Abrahams Departure from Ur
“The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2-3 NKJV)
Why did Abraham leave Ur of the Chaldees?
COMMAND OF GOD
The simplest response is that Abraham obeyed the command of God. Yet Scripture is clear that Abraham did NOT go directly from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan.
COMMAND TO TERAH
What motivated Terah to take his family out of Ur?
• Terah saw one of his sons die before him: “Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” (Genesis 11:27-28 NKJV) The grief he felt may have motivated him to move to the area to which Haran had earlier migrated.
• Terah played an active part in bringing Abraham OUT of Ur: “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.” (Genesis 11:29 NKJV)
• Terah played an active part in NOT taking Abraham to Canaan: “They came to Haran and dwelt there.” (Genesis 11:29 NKJV)
LINK TO BABEL
A common understanding is that Moses was a content idolater in Ur who left Ur only because he heard the command of God to leave Ur and go to a land he had not seen. Yet this view completely separates the events of Abraham’s life from the events in the previous chapters. It may be that God used the events of the previous chapters as partial motivation for Abraham:
• Abraham was born 352 years after the Flood which was within the timeframe of the Tower of Babel: “Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.” (Genesis 11:10-11 NKJV) “Shem begot Arphaxad … [who] begot Salah … [who] begot Eber … [who] begot Peleg … [who] begot Reu … [who] begot Serug … [who] begot Nahor … [who] begot Terah … [who] begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” (Genesis 11:10-26 NKJV)
• The beginnings of Babel are described: “Nimrod … began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” (Genesis 10:8-10 NKJV) There is more to the description of Nimrod than simply a mighty hunter. Nimrod was one who rebelled AGAINST the Lord and captured many nations.
• The construction of the city and a tower in the land of Shinar is described: “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there … And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:1-4 NKJV) A careful analysis shows that Nimrod may have been the leader of the rebellion at Babel.
• It may be that Ur is none other than Babel, also called Babylon. This sheds an entirely different light on the reasons that Abraham left Babel.
CONFUSION OF LANGUAGES
The Lord confused all the languages: “And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.’” (Genesis 11:6-7 NKJV) Perhaps Terah and his family were scattered from Babel, along with all other peoples, when the languages were confused: “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.” (Genesis 11:8 NKJV)
A GENEALOGICAL “INTERMISSION”
Scripture sometimes uses genealogies as a type of “intermission”. The genealogy of Adam to Noah is inserted between the description of men beginning to profane the name of the Lord (the true meaning of men beginning to call upon the name of the Lord) and the account of every thought of man being wicked: “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. This is the book of the genealogy of Adam.” (Genesis 4:26-5:1 NKJV) “And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth … Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 5:32-6:5 NKJV) In a similar manner, the genealogy from Seth to Abraham is inserted between the scattering of mankind from Babel and the departure of Abraham from that same city: “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. This is the genealogy of Shem … This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran … 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.” (Genesis 11:9-31 NKJV)
The genealogies from Adam to Noah and from Shem to Abraham have several similarities:
• Both eras were at a time of tremendous wickedness
• Both eras required a warning from God
• Both eras resulted in a complete disruption of all mankind
• Both eras describe the departure of the servant of God
Could it be that Abram left Babel BEFORE the confusion of tongues? It is not immediately apparent that Haran is still within the land of Mesopotamia, on the “other side” of the great River Euphrates. It is however, outside the land of the Chaldeans: “Then he [Abraham] came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father [Terah] was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.” (Acts 7:4 NKJV) Perhaps Terah and Abraham needed to leave the area of the Chaldeans in an urgent fashion. One source states, “Jewish tradition indicates that Abraham destroyed the idols of Nimrod and was forced to leave.” (Year 1, “The Jewish Timeline Encyclopedia - A Year by Year History from Creation to the Present” by Mattis Kantor) One author, in citing a Jewish tradition, states, “Abraham was a poor child of only three years of age; but he had the spirit of prophecy, and he refused to worship the idols which the old foolish king-Nimrod-had set up; therefore Nimrod cast him into a furnace of fire. But the Lord worked a miracle and delivered him. Yet here was no knowledge in Nimrod, and he would not be admonished … Then Abraham left the country of the idolaters, where he had been imprisoned, and came and reigned over the land of Canaan; and Nimrod became poor in this world.” (Ecclesiastes 4:13-14 Adam Clarke's Commentary)