Why did Terah leave Ur for Canaan, but Stop Halfway in Haran?
Why Did Terah Stop Halfway?

Have you ever wondered why Terah (the father of Abraham) left Ur of Chaldeans to go to Canaan?

Have you ever wondered why God’s Word devotes eleven verses in Genesis 11:24-32 telling us about Terah?

Who is Terah anyway?

Beginning in Genesis 11:10, this chapter recorded “the generations of Shem.”  From verse 10 through 25, the Bible simply lists what father begat what son, and how long they lived, through nine generations in a direct line from Shem to Terah.  Beginning in Genesis 11:26, the pattern changes.  Suddenly a lot more information is given about Terah and his children.  Why?

Genesis 11:31 tells us:

Terah took Abram his son . . . , and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. (ESV)

Why does God tell us this?

Genesis 11:32 records the death of Terah.  Then Genesis 12:1-5 tells us that God called Abram to leave his family and country to go to Canaan, with the promise that he would be blessed for his obedience.  He was also told that if he obeyed, all the families of the earth would be blessed in him (Gen. 12:3).  So Abram left Haran at the age of 75, taking Sarai his wife, his nephew Lot, and all their possessions with him, and entered the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:4-5).

So why did we need to know about Terah leaving Ur to go to Canaan, but stopping in Haran?  After all, the record of Abraham’s family history and call could have started in Haran.  Why did we need to know about Terah and Ur?  Since the Word of God provides this information, I think it must be significant.

Why did we need to know about Terah leaving Ur to go to Canaan, but stopping in Haran?

First, what would motivate Terah to uproot his family and leave the great city of Ur to travel 1,000 miles to the land of Canaan?  This would be a slow, arduous and dangerous journey.  He would have to take a roundabout route staying on “the fertile crescent,” rather than taking a direct route across the desert.  That is why he traveled 600 miles to Haran.

Second, since he left Ur to go to Canaan, why did Terah stop in Haran rather than continuing on?  The land of Canaan would have been about another 400 miles, so he was over halfway there.  Why did Terah settle halfway?

Could it be that God originally called Terah to go to Canaan with the same promises that were later given to his son Abraham?  It seems likely, because that would explain his reason for leaving his extended family and the prosperous city of Ur to travel to a land he did not know.  That would also explain why God chose to tell us so much about Terah and his move to Haran.

Could it be that God originally called Terah to go to Canaan with the same promises that were later given to his son Abraham?

So if God called Terah to go to Canaan, why did he stop halfway in Haran?  The Bible does not tell us, so we can only speculate.  Perhaps he stopped because of illness, injury, or just to rest.  Terah died at the age of 205 (Gen. 11:32).  Abram left Haran after Terah’s death when he was 75 years old (Gen. 12:4).  So Terah was probably over 150 years old when they made the trip.  Maybe he just got tired.

“Haran” is the name of Terah’s deceased son, Lot’s father (Gen. 11:27-28).  So it is likely that Terah named the place after his son.  If so, then Haran probably was not an established city when they stopped there.  No doubt it had water and pasture land for livestock (based on the many shepherds there during the days of Isaac, Jacob, and Laban).  So it may have provided a nice rest stop.

Terah stopped halfway; he did not fully obey

It could be that once they lost their momentum by stopping, they just got comfortable.  Then inertia (an object at rest tends to stay at rest) took over so they just settled in.  Maybe Terah felt comfortable enough that he just did not feel the need to sacrifice more in order to be blessed.

Whatever the reason, Terah stopped halfway.  But if God called Terah to go to Canaan, then he did not fully obey.  And incomplete obedience is disobedience.  So Abraham got his blessing instead.  Even though Terah is in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:34), it is through Abraham that all the families of the earth are blessed, not Terah.

All this Bible history is very interesting, but how does this apply to your life?

Abraham demonstrated his faith in God by continuing to obey Him through many hardships and trials.  “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23).  So Abraham is the example we should follow, not Terah.

I may provide more applications on this subject in the future, but for now, Remember:

  • Terah stopped halfway; he did not fully obey
  • Starting is not enough.  Like Paul, we must finish our course (2 Tim. 4:7)
  • We need to demonstrate our faith by remaining faithful to the end
  • If God gives you something to do, you need to see it through

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