“And it came to pass that Nachor was twenty-nine years old he begat Tarach. And after Nachor begat Terach, he lived one-hundred and nineteen years and begat sons and daughters. And it came to pass that Terach had lived seventy years. He begat Abram, Nachor, and Haran.”
And the bridge has now been crossed — the covenantal transition between Noah and his sons and Abram — a period spanning 352 years beginning with the flood and taking us to the birth of Abraham. And all of that three hundred and fifty two years summarized within 17 verses of scripture. There may perhaps be a temptation to be discouraged, wondering if our own lives will prove to be such a small footnote of history — or even to make the text of the history books, for many do not. Yet, we are to always remember that it is not our lives that are of significance; it is Jesus who is of significance. And that means that if we labor all our lives in humble obscurity yet in a way that honors our Lord and Savior, that ought to be enough — and enough it is.
We have seen the subtle vowel changes between the first and second readings of several of the names in this genealogy already, so Terach’s name should not cause us to stumble. There is a great deal of discussion as to what the origin of Terach’s name actually is. Some have suggested that it goes back to a town on the edge of the River Balikh which is north-east of Haran, Turāhu. Others have connected his name with the Akkadian word turāhum, which means “mountain goat” — typically understood as referring to an ibex. The answer we just may never know in this life.
We have already seen the meanings of the name Nachor, Haran is typically understood to refer to a mountainous countryside as the root of the name, rAh (har), means “mountain” or “rough hill.” Abram’s name means, “Great Father.” And that is exactly what he is.
There are some who would be slightly tripped up by the way verse 26 leaves things off. Was Abraham the oldest of the three brothers (hence is mentioned first) and if so, was Abraham born when Terah was 70? Traditionally, it has been understood that Abraham left Haran at the age of 75 (Genesis 12:4) and at the death of his father, Terah. Yet, that means that Terah was 130 years old when he Abraham was born, thus making him a younger son of Terah, not the oldest.
The answer to this question lies in the fact of who Abram is — he is the son of the covenant, the one through whom God will be continuing his covenantal promise. Just as the language of Genesis 5:32 leaves us with the birth of Noah’s three sons, yet only through Shem would the line continue, we find the same pattern being preserved here, hence he is listed first (just as Shem is listed first in Noah’s lineage — and note that Shem was 97 years old when the flood hit, making his father, Noah, 503 when he was born — so again, he was not the oldest of the three.
What will follow in this chapter is the beginning of the call that Abraham would receive — in portion given through his father Terah. Perhaps, though, as we continue to introduce the life of Abraham, it would be valuable to lay out the timetable of births and deaths that bridges us from the flood of Noah to the life of Abraham.
- The Flood of Noah’s Day takes place (the floodwaters themselves lasting a full year)
- 2 AF (After the Flood): Arpakshad born
- 37 AF: Shelach born
- 67 AF: Eber born
- 101 AF: Peleg born
- 131 AF: Reu born
- 163 AF: Serug born
- 193 AF: Nachor born
- 222 AF: Terach born
- 292 AF: Terach begins having sons
- 340 AF: Peleg dies (the first of the covenantal line to die post-flood)
- 341 AF: Nachor dies
- 350 AF: Noah dies
- 352 AF: Abraham born
- 370 AF: Reu dies
- 393 AF: Serug dies
- 427 AF: Terach dies and Abram migrates to Canaan
- 440 AF: Arpakshad dies
- 452 AF: Isaac is born
- 470 AF: Shelach dies
- 502 AF: Shem dies
- 527 AF: Abraham dies
- 531 AF: Eber dies
Sobering, isn’t it?
“And it came to pass that Serug was thirty years old and he begat Nachor. And Serug lived two-hundred years after he begat Nachor and he begat sons and daughters.”
Some names in the Bible are more flattering than others. This one is not one of the more flattering ones… Nachor literally means, “snorter,” and is typically understood to refer to the kind of snort that an aquatic whale would make when they surface and snort, or blow out, the carbon dioxide stored in their bodies from long dives. Being called a “whale” is unflattering enough, but even more so when you realize that the ancient Hebrew culture was never overly fond of the water in the first place. One can speculate that perhaps this name came from the way the baby snorted or played, but that is entering into speculation. The reality is that we do not know for sure.
Yet, as unflattering as we might find the name to be, Nachor’s grandson — the son of Terah — would be named after him. That simple fact should remind us of the importance of honoring those who have gone before us and one way to do so is for our children to carry their names. There is a tribute that is made to that end and Terah saw that as a way to honor the one who had raised him up in the world. So often we are prone to live only thinking of ourselves; this is a reminder to us that we stand on the shoulders of the giants that have gone before us.
“Then I asked her saying, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor whom Milkah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her hands and I bowed and worshipped Yahweh. I repeatedly blessed Yahweh the God of my lord Abraham who led me in the true path to take a daughter of the brother of my lord for his son.’”
Eliezer’s retelling now comes to a close, but notice what it is that he closes this dialogue with: praise to God. He could have closed his account by saying, “and she brought me to you…” or “and she showed me here to her father’s house…”, but Eliezer closes with the most important thing: “I gave praise to God.” In fact, the verbal form used when it speaks of Eliezer’s “blessing” Yahweh is in the Piel construct, which reflects a repeated action. His words might have been, “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, oh Lord…”
Loved ones, I also hope that this is your response to the hand of God working in your life — that God is rightly honored for bringing about such good things and for leading you on the true path that leads to his glory. Sadly, our response is not to do so or only to do so as an afterthought. Often we desire the glory for ourselves and do not give honor where honor is due. As my friend and I were discussing just last night, the only good in me is the good that God is doing in me; may He get the credit for he is the agent at work in my life.