Genesis 11:10-32

10 This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood.

11 After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.

12 Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah.

13 After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

14 Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber.

15 After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg.

17 After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters.

18 Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu.

19 After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.

20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug.

21 After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.

22 Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor.

23 After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.

24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah.

25 After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.

26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot.

28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.

29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.

30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, 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.

32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

Just like the genealogies in chapters four, five, and ten, the genealogy comprising this section follows immediately after a brief narrative describing the commission of a grave sin (i.e., Genesis 4:1-15 [the murder of Cain]; Genesis 4:23-26 [unjust capital punishment]; Genesis 9:20-28 [sexual perversion]; and Genesis 11:1-9 [collective rejection of God]), thus “moderating” the negative tone of the previous episode by demonstrating that God’s fundamental blessing of man in Genesis 1:28 remains intact—and if intact in its physical aspect, then also, potentially, in its spiritual aspect. — Wechsler, page 172. 

Terah seems to have been the one who kept the brief, but important, record from Genesis 11:10 through 11:27a. Apparently, the only thing which he (or better, the Holy Spirit) judge worthy of recording during this period as the family genealogical record.

He began by tying his own record back to that of Shem, using Shem’s name as the progenitor of his own line. “Shem was a hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood.” Evidently, therefore, Shem was 97 when the Flood began and 98 a year later when it ended. Perhaps two of Arphaxad’s brothers, Elam and Asshur, were born in the two years immediately after the Flood (their names are listed before Arphaxad’s in Genesis 10:22). However, the purpose here is not to give all the names in the various families but only the direct line from Shem to Terah. — Morris, page 280.

It is obvious, in comparing Genesis 5 and 11, that patriarchal longevity began to decline immediately after the Flood. Noah lived 950 years (about the same as his antediluvian forebears), but Shem lived only 600 years, Arphaxad 438 years, Salah 433 years, and Eber 464 years. A still sharper decline took place after Peleg, as noted below. — Morris, page 281.

According to the record, when Abram was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4), it had been 367 years since the Flood, and thus about 267 years since the Dispersion. … It is reasonable to assume 11 generations since the Flood at this stage in world history. … If each such generation were to experience a 500 percent increase, slightly less than did the first generation [after the Flood] (and this certainly was not impossible or unreasonable in those early days), then the world population at this time could have been at least 300 million people. Of course, it is more likely that this rate of increase fell off as time went on, but at least it is clear that the world population in Abraham’s time could have easily been large enough to account for all the evidences of civilization at that time throughout the world. — Morris, page 284.

Nahor … married his niece, Milcah, daughter of Haran. As Abram seems to have become Lot’s guardian when Haran died, it may have been that Nahor similarly took care of Milcah. As she grew into womanhood, then, he took her to be his wife. … Evidently, Sarai was also a daughter of Terah, but Terah had more than one wife, so she was only a half-sister of Abram. Such close marriages were later forbidden in the Mosaic law; but … at this early date they were not particularly dangerous from a genetic point of view, and so were not uncommon. … Note is made of Sarai’s barrenness at this time, so that Abram unlike Haran and Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24), had no children in either Ur or Mesopotamia. The child of promise must be born in the land of promise. — Morris, page 287.

This passage suggests that Terah himself may have received some kind of command from the Lord to go to the land of Canaan. If so, he only obeyed in part. He left Ur alright, but instead of striking directly westward across the desert to Canaan, he moved northwest up the Mesopotamian valley, finally reaching Haran. …When they left Ur, Terah took Abram and Sarai with him, as well as his grandson Lot. Nahor stayed behind in Ur, apparently with Lot’s sister Milcah (who became Nahor’s wife) and possibly his other sister, Iscah, as well. Later on, however, Nahor must have brought his own family on up to Haran, or to the nearby city of Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24), so that the family probably was reunited for a while. … Perhaps God appeared to both Terah and Abram in Ur, and they both set out to Canaan together, father and son. Terah, however, delayed long in Haran and it eventually became apparent to Abram that his father no longer intended to go on to Canaan. The prosperity and comfort at Haran were too great a temptation for him. Eventually, Terah even began to get involved in the Chaldean idolatries, which were part and parcel of both the trade and the culture of the region (Joshua 24:2, 14-15). — Morris, pages 288-289.

It is Terah, not Abram, who is presented as the one taking the initiative to set out towards Canaan. This is clear from verse 31a, which portrays Terah actively as the one who took Abram, Lot, and Sarai, with the latter three thus portrayed passively as the ones who were “taken.” Insofar as the immediately following “episode” concerns God’s issuing of the Abrahamic promise (covenant), this passive portrayal of Abram is extremely significant, for it disallows the conclusion that the promise was given to Abraham as a result of anything especially meritorious that he did. … This view of Terah as the initiator of the journey does not contradict Stephens’ statement in Acts 7:2-4, in which he indicates that Abram received his call from God “when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran.” Having received this call, Abram would have sought, quite naturally, to consult with the family Patriarch, who, in affirming the validity of the call, would have recognized that it was incumbent on him to take the lead in obedience. — Wechsler, pages 175-176. 

Ur (v.28) — This city was located in southern Mesopotamia. Excavations have shown that its material civilization was far advanced, even long before the time of Abram; its houses show a level of material welfare in Abram’s day equal to that of Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, more than 1000 years later. — Scofield, page 18.

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