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Terah from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Bornbef. 2000 BCE, Ur
ParentsNahor ben Serug
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Terah from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Bornbef. 2000 BCE, Ur
ParentsNahor ben Serug
Terah is also a place, Terah (Exodus)

Terah or Térach (Hebrew: תֶּרַח / תָּרַח, Modern Téraḥ / Táraḥ Tiberian Téraḥ / Tāraḥ ; "Ibex, wild goat", or "Wanderer; loiterer") is a biblical figure in the book of Genesis, son of Nahor, son of Serug and father of the Patriarch Abraham, all descendants of Shem's son Arpachshad. Terah is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible [1] and in the New Testament.[2]


Genesis narrative

Most of what is told about Terah is recorded in Genesis 11:26-28. Terah's father was Nahor, son of Serug, descendants of Shem.[v.10] They and many of their ancestors were polytheistic.[3] Regarding his children, Terah had three sons: Abram, Haran, and Nahor II.[v.26] He also had a daughter-in-law Sarai, wife of Abram.[4] The entire family, including grandchildren, lived in Ur of the Chaldees.[v.31] One of his grandchildren was Lot, whose father Haran, Terah's son, died while living in Ur.[v.28]

Terah's son, Abram, had an encounter with God who directed him to take the entire family and leave Haran to the land of Canaan.[5] Terah coordinated the journey intending to go to this new land, however, he ended up staying in Haran (biblical place),[v.31] a city that was along the way. He died in Haran at 205 years of age.[v.32]

Jewish tradition

Terah's occupation

Terah was a wicked [6] idolatrous priest[7] who manufactured idols.[8][9] In Jewish tradition, Abram is considered to be the eldest of three sons who was opposed to his father’s idol shop. After Abram smashed his father’s idols and chased customers away, Terah brought his unruly son before Nimrod, who threw him into a fiery furnace, yet Abram miraculously escaped.[10] The Zohar says that when God saved Abram from the furnace, Terah repented [11] and Rabbi Abba B. Kahana said that God assured Abram that his father Terah had a portion in the World to Come.[12]

Rabbi Hiyya's relates this account:

Terah left Abram to mind the store while he departed. A woman came with a plateful of flour and asked Abram to offer it to the idols. Abram then took a stick, broke the idols, and put the stick in the largest idol’s hand. When Terah returned, he demanded that Abram explain what he'd done. Abram told his father that the idols fought among themselves and the largest broke the others with the stick. “Why do you make sport of me?” Terah cried, “Do they have any knowledge?” Abram replied, “Listen to what you are saying!”

Leader of the journey

Terah is identified as the person who arranged and led the family to embark on a mysterious journey to Canaan. It is shrouded in mystery to Jewish scholars as to why Terah began the journey and as to why the journey ended prematurely. It is suggested that he was a man in search of a greater truth that could possibly be found in the familiar[13] land of Canaan, and that it was Abram who picked up the torch to continue his father's quest, that Terah himself was unable to achieve. [14]

When Abram leaves Haran

It is believed that Abram left Haran before Terah died as an expression that he would not be remiss in the Mitzvah, of honoring a parent, by leaving his aging father behind.[15] The significance of Terah not reaching Canaan, was a reflection of his character, a man who was unable to go “all the way”. Though on a journey in the right direction, Terah fell short at arriving to the divine destination — in contrast to Abram, who did follow through and achieved the divine goal, and was not bound by his father’s idolatrous past. Abram's following God’s command to leave his father, thus absolved him from the Mitzvah of honoring parents, and as Abraham, he would go on to create a new lineage distinct from his ancestors.[16]

Islamic tradition

In some Islam sects, Abraham's father is believed to have been an ignorant man,[17] who refused to listen to the constant advice of his wise son. In fact, the earliest story involving Abraham in the Qur'an is his discussion with his father. The name given for this man in the Qur'an [18] is Āzar (Arabic: آزر‎), though Arab genealogists related the name of Abraham's father as Tāraḥ (Arabic: تارح‎). Even though the name is different in Islamic tradition to that in the Hebrew Bible, there is no doubt that the same figure is spoken of in both texts.[citation needed]

Abraham's advice

As a father, Azar required his son's most sincere advice. Abraham, after receiving his first revelations from God, invited his father to the way of Islam. Abraham explained to him the faults in idolatry,[19] and why he was wrong to worship objects which could neither hear nor see.[20] From the Quran 74/6 "And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father Azar: Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error." Abraham told his father that he had indeed received revelations from God, knowledge which his father did not possess,[21] and told him that belief in God would grant him immense rewards in both this life and the hereafter. Abraham concluded his preaching by warning Azar of the grave punishment he would face if he did not mend his ways.[22] When Abraham offered his father the guidance and advice of God, he rejected it, and threatened to stone him to death.[23] Abraham prayed for his father[24] to be forgiven by God, and although he continued to seek forgiveness, it was only because of a promise that he had made earlier to him. When it became clear that Azar's unrelenting hatred towards pure monotheism would never be fought, Abraham dissociated himself from him.[25]

Wreckage of the idols

The Qur'an makes it clear that the people of Abraham were idolaters. When Abraham had become older, he decided to finally teach his community a lesson. He said to himself that he had a plan for their idols, whilst they would be gone away.[26] The Qur'an goes onto narrate that Abraham subsequently broke the idols, all except the largest, which he kept intact.[27] When the people returned, they began questioning each other over the wreckage, until some of the people remembered that the youth, Abraham, had spoken of the idols earlier.[28] When Abraham arrived, the people immediately began to question him, asking him whether he had anything to do with the broken idols. Abraham then, in a clever taunt, asked the people as to why they do not ask the largest of the idols, which, they believed, could indeed hear and speak.[29] The people of Abraham were then confounded with shame, and admitted that the idols were incapable of anything.[30]

Abraham is thrown into the fire

After the incident of the idol wreckage, the people of Abraham, while having admitted their fault, are said to have ignored Abraham's warning and instead retaliated by throwing him into a fire and exclaiming "protect your gods".[31] Although the natural nature of fire is one of intense heat, God commanded the flame to be cool and peaceful for Abraham.[32] Abraham, as a result, remained unhurt both physically and spiritually, having survived the fire of persecution. The people continued to taunt and persecute him, but to no avail, as the Qur'an says that it was they "that lost most".[33]

Christian tradition

The Christian views of the time of Terah come from a passage in the New Testament at Acts 7:2-4 where Stephen said some things that contrast with Jewish Rabbinical views. He said that God appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia, and directed him to leave the Chaldeans — whereas most Rabbinical commentators see Terah as being the one who directed the family to leave Ur Kasdim from Genesis 11:31: “Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan.”

Preceded by
Ancestor of Israel
Succeeded by


  1. ^ Genesis 11: 26, 27; 1 Chronicles 1:17-27
  2. ^ Luke 3:34-36
  3. ^ Joshua 24:2
  4. ^ Genesis 11:29
  5. ^ Genesis 11:31
  6. ^ Numbers Rabbah 19:1; 19:33
  7. ^ Midrash HaGadol, Bereishis 11:28
  8. ^ Eliyahu Rabbah 6
  9. ^ Eliyahu Zuta 25
  10. ^ Bereishis Rabbah 38:13
  11. ^ Zohar, Bereshit 1:77b
  12. ^ Genesis Rabbah 30:4; 30:12
  13. ^ Sforno, Bereishit 12:5
  14. ^ Goldin, Shmuel. Unlocking the Torah Text Bereishit, Vol. 1, (ISBN 9652294128, ISBN 978-965-229-412-8), 2010, p. 59, 60
  15. ^ Compare Rashi, Bereishis 11:32 with Bereishis Rabbah 39:7
  16. ^ (Haggadah shel Pesach) - Levene, Osher C. People of the Book, (ISBN 1568714467, ISBN 978-1-56871-446-2), 2004, p. 79-80
  17. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Abraham and his father
  18. ^ (6:74)
  19. ^ Quran 19:44
  20. ^ Quran 19:42
  21. ^ Quran 19:43
  22. ^ Quran 19:45
  23. ^ Quran 19:46
  24. ^ Quran 19:47
  25. ^ Quran 9:114
  26. ^ Quran 21:57
  27. ^ Quran 21:58
  28. ^ Quran 21:60
  29. ^ Quran 21:63
  30. ^ Quran 21:65
  31. ^ Quran 21:68
  32. ^ Quran 21:69
  33. ^ Quran 21:70