half of a journey

Genesis 11

27 This is the account of Terah’s family line.

   Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
 31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.
 32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

Abram is one of the most familiar names here, often considered the main actor in the stories that follow.  But he is introduced not as a father but as a son. Abram’s story is introduced by his father’s story.

Verse 30 introduces a huge obstacle – Sarai’s inability to conceive.  Abram would be unable to continue his father’s line; at least, not through Sarai.  This obstacle is to provide the backdrop for what follows,  and it is introduced early.  

We’re given a general description of Terah’s family. Some will continue to become main players in the story, others are simply mentioned and passed over. Their individual lives are not the point of the narrative.

Terah takes three of these main players: Abram, Lot and Sarai, and sets off for Canaan. We’re not told why. What we are told is that the journey is never completed. They stop and they settle in Haran. We’re not told why they do that, either.

It’s said that Ur and Haran were both centres for moon worship – perhaps this was a common ground, a familiar setup for Terah.  Tracking forward we’re told that

“…Long ago your ancestors – Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor – lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.”  – Joshua 24:2 emphasis mine

Their religious heritage was not one of following Yahweh, at least not by name and not exclusively.  And since Yahweh is described repeatedly as a ‘jealous God’, true worship of Yahweh demands exclusivity.

They stop in Haran. They settle in Haran. For Terah, this is the end of the journey.  

He never makes it to Canaan – the journey is incomplete, the story stops moving.

Personal reflection:

Sometimes it is easy to set out towards a goal and then settle for a half way point.  Nothing particularly eventful is noted about Terah except this stalled journey.  How easy is it to give up, especially when it is easy to remain in what feels familiar?  Will the definition of our lives be one of half-finished goals?  Or do we strike out for the finish, not allowing ourselves to settle for anything less?

In a way, this reflection links with my post about good intentions over at looking deeper.  We can start so well, and neglect to finish.  All that we meant to do turns into what we actually got round to doing…

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