Questions From Readers
Did Jehovah make his covenant with Abraham in Ur or in Haran?
The earliest account of Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham is found at Genesis 12:1-3, which says: “Jehovah proceeded to say to Abram: ‘Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you . . . And all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.’”* Jehovah may well have made this covenant with Abraham while the latter was in Ur and reaffirmed it when Abraham was in Haran.
In the first century, Stephen referred to Jehovah’s command that Abraham should move to Canaan. Addressing the Sanhedrin, he said: “The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he took up residence in Haran, and he said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your relatives and come on into the land I shall show you.’” (Acts 7:2, 3) Abraham was originally from Ur, and as Stephen indicated, that was where he first heard the command to go to Canaan. (Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7) Stephen did not mention God’s covenant with Abraham, but at Genesis 12:1-3, that covenant is linked to the command to go to Canaan. So it is reasonable to believe that Jehovah made the covenant with Abraham in Ur.
However, a careful reading of the Genesis account suggests that Jehovah restated his covenant to Abraham in Haran, just as he repeated and enlarged on aspects of it on a number of occasions in Canaan. (Genesis 15:5; 17:1-5; 18:18; 22:16-18) According to Genesis 11:31, 32, Abraham’s father, Terah, left Ur for Canaan, accompanied by Abraham, Sarah, and Lot. They came to Haran and stayed there until Terah’s death. Abraham was in Haran long enough to acquire considerable wealth. (Genesis 12:5) And at some point, Nahor, Abraham’s brother, also moved there.
After recording Terah’s death, the Bible reports Jehovah’s words to Abraham and continues: “At that Abram went just as Jehovah had spoken to him.” (Genesis 12:4) Hence, Genesis 11:31–12:4 gives the strong impression that Jehovah spoke the words recorded at Genesis 12:1-3 after Terah’s death. If that is so, Abraham left Haran and moved to the land that Jehovah indicated in response to a command he had just heard, as well as the one he had heard years earlier in Ur.
According to Genesis 12:1, Jehovah commanded Abraham: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father.” At one time Abraham’s “country” was Ur, and his father’s “house” was there. However, Abraham’s father moved his household to Haran, and Abraham came to call that place his land. When, after many years in Canaan, he sent his steward to ‘his country and his relatives’ to find a wife for Isaac, the steward went to “the city of Nahor” (either Haran or somewhere nearby). (Genesis 24:4, 10) There the steward found Rebekah among Abraham’s relatives, the large family of Nahor.—Genesis 22:20-24; 24:15, 24, 29; 27:42, 43.
In his speech to the Sanhedrin, Stephen said of Abraham: “After his father died, God caused him to change his residence to this land in which you now dwell.” (Acts 7:4) This indicates that Jehovah communicated with Abraham in Haran. It is reasonable to believe that on that occasion Jehovah reiterated his covenant with Abraham as reported at Genesis 12:1-3, since the covenant went into effect when Abraham moved into Canaan. Thus, a consideration of all the facts leads to the conclusion that Jehovah may well have made his covenant with Abraham in Ur and reaffirmed it in Haran.