Terah was the father of Abraham. Terah lived in the Chaldean city of Ur, believed to have been located in what is today the southeastern corner of Iraq. There he raised three sons—one of whom died. Terah’s surviving sons, Abram (later named Abraham) and Nahor, married, but only Nahor was able to produce offspring.
For reasons the text does not specify, Terah decided to uproot his entire family—including his children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren—and migrate approximately eight hundred miles northwest to Haran, located in present-day Turkey. While the distance covered was great, the religious culture of Haran would have been familiar to Terah—the people of Ur and Haran worshipped variations of the same deity, the moon god.
While Terah adjusted to life in his new hometown, God spoke to Abram, directing him to move on to a new land where he would worship an altogether new God—the one true God. The implication was that in leaving his father behind, Abraham would forever leave behind his father’s gods as well. In all likelihood, Abraham never saw his father again. In his farewell speech to the Israelites, Joshua left no doubt that their ancestor Terah worshipped false gods:
“And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods’ ” (Joshua 24:2 NRSV).
Though no parent is perfect, God is able to work in the lives of the people He chooses—no matter their upbringing.