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OTHER GENERATIONS OF ABRAHAM
We are not told what time Abraham took Keturah as a wife. Of course, God could enable him to be a father of children even after Sarah had died, but in this case he would be over 137 years, and nothing is given to enlighten us in this matter. However, verses 1-4 tell us that Keturah bore Abraham six sons, and that some of these also had sons afterward. whenever they were born, they were not considered by God as having any place compared to Isaac. Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac (v.5). Yet in fact we are also told that he had sons by concubines. All of this reminds us that, though God's prime interests are centered in His Son and the bride His Son receives, yet He does not forget His kindness toward Gentile nations. To these sons Abraham gave gifts, but sent them away from any close proximity to Isaac, to the land of the east (v.6). The names, Midian, Ephah and Sheba are mentioned inIsaiah 60:6; Isaiah 60:6 when the prophet speaks of Gentile nations converted in the coming millennial age.
ABRAHAM'S DEATH AND BURIAL
Abraham's age is now recorded -- 175 years -- at the time of his death (vs.7-8). Isaac and Ishmael were brought together again at this time, both having part in their father's burial. Abraham was buried with Sarah in the cave he had bought from Ephron (ch.23:19-20). Just as the circumstances at that time pointed to the promise of Sarah's future resurrection, so it was with Abraham, who fully believed that God was able to raise the death (Romans 4:17-21).
After this Isaac takes the place of Abraham as a vessel of God's testimony, and is blessed by God (v.11), living by Beer Lahai Roi, "the well of Him who sees me." There is true spiritual refreshment (the well) in the consciousness of living under the eye of God.
THE FAMILIES OF ISHMAEL
Ishmael's genealogy is given in verses 12-16. As we have seen in verses 1-4, God does not forget the Gentile nations because of His interest in the church (Rebekah); now Ishmael's genealogy tells us God does not forget Israel either, for Ishmael typifies Israel under law (Galatians 4:22-25). That nation is yet to receive blessing from God in His own time. Verse 16 mentions 12 princes, a reminder of Israel's 12 tribes. Ishmael then died at the age of 137 years (v.17). His brother Isaac outlived him by 33 years (Genesis 35:28). Ishmael both lived and died in the presence of his brethren (v.18). Such is the legal principle. Legality lives as before the eyes of others: faith lives as in the presence of God.
Verse 19 draws our attention now to Isaac, whom we have seen takes Abraham's place as the vessel of God's direct testimony in the world (v.11). He was forty years of age when married to Rebekah. The same problem that Abraham had with Sarah now surfaces again with Rebekah. She had been unable to bear children. However, in this case the prayers of Isaac were answered and she became pregnant (v.21). She did not understand why she had such turmoil in her womb until she went to enquire of the Lord. It is good to see both Isaac's entreating the Lord and Rebekah's inquiring of the Lord when problems arose.
She receives the answer that she has twins: in fact God calls them two nations, telling her that the twins were two totally different characters, one stronger than the other, but that the elder should serve the younger. This is a lesson that God often impresses on us in His word, to the effect that the last shall be first and the first last. Ishmael was born before Isaac, but he had to give place to Isaac. Now the same lesson is emphasized even when the same mother gives birth to twin sons. This totally casts us upon the sovereign wisdom of God. It is He who orders such matters, far above any question of people's character or actions. He is sovereign and we must simply bow to Him.
Verses 24-26 record the birth of the two sons. Esau, the first, was strikingly red in his appearance, hairy, and his hair red. This reminds us of Adam, which means "red earth," for Esau's history was to emphasize what man is in the flesh, just as "the first man is from the earth, earthy" (1 Corinthians 15:47). The second son, Jacob, followed closely, his hand holding the heel of Esau. This is told us in order to illustrate what was to be true of Jacob in his life. His name means "he will take by the heel." Esau referred to this later when Jacob had deceived his father in taking Esau's place. Esau's words then were "Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times?" (ch.22:36). His hand grasped for the blessing that was going to be given to Esau. This tells us what Jacob was in the flesh, but later his name was changed to Israel, "a prince with God," for God's counsels would stand, and He did a work in Jacob's soul that made a glorious change in the man.
When grown Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors, while Jacob was of a more reserved nature, conforming to the general trends of society, and dwelling in tents. We are told here too that Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed the taste of wild game, while Rebekah loved Jacob, perhaps because the Lord had told her that he would be given preference over his brother. But it is not good that parents should ever have a preference for one of their children over another.
Jacob's character comes out strikingly in the incident of verses 29-34. When he has stew already prepared and Esau comes in faint from hunger, asking for some stew, Jacob, instead of kindly giving him some, takes advantage of the occasion to bargain with his brother. He would sell him the stew for his birthright. Esau reasons that the birthright would be of no use to him if he died from hunger, and the compact is made by an oath that Jacob required from Esau. Jacob's character as a bargainer is established from the beginning. He is a fitting father for the nation Israel, choosing the principle of law-keeping as a rule of life. He had to learn by later experience that this principle failed him, and that he must eventually depend only on the grace of God.
But another matter here is most important. Esau despised his birthright (v.34), that which God had given him: it became of no more value to him than a mouthful of stew! How many are like him, who consider satisfying their present natural appetite as being more important than God's long range blessing! On the other hand, though Jacob used wrong methods of getting the birthright, yet the fact is clear that Jacob valued what God had to give.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 25". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany