Terah meaning | Terah etymology

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Terah in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Terah in the Bible

There are one man and one town named Terah in the Bible:

  • The father of Abram (later Abraham), Nahor, Haran and Sarai (Genesis 11:24; later Sarah). Not Abram (as is commonly believed) but Terah initiated the move away from Ur of the Chaldeans and to Canaan (Genesis 11:31). Since this Terah is an ancestor of Christ, his name also occurs in the Greek New Testament, in the Lucan genealogy, spelled as Θαρα, Thara (Luke 3:34).
  • A town that Israel encountered during the wilderness years (Numbers 33:27).

Etymology and meaning of the name Terah

The etymology and original meaning of the name Terah is unclear. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names suggests a verb that does not occur in Scriptures: tarah (treated neither by HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament nor BDB Theological Dictionary), meaning delay, turn, wander. Hence Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names renders Delay and NOBSE Study Bible Name List renders Wanderer. BDB Theological Dictionary mentions cognates denoting a white mountain goat (ibex; a goat antelope).

And since nobody seems to know and all are guessing, we like to note that the first part of the name Terah seems similar to the word תר (tor) meaning dove:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

And the second part of the name Terah seems to resemble the familiar noun רוח (ruah) meaning wind, breath or spirit:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The waw is known to drop out of words, or to be incorporated into words to augment pronunciation. The taw is sometimes added in front of a word to stress or amplify a verb (it sometimes works as the integral sign in math; making a circle into a sphere).

Especially since Terah is the father of Abraham, to a Hebrew audience the name Terah may have had the meaning of Spirited or Inspired.

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