Terah
תֶּרַח
Illustration of Terah with Latin text from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
Born
Ur Kaśdim, Chaldea, Sumer
(present-day southern Iraq)
Died
Children
Parent(s)Nahor ben Serug (father)
'Ijaska bat Nestag (mother, according to Book of Jubilees)[1]

Terah or Terach (Hebrew: תֶּרַח Teraḥ) is a biblical figure in the Book of Genesis. He is listed as the son of Nahor and father of the patriarch Abraham, thus he was an ancestor of the Ishmaelites and the Israelites. As such, he is a descendant of Shem's son Arpachshad. Terah is mentioned in Genesis 11:26–27, Book of Joshua 24:2, and 1 Chronicles 1:17–27 of the Hebrew Bible and Luke 3:34–36 in the New Testament.

Biblical narrative

Terah is mentioned in Genesis 11:26–27,[2] Joshua 24:2,[3] and 1 Chronicles 1:17–27[4] of the Hebrew Bible and Luke 3:34–36[5] in the New Testament. Terah is mentioned in Genesis 11:26–32 as a son of Nahor, the son of Serug, descendants of Shem.[6] He is said to have had three sons: Abram (better known by his later name Abraham), Haran, and Nahor II, and one daughter: Sarai (better known by his later name Sarah). The family lived in Ur of the Chaldees. His grandchildren were Lot, Milcah and Iscah, whose father, Haran, had died at Ur.[6]

In the Book of Joshua, in his final speech to the Israelite leaders assembled at Shechem, Joshua recounts the history of God's formation of the Israelite nation, beginning with "Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, who lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods."[6] Terah is also mentioned in a biblical genealogy given in 1 Chronicles.

In the Genesis narrative, Terah took his family and left Ur to move to the land of Canaan. Terah set out for Canaan but stopped in the city of Haran along the way, where he died.[7][8]

Jewish tradition

Children

Genesis 11:26[9] states that Terah lived 70 years, "and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran". The Talmud says that Abraham was 52 years old at year 2000 AM (Anno Mundi),[10] which means that he was born in the year 1948 AM.

Occupation

According to rabbinic literature Terah was a wicked (Numbers Rabbah 19:1; 19:33), idolatrous priest (Midrash HaGadol on Genesis 11:28) who manufactured idols (Eliyahu Rabbah 6, and Eliyahu Zuta 25). Abram, in opposition to his father's idol shop, smashed his father's idols and chased customers away. Terah then brought his unruly son before Nimrod, who threw him into a fiery furnace, yet Abram miraculously escaped (Genesis Rabbah 38:13). The Zohar says that when God saved Abram from the furnace, Terah repented (Zohar Genesis 1:77b) and Rabbi Abba B. Kahana said that God assured Abram that his father Terah had a portion in the World to Come (Genesis Rabbah 30:4; 30:12).

Rabbi Hiyya relates this account in the Genesis Rabbah:

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[11] 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.[12]

When Abram leaves Haran

In Jewish tradition, when Terah died at age 205, Abraham (70 years younger) was already 135 years old. Abram thus left Haran at age 75, well before Terah died. The Torah, however, relates Terah's death in Haran before Abram continues the journey to Canaan as an expression that he was not remiss in the Mitzvah of honoring a parent by leaving his aging father behind.[13] The significance of Terah not reaching Canaan was a reflection of his character, a man who was unable to go "all the way". Although 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.[14]

Samaritan tradition

In the Samaritan Pentateuch Terah dies aged 145 years and Abram leaves Haran after his death.[15]

Christian tradition

In the Christian tradition Abram left Haran after Terah died. The Christian views of the time of Terah come from a passage in the New Testament at Acts 7:2–4[16] 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."[17] Stephen asserts that Abram left Haran after Terah died.[18]

Islamic tradition

In Sunni Islam

Some Sunni scholars are of the opinion that Azar (mentioned in the Qur'an) is not the father of Ibrahim.[19] For some, the actual name of the father of Ibrahim is Tarakh, thus cannot be Azar.[20][21][22] Ibn Hajar's position is that in fact Azar is the paternal uncle of Ibrahim and that Arabs use the term "ab" to refer to the paternal uncle also and that Allah used this expression in the Qur'an 2:133 where Isma'il, the paternal uncle of Ya'koob, is referred to as an "ab".[23]

It is also maintained by some that Azar's real name was Nakhoor, and that though Azar earlier worshipped Allah, he abandoned his forefathers' religion when he became the minister of Namrud.[24]

In Shi'ism

Terah as Abraham's father

There is a consensus among Shia Muslim scholars and exegetes that Azar was not the biological father of Abraham but rather his paternal uncle while Terah is believed to be his father. Shaykh Tusi maintained that Azar was not Abraham's father and cited a hadith from Muhammad according to which none of the prophet's ancestors up to Adam were polytheists.[25] By this he argued that since Azar was an idolater and Abraham was one of the prophet's ancestors, it is not possible for Azar to be Abraham's father. According to Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi in Tafsir Nemooneh, all Shiite exegetes and scholars believe that Azar was not Abraham's father.[26] Allamah Tabatabai in his Tafsir al-Mizan appealed to the Quranic verses in which Abraham prayed for his parents, that they show that his father was someone other than Azar.[27] In Dua Umm Dawood, a supplication recited by Shi'ite Muslims cited to be from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, the supplicant sends blessings on a person by the name of 'Turakh'.[28][29] In Nahj al-Balagha, Imam Ali is reported to have said in a sermon, "I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, and the chief of His creation; whenever Allah divided the line of descent, He put him in the better one.."[30] Likewise, in Ziyarat Arbaeen, a recitation with which Shiite Muslims pay respect to Imam Husayn, it is recited "I bear witness that you were a light in the sublime loins and purified wombs..",[31] through which it is believed that none of his ancestors up to Adam were impure, which includes Muhammad, Imam Ali and Lady Fatimah and hence including Abraham's biological father.

The Twelver Shi'ite website Al-Islam.org treats Azar as being Abraham's uncle, not his biological father.[32] To justify this view, it references a passage of the Quran, which mentions that the sons of Yaʿqūb (Jacob) referred to his uncle Ismāʿīl (Ishmael), father Is-ḥāq (Isaac) and grandfather Ibrāhīm (Abraham) as his ābāʾ (Arabic: آبَـاء):[33]

Were you there to see when death came upon Ya'qub? When he said to his sons, "What will you worship after I am gone?" they replied, "We shall worship your God and the God of your abaʾ, Ibrahim, Isma'il, and Is-haq, one single God: we devote ourselves to Him."

— Qur'an, 2:133[33]

Therefore, the singular word ab does not always mean progenitor, and can be used for an adopter, uncle, step-father, or caretaker, unlike the word wālid (Arabic: وَالِـد, progenitor). Thus, Al-Islam.org denies that Abraham's biological father was 'Azar', and instead agreed with Ibn Kathir that he was the biblical figure 'Terah',[32] who nevertheless treated him as a polytheist.[34]

As Abraham's uncle

In contrast to Al-Islam.org,[32] Shi'ite scholar and jurist Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi believed[when?] Terah to be the uncle of Abraham, not his father.[35]: 15 

In popular culture

Terah is portrayed by Vittorio Gassman in the film Abraham (1993).

References

  1. ^ Jubilees 11:8
  2. ^ Genesis 11:26–27
  3. ^ Joshua 24:2
  4. ^ 1 Chronicles 1:17–27
  5. ^ Luke 3:34–36
  6. ^ a b c "THE ROLE OF TERAH IN THE FOUNDATIONAL STORIES OF THE PATRIARCHAL FAMILY".
  7. ^ The Masoretic Text gives his age at death as 205. The corresponding passage in the Septuagint does not give Terah's age at death. See Larsson, Gerhard. "The Chronology of the Pentateuch: A Comparison of the MT and LXX." Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 102, no. 3, 1983, pp. 401–409. www.jstor.org/stable/3261014. See also the New English Translation of the Septuagint, Genesis 11:32.
  8. ^ The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1989. pp. 6–22.
  9. ^ Genesis 11:26
  10. ^ "Chapter 9a". Avodah Zarah. Babylonian Talmud. p. 7. Rather, the two-thousand-year time period of the Torah is counted from the time when it is stated about Abraham and Sarah: "And the souls that they had gotten in Haran" (Genesis 12:5), which is interpreted by the Sages as referring to the men and women who were brought closer to the Torah by Abraham and Sarah. Therefore, it was at this point that the Torah began to spread throughout the world. And it is learned as a tradition that at that time Abraham was fifty-two years old.
  11. ^ Sforno, Bereishit 12:5
  12. ^ Goldin, Shmuel. Unlocking the Torah Text Bereishit, Vol. 1, (ISBN 9652294128, ISBN 978-965-229-412-8), 2010, p. 59, 60
  13. ^ Compare Rashi, Bereishis 11:32 with Bereishis Rabbah 39:7
  14. ^ (Haggadah shel Pesach) – Levene, Osher C. People of the Book, (ISBN 1568714467, ISBN 978-1-56871-446-2), 2004, p. 79–80
  15. ^ "Google Sites". sites.google.com.
  16. ^ Acts 7:2–4
  17. ^ Genesis 11:31
  18. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Acts 7:4 - King James Version". Bible Gateway.
  19. ^ Roohul Ma'ani, 7/194,95.
  20. ^ Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 2, p. 100.
  21. ^ Al-Dur al-Manthur, vol. 3, p. 43.
  22. ^ Niazi, Yama (2022-10-06). "Will All Believers and Their Non-Muslim Parents Be Forgiven?". Seekers Guidance. Archived from the original on 2023-06-15. Retrieved 2023-06-15. The Prophet Ibrahim's actual father was a Muslim. His name is given as Tarakh by historians.
  23. ^ Al Minahul Makkiyya, 1/152
  24. ^ Sanaulla al-Mazhari, Tafsir al-Mazhari, 3/256.
  25. ^ Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 4, p. 175
  26. ^ Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 5, p. 303.
  27. ^ Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 7, p. 261
  28. ^ "Aamal e Umme Dawood". www.duas.org.
  29. ^ "Wilayat Mission" (PDF).
  30. ^ Nahj Al-Balagha, Sermon 214
  31. ^ "Ziyarat Arbaeen - Duas.org". www.duas.org.
  32. ^ a b c "Was Azar the Father of Prophet Abraham?". Al-Islam.org. Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  33. ^ a b Quran 2:124-141
  34. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Abraham and his father
  35. ^ Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi (26 March 2016). The Laws of Islam (PDF). Enlight Press. ISBN 978-0-9942-4098-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2017.