Genesis 25 Study Notes

25:1-4 Probably after Sarah’s death Abraham took another wife with concubine status, Keturah. In partial fulfillment of God’s promise that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars (15:5; 22:17), aged Abraham fathered six additional sons.

25:5-6 Abraham was generous to Isaac because Keturah, like Hagar, was a concubine; she and her sons had less status than Sarah and Isaac. Accordingly, Abraham only gave gifts to Keturah’s sons, while he gave Isaac everything he owned. Because God had given the land of Canaan only to Isaac’s descendants, Abraham sent Keturah’s sons eastward to the Arabian Peninsula.

25:7-11 Abraham lived some thirty-seven years after Sarah’s death and died at the age of 175. The biblical writer’s comment that Abraham was gathered to his people hints at the Israelites’ early belief in an afterlife. The patriarch’s two oldest sons Isaac (now seventy-five; see 21:5) and Ishmael (now eighty-nine; see 16:16) took the responsibility of burying their father.

25:12-18 The family records of Abraham’s son Ishmael, the seventh of the eleven (Hb) toledoth sections of Genesis (see note at 5:1), complement the family records of Abraham’s son Isaac (25:19). The lesser status of Ishmael’s family line compared to Isaac’s is reflected in the section’s relatively small size (7 vs. 364 verses) and the notation that Ishmael’s mother Hagar was the slave of Isaac’s mother Sarah.

Ishmael fathered twelve sons, all of whom became leaders of their clans . . . Their settlements and encampments stretched from Havilah to Shur—the region between the modern Suez canal and the Wadi el-Arish. Later their settlements, the best known of which was Kedar, would extend into the northwest Arabian Peninsula; these would be involved in incense trade. During his 137 years, Ishmael would also father two daughters, Mahalath and Basemath (28:9; 36:3). In keeping with the prophetic word (16:12), Ishmael stayed near all his relatives.

25:19 The family records of Isaac son of Abraham, the eighth of the eleven (Hb) toledoth sections in Genesis (see note at 5:1), extend from 25:19 through 35:29.

25:20-26 Inquire of the Lord meant that Rebekah consulted a prophet or priest, but it may be that Isaac functioned in this way. Esau was prophesied to be the ancestor of a nation, the Edomites, who would generally be ruled by Israel, the nation descended from Jacob. According to Mal 1:2-3, quoted in Rm 9:13, the prophecy also meant that God chose Jacob to inherit the Abrahamic promise.

25:27-28 The differences between Esau and Jacob, already apparent at birth, became more pronounced as the boys grew up. Esau was a rough-and-tumble hunter and outdoorsman (lit “man of rural regions”); Jacob was quiet and stayed at home (lit “dweller in tents”). The differences between the boys highlighted a division between the parents: Isaac, something of an outdoorsman himself (24:63), loved his rugged son Esau, while Rebekah loved her more domestic son Jacob, even teaching him how to cook.

25:29-34 Esau’s impatient, appetite-driven life contrasted sharply with Jacob’s shrewd, calculating character. Esau willingly traded his birthright—the right of the firstborn son to a double portion (or perhaps two-thirds) of the inheritance (Dt 21:17)—for the chance to eat some . . . red stuff. Because of his fateful decision, Esau picked up the alternate name Edom (“Red”), which would be carried by the people group stemming from him (32:3). And because Jacob had made him swear to sell his birthright, the decision could not be undone.

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