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Answering The Atheist
November 9, 2003 / Volume 3, Issue 45

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How old was Abraham when he left Haran? Genesis 12:4 says that he was 75 years old, however, Acts 7:2-4 and Genesis 11:26, 32 indicate that he had to be at least 135 years old. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Just to supply a couple other events and relative age of Abraham, that we might set his leaving Haran in order, Genesis 16:16 tells us that he was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. In the next verse (17:1), he was 99 when the Lord appeared to him and made a covenant with him, and finally, he was 100 years old when Isaac was born (21:5). These things being so, it should be evident that the correct age for the departure from Haran is 75, not 135.

Now, how did the questioner come up with at least 135? Really, it is simple math, but due to one incorrect assumption, the whole equation falls:

205 (Terah's age when he died in Haran, Gen 11:32)
- 70 (Terah's age when he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, Gen 11:26)
= 135

Since Acts 7:4 tells us that Abraham didn't leave Haran until his father was dead (age 205), and Genesis 11:26 tells us that Terah begot his children at age 70, the questioner puts two and two together, or shall we say, 205 and 70, to get the answer of 135. What's the problem?

It has been assumed that Abraham is the firstborn among Terah's children. The text does not say so. It simply reveals that Terah began to have children at the age of 70, no specifics given. That is, no specifics until we get to Genesis 12:4, where we learn that Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran. Now, let's do the math again:

205 (Terah's age when he died in Haran, Gen 11:32)
- 75 (Abraham's age when he left Haran, Gen 12:4)
= 130

Terah was 130 years old when Abraham was born. No text specifically tells us this, but through sound deductive reasoning, we can determine it to be so. This does not stand in contradiction with Genesis 11:26, for the text does not reveal Abraham to be the first son to be born to Terah, just simply that he was one among three sons. Why was Abraham listed first of the three sons? Is he not the most important of them? Abraham is a central figure in the book of Genesis, even through the entire Bible. Nahor is mentioned somewhat through the following chapters of Genesis, but very little mention is made of Haran, since he predeceased his father. Seems to be order of importance rather than order of age.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible