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SBL e-journal

Emanuel Tov

(

2023

)

.

Terah’s Journey – Genesis 11:31

.

TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/terahs-journey-genesis-11-31

APA e-journal

Emanuel Tov

,

,

,

"

Terah’s Journey – Genesis 11:31

"

TheTorah.com

(

2023

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/terahs-journey-genesis-11-31

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Series

Textual Criticism of the Torah: Ten Short Case Studies

Terah’s Journey – Genesis 11:31

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Terah’s Journey – Genesis 11:31

Abram’s father Terah leaves his hometown, heading for Canaan, but ends up in Ḥaran.[1] There are several differences (bolded) between the biblical text versions:

LXX

MT and Peshitta

Samaritan Pentateuch

Gen 11:31 καὶ ἔλαβεν Θαρα τὸν Αβραμ υἱὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸν Λωτ υἱὸν Αρραν υἱὸν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν Σαραν τὴν νύμφην αὐτοῦ γυναῖκα Αβραμ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐξήγαγεν αὐτοὺς ἐκ τῆς χώρας[2] τῶν Χαλδαίων πορευθῆναι εἰς τὴν γῆν Χανααν καὶ ἦλθεν ἕως Χαρραν καὶ κατῴκησεν ἐκεῖ.[3]

בראשית יא:לא וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת־אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וְאֶת־לוֹט בֶּן־הָרָן בֶּן־בְּנוֹ וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד־חָרָן וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.

בראשית יא:לא ויקח תרח את אברם בנו ואת לוט בן הרן בן בנו ואת שרי ואת מלכה כלותו אשת אברם ונחור בניו ויוצא אתם מאור כשדים ללכת ארצה כנען ויבאו עד חרן[4] וישבו שם.

Gen 11:31 And Thara took his son Abram and his son’s son, Lot son of Harran, and his daughter–in–law Sara, the wife of Abram his son, and he brought them out of the country of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Chanaan, and he came as far as Ḥarran and he settled there.

Gen 11:31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; and they came as far as Ḥaran and they settled there.

Gen 11:31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and Sarai and Milkah, his daughters-in-law, the wife of Abram and Nahor, his sons, and he brought them out from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; and they came as far as Ḥaran and they settled there.

We will concentrate on the two main sets of differences:

What about Nahor and Milkah?

According to MT and LXX, Terah brings with him only Abram and Sarai, but SP adds that Terah also brought Nahor and Milkah. The SP here is secondary, and added the names harmonistically, as it is wont to do, to explain how Nahor and Milka end up in Ḥaran. This is obvious from the (unintentional?) retention of the singular “wife” in the text instead of the expected “wives.”

The reason for this revision is fairly easy to guess: In the later text Genesis 24:10, when Abraham’s servant goes to find a wife for Isaac, we are told that Aram-naharayim is “the city of Nahor.” In Genesis 29:4–5, when Jacob goes to the same place to escape from his brother, we learn that this same city of Nahor is also called Ḥaran. So if Nahor has been living in Ḥaran, does it not follow that Terah must have brought him along as well when he and Abram moved there?

Isn’t Terah the Leader?

In MT, the subject of the action in this verse changes mid-sentence. It begins with Terah, as the pater familias, taking his family from his home country, but then changes abruptly to the plural, and it is the group that is travelling. The awkward “and they set out with them[5] shows that there is something wrong with this version.

The LXX, SP, and Vulgate (et eduxit eos) reading, that Terah brought them out, is more logical. The consonantal text for both MT and LXX/SP are almost identical, but the differences were created because of a misunderstood defective form of the source text that included but few matres lectiones (vowel letters): The original text read ויצא אתם meant as ויצא אֹתָם “he brought them out”; thus LXX, SP, V. This text developed into or was misunderstood as וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם “they set out with them” in MT.[6] From here, LXX continues using singular verbs, “he came,” “he settled” while SP and the Vulgate join MT in using plural verbs “they came,” “they settled.”

Published

August 24, 2023

|

Last Updated

April 3, 2024

Footnotes

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Prof. Emanuel Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University, where he received his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. He was the editor of 33 volumes of Discoveries in the Judean Desert. Among his many publications are, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, Textual Criticism of the Bible: An Introduction, The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 31 and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research.