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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 25

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 25:0


Abraham's DeathAbraham and KeturahThe Death of AbrahamOther Descendants of AbrahamThe Descendants of Keturah
Genesis 25:1-6Genesis 25:1-6Genesis 25:1-6Genesis 25:1-4Genesis 25:1-4
Genesis 25:5-6Genesis 25:5-6
Abraham's Death and Burial The Death and Burial of AbrahamThe Death of Abraham
Genesis 25:7-11Genesis 25:7-11Genesis 25:7-11Genesis 25:7-11Genesis 25:7-11
Descendants of IshmaelThe Families of Ishmael and Isaac The Descendants of IshmaelThe Descendants of Ishmael
Genesis 25:12-18Genesis 25:12-18Genesis 25:12-18Genesis 25:12-18Genesis 25:12-16
Genesis 25:17
Genesis 25:18
Isaac's Sons The Rivalry of Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom)The Birth of Esau and JacobThe Birth of Esau and Jacob
Genesis 25:19-26(vv. Genesis 25:23)Genesis 25:19-26(vv. Genesis 25:23)Genesis 25:19-26(vv. Genesis 25:23)Genesis 25:19-23(vv. Genesis 25:23)Genesis 25:19a
Genesis 25:19-23(vv. Genesis 25:23)
Genesis 25:24-26Genesis 25:24-28
Easu Sells His Rights As the Firstborn Son
Genesis 25:27-34Genesis 25:27-28Genesis 25:27-28Genesis 25:27-28
Easu Sells His Birthright Easu Gives Up His Birthright
Genesis 25:29-34Genesis 25:29-34Genesis 25:29-30Genesis 25:29-34
Genesis 25:31
Genesis 25:32
Genesis 25:33a
Genesis 25:33-34

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 25:1-6 1Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. 3Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. 4The sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Hanoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah. 5Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; 6but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east.

Genesis 25:1 "Now Abraham took another wife whose name was Keturah" Jewish tradition says this was just another name for Hagar (cf. Genesis 25:12), but, the plural of the word "concubine" (BDB 811) found in Genesis 25:6 seems to militate against this. Luther assumes that Abraham did this just to fulfill Genesis 17:4. It is uncertain whether Abraham married Keturah before or after the death of Sarah. Chronology is more a feature of western historiography than eastern, biblical historiography. The name Keturah (BDB 882) means "perfumed one" or "wrapped in incense smoke!"

Genesis 25:2 "and she bore him" This is a series of well established Arab tribes. The most noted is Midian (cf. Genesis 36:35; Genesis 37:28; Exodus 2:15, Exodus 2:16; Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:1; Numbers 25:15; Numbers 31:3, Numbers 31:8, Numbers 31:9; Jdg. 6-8). An excellent graph of these Arabian tribes can be found in Leupold's commentary on Genesis, vol. 2, p. 690.

Genesis 25:4 "and the sons of Midian were" Verse Genesis 25:4 lists the children of this most prominent tribe. We hear of this tribe later from Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, who was of the tribe of the Kenites or Midianites.

Genesis 25:6 "but the sons of his concubines" 1 Chronicles 1:32 also calls Keturah a concubine. A concubine was a legal second wife with no inheritance rights.

"and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east" As Abraham had earlier sent Hagar's son, Ishmael, away (towards Egypt), he now sends the sons of Keturah away (to the east of Canaan). We know from the Nuzi Tablets, which describes Hurrian culture, that this was the legally acceptable way to show the father's choice of inheritance and to deal with the semi-legal sons of a concubine.

Verses 7-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 25:7-11 7These are all the years of Abraham's life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. 8Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. 9Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, 10the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife. 11It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.

Genesis 25:7 "And these are all the days of Abraham's life" The length of Abraham's 1ife is 175 years, which was viewed as the ideal age.

Genesis 25:8 "and Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life" This same phrase is used to describe Ishmael in Genesis 25:17, Isaac in Genesis 35:29, and Jacob in Genesis 49:33. This was a fulfillment of YHWH's promise in Genesis 15:15. Death was not something to be feared, but to be expected at the end of a long life (cf. Job 42:17; 1 Chronicles 23:1; 1 Chronicles 29:28; 2 Chronicles 24:15).

"and he was gathered to his people" Since Abraham was not literally buried with his ancestral family (cf. Genesis 25:9), this must refer to their view of the afterlife. This is a recurrent phrase in Genesis (cf. Genesis 25:8, Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:33). Somehow there was a conscious existence after death that involved friends and family. The light of specific revelation is shining rather dimly in the OT concerning this area, however (note Psalms 16:9-11; Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3). See Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 127-129. We learn from Hebrews 11:13-16 that Abraham was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.

See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?.

Genesis 25:9 "then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him" It is significant that Isaac and Ishmael were somehow reunited at the burial of their father. Ishmael had been sent away in Genesis 21:14, but apparently the relationship had been reestablished at their father's death. The same thing will also happen with Esau and Jacob at the death of Isaac (cf. Genesis 35:29.).

"the cave of Machpelah" We learn that this was the burial place purchased by Abraham (cf. Genesis 23:17-18) for Sarah. It will also house other members of the Patriarch's family.

Genesis 25:11 "Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi" This site (BDB 91) is mentioned earlier in connection with the flight of Hagar (cf. Genesis 16:14; Genesis 24:62). Apparently it was just to the south of Beersheba on a major road to Egypt.

Verses 12-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 25:12-18 12Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham; 13and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam 14and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, 15Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. 17These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. 18They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.

Genesis 25:12 "Now these are the records of the generations of" This is a characteristic phrase of the book of Genesis, used numerous times to divide the book into the life history of several different men. Those who are peripherally connected with the covenant received much less space (i.e., Ishmael) than those who are uniquely called to carry on the promised seed of the coming Messiah (cf. Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10, Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:12, Genesis 25:19; Genesis 36:1, Genesis 36:9; Genesis 37:2).

Genesis 25:13 "Kedar" This is the most predominate tribe of Ishmael (BDB 871, cf. Isaiah 21:16-17; Isaiah 42:11; Jeremiah 2:10; Jeremiah 49:28; Psalms 120:5). The tribes of Ishmael seem to have been located to the east and the south of the tribes of Keturah's sons.

Genesis 25:15 "Tema" This is an oasis in northeast Arabia which later became the focal point of the moon goddess, Zin. See Special Topic: Moon Worship. The term "Tema" means "desert" (BDB 1066).

Genesis 25:16 "the twelve princes" This seems to be a fulfillment of Genesis 17:20. This Hebrew term is an honorific title of leadership, much like the modern term, Sheikh among Arab tribes. The number "twelve" seems to be the ideal number of children because: Nahor has twelve sons (cf. Genesis 22:20-24); Ishmael has twelve princes (cf. Genesis 17:20; Genesis 25:16); Esau has twelve tribes (cf. Genesis 36:15-19); here, and later Jacob will have twelve sons (cf. Genesis 35:22). Possibly it is a number representing ideal organization.


Genesis 25:17 "he breathed his last" The term "breathed" (lit. "expire," עוג, BDB 157, KB 184, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:21; Genesis 25:8, Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29) used mostly in Genesis, Numbers, and poetic texts. Its basic meaning is to be empty (i.e., empty a body of breath).

Genesis 25:18 This area would control the caravan routes from Egypt to Assyria/Babylon. It was suitable to nomadic, tent-dwelling people.

"he settled in defiance of all his relatives" The phrase "in defiance" (BDB 815-819) has a wide semantical field. Its basic meaning is "face," "presence," or metaphorically "before." It is used earlier in this verse to mean "over against" or "opposite" a geographical location, but here it denotes opposition to other people.

This is a fulfillment of Genesis 16:12, which describes the rather inhospitable, nomadic attitude of Ishmael and his descendants. This phrase is interpreted in many different ways. It is even possible that this refers to military raids against his neighboring relatives.

Verses 19-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 25:19-26 19Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is so, why then am I this way?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger." 24When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

Genesis 25:19 "now these are the records of the generations of Isaac" This is the same characteristic phrase discussed in Genesis 25:12, but here it relates to the covenanter and is therefore, highly expanded.

"Abraham's son: Abraham became the father of Isaac" This is an unusual repetitive statement. Rashi says the doublet was used to dispel the rumor that Isaac was the child of Abimelech (by Sarah). The rabbis also state that Isaac looked just like Abraham in the face in order to dispel this rumor which was started by the event in Genesis 20:1-18.

Genesis 25:20 "Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah" When one compares Genesis 25:20 with Genesis 25:26 it is obvious that Isaac was sixty years old at the birth of Jacob.

"Bethuel the Syrian of Paddan-aram" The word "Syrian" is often translated "Armenian" (BDB 74). It seems to be the district surrounding the town of Haran. Paddan-aram (BDB 804 and BDB 74) means "the plains of Aram," which denotes the same area as "Aram-naharaim" of Genesis 24:10.

Genesis 25:21 "and Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren" There were two major theological purposes for the Patriarchs having barren (BDB 785) wives: (1) to show God's provision and (2) to show that this was not of human effort, but by grace and not merit. The rabbis use this text to emphasize the power of intercessory prayer.

Genesis 25:22 "but the children struggled together within her" This is a violent VERB (BDB 954, KB 1285, Hithpolel IMPERFECT). It is translated (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, 1191)

1. in Qal stem as crush, smash, abuse

2. in Niphal stem as crack, break

3. in Hiphil and Piel stems as crush in pieces

4. in Polel as oppress

5. in Hithpolel as crush each other

This was a prophetic foreshadowing relating to Genesis 25:23.

"and she said, 'if it is so, why then am I this way'" There has been much discussion over this idiomatic, ambiguous phrase (lit. "why this, I?"). The current theories are:

1. She was asking why she was made pregnant by God and then was having such complications; at this point she did not know that she was carrying twins.

2. Her pregnancy was causing her great pain and she wondered why she had ever asked for this.

3. She was literally worried for her life amidst this problem pregnancy.

4. She feared that this turmoil would continue after she gave birth. The troubled pregnancy was a sign of trouble to come (a foreshadowing).

"so she went to inquire of the LORD" This has also caused much discussion among the commentators. They ask where she went and who she asked! It is obvious that the text does not record this. Some assert that there was a set place for patriarchal worship. There has been much speculation about who she consulted.

1. Luther says she talked to Shem

2. the rabbis say she talked to Melchizedek

3. others assert that she spoke to Abraham

4. still others believe it was Isaac

5. possibly, it was simply personal prayer at a family altar (possibly even a sacrifice)

It is possible that this text and Genesis 28:22 imply holy attendants at sacred places (i.e., priests, Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, p. 345).

Genesis 25:23 "And the LORD said to her" This is an extremely significant poetic word from the Lord to Rebekah. God had already promised children to Isaac (cf. Genesis 17:19; Genesis 21:12). This prophecy specifically delineates which one of the children would carry the family line. This is quoted in Romans 9:10-12. One wonders why Isaac did not seem to follow this word from the Lord, for obviously Rebekah shared it with him when he tried to make Esau the inheritor in chapters 26 and 27.

"and the older shall serve the younger" Like the barren wives of the Patriarchs this phrase shows that the promised seed will not be done in the normal way that the Semites performed inheritance rights (cf. Romans 9:10-12).

Genesis 25:25 "the first came forth red" This term (admoni, BDB 10, "red") is related to the term in Genesis which speaks of the "dust" (BDB 9) out of which God created man (cf. Genesis 2:7), the "Adamah," which apparently also has the root idea of "red" (BDB 10). The wordplay continues in Genesis 25:30, where the red porridge (BDB 10) is linked to the name "Edom" (BDB 10), from which we get the nation which would come from Esau.

"like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau" The term "hairy" (BDB 972) sounds very much like the term "Seir" (BDB 973), which is the earlier name for Edom. There is a double play on the words "red" and "hairy" and "Esau" and "Edom."

This Hebrew description of a baby as red and hairy may not convey the right connotation to modern readers. This was not meant in any way to be negative. The term "hairy" (BDB 12) implied a beautiful, impressive garment (e.g., Joshua 7:21, Joshua 7:24 or a prophet's mantle (cf. 1 Kings 19:13, 1 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 2:8, 2 Kings 2:13, 2 Kings 2:14).

Genesis 25:26 "And afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob" The name Jacob (BDB 784) is related to "heel" (BDB 784). From Hosea 12:3 and from Esau's comment in Genesis 27:36 we recognize that the name Jacob evolved into "supplanter" or "usurper" (from a similar VERB and ADJECTIVE, BDB 784). It is not until his confrontation with God at the brook Jabbok years later that his name will be changed to "Israel" (cf. Genesis 32:28) and by implication his character.

"and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them" It is to be noted that he had waited twenty years, in faith, for this promised child. God was testing Isaac in the same way He had tested Abraham.

Verses 27-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 25:27-34 27When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. 31But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." 32Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" 33And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 25:27 "When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents" The focus of this passage is that they were very different in personality. Esau was content to be away from home; Jacob was content to be at home. Jacob is the one who fulfilled the normal expectations of a nomadic, patriarchal figure.

The term "peaceful" (NKJV "mild"; NRSV and TEV "quiet") is actually "complete" (BDB 1020). Here, it seems to mean a complete, normal, or regular nomadic leader. The same ADJECTIVE is used to describe Job's integrity (cf. Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:8; Genesis 2:3; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 9:20, Genesis 9:21, Genesis 9:22, also note Psalms 37:37; Proverbs 29:10).

Genesis 25:28 "Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game" Isaac was a quiet, peaceful individual and it may be that his son, Easu, was all that he was not. It is surprising that Esau was his favorite, when obviously he knew the divine word from Genesis 25:23.

"but Rebekah loved Jacob" This favoritism is going to cause great problems in the family as it always does. But, it seems that Rebekah was trying to hold on to the divine promise of Genesis 25:23.

Genesis 25:29 One wonders if this event was premeditated and had been repeated. Was Jacob looking for an occasion like this? The use of the term "cooked" (lit. "boiled," BDB 267, KB 268, Hiphil IMPERFECT) may be a hint. The term regularly means to presume to have rights that are not legally theirs (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1094).

Apparently this meal was prepared some distance away from the main campsite. The meal is called

1. "stew," Genesis 25:29, BDB 268, a boiled pot of beans, cf. 2 Kings 4:38

2. "red stuff," Genesis 25:30, BDB 10

3. "lentil stew," Genesis 25:34, BDB 727, cf. 2 Samuel 17:28; 2 Samuel 23:11; Ezekiel 4:9

Genesis 25:30 "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished" This is a strong term for "eat." It literally means "to gulp down" (BDB 542, KB 533, Hiphil IMPERATIVE). Surely, Esau was not at the point of starvation, but he was weary (BDB 746, cf. Deuteronomy 25:18; Judges 8:4-5). This is the first of several clues which show that Esau was not a bad man, but a secular-minded man (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 347-348). The things of faith and the responsibilities of home life were simply not a concern to him.

Genesis 25:31, Genesis 25:33 Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright. . .first swear to me"

1. "sell," BDB 569, KB 581, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. "swear," BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal IMPERATIVE

It is obvious Jacob took advantage of Esau's weakness. The question is, was it because of (1) the prophecy (cf. Genesis 25:23), (2) the well being of the family, or (3) self interest?

Genesis 25:32 "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me" This has been interpreted basically in three different ways: (1) an exaggeration; (2) that he really expected to die (BDB 559, KB 562, Qal INFINITIVE) at a young age; or (3) another example of his lack of concern for spiritual things. From the Nuzi Tablets of the same period we understand that the transfer of birthright was possible legally. We also see that it must have been a common occurrence because it is prohibited in Deuteronomy 21:15-17. Later, Reuben will be replaced by Judah. Jacob may have been following in an inappropriate way the divine command of Genesis 25:23. It is hard to read the mind of Jacob in these accounts for he often comes across as a sincere but manipulative person.

Genesis 25:34 This verse describing Esau's actions may be a way of describing his solitary and anti-social personality.

1. "he ate," BDB 37, KB 46, Qal IMPERFECT

2. "he drank," BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal IMPERFECT

3. "he rose," BDB877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERFECT

4. "he went on his way," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERFECT

5. "he despised his birthright," BDB 102, KB 117, Qal IMPERFECT

"Thus Esau despised his birthright" The verb (BDB 102, KB 117, Qal IMPERFECT) denotes "to view as worthless" or even "view with contempt." The rabbis depict Esau as a very evil person. Hebrews 12:16 shows him as being spiritually immature. He took his spiritual and family life lightly.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What does Genesis 25:8 say about the ancients' view of death?

2. Why were so many of the patriarchs' wives barren?

3. Why is Genesis 25:23 so significant?

4. What is the popular etymology contained in Genesis 25:25?

5. Can we know the psychological motives and characteristics of Esau and Jacob? How?

6. List the ways the book of Hebrews interprets this account in chapters 11 and 12.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 25". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-25.html. 2021.
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