Meet the Family and More: Genesis 11

I’m a fan of who-done-its, whether they are in book form, movies, or tv series (especially BBC versions). As we read God’s words spoken to us, we can imagine we are master detectives following the clues in order to get the whole picture. For example, as we examine Abram’s words, actions, and deeds, we note how he interacts with other people and with God. We try to understand his motives, what makes him hesitate, and what makes him tick. We may infer or read behind the lines of the story while maintaining a firm grasp on God’s message to us through the Scriptures. We will also use other reference material to give us a clearer picture.

Chart the Facts

Here are the facts that I listed from Genesis 11:27-32, Joshua 24:2-3, and Genesis 20:12.

TerahAbramSarai
Terah decided to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel toward Canaan (Gen 11:31)His Father was Terah; there were 3 brothers: Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Gen 11: 27)Married Abram (Gen 11:29)
Abram and Sarai and Haran’s son Lot traveled with him (Gen 11:31)His brother Haran (the father of a son, Lot, and two daughters, Milcah and Iscah) died in Ur (Gen 11:28)She was unable to become pregnant, so had no children (Gen 11:30)
Terah was an idol worshipper (Joshua 24:2)Abram married Sarai, while Nahor married Milcah, daughter of his dead brother Haran (Gen 11:29)Sarai’s father is also Terah, but she had a different mother than Abram (Gen 20:12)
God led Abram to Canaan and promised him many descendents (Joshua 24:3)

Research Nuggets

Carolyn Custis James suggests that Sarah was lost in the place she was supposed to be most secure, at home. The clues come already in this introduction, listing only her position as Abram’s wife and her barrenness. This passage doesn’t mention that Sarai appears to be Terah’s only daughter (which is a much higher ranking than implying that her connection to the family was only through marriage). “Sarah was a woman in a man’s world, and she was barren. Everyone had a role in God’s purposes except Sarai. Already she was sliding toward the margins of the story.”
[Carolyn Custis James, Lost Women of the Bible, Zondervan, 2005, pages 65-68]

Jewish historical writings include many stories about this Family’s life and status in Ur of the Chaldees. They give a variety of reasons why the family may have decided to leave their comfortable lives to become nomad traders.

Extensive archaeological excavations show the high state of civilization in Ur. A middle-class home would have 10-20 rooms, with the lower floor for servant and the upper for family. There were lavatories, guest rooms, and private chapels. A school was also excavated with evidence that students learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. Relics showed that the commerce of the time was quite developed and far reaching. However, a note on Genesis 11:28 in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds study Bible warns us that we do not know whether Abram was a city dweller or a herdsman/farmer.

Coming Alive: Character Sketches

Abram was the oldest son, and showed regard and care for his father in the decision to leave their home in Ur. He (and his father) also took Lot (the orphaned son of Haran) under their wing and brought him with them.

Sarai is introduced by the roles that were all important in a patriarchal society: wife and mother. We are told from the beginning that she has failed in the performance of one of her roles, a failure that brought shame and a legal option of being put aside as a wife.
{“As a woman raised in a different time and culture, I immediately want to place the emotions I would have in Sarai’s place into her, but I think I need to hold off until we know more.” Kathie}

I looked for pictures that might resemble Abram and Sarai. It always helps me if I can visualize a person.

Here’s a Hollywood version with Richard Harris as Abram and Barbara Hershey as Sarai. Hmmm. Not the picture I had in my head. How about you?

Are you an oldest child or have you “failed” in some aspect of life that is deemed of utmost importance? We’ll continue to learn more about Abram and Sarai, and rejoice that God chooses imperfect people like them and like us to do His will.

I drew theis picture (below) based on Genesis 10 and 11 as the preamble to the story we will be following in this study.

Comment in the space below or email me at KSEvenhouseWWV@gmail.com

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