There is an apparent discrepancy between the speech of Stephen in Acts and the account of Abraham in Genesis. Stephen said that Abraham left Haran when his father died. Genesis 11:32 says Terah died at the age of 205. Genesis 12:4 says that Abraham was 75 when he left Haran, and Genesis 11:26 says that "Terah lived 70 years and became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran."
If we just had Genesis to look at, then the comment about Terah dying at the age of 205 could very easily just be a parenthetical comment and not a chronological comment. But Stephen obviously took it chronologically. But the numbers then do not add up.
Commentators have proposed a few ideas as to how to resolve this problem:
- Stephen was following a tradition found in the works of Philo and the Samaritan Pentateuch.
- Stephen was mistaken and Luke infallibly recorded what Stephen fallibly said. I do not think that this can work in this particular instance. While Scripture does not say that Stephen was inspired it does say that in his addresses to the Jews, they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit with which he spake (6:10), and twice it is said that he was full of the Holy Spirit and his face was as the face of an angel. Also, there is God's promise that when His disciples should be brought before rulers, the Holy Spirit would speak in them (Matt. 10:19, Mk. 13:11, Lk. 12:11).
- The listing of Terah's sons is not in order of birth, nor does it imply
that they were all born when Terah was 70 as they would then have been
triplets, no instance of which is recorded anywhere else in Scripture. Sons
are not always listed in order of birth but rather in order of importance,
such as Noah's sons in Genesis 5:32.
Then it is possible that Abraham was the youngest being born when Terah was 130. Haran did die first making it then likely that he was the eldest and Isaac married Rebecca, the grand-daughter of Nahor by the youngest son of 8 (Gen. 22:22).
But this last answer, probably the best, raises another issue. if Terah was 130 years old when he fathered Abraham, why would Abraham think it extraordinary that he would have a son at the age of 99, though he certainly would have known of older men in his history that have had children? Also, why would Abraham think 99 was so "old" when his father was 205 when he died. Abraham would have been middle-aged and middle-aged men today certainly can father children.
In fact, usually men remain able to procreate many years beyond what a women of the same age can. We do hear of 60 or even 70 year old men today fathering children with much younger women.
So was Abraham exaggerating and being melodramatic to God? Was he perhaps impotent and that is why he said that he was old and Sarah laughed that she should have "pleasure"?
What's the answer to this? The answer is, that Abraham's comments are made in light of him not having had children in the previous 100 years, so in effect it is like saying, "After 100 years of infertility I will now have a child?" The comment is relative to Abraham himself, not his contemporaries, and the texts refer to him in the context of his historical infertility.
-JPH and "C"