Genesis 25:1-25:34 Family Plots

Standard
again Abraham… another woman… inheritance… happy ending… his own people… intreating Yahweh… children struggled… enquire of the Lord… heel-holder… takes advantage… birthright… folly and cruelty…

Genesis 25:1-25:34

Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name [was] Keturah.

With Isaac married off, and Abraham still virile, he takes (laqach) another woman (‘ishshah) Keturah (Q@tuwrah, incense) and lives up to his title as father of many nations:

And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

I believe we’ll hear more of the children of Midian (Midyan, strife) down the road. Regardless, the inheritance went to Isaac:

And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

But he didn’t forget his other children:

But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

I wonder how clear a distinction between wife (ishshah) and concubine (piylegesh) there was at that time. Anyway, the giving (nathan) appears preparation for his death (muwth):

Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full [of years]; and was gathered to his people.

I believe this is a pretty common phrasing (and desire) in the Old Testament. A happy ending, apparently including a show of unity from his first two sons:

And 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 Mamre;

This may have been another reason Abraham bought the tomb, so he could rest beside his wife:

The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

And, as promised, Isaac in inherits the blessing (barak):

And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.

We’re given a similar summary of the death and progeny of Ishmael, who also founds nations (‘ummah):

These [are] the sons of Ishmael, and these [are] their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.

Perhaps not so full of years, he too dies well:

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.

He presumably doesn’t share his father’s tomb, but he is at least honored by his own people, in his own land:

And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that [is] before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: [and] he died in the presence of all his brethren.

Returning back to our main family plot/line, we see Isaac also struggling for an heir:

And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she [was] barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Perhaps the men of his family started late, though they sure last a long time. Isaac at least does one better than his father, by intreating Yahweh rather than playing games with concubines. Alas, he didn’t quite avoid sibling strife (ratsats) that way:

And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If [it be] so, why [am] I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.

Its an intriguing phrase: went to enquire (yalak darash). I suppose it could’ve been something as simple as entering a special tent where God would speak audibly. Yet, I suspect that it may have been more in the nature of a pilgrimage to a priest, perhaps in the line of Melichizedek. Regardless, she gets a pretty explicit answer:

And the LORD said unto her, Two nations [are] in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and [the one] people shall be stronger than [the other] people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

A portentous prophecy! Sure enough, she has twins (ta’owm):

And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, [there were] twins in her womb.

The first (ri’shown ) one is red (‘admoniy ) and hairy (se`ar ), named Esau (`Esav, hairy):

And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

His brother (‘ach) Jacob (Ya`acob, heel-holder) is tagging along, holding (‘achaz) Esau’s heel (`aqeb):

And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac [was] threescore years old when she bare them.

The phrase heel-holder appears to also mean supplanter; I suppose it may have already been a common idiom, but I do wonder whether Jacob is at least partly responsible for its popularity. Of course, there were parental issues involved as well:

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob [was] a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of [his] venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

I’m trying to think if we ever get a solid story in the Bible of a father getting along with all his children; even God has trouble! Of course, Jacob doesn’t help matters when he takes advantage of a hungry (`ayeph) if clueless Esau:

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red [pottage]; for I [am] faint: therefore was his name called Edom.

Apparently Edom (‘Edom) liked his reds (‘adom). Jacob is quick to seize on that fact (perhaps influenced by his mother’s stories of the prophecy), and do a little bartering:

And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

One would think a birthright (b@kowrah) a bit much for a bowl of soup, but Esau apparently did not:

And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

I get the impression that Jacob himself might’ve been surprised by Esau’s quick surrender, but he nonetheless seizes on his advantage:

And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.

Clearly Jacob is taking cruel advantage of his thoughtless brother, but Esau is not entirely without blame:

Then 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.

Poor Esau doesn’t even seem to realize what he has done. I’d like to think they were mere teenagers, 13-14 years old when this happened. Old enough to make binding commitments, but not old enough to know better. Alas, folly and cruelty are not limited to the young and inexperienced.

Prayer

God, what a tangled family line. I admire Abraham for his faith and courage, yet his weakness with his wife set the stage for millennia of strife. Isaac starts out really well, and sticks with one wife, yet his fondness for wild game creates a division between them. Lord, teach me to love my wife as You intended, cleaving to her with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, for Your sake. Give me a united family, that serves and honors You all are days. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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