This is where the genealogy of Matthew ends with Abraham. Luke continued further back. He said that Judah was the son of Jacob (τοῦ Ἰακὼβ), who had 12 sons with 4 different women, that become the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob was the son of Isaac (τοῦ Ἰσαὰκ), the son of Abraham (τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ), who was the son of Terah (τοῦ Θάρα), the son of Nahor (τοῦ Ναχὼρ). Throughout the Torah, there was a continual reference to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These 3 generations were key to Hebrew and Jewish history. Their stories can be found in the book of Genesis, chapters 12-35. Remember that Abraham had a son with his wife’s maid, Hagar, who was called Ishmael. However, both were sent away. Jacob had a twin brother named Esau, whom he tricked out of his father’s inheritance. Terah and Nahor can be found in 1 Chronicles, chapter 1:26, and Genesis, chapter 11:24-32. Nahor was the name of Abram’s grandfather and his brother. Abram, appeared to be the oldest, took a wife named Sarai, who was barren. Later it will be revealed that Sarai is his half-sister, since Terah had a concubine. They all lived at Ur in the Chaldeans, probably in northwest Mesopotamia. Terah took his son Abram and his wife, Sarai, and his grandson Lot, and left Ur and went to Canaan. However, they settled in a place that had the same name as his dead son, Haran. This may have been part of a huge migration in the early second millennium, about 2000 years before the common Christian era.
All traded with you.
In choice garments,
In clothes of blue.
In embroidered work.
Of colored material,
Bound with cords,
These all traded
There was no doubt that Tyre was a world class trading center. Here there is a list of its other trading partners. Haran was in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates River, while Canneh was southwest of Haran. Eden was in Assyria. Asshur was in Babylon, and Chilmad was also in Mesopotamia. These trading merchants had very good garments, especially blue and embroidered clothes. They also traded in colorful securely bound carpets that did not fall apart. Thus, Tyre also had these eastern trading partners, as well as their coastal trader town associates.
“Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and three flocks of sheep lying beside it. For out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place upon the mouth of the well.”
This Yahweh tradition continues as Jacob traveled further until he came upon ‘the people of the east’ at a well that had a stone on top of it with three flocks of sheep around it. This phrase ‘people of the east’ refers to Arameans, somewhere in Syria. The shepherds would roll the stone off the top of the well to water the sheep. Then put it back when they were done.
“Jacob said to them, ‘My brothers, where do you come from?’ They said, ‘We are from Haran.’ He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban son of Nahor?’ They said, ‘We do.’ He said to them, ‘Is it well with him?’ ‘Yes,’ they replied. ‘Here is his daughter Rachel coming with the sheep.’ He said, ‘Look, it is still broad daylight. It is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.’ But they said, ‘We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well. Then we water the sheep.’ While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep. She kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father. When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh!’ He stayed with him a month.”
Jacob asked them where they were from and they responded, Haran. Then he asked if they knew Laban, the son of Nahor. They answered that they did and said that his daughter Rachel was coming with the sheep, because Rachel was in charge of her father’s sheep. The stone could not be rolled off until all the sheep were gathered there. Jacob then rolled the stone off the well, kissed Rachel, and wept. He explained to Rachel that he was related to her father since he was Rebekah’s son, the brother of her father. They ran to tell Laban, but he came running out to greet them, embraced them, and brought them to his house. Laban said, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh,’ and Jacob stayed a month.
“Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Yahweh stood beside him and said, ‘I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”
On his way to Haran, Jacob spent one night sleeping on a stone, where he had a dream about a ladder that reached to heaven, with angels going up and down on this ladder. This Yahweh story is often referred to as Jacob’s ladder. Once again, Yahweh appeared to tell Jacob, that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac and will give him all this land with many offspring.
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely Yahweh is in this place. I did not know it.’ He was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel. But the name of the city formerly was called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I can come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. Of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’”
When Jacob woke up, he was afraid because he felt that Yahweh was in this place. So he took the stone he had slept on and built a pillar, pouring oil on it and called this a holy place, God’s house, Bethel, a stairway or ramp. Abraham also had been in Bethel in chapter 12, one of the first places he stopped at. In fact Abram built an altar there also. Luz and Bethel may have been the same place or at least near each other. This idea of a sacred place with stones and oil was common among the Canaanites and other Middle Eastern inhabitants. This is somewhat like a conversion experience for Jacob as he feels that God will be with him wherever he goes. This is the first instance of tithing, giving one-tenth to God. Obviously, this idea of tithing, like the story itself, represents the biblical author’s beliefs.
“Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your kindred and your father’s house into the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Yahweh calls Abram to leave his county and family to go where he will show him. There is no indication why Abram was especially chosen to be blessed. However, this is a common biblical theme, go where you know not what is going to happen, because you trust in Yahweh. There is the promise of getting land in order to make a great nation. Anyone who blesses Abram will be okay and anyone who curses Abram will be cursed. The blessing from God is having land, material possessions, including slaves, and many descendants, as well as living to an old age.
“So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran. They set forth to go to the land of Canaan.”
Abram at age 75 with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, left Haran. However, they were not poor beggars since they had all their possessions and slaves that they had acquired. This was a huge group with lots of provisions. Abraham becomes a symbolic origin for later Jews, Christians, and some Muslims.
“When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your descendants and offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to him. From there he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to Yahweh and invoked the name of Yahweh. Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.”
They stopped in Canaan at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh, about 35 miles north of Jerusalem, a place that will be important in later actions. Yahweh said that he was going to give Abram this land, so Abram built an altar there, just like Noah had done. Abram also built another altar between Bethel and Ai, as he got closer to Negeb, the dry parched land.
“Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran was the father of Lot. Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren. She had no children.”
Now we get the family background of Abram. Abram who appears to be the oldest took a wife named Sarai, who was barren. Later it will be revealed that Sarai is his half sister, since Terah had a concubine. Haran had three children, Lot, Milcah, and Iscah. However, he died early before his father Terah had died. They all lived at Ur in the Chaldeans, probably in northwest Mesopotamia. Nahor took a wife named Milcah, who was the daughter of his brother Haran, who had died, the sister of Lot and Iscah. Thus Haran married his niece. Haran is a name that will appear again..
“Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred five years. Terah died in Haran.”
Terah took his son Abram and his wife, Sarai, and his grandson Lot, and left Ur and went to Canaan. However, they settled in a place that had the same name as his dead son, Haran. This is where Terah died at the age of 205. Nahor apparently stayed in Ur with his family, Lot’s sister Milcah. This may have been part of a huge migration in the early second millennium before the common Christian era.