and he acknowledged and show understanding that others acted in ignorance due to lack of knowledge and understanding. ( Acts 3:17). We are all imperfect human but humility is what will help us to gain Godly knowledge, insight and understanding of the Holy writings.

        You have a blessed day..

      • Greetings Lee,

        Your words had not offended me, I merely tried to explain, with zeal and passion, where I was coming from. If I came on too strong, apologies. 🙂 Anyway, thank you for your words, insight and points. I agree with you wholeheartedly on practically everything you have written, but there seems to be the one respectful disagreement we have concerning Abraham’s early life, but I can live with that disagreement if you can. 🙂 That is what digging and grappling with the Scriptures is all about. 🙂 Anyway, I will say thank you for pointing out how my one statement regarding the Joshua passage did seem to say blatantly that Abraham was a pagan. It was not my intention to add words to the passage as it does not state directly that Abraham was a pagan but only that his father and other members of his family were. My aim was delving into what it meant for Abraham to come from a pagan family. So I will let you know that I have edited that piece, rephrased my point so hopefully it is clear. As for everything else, let’s allow the dust to settle and many blessings my friend.

      • Greetings to you Peter. Thank you for the clarification. No harm done. You are a gentleman and a scholar

        May Jehovah’s rich blessing be upon you

  2. Thanks for that, and I have also picked up something which is very much a matter that has caused a great deal of differences for many religions, and it still persists. I think staying true to names is very important. I disagree with name changes, that is also why such a problem even exists in knowing the true name of God.
    The original and oldest language appears to have been removed, almost like it was intentionally done to remove traces of it. However it is impossible to completely erase the reality. Reading some history and discovering the linguistic differences that exist between Sanskrit to Farsi to Arabic, to Hebrew to greek to latin then to English, we have lost allot of accuracy. But we do have the same story, though it appears to be distorted in various places.

    Would you say that Yahweh is the correct name of God? Would you say Jehova or Keshava are correct names?


    • Thank you for your comment, Truth and Justice.

      It can be a complicated journey when we begin to look into linguistic changes and differences in reference to the Bible, and in the area of translation, at the end of the day you have to pick a word. There are certainly more expressive and rich languages than others, and Hebrew being one of them. So, I would agree that we definitely lose much of the extensive, deeper meaning when it is translated into Hebrew, but I do believe we capture it quite well in English, especially when you compare it against the stylistic differences and origins of Hebrew. For centuries there have been people working as translators of the Bible, experienced in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Koine Greek, and with continual discoveries (i.e. Dead Sea Scrolls) it is always advancing our understanding and shedding light on grammatical and language errors we previously had not known about.

      As far as your suggestion that some things were changed deliberately, I try not to speculate as much although I do not want to be naive (you can literally drive yourself crazy when you give way to assumptions and conspiracies). But I do believe there were periods in history (particularly in the Medieval period) were certain things were omitted and changed to suit a particular belief. We even see that today with different fringe groups that call themselves “Christians” or have another religious affiliations in which they take the Bible and alter it. So, it really comes down to returning back to the original languages and texts to dig and do your part of in depth scholarly research. Also, researching who the translators are and their credibility behind a Bible version (NASB, NKJV, etc) can help. This is why findings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls were so important, because it showed that the text hadn’t changed.

      As far as your comment about the name of God. We do not know how it was pronounced as the Biblical text only give certain letters of the Hebrew which phonetically are written as YHVH, with the vowels not existing in Hebrew. So, we cannot be sure if it was Yahweh or Yohweh, or Yihwah…you catch my point. Also, the name Jehovah was the Latin equivalent of the Hebrew which St. Jerome attributed it to being the name of God.

      I trust this answered some of your questions. Thank you once again for your comments.


  3. wow! I needed to know abes socio-educational status and i got massive inspired bytes of info from ur site. (pun intended) That is ur whole site. The orchid display at home depot where i generate leads was trying to tell me about Gods wonder and u spoke it. Our church is making a movie in Israel regarding Jesus arriving in time to save as many jews as possible from the 70 AD horror and u seem to know about it historically. Contact them at world revival church in kansas city and keep ur seatbelt on. Thus saith the Lord. Great to meet u. Praise God with all my passion. We need Your presence Holy Spirit!

  4. Peter, I read you essay with great interest as I have just finished writing a book on the same subject titled “Abraham of Ur”. I have come to many of the same conclusions as your fine work. I even used some of the same pictures. I thought I was the only one interested in this subject. Peace !

  5. I am not much of a scholar or deep Biblical analyst. I just love the Lord and decided to do a character study on Abraham. I have innocently believed the whole tale of Abraham knowing God even before he was called. I thought with all the generations who had lived so long before him, the “relatives” would have past down the powerful story of the one true God’s relationship with Noah. But as we see in our own American history, truth becomes watered down from generation to generation.

    You really got me with the reference to Joshua 24:2. Thank you for sharing that and broadening my understanding. I hope you continue to dig into Biblical history and reveal more. People like me appreciate those who love to dig.


    • Thank you for your comment Jimmie I. goss. Scripture does support that Abraham’s father was a pagan and indeed Abraham would have grown up under this influence (Joshua 24:2), so you are right on that point. When God called Abraham (Genesis 12) out of Ur to journey to a land that He would show Abraham, Abraham obeyed. Through his righteous obedience he accepted circumcision, the sign of being set apart by God, it was then that he became a Hebrew. However, at the same time, Abraham was also to be a ‘father of many nations’ (for through Abraham Ishmael was also born) and a blessing to the nations. Out of Abraham would come physical descendants to whom the promises were given to (Isaac and Jacob/Israel), but at the same time, God cares about all humanity and so wanted to reveal Himself through Abraham as a blessing to all the world. So it is very true, through Abraham and his descendants, a blessing has come to the world through the Bible and the coming of the Messiah Yeshua, who will come again to reign.

  6. Thank you for this very insightful article, I am currently doing a study on Abraham and it has proven to be very helpful. Now I will certainly read more of your wrtings. God Bless.

  7. Great article Peter. A good source as I prep to preach this Sunday on Abraham. I am also a Prairie alum and will be taking a group to Israel in the spring. Blessings!

    • Greetings James,

      I am glad to hear that you enjoyed my article and that it will be of some assistance to your sermon this Sunday. If I may, what year did you graduate from Prairie? My years were 2001-2007 as I ended up doing two Bachelor degrees in Intercultural Studies and Biblical Studies. I go back to Prairie a couple of times a year to speak during their chapel times or as a keynote speaker for conferences. Do you know Mark Maxwell the new President? He and his wife went to Israel for the first time last year and had a wonderful time. I was able to chat a bit about this with them so there is an “Israel vibe” I think on campus which is nice. Anyway, all the best and may God bless you and give you the right words to impart to your congregation this Sunday. Cheers – Peter

      • I was there 94-96. Transferred to RMC in Calgary where I graduated before pursuing a Masters in Socal. I have not been there in 15 years but might be swinging by next summer to show our kiddos where their parents met.

  8. Hi Peter:
    Is there a possibility that Abram’s immediate family may have remembered and held on to the tradition and belief that God had worked through Noah to a ‘greater extent’ than other Chaldeans residing in Ur? That though all the peoples of the area realized the same history, that Chaldean society had degenerated to worshiping idols? I am familiar with the Jewish stories of why Abram and the family may have left Ur, but it may be that Abram’s family wished to separate themselves from a society that was becoming ever more idolatrous. I know that in Joshua 24, it says that they served other gods, but I see the possibility that, even though Abram’s family were caught up in some of this idolatry, they realized that it was growing ever farther removed from the ancient truths of Adam, Enoch, Noah and such.
    There’s a couple supporting thoughts, which in our age may be the closest we may get to actuality. One is that Haran died in Ur and was probably a contributing factor to the family leaving. Could this have been the result of persecution, similar to the antisemitism of today. Also the fact that Terah and family were most probably well-to-do; Abram’s name meaning ‘father of heights’ and Sarai’s name meaning ‘princess’, indicate a family of prominence. Could this also have been part of the reason for the persecution.
    It is my hypothesis that God chose Terah and his family because they, more than most (and perhaps ‘any’) other family in Ur still sought ‘truth’ and were disenchanted with the direction that their society was going. And actually, the story of Terah owning a shop that sold idols actually would fit into this scenary quite well.
    I know, so far removed, actual facts are like grasping at straws, but when that’s all you got to work with, we can only hope we picked the longest straw.

    God bless

    • Thank you for your comments, Larry.

      You raise some excellent questions. Of course there is an aspect to all of this, particularly Abram’s childhood and his family, for which we just don’t know all the details. However, we can make very good educated guesses and we do know quite a bit about the life Abram and his family would have come out of due to our understanding of places such as Ur, Haran, and Canaan. As you know, Ur was a pagan city and Joshua 24 states that Abram’s family were pagan at one time. Yet, it is very possible they would have known about the stories of Adam, Noah and others as this was a very common practice in ancient times, passing down oral history. Even the fact that a global flood is part of most religions in the ancient world and today is something to take into serious consideration.It is very possible that Abram’s family may have abandoned their paganism on account of trusting in the God of these stories or a revelation. We know that when God called Abram, Abram listened and obeyed. Even the story of Abram as a boy in the Midrash is worth noting, although many stories in the Midrash are not to be taken literally, this particular story reveals Abram’s challenge to the foolishness of paganism. Many of these Midrashic stories go back thousands of years, so they are credible stories to at least pay attention to.

      So Abram was in a place to believe in the one true God and accept Him with His life…even risking going against the norm and moving. Families in the ancient world were very clannish and this explains why Abram followed his father from Ur to Haran (Gen. 11:31-32) and dwelt there until his father, Terah, died at the age of 205 in Haran. Scripture says Haran, Terah’s son, died before his father in Ur (Gen. 11:27-28), prior to Abram’s marriage. This could have led to Terah uprooting the family to move to the city of Haran, as you have mentioned. Abram was a faithful son, adhering to the culture and looking after his parents, his father being the patriarch of the family. After the death of his father, Terah, Abram hears from God and leaves Haran for the country of Canaan. As I speculate in my article, the reason Terah may have moved his family from Ur to Haran may have been due to violence (civil war), famine, etc, which are supported by the historical and archaeological record. But you could be on to something to suggest it had something to do with the death of Haran. It is interesting to note that the chief god of Haran is the same as Ur (Nanna – moon god), so this could have been a draw for Terah, to go where he was most comfortable and could continue worshipping what was familiar. But this also may not be the case. But once Terah was dead, Abram heard from the Lord and obeyed (Gen. 12:1-5), this much is true. Also, it is clear in following God, Abram would have made sure that all idolatry among the people who came with him (Gen. 12:5) was cut-off, as it was even his entire “house” which later, submitted faithfully to circumcision as a sign of faithfully following God and being set apart. Abram was unique and singled out by God, so it is very possible God was working in his life and the life of his family prior to his calling, which could, as you suggest, very well be the reason Abram was called, because they were seeking after God more than any other family in Ur.

      God Bless and thank you once again for the thought provoking idea and questions.


  9. I’ve just come across this site and discussions………. Tremendous! I have been preparing some teaching and preaching on Abraham again this week…. to follow along the issue of Abraham being pagan or not, in light of his lineage being so…… by the time he comes to relationship with Yahweh, he certainly knows the danger of his lineage and the land where they remained. In Gen. 24, he absolutely refused his servant to let Isaac go back in search of a wife (2x). I see that not only so because of the need for Isaac to stay in the Covenant land, but also the danger of idolatry that gets codified repeatedly in the Law (Deut. 7:1-4, et al). The line of Messiah (a basic theme to the OT), and its purity and fidelity to Yahweh is hugely important…..(the Hebrew of Gen 24 helps to highlight the importance of Isaac not going)>

    thanks for allowing my 2 cents!

  10. Good day Peter
    Thank you for your insight on the life of Abraham.
    That cleared up alot of questions I had and Thank you.

    But in your second last paragraph.You ask a question which made me think.Why did Abraham stay in Haran when and not move on to Canaan when God’s call was on his life.And then your answers….

    We see clearly in Gen 11:32 that Terah died.
    In Gen12.1 God calls Abraham.So if I’m not mistaken,I assume that God’s call on Abraham was only after his father died.
    But other than that.Very insightful.

  11. Good article!
    I have a question: if Abraham was born when Thare was 70 years old (Gen 11:26-27) and 205 when he died. If Abraham waited his fathers death he should have been 135years old, that is not possible since Isack was born in Canaan.
    Can you please answer me what is my missunderstooding?
    David (from Hugary)

  12. Pingback: Creating Genesis Part 6 – Babylonian Predictions – Engineering The Bible

  13. Thanks so much for that history lesson,it put a lots of questions and thoughts not to rest,but at peace.
    Started out looking for something else and came
    across a blessing.

    • Hi tochukwu,

      Apologies for taking so long to respond. I have no idea how, but I just saw your message. Very weird I missed it. Anyway, Terah lived in Ur of the Chaldees which is near Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia/Persia or modern day Iraq/Iran. I trust this helps. The article I researched and wrote gives you a bit of a picture of Ur.

      Hope this helps.


  14. First, greeting in the name of the Lord Jesus. Good article. but may I say this. Haran is the key.

    #1. why did he die before his father.
    #2. why is he left out as not of God, examples.
    Laban made an intresting statement,
    Genesis 31:53 “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac”.
    Is he not the God of “Haran” also? was not all brothers of Teran?, Genesis 11:27 “Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
    Genesis 11:28 “And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

    “Haran” is not mention as having God, why?.again the same thing is mention in,

    Joshua 24:2 “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.(excluding these three)
    Joshua 24:3 “And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.

    I’m beginning to see that Terah and Abram and Nahor was after God, but not Haran. For Laben said, in Genesis 31:53 “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father. Here he said father meaning Terah.
    And in Joshua 24:2 your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor, they served other gods”, here, I see Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor not serving other gods.

    a read of both Genesis 31:53 as to what Laban said, and Joshua 24:2 said makes me think that Teran, Abram, Nahor, and Lot was not Idol worshippers.

    and knowing that, it give rise why God brought them out of Ur as he did with Lot in the plain cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for they went with the angels as Genesis 31:11 states.

    sorry for the Long response.

  15. I a born again Believer in Jesus Christ and I’m currently fasting and praying about the will of God for my life

    I enjoyed reading your article as I studying Abraham and faith at the moment

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed the read! Very informative and helpful… just wanted to comment on one thing…. “It is likely he would have been familiar with stories of past generations from before Noah, the flood and some of the descendants who followed after God (Gen. 5-6).” Abram was born 2 years after Noah died. Shem was still alive for 150 years of Abram’s life! Not only would Abram have been familiar with the stories, he would likely have heard the stories from his Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather Shem who had lived through the flood, AND lived 100 years before the flood and observed the wickness during that time!!!

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