Shem’s Descendants to Abram, Genesis 11:10-32

This section begins a new division in Genesis. Almost one-third of this book is spent on Abraham, the forefather of the Israelite nation (11:27-25:18), even though Genesis covers more than 20 generations and 2,000 years.

You may read Genesis 11:10-32 here: Bible Gateway.

Although humanity struck out three times—in Eden, the flood, then the Tower of Babel—God had a plan. Abram probably had no idea just how big God’s overarching plan was when He called Abram to leave his home and journey to Canaan. But Abram’s obedience would result in the development of the nation that God Himself would come down and visit through His sinless Son, Jesus. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus would make atonement for the worlds’ sins, for all who accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith.


Shem’s genealogy is highlighted in verses 10-26. This section may seem dry and redundant (also listed in Gen. 10:22-31), but as we continue the Genesis saga we’re given a backstage pass to witness the setup for Noah’s blessing on Seth’s descendants. (Noah’s curse on Ham’s descendants is fulfilled when the Israelites conquer the land of Canaan in Joshua’s days.)


Terah: Abram’s Father (11:27-32)

Like Noah, Terah also had three sons, Abram being one of them. This account records Terah as the first to set out to Canaan with Abram and his family from Ur of the Chaldeans to settle in Canaan (vs. 31-32). But they end up in Haran instead. Scripture doesn’t say why. Perhaps he became sick. However, Joshua 24:2 and 24:14-15 identify Terah (and possibly his family) as worshippers of many gods. Ur and Haran were also significant places for the moon worship cult. Many of the names from Gen. 11:29 stem from this false religion as well.

Archaeologists have uncovered clues that indicate the ancient city of Ur in Abram’s day was a flourishing civilization. Not only did the city carry out a large trading system with their neighbors, they also boasted a huge library. Abram was most likely well educated from growing up in Ur.

Other Family Members

  • Lot, Terah’s Grandson and Abram’s nephew, is given a short introduction here. Lot, who becomes a main character in Gen. 13:1-14:24, is cast in contrast to Abram. Lot also traveled to Haran with Terah and Abram. His father, Haran, died in Ur.
  • Sarai, whose name is later changed to Sarah, married Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham). She is also his half-sister (20:12), which was common and not in contradiction to God’s will at this time. Sarai’s childlessness in the ancient Near East brought social ridicule and shame. This also implied that the woman, or the couple, were disfavored toward the gods.