1 "Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah."
Then again Abraham took a wife, - literally, and Abraham added and took a
wife (i.e. a secondary wife, or concubine, pilgash; vide v. 6 and I Chronicles
1:28, 32); but whether after (Kalisch, Lunge, Murphy) or, before (Calvin,
Keil, Alford, Bush) Sarah's death it is impossible to decide - and her name
was Keturah - "Increase" (Gesenius); probably a servant in the family, as Hagar
had been, though not Hagar herself (Targums), whom Abraham had recalled
after Sarah's death (Lyra), since v. 6 speaks of concubines.
2 "And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak,
and Shuah." And she bare him (since the patriarch's body at 100 years was practically
dead, it is almost certain that his marriage with Keturah took place after the renewal
of his powers; and it is easier to suppose that his physical vigor remained for some
years after Sarah's death than that, with his former experience of concubinage, and
his parental joy in the birth of Isaac, he should add a second wife while Sarah lived)
Ø Zimran, - identified with Zabram, west of Mecca, on the Red Sea (Knobel,
Keil); or the Zimareni, in the interior of Arabia (Delitzsch, Kalisch) - and
Ø Jokshan, - the Kassamitae, on the Red Sea (Knobel); or the Himarytish tribe
Jakish, in Southern Arabia (Keil) - and
Ø Medan, and Midian, - Modiana, on the east of the Elamitic Gulf, and Madiana,
north of this (Rosenmüller, Keil, Knobel) - and
Ø Ishbak, - perhaps preserved in Schobeck, in the land of the Edomites
(Knobel, Keil) - and
Ø Shuah - for which the epithet Shuhite (Job 2:11) may point to Northern
Idumaea (Keil, Knobel, Kalisch).
3 "And Jokshan begat
and Letushim, and Leummim." And Jokshan begat Sheba, - probably the Sabeans:
25:23 (Keil). And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, - who have been associated with
the warlike tribe of the Asir, to the south of Hejas (Keil) - and Letu-shim, - the Bann
Leits in Hejas (Keil) - and Leummim - the tribe Bann Lam, which extended even to
4 "And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and
Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah." And the sons of Midian; Ephah
(vide Isaiah 60:6), and Epher (Bent Ghifar in Hejas), and Hanoch (Hanakye, three
days north of Medinah), and Abidah, and Eldaah - the tribes of Abide and Vadaa
in the neighborhood of Asir. Keil adds that all these identifications are uncertain.
All these were the children of Keturah - six sons, seven grandsons, three great
grandsons; in all sixteen descendants.
5 "And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac." I.e. constituted him his chief
heir, according to previous Divine appointment (ch. 15:4), and made over to him
the bulk of his possessions (ch. 24:36).
6 "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." But unto the sons of the concubines (Hagar and Keturah), which
Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, - "doubtless established them as youthful
nomads" (Lunge) and sent them away from Isaac his son, - Ishmael's dismissal
took place long before (ch. 21:14); probably he then received his portion while
he yet lived (i.e. during Abraham's lifetime) eastward, unto the east country
(or Arabia in the widest sense; to
the east and south-east of
7 "And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an
hundred threescore and fifteen years." And these are the days of the years of
Abraham's life which he lived, - an impressive and appropriate expression for the
computation of life (compare ch. 47:9) - an hundred and threescore and fifteen
years - i.e. 175 years; so that he must have lived seventy-five years after Isaac's
birth and thirty-eight years after Sarah's death. "His grandfather lived 148 years,
his father 205, his son 180, and his grandson 147; so that his years were the full
average of that period (Murphy).
8 "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." Then Abraham gave up the
ghost (literally, breathed out the breath of life), and died in a good old age, -
literally, in a good hoary age, i.e. "with a crown of righteousness upon his
hoary head" (Hughes) - an old man, and full of years. Literally, and satiated,
i.e. satisfied not merely with life and all its blessings, but with living. The
three clauses give an elevated conception of the patriarch s life as that of one
who had tasted all the sweets and realized all the ends of a mundane existence,
and who accordingly was ripe and ready for transition to A HIGHER SPHERE!
And was gathered to his people. An expression similar to "going to his fathers"
phrase is constantly distinguished from departing this life and being buried,
denotes the reunion in Sheol with friends who have gone before, and therefore
presupposes faith in the personal continuance of a man after death" (Keil).
Abraham died in the hope of a better country, even an heavenly (Hebrews
9 "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;"
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael - Isaac as the heir takes precedence;
but Ishmael, rather than the sons of Keturah, is associated with him at his father's
funeral; probably because he was
not so distant as they from
or because he was the subject of a special blessing, which they were not
(Keil, Murphy); or perhaps simply Ishmael and Isaac united as the eldest
sons to perform the last rites to a parent they revered (Kalisch). "Funerals of
parents are reconciliations of children (ch. 35:29), and differences of contending
religionists are often softened at the side of a grave" (Wordsworth) - buried him
(see on ch.
23:19) in the
of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre (ch. 23:3-20); the field which
Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth (a repetition which augments the
importance of the statement that Abraham did not sleep in a borrowed tomb):
there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
11 "And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son
Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi." And it came to pass after the death
of Abraham, that God - Elohim; whence the preceding section is ascribed to the
Elohist; but the general name of God is here employed because the statement
partakes merely of the nature of an intimation that the Divine blessing descended
upon Isaac by inheritance (Hengstenberg), and the particular blessing of which the
historian speaks is not so much the spiritual and eternal blessings of the covenant,
as the material and temporal prosperity with which Isaac, in comparison with
other men, was enriched (Murphy) - blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by
The Last Days of Abraham (vs, 1-11)
Ø The taking of a second wife.
o Her name: Keturah, recorded because of her relationship to Abraham.
Connection with God’s people confers honors as well as privileges.
o Her marriage: of the second degree. Succeeding to Sarah’s marriage
bed, Keturah did not succeed to her social status. Neither did her issue
possess legal claim to Abraham’s inheritance. Concubinage, though
permitted, was not necessarily approved by God.
o Her children: numerous and (in some instances) distinguished. The
common seed of the flesh may often be more enlarged than the
special seed of grace; but the descendants of good men, other things
being equal, are likelier to come to honor than the families of the
Ø The making of his will.
o Isaac, the son of Sarah, he constitutes his heir, in accordance with the
Divine counsel, not attempting to interpose on behalf of Ishmael, his
firstborn. Primogeniture may involve certain rights in the world; it has
no superiority in grace, or in the Church.
o The sons of Hagar and Keturah he endows with portions from his
ample pastoral wealth before he dies, and sends away to settle as
independent nomads in the unoccupied territory lying on the east of
peace of his family after he is gone — two things which pious parents
should as far as possible secure before they die.
Ø Before death. The age to which the patriarch had attained was:
o Numerically great, viz., 175 years. Mark the tendency of piety to
prolong life (Psalm 34:12).
o Morally good. Neither beautiful nor desirable in itself, when
associated with corresponding ripeness in grace old age is both
delightful to look upon and pleasant to enjoy (Proverbs 16:31).
o Completely satisfying. He had experienced:
§ the Divine goodness and mercy for 175 years,
§ God’s covenant established with himself and family,
§ and beheld Isaac born, married, and, the father of two
§ and seen Sarah away before him to the better land;
now he had no desire left unfulfilled but one, viz., to depart.
Ø At death. His end was peaceful; he “breathed out his spirit” into the
hands of Jehovah. So did:
o Isaac (ch. 35:29),
o Jacob (ch. 49:33),
o David (Psalm 31:5),
o Christ (Luke 23:46).
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that
man is peace.” (Psalm 37:37).
Ø After death. He was gathered to his people — a significant intimation of
o the immateriality of the soul;
o the conscious existence of the soul after death;
o the gathering of pious souls into one society beyond the grave;
o the mutual recognition of the glorified;
o the complete separation of the righteous from the wicked.
Ø The chief mourners. Whether Keturah’s boys were present at the
affecting ceremonial is not stated, but the prominent positions were
occupied by Ishmael and Isaac. It is a duty which surviving children
owe deceased parents to see their remains deposited with reverence
in the grave, and it is beautiful when fraternal estrangements are
removed round a father’s tomb.
Ø The place of sepulture. The cave of Machpelah had three attractions for
o it was in the promised land,
o it was his own tomb, and
o it contained the dust of Sarah.
Ø The bereaved son. Isaac, from his sensitive disposition and the
unexciting character of his occupation, would feel his father’s loss
more keenly than Ishmael. Perhaps this explains the statement
of v. 11. It is God’s special care to comfort orphans (Psalm 27:10).
Ø That though secondary wives are not agreeable to the word of God,
second marriages are not against the will of God.
Ø That good men ought to make a just disposition of their temporal
affairs before they die.
Ø That whether God’s saints die soon or late, they are always satisfied
Ø That in whatever sort of tomb a saint’s dust may lie, his immortal
spirit goes to join the company of just men made perfect.
Ø That the loss of earthly parents is more than compensated by the
blessing of a father’s God.
12 "Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar
the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham:" Now these are the
generations of Ishmael, - the opening of a new section (compare ch. 2:4), in which
the fortunes of Abraham's eldest son are briefly traced before proceeding with the
main current of the history in the line of Isaac (compare I Chronicles 1:29-31) -
Abraham's son, - because of his relation to Abraham it was that Ishmael attained
subsequent historical development and importance (see ch. 21:13) - whom Hagar
the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham (see ch. 16:1,15).
13 "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," And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names,
according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael,
Ø Nebajoth; - "Heights;" the Nabathaeans, a people of Northern Arabia,
possessed of abundant flocks (Isaiah 60:7), and, according to Diodorus, living
by merchandise and rapine (Gesenius). From Petraea they subsequently
extended as far as
Ø Kedar, - "Black Skin;" the Cedrei of Pliny (Gesenius, Keil, Rosen-mailer);
characterized as good bowmen (Isaiah 21:17), and
Petraea and Babylon - and
Ø Adbeel, - "Miracle of God" (Gesenius); of whom nothing is known - and
Ø Mibsam, - "Sweet Odor" (Gesenius); equally uncertain.
14 "And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,"
Ø Mishma, - "Hearing" (Gesenius);
Ø Masma (Septuagint, Vulgate); connected with the Maisaimeneis,
Ø Dumah, - "Silence;" same as Stony Dumah, or Syrian Dumah, in Arabia,
on the edge of the
Ø Massa, - "Burden;" north-east of Dumah are the Massanoi.
15 "Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:"
Ø Hadar, - "Chamber" (Gesenius); Ha'dad (I Chronicles 1:30, Septuagint,
Samaritan, and most MSS.); though Gesenius regards Hadar as probably
the true reading in both places; identified with a tribe in
(Gesenius); between Oman and Bahrein, a district renowned for
its lancers (Keil) - and
Ø Tema, - "Desert" (Gesenius); Θαιμὰν - Thaiman - (Septuagint);
Themoi, on the
Ø Jetur, - "Enclosure" (Gesenius); the Itureans (Gesenius, Kalisch, Keil ) -
Ø Naphish, "Breathing" (Murphy); "Refreshment" (Gesenius); not yet
identified - and
Ø Kedemah - "Eastward" (Gesenius); unknown.
16 "These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and
by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations." These are the sons of
Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, - unwalled encampments, from
hatzar, to surround; used of the movable villages of nomadic tribes (compare Isaiah
42:11) - and by their castles; - fortified keeps (Murphy); tent villages (Keil);
Ezekiel 25:4) - twelve princes - this does not imply that Ishmael had only twelve sons,
became phylarchs (Havernick). The Egyptian dedecarchy (rested on a like earlier
division of names. Homer mentions a similar case among the Phoenicians (Odyss.,
8. 390); Thucydides another in ancient Attica (2. 15); see Havernick's 'Introch,' § 18 -
according to their nations (or tribe divisions).
17 "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."
And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years:
— a life shorter by nearly half a century than that of Isaac (ch. 35:21); does this prove
the life-prolonging influence of piety? — and he gave up the ghost and died;
and wee gathered unto his people (see on v. 8).
18 "And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou
And they dwelt
from Havilah unto Shur, that is before
down; not expired (Vulgate, A Lapide, Aben Ezra, et alii), but settled
down, had his lot cast (Calvin, Keil, Kalisch); κατῴκησεν - katokaesen -
(Septuagint) in the presence of all his brethren (a fulfillment of ch.16:12).
The Line of Blessing (vs. 1-18)
Although Abraham has many descendants, he carefully distinguishes the
line of the Divine blessing. His peaceful end at 175 years set the seal upon
a long life of faith and fellowship with God. His two sons, Isaac and
Ishmael, met at their father’s grave, although living apart. The influence of
such a character as Abraham’s is very elevating and healing, even in the
sphere of the world. Ishmael is not entirely forgotten, but Isaac, as the true
heir of Abraham, hands on the blessing of the covenant.
The Generations of Ishmael, or the Biography of a Prince
Ø The significance of his name. “God hears.’ It was thus a perpetual
reminder to its bearer of a grand religious truth, that GOD IS
ESSENTIALLY A HEARER OF PRAYER and that He is never far
from any of his intelligent and needy creatures.
Ø The occasion of his getting it.
o Before his birth, because the Lord had heard the affliction of his
o At his birth, because his father believed the report of Hagar
concerning the instruction of the angel.
o The verification of his name. When he lay beneath the shrub
God heard the voice of his distressful cry (ch. 21:17).
(A wonderful truth that God hears the cries of babies
and his adult children also! CY - 2018)
Ø Proclaimed his dignity. Though not a prince in the Church, he was a
prince in the world, being Abraham’s immediate descendant, Grace
runs not in the blood, earthly rank does.
Ø Bespoke his privilege. Jehovah reckoned it a great thing for Ishmael
that he was Abraham’s seed. To be the offspring of those who are exalted
in earthly station is a special honor, though not so great an honor as to be
descended from those who are eminent in grace.
Ø Implied his responsibility. Degrees of rank in society are of God’s
ordaining, and involve the recipients thereof in corresponding
obligations (Luke 12:48).
Ø Princely in rank. This quality they received by birth, being Ishmael's
Ø Many in number. They were twelve princes, and as such they developed
into large and flourishing tribes and nations. This characteristic was due
to grace, God having promised that kings and nations should spring from
Ø Influential in power. The twelve princes mentioned were powerful
chieftains of as many clans.
Ø The time. At 137 years. The days of all, even of princes, in this life are
Ø The manner. “He expired.” “There is no man that hath power over
the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of
death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall
wickedness deliver those that are given to it." (Ecclesiastes 8:8)
Ø The result. “He was gathered unto his people,” passing to the company
of those who were like-minded with himself in the unseen world, as
Abraham went to enjoy the society of those who were of kindred spirit
his brethren,” i.e. his empire was:
Ø Outside of Canaan. He had no part or lot in the inheritance of Isaac.
Neither have the world s princes as such any share in the heritage of
Ø Among the tribes of earth. And so the worldly man’s portion is of the
Ø How comparatively unimportant the world’s biographies are in the
judgment of the Spirit.
Ø How the children of the wicked often outnumber the offspring of the
Ø How it is appointed unto all men once to die, though not to all to die
alike. (There is a "second death" - Thank God that it is not required
of all, as the first death is, but all who put their trust in Jesus Christ are
exempt! The biblical formula is:
o Born once, die twice. [birth of your mother and physical and
o Born twice, die once. [birth of your mother and the new birth
in Jesus Christ, and physical death] CY - 2018)
Ø How certain it is that the wicked and the good shall be separated after
death, since at death both are gathered unto their respective peoples.
Ø How clearly and minutely God fulfils the promises He makes to wicked
men no less. than to good.
19 “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:”
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son. The usual formula for the
opening of a new section (compare ch. 2:4). Abraham begat Isaac. A reiteration in
perfect harmony not only with the style of the present narrative, but of ancient
historiography in general; in this instance specially designed to connect the subsequent
streams of Isaac's posterity with their original fountain-head in Abraham.
20 “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.”
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, - the valuable
chronological fact here stated for the first time proves that Isaac was married three
years after his mother's death (compare ch. 23:1) - the daughter of Bethuel the
Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian (see on ch. 22:23; 24:29).
Though a descendant of Arphaxad (ch. 10:24), Bethuel is styled a Syrian, or
Aramaean, from the country of his adoption. On Padanaram see ch. 24:10.
21 “And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren:
and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
And Isaac entreated - from a root signifying to burn incense, hence to pray,
implying, as some think (Wordsworth, 'Speaker s Commentary'), the use of
incense in patriarchal worship; but perhaps only pointing to the fact that the
prayers of the godly ascend like incense (Gesenius): compare Tobit 12:12; Acts 10:4.
The word is commonly regarded as noting precum multiplicationem, et vehementiam
et perseverantiam (
vs. 21-23 are the composition of the Jehovist (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson, et alii), but
because the desired son was to be the heir of promise (Hengstenberg). The less
frequent occurrence of the Divine name in the Thol-doth of Isaac than in those
of Terah has been explained by the fact that the historical matter of the later portion
furnishes less occasion for its introduction than that of the earlier; and the
predominance of the name Elohim over that of Jehovah in the second stage of
the patriarchal history has been partly ascribed to the employment after Abraham's
time of such like equivalent expressions as "God of Abraham" and "God of my
father" (Keil) - for his wife, - literally, opposite to his wife, i.e. beside his wife,
placing himself opposite her, and conjoining his supplications with hers
(Ainsworth, Bush); or, better, in behalf of his wife (Septuagint, Vulgate, Calvin,
Keil, Kalisch), i.e. setting her over against him as the sole object to which he
had regard in his intercessions (Luther) - because she was barren: - as Sarah had
been before her (see ch. 11:30); the long-continued sterility of both having been
designed to show partly that "children are the heritage of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3),
but chiefly that the children of the promise were to be not simply the fruit of nature,
BUT THE GIFT OF GRACE and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah
his wife conceived (compare Romans 9:10).
22 “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.” And the children struggled
together within her. The verb is expressive of a violent internal commotion, as if the
unborn children had been dashing against one another in her womb. Compare the story
of Acrisius and Praetus, who quarreled before birth about their subsequent dominion
(Apollod., II. 2. 1). See Rosenmüller, Scholia, in loco. And she said, If it be so, why
am I thus? Literally, If so, why thus (am) I? Of obscure import, but probably meaning,
"If so," i.e. if it is the case that I have conceived, "for what am I thus?" what is the
reason of these unwonted sensations that accompany my pregnancy? Aben Ezra,
Calvin, Lange, Murphy); rather than, "If such be the sufferings of pregnancy, why
did I seek to conceive?" (Rashi, Rosenmüller), or, why have I conceived? (Vulgate,
Onkelos, Bush, Ainsworth), or, why do I yet live? (Syriac, Keil, Kalisch, Delitzsch).
And she went to inquire of the Lord. Not by Urim (Bohlen), since this method of
inquiring at the Deity did not then exist (Numbers 27:21); but either through a
prophet, - Shem (Luther), Melchisedeck (Jewish interpreters), Heber (Lyra); more
likely Abraham (Grotius, Ainsworth, Wordsworth, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary'),
or Isaac, the prophet nearest her (Lange), - or through herself by prayer, as in Psalm
34:5 (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, Inglis). The language seems to imply
that by this time there was a regularly-appointed place for the worship of God by
prayer and sacrifice - Theodoret suggests the family altar; Delitzsch, Hagar's well.
23 “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.” And the Lord said
unto her, - in a dream (Havernick), a form of revelation peculiar to primitive times
communicated directly to herself, or spoken through the medium of a prophet, the
Divine response to her interrogation assumed an antistrophic and poetical form,
in which she was informed that her unborn sons were to be the founders of two
mighty nations, who, "unequal in power, should be divided rivalry and antagonism
from their youth" - Two nations are in thy womb (i.e. the ancestors and founders
of two nations, vie., the Israelites and Idumeans), and two manner of people shall
be separated from thy bowels; - literally, and two peoples from thy bowels
(or womb) are separated, i.e. proceeding from thy womb, they shall be divided
from and against each other - and the one people shall be stronger than the
other people (literally, and people shall be stronger than people, i.e. the one
shall prevail over the other); and the elder shall serve the younger - i.e. the
descendants of the elder shall be subject to those of the younger. See inspired
24 “And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in
her womb.” And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, - literally, and were
fulfilled her days to bring forth; ἐπληρώθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτην -
Jarchi accounts for the different phrase used of Thamar (ch. 38:27), who also bore
twins, by supposing that she had not completed her days, but gave birth to Pharez
and Zarah in the seventh month (see Rosenmüller, in loco) - behold, there were twins
in her womb (compare ibid. where the full form of the word for twins is given).
25“And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called
his name Esau.” And the first came out red, - Adhoni, πυῥῤάκης – purrakaes –
fire colored red (Septuagint), rufus (Vulgate), red-haired (Gesenius), of a reddish
color (Lange), containing an allusion to Adham, the red earth - all over like an
hairy garment. Literally, all of him as a cloak of hair (not, as the Septuagint.,
Vulgate, et alii, all of him hairy, like a cloak); the fur cloak, or hair mantle,
forming one notion (Gesenius). The appearance of the child's body, covered with
an unusual quantity of red hair, was "a sign of excessive sensual vigor and wildness"
(Keil), "a foreboding of the animal violence of his character" (Kalisch), "the
indication of a passionate and precocious nature" (Murphy). And they called
his name Esau - "the hairy one," from an unused root signifying to be covered
with hair (Gesenius).
26 “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.” And after that came his brother out, and his hand took
hold on Esau's heel. The infinitive construction standing for the finite verb
(Ewald's 'Hebrews Synt.,' 304). Not simply followed close upon the heels of
Esau (Kalisch), but seized Esau's heel, as if he would trip him up (Keil, Murphy).
It has been contended (De Wette, Schumann, Knobel) that such an act was impossible,
a work on obstetrics by Busch maintaining that an hour commonly intervenes between
the birth of twins; but practitioners of eminence who have been consulted declare the
act to be distinctly possible, and indeed it is well known that "a multitude of surprising
phenomena are connected with births" (Havernick), some of which are not greatly
dissimilar to that which is here recorded. Delitzsch interprets the language as meaning
only that the hand of Jacob reached out in the direction of his brother's heel, as if to
grasp it; but Hosea 12:3 explicitly asserts that he had his brother's heel by the hand
while yet in his mother's womb. And his name was called - literally, and he (i.e. one)
called his name; καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ - kai ekalese to onoma autou
(Septuagint); id circo appellavit eum (Vulgate; compare ch. 16:14; 27:36) –
Jacob. Not "Successor," like the Latin secundus, from sequor (Knobel, Kalisch);
but "Heel-catcher" (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Keil, Lange, Murphy), hence
Supplanter. And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. Literally,
in the bearing of them, the infinitive construction, taking the case of its verb
(see Gesenius, § 133) - when she (the mother) bare them; ὄτε ἔτεκεν αὐτοὺς
Ῥεβέκκα – ote eteken autous Rebecca (Septuagint); quum nati sunt parvuli
(Vulgate); though, as Rebekah's name does not occur in the immediate context,
the clause may be rendered when he (Isaac) begat them (Kalisch, Afford).
The Childless Pair (vs. 19-26)
Ø The grievous affliction. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, was barren. Though
neither uncommon nor unjust, this was to Isaac:
o a specially severe affliction, from its long continuance, from his love
for Rebekah, from his own natural desire of offspring, but chiefly
from his faith in the promise;
o a highly beneficial affliction, serving:
§ to instruct and discipline his faith as to the true character
of the children of the promise,
§ to refine and intensify his affection for Rebekah,
§ to purify and elevate his own spiritual life, and
§ to enable him to realize his complete dependence
on THE GRACE OF GOD!
Ø The earnest intercession. “Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife.” Isaac’s
o directed to the right quarter, since “children are the heritage of the
Lord;” (Psalm 127:3)
o conceived in the right spirit, the word “entreated” implying earnest
and repeated application to the heavenly throne;
o stated in the right way, with plainness and simplicity of speech; and
o seconded by the right helper, Rebekah, according to one reading of the
text, joining her entreaties with her husband’s. Husbands and wives
should be helpers, not hinderers, of each other’s prayers. (I Peter
Ø The gracious response. The Lord was entreated of Isaac, and Rebekah
conceived. Note the character of God as the Hearer of prayer, the habitual
practice of God, which is to listen to His people’s supplications, the power
which belongs to prayer of being able to prevail with God, and the special
virtue which resides in united prayer (Matthew 18:19).
Ø The unwonted experience. In two respects the pregnancy of Rebekah
was unusual. First, she had never conceived before; and secondly, the
attendant sensations were uncommon. Great mercies are often
accompanied by great discomforts to prevent gracious souls from
resting in the gifts and neglecting the Giver.
Ø The remarkable interrogation. “Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord.”
Her conduct was remarkable for the impatience it displayed, the piety it
evinced, the faith it implied. If in her querulous exclamation there was
sin, in her seeking to God with her anxiety there were grace and faith.
Ø The mysterious oracle. This contained three distinct announcements:
o the first hopeful, that Rebekah should be the mother of twins;
o the second painful, that, besides being mutually antagonistic
from their birth, her two sons should develop into hostile
o the third unusual, that the elder should serve the younger.
Ø Her days were fulfilled. A special mercy which pregnant mothers can
Ø Her sons were born. Another cause of rejoicing to a mother (John 16:21).
o Their names. “Esau and Jacob.” Names of men are sometimes
prophetic of both character and condition.
o Their birth: remarkable for the singular phenomenon by which
it was accompanied. Jacob’s holding of Esau’s heel was intended
to foreshadow the early character of Jacob, his future over-
reaching of Esau, and his ultimate precedence in grace.
The first in nature is often last in grace.
Between nature and grace there is perpetual antagonism.
The great achievements of gracious souls have sometimes
fore-shadowings in nature.
o Their appearance. Esau red like a hairy cloak; Jacob
catching Esau’s heel. The boy is oft the father of the man.
Ø Her husband was spared. “Isaac was threescore years old when she
bare them.” A third mercy not always granted to mothers, to retain their
husbands to participate in their maternal joys (I Samuel 4. 19).
Ø That children in a home are a special mark of Divine favor.
Ø That anxious wives and mothers should carry their troubles to
Ø That the future histories and destinies of children are known to
God, if not to their parents.
Ø That mothers of families have peculiar joys as well as special sorrows.
27 “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 the boys grew: and Esau
was a cunning hunter, - literally, skilled in hunting; εἰδὼς κυνηγεῖν – eidos
kunaegein (Septuagint) gnarus venandi (Vulgate); a sportsman - a man of the field;
not a husbandman, homo agricola (Vulgate), who is differently denominated –
ish haadhamah (ch. 9:20); but one addicted to roaming through the fields in search
of sport - ἀγροικὸς – agroikos (Septuagint); an indication of the rough, fiery nature
and wild, adventurous life of the elder of the two brothers - and Jacob was a plain man,
- תָּם = ἄπλαστος – aplastos (Septuagint); simplex (Vulgate); integer, i.e. mitis, of mild
and gentle manners (Rosenmüller); blameless, as a shepherd (Knobel); pious (Luther);
righteous (Kalisch); obviously intended to describe Jacob as, both in character and life,
the antithesis of Esau - dwelling in tents - i.e. loving to stay at home, as opposed to
Esau, who loved to wander afield; preferring a quiet, peaceable, domestic, and pious
manner of existence to a life of "excitement, adventure, and danger," such as captivated
The Cunning Hunter and the Plain Man (v. 27)
Ø that of material force and
Ø that of moral power,
are thus represented in contrast and rivalry.
partialities of the parents foster the special faults of the children. Esau is
more the man of fleshly impulse because Isaac loved him for his venison.
Jacob is more the crafty supplanter because Rebekah by her favoritism
encouraged him to take advantage of his brother.
OF CHARACTER. The sins of parents are generally in some form
transmitted to children.
Ø Esau’s new name was Edom, memento of his
selfish succumbing to appetite.
Ø Jacob’s new name was Israel, memento of
the victory which by the grace of God he obtained.
“Esau despised his birthright.” It was the natural working of a
sensual nature. We begin by yielding to the lower impulses without
thinking how they bind their cords round us.
The chains of habit are too light to be felt until
they are too strong to be broken.
At last we lose the power of distinguishing a mere passing evil
from an overwhelming danger, and when we ought to fight, cry,
I am at the point to die; then in wretched collapse ALL GOES!
What is this birthright, what profit?
Ø The loss of the sense of responsibility.
Ø The absorbing hunger after present gratification.
Ø The blindness to all proportion in life.
Ø The dullness and stupidity of the animalism which does not even
care for the very BIRTHRIGHT ITSELF, though it is an earthly
These are the fearful payments which they have to render who, like Esau,
give themselves up to a mere life of the flesh.
28 “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved
Jacob.” And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: - literally, because
his hunting (i.e. its produce) was in his mouth; ὁτι ἡ θήρα αὐτοῦ βρῶσις αὐτῳ - hoti
hae thaera autou brosis auto (Septuagint); not perhaps the sole reason for Isaac's
preference of Esau, though mentioned here because of its connection with the
ensuing narrative. Persons of quiet and retiring disposition, like Isaac, are often
fascinated by those of more sparkling and energetic temperament, such as Esau;
mothers, on the other hand, are mostly drawn towards children that are gentle in
disposition and home-keeping in habit. Accordingly it is added - but Rebekah
29 “And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:”
And Jacob sod pottage: - literally, cooked something cooked; ἔψησε δὲ Ἱακὼβ
ἕψημα – epsaese de Iakob epsaema (Septuagint); prepared boiled food, of lentils
(see on v. 34) - and Esau came from the field, and he was faint - exhausted, the
term being used of one who is both wearied and languishing (compare Job 22:7;
30 “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage;
for I am faint: therefore was his name
Feed me (literally, let me swallow, an expression for eating greedily), I pray thee,
with that same red pottage; - literally, of that red, red (sc. pottage), or thing, in
his excitement forgetting the name of the dish (Knobel), or indicative of the haste
produced by his voracious appetite (Wordsworth, Luther), though the duplication
of the term red has been explained as a witty play upon the resemblance of the
lentil broth to his own red skin, as thus: "Feed with that red me the red one" (Lange) –
for I am faint (vide supra, v. 29): therefore was his name called
"There is no discrepancy in ascribing his name both to his complexion and the
color of the lentil broth. The propriety of a name may surely be marked by
different circumstances" (A. G. in Lunge). The Arabians are fond of giving
surnames of that kind to famous persons. Compare Akil-al Murat, which was
given to Hodjr, king of the Kendites, owing to his wife saying in a passion,
"He is like a camel that devours bushes" (vide Havernick, 'Introduction,' § 18).
31 “And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.” And Jacob said, Sell me
this day - literally, as the day; as clearly as the day (Jarchi, Kimchi, Drusius);
immediately, statim (Rosenmüller); perhaps simply today, σήμερον – saemeron –
thy birthright. The right of primogeniture in the family of Abraham implied
Under the Mosaic institute the privileges of the firstborn were clearly defined.
They involved succession to:
32 “And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this
birthright do to me?” And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: - literally,
going to die; meaning, "on the eve of expiring," through hunger; "ex animo testetur
se mortis sensu urgeri" (Calvin); or, "liable to death," through the dangerous pursuits
of his daily calling (Ainsworth, Bush, Rosenmüller); or, what is most probable, "on the
way to meet death" - uttered in a spirit of Epicurean levity, "Let us eat and drink,
for to-morrow we die" (Keil, Kalisch) - and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
- literally, of what (use) this (thing) to me, (called) a birthright? signifying, according
to the sense attached to the foregoing expression, either, Of what use can a birthright
be to a man dying of starvation? or, The birthright is not likely ever to be of service
to me, who am almost certain to be cut off soon by a violent and sudden death; on
What signifies a birthright whose enjoyment is all in the future to a man who has
only a short time to live? I prefer present gratifications to deferred felicities.
Esau, the Spiritually Indifferent (v. 32)
“What profit shall the birthright do to me?” There was very much in Esau
which would be greatly admired. He was of good humor, off-handed,
manly, open, daring, and fond of field sports. He, and not Jacob, would in
society have carded off the palm. He was a fair sample of a worldling. He
knew nothing of the consecration of heart to God, or of spiritual
aspirations. In the narrative we see how he showed indifference to the
birthright, which carried with it certain spiritual advantages. He came in
faint from the field, and the wafted odor of Jacob’s savory lentils filled him
with longing. For a share in a mess of pottage he parted with his birthright.
MATERIAL, NATURAL, AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. We may
enjoy all the blessings God may shower upon us and not think of them as
coming from God. We undervalue the gift of life, and the various means by
which God has arranged that life shall be sustained. Then we forget that
God preserves to us reason and the power of acquiring knowledge. But
there are spiritual advantages analogous to those which Esau despised
which we may treat indifferently.
Ø Authority and honor as the firstborn.
Ø A double portion of his father’s possessions.
Ø The privilege of the priesthood. Evidently the eldest son acted as the
priest of the family in offering the sacrifices, and the priestly garb
was kept for him. It was this that Rebekah had by her, and which
she put on Jacob to deceive Isaac.
Ø The peculiar blessing of his father, which was bestowed with
solemnity. A covenant was ratified by eating, and hence Isaac
sent out Esau to prepare venison; but Rebekah forestalled him.
Ø Included in that blessing of Isaac was the promise made by God to
Abraham, and which was to be handed on from one generation to
It was for this Jacob longed. He rightly appraised the spiritual advantages
connected with it. Though there was much that was mean in his character
at first, he had these spiritual desires and faith in God not possessed by his
brother. These brothers were twins, yet how diverse their character. It may
have been that Jacob, knowing he was of equal age, felt he had an equal
right to be accounted the firstborn. This may be said by way of excuse for
that which otherwise would appear outrageous and mean. Probably when
Esau said he was “at the point of death” he only meant it in the same way
that we say “we are dying of hunger.” Jacob asked the transfer because he
knew his brother cared little about it, and because he may have heard him
express his indifference to it. Jacob could not have taken it by violence, and
Esau should have refused the suggestion with an emphatic “no;” say, “I
will rather die than part with that.” Esau may have even smiled at Jacob for
caring so much about that which was of such little worth to him A
depraved heart made him:
Ø ungrateful, and
UNDERVALUED BECOMES OF GREATEST WORTH, AND WHEN
IT MAY BE BEYOND OUR REACH. It was probably about twenty years
after Esau had parted with his birthright that Isaac felt one day that his end
was approaching, and desired to bless his son before he died. He was
ignorant of the transfer which had been made. Esau deceived his father. He
ignored a solemn compact. He would now rob his brother. He comes back
perspiring and exhausted from the field, thinking that anyhow he has
earned his father’s blessing. He finds that Jacob has acted in his right and
obtained the blessing. His own mother frustrates him, believing that she
was acting rightly for her son Jacob. We can see how questionable were
her doings, but we must not measure’ her nor Jacob by present moral
standards. Esau weeps, “What, no blessing for thy firstborn?” He gets a
blessing, but not the best. Deep his regret. He sees now his folly in its true
light. “No place for repentance,” &c. means no chance of repairing the
mischief. (Hebrews 12:17) Thus things done thoughtlessly in youth may
have fearful consequences later in life! Like:
Ø Neglect of educational advantages,
Ø incurring of debt,
Ø acquirement of habits,
Ø rejection of advice, and
Ø withstanding religious impressions.
As the icicle freezes one drop at a time, so character is gradually formed.
It depends on the water as to what the icicle will be. If muddy and
tinged, the frozen mass will not be transparent; clear or thick, it
is frozen and fixed, and will never be altered until dissolved altogether.
Where are the warm rays that are to change our character? Esau sought to
change his father’s mind, but it was useless. Our heavenly Father is always
willing to forgive if there be true repentance, but His forgiveness may not
conquer the fixed evil habit. So long as there is life none should despair.
See how David sinned, but he repented too. Esau lacked contrition. His
sorrow was only remorse. What if we are risking the loss of some great
spiritual advantage like to Esau’s! We shall discover it on the death-bed or
at the judgment bar. There is then a serious warning:
Ø To those who are trifling with religion. Can you push the cross aside,
and laugh on
Ø To those hardening their hearts in neglect. An old man once said to
me, “It is no use talking of religion to me now; I am past it. There was
a time once when I felt, but now I cannot.” (See ch. 6:3 - God said,
"….My spirit shall not always strive with man." Also, it is "the
goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance!" - Romans 2:4 - CY -
2018) To those who think it will be easier to repent and do the right
later in life, God promises pardon when we repent, but He does
not promise to prolong life. Probably there is not one perspm who has
not heard this warning before, therefore it is to be feared it will be as
unavailing at the preceding. Oh, Holy Spirit, forbid that it should.
33 “And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold
his birthright unto Jacob.” And Jacob said, Swear to me this day. On the
expression "this day" vide supra, v. 31. The conduct of Jacob in this transaction is
difficult to defend Though aware of the heavenly oracle that assigned to him the
precedence in his father s house, he was far from being justified in endeavoring,
by "cautious, prudent, and conciliatory proposals" (Murphy), but rather by
unbelieving impatience, despicable meanness, and miserable craft, to anticipate
Divine providence, which in due time without his assistance would have
implemented its own designs. And he sware unto him. If Jacob's demand of an
oath evinced ungenerous suspicion, Esau's giving of an oath showed a low sense
of honor (Lange). And he sold his birthright unto Jacob - thus meriting the
appellation of βέβηλος – bebaelos – profane (Hebrews 12:16).
Divine Purposes Unfolded (vs. 19-34)
We are now entering a new stage of the sacred history, where we are
looking less upon the development of one man’s character than upon the
unfolding purposes of Jehovah in the family with which He has made His
covenant. Again we are in the region of:
Ø Gracious interposition.
Ø Supernatural assistance of human infirmity.
Ø Prophetic announcements.
The atmosphere is that of the covenant. The children in the womb are two
nations. The history of great peoples is anticipated.
34 “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.” Then Jacob
gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils. "Lentiles (עֲדָשִׁים; Ervum lens) were and
are extensively and carefully grown
23:11); those of
of cooking them is even immortalized on monuments" (Kalisch). "The lentil does
not grow more than six or eight inches high, and is pulled like flax, not cut with the
sickle. When green it resembles an incipient pea-vine, only the leaves are differently
arranged, smaller and more delicate-somewhat like those of the mimosa, or sensitive
plant" (Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 596). And he did eat and drink, and rose up,
and went his way. A graphic portrait of an utterly carnal mind, which lives solely
in and for the immediate gratification of appetite. Thus Esau despised his birthright
and thus Scripture both proclaims his guilt and describes his offence.
The Twin Brothers (vs. 27-34)
Ø Diverse in daily calling. Esau elected to follow the adventurous and
roving life of a hunter; Jacob, the simpler and less exciting occupation of
keeping sheep. The principles that guided their respective choices are not
explained; but, like the selection of trades by other inexperienced youths,
these were doubtless due to physical constitution, mental temperament, the
influence of example, the effect of parental counsel, and above all the
overruling providence of God. Compare Cain and Abel (ch. 4:2).
Ø Unlike in personal character. Esau was a wild man in disposition no less
than in action, a youth of strong animal propensities and essentially
mundane proclivities. Jacob, without being religious, was quiet, sedate,
fond of home life, and studious of peace, though not without a vein of
duplicity in his soul’s texture. This diversity in character, not due to
parentage, birth, or education, which in both were alike, modem science
would explain by molecular arrangement. Biblical theology goes a step
beyond, and traces it to God (Romans 9:11).
Ø Divided in parental favor. Esau was loved by Isaac, Jacob by Rebekah.
Besides being sinful in itself — scarcely anything can justify partiality in
parental affection — the conduct of Isaac and Rebekah was more than
likely hurtful to the lads, leaving on their consciences a sense of injustice,
estranging them from each other in fraternal regard, and helping them
unconsciously to fulfill the untoward destiny of mutual rivalry and jealousy
already predicted for them.
Ø His famishing condition. If Esau was really faint, it indicated too great
eagerness in following his sports. Even in honorable callings and profitable
pursuits moderation is a duty. Romans 12:11 will assist traders and
merchants to preserve the golden mean between slothfulness and
slavishness in business. If Esau was not really faint, but only fatigued and
hungry, it was an instance of exaggerated talking which with some is
common, but by all should be avoided.
Ø His ravenous request. This indicated an impatient spirit, which the
words attempt to reproduce — a spirit characteristic of ill-balanced
natures, resulting most instances from unsubdued selfishness, betraying
frequently into sins and faults that might otherwise be avoided, and at all
times ill-befitting noble souls and renewed hearts. It also discovered a
gluttonous appetite. The glutton’s god is his belly, the glutton’s temple his
kitchen, the glutton’s high priest his cook, the gluttons ritual, Let us eat
and drink. Let saints beware of GLUTTONY! (Proverbs 23:2).
Ø The base proposal. “Sell me this day thy birthright.” Jacob’s desire to
deprive Esau of his right of primogeniture was envious, unbrotherly, and,
in the light of the pre-natal oracle, impatient and unbelieving. The
conditions of sale were mean, exacting, and selfish. That Jacob’s conduct
was the fruit of grace or faith is difficult to credit, though God, who often
works with despicable instruments, over-ruled it for the accomplishment of
His own designs.
Ø The foolish answer. “Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit
shall this birthright do to me?” An ejaculation discovering both contempt
for spiritual and doubt of future things; the very essence of epicureanism,
whether ancient or modern.
Ø The unholy oath. “Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him.” On the
part of both giver and receiver this was wrong. Neither had Esau right to
part with his birthright until God in His providence took it from him; nor
had Jacob the right to accept that birthright until God transferred it to his
Ø The unequal exchange. Jacob got the birthright; Esau got the pottage,
Esau the type of many who accept the devil’s bargain of the world (mostly
an infinitesimal fragment of it) FOR A SOUL! (Satan tried this with Jesus
Christ, but, thankfully - IT DIDN'T WORK! - see Matthew 4:1-11 - CY -
Neglect of Heavenly Things (v. 34)
“Thus Esau despised his birthright.” Strange and sad that truths so
important as those bearing on ETERNAL LIFE even where believed, often
exercise so slight influence. Yet so it is.
Ø How many like to hear the gospel in its fullness, and to be
warned against neglecting it, yet in their lives show
little of its power (Ezekiel 33:32).
Ø How many live, content to know truth, forgetting that all
our daily life tells for good or ill on our eternal life, and that
opportunities are passing away.
Ø How many, believing that in every being there is a soul to be
saved or lost, can yet see multitudes living in ungodliness without
effort or even prayer for their recovery (compare Luke 19:41).
Is not the spirit of Esau in these? He is called (Hebrews 12:16)
a “profane person.” Yet no crime or great fault is laid to his charge. There
is an attractiveness in his character. We see in him an impulsive,
thoughtless man; not what would be called a bad son; his father’s favorite;
having some regard to his parent’s wishes (ch. 28:8-9); but swayed by passing
things, and without self-denial. Hungry and weary with the chase, he craved
the food he saw (compare Matthew 4:3). BUT THE PRICE! His birthright!
the claim to a special benediction, the domestic priesthood (compare Exodus
22:29), were as nothing. He did not realize their value (compare Hebrews 11:1).
THE PRESENT WAS EVERYTHING? (compare I Corinthians 15:32).
The pleasant, genial, headlong man is pronounced “profane.”
19:24). The birthright despised not through sudden temptation or any
marked step of sin, but by worldly interests taking up the thoughts.
Customs and maxims of the world tend to the neglecting of the birthright
(compare Matthew 6:33). This is no ideal danger. No sharp line to tell when
danger begins. Things perfectly allowable, even laudable, may CHOKE
spiritual life. Even in good work the mind may be so engrossed in the work
itself that communion with God fades. There is need of habitual self-denial
(John 6:38); of keeping guard over the tendencies of daily life; of
definite aims, not passing wishes; of making personal communion
WITH GOD an essential part of each day’s work.
“Time enough, is a fatal mistake (Acts 24:25; II Corinthians 6:2).
So far as we know Esau never repented. Even when Jacob received the
blessing he was sorry, but there was no real change, no confession of error.
Self was still the ruling power.
I John 3:2). Not merely a future blessing. Thinking of it thus leads to
its being left out of view. Now there is:
Ø spirit of adoption,
Ø the Spirit’s witness in our hearts,
Ø freedom of access in prayer,
Ø promises to be realized in growing likeness to Christ and
Ø communion with Him!
Few would deliberately postpone to the end of life the claiming
their birthright and making sure of it, the work of repentance and faith,
and the casting away what has hindered. But many without set purpose
DO DELAY! Each time the call is put away is a victory for the tempter.
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