Genesis 11:27–32

1127The descendants of Terah:
Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28Haran died before his father, Terah, in his homeland of Ur of the Chaldees. 
29Both Abram and Nahor took wives. Abram’s wife was Sarai. Nahor’s wife was Milcah, daughter of Haran who also begot Milcah and Iscah.  30Sarai had no children. 
31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and Sarai, his daughter-in-law and wife of his son Abram and set out from Ur of the Chaldees toward the land of Canaan. They came to Haran and settled there. 32Terah lived 205 years and died in Haran.

We have moved from the lineage of ’adam (5:1–32) to Noah (12:1–32) to Shem (11:10–26) and are now at the lineage of Terah (11:27–32) which leads us to Abram.

Between ’adam and Noah’s family tree, there is the Flood. Between the line of Noah and Shem, there is Babel. There is a movement from generalized humanity to a focus on one particular line in the midst of many lines. The G*D of the cosmos has become the G*D of one people and all their ups and downs. It might be asked—Where else in my/our life do I/we, as a reader of this story, find it echoing or reflected? This personal and societal question needs both a singular and plural response. Reflection on this relationship between an ancient narrative and current experience can be a crucible within which we make needed choices that carry the potential to move us beyond our stuck points.

Leon Kass in, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis(p. 349) writes regarding Abram/Abraham’s journey, “…God, the source of life and blessing and the teacher of righteousness….” Obviously, “God” can be any number of “ideals or idols.” Kass notes his list of options that include, “…Mammon or Molech, to honor or money, pleasure or power, or worse, to no god at all.”

Family systems change during the centuries (as well as right under our nose at this moment). Two women are finally named in a genealogy—Milcah and Sarai. Both are interesting in regard to current norms. Milcah was Nahor’s niece and wife. Sarai, mentioned here as Abram’s wife, Terah’s daughter-in-law, will later be revealed as also Abram’s half-sister and Terah’s daughter by another mother. There are additional stories in the extended midrash corpus that name Milcah and Sarai as sisters (implying that Sarai is the daughter of Terah and Haran’s unnamed wife). As G*D connects with one family line, that family is very small—much like what can be imagined regarding the wives of Cain and Seth. Soap-operas have been going on for a very long time.

There is no distinction in English between Haran the person and Haran the city. In Hebrew, these are distinctly different. The confusion this can cause is a reminder that plays on words are difficult enough in one language system and become more difficult in translation to another language. If the Bible is going to enlighten, it must be held lightly.

The long genealogies are now over. There will still be short genealogies for Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Judah, Joseph and more that will lead to the beginning genealogy in the sequel—Exodus.In the coming story, there will be ambivalent and ambiguous relationships between Abram, Sarai, and Lot.

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