Abram’s Family

Teena Myers
Teena Myers

Joshua 24:2 NAS95  Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.

God said Terah, Abraham and Nahor served other gods, which means Abram was born into a family that believed in many gods and worshipped them. In the Bible Abram’s story begins with his calling. We have even less information about his father Terah. But we can gain some insight into his family from Jewish history and traditions.

One Jewish tradition says Terah was originally from Haran, and Abram was born in Haran. Terah then moved his family to Ur, where he owned a business that made and sold idols.

Terah was 128 when Noah died. Terah knew Noah, Noah knew Methuselah and Methuselah knew Adam. Terah knew about the events in the Garden of Eden, the flood, and the tower of Babel from people who were present at the event or knew someone who participated in the event as is the case with Methuselah who knew Adam before Adam died. 

All of Terah’s grandfathers from Noah, a preacher of righteousness, to his father Nahor were alive when Terah was born. Two of them, Noah and Shem lived before the flood. All of them were at the Tower of Babel except Nahor. Yet, God said Terah worshipped idols, which means Terah knew the truth, and rejected the God who created Adam.

When Abram was born five of his grandfathers were still alive. Four of them were at the Tower of Babel with Shem who lived before the flood. The light of God grew dim but it never went out. Abram learned a different story about God from his grandfathers.

Abram knew why God flooded the earth from Shem. Abram knew the truth about the events at the Tower of Babel from 4 eyewitnesses, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and Eber.  Shem experienced life in a world filled with violence and perversity before the flood.  Shem witnessed the severity of God’s judgment against sin, and experienced God’s goodness for providing an escape from the flood.

For more than a century the people knew God’s judgment would come. Most of that century Noah was building a way to escape. There was ample time for people to repent. When they refused, God sealed Noah’s family in the ark and washed the unrepentant off the face of the earth.

Noah’s family walked off the ark to learn God took no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Genesis 8:21 NAS95 (21)  The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

Abram’s grandfathers were alive when humanity founded a one world government that excluded God. They were present when Nimrod convinced Noah’s descendants to build a city and tower that would be so high God would never be able to destroy them by a flood again.

Abram learned about God from men who knew God’s actions were justified when he flooded the earth for its violence, because every imagination of their hearts was evil continually. Later God put the ability to do the impossible out of the reach of Noah’s descendants at the tower of Babel to stop them from fulfilling every evil they could imagine. 

Terah taught his sons to worship the worlds way. But Abram’s grandpas talked about one God who created all things. A God who promised the serpent a seed from a woman would destroy the works of the devil, a God who grieved when he had to destroy all humanity but one family, a God who put a rainbow in the sky as a sign he will never flood the earth again.

Everyone faces Abram’s dilemma. We must navigate through a myriad of religions and their conflicting ideas about God. Are there many gods? Is there one God who created all things? Is he good? Is he a tyrant?

According to Josephus, Abram initially adopted a diplomatic position. He did not deny the existence of multiple gods but viewed them as subject to a supreme ruler of the universe. He believed,

“That there was but one god, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed anything to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power.”[1]

Abram did more than trust the testimony of his grandfathers. He rested his belief on the visible creation. After observing the irregular paths taken by sun, moon and stars he concluded

“If these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they cooperate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to him that commands them; to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving.”[2]

Josephus claims Abram as the first to publish the idea of one God. Noah died 2 years before Abram was born. Before Noah, Adam and Eve taught their descendants that one God created them and gave them authority over the earth. Abram wasn’t preaching a new idea. He preached an unpopular idea because humanity, with some exceptions had embraced Nimrod’s false religion.

We don’t know the story of Abram’s salvation. We do know from Jewish history the Chaldeans and people of Mesopotamia did not appreciate his message. According to Josephus, they raised a tumult against him. The bitter taste of rejection made God’s calling, the first record we have of God speaking to Abram a sweet experience.

Acts 7:2-3 AMP [Stephen is speaking to the High Priest] Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory [the Shekinah, the radiance of God] appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and he said to him, “Leave your country and your relatives, and come to the land that I will show you.”

One tradition believes Abram was three years old when he accepted there is one unseen God, who sees and knows everything. At the age of 10 he visited Shem who taught him all he knew about God and the ways of God. There is a popular story about Terah leaving Abram in charge of his store to sell idols until he returned.

However, Abraham discouraged potential customers from buying the idols, explaining to them the futility of worshipping statues that were only fashioned that very day.

Not satisfied with this, Abraham took an ax and destroyed all but one of his father’s idols. He took the ax and placed it in the hand of the largest idol, the only one that remained intact. When Terah returned and saw what had happened, he accused Abraham. But Abraham explained that the largest idol had broken all the others in a fight over an offering that a woman had brought to the store. Terah exclaimed that such a thing was impossible. He then realized that his son had tricked him into admitting that his idols were powerless.[3]

The first record of God speaking to him is his calling to separate from his family and go to a land God will show him. But we can safely conclude that Abram got “saved” in Ur, and God accepted Abram as his child before Abram’s family left Ur of the Chaldees.

Romans 8:14 NAS2020 “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God.”

We know Abram had a genuine relationship with God before he left Ur because all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons and daughters of God.

[1] (Josephus, Flavius Translated by William Whiston, The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson Publishers Peabody, MA 01916-3473,1987, Antiquities of the Jews Book 1 Chapter VII:1 Pg 85-86)

[2] (Josephus, Flavius Translated by William Whiston, The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson Publishers Peabody, MA 01916-3473,1987, Antiquities of the Jews Book 1 Chapter VII:1 Pg 86)

[3] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4529921/jewish/Who-Was-Terah.htm

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