Commentary on Genesis 25:1-18

Last updated: August 29, 2009

English Translation (ESV)

1Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6But 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.

7These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9Isaac 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, 10the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. 11After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

12These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. 17(These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.

Notes

1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.

Keturah is called a wife here but a concubine in verse 6 and 1 Chronicles 1:32. If the emphasis is placed on Keturah being Abraham’s wife then we are probably to suppose that the marriage occurred after Sarah’s death. On the other hand, if the emphasis is on her status as a concubine the marriage may have occurred while Sarah was still living (as was the case with Hagar).1 The descendants of Keturah help fulfill the promise that Abraham would father nations (17:5-7).

2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

Midian is the only well-known name in the verse. The Midianites were traders (37:28, 36; Isaiah 60:6) from northwestern Arabia, east of the Gulf of Akaba.2

3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.

Sheba was in the southwestern part of the Arabian peninsula and known for its spices.3 Dedan, also known for the spice trade, is identified with the modern oasis of ‘el ‘Ulla in the northwestern part of the Arabian peninsula.4

4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.

The Midianites were really a confederation of five kings (Numbers 31:8; Joshua 13:21).

5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac.

As in the preceding chapters, there is no doubt that Isaac is the appointed heir.

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.

The plural term “concubines” refers to Hagar and Keturah. The gifts “would either be a gesture of generosity on the part of Abraham designed to secure their good will toward Isaac or in compensation for their surrender of future claims.”5 The land of the east could refer to nearly any land east of Israel.

7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years.

Abraham resided in the promised land for 100 years (12:4). Jacob and Esau were born before his death (25:26) so this account is not placed in chronological order. The account is placed here so as not to detract from the main story line.

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.

Abraham’s manner of death fulfilled the promise found in 15:15. The phrase “gathered to his people” refers to the afterlife.6 Note it is distinguished from death (v 8) and burial (v 9). Four individuals in the Pentateuch are gathered to their people and yet not buried in an ancestral tomb (Abraham, 25:8; Ishmael, 25:17; Moses, Numbers 27:13; Deuteronomy 32:50; Aaron, Numbers 20:24; Deuteronomy 32:50).

9-10 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, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife.

Abraham purchased the cave in chapter 23.

11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

The phrase “After the death of” (literally, “It was after the death of”) is also found in Joshua 1:1, Judges 1:1 and 2 Samuel 1:1. “In each instance it indicates that a historic turning point has been reached; an era has come to an end, but the continuity of the leadership has been assured.”7 Isaac became the recipient of the covenant in fulfillment of 17:21.

12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham.

The description of Ishmael emphasizes that he was not the chosen son but rather the son of Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant.

13-15 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, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

The Kedarites were known as herders and located east of Israel. Abdeel is the tribe of Idibi’lu or Idiba’il who were from the northern Sinai peninsula. Mishma may refer to Jebel Misma’ in Arabia, about 160 miles east of Tema. Dumah may be modern al-Jawf. Tema is a famous oasis on the caravan route from southern Arabia to southern Mesopotamia. Jetur and Naphish are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:19. The sons of Naphushim are mentioned in Ezra 2:50 and Nehemiah 7:52.8

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.

The growth of the Ishmaelites fulfilled the promise given in 21:18 that Ishmael would become a great nation. The twelve princes (leaders) are in fulfillment of the promise in 17:20.

18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.

That Ishmael “settled over against all his kinsmen” means the prediction given to Hagar in 16:12 was fulfilled.

Bibliography

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament 1B. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Sarna, Nahum M. JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. 1st ed. Jewish Publication Society of America, 1989.

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50. Word Biblical Commentary 2. Thomas Nelson, 1994.

1Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 165.

2Ibid.

3Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 172.

4Ibid.

5Ibid., 173.

6Ibid., 174.

7Ibid.

8Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 175-176; Wenham, Genesis 16-50, 164.

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