1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
-It’s amazing in these four verses how silly Abraham now looks that he did not have an heir and had doubt that God could provide one because of his old age. This new wife who we know nothing about bore him 6 sons. At least we assume they are sons, only two are told which sons of their own they had. The bible does not mention daughters unless they are making special note so we assume these are the sons and we do not know if he bore any daughters. One group that jumps out among the list of names of descendants are the Midianites who lead Israel astray many times. The fact that so little is said about Keturah shows that this account is not about history but what God wants to reveal about Himself. All that needed to be mentioned is was Abraham had a second wife and these are the sons for genealogy reasons. They story of how Abraham met Keturah and what she was like is not relevant. That is not to say God may not have had a hand in this or even that she was lesser of a wife than Sarah was.. But the bible is not about a collection of all the dealings God has ever had with man, only a few short snippets for the purposes of His revelation to us. That book would be infinitely long and is still being written every day.
5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.
-Wait a minute, concubine(s)? If Keturah was merely a concubine and did not have the same wife status as Sarah did, why does it say more than one? And it says sons implying that he had more sons from other concubines that are not mentioned. Could it be possible all along that Abraham had been begetting sons on the side while waiting for the heir from his “main” wife Sarah? It does not seem likely because Hagar was made such a big deal of which implies it was the first time this was done and Ishmael was Abraham’s first son born to him. When it comes right down to it, we just don’t know. So much is crammed into only a few short verses that we are left guessing at too much to draw any sound conclusions. All we can say is, after Ishmael, Abraham had Isaac and other sons but left everything to Isaac as the heir. Not before giving gifts to his other sons first though.
7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9 Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife.
-Abraham lived a full 75 years after Issac which means Issac was 75 years old before he started out on his own. Below we find out that Isaac was 40 when he took Rebekah as a wife and 60 when Jacob and Esau were born. So for the last 15 years of Abraham’s life, he not only had that heir he waited so long for, but got to see his grandchildren and the next heir as well. It is interesting that Ishmael had returned to bury his father. This is what makes this account of other sons very confusing. Perhaps because Ishmael is firstborn or perhaps because these are the two we have been given a story of that they are mentioned. The way it is written, there is no guarantee all of Abraham’s sons weren’t there and the account only mentions Ishmael and Issac. As mentioned above, every historical detail is not important. We are only given the details that we need to learn about God. We also know that Abraham was not perfect and perhaps did have a weakness with concubines. Or it was simply the culture of the day and there was no knowledge that this was improper yet because there was no law given to them. The point of Abraham’s story is to establish the promise of Israel, which is “everlasting”, and to show God’s relationship with Abraham and how he worked with him and grew him to the point of obedience of sacrificing his long awaited heir and favored son. This is what God can do if you let Him in as Abraham did.
11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.
-Remember, Beer-lahai-roi is where Hagar saw the well when she and Ishmael were dying of thirst in Southern Israel. Curious that he would settle there. Today it is a desert but perhaps it was not back in this time.
12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes.
-Remember the prophesy that Ishmael would beget a great nation and father twelve princes. These twelve princes are: Nebaioth, Keder, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. Therefore, the prophecy about Ishmael becoming a wild donkey of a man and fathering twelve princes has been fulfilled. There is no reason to think the “wild donkey of a man” continues to apply to the Arab race today.
17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.
-Ishmael lived 137 years, Sarah lived 127. We are already arriving to the point where ages are nearing closer to what they have become today. Abraham seemed to be an exception for this time and perhaps God blessed him with many years because of his obedience to him. It is not that Abraham was so great God rewarded him for his good behavior, Abraham was willing to work with God and God was so pleased that He gave him extra life on earth. The difference is grace, not an earned reward. Abraham didn’t seem to expect to live this long if already at 86 years old he allowed Sarah to talk him into sleeping with Hagar to get a child before its too late. His life wasn’t even half over yet!
The Birth of Esau and Jacob
19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.
-It is interesting they are called “Aramean” when they are related to Abraham. Shouldn’t they be considered Hebrews as well? Perhaps Eberites? Aram was a son of Seth but Abraham’s family are descendants of Shem’s son Arphaxad, not Aram. This means they were considered Aramean not by blood but based on territory. They lived in the region near Harran where the Aramean’s settled and it’s possible they took Aramean wives. So even though in genealogy they always count the male lineage, the father Bethuel could have been half Aramean by blood and Laban and Rebekah may have been three-quarters Aramean so it may yet be because of blood but probably more likely territory because they had lived there for a hundred years by now. Unlike Abraham, they seem to have settled there and probably purchased land so they were part of the people and not a sojourner like Abraham.
21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
-This is a wonderful prophesy to take note of, one is stronger and the older will serve the younger. Later we see that Esau is certainly physically stronger and Jacob is more the type who stays at home with mom. It sounds like a classic nerd vs jock comparison. Yet this prophesy is saying Jacob is stronger. So God is not going by physical strength when he is talking about strength but rather faith. We see later Jacob, despite his own sinful nature, shows great faith where Esau seems to have none at all. One might have the thought that this could be the first time twins had ever been born and it is certainly the earliest recorded account of twins and first in the bible but there’s no reason to believe these were the first ever twins. Rebekah was likely just in a lot of pain and asking God why she must endure as we all do when we are in what feels like unbearable pain. We have to remember, these people are just like us, flawed sinners. Human nature never changes. She shows great faith in asking God.
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
-The name Esau in Hebrew literally means “harry”. This is not a nickname for “Harold”, they literally named their son “Harry”, poor guy. Jacob had an even stranger name. His name literally means “heal catcher” and the term also came to mean “supplanter”. Jacob certainly supplants his brother’s birthright later on. It is amazing that before their birth, God declares what will happen, and what will happen is demonstrated from the very way they were born. God knows who are and every choice you will ever make before you are even born.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
-It is very common that one parent shows favor to one child while the other parent shows favor to the other. With all the chapters about Abraham, it’s interesting we have very little about Issac. As far as we know, Issac never spoke to God except when he prayed for his wife to have children which could have been a purely selfish desire. God speaks to him twice, however, once when he is told not to go to Egypt but remain in the promised land and when the same promise is confirmed to him and he builds an altar. These events do demonstrate faith but the fact that he favored Esau so much suggests a more worldly outlook because of Esau’s physical ability.
Esau Sells His Birthright
29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)
-The name “Edom” means “red” in Hebrew. Later on, we hear of Esau’s descendants being referred to as “Edomites” rather than “Esauites”.
31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
-There have been many conclusions drawn from this story and there are many ways this event may have happened. Was Esau really about to die or was just tired and exaggerating a bit? We don’t know. The point of this story is that Esau obviously did not place much weight on being firstborn. Being considered firstborn was not about a larger blessing in terms of wealth but had a spiritual significance. Like how Isaac was not Abraham’s first son, he received the blessing anyway because God had directed Abraham to do so and he was born from Abraham’s (main?) wife the one he seemed to love far more. As we pointed at above, Abraham had other sons, but the spiritual significance was put on Isaac. This spiritual significance was everything and it was the son who carried on the family line and tradition, in this case, of walking with God. To Esau, none of this mattered. Esau may not have even believed in God and saw his natural ability as a sign he can look after himself and be his own god (until he gets hungry for stew, of course). Esau had no concern of these spiritual matters at all while Jacob clearly understand the significance. Jacob probably realized he did not have the physical talent Esau had to make a name and a nation for himself but if he had the birthright and his father’s blessing, he could. When it says “thus Esau despised his birthright”, it is saying “therefore” or meaning this was the reason. So Esau hated his birthright “because” of this event. Perhaps he knew what he had said and the vow he made and dreaded it because Jacob would hold it over him.