by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

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Genesis 25:1-6  
Genesis 25:7-11  
Genesis 25:12-18  
Genesis 25:19-26  
Genesis 25:27-34  

GENESIS  25:1-6    (Abraham’s marriage to Keturah)


25:1   The difference between a wife and a concubine was that a concubine’s children did not have a share in the man’s family tree.  It seems that after the death of Sarah (23:1-2) Abraham married  Keturah.   As in the case of Ishmael (17:18-20),  Keturah’s sons could become a great nation, but they were not counted as heirs of Abraham’s line (25:5).

25:2-3   The names of Keturah’s sons and grandchildren were common in Arabia.  Jokshan’s son Sheba was the ancestor of the raiders who killed Job’s servants (Job 1:14-15).   The caravans of wealthy Sabean  traders (Isaiah 45:14; Joel 3:8) from Sheba (in present-day Yemen) used to travel 1400 miles, 2200 km,  up the west coast of Arabia and then north into Syria.   They carried gold, precious stones, frankincense, sweet cane, and other goods that came in across the Indian ocean (Psalm 72:15; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:21-22).  And the Queen of Sheba came from there to visit King Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13).

25:4   Another grouping of Arab tribes descended from Keturah were the Midianites (37:28) who settled on the east shore of the Gulf of Aquaba  (25:6; Numbers 25:16-24; Judges 7:24-25).  Four hundred years later (Judges 6:1, 6; 7:1; 8:10)  the Midianite invaders defeated by Gideon had crescents on the necks of their camels (8:24-26) as a sign that they were counted as Ishmaelites (bene Ishmael).  The Ishmaelite tribe eventually incorporated all the other Arab tribes by marriage and conquest (see BOOKS, Ishmael the Arab).

25:5-6   As the LORD had previously told Abraham (17:20), God had great blessings in mind for the Arab people to be a very great nation (17:20-21; 21:13,18).  But the messianic covenant would be with the line of Isaac.  The New Testament begins with “the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).   When Joseph accepted Jesus as his son (Matthew 1:16, 20; Luke 1:31-33; 2:4-5, 11)  the promise of Abraham’s seed being a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3; Luke 2:32) began to be fulfilled through the Christian churches planted in cities all over the world..


GENESIS 25:7-11 (The death of Abraham and his burial in Hebron)

25:7   Abraham’s great age was due to the fact that the life-span of his family was still under the influence of the longevity of his ancestors (see 11:10-23). 

25:9-10   Ishmael was by then aged 89 (16:16; 17:24-26).   He had been cruelly expelled and disinherited when he was 14 years old  (21:5, 10‑14).  Now 75 years later he must have heard that his father was dying, and he came from the Sinai peninsula (25:18; Exodus 15:22) to rejoin the family in Hebron.  He was able to make peace with his brother Isaac and join him in the burial of Abraham in the Cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried  (23:1-2, 8-9, 19).

25:11   After the death and burial of Abraham Isaac settled in the Negeb (see note on 24:62).  Beerlahairoi means “the well of the Living One who sees me,” and it was probably the well where Hagar had called the LORD El roi which means “the God who sees me” (16:13-14).  It was 50 miles, 80 km, south of Beersheba on the border of Egypt. 


GENESIS  25:12-18   (The twelve sons of Ishmael, the first Arab princes)

25:12   Abraham was to be ancestor of a multitude of nations (13:16; 15:5; 16:10; 17:5).  The Jewish people were to be one of these nations, but God also promised to bless Ishmael and make him the father of twelve princes (sheikhs) in the great family of Arab nations (17:20).   In due course other tribes, all related to Abraham,  came under the leadership of the Ishmaelites (25:12-18)  and were called bene Ishmael, as are all Arabs to this day..  These  included the Moabites and Ammonites (19:37-38),  the Arameans (Syrians, 22:20-24), the descendants of Keturah (25:1-4), and the Edomites (36:1-43).   It is interesting that the early history and genealogies of the Arab people are carefully recorded in the book of Genesis.

25:13    The oldest son of Ishmael was Nebaioth.  His sisters,  Mahalath (28:9) and Basemath (36:3) were married to Esau (Basemath may have been another name for Mahalath).   This illustrates the process of tribal intermarriages which resulted in the Arab family of nations.    It was Mihammad (570-632) who eventually welded the Arabs into a formidable fighting force which dominated the Middle East for thirteen centuries.

Ishmael’s second son Kedar was the ancestor of the people of Kedar, who were mighty warriors (Isaiah 21:17), shepherds (60:7), and traders (Ezekiel 27:21). They lived in tents of black goats’ hair (Song of Songs 1:5, see Psalm 120:5). 

25:14-16   The name Tema is preserved in the oasis of Tayma (Teima), which is on the main caravan route (Job 6:19) to Medina, 220 miles, 360 km, east south-east of Aquaba.  The names of the other sons of Ishmael are typically Arab, but their tribal locations are not yet identified.

25:17   Ishmael lived on 48 years after the death of Abraham (compare 16:16; 25:7-9)

25:18   Shur was the area of the Sinai Peninsula bordering on Egypt.    Havilah marked the  eastern boundary of Ishmaelite territory bordering Edom along the Arabah (the valley to the south of the Dead Sea joining the Gulf of Aquaba, Deuteronomy 2:8).  From the list of Ishmaelite sheikhs who were sons of Ishmael (25:12‑16) we know that Ishmaelite settlements must have extended east into Arabia.  The expression “opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria” refers to the King’s Highway which went north 500 miles, 800 km,  from Ezion-geber  into Assyria.


GENESIS 25:19-26   (The birth of Jacob and Esau)

25:19   Having listed the first Ishmaelite tribal sheikhs (25:12-18) of the bene Ishmael (under whose leadership the Arab nation was forged) the story of Genesis reverts to focus on the line of Isaac.

25:20-21   The marriage arrangement for Rebekah was described in the previous chapter (24:1-67),  but Rebekah remained barren for 20 years.   It was only when Isaac (at the age of 60, see 25:20, 26)  prayed specially for his wife that she was able to conceive. 

25: 22-23   The twins in Rebekah’s womb seemed to be at war, and the discomfort was so great that Rebekah wondered whether she could survive.   When she inquired of the LORD what this could mean, she was given the answer that two nations were warring in her womb.

25:24-26 The firstborn of the twins was Esau, and Jacob followed with his hand holding on to his brother’s heel.  Jacob was called “he who takes by the heel” or “he who supplants.” 


GENESIS 25:27   (Esau sells his birthright for a serving of lentil stew )

25:27-28   Isaac was 60 (25:26) when the twins were born.  As they grew up Isaac loved Esau, a hunter who killed game and brought it for Isaac to eat.  But Rebekah loved Jacob, who was quieter and lived in the family tents.  Here we have all the ingredients of a family quarrel.

25:29-34   One day Esau came in hungry from a day’s hunting, and asked for a serving of the red lentils that  Jacob had cooked.   Jacob demanded that his brother sell his birthright (the right of the firstborn to inherit the title to the family line).  .   Esau said “what use is a birthright to me?” and chose to satisfy his hunger with the pita bread and lentil stew.  Thus he despised his birthright.    The New Testament commented: “See to it that no one becomes like Esau, and immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:17).

Paul commented on the line of Isaac being chosen as opposed to the children of Ishmael. “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.   For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time Sarah shall have a son.’   Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebekah when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac.   Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.”  As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.’  What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means” (Romans 9:11-14).

How does one interpret this difficult comment by Paul the apostle?   Presumably God knew the end from the beginning.  And despising ones birthright is a very serious matter.  The New Testament comments:  “See to it that no one becomes like Esau, and immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.   You know that later when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent (change his mind), even though he sought the blessing with tears” (Hebrews 12:16-17).  The words “hated Esau” do not express God’s hatred resulting in vicious exclusion, but the earthly consequence of a very bad human choice.  God is free to choose one family line as opposed to another in working out his purposes.  

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