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Genesis 25-26 Listen
1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.
4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.
8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.
The facts of this passage are disputed by students of the Bible. Some maintain that Keturah became Abraham's wife while Sarah was still living - years and years before her death. They maintain that she was one of his concubines. The question lies in whether or not verse 1 is intended to be understood to have taken place chronologically after the events from the preceding chapters. It is true, the Hebrew text of verse 1 is not definite - could be either way. Verse 1 says, "Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah." That verse immediately follows verse 67 of the previous chapter regarding Sarah's death. Let's face it, Abraham was an unusual man; he was 136 years old when Sarah died, perhaps he did start another family with Keturah after Sarah's death and then lived to be 175. Go Abraham! So...how long did Abraham grieve Sarah's death before he remarried. You know...people always ask questions like that. Maybe he took some time. But at 136, he must have felt he didn't have any time to waste. Take a look at the size of his family through Keturah. God told Abraham in Genesis 17:4-5 (see notes) as part of his covenant with him that he would be the "father of many nations." Indeed, that is so! The inheritance, however, he leaves only to Isaac, and the "seed" blessings are fulfilled through Isaac (and only Isaac, Genesis 21:12, see notes) as well.
However, there is some interesting wording in verse 6 which causes us to entertain the notion that Keturah became one of Abraham's concubines prior to Sarah's death when it says, "But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country." In the Hebrew, both "sons" and "concubines" are, indeed, plural. These six verses are thus understood by some to indicate that Abraham had taken other concubines (second-class wives) while Sarah was still living; they maintain that Keturah was simply one of these concubines who gets special mention because of the number of her offspring. At 175, Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah by Isaac and Ishmael.
Of particular note regarding Abraham's family through Keturah, Abraham's son, Midian, is generally accepted to be the father of the Midianites, among whom Moses found refuge after fleeing Egypt. As a matter of fact, Moses married a Midianite. Regarding the other sons, speculation is made regarding the identity of their descendants, but scripture does not address them specifically enough to be able to draw reliable conclusions.
12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham:
13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,
15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:
16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.
17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
Ishmael's offspring went on to populate much of the Arabian Peninsula. Between the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, many of the Arab tribes were descendants of Abraham. God had spoken to Hagar before Ishmael was born concerning Ishmael in Genesis 16:12 (see notes), "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every mans hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." The descendants of Ishmael ("twelve princes according to their nations" - verse 16) go on to plague Israel through much of their history. Ishmael gets no more mention in Genesis with the exception of Genesis 28:9 (see notes) regarding one of his daughters marrying Esau (Isaac's grandson). All of our attention now turns to Abraham's "seed" line, Isaac.
19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.
23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
At first Rebekah is barren, but after Isaac prays, she becomes pregnant with twins - rambunctious twins wrestling right there in the womb. Rebekah checks with God about this unusual activity going on inside her only to find out from God that this would be a pattern for her boys - two nations...struggling with each other (verse 23). One more important aspect of that verse - seniority would become an issue as Rebekah is told, "the elder shall serve the younger."
"Look at the hair on that red baby!" the folks (might have) said of Esau (verse 25), the first of the twins to peak through. Hanging onto Esau's heel immediately came Jacob. That settles it; Esau is the firstborn, if not but by a few seconds. A couple of nicknames stick to these babies right from birth. Esau became known as "Seir" and his descendants are often known by that term. "Seir" is a slight variation from the Hebrew word for "hair." Esau got another nickname based on his reddish color - "Edom." That's based upon the Hebrew word for "red."
Incidentally, notice that Isaac was 60 years old when his two boys were born. He and Rebekah had now been married for 20 years.
27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Isaac and Rebekah had their favorites (verse 28); Isaac identified more with Esau, the big-game hunter while Rebekah preferred the calm, domestic child, Jacob. One day Esau comes in from hunting...starving - says he's about to die of hunger. Jacob had a big pot of red soup for which Esau agreed to trade his oldest-son birthright to Jacob - just for a serving. "What a deal!" Jacob thinks. "No big deal!" Esau reasons. Jacob makes Esau swear to this agreement. This decision could come back to haunt Esau. It is important to understand here that Esau did seal the deal on selling his birthright with an oath in this passage. That makes the eldest-son birthright legally the property of Jacob now - not Esau. The deceit that Jacob and Rebekah engage in at the perceived end of Isaac's life in Genesis 27 (see notes) to make it all official is just a formality. Jacob legally owned the birthright that Esau had sold him. That deceit is obviously very distasteful to us, but it did not result in Jacob getting something that wasn't rightfully his anyway. One more thing, verse 34 says, "Esau despised his birthright." There's another important piece of relevant information here - God's word to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 (see above) telling her that "...the elder shall serve the younger." So, actually, this soup episode simply confirms what had already been determined and stated.
Incidentally, verse 30 does that play on words again between the Hebrew word for "red" and Esau's nickname, "Edom," a Hebrew variation of the word for "red." We first saw the "red" reference with regard to his skin tone at birth in verse 25.
1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.
8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.
10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.
11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.
12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.
13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.
15 For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.
16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.
17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
19 And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
20 And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.
21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.
22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
23 And he went up from thence to Beersheba.
24 And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.
25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.
26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
28 And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD.
30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.
31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.
33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.
34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
Another famine, and Isaac heads south through Abimelech's land. It's deja vu all over again! Remember, Abraham tried this back in Genesis 12:10-20 (see notes) and again in Genesis 20 (see notes)? God warns Isaac to stay out of Egypt (verse 2) and reconfirms to him the territorial promises made to Abraham (verses 3-5). But just like his Dad, Abraham, Isaac tells the people there that Rebekah is his sister. It was a half truth when Abraham introduced Sarah that way, but an outright lie for Isaac regarding Rebekah. When Abimelech (probably the son of Abraham's contemporary) sees Isaac and Rebekah showing affection toward each other in a way that brothers and sisters aren't known for, he knows something is up. Abimelech rebukes Isaac for the deceit and makes a very interesting statement of the misidentification of Rebekah when he says in verse 10, "...one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife..." Do you mean without Rebekah's permission...and so casually? Whoa...tough times - tough place to live...at least for a woman! After a confrontation, Isaac admits the truth about his relationship with Rebekah. Abimelech issues a decree to his people regarding the safety of Isaac and Rebekah while they are dwelling in their land, the land of the Philistines. Now, any fling with Rebekah by anyone other than Isaac will be his last (verse 11).
Isaac prospered so much in the land of the Philistines here that Abimelech asked Isaac to take his possessions and go. Isaac begins moving around, digging wells and setting up housekeeping. After a couple of territorial disputes with the locals over discovered water, Isaac finally settles in Beersheba. In verse 24, God speaks to Isaac once again to reconfirm the promises originally given to his father, Abraham. After recognizing God's blessings upon Isaac, Abimelech comes to make a peace treaty with Isaac.
This chapter ends with a disappointment for Isaac and Rebekah - the marriages of their son, Esau, to local women. You will recall that both Rebekah and Isaac's folks were northerners (Haran in Mesopotamia). Abraham had been very adamant with his instructions to the servant who was charged with finding a wife for Isaac when he commanded in Genesis 24:3, "...thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell." See the notes for Genesis 24 to gain more insight into the family thinking here regarding marriage. It would appear that Abraham understood his real-estate promises from God to mean that he was not to mix his seed with the seed of the local Canaanites. Now, Esau has married these local Canaanite women.
It's difficult to know what Isaac and Rebekah are thinking at this point in time about the "seed" promise that had passed from Abraham through Isaac here. Rebekah certainly must have recalled the word from the LORD in Genesis 25:23 (see above) telling her that "...the elder shall serve the younger." We don't know whether or not she had ever shared this information with Isaac. Perhaps, at this point, Isaac and Rebekah are assuming that the "seed" promises that God had given to Abraham and had reconfirmed through Isaac (Genesis 17:19, see notes and Genesis 21:12, see notes) are to be fulfilled through their eldest son, Esau. Or...maybe Isaac was the only one thinking that, perhaps being unaware of the word from the Lord to Rebekah or the sold birthright (Genesis 25:27-34, see above). That being the case, they probably viewed Esau's marriage to the locals as an act that would compromise those promises. Ultimately, it would be the younger (but only by seconds) son, Jacob, through whom those "seed" promises would be fulfilled. See the notes of Genesis 28 for details on the reconfirmation of these promises through Jacob. Oh, well...all's well that ends well.
The Jacob-Esau birthright saga continues into Genesis 27 (see notes).