Why Did Terah Leave the City of Ur?

Question: Clive wrote "I really enjoyed your Bible study. I see Terah took Abram, Lot & Sarai to go to Canaan, & died on route in Haran, seemingly before God spoke to Abram to leave his country. Did Terah go to Canaan because God spoke to Abram?"

Answer: Your question is interesting.   

Terah, Abraham's father, was grieving for his son Haran.

Terah, it seems, decided to stay in the northern Mesopotamian "city of Haran," (no connection with his son Haran) rather than continue the journey to Canaan, which was the family's original intent. The family were in the city of Haran for five years. The people of Haran served the same moon god as the people in Terah's former location, the southern Mesopotamian "city of Ur". Terah, Jewish literature records, was a craftsman who made idols. So he may have found a blossoming trade in Haran. This seems to be upheld by Scripture: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and served other gods'" (Josh 24:2). The Hebrew word for "served" can also mean to "work," hence the tradition that Terah was a craftsman who made idols. And later in the story Rachel, Terah's great-great-granddaughter, does seem keen to hold on to the Teraphim (household idols) as if they were a family heirloom (Gen 31:19). And, it may be worth noting, we see the name "Terah" alluded to in the word "Teraphim".

Terah left the city of Ur probably for two reasons:

1. Abram told his father that Yahweh had instructed them to leave. Stephen informs us in Acts 7:2 “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran." So we know that Abraham told his father Terah to leave, because God appeared to Abraham, not Terah. The surroundings were comfortable in the civilised city of Ur, so Terah may have been reluctant to leave. And that brings us to the second reason. 

2. Josephus says this, "Now Terah hating Chaldea, on account of his mourning for Haran (his son), they all removed to Haran." So Terah had two reasons to leave the city of Ur of the Chaldees.

I hope that's helpful Clive. (The date that Abram left the city of Ur and other patriarchs' timelines can be read here.)