Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.Abraham’s sons by Keturah, Genesis 25:1-4. Isaac inherits his father’s estate, Genesis 25:5. Provision for the other sons, Genesis 25:6. Abraham’s age, Genesis 25:7; death, Genesis 25:8; burial, Genesis 25:9,10. God blesseth Isaac, Genesis 25:11. The posterity of Ishmael, Genesis 25:12-15. His age and death, Genesis 25:17. Their habitation, Genesis 25:18. The generations of Isaac, Genesis 25:19. His age when married, Genesis 25:20. He prays for children; God answers, Genesis 25:21. Two children struggle in the womb; Rebekah inquires of the Lord, Genesis 25:22. God gives the reason, Genesis 25:23. She delivered of twins, Genesis 25:24. The first-born red and hairy; his name, Genesis 25:25. His brother takes him by the heel; his name: Isaac’s age when they were born, Genesis 25:26. The eldest a cunning hunter; the other a plain man, Genesis 25:27. Isaac loves the eldest; Rebekah the youngest, Genesis 25:28. The eldest sells his birth right for red pottage, and is called Edom, Genesis 25:30-32. Confirms the sale by an oath, Genesis 25:33. Despising his birthright, Genesis 25:34.
After Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage Abraham took a wife, ( a secondary wife, or a concubine, as she is called, Genesis 25:6, and 1 Chronicles 1:32), not from any inordinate lust, which his age and eminent grace may sufficiently evince, but from a desire of more children, and of accomplishing God’s promise concerning the great multiplication of his seed.
Keturah was a distinct person from Hagar, as appears from Genesis 25:6, and Genesis 25:12, and, as it seems, of better quality, and younger, for Hagar was now eighty years old, and not likely to be a mother of six children.
And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.Quest. How could Abraham, being now about one hundred and forty years old, have so many children, when his body was dead in his hundredth year?
Answ. Because that renewed strength which was miraculously conferred upon him, did still in a great measure remain in him, being not a temporary action, but a durable habit or power.
These persons were the heads of several people dwelling in Arabia and Syria, where we shall find evident footsteps of their names amongst ancient geographers, only a little changed, which could not be avoided in their translation into another language.
Midian, the father of those Midianites, of whom we read Genesis 36:35 Judges 6:2 Isaiah 10:26. From Shuah Bildad seems to be descended, Job 2:11.
And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.Ephah; of whom see Isaiah 60:6. From Epher some think Africa received its name.
And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.Which before he purposed and promised to give, Genesis 24:36, and now actually gave; except that which is excepted in Genesis 25:6, and except the use and enjoyment of his estate during his own life.
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.The concubines, Hagar and Keturah. Concubines are sometimes called wives, as Genesis 16:3 Judges 19:1-3,29, but their children had no right to the inheritance. For though the children of Jacob’s concubines did equally partake of the inheritance with the other children, that was done by Divine appointment, and Jacob’s voluntary act, and upon special reason, because of the vast inheritance promised, and afterwards given to them, which made it no loss, but a great convenience and advantage to the children of the chief wives to have their half-brethren, the sons of the concubines, seated so near to them.
Sent them away from Isaac; partly, that the entire possession of that land might be reserved to the children of Isaac; and partly, lest nearness of relation joined with cohabitation or neighbourhood should beget a great familiarity between them, whereby Isaac’s seed were likely to be infected by their brethren, whose degeneration and apostacy Abraham might easily foresee from the evil inclinations of their own hearts, and God’s exclusion of them from that covenant of grace and life, which was the only effectual remedy against that powerful and universal corruption.
Eastward, unto the east country; into Arabia, and other parts of Asia the Greater, which were situate eastward from the southern part of Canaan where Abraham now was, whence these people are oft called the children of the east, as Judges 6:3 7:12 Job 1:3.
And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.His soul was not required of him, as it was of that fool, Luke 12:20; not forced from him by sharp and violent diseases, but was quietly, easily, and cheerfully yielded up by him into the hands of his merciful God and Father, as the word intimates, in a good old age; good, both graciously, his hoary head being found in the way of righteousness; and naturally, free from the manifold infirmities and calamities of old age. Of which see Ecclesiastes 12:1, &c.
Full of years; in the Hebrew it is only full, or satisfied; but you must understand, with days or years, as the phrase is fully expressed, Genesis 35:29 1 Chronicles 23:1 29:28 Job 42:17 Jeremiah 6:11. When he had lived as long as he desired, being in some sort weary of life, and desirous to be dissolved; or full of all good, as the Chaldee renders it; satisfied, as it is said of Naphtali, Deu 33:23, with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord upon himself, and upon his children; he
was gathered to his people; to his godly progenitors, the former patriarchs, the congregation of the just in heaven, Hebrews 12:23; in regard of his soul: for it cannot be meant of his body, which was not joined with them in the place of burial, as the phrase is, Isaiah 14:20, but buried in a strange land, where only Sarah’s body lay. And it is observed, that this phrase is used of none but good men, of which the Jews were so fully persuaded, that from this very expression used concerning Ishmael here below, Genesis 25:17, they infer his repentance and salvation. See this phrase, Genesis 15:15 49:29 Numbers 20:24 27:13 Judges 2:10.
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;Ishmael, though banished from his father’s house, lived in a place not very far from him; and as no doubt he received many favours from his father after his departure, which is implied here, Genesis 25:6, though it be not mentioned elsewhere; so it is probable that he had a true respect and affection to his father, which he here expresseth.
The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.No text from Poole on this verse.
Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham:They are here recorded as an evidence of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise made to Abraham, Genesis 16:10 17:20. cir. 1800
And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,Nebajoth; of whom see Isaiah 60:7. From whom part of Arabia was called Nabathaea.
Kedar, see Psalm 120:5 Isaiah 21:16 Jeremiah 49:28; the father of those called Cedraei, or Cedareni, in Arabia.
And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,Dumah; from him Dumah, Isaiah 21:11, or Dumatha, a place in Arabia, seems to have recieved its name. Others make him the father of the Idumeans.
Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:Tema gave his name to the city and country of Tema, or Teman, Job 2:11 6:19 Jeremiah 25:23.
Jetur, the father of the Itureans, as may be gathered from 1 Chronicles 5:19.
These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.1773
No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria, i.e. on that part or side of Egypt which leads to Assyria.
He died in the presence of all his brethren; his brethren surviving him, and being his neighbours, and therefore as they had conversation with him in the time of his life, so now they did him honour at his death. But this translation and interpretation may seem improbable,
1. Because his death was related, Genesis 25:17, and would not be so presently repeated.
2. Because the foregoing words in this verse speak not of his death, but of his dwelling, to which these words do very well agree. For what we translated
and he died, is commonly rendered and he fell, or it fell, and is most commonly used concerning a lot whereby men’s portions are designed and divided, as Leviticus 16:9,10 Num 33:54 Joshua 16:1; and so the sense may be, it fell, i.e. that country fell to him or his; or he lay, or was stretched out, or posted himself, as the Hebrew word is used, Judges 7:12, i.e. he dwelt
in the presence of all his brethren; and so indeed his country lay between the children of Keturah on the east, and the children of Isaac and Israel on the west.
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:No text from Poole on this verse.
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram; either of the country of Syria, as it is called, Hosea 12:12; or rather, Padan of Syria; or, as the Septuagint and Chaldee render it, Mesopotamia of Syria. For that Parian is the proper name of a place, may be gathered from Genesis 48:7, and it is so called from its situation between two rivers, for Padan signifies a pair or two.
And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.1838
He prayed, as the Hebrew word signifies, instantly or fervently, frequently and continually, for near twenty years together; for so long, it was between their marriage and the first child. He was so much concerned, because not only his comfort, but the truth of God’s promise, depended upon this mercy; and he knew very well that God’s purpose and promise did not exclude, but require the use of all convenient means for their accomplishment.
For his wife; or, in the presence of his wife; signifying that, besides their more secret devotions, they did oftentimes in a more solemn manner, and with united force, pray for this mercy wherein they were both equally concerned. Or, over against his wife, noting that each of them did severally and apart entreat God for this mercy, so that there was a concurrence, if not in place, yet in design and action.
She was barren, as divers of those holy women that were progenitors of Christ have long been, that it might appear that that sacred stock was propagated more by the virtue of God’s grace and promise than by the power of nature.
And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD.The children struggled, in a violent and extraordinary manner, which was likely to cause both pain and fear in her. The sense may be either,
1. If it be
thus with me, that there be two children contending and fighting within me, likely to destroy one the other, and both threatening my death, why did I desire and pray for this as a great mercy? Or, why is it thus with me? Why hath God dealt thus with me, to continue my life till it be a burden to me, and to give me conception which is so painful and hazardous? Or rather,
2. If God hath granted me my desire in the conception of a child, what means this disturbance and conflict within me, which threatens me with loss of the mercy before I enjoy it? For she seems not so much to murmur at it, as to wonder and to inquire about it, as it here follows.
She went to inquire of the Lord; either immediately, by ardent prayers to God that he would reveal his mind to her herein; or mediately, by her father Abraham, who lived fifteen years after this time, Genesis 25:7, or by some other godly patriarch yet surviving, by whom God used to manifest his will and counsels to others, when he thought fit.
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.The Lord spoke, either by inward inspiration, in a dream or vision; or by the ministry of an angel or prophet.
Two nations, i.e. the roots, heads, or parents of two distinct nations, one opposite to the other; the one blessed, the other cursed, namely, the Israelites and Edomites.
Shall be separated; not only separated from thee, but one separated or greatly differing from the other in their frame of body, temper of mind, course of life, profession and practice of religion.
The elder, or, the greater, namely Esau, who was, as older, so of a stronger constitution of body, and of greater power and dignity in the world than Jacob; and Esau’s posterity were great princes for a long time, when Jacob’s seed were strangers in Canaan, slaves in Egypt, and poor afflicted wanderers in the wilderness. But, saith he, Esau and his shall not always be stronger and mightier than Jacob and his posterity, the tables shall be turned, and the children of Israel shall be uppermost and subdue the Edomites, which was literally accomplished in David’s time, 2 Samuel 8:14; and afterwards, 2 Chronicles 25:11,12; and after that by the Maccabees; but much more eminently in a spiritual sense under the gospel, when one of Jacob’s children, even Jesus Christ, shall obtain the dominion, and shall rule the Edomites no less than other heathen nations with his iron rod, and make them serviceable one way or other to his glory, and to the felicity of his true Israel.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.Red; with red hair upon all the parts of his body. From him the Red Sea is supposed to receive its name, it being so called, as the heathen writers tell us, from one who reigned in those parts, and was called Erythras, or Erythrus, which signifies red, the same with Edom or Esau.
Esau, i.e. made or perfect; not properly a child, but rather a man as soon as he was born, having that hair upon him which in others was an evidence of manhood.
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.1837 Jacob, i.e. supplanter, or one that taketh hold of or trippeth up his brother’s heels. See Genesis 27:36.
Isaac was threescore years old. Thus God exercised his faith and patience twenty years, by comparing this with Genesis 25:20, ere he gave him the promised blessing.
And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.Esau was a hunter of wild beasts, and afterwards an oppressor of men. Compare Genesis 10:9. This course of life was most agreeable to his complexion, fierce and violent.
A man of the field; one that delighted more in conversing abroad than at home, whose employment it was to pursue the beasts through fields, and woods, and mountains, who therefore chose a habitation fit for his purpose in Mount Seir.
A plain man, a sincere, honest, and plain-hearted man; or a just and perfect man, as the word is used, Genesis 6:9;
dwelling in tents, quietly minding the management of his own domestic affairs, his lands and cattle, and giving no disturbance either to wild beasts or men.
And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.Isaac loved Esau, not simply nor chiefly because he pleased his palate, but because this was an evidence of his son’s great respect and affection to him, that he would take such pains and incur such hazards to which that course of life exposed him, that he might please and serve his father.
But Rebekah loved Jacob upon better grounds, both because of his more pious and meek temper, and because of the oracle and promise of God.
And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Red pottage; red by the infusion of lentiles, or saffron, or some other things of that colour. The word is doubled in the Hebrew text, to show how vehemently he desired it.
Edom, which signifies red; as he was at first so called from the colour of his hair, so now that name was confirmed and given to him afresh upon this occasion: q.d. He was rightly called Edom, or red, not only historically for his colour, but prophetically for this accident.
And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.1805
i.e. Speedily, without delay. So this Hebrew word is used 1 Samuel 2:16 9:13,27 2 Chronicles 18:4. The birthright then had divers singular privileges; as,
1. Dignity and authority over his brethren, Genesis 4:7 27:29,37 49:3.
2. A double portion, Deu 21:17 1 Chronicles 5:1.
3. A special blessing from his father, Genesis 27:4.
4. The priesthood and chief government of the affairs of the church in his father’s absence, or sickness, and after his death, Numbers 8:16,17, &c.
5. The first-born was a special type, both of Christ, who was to be a first-born; and of the church, which is called God’s first-born, as Exodus 4:22; and of the great privileges of the church, particularly of adoption and eternal life. See Hebrews 12:23. And therefore he is justly called profane, Hebrews 12:16, for slighting so sacred and glorious a privilege.
1. Could the birthright be lost?
Answ. Yes. See Genesis 4:7 1 Chronicles 5:1.
2. Did Jacob well in this matter?
Answ. No; because he tempted his brother to an act of profaneness and folly, and so was guilty of his sin. And though God had designed and promised this privilege to him, yet he should have waited till God had executed his promise in his own way, as David did till God gave him possession of Saul’s kingdom; and not have anticipated God, and snatched it by an irregular act of his own, as Jeroboam did the kingdom from Rehoboam.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?I am at the point to die; not with famine, which could not consist with Isaac’s plentiful estate and house, but by the perpetual hazards to which his course of life exposed him in the pursuit of wild beasts, and contending with other men.
What profit shall this birthright do to me? by which he plainly showeth that his care and affections reached no further than the present life.
And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.Jacob acted subtlely in this affair; he knew that delays were dangerous; and Esau’s consideration, or second thoughts, might have spoiled his bargain, and therefore he requires haste, as in the sale, so in his oath; wherein he addeth another sin, in hurrying his brother into an oath by precipitation, which neither his brother should have taken, nor Jacob should have advised him to take, without mature advice.
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.Secure and impenitent, without any remorse for his ingratitude to God, or the injury which he had done to himself and to all his posterity,
he went his way, despising his birthright, preferring the present and momentary satisfaction of his lust and appetite before God’s and his father’s blessing, and all the glorious privileges of the birthright.