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Nahor was a brother to Abraham. Nahor’s kinship to Abraham does not seem to have influenced his religious faith. But the lives of Nahor’s descendants would become intertwined with the lives of Abraham’s children and grandchildren.
Nahor was Abraham’s younger brother. The writer of Genesis introduced Abraham and Nahor and their respective marriages in the same breath, but he added one crucial detail that distinguished Abraham and his wife: They were unable to conceive. Later the writer revealed that Nahor’s wife and concubine had given him twelve sons. These children eventually became the patriarchs of twelve Aramean tribes.
One of Nahor’s sons—and his children—played a particularly important part in the Jewish story. When Abraham wanted to find a wife for his son Isaac, he sent a servant to the family of his brother, Nahor.
Rebekah, the chosen bride, was Nahor’s granddaughter. Years later, when Jacob fled his brother’s wrath, he took refuge with Laban, another of Nahor’s grandchildren. Both of Jacob’s brides, Leah and Rachel, were great-granddaughters of Nahor.
Nahor impacted Abraham’s family in other ways, too. When Laban and Jacob parted ways, Laban made his oath to Jacob in the name of “the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor” (Genesis 31:53). In all likelihood, Laban was not referring to one God, but to two separate deities. Whereas Abraham had abandoned the gods of his father, Terah, to forge a new relationship with the God of the Bible, Nahor maintained his devotion to the household gods (see Joshua 24:2).
Nahor’s idolatry was passed down to Rachel, who stole the household gods (see Genesis 31:19) when Jacob’s family fled from Laban. That connection to paganism would haunt Abraham’s descendants throughout the Old Testament.
Twelve is an important number in the Bible—particularly in the story of Abraham and Nahor. Just as Nahor was the ancestor of twelve tribes, so, too, were Abraham’s son Ishmael and his grandson Jacob. The number twelve was often a symbol of God’s divine purpose at work—as is the case, for example, with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles.