GENESIS 11:27-32


Throughout the first part of the book of Genesis, there is a pattern seen concerning the Judgments of God.  After God pronounces a judgment upon sin, He follows that judgment by offering a way of escape and salvation from that judgment.




Adam & Eve cast out of Garden of Eden.

Promise of redemption through seed of the Woman.

Cain banished from the presence of God for murdering his brother.

God places a mark on Cain so that no one will take vengeance.

Flood brought upon the earth.

Eight souls saved in Ark.

Confusion of languages and nations dispersed.

Abraham to be a blessing to the nations.


When God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He also gave them the first promise of redemption through the Seed of the Woman.  When God banished Cain from His presence after he had murdered Abel, He set a mark upon Cain to protect him from anyone who might be seeking revenge.  When the Lord brought a flood upon the earth to destroy all life, He allowed eight people to be saved within the ark.


When God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel, He doomed the world to an existence of misunderstanding, strife and confusion.  We have seen the account of this judgment in chapter 11.  Now at the end of chapter 11, we have the introduction to one particular individual whom God chooses to bless.  His name is Abram.  It will be through Abram that all of the nations in the world will be blessed, just as they have previously been judged.





We are not told how hold Abram was when he and his family left Ur of the Chaldees, but in Genesis 12:4 we find that he was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.  This would have taken place in the year 2085 B.C. and the date of Abram's birth would be placed at 2160 B.C.


This would mean that Abram departed from Ur of the Chaldees at a time when it was at its zenith.





            27 Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28 And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. (Genesis 11:27-28).


Thus begins another section of the book of Genesis.  We have already seen the generations of the heavens and the earth, the generations of Adam, the generations of Noah and the generations of Shem.  In each case, this introductory phrase has gone on to tell about the descendants of the one who was named.  The name Terah is used of no one else in the Bible.  The origins and the meaning of his name are unknown.


The family of Terah was beset by an untimely tragedy in the death of Haran.  We are not told the details of his death, but he left his son Lot fatherless.  It would be Abram who would act as guardian for this young man.





            And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. (Genesis 11:28).


Sir C. Leonard Woolley spent 12 years excavating the city of Ur located in Southern Mesopotamia (1922‑1934).  Since that time, most scholars have felt that this was the city of Abraham's birth.  Woolley found an ancient metropolis with a population of 34,000 in the inner district and as much as a quarter of a million in the outlying districts.


Ur was the scene of great war and great culture during the days which Abram lived.  For a time, the king of this city was the supreme monarch over all of the cities of Southern Mesopotamia, restoring Sumer to the glory that it had held in the days of Sargon the Great, 300 years earlier.


Ur contained a number of schools where students were taught reading, writing and arithmetic.  They learned to write in Sumerian cuneiform, pressing their wedged‑shaped markers onto the lumps of soft clay.


The religion of Ur involved the entire pantheon of Sumer.  The city itself was home to the patron god Nanna, the moon‑god.  Abram and his family originally participated in this pagan worship.


            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. (Joshua 24:2b).


Even the name “Abram” reflects his pagan origins.  It means “exalted father” or “father of high places.”  It is possibly a reference to the regular worship atop the Ziggurat of Ur.


This was the period of the golden age of Ur.  That would not be the case a hundred years later, but now Ur was the key city in Mesopotamia.  It was in the midst of this great economic prosperity that Yahweh would have revealed Himself to Abram and commanded him to leave his home in Ur and travel to a faraway land.  Abram was not called out of a country that was on the verge of destruction, but from one that was at its very peak of prosperity.





Several problems arise in the identification of Leonard Wooley’s Ur as the city of Abram's birthplace.  Therefore some have speculated on the existence of another city by the name of Ur located in northern Mesopotamia.


1.         Southern Ur was not associated with the Chaldeans until the 10th century B.C.  It is possible that the mention of the Chaldeans in our Genesis text is a scribal insertion to assist us in determining the location of Ur (it would be like speaking of the Ancient Mayans of Mexico).


2.         The Septuagint reading of Genesis 11:31 does not say that Abram came from Ur.  Instead of “they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans...” the Greek reads, “led them out of the land of the Chaldeans...”

3.         When Abraham was going to send for a wife for his son Isaac, he gave his servant the following instructions:


            “But you shall go to MY COUNTRY and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” (Genesis 24:4).


The phrase translated "my country" refers to “my land.”  This was not just the people of Abraham.  This was also his land!  Where did the servant go?  He went to Haran. [1]


           There continues to be a city in what is today western Turkey known as Urfa.  It is located very close to Haran and the local traditions of this city designate it as the birthplace of Abraham.  In support of this locale, Gary Rensburg points out that “if you were to go from Ur in southern Iraq to Canaan, you would never go through Haran; it is simply not on the way.  But, if you began in this northern Ur, you would indeed go through Haran on your way to Canaan.” [2]


           This area of Northern Mesopotamia is from where the original Chaldeans are said to have come.  Xenophon, writing a thousand years after Moses, states that the Chaldeans lived close to the Armenians.


           An examination of the Nuzi Tablets indicates that the Patriarchs reflect more of northern Mesopotamian culture than that of the Sumerians.


           The fact that the author goes out of his way to designate the city as Ur of the Chaldees suggests that it was not that familiar of a city to the original readers of Genesis.  Rensburg points this out by way of analogy.  Let’s use an analogy — London, the great city of London, England, and London, Ontario.  We know, of course, that London, Ontario must have been founded by people who came from London, England, but let’s make one further point on that.  If I just said, “London,’ you would correctly think I was referring to London, England.  If I have to refer to a second London, I have to add another term and I will indeed say, “London, Ontario.”  That’s why the Bible, to my mind, says “Ur of the Chaldees” or “Ur of the Chaleans,” because if you just said “Ur,” people would know you’re talking about the great Ur, the one in the south. [3]


On the other hand, if the phrase “Ur of the Chaldees” were reflective of a later insertion, it would identify the southern location of the city.  If this reference is a scribal insertion from a later period, then at least it informs us that the scribe intended us to consider this to be the city that was excavated by Woolley.


Does it really matter whether Abram came from the northern city or the better known southern city of Ur?  Not really.  People traveled throughout the ancient world of that day and cultural habits were regularly imported from far away places.





            And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 And Sarai was barren; she had no child. (Genesis 11:29-30).


Haran evidently had a wife who gave birth to Lot, but she is not mentioned.  Instead we are introduced to the wives of Abram and Nahor.  Of the two, it will be Sarai who shall play a key role in the family narrative.


Note that there was no injunction against marrying one’s niece.  Even the law prohibiting the marrying of one’s sister was not yet in effect.


The name Sarai means “my prince.” [4]  If Abram will be the father of the chosen people, then Sarai will be their mother.  However, there was a problem.  Sarai was barren.  This must be seen in the light of the culture of that day to understand the seriousness of this issue.  A woman who was barren was considered to be less than a woman.  She would have no one to sustain and to care for her in her older age.





            31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter‑in‑law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran. (Genesis 11:31-32).


When Stephen stood before the high priest in Jerusalem, he stated that God had first appeared to Abraham while he was in Ur, before he moved to Haran.


Haran was at the crossroads of the main highways from Mesopotamia to the west.  Indeed, the name “Haran” means “crossroads.”  Located on the Bilikh River sixty miles north of where it empties into the Euphrates, the city sits at the crossroads of three different continents.  It is a central hub with spokes leading out to Europe, Asia and Africa.


            “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2‑3).


This initial revelation of the Lord to Abram took place while he was still living in Ur.  He was told to leave both his country as well as his relatives.  The Genesis account of Abram’s departure tells us that Abram was accompanied by his father and his brothers.  Was this corporate move in disobedience to the command to leave his relatives? Perhaps not.  It is possible that this part of the command was not made known to Abram until after he had come to Haran.


We have already mentioned that Abram was an idol worshipper before leaving Ur.  There is no indication that Abram’s family ever stopped worshipping these pagan gods.


In the case of Laban, the nephew of Abram and the uncle of Jacob, the most that we can say is that he considered Yahweh to be one of many tribal gods.  Only in Abram do we find a man who worshipped Yahweh exclusively.


It is not until the following chapter that we read of the Lord’s call to Abram, yet already we see both Abram and his father and family relocating from their original home of Ur of the Chaldeans to the city of Haran.  Furthermore, we are told that this was done in order to enter the land of Canaan.


This sort of migration was not unknown in the ancient world.  There were not only families, but entire people groups that are known to have migrated during this period.  Yet the migration of Abram’s family had a particular destination.  It was in order to enter the land of Canaan.  I do not think this necessarily means they knew that Canaan was their final destination.  They were leaving their home in Ur and this was in order to enter the land of Canaan, but that does not mean they were aware of what was that final destination.  Why do I say that?  Because the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).


There is an interesting lesson here.  It is a lesson of destination.  Being unaware of your final destination does not preclude you from getting there.  The reason Abram made it to the Promised Land was not because of his good planning; it was because he acted in faith and the Lord brought him here.


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[1]  There is a difference in spelling between Haran the city to which Abram and his family moved (!r'x') versus Haran the brother of Abram who died (!r'h').

[2]  Gary Rendsburg, The Book of Genesis: Part 1. The Teaching Company, Chantilly, VA (2006). Page 162.

[3]  Ibid. 163.

[4] rf; is the word for “prince.”