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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 25

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-10


Abraham’s second Marriage. Keturah and her Sons. Abraham’s death and his burial

Genesis 25:1-10

1Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah [incense, vapor, fragrance]. 2And she bare him Zimran [= Simon. Celebrated in song, renowned], and Jokshan [fowler], and Medan [strife], and Midian1 [contention], and Ishbak [leaving, forsaking], and Shuah [bowed, sad—pit, grave]. 3And Jokshan begat Sheba [man; the Sabæans], and Dedan [Fürst: low country, lowlands]. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim [plural of Asshur. Fürst: hero, strength], and Letushim [hammered, sharpened], and Leummim [people]. 4And the sons of Midian; Ephah [darkness, gloomy], and Epher [= opher; a young animal, calf], and Hanoch [initiated], and Abidah [father of wisdom, the wise], and Eldaah [Gesenius: whom God has called]. All these Were the children of Keturah.

5And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 6But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and [separating] sent them away from 7Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. 8Then Abraham gave up the ghost,2 and died in a good old age, an old man, and full [satisfied with life; see Genesis 35:29] of years; and was gathered to his people. 9And 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 [easterly from] Mamre; 10The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.


The present section is closely connected with the following (Genesis 25:12-18) which treats of Ishmael, and with the whole history of Isaac, under the common idea of the descendants of Abraham. It introduces first these descendants in the widest idea of the word: the sons of Keturah. Then those in a narrower sense: the family of Ishmael. And upon these, those in the most restricted sense: Isaac and his sons. The writer adheres to the same method here which he has followed in the presentation of the tabular view of the nations. He begins in his description with those most remote, then proceeds to those nearer, and finally comes to those standing nearest the centre. We cannot, however, make the Tholedoth (generations) here the place of a division in the history, since the end of the life of Abraham marks distinctly a section which is closed at the beginning of the history of Isaac; and thus, as the genealogy of Keturah is interwoven with the history of Abraham, so the genealogy of Ishmael is connected with the history of Isaac. Knobel holds that the section Genesis 25:1-18 belongs to the original writing. But it is not Elohistic merely because it contains genealogies, but because of the universal relation of the tribes here referred to. Knobel remarks upon the two genealogies of Keturah and Hagar, that the tribes dwelt in western Arabia and Arabia Petrea, and also in the northern half of Arabia Felix, while the descendants of Joktan (Genesis 10:26 ff.) belonged to southern Arabia, at least in the earliest time. “From the Abrahamic horde (?) there were thus divisions who went to the east, south-east, and south, where, however, they found original Arabian inhabitants, with whom they mingled and formed new tribes. We are not, therefore, to understand that the tribes here mentioned in each case were descended entirely from Abraham. It is not intended, even, that these tribes alone peopled the regions described; rather they were inhabited by other tribes also, e.g., Amalekites, Horites, Edomites, and others. The Arabs, who are truly so very dependent upon the Hebrew traditions, agree essentially with the Hebrew accounts. They distinguish: 1. Original Arabs in different parts of Arabia; 2. Katanites in Yemen and Hhadramant, and 3. Abrahamites in Hedjaz, Nejd, etc., but trace back the last-named to Ishmael, who turned his course to Mecca, and joined the tribe Djorhomites, with whom Hagar herself was buried. (See Ibn Coteiba, ed. by Wüstenfeld, pp. 18, 30 ff. Abulfeda: Hist. Anteisl., ed. by Fleischer, p. 190 ff.)” Knobel. [Also article “Arabia,” in Kitto and in Smith.—A. G.]


1.Genesis 25:1-4. Abraham and Keturah.—Then again Abraham took a wife.—The sense of this statement evidently is: 1. That Abraham took Keturah first after the death of Sarah, and had six sons by her, thus at an age of 137 years and upward (Abraham was ten years older than Sarah, who died aged 127 years); 2. that Keturah, although united with Abraham according to the nature of monogamy, enjoyed only the rights of a concubine (see Genesis 25:6, comp. 1 Chronicles 1:32). The first point is opposed by Keil: “It is generally held that the marriage of Abraham with Keturah was concluded after the death of Sarah, and that the power of Abraham at so great an age, to beget still six sons, is explained upon the ground that the Almighty God had endowed his body, already dead, with new life and generative strength, for the generating of the son of promise. This idea has, however, no sure ground upon which it rests, since it is not said that Abraham took Keturah to wife first after the death of Sarah, etc. This supposition is precarious, and does not agree well with the declaration that Abraham had sent away the sons of his concubines with presents during his own lifetime,” etc. Keil appears desirous to save the literal expression, that Abraham’s body was dead when he was a hundred years old (Romans 4:19) but in the effort comes into direct conflict with the moral picture of the life of Abraham, who even in his younger years had only taken Hagar at the suggestion of Sarah, in impatience as to the faith of the promise, and thus certainly would not in later years, and when there was no such motive, have violated the marriage rights of Sarah by taking another wife.3 He might also send the sons of Keturah away from his house before they were from thirty to forty years of age, as he had before sent Ishmael away. The expression as to the dead body evidently cannot be understood in an absolute sense, otherwise the conception of Isaac even could not be spoken of. But if, however, there is a miracle in the conception of Isaac, it follows only that the facts of our history are to be viewed as extraordinary, not as something incredible.—And she bare him (see 1 Chronicles 1:32).—1. Keturah’s sons: Zimram. Ζομβρᾶν or Ζεμβρᾶν, etc. in the Septuagint. Knobel compares it with Ζαβράμ, the royal city of Κιναιδοκολπῖται, westwards from Mecca, upon the Red Sea, spoken of in Ptolemæus, 6, 7, 5, etc. Still he is in doubt. According to Delitzsch they lie nearer the Zemareni (Plin. vi. 32).—Jokshan.—Knobel: “Probably the Κασσανῖται (in Ptolem. 6., 7, 6) upon the Red Sea.” Keil suggests the Himjaric tribe of Jakisch, in southern Arabia.—Medan and Midian.—Knobel: “Without doubt Μοδιάνα, upon the eastern coast of the Ailanitic gulf, and Μαδιάμα, a tract to the north-east of this, in Ptolem. Genesis 6:7; Gen 2:27. The two tribes appear to have been united. The Arabian geographers regard a place, Madjain, as the residence of the father-in-law of Moses.”—Ishbak. Knobel: “Perhaps the name is still preserved in Schobeck, a place in the land of the Edomites.”—Shuah.Knobel: “It must be sought in or near the Edomites, since a friend of the Edomite, Job, belonged to this tribe (Job 2:11).” Other explanations may be seen in Delitzsch and Keil.—2. Jokshan’s sons: Sheba.—Probably the Sabæans mentioned in connection with Tema (Job 6:19). The plunderers of the oxen and asses of Job (Job 1:15).—Dedan.—Named in Jeremiah 25:23, in connection with Tema and Buz, as a commercial people.—3. The sons of Dedan: Ashurim, compare with the tribe Asyr; Letushim, with the Banu Leits; Leummim, with the Banu Lam.—4. The sons of Midian: Epha.—Named in Isaiah 60:6, in connection with Midian, a people trading in gold and incense.—Epher The Banu Ghifar in Hedjaz; Hanoch, compare with the place Hanakye, three days journey northerly from Medina: Abidah and Eldaah. “Compare with the tribes Abida and Wadaah, in the vicinity of Asyr.” Keil. For the more particular and detailed combination of these names with Arabic tribes, see Knobel, p. 188–190. [The attempt to identify these tribes, and fix their locality, has not been very successful. The more full and accurate explorations of Arabia may shed more light upon what is now very obscure—although it is probable that in their eternal wars and tumults, their fixed limits, and probably the tribes themselves, have been lost.—A. G.]

2.Genesis 25:5-6. Abraham’s bequests.—All that he had,—i.e., The herds and essential parts of his possessions. Isaac was the chief heir of his legitimate marriage. This final distinction was previously a subject of divine appointment, and had been also confirmed by Abraham (Genesis 24:36), and finds expression in the arrangements for Isaac’s marriage.—The sons of the concubines.—In comparison with Sarah, the mistress, even Keturah was a wife of a secondary rank. This relation of degrees is not identical with concubinage, nor with a morganitic marriage. It is connected, beyond doubt, with the diversity in the right of inheritance on the part of the children.—Gave gifts.—He doubtless established them as youthful nomads, with small herds and flocks, and the servants belonging with them.—Unto the east country.—To Arabia. [In the widest sense, easterly, east, and south-east.—A. G.] This separation was not occasioned merely by the necessities of nomadic chiefs, but also for the free possession of the inheritance by Isaac (see Genesis 13:11; Genesis 36:6). Delitzsch thinks that he had already, during his lifetime, passed over his possessions to Isaac. Under patriarchal relations, there is no true sense in which that could be done. But when the necessities of the other sons were satisfied, the inheritance was thereby secured exclusively to Isaac. “The Mosaic, and indeed patriarchal usage recognized only a so-called intestate inheritance, i.e., one independent of the final arrangement of the testator, determined according to law, by a lineal and graded succession. If, therefore, Abraham would not leave the sons of his concubines to go unprovided for, he must in his own lifetime endow them with gifts.” Delitzsch.

3.Genesis 25:7-10. Abraham’s age, death, burial, and grave.—And these are the days.—The importance of the length of Abraham’s life is here also brought into strong relief through the expression which is fitly chosen. One hundred and seventy-five years.—An old man and full of years.—[Of years is not in the original. Abraham was full, satisfied.A. G.] According to the promise Genesis 13:15, comp. Genesis 35:29.—And was gathered.—The expression is similar to that: come to his fathers (Genesis 15:15), or shall be gathered to his fathers (Judges 2:10), and presupposes continued personal existence, since it designates especially the being gathered into Sheol, with those who have gone before, but also points without doubt, to a communion in a deeper sense with the pious fathers on the other side of death. In later days Abraham’s bosom became the peculiar aim and goal of the dying saints (Luke 16:22).—And they buried him.—Ishmael4 takes his part in the burial, not as Knobel thinks, because he was first removed after this; but because he was not so far removed but that the sad and heavy tidings could reach him, and because he was still a renowned son of Abraham, favored with a special blessing (Genesis 17:10.—In the cave of Machpelah.—It should be observed with what definiteness even the burial of Abraham in his hereditary sepulchre is here recorded.


1. Delitzsch: “Keturah was not, like Hagar, a concubine during the lifetime of the bride: so far Augustin: De civ. dei, xvi. 34, correctly rests upon this fact in his controversy with the opponents of secnndœ nuptiœ. But still she is, Genesis 25:6 (comp 1 Chronicles 1:32), פִּילֶנֶשׁ; she does not stand upon the level with Sarah, the peculiar, only one, the mother of the son of promise. There is no stain, moreover, cleaving to this second marriage. Even the relation to Keturah promotes, in its measure, the divine scheme of blessing, for the new life which (Genesis 26:0) came upon the old, exhausted nature and strength of Abraham, and the word of promise, which destined him to be the father of a mass of nations, authenticates itself in this second marriage.”

2. The second marriage of Abraham has also its special reason in the social necessities and habits of the aged and lonely nomad. The word (Genesis 2:24) holds true of Isaac.

3. Physiology speaks of a partial appearance of a certain regeneration of life in those who have reached a great age; new teeth, etc. These physiological phenomena appear to have reached a full development in the life of Abraham. We should perhaps hold—that these epochs of regeneration in the course of life appear more frequently in the patriarchs, living nearer to the paradisiac time and state. [We must not, however, overlook the fact, that the regeneration in Abraham’s case was supernatural.—A. G.]
4. The Abrahamites in the wider sense, who partially peopled Arabia, must form the broad basis for the theocratic faith of Abraham, and become a bridge between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and heathenism on the other.—Gerlach: “All these are heads of Arabian tribes, but they are in great part unknown. Those who are best known are the (Genesis 25:2) Midianites, on the east of the Ailanitic gulf. A mercantile people (Genesis 37:28) often afterwards at war with Israel (especially Judges 8:0.) who in the time of the kings, have already disappeared from the history.” Bunsen: “The Arabians are still Saracens, i.e., east-landers (comp. Genesis 29:1).”

5. The days of the years. The life-time is spent in the days of the years, and at its end the years appear as days. [Abraham is now in all respects complete as to his life; he has rendered the highest obedience (Genesis 22:0), he has secured a grave in the land of promise (Genesis 23:0), he has cared for the marriage of the son of promise (Genesis 24:0), he has dismissed the sons of nature merely (Genesis 25:5-6), and finally he has come to a good age and is satisfied with life. Then Abraham dies. Baumgarten, p. 246.—A. G.]

6. Gathered to his people. The choice of the expression here rests upon a good ground; Abraham has become a father in an eminent and peculiar sense. Essentially, moreover, the expression is the same with that (Genesis 15:15), come to his fathers, lie with the fathers (Deuteronomy 31:16), be gathered with the fathers (Judges 2:10). “These expressions do not mean merely to die, for גָּוַע and מוּת are constantly joined together (Genesis 25:8; Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29, etc.), nor to be buried in a family burial-place with relatives, because the burial is expressed still by קָבַר (Genesis 25:9; Genesis 15:15, etc.), and because they are used of those who were not buried with their fathers, but in other places, e.g., Moses, David, etc., as well as of those in whose tombs the first one of the fathers was laid, e.g., Solomon and Ahab (1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 22:40).” Knobel. But there is no ground for his assertion, that these expressions, however, are derived from burials in common public grounds, and then transferred to the admission into Sheol. We should not confound with this harsh assumption the fact, that a more or less common burial represented perhaps the reunion on the other side of the grave. But the peculiar church-yards or large public burial-places were unknown to the patriarchal nomads. Jacob did not bring the body of his Rachel to Hebron. There must have been developed already with Enoch a definite consciousness of the faith of immortality (Hebrews 11:5). Delitzsch: “As the weariness with life on the part of the patriarchs was not only a turning away from the miseries of the present state, but a turning to that state beyond the present, free from these miseries, so the union with the fathers is not one of the corpse only, but of the persons. That death did not, as it might have appeared from Genesis 3:19, put an end to the individual continued existence of the man, was an idea widely spread through the after-paradisiac humanity, which has its ultimate (?) source and vindication in that grace of God testified to man at the same time with his anger,” etc. The consciousness of immortality no more takes its origin after the fall, than the conscience (Romans 2:14-15). The hope of life in the patriarchs was surely something more (Hebrews 11:13) than a mere consciousness of immortality. But death and the state beyond it has evidently, in the view of the patriarchs, a foreshadowing and gleam of that New-Testament peace, which was somewhat obscured during the Mosaic period, under the light of the law, and the more developed feeling of guilt and death. To the very rich literature upon this subject belong: Böttcher: de Inferis, etc.; Œhler: Veteris Testamenti sententia de rebus post mortem futuris illustrata; the writings of Gideon Brecher, Engelbert, Schumann; “The presupposition of the christian doctrine of Immortality stated,” H. Schultz. Upon Sheol consult the Bible Dictionaries.5

7. Was gathered to his people, or those of his race, to his fathers—to go home to them, thus to go home—lie or rest with them; a symbolical, rich, glorious declaration of a personal life in the other world, and of a union with those of like mind or character.

8. The connection of Ishmael with Isaac in the burial of Abraham presents the former in a favorable aspect, as Esau appears in a favorable light in his conduct towards Jacob at his return to Canaan.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs.—How God fulfils to Abraham all his promises: 1. The promise of a rich life (father of a mass of nations, of a great age); 2. the promise of a peaceful death (satisfied with life, full of days, an honorable burial).—The Abrahamites, or children of Abraham: 1. Common characteristic religiousness, spirituality, wide-spread, ruling the world; 2. distinctions (Arabian and Jew, Mohammed and Christ, Mohammedanism and the Christian world).—Abraham’s bequests, a modification of the strictness of the right of inheritance.—Days of Abraham, or this full age even, at last only a circle of days.—Abraham died in faith (Hebrews 11:13)—The present and future in the burial of Abraham: 1. On this side, the present, his two sons alone in the cave of Machpelah with the corpse; 2. on that side, the future, a community of people, the companions of Abraham, to whose society he joins himself.—Abraham died on the way to perfection: 1. How far perfected? 2. how far still not perfect?

Starke: (Upon the division of Arabia in the wider sense.)—Cramer: The second or third marriage is not prohibited to widowers or widows; still all prudence and care ought to be exercised (Romans 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Tob 3:8).—Bibl. Wirt.: Pious and prudent householders act well when for the sake of good order they make their bequests among their children and heirs (Isaiah 38:1).—(Since Isaac was born in the hundredth year of Abraham, and Jacob and Esau in the sixtieth year of Isaac, and in the twentieth year of his married state, so Jacob must have been fifteen years old at the death of Abraham.) (Sir 14:16-17.)—The pious even are subject to death, still their death is held precious by the Lord.—What God promises his children, that he certainly keeps for them (Genesis 15:15; Psalms 33:4).—To die at a tranquil age and in a tranquil time, is an act of God’s kindness and love.—Cramer: The cross and adversity make one yielding and willing to die.—The souls of the dead have their certain places; they are in the hand of God, and no evil befalls them (Wis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:8).—Lisco: Faith in immortality is indeed never expressly asserted in the Holy Scriptures (see however Matthew 22:32), but is everywhere assumed, for without this faith the whole revelation of God would be vain and nugatory; the Scripture doctrine of the resurrection of the body includes the doctrine of immortality; is impossible indeed without this. This truth is set in its fullest and clearest light by Christ (2 Timothy 1:10),—Calwer Handbuch: We see, moreover, from these verses, how the Bible relates only the true history. Had it been a myth or poem it would have left Abraham at the highest step of the glory of his faith, and passed over in silence this union with Keturah at the age of a hundred and forty years. Abraham is presented to us as an instance and type of faith, but not as one artistically drawn and beautified, but as one taken from actual life, not even as a (superhuman) perfect believer, but as one such, who leaves us to find the first perfect one in his great descendant, and points us to him.

Schröder: The satisfaction with life well agrees with a heavenly-minded man (Roos).—To his people. The words sound as if Abraham went from one people to another, and from one city to another. An illustrious and remarkable testimony to the resurrection and the future life (Luther).—Since Abraham himself was laid there (in the cave of Machpelah) to rest, he takes possession in his own person of this promised land (Drechsler). [And while his body was laid there as if to take possession of the promised land, his soul has gone to his people to take possession of that which the promised land typified, or heaven.—A. G.]—For the character of Abraham see Schröder, p. 442, where, however, the image and form of Sarah is thrown too much in the shade; [In the section now completed the sacred writer descends from the general to the special, from the distant to the near, from the class to the individual. He dissects the soul of man, and discloses to our view the whole process of the spiritual life, from the new-born babe to the perfect man. The Lord calls, and his obedience to the call is the moment of his new birth. The second stage of his spiritual life presents itself to our view when Abraham believed the promise, and the Lord counted it to him for righteousness, and he enters into covenant with God. The last great act of his spiritual life is the surrender of his only son to the will of God. Murphy, p. 362.—A. G.]


[1][Genesis 25:2.—Medan, Judge, and Midian, one who measures. Murphy.—A. G.]

[2][Genesis 25:8.—Lit., Breathed out.—A. G.]

[3][It is not unusual for the author to go back and bring up the narrative, especially at the close of one section, or at the beginning of another; but it is not probable that this is the case here. We may hold to the literal sense of the words, that Abraham’s body was dead, i.e., dead as to offspring, and yet hold that the energy miraculously given to it for the conception of Isaac was continued after Sarah’s death.—A. G.]

[4][Ishmael, although not the promised seed, was yet the subject of a special blessing. The sons of Keturah had no particular blessing. Ishmael is, therefore, properly associated with Isaac, in paying the last offices to their deceased father. Murphy, p. 360.—A. G.]

[5][Also an Excursus of Prof. Tayler Lewis on Genesis 37:35, below, and the wide literature here open to the English reader; embracing the doctrine of “the intermediate state,” and the controversies upon the intermediate place.—A. G.]

Verses 11-18


ISAAC, AND HIS FAITH-ENDURANCE. Genesis 25:12 to Genesis 28:9


Isaac and Ishmael

Genesis 25:11-18

11And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and [but] Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi [wells of the quickener of vision].

12Now [and] these are the generations [genealogies, Toledoth] of Ishmael, Abraham’s 13son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham. And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names according to their generations: the first-born of Ishmael, Nebajoth [heights; Nabathei, a tribe of Northern Arabia]; and Kedar 14[dark skin. An Arabian tribe], and Adbeel [miracle of God], and Mibsam [sweet odor]. And Mishma [hearing, report, what is heard], and Dumah [silence, solitude], and Massah [bearing, burden, 15 uttering what is said], Hadar [inner apartment, tent], and Tema [desert, uncultivated region], Jetur 16[Seven? a nomadic village], Naphish [recreation], and Kedemah [eastward]; These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns [fixed abodes], and by their castles; 17twelve princes according to their nations. 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. 18And they dwelt from Havilah [a region of Arabia inhabited by the descendants of Joctan, upon the eastern boundary of the Ishmaelites] unto Shur [a place east of Egypt, in the borders of the desert], that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward [in the direction of] Assyria: and he died6 in the presence of all his brethren [he settled eastward of all his brethren].


See the remarks upon the previous section.


1.Genesis 25:11. Isaac after the death of Abraham.—God blessed Isaac.—The blessing of Abraham continues in the blessing of Isaac; this is manifested in his welfare and prosperity, or rather in a grateful consciousness which refers his welfare to the kindness of God. We read: Elohim blessed Isaac; for Isaac, as future ancestor of Edom and Jacob, sustained now a universal relation. In earthly respects Edom is Isaac’s heir as well as Jacob, or even by preference.—By the well Lahai-roi.—By the well of Hagar. According to Genesis 35:27, Jacob met his aged father Isaac at Hebron. Doubtless this city bore the same relation from the time of Abraham onwards; Hebron was the principal residence, Beer-sheba the principal station for overseeing their flocks. At this station Isaac, as steward of his father, had already taken up his abode, and in consequence of his love of solitude and seclusion he became so fond of it that now he dwelt here regularly, without yielding up the principal residence at Hebron; he even moved his tent from Beer-sheba farther into the deep solitude of Hagar’s well.

2.Genesis 25:12-16. The Toledoth of Ishmael. [Upon the documentary hypothesis, each of these phrases marks the beginning of a new document. But if we are to regard each of these documents as the work of a separate author, then this author contributes only seven verses to the narrative. This is obviously running the theory into the ground, and shows how unreasonable it is to regard these phrases as indicating any change of author. They open new themes or sections of the history.—A. G.] Here also it is obvious that the Toledoth of Genesis does not begin the separate section of the history, but frequently concludes them. In Genesis 4:5 the first human race, together with the Toledoth of Adam, is dismissed from history. So is it also in Genesis 10:0, in respect to the heathen nations, descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem. Ch. 11 dismisses the more theocratic Shemites, together with their Toledoth. In Genesis 22:20, the Nahorites, the last of the Shemites and nearest to Abraham, retire from the history, just as the Haranites, or Lot and his descendants in Genesis 19:36; and as the Abrahamites descending from Keturah, in Genesis 25:0; and in our section the Ishmaelites. After the close of the history of Isaac the Edomites, Genesis 36:1, etc., appear. The theocracy permits no branch of the human race to vanish out of its circle of vision without fixing it in its consciousness. In Genesis 37:2 Jacob also retires into the background as compared with the history of his sons. With the Toledoth of Ishmael comp. 1 Chronicles 1:28-31.—Whom Hagar the Egyptian.—Besides the names of the twelve sons of Ishmael that here present themselves, there occurs also (1 Chronicles 5:10) the name of the Hagarites, Ishmaelites called after the mother, whose name is no doubt assumed in one or more of the names before us. In respect to the frequent occurrence of the name Hagar in Arabic authors, see Knobel, p. 211.—Nebajoth and Kedar.—Delitzsch: “The names of the twelve sons of Ishmael are in part well known. Nebajoth and Kedar are not only mentioned together in Isaiah 60:7, but also by Plin.: Hisi. Nat., 6, 7 (Nabatæi et Cedrei; Kaidhâr and Nâbat (Nabt) are also known to Arabian historians as descendants of Ishmael. In respect to the meaning of the word Nabatæans, both in a stricter and a more comprehensive sense, as also in regard to their abodes in Arabia Petrea and beyond, see Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil.—The Kadarenes, described Isaiah 21:17 as good bowmen, lived in the desert between Arabia Petrea and Babylonia (Isaiah 42:11; Psalms 120:5). “The Rabbins use their name to denote the Arabians in general.” Knobel.—Adbeel and Mibsam.—In respect to these names, as well as to that of Kedma, we can only reach conjectures (see Knobel).—Mishma (Septuagint and Vulgate: Masma).—Connected by Knobel with Μαισαμανε͂ις of Ptol., Genesis 6:7; Genesis 6:21. In Arabic authors we have beni Mismah.—Duma.—Probably Dumath al Djendel, on the border between Syria and Babylonia.—Massa.—Apparently the same as Μασανοί, on the northeast side of Duma according to Ptol., Genesis 5:19; Genesis 5:2.—Hadar (a more correct reading, 1 Chronicles 1:30, is חֲדַד, as compared with the maritime country Chathth, famous among the ancient Arabians on account of its lances), between Omam and Bahrein. For further information see Knobel, etc.—Hadar is taken together with Thema, which Knobel connects with Θεμοί of Ptolemy, on the Persian Gulf, or with the Arabic banu Teim, a celebrated tribe in Hamasa, probably different from the Tema, Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23; Job 6:19.—Jetur, Naphisch (see 1 Chronicles 5:18).—“Neighbors to the Israelites on the east side of Jordan. Knobel refers Jetur to the Ituræans. The present Druses are probably their descendants.” Kedma.—“As a separate Arabic tribe we can only refer it, in its narrower sense, to בְּנֵי קֶדֶם, who in Judges 6:3; Judges 6:33; Judges 7:12, are distinguished from other Arabians, and must have dwelt in the vicinity of the country east of Jordan. Perhaps they are the same with those enumerated with the Moabites and Ammonites in Isaiah 11:14 and Ezekiel 25:4; Ezekiel 25:10.” Knobel. The sons of the East in a more comprehensive sense denotes the Arabians generally, the Saracens.—By their towns, and by their castles, i.e., their movable and fixed habitations.—Twelve princes according to their nations (Lange renders “to their nations”).—The translation, according to their nations, can only mean, as moulded, determined by their nations. We hold, therefore, the expression to mean: twelve princes chosen for governing and representing their twelve tribes.

3.Genesis 25:17-18. The death of Ishmael and the expansion of the Ishmaelites.The years of the life of Ishmael.—This hale man attained only an age of a hundred and thirty-seven years, while on the contrary, the more delicate appearing Isaac reaches the age of a hundred and eighty years. Possibly the natural passions of the one consumed life sooner; no doubt also the quiet, peaceful, believing disposition of the other, exercised a life-prolonging influence. Ishmael dies, the Ishmaelites spread themselves abroad.—From Havilah unto Shur.—Havilah, see Genesis 10:29. Knobel: “From Chaulan in the south to the eastern boundary of Egypt.” Schur. From Egypt to the east in the direction of Assyria. According to Josephus: “Antiq.” i. 12, 4, the Ishmaelites dwelt from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.—In the presence of all his brethren, i.e., Hebrews, Edomites, and the children of Keturah. If we understand by Havilah the Chaulotæans on the boundary of Arabia Petrea (Keil), we must assign a different meaning to these words. Keil: “From southeast to southwest.” Knobel: “From southeast to northwest.” Delitzsch: “The capital of the Ishmaelitic tribes was Hezaz, situated south of Yemen. From this they spread themselves to the west side of the Siniaitic peninsula, and still further in a northerly and northeasterly direction beyond Arabia Petrea and Deserta to the countries under Assyrian sway.” [He died. He had fallen into the lot of his inheritance. The Heb. word includes the idea of a deliberate settlement, and an assertion by force of his rights and possessions. Thus the promise uttered before his birth was now fulfilled.—A. G.]


1. Ishmael in his development precedes Isaac, as Esau precedes Jacob, as the world gets the start of the kingdom of heaven. It looks well for the development of Ishmael that he buries his father in company with his brother Isaac, though the latter had been preferred to him.
2. The twelve princes of Ishmael are also mentioned as witnesses that God has faithfully fulfilled his promises concerning their ancestor. The Arabs, too, count twelve sons of Ishmael.
3. The Ishmaelites, the germ of the Arabic people in its historic significance. The country of Arabia. Its history. Mohammed. The mission of the Mohammedans. The mission among the Mohammedans. Since Ishmael did not subject himself to Israel, he has become subject to the Turk.
4. Ishmael’s genealogy seems to have been preserved in the house of Isaac, just as Therah’s in the house of Abraham, or as the genealogy of the nations in house of Shem. The father’s house does not lose the memory or the trace of the lost son.
5. How the blessing of Abraham descends upon Isaac. The hereditary blessing in the descendants of Abraham, an antithesis to the hereditary curse in the descendants of Adam generally. The inclination to solitude in the life of Isaac. The nature, rights, and limit of contemplation. Contemplative characters. History of a contemplative life.


See Doctrinal and Ethical.—Isaac the blessed son of a blessed father. The great divine miracle, that the blessing of a saving faith was preserved in one line (in spite of all partial obscurations) from Adam to Christ.—Isaac’s inclination to solitary contemplation.—Perhaps he believed already that a special blessing was confined to that particular place, the well of vision.—That Isaac selected Hagar’s well as a favorite spot, testifies to the nobility of his soul (for Hagar was the rival of his mother, and Ishmael was her son).—Ishmael’s death; or the robust often die before the feeble.—From Ishmael, a child once languishing and perishing from thirst in the wilderness, God’s providence made a great (world-conquering) nation.—We may in fact best comprehend the patriarchal triad by regarding Abraham as constituting especially an example of faith, Isaac an example of love, Jacob an example of hope. We have prominently presented to us the still more predominating features: the man of the deeds of faith, the man of the sufferings of faith, the man of the struggles of faith.

Starke: The temporal blessing (of Isaac) a prelude: a. As an earnest for the whole land of Canaan; b. as a type and pledge of the eternal and spiritual blessing of salvation in Christ.—Misma, Duma, Masa. From these three names, meaning: hearing; silence, patience, the Hebrews formed the proverb: We must hear many things, keep secret many things, and suffer many things.—(The Ishmael ites called Hagarites after Hagar. In later times they preferred to be called Saracens, after Sarah, as if dwelling in the tents of Sarah.)

Ver, 17. Some cite this to prove the happy death of Ishmael, some to prove the contrary. Luther does not wish to decide, but leaves it with God

Genesis 25:18. (Psalms 112:2.)—What God promises he will surely perform. Let us only have faith in his promises (Genesis 17:20; Genesis 21:13).—Bibl. Wirt.: People of no note may become eminent and distinguished persons if it is God’s will (Genesis 41:40-43).

Lisco: Ishmael becomes the ancestor of the Bedouins of Arabia; these, therefore, and the Edomites descending from Esau, are the nations nearest related to the Hebrews,—Calwer Handbuch: The father’s blessing descends upon the children.—After Abraham, that hero of faith, had gone to his rest, Isaac appears in the foreground of the history. In his character love appears predominant, the less powerful and independent love, or love itself with its weaknesses. He appears as a gentle, pliable link between Abraham and Jacob, possessing neither the manly strength of the father nor of the son. Nevertheless, he wears an amiable aspect, which, when closely viewed, immediately wins our affections. He does not make his appearance as a fictitious and an artfully embellished personage, but as a historical character; so much so, that his faults appear in the foreground, whilst his good qualities fall into the background and lie concealed to the superficial observer. Isaac is of a predominantly kind nature, and therefore appears reserved, outwardly, but inwardly and really, frank.—Schröder: As to the character of Abraham and Isaac, see pp. 442 and 443. With Abraham, who, as father of the faithful, was to begin the long line of believing souls, and in whose peculiar form of life their life was to have its way prepared, everything is vigorous and peculiarly independent. With Isaac, on the contrary, who only continues this line, everything appeared perfectly arranged, just as it is with Joshua in relation to Moses, etc.—(Hengstenberg: However, we must not mistake the peculiar characteristics of Isaac, Joshua, Elisha.)—It seems to me, one might know that he is the son of a dead body, but on this very account is he eminently a gift of God (Ziegler).—Could the memory of the knife drawn over him by the hand of the father ever become extinguished in the mind of the son? Perhaps this affords us a partial solution of his life and character (Krumm.).—Let us not overlook the fact that he was the only monogamist among the patriarchs, remaining satisfied with his Rebekah. Abraham’s piety descends as an heritage to Isaac, therefore the grace of God also descends upon Isaac (Val. Herberger)—The dwelling of Isaac at a place so important in the life of Ishmael (Hagar’s well), attests his friendly relation to his step-brother.—Gathered unto his people. A beautiful and charming description of immortality. We are now living among the gross people of this world, who seek but little after God, yea, in the very kingdom of the devil. But when we depart from this wretched life, we shall die peacefully, and be gathered unto our people, and there will be no distress, no misery, no tribulation, but peace and rest. (Luther).


[6][Genesis 25:18.—Lit., he fell down, or it fell to him.—A. G.]

Verses 19-34


Jacob and Esau

Genesis 25:19-34

19And these are the generations7 [genealogies] of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac: 20And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-Aram [from Mesopotamia], the sister to Laban 21the Syrian. And Isaac entreated the Lord [Jehovah] for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22And the children struggled together [thrust, jostled each other] within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus?8 And she went to inquire of the Lord. 23And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people9 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 greater shall serve the less].

24And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment;10 and they called his name Esau [covered with hair]. 26And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob [heel-catcher]; and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. 27And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter [a man knowing the hunt], a man of the field [a wild rover, not an husbandman]; and Jacob was a plain11 [discreet, sedate] man, dwelling in tents. 28And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison [game was in his mouth his favorite food]: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29And Jacob [once] sod pottage; and Esau came from the field, and he was faint. 30And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee [let me devour greedily], with that same red pottage [from the red—this red, here]; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom 31[Red]. And Jacob said, Sell me this day [first] thy birthright. 32And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die [going to die]: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.


1. According to Knobel we have, in the present narration, as in Genesis 26, a mixture of different records upon an Elohistic basis by means of the Jehovistic supplement. It is enough to say, that in our section the theocratic element is predominant. [Keil remarks that if the name of God occurs less frequently here, it is due partly to the historic material, which gives less occasion to use this name, since Jehovah appeared more frequently to Abraham than to Isaac and Jacob; and partly to the fact that the previous revelations of God formed titles or designations for the God of the Covenant, as “God of Abraham,” “God of my father,” which are equivalent in significance with Jehovah.—A. G.] It introduces the election of Jacob in opposition to Esau. The order of the Toledoth Knobel explains thus: “The author usually arranges them, in the first place, according to the individual patriarchs, after he has recorded the death of the father. Next begins the proper history of the patriarchs, e.g., Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:13; Genesis 36:1; Genesis 37:2. We have already made the remark that the Toledoth frequently dispose of a more general sequence of history, in order to pass over to a more special one. Delitzsch finds three “transitions” in the history of Jacob. The first reaching to the departure of Jacob, Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 28:9; the second to Jacob’s departure from Laban, Genesis 32:1 (a section, however, in which nothing in regard to Isaac occurs); the third, from Jacob’s return to the death of Isaac, Genesis 35:29. But this section, too, is merely a history of Jacob, except the three verses in Genesis 35:27-29. On the other hand it is preeminently the history of Joseph and of the rest of the sons of Jacob, which begins at Genesis 37:2, where, according to Knobel, the history of Jacob should first begin. In the separate biographies we are to distinguish the theocratic stages of the life of the patriarchs, from the periods of their human decrepitude and decease, in which the new theocratic generation already becomes prominent. This history has four sections: Rebekah’s barrenness and Isaac’s intercession; Rebekah’s pregnancy and the divine disclosure of her condition; the antithesis in the nature of the sons reflecting itself in the divided love of the parents; and Esau’s prodigality of his birthright, parting with it for a mess of pottage. In the second section we have the prophetic preface, in the third and fourth the typical prelude to the entire future history of the antithesis between Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom.

2. The points of light in the life of Isaac lie in part back of this narrative. These are his child-like inquiries and his patient silence upon Moriah (Genesis 22:0); his love to Rebekah (Genesis 24:0); his brotherly communion with Ishmael at the burial of Abraham, and his residing at the well Lahai-Roi (Genesis 25:0). Here we now read first of his earnest intercession on account of the barrenness of Rebekah; then, moreover, of his preference of Esau because he was fond of game. Somewhat later Jehovah appeared unto him at Gerar, preventing him from imitating his father Abraham in going to Egypt during the famine, although he imitates him in passing off Rebekah for his sister. In this, too, he differs from Abraham, that he began to devote himself to agriculture (Genesis 26:12). He suffers himself, however, to be supplanted by the Philistines, and one well after another is taken away from him, until he at last retains only one, and finds rest at Beer-sheba. In the second appearance too (Genesis 26:24), his deep humility is reflected in this, that he preserves the promise of the blessing, receiving it as he does for the sake of his father Abraham. He now takes courage, and, as Abraham did, proclaims the name of the Lord, and ventures to reprove the conduct of Abimelech. His digging of wells, as well as his tilling the soil, seems to indicate a progress beyond Abraham. Then, too, he is willing to transmit to Esau the theocratic blessing of the birthright, though Esau had shortly before sorely grieved him by the marriage of two of the daughters of the Hittites. The marked antithesis between Isaac’s vision power, his contemplative prominence, and his short-sightedness in respect to the present life, as well as the weakness of his senses, appears most strikingly in Genesis 27:0. Rebekah proceeds now with more energy, and Isaac dismisses Jacob with his blessing, who returns after many years to bury his father. When Isaac blessed his sons his eyes had already become dim, yet many years passed before he died (from his one hundred and thirtieth to his one hundred and eightieth year). Delitzsch exaggerates Isaac’s weakness as making him in everything a mere copy of Abraham. “Even the wells he digs are those of Abraham, destroyed by the Philistines, and the names he gives to them are merely the old ones renewed. He is the most passive of the three patriarchs. His life flows away in a passive quietness, and almost the entire second half in senile torpidity (!). So passive, so secondary, or, so to speak, so sunken or retired is the middle period in the patriarchal history.” We have referred to the points in which he does not imitate Abraham, but is himself. He does not go to Egypt during the famine, as Abraham did; he begins the transition from a nomadic to and agricultural life, he digs new wells in addition to the old ones, he lives in exclusive monogamous wedlock, and even in his preference of Esau, the game, surely, is not the only motive. If the external right of the firstborn impressed so deeply his passive character (especially in connection with the robust, striking appearance of Esau, seeming to fit him particularly to be heir of Canaan); there can be no doubt, also, that he was repelled by traits in the early life of Jacob. But most especially does he appear to have had a feeling for those sufferings of the firstborn Ishmael, which he endured on his account. And hence he appeared willing to make amends to Esau, his own firstborn, a fact to which, at least, his dwelling at Hagar’s well, and his brotherly union with Ishmael, may point. It is evident that the ardent Rebekah, by her animated, energetic declarations (Genesis 24:18-19; Genesis 24:25; Genesis 24:28; Genesis 24:58; Genesis 24:64-65; Genesis 25:22), formed a very significant complement to Isaac, confiding more in the divine declarations as to her boys than Isaac did, and therefore better able to appreciate the deeper nature of Jacob. But when Isaac, through his passiveness, fails in the performance of his duty, the courageous woman forgets her vocation, and with artifice counsels Jacob to steal the blessing from Isaac—a transgression for which she had to atone in not seeing again her favorite son after his migration. And even if Isaac was shortsighted respecting his personal relations in this world, yet the words of the blessing attest that his spiritual sight of the divine promises had not diminished with his blinded eyes. It had its ground, moreover, in the very laws of the psychical antithesis that Isaac, so feeble in will and character, was attracted by the wild and powerful Esau; while the brave, energetic Rebekah found greater satisfaction in union with the gentle Jacob. In the assumed zeal of her faith for the preservation of a pure theocracy among the patriarchs, she too excels Isaac. We should bear in mind that they were Jews who relate so impartially the Nahoritic Rebekah’s superiority over the Abrahamic Isaac. [“Consenting to be laid on the altar as a sacrifice to God, Isaac had the stamp of submission early and deeply impressed on his soul. Hence, in the spiritual aspect of his character, he was the man of patience, of acquiescence, of susceptibility, of obedience. His qualities were those of the son, as Abraham’s were those of the father. He carried out, but did not initiate; he followed, but did not lead; he continued, but he did not commence. Accordingly the docile and patient side of the saintly character is now to be presented to our view.” Murphy, p. 367.—A. G.]


1.Genesis 25:19-21. Rebekah’s barrenness, and Isaac’s intercession.—Padan-Aram.—Level, plain of Aram: Hosea 12:12, it reads, field of Aram. Genesis 48:7. Padan, Mesopotamia. Keil limits the name to the large plain of the city of Haran, surrounded by mountains, following the conjectures of Knobel, who, however, regards Padan-Aram as a specific Elohistic expression. According to others, Mesopotamia is divided into two parts, and here the level country is distinguished from the mountainous region. But this does not apply to Haran. To one travelling from Palestine to Mesopotamia across the mountains, Mesopotamia is an extensive plain. According to Genesis 25:26, Isaac waited twenty years for offspring. This was a new trial to him, though not to Abraham, who still lived. Since the line of the blessing was to pass through Isaac, his intercession was based upon a divine foundation in Jehovah’s promise. [For his wife, with reference to, literally before; which Luther says is to be explained spiritually, indicating the intensity of his prayer, the single object before his mind.—“Entreated the Lord. The seed of promise must be sought from Jehovah, so that it should be regarded, not as the fruit of nature, but as the gift of divine grace.” Keil, p. 191.—A. G.]

2.Genesis 25:22-23. Rebekah’s pregnancy, and the divine explanation of her condition.—The Hebrew expression יתרצצו denotes a severe struggling with each other. Knobel will have it that this feature was derived from the later enmities between the Israelites and Edomites, and quotes Genesis 4:14; Genesis 16:12; Genesis 19:30. “In like manner, according to Apollod., 2, 2, 1, Acrisius and Proetus, two brothers, had already quarrelled with each other in the womb of their mother about the dominion.” That such intimations and omens can have no real existence is regarded as a settled matter in the prejudices of this kind of criticism.—Why am I thus?—We see again the character of Rebekah in this very expression. According to Delitzsch, she was of a sanguine temperament: rash in her actions, and as easily discouraged. We would rather regard her words as an ill-humored expression of a sanguine-choleric temperament. It does not mean: why am I yet living? (Delitzsch, referring to Genesis 27:46, Knobel, Keil), but why am I so? i.e., in this condition. [Why this sore and strange struggle within me?—A. G.]—To inquire of the Lord.—According to a certain Jewish Midrash, she went to Salem (so Knobel). According to Delitzsch, she went rather to Hagar’s well; at all events, to a place sacred on account of revelations and the worship of Jehovah. Luther thinks she went to Shem, others to Abraham or Melchizedek, just as men inquired of the prophets in the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 9:9). The prophet nearest to her, if she had wanted one, would have been Isaac. The phrase “she went” no doubt means she retired to some quiet place, and there received for herself the divine revelation. For in the patriarchal history sacred visions determined as yet sacred places, nor is it different at present. [Still the phrase seems to imply that there was some place and mode of inquiring of the Lord. Perhaps, as Theodoret suggests, at the family altar.—A.G.] According to Knobel, she received the experience indicated as, in general, a sign of ill omen. Delitzsch thinks she saw in it the anger of Jehovah. However, we must not too sharply interpret her ill humor, on account of the mysterious, painful, and uneasy condition, and the alarming presentiment she may have had of the contentions of her posterity. That she was to be a mother of twins she did not know at this time.—Two nations.—The divine answer is a rhythmical oracle. (See Delitzsch.)

[Two nations are in thy womb;
And two people from thy bowels shall be separated;
And people shall be stronger than people;
And the elder shall serve the younger.

Wordsworth.—A. G.]

With the prophetic elevation the poetic form appears also. It appears very distinctly from this oracle, that they would differ from the very womb of the mother. Since Esau’s liberation is not predicted here, Knobel regards this as a sign that the author lived at a time before Edom threw off the yoke of Judah. We know, however, how the theocratic prophecies gradually enlarge. The meaning of this obscure revelation, clothed as it was in the genuine form of prophecy, and which so greatly calmed her, she saw in a certain measure explained in the relations that had existed between Isaac and Ishmael.

3.Genesis 25:24-28. The birth of the twins. The antithesis of their nature, and the divided partiality of the parents towards their children.—Behold, there were twins.—The fulfilment of the oracle in its personal, fundamental form.—And the first came out red.—Of a reddish flesh color. His body, like a garment of skins, covered with hair. (Luxuriance of the growth of the hair.) In the word אדמוני there is an allusion to אדום, in the word שֵׂעָר there is an allusion to שֵׂעִיר. “Arab authors derive also the red-haired occidentals from Esau.” Knobel. Both marks characterize his sensual, hard nature.— And his hand took hold on Esau’s heel.—Delitzsch: “It is not said that he held it already in the womb of his mother (a position of twins not considered possible by those who practise obstetrics), but that he followed his brother with such a movement of his hand.” Knobel contends against the probability of this statement, since, according to a work on obstetrics by Busch, the birth of the second child generally occurs an hour after that of the first one, frequently later. The very least that the expression can convey is, that Jacob followed Esau sooner than is generally the case; upon his heels, and, as it were, to take hold of his heel. Since the fact, considered symbolically, does not speak in his favor; since it points out the crafty combatant who seizes his opponent unawares by the heel, and thus causes him to fall, there is the less ground for imagining any forgery here. The signification of the name “Jacob” is essentially the same with “successor,” as Knobel conjectures. Jacob’s cunning seems to have been stripped from him in his life’s career, deceived as he had been by Laban, and even by his own sons, whilst there remains his holy prudence, his deeper knowledge, and his incessant looking to the divine promise.—A cunning hunter.—Esau developed himself according to the omen.—Because he did eat of his venison.—Literally, “was in his mouth.”—And Jacob was a plain man.—איש תם. Luther: a pious man. Knobel: a blameless man, i.e., as a shepherd. “Hunting, pursued, not for the sake of self-defence or of necessity, but for mere pleasure, as with Esau, the author regards as something harsh and cruel, especially when compared with the shepherd-life so highly esteemed by the Hebrews.” Isaac’s fondness for venison, however, cannot be fully explained by this. Gesenius emphasizes the antithesis of gentle and wild. Delitzsch explains תָּם, “with his whole heart” devoted to God and the good, etc. Keil, more happily, as “a disposition inclined to a domestic, quiet life.” The most obvious explanation of the word in this place points out a man, modest, correct, and sedate, in contrast with the wild, unsteady, roving, and proud manner of Esau’s life. Jacob was modest, because he adhered to the costume of his father, and stayed near the tents.—Because he did eat of his venison, lit., was in his mouth. This weakness of the patriarch was not his only motive in his preference of Esau, but it is particularly mentioned here on account of the following narrative. In like manner, Haman was a melancholy, indolent man, fond of good living.

4.Genesis 25:29-34; Genesis 25:29-34.The typical prelude of the historical antithesis between Jacob and Esau.—Jacob sod pottage.—A dish of lentiles, see Genesis 25:34.—Feed me.—Lit.,“let me swallow,” an expression for eating greedily, לעט. According to Knobel, Esau, by reason of his greediness, was not able to think of the name, “lentiles,” but points them out by the words, “that Red!” At the most, “that Red” might express his strong appetite, excited by the inviting color. The addition הָאָדֹם הָזֶּה is generally interpreted: “from that same Red.” The repetition in the original shows that his appetite was greatly excited: “Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of that Red, that Red there!” We question, however, whether he did not say rather: Feed with that Red, me the Red one. Thus by a rude, witty play upon words, he would have introduced the fact of his afterward having been called “the red one.” At all events his name is not to be deduced from the red pottage. “In the words אַדְמוֹנִי and שֵׂעָר above there is indicated a different relation of the names אֱדוֹם (red-brown) and שֵׂעִיר (hairy), but the one referring to אָדוֹם, that red, i.e., brown-yellow pottage of lentiles, φοινικίδιον, is there predominant. Moreover, thousands of names, e.g., among the Arabs (comp. Abulfeda’sHist. Anteisl.), have a like fortuitous origin. But if any one should regard it as accidental that the history of nations for several thousand years should have been connected with a pottage of lentiles, he will not look in vain for similar occurrences in perusing the pages of Oriental history. [Therefore was his name called Edom. There is no discrepancy in ascribing the name both to his complexion and the color of the lentile broth. The propriety of a name may surely be marked by different circumstances. Nor is it unnatural to suppose that such occasions should occur in the course of life. Jacob, too, has the name given to him from the circumstances of his birth, here confirmed.—A. G.] It is scarcely necessary to say here, that lentiles (adas) are still a favorite dish in Egypt and Syria.” Delitzsch.—Sell me this day.—Knobel, as his manner is, regards this fact as improbable. He thinks the object of the narrative is to answer the question, how the birthright descended from Esau to Jacob, and thus erroneously supposes that, according to the Jewish view, the people of God, from Adam down to Isaac, had always descended from the line of the first-born. The text, however, presents to our view the contrast between Esau’s carnal thinking and Jacob’s believing sensibility, in the measure of fanatical exaggeration, and according to its conflict so decisive and typical for all time. The right of the first-born has its external and internal aspects. The external preference consisted in the headship over the brothers or the tribe (Genesis 27:29), and later also in a double portion of the inheritance of the father. The internal preference was the right of priesthood, and in the house of Abraham, according to the supposition thus far assumed, a share in the blessing of the promise (Genesis 27:4; Genesis 27:27-29). [Which included the possession of Canaan and the covenant fellowship with Jehovah, and still more, the progenitorship of him in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed.—A. G.] To acquire a rightful claim to this, was undoubtedly the principal aim in the bargain, as is seen immediately from the answer of Esau: “I am at the point to die;” and also from the fact that Esau appears not to have been limited in his external inheritance. It is to the praise of Jacob that he appreciated so highly a promise extending into the far future and referring to the invisible; the realization of which, moreover, though he was unconscious of it, was already prepared in his very being (either in his natural disposition or in his election). The acuteness, too, with which he discerned Esau’s gross bondage to appetite, deserves no censure. The selfishness of his nature by which he so soon estimates his profits and takes advantage of his brother,—this impure motive, as well as a fanatical self-will arising from his excitement in respect to the birthright, through which he anticipates God’s providence, is all the more obvious in his cunningly availing himself of the present opportunity. [Yet it must be borne in mind that he laid no necessity upon Esau. He leaves him to accept or reject the proposal. And Esau knew well, though he did not value it, what the birthright included. His own words, “what profit shall it do to me, seeing I am about to die?” show clearly that he knew that it included invisible and future things, as well as the visible and present. It was because he thus consciously sold his birthright, and for such a consideration, that the Apostle, Hebrews 12:16, calls him a profane person.—A. G.] In Esau of course he was not mistaken.—Behold I am at the point to die.—Esau, in his carnal disposition, seems to regard only the present and the things of this life, and of the things of this life, the visible and the sensual only. He yields the entire higher import of the birthright, the specific blessing of Abraham, the inheritance of his posterity, the right and land of the covenant, for the satisfaction of a moment—and that, too, near his paternal hearth, where he would soon have obtained a meal. He is therefore designated (Hebrews 12:16) as βέβηλος, or profane.—Swear to me this day.—Jacob’s demand of an oath in this transaction evinces a very ungenerous suspicion, just as the taking of the oath on the part of Esau shows a low sense of honor.—And rose up and went his way.—As if nothing happened. Repentance followed later.


1. Rebekah’s barrenness during twenty years. The sons of Isaac, too, were to be asked for; they were to be children of faith, especially Jacob. Sarah’s example appears to occur again. Similar examples: Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth. Even when not viewed in the light of the Abrahamic promise of the blessing, barrenness was regarded in the ancient Orient as a trial of special severity; how much more so in this case. Starke: “Barrenness among the patriarchs (Hebrews) was a painful occurrence. It was sometimes the fruitful source of strife (Genesis 30:2); tears were shed (1 Samuel 1:7); it was considered a reproach (Luke 1:25); it was even held for a curse.” Here, however, Abraham could from his own experience comfort them; he lived fifteen years after the birth of the children.

2. Isaac’s intercession. It could be based upon God’s promise and Abraham’s experience. Jehovah heard him. He granted more than asked. Instead of one child he received two. Undoubtedly Rebekah sustained his intercession by her prayers.
3. Rebekah’s pregnancy, her painful sensation, her ill-humor and alarming presentiments. The gentle story of the hopeful maternal temperament is often of the greatest significance in history. Isaac, in accordance with his disposition, prays to Jehovah; Rebekah, after her manner of feeling, goes and asks Jehovah. Undoubtedly she herself is the prophetess to whom God reveals the manner and future of her delivery. Jehovah speaks to her. The word of revelation, though dark, infuses into her an earnest yet hopeful feeling of joy, instead of maternal sadness and despondency. Two brothers, as two nations—two nations, to contend and fight with each other from the very womb of the mother. The larger, or elder, and externally more powerful, governed by the smaller, the younger, and apparently the more feeble. In these three points the antithesis between Ishmael and Isaac is reflected again. [The Apostle, Romans 9:12, dwells upon this passage as affording a striking illustration and proof of the doctrine he was then teaching. Isaac was chosen over Ishmael, but further still, Jacob was chosen over Esau, though they were of the same covenant mother, and prior to their birth. The choice, election, was of grace.—A. G.]

4. Brothers unlike, hostile; twins even at enmity, whose physiological unconscious antipathy shows itself already in the womb of the mother—dark forebodings of life not yet existing, bearing witness, however, that the life of man already, in its coming into being, is a germinating seed of a future individuality. This cannot be meant to express a mutual hatred of the embryos. Antipathies, however, as well as sympathies, may be manifested in the germinating life of man as in the animal and vegetable kingdom.
5. The relation of prophecy and poetry appears in the rhythmical form of the divine declaration as it is laid before us. Common to both is the elevated lyrical temperament manifesting itself in articulate rhythm.
6. The individuality of the twins is manifested immediately by corresponding signs. Esau comes into this world with a kind of hunter’s dress covering his rough-red skin; he is, and remains, Esau or Edom. Jacob seems to be a combatant immediately; an artful champion, who unawares seizes his opponent by the heel, causing him to fall. But under Jehovah’s direction and training. Jacob, the heelholding struggler, becomes Israel, the wrestler with God. In the name “Jacob” there is then intimated, not only his inherited imperfection, but at the same time his continual struggle, i.e., there exists a germ of Israel in Jacob. Esau, in his wild rambles, becomes an after-play of Nimrod. Jacob is so domestic and economical that he cooks the lentile broth himself. Esau appears to have inherited from Rebekah the rash, sanguine temperament, but without her nobility of soul; from Isaac he derives a certain fondness of good living—at least of game. Jacob inherited from Isaac the quiet, contemplative manner, from Rebekah, however, a disposition for rapid, prudent, cunning invention. Outwardly regarded, Jacob on the whole resembled more the father,—Esau the mother. This, however, seems to be the very reason why Isaac preferred Esau, and Rebekah Jacob. The gentle Isaac, who was to transmit to one of his children the great promise of the future, even the hope of Canaan, might have considered Esau, not only in his character of first-born, but also in that of a courageous and strong hunter, more suitable to hold and defend Abraham’s prospects among the heathen, than Jacob, who was so similar to himself in respect to domestic life. He might, therefore, understand the oracle given to Rebekah in a sense different from that received by her; or he might doubt, perhaps, its objective validity, opposed as it was to the customary right of succession. That Esau’s venison exercised an influence as to his position towards Esau, is proved from the text. It might be to him a delusive foretaste of the future conquests of Canaan. Esau’s frank nobility of soul is seen also in his promptly and zealously complying with the request. Rebekah confided in her oracle and understood her Jacob better. But even here there coöperated that mutual power of attraction which lay in the two antithetical temperaments. Without doubt, Esau, the stately hunter, moved about in his paternal home as a youthful lord; in which fact Isaac thought that he saw a sign of future power.

7. Isaac’s taste and Esau’s greediness—the two prime features of a likerish deportment. The weakness of the father soon increases to the greediness of the son. Isaac’s contemplation and weakness as to his senses reminds us of similar contrasts.
8. And Jacob sod pottage. Every human weakness has its hour of temptation, and if we do not watch and pray, it will come upon us like a thief.

9. To sell one’s birthright for a pottage of lentiles: this expression has become the established expression for every exchange of eternal treasures, honors, and hopes, for earthly, visible, and momentary pleasures. No doubt the motto: Let us eat and drink, etc., is an echo of Esau’s expression. Yet we are not at liberty to regard this moment of abandonment to appetite as an instance of a frame of mind continual, fixed; nor can we refer the divine reprobation, beginning with this moment, to his future happiness. He was rejected relatively to the prerogatives of the Abrahamic birthright. Notwithstanding his manliness and placability, he was not a man who had longings for the future, and therefore could not be a patriarch among the people of the future (Malachi 1:3; Hebrews 12:17). Jacob, however, was different; he knew how to prize the promises, in spite of those faults of weakness and craft, from which God’s training purified him.

10. Thus it stood with both children even before their birth. The antithesis of their lives was grounded in the depths of their individuality, that is, in the religious inclination of the one, and the spiritual superficiality of the other. But their very foundations had their ground in the divine election (Romans 9:11). The fundamental relations become apparent, with respect to both, in a sinful manner. They become apparent through the sins of both, but they would have appeared, too, without their sinful actions, by God’s providence. The question is about a destination, who was to be the proper bearer of the covenant, not about happiness and perdition.

11. In their next conflict Jacob’s ungenerous negotiation increases to fraud. Thence his subsequent great sufferings and atonement. By the deception of Laban, too, as well as by that of his sons, must expiation be made. The bloody coat of many colors, sent to him by his sons, reminded him of Esau’s coat, in which he approached his father. For Jacob’s opinion concerning the sufferings of his life, see Genesis 47:9. Starke: Paul, in quoting these words, Romans 9:12, does not speak of an absolute decree to eternal life or eternal damnation. Because God was to establish his church among the posterity of Jacob, and the Messiah was to come through them, Esau’s posterity, if desirous of salvation, must turn to the worship of Jacob (John 4:22). Upon the idea of election, see Lange’s Positive Dogmatic, article Ordo Salutis. [Also Tholuck, Meyer, Hodge on the passage Romans 9:11. It seems well-nigh impossible to escape the conviction that the Apostle here teaches the sovereign choice of persons, not merely to the external blessings, but the internal and spiritual blessings of his kingdom, i.e., to salvation.—A. G.]

12. The present prophecy respecting Jacob and Esau is farther developed in the blessings of Isaac (Genesis 27:0). Thus everything was historically fulfilled. For Edom and Idumæa, see the Bible Dictionaries; also respecting the prophetic declarations concerning Edom. The prophet Obadiah represents Edom as a type of the anti-theocratic (anti-Christian) conduct of false and envious brothers. This typical interpretation no more excludes the preaching of the Gospel in Idumæa than similar and more definite representations of Babel exclude the preaching of Peter at Babylon.

13. The Hebraic, i.e., the profoundest conception of history, here comes into view again. All history develops itself from personal beginnings. The personal is predominant in history.
14. The mystery of births; of the like relation between male and female being; of the unlike but natural relations between the more and less gifted, between noble and common; and of the different degrees of natural dispositions—a reservation of God, in his decrees of providence.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical. The house of a patriarch in its light and dark aspects: a. The divine blessing and human piety; b. human weakness and sin.—Different directions of the parents. Contrasts of the children.—The trials in the life of Isaac.—Children a blessing, an heritage of the Lord.—The intercession and its answer.—Isaac’s prayers, Rebekah’s inquiries.—Hoping mothers are to inquire of the Lord.—Twin brothers not always twin spirits.—Jacob and Esau.—The sale of the birthright for a pottage of lentiles.—Edom’s character in respect to good and evil. (Saying of Lessing: Nothing in a man is condemned as execrable if he only has the reputation of honor and integrity.)—Jacob’s sin, to human eyes, indissolubly connected with his higher strivings.—It is reserved to the chemistry of God to separate the dross of sin from the pure metal of a pious striving (Malachi 3:3).—The experience of the pious, a succession of divine purifications.—Hereditary faults.—Jacob’s haste and eager grasping, the sign Of the severe expiatory penitential sorrows of his life.—He wished to acquire externally, what God’s grace had put into his heart.—The first fault of Jacob a harbinger of the second.—Hereditary virtues and hereditary vices.—Divine election: 1. A predestination of Jacob’s and Esau’s theocratic position; 2. no decree as to their deportment.—Esau and Jacob; or a frank, noble disposition without subjectiveness, without a desire, and even without a true sense of divine things; opposed to an enthusiastic feeling for the eternal, yet tainted with self-deceit and dishonesty.—Jacob, a man of the higher longing and hope. Esau, a man of sensual pleasure, regardless of the future.

Starke, Cramer: The true church is never respected by the world as much as the great mass of the children of the flesh; we must not, therefore, place the bushel by the largest heap.—Bibl. Tub.: Children are an heritage of the Lord (Psalms 127:3).—Hall: Isaac asks for one son and he receives two.—Lange: Married people are under obligations to unite in prayer, especially on important occasions.—Notwithstanding natural causes, God, as creator, reserves to himself the closing and opening of the womb of mothers. This shows his sovereignty over the human race (Jeremiah 31:20).—Rebekah, in her impatience, may be a type of those who, having been aroused by God, so that a struggle, necessarily painful, takes place between spirit and flesh, soon become impatient.—In an unfruitful conjugal life we are to take comfort in this: 1. That God visited with barrenness holy people in former times—Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elisabeth; 2. God best knows our wants; 3. we are not to render an account for children, etc.; 4. to die without children takes away, in a certain degree, the bitterness of death; 5. the times are calamitous (Matthew 24:19). In times of need we are not to consult soothsayers, but God and his word.—(The struggle of the flesh with the spirit in the new life of the new-born; Romans 7:22-23).

Genesis 25:26. Genesis 3:16.—Cramer: Within the pale of the Christian Church we have different classes of people: Jews and heathen (John 10:16), true believers and hypocrites, good and evil (Matthew 13:47). God does not judge after the advantages of the flesh, of age, of size and other things which concern the appearance.—Bibl. Wirt.: Two churches are prefigured here: one believing the promises of Christ; the other depending on a carnal advantage of antiquity and extent. These two bodies will never come to an agreement, until finally the true church, as the smaller, will overcome the false by the victory of her faith, and triumph over her in eternal blessedness (1 John 5:4).—O, children, remember what anxiety you have cost your mothers.

Genesis 25:28. Lange: The preference of parents for one or another of their children may have its natural cause, and be sanctified, but seldom does it keep within proper limits. Probably Esau was more attached to his father, and Jacob to his mother. (Isaac, probably, prefers venison, not as a delicacy, but to make better and economical use of his cattle; and because wild animals are of no use to the husbandman, but only cause destruction to him.)

Genesis 25:29. The simplicity of early time. Jacob sitting by the hearth and cooking, which is usually the duty of the females.

Genesis 25:31. The apology for Jacob (Luther and Calvin, indeed, approve of his transaction on the ground of his right to the privilege of the first-born by the divine promise). Though the first-born was highly esteemed among the patriarchs, Christ would not descend from one of the first-born (indicating that he was the true first-born, who was to procure for us the right of the first-born from God). [See, also, Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 20:5; Hebrews 12:23.—A. G.] He claims to descend, not from Cain, but from Shem; not from Nahor, or Haran, but from Abraham; not from Ishmael, but from Isaac; not from Esau, but from Jacob; not from the seven elder sons of Jesse, but from David, and from Solomon, who was one of David’s younger sons.—(Genesis 25:27. The permission of hunting on certain conditions: First, that the regular vocation be not neglected; second, that our neighbor be not injured.)—Cramer: In educating children we are to pay particular attention to their dispositions, observing in what direction each one inclines, for not every one is qualified for all things (Proverbs 20:11; Proverbs 22:6).—Godless men, who, for the sake of temporary things, despise and hazard the eternal (Philippians 3:19).

Gerlach: The birth of many celebrated men of God, preceded by a long season of barrenness.—Thereby the new-born babe is to become not only more endeared to the parents, who turn their whole attention to it, but is especially to be regarded by them as a supernatural gift of God, and thus become a type of the Saviour’s birth from a virgin.—The divine prophecy: The patriarchs come into view only (?) in reference to their descendants, with whom they are considered as constituting a unity. For prophecy has not been fulfilled in respect to the brothers as individuals.—Lisco: A frivolous contempt of an advantage bestowed on him by God.—So, also, an inconsiderate oath (Hebrews 12:16).—An immoderate longing after enjoyment sacrifices the greatest for the least, the eternal for the temporal.—Calwer Handbuch: Abraham too rejoiced in the birth of these boys; he lived yet 15 years after their birth, and the narrative of his death and burial has been, for historical purposes, considered first. When the inherited blessing of the promise is the subject treated of, the mere course of nature cannot decide the issues, in order that all praise may be to God, and not to men.—Schröder: (The Rabbins explain Isaac’s faithfulness to Rebekah from the fact of his having been offered in sacrifice to God (1 Timothy 3:2). Isaac, to whom the very promise was given, is placed after Ishmael, and Ishmael, possessing a temporal promise only, is put far before him. He is lord over other lords, counts 12 princes in his line, while Isaac lived alone and without any children, like a lifeless clod (Luther).—All the works of God begin painfully, but they issue excellently and gloriously. Earthly undertakings progress rapidly, and blaze up like a fire made of paper, but sudden leaps seldom prosper (Val. Herb.).—Every mother conceals a future; every maternal heart is full of presagings. Her bodily pains, she interprets as spiritual throes that await her.—The case of Rebekah presents consolation to a woman with child (Val. Herb.).—Calvin: Rebekah probably inquired of God in prayer.—Her example should teach us not to give way too much to sadness in distress. We are to restrain, and struggle with, ourselves.—Prophecy (even the heathen oracles) always assumes a solemn and metrical style, etc. The prophet is a poet, as frequently the poet is a prophet.—Her alarming presentiment did not deceive Rebekah. The struggle within her indicated the external and internal conflicts not only of her children, but even of the nations which were to descend from them.—This Genesis 25:23 embraces all times; it is the history of the world, of the church, and of individual hearts, enigmatically expressed. (Coats made of red camel’s hair were worn by poor people, also by prophets (Zechariah 13:4; 2 Kings 1:8).)—The Hebrew Admoni is also connected with Adam; Esau is a son of Adam, predominantly inclined to the earth and earthly things.—(Isaac’s bodily nature appears feeble everywhere; Genesis 27:1; Genesis 27:19). Such persons are fond of choice and finer viands. Wherever Abraham has calves’ flesh, butter and milk, on special festive occasions, Isaac delights in venison and wine (Genesis 27:3-4; Genesis 27:25).—In the Logos, as the first-born of all creatures, the signification of the first-born, both animal and human, has its true, its ultimate, and divine foundation (Ziegler). The father is pleased, that Esau, like Ishmael, Genesis 21:20, is a good hunter, and he regards it as an ornament to the first-born, who is to have the government (Luther). Esau becomes Edom, and therefore, still the more remains Esau merely; Jacob, on the other hand, becomes Israel (Genesis 32:28).—Jacob is the man of hope. The possession that he greatly desires is of a higher order: hopes depending on the birthright. He never strives after the lower birthright privileges. (It is doubtful, also, whether these were as fully developed at the time of Abraham as at the time of Moses).—I am at the point to die. Sooner or later I will have to succumb to the perils to which my vocation exposes me. A thought expressed more than once by Arabic heroes (Tuch).—Esau’s insight into the future extended to his death only.—Jacob’s request that Esau should swear. He is as eager for the future as Esau is for the present.—(Lentiles, to this day, are a very favorite dish among the Arabs, being mostly eaten in Palestine as a pottage. Robinson found them very savory, etc.).—Want of faithful confidence in him who had given him such a promise, it was this that made Jacob wish to assist God with carnal subtilty, as Abraham once with carnal wisdom.—Thou shalt not take advantage of thy brother. For the present, no doubt, Jacob obscured the confidence of his hopes, just as Abraham, by anticipation, obscured his prospects.—As Ishmael had no claim for the blessings of the birthright, because begotten κατὰ σάρκα, so Esau forfeits the blessings of his birthright, not because begotten κατὰ σάρκα, but because inclined κατὰ σάρκα (Delitzsch).


[7][Genesis 25:19.—The תּוֹלִדֹת is more than genealogies. See note on Genesis 25:4, Genesis 2:0.—A. G.]

[8][Genesis 25:22.—Lit., If so, for what this am I.—A. G.]

[9][Genesis 25:23.—גֹוִים and לִאֻמּים are here used as synonymous, although there is ground for the distinction which refers the former to the nations generally, and the latter to the peculiar people of God.—A. G.]

[10][Genesis 25:25.—All over like a hairy garment; literally, the whole of him as a mantle of hair.—A. G.]

Genesis 25:27; Genesis 25:27.—תָּם, perfect, peaceful, in his disposition, as compared with the rude, roving Esau.—A. G.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 25". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/genesis-25.html. 1857-84.
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