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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 25



Verses 1-34

The Sons of Abraham by Keturah. Death and Burial of Abraham. Descendants of Ishmael. Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob

1. It is not known at what period of his life Abraham took Keturah as his secondary wife or concubine; for it is clear from Genesis 25:6 and 1 Chronicles 1:32 that she only held that position. Some of the names of Keturah's children have been identified in Arabia as tribes.

2. Midian] The Midianites became a considerable nation, spreading over the country S. and SE. of Palestine from Moab to the Gulf of Akaba.

6. Concubines] Hagar and Keturah: see on Genesis 22:24. Sent them away.. eastward] towards Arabia, where they founded nations.

8. Gave up the ghost] an expression taken from the Genevan Bible. The Hebrew word means simply 'to die,' lit. 'come to an end.' Was gathered to his people] joined his ancestors in the unseen world. The expression cannot refer to the actual burial of Abraham with his forefathers, since they lay at Haran and Ur. We may probably see in it a vague belief in future existence. Cp. David's words on the death of his son (2 Samuel 12:23, also Genesis 35:29).

13. The descendants of Ishmael settled generally in N. Arabia, and with the Joktanites(Genesis 10:26), or 'pure Arabs,' of Arabia Felix, formed the great Arab race scattered over Syria and the shores of the Persian Gulf. Nebajoth] the Nabateans became an important people after the death of Alexander the Great. Their chief town was Petra in Idumæa. The name became synonymous with Arabians, and all the land between the Euphrates and the Gulf of Akaba was at one time called Nabatene. Kedar] a people often mentioned in OT.: they dwelt between Arabia and Babylonia.

16. Towns and castles] RV 'villages and encampments.' The Arabs may be distinguished as 'nomad' (wandering, pastoral) and 'agricultural' (with fixed habitations); the distinction is already marked in this passage.

18. Havilah] near the PersianGulf. Shur] the desert between Egypt and Palestine. The lands to S. and E. of Palestine generally are meant. Before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria] rather, 'E. of Egypt in the direction of Assyria,' i. e. in N. Arabia. He died in the presence of] see on Genesis 16:12.

19. Isaac] 'In Genesis Isaac appears throughout as the pale copy of his father. He is the son of promise and inherits his position, and the possessions and the blessings won by his father. He follows in Abraham's footsteps without his strength of character and purpose. In quietness and patience he faithfully preserves his inheritance, serves his father's God, and in turn like Abraham is guided, preserved, and blessed by him' (D.).

20. Padan-aram] 'the plains of Syria,' the same as Mesopotamia.

22. The children struggled] significant of the contests to come, between the brothers, and the nations descended from them, Israel and Edom. If it be so, why am I thus?] i.e. perhaps, If I have conceived, what is the significance of these struggles? but RV gives 'If it be so, wherefore do I live?' since I suffer such pain. Enquire of the Lord] 'Nothing is more natural than that the Hebrew author intended to intimate that Rebekah enquired of God through Abraham the prophet, her father-in-law, who still survived' (Kalisch).

23. Note the poetical form of the oracle. See RV. Shall be separated, etc.] or 'From thy womb they will separate from one another,' i. e. be at variance from their birth. The elder shall serve the younger] the descendants of the elder son (the Edomites) would be subject to those of the younger (the Israelites). See on Genesis 27:40. The knowledge of this prediction explains in some measure the later conduct of Rebecca and Jacob.

25. Esau] meaning uncertain. Some render 'hairy.'

26. Jacob] i.e. following at the heel. See Esau's allusion to the name (Genesis 27:36), giving it a sinister sense, as suited to Jacob's plotting nature. The words Jacob and Joseph, compounded with -el or-ilu (= god), have been found as names in Assyrian inscriptions earlier than this period.

27. Cunning] i.e. clever. Plain] RM 'quiet' or 'harmless.' Dwelling in tents] preferring home pursuits.

28. The evil of such marked preferences in families appears plainly in the narrative.

29. Sod] or 'seethed,' i.e. boiled.

30. Red pottage] lit. 'red stuff.' Esau in his haste did not define its nature. It was a mess of lentils (3.4). It is said that such pottage is, or was, distributed at the mosque at Hebron in memory of the event. Edom] i.e. 'red.' Probably here, as in many other instances in these ancient narratives of Genesis, we have the popular derivation of the names of well-known people and places. Edom is so called from the 'red' colour of its sandstone cliffs. Here Esau afterwards settled: see Genesis 36.

31. Sell me.. thy birthright] The birthright included the headship of the family, a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17), priestly rights (in these early days), and in the family of Abraham heirship to the covenant privileges. Perhaps all that was involved in the birthright here, however, was the double inheritance; as in Genesis 27:36 it is directly contrasted with the blessing which involved the primacy in the family (Genesis 27:28-29).

The character of Esau has many attractive features; but he cared only for the pleasure of the moment and was without any lofty spiritual aspirations. His generous, warm-hearted spirit attracts sympathy at first sight, when contrasted with the wiles of the cold, calculating Jacob. But judged by a higher standard Esau appears plainly as a worldly, irreligious man, indifferent to his parents' wishes, uninterested in the divine covenant, and unmindful of the privileges and responsibilities which were to distinguish his race: cp. Genesis 26:34; Genesis 27:46. His character is summed up in Hebrews 12:16-17, where he is called a 'profane,' i.e. unconsecrated or. common person.

The character of Jacob is in marked contrast to that of Esau. Craftiness and subtilty, even meanness and deceit, mark many of his actions; but, on the other hand, his patient endurance, strength of character, and warmth of affection call forth admiration. Long years of suffering and discipline were needed to purify his character from its baser elements, and make him worthier of the divine blessing. And certainly he was worthier than his brother, for he believed in and sought after his father's God, held spiritual things in reverence, and in the chief turning-points of his life, at Bethel, Haran, and Penuel, showed a conviction that God was with him to bless and guide. He stood out at last as one who has conquered himself, and proved himself to be worthy of the divine favour and patience, Israel, a prince with God. These considerations help us to understand why Jacob rather than Esau was selected as heir to the promises. See also Romans 9.


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 25:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 23rd, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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