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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 25

Genesis 25:1

gen 25:1

Abraham's Marriage to Keturah is generally supposed to have taken place after Sarah's death, and his power to beget six sons at so advanced an age is attributed to the fact, that the Almighty had endowed him with new vital and reproductive energy for begetting the son of the promise. But there is no firm ground for this assumption; as it is not stated anywhere, that Abraham did not take Keturah as his wife till after Sarah's death. It is merely an inference drawn from the fact, that it is not mentioned till afterwards; and it is taken for granted that the history is written in strictly chronological order. But this supposition is precarious, and is not in harmony with the statement, that Abraham sent away the sons of the concubines with gifts during his own lifetime; for in the case supposed, the youngest of Keturah's sons would not have been more than twenty-five or thirty years old at Abraham's death; and in those days, when marriages were not generally contracted before the fortieth year, this seems too young for them to have been sent away from their father's house. This difficulty, however, is not decisive. Nor does the fact that Keturah is called a concubine in Gen 25:6, and Ch1 1:32, necessarily show that she was contemporary with Sarah, but may be explained on the ground that Abraham did not place her on the same footing as Sarah, his sole wife, the mother of the promised seed. Of the sons and grandsons of Keturah, who are mentioned in Ch1 1:32 as well as here, a few of the names may still be found among the Arabian tribes, but in most instances the attempt to trace them is very questionable. This remark applies to the identification of Zimran with Ζαββάμ (Ptol. vi. 7, 5), the royal city of the Κιναιδοκολπῖται to the west of Mecca, on the Red Sea; of Jokshan with the Κασσανῖται, on the Red Sea (Ptol. vi. 7, 6), or with the Himyaritish tribe of Jakish in Southern Arabia; of Ishbak with the name Shobek, a place in the Edomitish country first mentioned by Abulfeda; of Shuah with the tribe Syayhe to the east of Aila, or with Szyhhan in Northern Edom (Burckhardt, Syr. 692, 693, and 945), although the epithet the Shuhite, applied to Bildad, points to a place in Northern Idumaea. There is more plausibility in the comparison of Medan and Midian with Μοδιάνα on the eastern coast of the Elanitic Gulf, and Μαδιάνα, a tract to the north of this (Ptol. vi. 7, 2, 27; called by Arabian geographers Madyan, a city five days' journey to the south of Aila). The relationship of these two tribes will explain the fact, that the Midianim, Gen 37:28, are called Medanim in Gen 37:36.

Genesis 25:3

gen 25:3

Of the sons of Jokshan, Sheba was probably connected with the Sabaeans, who are associated in Job 6:19 with Tema, are mentioned in Job 1:15 as having stolen Job's oxen and asses, and, according to Strabo (xvi. 779), were neighbours of the Nabataeans in the vicinity of Syria. Dedan was probably the trading people mentioned in Jer 25:23 along with Tema and Bus (Isa 21:13; Jer 49:8), in the neighbourhood of Edom (Eze 24:15), with whom the tribe of Banu Dudan, in Hejas, has been compared. On their relation to the Cushites of the same name, vid., Gen 10:7 and Gen 10:28, - Of the sons of Dedan, the Asshurim have been associated with the warlike tribe of the Asir to the south of Hejas, the Letushim with the Banu Leits in Hejas, and the Leummim with the tribe of the Banu Lm, which extended even to Babylon and Mesopotamia. Of the descendants of Midian, Ephah is mentioned in Isa 60:6, in connection with Midian, as a people trading in gold and incense. Epher has been compared with the Banu Gifar in Hejas; Hanoch, with the place called Hanakye, three days' journey to the north of Medinah; Abidah and el-daah, with the tribes of Abide and Vadaa in the neighbourhood of Asir. But all this is very uncertain.

Genesis 25:5

gen 25:5

Before his death, Abraham made a final disposition of his property. Isaac, the only son of his marriage with Sarah, received all his possessions. The sons of the concubines (Hagar and Keturah) were sent away with presents from their father's house into the east country, i.e., Arabia in the widest sense, to the east and south-east of Palestine.

Genesis 25:7

gen 25:7

Abraham died at the good old age of 175, and was "gathered to his people." This expression, which is synonymous with "going to his fathers" (Gen 15:15), or "being gathered to his fathers" (Jdg 2:10), but is constantly distinguished from departing this life and being buried, denotes the reunion in Sheol with friends who have gone before, and therefore presupposes faith in the personal continuance of a man after death, as a presentiment which the promises of God had exalted in the case of the patriarchs into a firm assurance of faith (Heb 11:13).

Genesis 25:9

gen 25:9

The burial of the patriarch in the cave of Machpelah was attended to by Isaac and Ishmael; since the latter, although excluded from the blessings of the covenant, was acknowledged by God as the son of Abraham by a distinct blessing (Gen 17:20), and was thus elevated above the sons of Keturah.

Genesis 25:11

gen 25:11

After Abraham's death the blessing was transferred to Isaac, who took up his abode by Hagar's well, because he had already been there, and had dwelt in the south country (Gen 24:62). The blessing of Isaac is traced to Elohim, not to Jehovah; because it referred neither exclusively nor pre-eminently to the gifts of grace connected with the promises of salvation, but quite generally to the inheritance of earthly possessions, which Isaac had received from his father.

Genesis 25:12

gen 25:12

(Compare Ch1 1:28-31)

To show that the promises of God, which had been made to Ishmael (Gen 16:10. and Gen 17:20), were fulfilled, a short account is given of his descendants; and according to the settled plan of Genesis, this account precedes the history of Isaac. This is evidently the intention of the list which follows of the twelve sons of Ishmael, who are given as princes of the tribes which sprang from them. Nebajoth and Kedar are mentioned in Isa 60:7 as rich possessors of flocks, and, according to the current opinion which Wetzstein disputes, are the Nabataei et Cedrei of Pliny (h. n. 5, 12). The Nabataeans held possession of Arabia Petraea, with Petra as their capital, and subsequently extended toward the south and north-east, probably as far as Babylon; so that the name was afterwards transferred to all the tribes to the east of the Jordan, and in the Nabataean writings became a common name for Chaldeans (ancient Babylonians), Syrians, Canaanites, and others. The Kedarenes are mentioned in Isa 21:17 as good bowmen. They dwelt in the desert between Arabia Petraea and Babylon (Isa 42:11; Psa 120:5). According to Wetzstein, they are to be found in the nomad tribes of Arabia Petraea up to Harra. The name Dumah, Δούμεθα Αουμαίθα (Ptol. v. 19, 7, Steph. Byz.), Domata (Plin. 6, 32), has been retained in the modern Dumat el Jendel in Nejd, the Arabian highland, four days' journey to the north of Taima. - Tema: a trading people (Job 6:19; Isa 21:14; mentioned in Jer 25:23, between Dedan and Bus) in the land of Taima, on the border of Nejd and the Syrian desert. According to Wetzstein, Dma and Tma are still two important places in Eastern Hauran, three-quarters of an hour apart. Jetur and Naphish were neighbours of the tribes of Israel to the east of the Jordan (Ch1 5:19), who made war upon them along with the Hagrites, the Αγραῖοι of Ptol. and Strabo. From Jetur sprang the Ituraeans, who lived, according to Strabo, near the Trachonians in an almost inaccessible, mountainous, and cavernous country; according to Wetzstein, in the mountains of the Druses in the centre of the Hauran, possibly the forefathers of the modern Druses. The other names are not yet satisfactorily determined. For Adbeel, Mibsam, and Kedma, the Arabian legends give no corresponding names. Mishma is associated by Knobel with the Μαισαιμανείς of Ptol. vi. 7, 21, to the N.E. of Medina; Massa with the Μασανοί on the N.E. of Duma; Hadad (the proper reading for Hadar, according to Ch1 1:30, the lxx, Sam., Masor., and most MSS) with the Arabian coast land, Chathth, between Oman and Bahrein, a district renowned for its lancers (Χαττηνία, Polyb.; Attene, Plin.).

Gen 25:16

These are the Ishmaelites "in their villages and encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes." חצר: premises hedged round, then a village without a wall in contrast with a walled town (Lev 25:31). טירה: a circular encampment of tents, the tent village of the Dur of the Bedouins. אמּות, here and Num 25:15, is not used of nations, but of the tribe-divisions or single tribes of the Ishmaelites and Midianites, for which the word had apparently become a technical term among them.

Gen 25:17-18

Ishmael died at the age of 137, and his descendants dwelt in Havilah - i.e., according to Gen 10:29, the country of the Chaulotaeans, on the borders of Arabia Petraea and Felix - as far as Shur (the desert of Jifar, Gen 16:7) to the east of Egypt, "in the direction of Assyria." Havilah and Shur therefore formed the south-eastern and south-western boundaries of the territories of the Ishmaelites, from which they extended their nomadic excursions towards the N.E. as far as the districts under Assyrian rule, i.e., to the lands of the Euphrates, traversing the whole of the desert of Arabia, or (as Josephus says, Ant. i. 12, 4) dwelling from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Thus, according to the announcement of the angel, Ishmael "encamped in the presence of all his brethren." נפל, to throw one's self, to settle down, with the subordinate idea of keeping by force the place you have taken (Jdg 7:12). Luther wavers between corruit, vel cecidit, vel fixit tabernaculum.

Genesis 25:19

gen 25:19

According to the plan of Genesis, the history (tholedoth) of Isaac commences with the birth of his sons. But to give it the character of completeness in itself, Isaac's birth and marriage are mentioned again in Gen 25:19, Gen 25:20, as well as his age at the time of his marriage. The name given to the country of Rebekah (Gen 25:20) and the abode of Laban in Gen 28:2, Gen 28:6-7; Gen 31:18; Gen 33:18; Gen 35:9, Gen 35:26; Gen 46:15, viz., Padan-Aram, or more concisely Padan (Gen 48:7), "the flat, or flat land of Aram," for which Hosea uses "the field of Aram" (Hos 12:12), is not a peculiar expression employed by the Elohist, or in the so-called foundation-work, for Aram Naharaim, Mesopotamia (Gen 24:10), but a more exact description of one particular district of Mesopotamia, viz., of the large plain, surrounded by mountains, in which the town of Haran was situated. The name was apparently transferred to the town itself afterwards. The history of Isaac consists of two stages: (1) the period of his active life, from his marriage and the birth of his sons till the departure of Jacob for Mesopotamia (Gen 25:20-28:9); and (2) the time of his suffering endurance in the growing infirmity of age, when the events of Jacob's life form the leading feature of the still further expanded history of salvation (Gen 28:10-35:29). This suffering condition, which lasted more than 40 years, reflected in a certain way the historical position which Isaac held in the patriarchal triad, as a passive rather than active link between Abraham and Jacob; and even in the active period of his life many of the events of Abraham's history were repeated in a modified form.

The name Jehovah prevails in the historical development of the tholedoth of Isaac, in the same manner as in that of Terah; although, on closer examination of the two, we find, first, that in this portion of Genesis the references to God are less frequent than in the earlier one; and secondly, that instead of the name Jehovah occurring more frequently than Elohim, the name Elohim predominates in this second stage of the history. The first difference arises from the fact, that the historical matter furnishes less occasion for the introduction of the name of God, just because the revelations of God are more rare, since the appearances of Jehovah to Isaac and Jacob together are not so numerous as those to Abraham alone. The second may be explained partly from the fact, that Isaac and Jacob did not perpetually stand in such close and living faith in Jehovah as Abraham, and partly also from the fact, that the previous revelations of God gave rise to other titles for the covenant God, such as "God of Abraham," "God of my father," etc., which could be used in the place of the name Jehovah (cf. Gen 26:24; Gen 31:5, Gen 31:42; Gen 35:1, Gen 35:3, and the remarks on Gen 35:9).

Genesis 25:21

gen 25:21

Isaac's marriage, like Abraham's, was for a long time unfruitful; not to extreme old age, however, but only for 20 years. The seed of the promise was to be prayed for from the Lord, that it might not be regarded merely as a fruit of nature, but be received and recognised as a gift of grace. At the same time Isaac was to be exercised in the patience of faith in the promise of God. After this lengthened test, Jehovah heard his prayer in relation to his wife. לנוכח, Gen 25:21 and Gen 30:38, lit., opposite to, so that the object is before the eyes, has been well explained by Luther thus: quod toto pectore et intentus in calamitatem uxoris oraverit. Sicut quando oro pro aliquo, propono illum mihi in conspectum cordis mei, et nihil aliud video aut cogito; in eum solum animo intueor.

Gen 25:22-23

When Rebekah conceived, the children struggled together in her womb. In this she saw an evil omen, that the pregnancy so long desired and entreated of Jehovah would bring misfortune, and that the fruit of her womb might not after all secure the blessing of the divine promise; so that in intense excitement she cried out, "If it be so, wherefore am I?" i.e., why am I alive? cf. Gen 27:46. But she sought counsel from God: she went to inquire of Jehovah. Where and how she looked for a divine revelation in the matter, is not recorded, and therefore cannot be determined with certainty. Some suppose that it was by prayer and sacrifice at a place dedicated to Jehovah. Others imagine that she applied to a prophet - to Abraham, Melchizedek, or Shem (Luther); a frequent custom in Israel afterwards (Sa1 9:9), but not probable in the patriarchal age. The divine answer, couched in the form of a prophetic oracle, assured her that she carried two nations in her womb, one stronger than the other; and that the greater (elder or first-born) should serve the less (younger). הפּרד ממּעיך: "proceeding from thy womb, are separated."

Gen 25:24-26

When she was delivered, there were twins; the first-born was reddish, i.e., of a reddish-brown colour (Sa1 16:12; Sa1 17:42), and "all over like a hairy cloak," i.e., his whole body as if covered with a fur, with an unusual quantity of hair (hypertrichosis), which is sometimes the case with new-born infants, but was a sign in this instance of excessive sensual vigour and wildness. The second had laid hold of the heel of the first, i.e., he came into the world with his hand projected and holding the heel of the first-born, a sign of his future attitude towards his brother. From these accidental circumstances the children received their names. The elder they called Esau, the hairy one; the younger Jacob, heel-holder: יעקב from עקב (denom. of עקב heel, Hos 12:3), to hold the heel, then to outwit (Gen 27:36), just as in wrestling an attempt may be made to throw the opponent by grasping the heel.

Genesis 25:27

gen 25:27

Esau became "a cunning hunter, a man of the field," i.e., a man wandering about in the fields. He was his father's favourite, for "venison was in his mouth," i.e., he was fond of it. But Jacob was תּם אישׁ, "a pious man" (Luther); תּם, integer, denotes here a disposition that finds pleasure in the quiet life of home. אהלים ישׁב, not dwelling in tents, but sitting in the tents, in contrast with the wild hunter's life led by his brother; hence he was his mother's favourite.

Genesis 25:29

gen 25:29

The difference in the characters of the two brothers was soon shown in a singular circumstance, which was the turning-point in their lives. Esau returned home one day from the field quite exhausted, and seeing Jacob with a dish of lentils, still a favourite dish in Syria and Egypt, he asked with passionate eagerness for some to eat: "Let me swallow some of that red, that red there;" אדם, the brown-red lentil pottage. From this he received the name Edom, just as among the ancient Arabians persons received names from quite accidental circumstances, which entirely obscured their proper names. Jacob made us of his brother's hunger to get him to sell his birthright. The birthright consisted afterwards in a double portion of the father's inheritance (Deu 21:17); but with the patriarchs it embraced the chieftainship, the rule over the brethren and the entire family (Gen 27:29), and the title to the blessing of the promise (Gen 27:4, Gen 27:27-29), which included the future possession of Canaan and of covenant fellowship with Jehovah (Gen 28:4). Jacob knew this, and it led him to anticipate the purposes of God. Esau also knew it, but attached no value to it. There is proof enough that he knew he was giving away, along with the birthright, blessings which, because they were not of a material but of a spiritual nature, had no particular value in his estimation, in the words he made use of: "Behold I am going to die (to meet death), and what is the birthright to me?" The only thing of value to him was the sensual enjoyment of the present; the spiritual blessings of the future his carnal mind was unable to estimate. In this he showed himself to be βέβηλος (Heb 12:16), a profane man, who cared for nothing but the momentary gratification of sensual desires, who "did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way, and so despised his birthright" (Gen 25:34). With these words the Scriptures judge and condemn the conduct of Esau. Just as Ishmael was excluded from the promised blessing because he was begotten "according to the flesh," so Esau lost it because his disposition was according to the flesh. The frivolity with which he sold his birthright to his brother for a dish of lentils, rendered him unfit to be the heir and possessor of the promised grace. But this did not justify Jacob's conduct in the matter. Though not condemned here, yet in the further course of the history it is shown to have been wrong, by the simple fact that he did not venture to make this transaction the basis of a claim.

Next: Genesis Chapter 26