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TERAH (Heb. תֶּרַח), father of Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. Terah is mentioned in the Bible chiefly in genealogical lists (Gen. 11:24–28; Josh. 24:2: i Chron. 1:26–27). The only biographical material is contained in Genesis 11:31–32; the Bible tells of Terah's migration from Ur toward Canaan and his stopping at Harran (see *Haran), where he died at the age of 205 (in the Samaritan Pentateuch 145). Since both Ur and Harran were centers of moon worship in Mesopotamia, attempts have been made to connect the personal name Terah to the word yare'aḥ, "moon" (Akk. (w) arḥu), and similar etymological connections with lunar terminology have been sought for the names of other members of Terah's household.

At an early stage of the interpretation of literary texts in Ugaritic, some scholars mistakenly construed the verb trḥ, "to take as a wife," as the proper name Terah. Now that it is clear that the proper name Terah – either as moon-god or eponymous hero – does not appear in Ugaritic literature, the only remaining extra-biblical attestation of the name Terah is in the neo-Assyrian place-name tīl turaḥi. The latter was situated in the Balikh Valley in Mesopotamia, in the general vicinity of Harran. The correspondence of Terah's name with the name of a site in the Harran area is paralleled by the correspondence of the name Nahor, the name of Terah's father and of one of his sons, with that of the city of Naḥur, and of the name of Terah's grandfather Serug with that of a city called Sarugi in cuneiform sources.

The name Terah also appears in the Bible (Num. 33:27, 28) as the name of a site in the Sinai Peninsula.

[Murray Lichtenstein]

In the Aggadah

Terah's wife, the mother of Abraham, was Amathlai, the daughter of Karnebo (bb 91a). Terah was a manufacturer of idols and during his absence he left Abraham to sell them in his place. When, on his return, he discovered that Abraham had destroyed the idols, he delivered him to Nimrod (Gen. R. 38: 12). Abraham later attempted to convince his father to leave the service of Nimrod and accompany him to the Land of Canaan. Noah and Shem aided Abraham in persuading Terah, and he finally consented to repent and to leave his homeland (Yashar, No'aḥ 27b–28a). For many years Terah continued to witness his son's glory, for his death did not occur until his grandson Isaac was 35 years old (ser 5:28). God accepted his repentance, and when he departed this life he immediately entered into Paradise. He was spared from hell even though he spent the majority of his days in sin (Gen. 11:27; Gen. R. 38:12).

[Aaron Rothkoff]

In Islam

Āzar (Terah) is the name of Abraham's father according to Sura 6:740. It is derived from Elāzār or Elieser. *Muhammad understood that those names were determined by the article al (Āzar), Āzar was a heathen (19:43–49). Abraham tried to teach his father the true religion, showing him that his idols were powerless by smashing them (21:53–58). It is clear that the tales about Āzar are connected with those about *Abraham's wars against the heathens.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]


W.F. Albright, in: basor, 71 (1938), 35–40; Bright, Hist, 70; C.L. Gibson, in: jss, 7 (1962), 54; Ginzberg, Legends, 1 (1961), 186–217; 5 (1955), 208–18. add bibliography: A. Jeffery in: eis2, 1 (1960), 810 (includes bibliography).

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