Abraham’s second marriage. — V.1. Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. This woman was not a concubine during the lifetime of Sarah, but his wife by a second marriage, although she did not hold the status of the mother of the promised Seed, she was not included in the Messianic promise. V.2. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. V.3. And Jokshan begat Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. V.4. And the sons of Midian: Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. The rich blessing of God shows that there was no stain attaching to this second marriage, but that it was entered into in sanctification and honor, for mutual care and assistance and for the procreation of children, the strength of Abraham having been retained in a remarkable manner, even to extreme old age. The children and grandchildren of Keturah, like those of Ishmael, became the forefathers of Arabian tribes, chiefly along the Ailanitic Gulf and northeast of it (Midianites), along the Red Sea, and along the Persian Gulf, most of them commercial nations. V.5. And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. Isaac was the recognized legal heir, who also received the stock of the herds and the essential parts of Abraham’s possessions. He was, moreover, the bearer of the Messianic blessing. V.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. Although neither Keturah nor even Hagar were concubines in the later sense of the term, yet, in comparison with Sarah, the mistress and mother by special divine interposition, they were of secondary rank. Their children, therefore, could not claim an equal division of the property with Isaac, the heir of the promise, whose inheritance the land of Canaan was to be. Abraham simply established Ishmael and all the sons of Keturah with enough property in small herds and flocks, together with the necessary servants, that they had their maintenance. They moved into the country toward the southeast and east, and there grew up into tribes. Among these descendants of Abraham the knowledge of the true God was found for a long time, their spiritual inheritance thus proving of greater value than the temporal gifts.
Abraham’s death and burial. — V.7. And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. So he lived fully seventy-five years after the birth of Isaac and saw his grandsons grow up to the age of youths, V.26. That also is a blessing of the Lord, Ps. 128, 6. V.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. Though Abraham did not live as long as his forefathers before him, yet he had had his fill of this world, both in length of life and in its misery and tribulation. His strength failed, he died, he was added to his people; his soul was received into heaven, to join the number of those that had died in the faith of the Messiah. Note that the Bible here plainly teaches the continued existence of the soul after death and implies a state of bliss. V.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; v.10. the field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth; there was Abraham buried and Sarah, his wife. Ishmael, having been notified of the death of his father, came at once to show him the final honors by the side of Isaac. Naturally the burial-place which Abraham himself had purchased with such elaborate ceremonies from Ephron, the Hittite, was the only one that could come into consideration. There the two sons laid the weary body of their father to rest beside the body of Sarah, his wife, where their dust is awaiting the final resurrection. Such a burial, in which the tomb is regarded as a sleeping-chamber, agrees well with the Christian faith in the resurrection of the body. V.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 welfare and prosperity of Abraham was continued in that of Isaac, who now, as once before, moved to the southern part of Canaan and made his headquarters at the well of Hagar, but retained his principal residence at Hebron, chap. 35, 27.
The generations of Ishmael. — V.12. Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar, the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham. We have here the final account of Ishmael and a short summary of his family’s history. V.13. And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael by their names, according to their generations: the first-born of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, v.14. and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, v.15. Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. V.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. As the Lord had promised Hagar, so it came to pass: twelve princes were begotten of her son Ishmael, twelve mighty sheiks of powerful tribes, the names of some of which were preserved for many centuries. Thus the descendants of Nebajoth and Kedar lived in Arabia Petraea, on the Peninsula of Sinai, and beyond, Is. 60, 7, the Kadarenes afterward extending toward the east in the direction of Babylonia, Is. 42, 11; Ps. 120, 5. The other Iahmaelitic tribes do not seem to have been so large and mighty, still there are references, also in Scripture, which place them into the great country on the east side of Jordan. Twelve princes they were in their tribes, governing and representing twelve tribes, with their permanent, walled camps, or cities, and their temporary encampments, with their fixed and movable habitations. V.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. Although Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, is represented in Scriptures as a type of the fleshly, the Spirit of God finally gained and kept the ascendancy in him. He also died in the faith and was added to the number of those that trusted in the Messiah and His salvation. V.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. That was the extent of the Ishmaelites’ territory in later years, from the stream of Egypt on the southwest and Havilah in Arabia Deserta on the southeast to the Euphrates on the northeast. So Ishmael, in his descendants, fell upon, settled, took possession of, this country, in the presence of, next to his brethren, on the boundary of the Promised Land.
Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah. — V.19. And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac; v.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. The threads of the story concerning Isaac are here gathered together in order to devote a paragraph to the founding of his family. The section of Mesopotamia from which Rebekah hailed is called the plains of Aram, which extended west of the Euphrates. V.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. It is the Lord who grants issue to married people, but the blessing of children, like all other blessings, must be prayed for. Just as Isaac had prayed for a pious wife, so he also prayed for children, and undoubtedly for pious children, just as Luther teaches in his explanation of the Fourth Petition. V.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. This was after pregnancy had advanced to the point that movement was distinctly felt. Fearing that her condition would result in misfortune to herself and probably to the child of promise, Rebekah, rash in her speech and actions, and easily discouraged, cried out: If this be so, what is the object of my still being here? Why should I still be living, with this sore and strange struggle within me? Nevertheless she went to ask the Lord, probably through the ministry of Abraham. V.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. The answer was thus given in rhythmic parallels, the form of Hebrew poetry, stating that the older of the twins, the first-born, would be the servant of the younger. Cp. Rom. 9, 11. 12. The younger, therefore, would be the bearer and heir of the Messianic promise, the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham should be continued in him.
The two sons, Esau and Jacob. — V.24. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. V.25. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. So Esau was the first of the twins to be born, and, in allusion to the reddish, thick growth of hair which even then covered his body like a garment of skins, he was given the name, which means “the hairy one.” Thus early his sensual, hard characteristics, his wildness, became evident. V.26. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob. The name signifies “the holder of the heel,” “the cunning one,” because he was supposed to have taken advantage of his brother thus early in life. And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. V.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. The natural wildness of Esau’s character was soon revealed in the fact that he became skilful in the chase, loved to roam across the country far and wide for the mere love of killing game. Jacob was the very opposite, a quiet young man, opposed to all violence, much preferring to remain in the tents and tend to the matters at home. V.28. And Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison, literally, game, the result of the chase, was in his mouth, he was very partial to its wild taste; but Rebekah loved Jacob, partly because she remembered the promise of the Lord, partly because of his love for the quiet life of the home.
Esau sells his birthright. — V.29. And Jacob sod pottage, he cooked a dish of lentils; and Esau came from the field, where he had evidently been engaged in his favorite occupation, and he was faint, ravenously hungry after his strenuous exertions. V.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 (red). So great was his craving for food that he was ready to swallow the entire mess of pottage at one gulp, that he could not even think of the name of the vegetables whose sight made him so hungry, but merely referred to that red mess. V.31. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. This was not a low form of cunning which took advantage of the opponent’s weakness, but the believing Jacob made use of the opportunity to acquire legally what belonged to him by the promise of the Lord. V.32. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me? The character of Esau was evidently such as to make him think lightly of the great privilege of being the first-born, since his question conveys the idea: I’m dying of hunger; and why should I worry about my birthright, anyway? Thus he yielded the entire higher import of his birthright, the specific blessing of Abraham, the inheritance of his posterity, the right and land of the covenant: all for the satisfaction of a moment. V.33. And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him; and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Thus Jacob pursued the advantage which he had gained to the point where he was sure of his gain, for the oath of Esau ratified his promise. V.34. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. So it was not a mere momentary whim of Esau, for his contempt of his birthright continued even after he had eaten and drunk his fill and was restored to his normal frame of mind. Thus Jacob was filled with a holy seriousness concerning the privileges of the birthright, realizing how much depended upon it in the family of Abraham, while Esau considered the entire matter a joke and acted accordingly. Jacob is a type and example of those that seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, while Esau represents such as renounce the eternal blessings for the sake of temporal gain and enjoyment.