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The Family We Leave Behind (Genesis 22:20)

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With all this talk about Abraham’s family expanding and him becoming a “father to many nations,” one question remains unanswered:

What happened to Abraham’s other family?

In our jump to talking about how amazing it was that Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees to travel to Canaan based on his faith in God, we don’t talk much about what he left behind.

Which I think is a tragedy. Any “faith-filled jump” to something new means being willing to leave something else behind. 

And for Abraham, that meant everything he had ever known existed.

Abraham Left Ur

In Genesis 11:31, Abraham’s father Terah sets out with Abraham, Lot, and Abraham’s wife Sarah to leave for a city called Haran.

This by itself would have required faith. Haran was at least a two days walk from Ur, and would’ve required loading your entire life on a wagon, saddling it up to a donkey, and hoping you didn’t leave anything behind.

Then, in Haran, Terah dies. It’s not until Genesis 12:1 that God speaks to Abraham and tells him to go to Canaan. Abraham had never been there and had probably not heard much about the land except what he could glean from the random traveller.

He also didn’t have access to Google maps, which would’ve told him that the land is mostly mountainous and has a humid climate with long summers.

Picture this request then in your mind. God tells you to leave everything you’ve ever known, with all your family and goods that are your responsibility, and go somewhere God hasn’t even told you yet (“go to a place I will show you”). Who’s signing up?

A lot of people people never move from their hometown, even today. A 2008 study showed that nearly 40% of Americans have never left the town where they grew up.

And why should they? It’s safe, it’s familiar, your family and friends are there. Why risk all of that just to go somewhere else?

In Abraham’s case, it’s because God told him to.

Abraham Left Family

Besides the difficulty in leaving the homeland you’re familiar with, moving your home also carries with it the reality of leaving family members behind.

Even though Abraham left with his father, wife, and nephew, Genesis 22:20 tells us that he had a brother named Nahor; the other brother, Haran, is mentioned in Genesis 11:27. Haran is also the father of Lot and dies before the family leaves Ur.

That means that Nahor stayed behind in Ur while the rest of his family left for Haran, and then eventually Canaan. No reason is given as to why, but it doesn’t seem to be a slight against his character.

Still, after Terah’s death and Lot’s departure for Sodom, Abraham is effectively alone in Hebron. At a time when multiple generations of a single family stayed under the same roof, this type of loneliness is pretty unique.

What Have I Left?

Even though none of us are being told to leave Ur for Canaan, Jesus still tells us to be ready to leave everything we know to pursue God as well:

“The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

– Matthew 10:37

Let’s be clear: That verse does not teach that you have to hate your family to be a Christian. It does teach that you can’t place anything — including your family — above God. If it comes down to them or God, we pick God.

That might sound crazy to much of the world, but for Christians, it’s a choice we made a long time ago when we decided to follow Him.

coffee and a Bible