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According to the Book of Genesis 11, Terah was the son of Nahor, who was the son of Serug, who was the son of Reu, who was the son of Peleg, who was the son of Eber, who was the son of Shelah, who was the son of Arpachshad, who was the son of Shem, who was one of the sons of Noah.
According to Genesis 11 Terah had three sons: Abram; Haran; and Nahor; according to Genesis 20:12, Sarah, Abraham's wife, was his half-sister (Terah's daughter by a wife other than Abraham's mother). He lived in "Ur of the Chaldees," where his son Haran died, leaving behind his son Lot. Terah later migrated with Abraham (probably his youngest son) and Lot (his grandson), together with their families, from Ur. He intended to go with them to Canaan but he stayed in Harran, where he died at the age of 205 years (Genesis 11:24-32). Abram moved his family out of Harran when Terah was 145 years old (Gen 11:31,32; Acts 7:4). The Book of Joshua reports that Terah worshipped other gods (Josh. 24:2).
The Midrash regards Terah as wicked. (E.g., Numbers Rabbah 19:1; 19:33.) Rabbi Hiyya said that Terah manufactured idols and told the following account: Terah once went away and left Abraham to mind the store. A woman came with a plateful of flour and asked Abraham to offer it to the idols. Abraham took a stick, broke the idols, and put the stick in the largest idol's hand. When Terah returned, he demanded that Abraham explain what he had done. Abraham told Terah that the idols fought among themselves and the largest broke the others with the stick. “Why do you make sport of me?” Terah cried, “Do they have any knowledge?” Abraham replied, “Listen to what you are saying!” Terah then delivered Abraham to King Nimrod for punishment. (Genesis Rabbah 38:13.) The Zohar says that when God saved Abraham from the furnace, Terah repented. (Zohar, Bereshirt 1:77b.) Rabbi Abba b. Kahana said that God assured Abraham that his father Terah had a portion in the World to Come. (Genesis Rabbah 30:4; 30:12.)
In several places the Quran depicts the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his "father." The name apparently given for this man in the Quran (6:74) is Āzar (Arabic: آزر), though Arab genealogists related the name of Abraham's father as Tāraḥ (Arabic: تارح.) Early Muslims differed on whether "Azar" was an alternate name for Tarih, as Israel was for Jacob, or if Azar in the verse actually referred to the name of an idol. Many of the commentators of the Quran (both Sunni and Shia have also cited an opinion that Azar was the paternal uncle or maternal grandfather of Abraham, rather than his literal father.
The story is similar to the Jewish tradition: Azar (an Arabicized form of Zarah or Athar found in Jewish books as Talmud) is a polytheist whose occupation is carving wooden idols for worship. One day the people left for a celebration and on that day Abraham stayed alone and destroyed the idols except the largest one. When his people came to him to question him Abraham demanded they ask the biggest one what happened and that maybe he destroyed them. As punishment Abraham was placed in a furnace to burn, and emerged unscathed due to his trust in God.(21:54–68).
During his early childhood Abraham realized that his father made strange statues. One day, he asked him about what it was he made. His father replied that he made statues of gods. Abraham was astonished and he spontaneously rejected the idea. Being a child, he played with such statues, sitting on their backs as people sit on the backs of donkeys and mules.
One day, his father saw him riding the statue of Mardukh and he became furious. He ordered his son not to play with it again.
Abraham asked: "What is this statue, father? It has big ears, bigger than ours."
His father answered: "It is Mardukh, the god of gods, son! These big ears show his deep knowledge."
This made Abraham laugh. He was only seven years old at that time.
Years passed and Abraham grew. Since his childhood his heart had been full of hatred for these idols. He could not understand how a sane person could make a statue and then worship what he had made. He noticed that these idols did not eat, drink, or talk, and that they could not even turn themselves right-side-up if someone turned them up-side down. How, then, could people believe that such statues could harm or benefit them?
In Popular Culture
Terah was also the name of a character on Star Trek: Enterprise, played by Suzie Plakson.