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INTRODUCTION: [quoted largely from R. Kent Hughes]

Finishing up the first main section of Genesis = chaps. 1-11 – Primitive (Primeval) History;

Second main section = Chaps. 12-50 Patriarchal History

Structural marker = toledot – repeated 10 times

We have covered a lot of ground so far in our study of Genesis

In spite of man’s pervasive sin, we see God’s triumphant grace throughout

This genealogy section forms a parallel with the line of Seth in chapter 5 – which detailed 10 generations from Adam’s son Seth to Noah. Here we also see 10 generations from Noah’s son Shem to Abram. In both cases the world had degenerated largely into pagan idolatry. Despite impressive human accomplishments in a variety of spheres – economic, civil construction, technology, the arts, etc. – the evidence of man’s depravity was inescapable. Again, in both cases God remained faithful to His promise to preserve a line through which He could send the seed of the woman, the Messiah, to accomplish redemption. In both cases God chose to work through one key figure – first Noah and now Abram – a man of faith and righteousness.

Hughes: the most notable difference is the absence of the refrain “and he died,” which occurs eight times in chapter 5. Genesis 5 stressed that death prevailed in the race, whereas Genesis 11 “stresses a movement away from death toward the promise, and it stresses life and expansion” (Ross). The other obvious difference between the genealogies is the shrinking life span of the patriarchs after the flood . . .

Also you have to compare this genealogy in Chap. 11 with the earlier bookend version in the Table of Nations in Chap. 10. There is an interesting diversion by way of emphasis when you get to the mid-point involving Peleg (whose name means division – “for in his days the earth was divided” 10:25). Chapter 10 goes on to detail the line that derives from Joktan the brother of Peleg. While Chapter 11 does not mention Joktan at all; instead Peleg’s descendants are referenced all the way up to Terah and Abram.

Hughes: Why? The answer is that Joktan’s line leads up to the fiasco at Babel, while Peleg’s line results in the great man Abram, the hope of God’s people (cf. 11:17-26). As Kenneth Mathews says, “This highlights the difference in the two inner branches of the Shemite family – one leading to disgrace and the other to grace.” . . .

Lastly, the genealogy ends with Terah fathering three sons – Abram, Nahor, and Haran – so that the genealogy ends just like the ten generations from Adam to Noah ended when Noah fathered three sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth (cf. 5:32). Though Abram, like Shem, was named first in the list over his brothers, he, like Shem, was not the firstborn. He was named first because of his prominence. . .

So we see that hope abounds with the conclusion of this genealogy. Moses has shown that God’s promise to Eve of a seed who will crush the head of the snake (cf. 3:15) could not be thwarted by the confusion and scattering of the nations. Even though the seed was scattered from Babel, God had preserved ten great men from Noah to Abram. And furthermore, the line of Peleg brought grace in place of Joktan’s line of disgrace. How gracious God was going to be to the nations!


A. (:10-11) Shem

1. Toledot Introductory Formula

“These are the records of the generations of Shem.”

2. Main Focus

“Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood;”

3. Summary

“and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters.”

B. (:12-13) Arpachshad (third of Shem’s 4 sons)

1. Main Focus

“And Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah;”

Matter of God’s free sovereign choice – not just birth order where the first born would receive the emphasis

2. Summary

“and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters.”

C. (:14-15) Shelah

1. Main Focus

“And Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber;”

2. Summary

“and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters.”

D. (:16-17) Eber

1. Main Focus

“And Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg;”

2. Summary

“and Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters.”

E. (:18-19) Peleg

1. Main Focus

“And Peleg lived thirty years, and became the father of Reu;”

2. Summary

“and Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he became the father of Reu, and he had other sons and daughters.”

F. (:20-21) Reu

1. Main Focus

“And Reu lived thirty-two years, and became the father of Serug;”

2. Summary

“and Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters.”

G. (:22-23) Serug

1. Main Focus

“And Serug lived thirty years, and became the father of Nahor;”

2. Summary

“and Serug lived two hundred years after he became the father of Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters.”

H. (:24-25) Nahor

1. Main Focus

“And Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah;”

2. Summary

“and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters.”

I. (:26) Terah

“And Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.”

Abram = exalted father


A. (:27a) Toledot Introductory Formula

“Now these are the records of the generations of Terah.”

Lesson 1: The Sovereign God Accomplishes His Redemptive Purposes by the Methodology of Gracious Divine Election Rather Than Meritorious Human Effort

J. Ligon Duncan: this chapter reminds us again that our approach into the presence of the Heavenly Father cannot be by our own effort. We see man’s wicked efforts at glorification in Genesis 11, verses 1 through 9 in the story of Babel. We see man’s feeble efforts at following after God in the story of Terah, making it to Haran, but no further. Listen to what Derek Kidner says: “This chapter brings the primeval history to a doubly appropriate close with man’s self-effort issuing in confusion at Babel and in compromise here. On his own, man will get no further than this.” It’s the election of grace that brings Abram into Canaan. It’s the election of grace which causes the line of Abram to become the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. And for those to persevere in the faith, it’s not something in them. They are called out of idolatry, and they become the line of the faithful. What’s the difference between Abram and his father? The grace of God.

B. (:27b-30) Overview of Terah

1. Terah Fathered 3 Children

“Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran;”

J. Ligon Duncan: This genealogy provides us a link between God’s man in the old world, in the days before the patriarchs, and God’s chosen man in the age at the very initiation of the age of the patriarch Abram.

2. Summary of Haran

a. Haran Fathered Lot

“and Haran became the father of Lot.”

b. Haran Died in Ur of the Chaldeans

“And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans.”

Lot becomes an orphan – explains why he ended up going with his uncle Abram

3. Wives of Abram and Nahor

“And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. And Sarai was barren; she had no child.”

Sarai = Abram’s half sister; name means princess – very beautiful

Repeats twice for emphasis that she was barren = metaphor for hopelessness

Milcah very productive and fruitful – Gen. 22:20

Lesson 2: God specializes in doing the impossible

“God specializes in things thought impossible; He does the things others cannot do.”

C. (:31) Main Focus

1. Departure From Ur – Decisive Action

“And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans”

Borgman: When you study the names in this section you see how committed Terah and his family were to the worship of the moon god cult centered in Ur; strongly patriarchal culture; they have lived in one center of worship of Sein and move to another center

Terah = moon

Sarai = name for the consort of the moon god Sein

Milcah (Lot’s sister) = name for daughter of Sein in the moon god religion

Nation of Israel born right out of pagan idolatry

Josh. 24:2 “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods”

J. Ligon Duncan: serving the living God means forsaking idolatry. And idolatry is not an ancient problem, it is a perennial problem, it is ever present. And idols come in every form and fashion. You don’t have to fall before a statue of gold to be an idolater. All of us are tempted to capitulate to the thought patterns of our own day, and to begin to think like the world. As we do so we have capitulated to idolatry. But the Lord calls all of us out of idolatry to serve the living and the true God. But the Lord calls all of us out of idolatry to serve the living and the true God. I have no doubt that one of the reasons that Abram was called away from the land of his birth and away from his family relations was precisely so that God could cut the Gordian knot of idolatry that Abraham was tangled in, and so break him free from the oppression of the thought pattern of that wicked life. Many of you have had to wrestle with things that required that sort of a drastic break. You have had to wrestle with friendships and relationships that had to be excised in order to follow after God. There perhaps had to be vocational changes in order to follow after God. Tremendous life changes in order to seek after that city which has foundations. It is not surprising that that pattern obtained even in the calling of Abram, the father of the faithful.

Lesson 3: God calls His chosen people to respond to His call in Faith and Flee a life of idolatry

It sounds from just a superficial reading of these verses alone that God’s call came to Terah and he responded. But we know from the full context of Scripture that God’s call came to Abram while he was in Ur … and he immediately responded by faith in obedience – just as Noah had responded earlier to God’s mission for him.

Gen. 15:7 “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”

Neh. 9:7 “You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham”

Acts 7:2-4

Hughes: The way we get to square this with the age data in Genesis 11, 12 is to understand that Abram was not the firstborn of Terah’s three sons when Terah began having children at age seventy. So it is best to understand that Terah was 130 when Abram was born and that he lived seventy-five more years until the age of 205 (cf. 11:32). Therefore Abram was, as 12:4 says, “seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

2. Destination of Canaan – Definite Goal

“in order to enter the land of Canaan;”

Lesson 4: God prepares good gifts for His chosen people

Land flowing with milk and honey

Despite the fact that currently there were impressive enemies living in the land

Can’t have a Grasshopper mentality – must move forward with expectation of triumph – expecting to receive the blessing that God has promised

3. Distraction in Haran – Debilitating Diversion

“and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.”

Had to travel north before they would go south to the promised land

Haran noted for its mammoth temple to the moon god Sein

Lesson 5: God has called His people to be pilgrims with a purpose rather than settlers side-tracked in a state of stagnation

Borgman: One of the biggest challenges in life is to keep the promises of God in the forefront when life seems ordinary and mundane and boring; not every day is a Red-Sea-parting-day; still God is working out His purposes through unwitting participants

D. (:32) Summary

“And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”

Now God is going to focus on Abram and his family – despite their hopeless state

What kind of candidate was Abram to fulfil God’s promise??


Constable: With Genesis 11:26 the scene has finally been set for the patriarchal history to unfold. The opening chapters of Genesis have provided us the fundamental insights for interpreting these chapters properly. Genesis 1 revealed the character of God and the nature of the world man finds himself in. Genesis 2 , 3 portrayed the relationship between man and woman, and the effects man’s disobedience has had on woman and divine-human relations. Chap 5 sketched the long years that passed before the crisis of the great flood (chaps 6-9), which almost destroyed all humanity for its sinfulness. The table of the nations (chap10) started the process of Israel’s geographical and political self-definition with respect to the other nations in the world, but Genesis 11:1-9 reminded us that the nations were in confusion and that mankind”’ proudest achievements were but folly in God’s sight and under his judgment.

Playing your individual role in God’s redemptive plan for the ages should be a journey of great adventure and opportunity.

Steven Cole: The important thing is, wherever you’re at, to yield yourself to the Lord. A journalist was elected to the world-famous Adventurers’ Club. He didn’t know the amount of the dues, so he sent in a signed blank check. The Adventurers promptly elected him Adventurer of the Year! God wants you to sign your life over as a blank check to Him. Yes, it’s an adventure! But you can trust Him not to take advantage of you. If you will yield your life to Him and walk with Him every day, He will use you in His movement in history to bring about His great plan of salvation for the nations. There is no more significant way to spend your life!

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1) Why do people have such a difficult time accepting the doctrine of the sovereign election of God?

2) How has idolatry manifested itself in your life – before conversion and even after conversion?

3) What promises of God have you had difficulty embracing and owning?

4) What is there about your lifestyle that makes it difficult for you to live as a pilgrim in a foreign land headed for your heavenly destination?

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• Based on the ages in this genealogy, Shem and Eber outlived Abraham, and were alive into the adulthood of Isaac and Jacob. The knowledge of the flood and the tower of Babel was not far distant to these people, but was accessible to them from their contemporaries. Like Adam in the age before the flood, they were a witness to God’s demands and his judgment on those who violate his law.

• The ages at death drop off rapidly after the flood, perhaps due to the loss of the protection from cosmic radiation provided by the waters from heaven (7:11).

J. Ligon Duncan: And we saw a picture of the climax of pre-Abrahamic, non-Shemite culture. What does the culture look like that’s not from the line of Shem, prior to Abraham in its climatic point before the days of Abraham? And there’s your picture of it right there in Genesis 11, verses 1 through 9. You see man in rebellion against God, and we see man’s attempt at self-glorification end in self-defeat, and we see God’s sovereignty over the nations. And His providence is very clear. His judgment against man’s wickedness, His restraint of man’s evil designs are very evident throughout the passage. Derek Kidner sums up that whole scene when he says, “The primeval history reaches its fruitless climax as man, conscious of new abilities, prepares to glorify and fortify himself by collective effort. The elements of the story are timelessly characteristic of the spirit of the world. The project is typically grandiose. Men describe it excitedly to one another, as if it were the ultimate achievement, very much as modern man glories in his space project.” Touche’. “At the same time they betrayed their insecurity as they crowd together to preserve their identity and control their fortunes.”

Davis: Within Genesis 11, there is a marked contrast; on the one hand human rebellion leading to the divine judgment of dispersion. That’s what we see in Genesis 11, verses 1 through 9. Then when we get to the second half of Genesis 11, On the other hand, we see divine grace leading to the call of Abraham, a call which provided hope for the nations and salvation for the lost.

Jack Arnold: Abram lived in Ur of the Chaldees in the Euphrates River Valley. The city was a center of commerce and very progressive for its day. It is best known for the worship of the moon-god Nanna, or Nannar, which went on there. Terah, Abraham’s father, was an idolater, living in Ur (Josh. 24:2). It stands to reason that Abram was also an idolater (Isa. 51:1-2). There is no evidence that Terah ever turned from his idolatry to serve the true and living God. Abram married Sarai, which means “contention.” Apparently Sarai, before her con¬version, was full of envy, jealousy and pride. Abram was given a call by God to leave his idolatry and family and to follow the true God (cf. Acts 7:1-5). Abra¬ham, with his father, Terah, began to move towards the land. He took with him Sarai and Lot. NOTE. Abram in this first call knew he was to leave family, but he took them with him. Apparently Terah was still an idolater and this caused Abraham to get as far as Haran. As long as Abram was in Ur, God could not use him, and, even when he was in Haran he was bogged down because he was not separated from the idolatry of Terah. Apparently Abram lived in Haran quite a long time, and did not pursue God’s will until Terah died. NOTE. Abram apparently put his father before the Lord and God could not use him. God will not use a believer until he is committed unreservedly to Him. NOTE. God was gracious to Abram in taking away his father, for now the will of God could be done.

Steven Cole: Abraham is the central figure of Genesis. In fact, apart from Jesus Christ, it could be argued that he is the most important figure in the Bible. While 11 chapters in Genesis cover the period from creation to Abraham (at least 2,000 years), 14 chapters are devoted to the life of Abraham. He is the father of all believers. In several places the New Testament uses Abraham as the prime example to explain the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith apart from works. God often refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham stands as the father of the Jewish nation, directly in the ancestry of Jesus Christ. He even holds an important place in heaven, which Jesus referred to as “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). Our text gives us the lineage from Shem to this important biblical figure, Abraham.

Brian Borgman – Return to Genesis

Genesis is the Book of Beginnings; of the nation of Israel through the patriarchs;

Also about last things – pointing us to the end of history

The one who wrote history is the Alpha and the Omega

Book divided into 2 major sections

Structural division around the toledot

Quick review

Genealogy of Shem through Joktan leads to Tower of Babel (chap. 10)

Even among the Shemites there was the seed of the serpent

After Tower incident we have the second genealogy of Shem – through Peleg to Abram (chap. 11)

David Thompson:

Significance of Abraham in the Scriptures; most verses in Heb. 11 for men of faith; used in Romans by Paul; nothing about Abraham that would show us why God chose him

World at this time was a mess;

Call of Abraham gives hope to the world

No matter what your past or failures or family background or personal sin you can be mightily used and blessed by God

Where sin abounds, grace abounds more

I. Lineage of Abram (:10-26) – tracing this line through Shem

Looking forward to Abram and to the Messiah

Main diffs. Between the genealogy in chap. 5 and 11

– Compilation of number of days

– Ends with “and he died”

– Longer life spans vs shorter

Shift from line of Adam that stressed death to emphasis on life and blessing

A. Most of those in the lineage line in chap. 11 we know nothing about

Yet these people were very important to the program of God

You can be significant for God

B. All in this line had other sons and daughters – not even named

God focuses on the ones significant to His family and program

Selected by divine sovereign election

II. The Life of Abram (:27-32)

A. (:27) His Family

B. (:28) His Homeland – city of UR – capital city controlled by Chaldeans; idolatrous

Just north of Persian Gulf

Coming from the wrong side of the tracks; last guy you would expect to turn out to be a giant of the faith

C. (:29-30) His Wife – Sarai – barren

Beautiful; but does not seem to be blessed by God

D. (:31-32) His Relocation