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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 25

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Genesis 25:1. Keturah is here called a wife; but a learned writer in his Bibliotheca Biblia, printed at Oxford 1720, brings forward a supposition of the Jews, that Hagar returned to Abraham after the death of Sarah, and then received the name of Keturah. It was anciently a frequent custom for persons on being favoured with signal blessings to assume a new name, or to receive some addition to the old.

Genesis 25:2. She bare him Zimran, and five others, to whom Abraham gave gifts, and established them as patriarchal heads of houses. Abraham having reconquered the country from the Assyrian kings, exercised the rights of royalty, in the establishment of his sons. Midian, from whom the Midianites descended who dwelt in Arabia the Stony. Shuah, from whom it is probable that Bildad the Shuhite, so often mentioned in the book of Job, descended. From these six sons many of the Arabian tribes derived their origin.

Genesis 25:8. Abraham gave up the ghost. יגוע yigeva, resigned his breath; for God had breathed into man the breath of life. Genesis 2:7. Therefore resigning his breath is but the figure for calling on God, like Stephen, to receive his spirit. It is the spirit which causes the body to breathe. How happy is the life, how dignified the death, and how blessed is the memory of the just: as the sun rejoices like a giant to run his course, and on dipping behind the western hills, shines in a new hemisphere, leaving his lustre bright on high; so Abraham, after shining as the first and best of men, illustrious in every virtue, removed from earth, shines as the brightest of stars among the spirits of just men made perfect: while on the contrary, the wicked go to the congregation of the giants. Job 26:4-5. Proverbs 2:18.

Genesis 25:14. Dumah is mentioned as living in mount Seir, and menaced by the watchman with a visitation. Isaiah 21:11. Tema, Dedan, and others are menaced in the same chapter. Ishmael’s twelve sons settled themselves on the eastern shores of the Red sea; and they are often in modern history denominated Saracens, because Ishmael, till the birth of Isaac, was accounted Sarah’s son.

Genesis 25:16 . Their castles; cities, habitations, tabernacles. The primitive word Ar, dar, as in Cheddar, arma, or the old French les rochars, signifies rock, munition or defence. They could not expose themselves and their riches to wild beasts and invaders, without a place of defence.

Genesis 25:17. Ishmael gave up the ghost, and died in the 137th year of his age, and in the faith of Abraham. We are struck here with the special providence of God, in gradually shortening the life of man. There was no need, as men multiplied, that he should reach the years of his fathers. The few who now surpass their hundredth year, have been exempt from intemperance, from violent passions, from severity of manual labour. They have been regular in the hours of sleep, and happy in the married state. With them, the flame of animal life, like a candle in a calm place, has burned its full time.

Genesis 25:21. Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife. The three patriarchs were greatly honoured with posterity, but first they were greatly tried. Abraham waited twenty five years, Isaac twenty, and Jacob must serve seven years for Rachel, and then be put off for a second servitude. These mysteries of providence were no doubt designed to subdue and sanctify the will.

Genesis 25:22. She we n t to enquire of the Lord. The oracle was at Salem with Melchizedek, but she might enquire of Abraham.

Genesis 25:23. Two nations are in thy womb and the elder nation of Edom shall serve the younger, the Israelites; as was the case when David made them tributary. St. Paul improves this by showing that believers in Christ are now the children of the promise, the sheep of the shepherd’s fold; and the poor unbelieving Jews crouch for a pittance of bread to the christian church, who are now the chosen generation, the new or peculiar Israel of God. Reader, beware of construing this prophecy, in misguided theories of eternal reprobation.

Genesis 25:26. Jacob. עקב akob, the heel; hence Jacob, a heeler, as in Genesis 27:36. The reference is to the serpent which bites the heel of the unwary. On this account the birthright was a constant subject of dispute between these twins.

Genesis 25:27. Plain man. The Hebrew word, taim, perfect, indicates rectitude and purity.

Genesis 25:31 . Sell me this day thy birthright. The birthright constituted a son heir to the house, and a double portion of goods. He had the rights of the priesthood, and without him no one could enquire of God. He had the patriarchal benediction as prince and chief. These privileges were understood to descend to his posterity: yet the sovereignty of God could at all times confer these blessings on whom it was his pleasure. While we are astonished at Esau’s profaneness, we cannot but lament to see every age so full of Esaus. One sells his birthright for wine, another for a harlot, a third for sordid gold: they toil hard and spend their money for that which is not bread.

Genesis 25:32. Esau said, Behold I am at the point to die; it being now a year of sore famine in the land. But in the time of temptation we must sacrifice life itself, rather than the covenant of our fathers’ God. Esau could not regain the birthright which he had despised, though he sought it carefully with tears.


The first object which strikes us in this chapter, is the happy death of the venerable patriarch Abraham. Notwithstanding the long barrenness of Sarah, and of Rebekah, he had lived to see Jacob in his fifteenth year, and to see every temporal promise fully accomplished. And having beheld the Messiah in the birth and oblation of Isaac, he could anticipate Simeon, and say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. He could bless his children, being unspeakably blessed himself, charging them, with all the weight of consummate virtue, to follow on in the paths of faith and piety. He gave up the ghost into the hands of his Creator, and his body was gathered unto his people in the cave, in hope of a glorious resurrection with his pious Sires, and with his posterity. Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.

The blessings of the patriarchs fall as the dew upon their children. How remarkably was Ishmael blessed in answer to Abraham’s prayer! Parents should plead for their children; for God sometimes answers their prayers while they live, and if not, after they are dead. But let us hold fast every promise which God may give us in prayer, for he will surely be faithful to his word.

Isaac and Rebekah severally prayed for their posterity, and the Lord was entreated of them. Children were expressly promised to Isaac, yet he prayed for the gift; and this likewise is our duty. When the Lord enumerated the blessings of the covenant, he said, for all these things will I be enquired of by the house of Israel. Prayer prepares us for a blessing, and God is always ready to give it, if our hearts are ready to receive it on his terms.

Before the children were born, or had done good or evil, God, by an act of his sovereignty and good pleasure, said, the elder shall serve the younger. Hence, viewing the sovereignty of God, Jacob acted a very inhospitable and unbelieving part, by tempting his brother, in a moment of hunger, to sell his birthright. Let us learn from its sanctity, and fear, for God will not be served by unrighteousness; and let us never do Satan’s work by tempting another to sin.

Jacob’s weakness did not diminish the guilt of Esau, in despising the sacred rights of his birth. He could not but know, that he was entitled to rule, and to officiate at the altar on the death of Isaac. Why then profanely sell God’s highest favours for a hunter’s meal? Let us learn in the time of straits, of poverty and hunger, never, no never to relieve ourselves by unlawful means; for those in the christian scriptures have the highest applause who stand in the evil day, and who hold fast Christ’s name in the day of tribulation. Ephesians 6:13. Revelation 2:13. But this was not the whole of Esau’s crime; (contrary to the oath exacted by Abraham of his steward) he married two wives of the Canaanites, brought them home, and imbittered the old age of his mother. Let us look diligently, as St. Paul exhorts us in Hebrews 12:15; Hebrews 12:17, lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness should spring up, and thereby many be defiled; and lest there should be any fornicator, or profane person as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

In Abimelech, who had driven Isaac away and seized his well, as one of his predecessors had done before, and who followed Isaac to be reconciled, we have an example, admonishing us to adopt all prudent means of reconciliation after a difference; and let us not be scrupulous in our demands of restitution, provided we can live in peace and quiet for the time to come.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 25". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-25.html. 1835.
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