How Old was Abraham’s Father, Terah?
Questions About His Age
Many people have been confused concerning the age of Abraham’s father, Terah. In order to clarify the confusion associated with the age of Terah at the birth of Abram, one should examine the passage of Genesis 11:26: “And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran”. From this listing of Terah’s children, it would appear that Terah was 70 years old when Abram was born, since Abram’s name is listed first in the genealogy.
However, it is reasonable to assume that Genesis 11:26 follows the same pattern as Genesis 5:32, which places the most important son from the Messianic viewpoint first, rather than placing the oldest first.
In Genesis 5:32, Shem is named first, although Japheth was the oldest son of Noah, because it was through Shem that God’s Messiah would come. Therefore, it may be concluded that in Genesis 11:26 Abram was named first because of his being the progenitor of God’s chosen people.
The name “Abram” means “father of elevation,” or “exalted father.” This signified the honor of his being the progenitor of God’s chosen people (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. 1, p. 42).
In studying the life of Terah, one finds that history closes with the statement of his age being 205 years. His death occurred in Haran. A difficulty resulting in possible confusion lies with the reference by Stephen in Acts 7:4 in which he states that Abram left Haran, when his father was dead. Yet, it appears that Terah lived 60 years after Abram’s departure from Haran.
Terah’s total age was 205 years, and to the casual reader of Genesis 11:26, Abram was born when Terah was 70 years of age. In Genesis 12:4 Abram’s age is recorded as being 75 years when he departed out of Haran. By applying simple mathematics to this problem, one may readily find that Abram was born during Terah’s 130th year (205-75=130 years). This calculation would make Abram 75 years old when his father, Terah died in Haran (v. 32); and accordingly, one may find in Genesis 12:4 that he was exactly of that age when he left Haran – the first stage of his pilgrimage to which he had removed with his father Terah (STUDIES IN GENESIS, Robert S. Candlish, p. 182).