SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 15 Genesis 25

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis 25. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3
Genesis 4
Genesis 5-6
Genesis 7-9:17
Genesis 9:18-10:32
Genesis 11
Genesis 12-13
Genesis 14-15
Genesis 16
Genesis 17
Genesis 18-19
Genesis 20-22
Genesis 23-24

NOTE: Next week Prof. Pepperwinkle will start the thread for The Book of Revelation per request (and while I’m out of the country in Ireland). Book of Genesis will resume in two weeks.

Genesis 25

New International Version (NIV)

The Death of Abraham

25 Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

7 Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

Ishmael’s Sons

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.

Jacob and Esau

19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.
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1 Chronicles 1:32 calls Keturah a concubine. A number of commentators in the Midrash have identified her with Hagar, and say that Hagar’s change of name to Keturah (a reference to incense used in worship) was symbolic of the pleasantness of her teshuvah (repentance) from her sinfulness during her exile. Each of these views finds Scriptural support for its position: the three-wife opinion relies on Gen. 25:1: “Abraham took another wife,” implying a third wife, in addition to the first two. This school of thought is further bolstered by the fact that this wife also had a different name (Keturah); in addition, the plural wording of Gen. 25:6 (“to Abraham’s sons by concubines”) conveys that Abraham had at least two wives in addition to Sarah.

Those who identify Keturah with Hagar have rejoinders to each of these proofs. First, the wording “another [va-yosef]” in 25:1 teaches that these marriages were in fulfillment of a divine command; the proponents of this view learn this from Isa. 8:5: “Again [va-yosef] the Lord spoke to me,” where the word appears in the context of divine revelation. Second, the wife’s new name of Keturah does not necessarily teach that this was a different woman; rather, it was a name given to Hagar in recognition of her good qualities (see below). Third, the word pilegshim (concubines) in Gen. 25:6 is spelled deficiently, without the letter yod. The intent of the Torah was thus to only a single concubine, Hagar (Gen. Rabbah 61:4).

Josephus mentions Keturah and her sons in Antiquities of the Jews.

The children of Keturah are depicted as waste that issued from Abraham (Sifrei on Deuteronomy 312). Zimran and Jokshan were so called because they would sing (mezamrim) and beat (mekishim) on a drum for idolatrous purposes (Gen. Rabbah 61:5). When God wished to give the Torah, He offered it to the children of Keturah and to the Ishmaelites, but they refused to accept it, since they could not abandon the robbery and theft on which their lives were based (Midrash Tannaim on Deut. 33:2).

The children of Keturah and of Ishmael did not receive Abraham’s blessing; the midrash stresses that this was an intentional decision on Abraham’s part. He said to himself: “If I bless Isaac now, I will also have to bless the children of Ishmael and of Keturah; but if I do not bless them, how will I be able to bless Isaac? Surely what He wants in His world will happen.” And so it happened that after Abraham’s death, God revealed Himself to Isaac and blessed him, as his father had intended to do (Gen. Rabbah 61:6).

In the 18th Century, some writers believed that Keturah was the ancestor of African peoples, thereby explaining the similarities between some African and Jewish customs. Olaudah Equiano cites John Gill’s claim to this effect in his Interesting Narrative. Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain states in Donmeh West’s "Commentary on Rabbi Azriel of Gerona’s 12th Century that the children of Keturah moved Eastwards and were ancestors to the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto, which then should be counted as Abrahamic religions.

The Death of Abraham

He died 100 years after he came to Canaan. Some Arabic writers say that he died in the month of Nisan, others say Adar, in the year of the world 3563; but, according to Bishop Usher, he died A. M. 2183, or 1821 B.C.E.

Ishmael’s Descendants

The book of Jubilees places the location and identity of the Ishmaelites as the Arab peoples residing in Arab territories. This appears to be the current view for the majority of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths.

**Esau **

Esau was also known as Edom, the progenitor of the Edomites who were established to the south of the Israelites. They were an enemy nation of Israel. The minor prophets, such as Obadiah, claim that the Edomites participated in the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. Exactly how the Edomites participated is not clear. Psalm 137 (“By the waters of Babylon”) suggests merely that Edom had encouraged the Babylonians: The Lord is asked to “remember against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said ‘raze it, raze it to its foundations’” (Psalm 137: 7). But the prophecy of Obadiah insists on the literal “violence done” by Esau “unto your brother Jacob” when the Edomites “entered the gate of my people…, looted his goods…, stood at the parting of the ways to cut off the fugitive,… delivered up his survivors on his day of distress” (Obadiah 10:13-14). By the intertestamental period, Edom had replaced Babylon as the nation that actually burned the Temple (“Thou hast also vowed to build thy temple, which the Edomites burned when Judah was laid waste by the Chaldees” [1 Esdras 45]).

Hebrews 12:15–16 depicts Esau as unspiritual for thoughtlessly throwing away his birthright. Romans 9:13 references the “hatred” for Esau.

Jewish commentaries have shed a negative view on Esau because of his rivalry with Jacob. He is considered to be a rebellious son who kept a double life until he was 15, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. According to the Talmud, the sale of the birthright took place immediately after Abraham died. The Talmudic dating would give both Esau and Jacob an age of 15 at the time. It is also suggested that the death of Abraham on the same day was appropriate, so that he would not witness the demise of his grandson Esau. The lentils Jacob was cooking were meant for his father Isaac, because lentils are the traditional mourner’s meal for Jews.

In the Book of Jubilees, Esau’s father, Isaac, compels Esau to swear not to attack or kill Jacob after Isaac has died. However, after the death of Isaac, the sons of Esau convince their father to lead them, and hired mercenaries, against Jacob in order to kill Jacob and his family and seize their wealth (especially the portion of Isaac’s wealth that Isaac had left to Jacob upon his death). In the ensuing battle, then the brothers come and make peace.

There’s another tale in which Esau kills King Nimrod:
On the day of Abraham’s death, Esau had been out in the fields as usual. He had lost his way and was trying to find his way back, when King Nimrod arrived with two servants. Esau hid behind a rock, and when Nimrod was left unguarded, he killed him and fought the two servants who rushed to the aid of their master. Esau escaped with King Nimrod’s clothes. These were Adam’s garments which later became the property of Noah; Noah’s son Ham, who was Nimrod’s grandfather, had subsequently become their owner, and finally Nimrod had acquired them. These divine clothes had made Nimrod a powerful and skillful hunter and a mighty ruler over all other kings. Now Esau had come into possession of the most valuable and cherished property a hunter could desire. (from

Another story has Esau culpable for Isaac’s blindness, which came from his grief at the idolatrous practices of Esau’s wives.

When Esau was born with his whole body like a hairy garment, was that meant to disparage the typically hirsute Arabs?

I doubt it. In Hebrew, the name Esau means “hairy” (Heb: se’ir) a wordplay on Seir, the region he settled in Edom after being 40 years of age where he became the progenitor of the Edomites. The name Edom is also attributed to Esau, meaning “red” (Heb: `admoni); the same color describing Esau’s skintone. There’s also a parallel to his redness in the “red lentil pottage” that he sold his birthright for. While there are stories where the origins of a tribe are shown in highly disfavorable terms, I just don’t see Esau’s hairiness being one of them.


I don’t think so. I think it’s just to set up the “feel of the hands” test that blind Isaac did on Jacob when he gave the blessing, two chapters from now.

For documentary theory: various bits and pieces here come from different authors, and there’s a lot of guesswork involved.

Note that Isaac and Ishmael bury Abraham (25:9); so, while there may have been other children, only these two have legitimate status of “sons.” And they’re cited in order of importance (for the story), not birth. Note that Ishmael has returned, since God had promised to protect him. Abraham is buried next to Sarah in the cave of Machpelah (which we discussed back in Chapter 23.) [This paragraph, verses 7 – 11, is probably the P-author.]

Note that Ishmael has 12 sons. Later, Esau and Jacob will also have 12 sons each – 12 is a highly symbolic number, the signs of the zodiac, months in the year, etc., symbolizing the powers of heaven.

In verse 20, Isaac is forty years old. The number 40 is used in the text to symbolize a new world or generational change. Hence, the Flood rains for 40 days and 40 nights, indicating that the world is born anew (or, if you like, generational change.) (We’ll see that again when Moses is on the mountain for 40 days, the Israelites wander for 40 years, and 40 year periods are standard in the book of Judges, etc and even in the New Testament, Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days.)

In verse 21, the word “prayed” is better translated “pleaded.” The Hebrew implies a plea made by X on behalf of Y, doesn’t appear often in the text. Later, in Exodus 8, Moses will plea before Pharaoh on behalf of the slaves.

Note in verse 22, Rebekah “went to inquire.” The word “inquire” is D-R-Sh, the root of the word midrash (stories and exposition based on the text.) Also, she “went” (lit, walked) to inquire; Rebekah is almost always involved in going, walking – the verb often used with Abraham that implies they are headed for some destiny.

The birthright was a standard right of primogeniture; the firstborn gets double the inheritance. [Sale of birthright story is usually attributed to the J-author.] The bible often undermines the notion of the firstborn, while recognizing that society favors the first child/son. However, the later text (Deut 21:15 – 17) indicates that it was once acceptable for the father to ignore birth-order. Jacob does this twice, with his own children and with Joseph’s children. The firstborn child (including first fruits and male first of herd/flock) was considered to have special status, “belonging to God,” but most of the biblical heroes to follow (Judah, Joseph, Moses, David, etc) are not the firstborn. There’s a theme that God chooses whomever God chooses, and is not constrained by societaal conventions.

Rabbinic commentary portrays Esau as evil, but that’s not the plain reading of the text. Much later, under Roman rule, the term Edom was used in rabbinic (talmudic) discussions as code when they wanted to refer to Rome, so that they wouldn’t be accused of treason.

The NIV translation of verse 30 is weak. Better would be, “Give me some of that very red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished.” The phrase “gulp down” is used for feeding animals; the use here is unique (according to Sarna) and implies Esau is boorish and ill-mannered.
The word “red” is repeated; this is typical biblical use to emphasize. KJV often uses “verily” to imply the stress (“red, verily red”) and it probably indicated “deep red.”

Note in verse 34, after selling his birthright, Esau just gets up and leaves. He doesn’t quarrel with Jacob about how he was coerced. Thus, we are told that Esau spurned the birthright. Also, although Esau sold it, Jacob didn’t buy it. In biblical legal style, such as the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah, we are told both who sold and who acquired. The omission of that side indicates that the sale wasn’t really the means by which Jacob becomes the carrier of the tradition and God’s favor.

CK Dexter Haven:

To be clear, Deuteronomy does not say that birth order cannot be ignored EXCEPT where the father’s only reason for ignoring it is his affection or lack of it toward the children’s different mothers. If there is a worthiness/unworthiness in the children themselves, he may still override birth order over that.

And this is still true of firstborn male as well. They need to be redeemed by a payment of 5 silver coins to a Kohen.

Esau and Jacob: the original Goofus and Gallant.

I don’t see how it’s omitted, it says that “Esau sold his birthright to Jacob.” It’s clear that Jacob is the other party to the transaction, not that Esau simply abandoned the birthright without a specific expectation of whose it would become.

Compare to Gen 23:16ff: “Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named …So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded to Abraham.”
Similarly, Jacob purchases land (Gen 33:19) and the text says, “The parcel of land… he pruchased from the children on Hamor…”
And II Samuel 24:24, “… So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”

In all those cases, the text specifically mentions who BUYS; with Jacob/Esau the text talks about who SELLS.

The distinction is, perhaps, a fine one (but then, splitting hairs over the text is a 3000-year old tradition :wink: ), but here Esau sells his birthright, but the text does NOT say that Jacob bought the birthright. Jacob never uses the selling of the birthright as an argument, it’s a stand-alone story. Jacob inherits because of his personality and adherence to tradition (and some later trickery, of course), but not because of some (silly) contractual deal.

Thanks, cmkeller, for the clarifications on the other first-born text. (Since I’m a Levite, I didn’t need to do any purchasing of my first-born, nor did my son.)

And just a quick note to say:

Happy Hanukkah!

Slight hijack to do some exegesis on Romans–here Paul’s using the story of Esau and Jacob (quoting from other parts of the OT) to illustrate his understanding of the doctrine of predestination. Esau was “hated” (not favored) even in the womb, but as Hebrews points out Esau then proves himself to be supremely unworthy via selling his birthright (implying that he didn’t give a whit about leading the clan as the next patriarch).

Though, personally, I do think Esau himself came around, more on that when we get there. And I definitely don’t think that Jacob’s inherently a better candidate–it’ll take a couple of decades of wrestling with God (literally and metaphorically) before he lives up to the blessings that are given to him.

We’re not going to get into the reason for that until Exodus, though.


Which is also true of the firstborn animals, which Dex mentioned in the post I responded to. I was just making the point that the ritual “specialness” of firstborn sons is not a thing of the past, but is still an aspect of today’s Judaic practice.

New thread Genesis 26:1-33