🔼The name Terah: Summary
- Delay, Wanderer
- Global Spirit
- From an otherwise unused verb תרח (tarah), to delay, turn, wander.
- From (1) the noun תר (tor), dove, and (2) the noun רוח (ruah), wind, breath or spirit.
🔼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:
The verb תור (tur) means to explore or survey and associates with a broad, circular or sweeping motion. Noun תור (tor) or תר (tor) appears to describe a circular braid of hair. Noun יתור (yetur), seems to mean a searching or range. Noun תר (tor) or תור (tor) means dove or turtledove.
Note that likewise the Greek word for dove, namely περιστερα (peristera), appears to be derived from the prefix περι (peri) meaning around or about. This suggests that to the ancients the dove stood symbol for abundance and being all around and everywhere, which explains the bodily form of the Holy Spirit.
Verb תאר (ta'ar) means to outline or trace. Noun תאר (to'ar), means shape or form. Verb תאר (ta'ar), meaning to draw an outline.
And the second part of the name Terah seems to resemble the familiar noun רוח (ruah) meaning wind, breath or spirit:
Verb רוח (rawah) means to be wide or spacious, or unrestrained and unconfined. Note that the Bible considers freedom the most precious commodity and ultimate objective of all humans. In fact, "it's for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). Noun רוח (rewah) means space, or respite or relief. Noun רוחה (rewaha) too means respite or relief.
Noun רוח (ruah) means both wind and spirit, and a spirit is an invisible but wholly natural force that moves independent living creatures in the same direction. Noun ריח (reah) means scent or fragrance. Denominative verb ריח (riah) means to detect or produce a scent or fragrance.
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.