Those Who Start the Journey
Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of [his deceased son] Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. – Genesis 11:31 (NRSV)
Terah is generally overshadowed by his son Abram. It is Abram who hears God’s call to go to the land God would show him. Abram who is the “Father of the Faith.”
Terah had set out from Ur to go to that same land, but he only got as far as Haran before settling down. Consequently some scholars see Terah as a bit of a loser, lacking his son’s faith or courage. According to one commentator, Terah’s life is “the short, sad story of a man who settled.” Another claims, “The only good thing Terah ever did was to die.” Only then could Abram heed God’s call and continue the journey.
However, I’d like to put in a good word for Terah. He actually started the journey that his son completed. Before Terah, the ancestors stayed put. In the chapter-long genealogy that precedes Terah’s story, there’s a lot of begetting, but no packing up one’s kin to go to a new and foreign land. No leaving behind the place where one son is buried. No seeking new life for the other son and the rest of the family.
Terah did all that—without the promise God gave Abram. No, Terah didn’t complete the journey he’d planned. For unknown reasons, he settled instead in Haran. He didn’t reach the Promised Land.
But he had the vision to start the journey. May we have such vision, too.
Thank you, God, for Terah’s commitment to your journey—no matter how far he got.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.