Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan.
Genesis 11:31

The spade of the archaeologist has revealed that Ur of the Chaldeans, home of Abram, was the greatest center of commerce and most advanced cultural city of its time. The capital of ancient Sumer, a highly advanced ancient civilization, Ur had about 300,000 people in Abram’s day. Archaeological discoveries have revealed advancements in musical instruments and crafts, as well as a university with a giant library, whose scholars specialized in astronomy and mathematics.

Even though Ur had an advanced culture, it was also a center of idolatry. In the center of the city was a huge temple, a ziggurat like the Tower of Babel, that stretched up into the heavens. There, the people of Ur worshiped many different gods and goddesses, most of them related to nature. Their beliefs were animistic in that they worshiped nature and ascribed deity to most objects in the natural world, whether alive or inanimate. One of their principal gods, to whom the main temple was dedicated, was a moon god called, interestingly enough, Sin. So Abram and his family were the original Moonies. The father of faith came out of this pagan background.

Later in the Scriptures, Joshua provided a little more support information about Abram. Joshua had gathered all of the people together before the Lord and, speaking on God’s behalf, said, “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River [that is, the Euphrates River] in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac” (Joshua 24:2-3). It was a reminder to all the people of Abram’s origins and all that God had brought them out of and seen them through.

According to some ancient sources, Abram’s father, Terah, was a dealer in idolatry. He made statues—little idols—and sold them, and Abram was his assistant. While we don’t know if the stories are true or not, it’s clear that Abram was raised in an atmosphere of idolatry. His family worshiped the moon god and other gods of nature, and this rubbed off on him. Abram was not a believer in Yahweh until God appeared to him, drew him out of that culture, and brought him into a new faith and a new land.

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Skip Heitzig, author of The Bible from 30,000 Feet, is pastor-teacher of Calvary Church, ministering to more than 15,000 people weekly. He holds a DD and PhD from Trinity Southwest University and has a popular multimedia teaching ministry that includes print, audio, and online resources. Skip and his wife, Lenya, reside in New Mexico and have one son and two grandchildren.