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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 25

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-6

Genesis 25:1-6 . The Descendants of Abraham and Keturan.— The section belongs apparently to a late stratum of J. The obvious meaning is that Abraham married again and had six children after Sarah’ s death. This is remarkable in view of the fact that the birth of Isaac was effected only by the miraculous intervention of Providence. Midian ( Exodus 2:15 *) is the best known of the peoples mentioned, the Dedanites and Sabæ ans also occur several times.

Verses 1-18

Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 25:18 . The Story of Abraham.— In this section the three main sources, J. E, P are present. Gunkel has given strong reasons for holding that J is here made up of two main sources, one connecting Abraham with Hebron, the other with Beersheba and the Negeb. The former associates Abraham with Lot. (For details, see ICC.) On the interpretation to be placed on the figures of Abraham and the patriarchs, see the Introduction. The interest, which has hitherto been diffused over the fortunes of mankind in general, is now concentrated on Abraham and his posterity, the principle of election narrowing it down to Isaac, Ishmael being left aside, and then to Jacob, Esau being excluded.

Verses 7-11

Genesis 25:7-11 . The Death and Burial of Abraham.— This is from P except Genesis 25:11 b, which is from J and should follow Genesis 25:5.

Genesis 25:8 . his people: better “ his father’ s kin,” i.e. in Sheol.

Genesis 25:9. P ignores scandals in the story of the patriarchs, and makes no reference to the treatment of Ishmael.

Verses 12-18

Genesis 25:12-18 . Ishmael’ s Posterity and Death.

Genesis 25:12-17 is from P; Genesis 25:18 is a fragment of J, but its original context is uncertain. Twelve tribes are said to be descended from Ishmael. The identification of Nebaioth ( Genesis 28:9, Genesis 36:3, Isaiah 60:7) with the Nabatæ ans, famous in the period after the Exile, is now generally given up. It and Kedar ( Isaiah 21:16 f. *, Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 60:7, Jeremiah 2:10; Jeremiah 49:28, Psalms 12:05 *) lay probably to the E. of Edom. The other tribes are of less importance. Tema was a N. Arabian tribe about 250 miles to SE. of Edom, coupled with Dedan in Isaiah 21:13 f., Jeremiah 25:23, and with Sheba in Job 6:19. The problems raised by Genesis 25:18 are too complicated to be discussed here.

Verses 19-34

Genesis 25:19-34 . The Birth of Jacob and Esau. Jacob Takes Advantage of Esau to Secure his Birthright.— At this point we pass to the story of Jacob. In the present section Genesis 25:19 f., Genesis 25:26 b belong to P, the rest to Jeremiah Genesis 25:21-28 is from J, and so in the judgment of most critics Genesis 25:29-34, though some assign it to E.

Like Sarah and Rachel, Rebekah is for long without a child. P fixes the interval from marriage to motherhood as thirty years, but in view of the untrustworthiness of his chronological statements elsewhere no dependence can be placed on them here. Before their birth the mother’ s life is made intolerable by their struggles ( cf. Genesis 27:46 for a similar outburst of petulance), and on inquiry at the oracle Yahweh tells her that two nations have already begun a struggle which will issue in the subjection of the elder. When the twins were born the first was a redskin (‘ admoni, hence Edom, though another reason is given for the name in Genesis 25:30) and hairy ( se ar, hence Seir), and his name was called Esau, for which no etymology is suggested; perhaps it means “ shaggy.” His brother follows hard at his heels, indeed with his hand on Esau’ s heel, vainly attempting to hold him back. Him they call Jacob, connecting it with the Heb. word for “ heel” ( cf. mg.) . Jacob is perhaps a contraction of Jacob-el (pp. 248f.), which is both a personal and place name, of disputed meaning. The story continues as it began. The dissimilarity in appearance is matched by difference in disposition and occupation. Esau loved the hunter’ s adventurous life, and grew skilful (EV “ cunning” ) in it, Jacob was a quiet ( mg.) stay-at-home lad and followed the occupation of a shepherd. The difference was accentuated, and tragedy invited, by the favouritism of the parents— of Isaac for Esau, whose venison he relished, of Rebekah for Jacob, whose feminine traits perhaps made him more congenial to his mother. Jacob grows up with the galling sense that he is the younger, and that his brother possesses the birthright and does not even value it as he should. The birthright conferred leadership in the family and a double share of the inheritance, and political and material superiority when transferred to the nation from the individual. Jacob had probably laid schemes to secure it. His chance comes when, making lentil stew, he is asked by the famished Esau for some of that red stuff: he is too ravenous to give it its proper name, and in his impatience repeats the word ( mg.) . Jacob drives his brother mercilessly; first of all ( mg.) he must sell him his birthright. Esau does not stop to think “ so much for so little,” or to soften his cold brother. He fancies himself dying! anything for a good meal! But Jacob is too astute to take his brother’ s bare word, he was himself an unscrupulous liar. He insists on the guarantee of an oath, which is given without hesitation. Then, having satisfied his hunger, Esau went away without regret, and at least justified Jacob so far, that the birthright had passed to one who knew how to value it. The narrator betrays no repugnance for the meanness of his ancestor. Esau “ was a man with no depth of nature and no outlook into the eternal. He was not a man of faith who postpones present gratification for future good, but one who lived like an animal ‘ tame in earth’ s paddock as her prize,’ with no spiritual horizon. He was thus, engaging though he might be, a character of less promise than his selfish, calculating, cold-blooded brother, who had spiritual vision and numbered Bethel and Peniel among his experiences. The contrast comes out in Esau’ s selling his birthright, and all its spiritual privileges, in a fit of impatient hunger, and Jacob’ s grim tenacity in holding on to the angel with dislocated thigh, till he blessed him” ( Hebrews, Cent.B, p. 230).

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 25". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/genesis-25.html. 1919.
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