One thing I enjoy about using Hebrew/Jewish study materials is the interesting historical insight and oral tradition, as well as the practicality of the lessons to be learned from the scriptures. On the other hand what is often lacking (and understandably so since they do not believe the Messiah has come) is a more spiritual, almost parable-like understanding of the text. I recently read about Haran in Matthew Henry’s commentary, so I will credit him of course but I took his idea and ran with it.
Matthew Henry said of Haran’s early death “It concerns us to hasten out of our natural state, lest death surprise us in it.” I take this to mean that Henry sees Haran as a picture of a man living in an idolatrous place (Ur of the Chaldeans) who never moved on – who either never came to believe in the true God, or if he did, never made spiritual progress in his walk. And, dying somewhat prematurely, perhaps thought he would have had more time to make such progress but sadly did not.
With this allegorical approach, a vivid picture of different spiritual walks begins to emerge. We may look at the places mentioned in these verses as different stages of spiritual progress: Ur of the Chaldeans being the starting point, with little to no faith or belief; Haran (the city) being a place of some spiritual growth, but with much more room to grow; and lastly Canaan as a place of great belief and faith where our spiritual lives begin to take off.
Now we insert the various members of Abraham’s family and we see varying results: We know that Terah, after the death of his son Haran, packed up his family and possessions to head to Canaan. We know at some point in the past Terah believed in idols and false gods (Joshua 24:2) but perhaps had a change of heart later in life, after Haran died. If nothing else, he had at least decided to leave Ur. Terah made it as far as Haran, and settled the family there. The key part being that they settled there – they didn’t just stop because Terah was about to die. Terah may represent a family man who used to be wicked but changed his ways and began following God, but either started too late in age, or just didn’t have the fire to make it beyond an intermediate place. When this happens in real life, the children who are following may suffer too, and as we will see below, Nahor made it no further than Haran either as far as we know.
As for Nahor and his wife Milcah, we know they make it as far as Haran as well, but we know nothing else about their lives after that. Ultimately they have a son Bethuel, who goes on to have Rebekah, (Gen. 24:15) who becomes the bride of Isaac. But of their lives as a couple we know nothing more. Abraham’s story takes precedence and is the one documented from here forward. Nahor and Milcah represent perhaps a godly couple that reaches a certain point in their spiritual walk, but becomes content and goes no further, and spiritual growth is stagnant.
Abraham was called to “the land which I will show you” by God (Gen. 12:1) which ended up being Canaan, the land where Terah was already planning to take the entire family, though Abraham did not know it yet. He had the faith to go, and received great and wonderful promises from God about the future as well. And Abraham and Sarah make it to Canaan. And what we find is that there are many more chapters to their lives, and things get much more exciting after they make it to Canaan, the place where God wanted Abraham to be. A drastic difference between Abraham and Sarah’s spiritual life as a couple compared to Nahor and Milcah, who all but disappear.
This should be a lesson to those who feel like their walk is at a standstill or feel spiritually ineffective – that God is trying to get you to the place He wants you to be, and once you get there, that is when things really begin in your walk with Him. As a married man I find this encouraging because Sarah took part in this journey, and became part of the story as well.