Genesis (Part 103)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis: 25: 1-6

Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

After Sarah dies, at some point, Abraham remarries and begins fathering a LOT of children. The Bible tells us his new wife is named Keturah.

Keturah = קְטוּרָה Qᵉṭûwrâh, ket-oo-raw’; feminine passive participle of H6999; perfumed; Keturah, a wife of Abraham:—Keturah.; קָטַר qâṭar, kaw-tar’; a primitive root (identical with through the idea of fumigation in a close place and perhaps thus driving out the occupants); to smoke, i.e. turn into fragrance by fire (especially as an act of worship):—burn (incense, sacrifice) (upon), (altar for) incense, kindle, offer (incense, a sacrifice).

There is a tradition that Keturah and Hagar are one and the same. From the Jewish Women’s Archives:

The Lit. (from Aramaic teni) “to hand down orally,” “study,” “teach.” A scholar quoted in the Mishnah or of the Mishnaic era, i.e., during the first two centuries of the Common Era. In the chain of tradition, they were followed by the amora’im.Tannaim disagree regarding Keturah’s identity. According to one view, Abraham remarried after the death of Sarah and had a total of three wives: Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah. Another tradition identifies Keturah with Hagar, and thus Abraham married only twice. 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).

The view that was widely accepted by the Rabbis is the one which identifies Keturah with Hagar, and it appears in various midrashim.

Further, from Wiki:

Keturah is mentioned in two passages of the Hebrew Bible: in the Book of Genesis, and also in the First Book of Chronicles. Additionally, she is mentioned in Antiquities of the Jews by the 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, in the Talmud, the Midrash, the Targum on the Torah, the Genesis Rabbah, and various other writings of Jewish theologians and philosophers.

Louis Feldman has said “Josephus records evidence of the prolific non-Jewish polymath Alexander Polyhistor, who, in turn, cites the historian Cleodemus Malchus, who states that two of the sons of Abraham by Keturah joined Heracles‘ campaign in Africa, and that Heracles, without doubt the greatest Greek hero of them all, married the daughter of one of them.”

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(1) Then again Abraham took a wife.—This rendering implies that Abraham’s marriage with Keturah did not take place until after Sarah’s death; but this, though probable, is far from certain, as the Hebrew simply says, And Abraham added and took a wife. This statement is altogether indefinite; but as Abraham was 137 years of age at Sarah’s death, and lived to be 175, it is quite possible that, left solitary by Isaac’s marriage, he took Keturah to wife, and had by her six sons. The sole objection is his own statement, in Genesis 17:17, that it was a thing beyond nature for a man a hundred years old to have a son; how much more improbable, then, must it have become after forty more years had passed by! The argument on the other side, which would infer that the marriage took place in Sarah’s lifetime, from the fact that the birth of grandchildren is mentioned in Genesis 25:3-4, has little weight, as their names might have been subsequently added to bring down the genealogy to a later date.

Jewish commentators cut the knot by identifying Keturah with Hagar, who in the meanwhile had, as they say, set an example of matronly virtue in the manner in which she had devoted herself to the bringing up of Ishmael. But in Genesis 25:6 there is an evident allusion to both Hagar and Keturah in the mention of Abraham’s “concubines” in the plural; and in 1 Chronicles 1:32 the children of Keturah are distinguished from Hagar’s one son, Ishmael. To this we must add that as Ishmael was fourteen years old when Isaac was born, he would be now about fifty-four years of age, and his mother have passed the period of life when she could bear six sons.

The position, moreover, of Keturah was entirely distinct from that of Hagar. The latter was Sarah’s representative; and her son, if Sarah had remained barren, would have been the heir. Keturah was a secondary wife, whose children from the first held an inferior position in the household. So Bilhah and Zilpah became the substitutes of Rachel and Leah, and therefore their children ranked side by side with Reuben and Joseph, though not altogether on the same level. They were patriarchs, and the progenitors of tribes, even if the tribes sprung from them held a lower rank.

There is also a tradition that Isaac initiates his father’s new wedding. Again from JWA:

A different story has Isaac initiating his father’s marriage. When Isaac married Rebekah, he said to himself: I have taken a wife, while my father is without a spouse! What did he do? He went and brought him Keturah. This tradition is based on Gen. 24:62: “Isaac had just come back from the vicinity of Be’er-la-hai-ro’i”—he brought back with him Hagar, who had been at “Be’er-la-hai-ro’i,” and had also given this place its name, as is related in Gen. 16:14 (TanhumaHayyei Sarah 8).

^ That connection (Isaac initiating his father’s new wedding) actually makes sense given the textual timeline and the stated geography though it should be remembered that it is not in the text. Moving on to the names of Abraham’s six new sons:

Zimran = זִמְרָן Zimrân, zim-rawn’; from H2167; musical; Zimran, a son of Abraham by Keturah:—Zimran.

Jokshan = יׇקְשָׁן Yoqshân, yok-shawn’; from H3369; insidious; Jokshan, an Arabian patriarch:—Jokshan.; יָקֹשׁ yâqôsh, yaw-koshe’; a primitive root; to ensnare (literally or figuratively):—fowler (lay a) snare.

Medan = מְדָן Mᵉdân, med-awn’; the same as H4090; Medan, a son of Abraham:—Medan.; מְדָן mᵉdân, med-awn’; a form of H4066:—discord, strife.

Midian = מִדְיָן Midyân, mid-yawn’; the same as H4079; Midjan, a son of Abraham; also his country and (collectively) his descendants:—Midian, Midianite.; מִדְיָן midyân, mid-yawn’; a variation for H4066:—brawling, contention(-ous).

Ishbak = יִשְׁבָּק Yishbâq, yish-bawk’; from an unused root corresponding to H7662; he will leave; Jishbak, a son of Abraham:—Ishbak.; שְׁבַק shᵉbaq, sheb-ak’; (Aramaic) corresponding to the root of H7733; to quit, i.e. allow to remain:—leave, let alone.

Shuah = שׁוּחַ Shûwach, shoo’-akh; from H7743; dell; Shuach, a son of Abraham:—Shuah.; שׁוּחַ shûwach, shoo’-akh; a primitive root; to sink, literally or figuratively:—bow down, incline, humble.


So you might read those name meanings and conclude the implication is negative. If so, you are not alone in that conclusion. Again from the very helpful Jewish Women’s Archives:

In opposition to the view that the offspring of Keturah were the realization of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, another approach presents them as perpetually menacing Israel. The Rabbis championing this position emphasize that these offspring do not follow the spiritual way of Abraham; moreover, since they already received their inheritance from him, they are not entitled to make any further demands.

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).

Gen. 25:6 relates that Abraham sent the sons of Keturah away from Isaac “eastward, to the land of the East.” He told them: Go as far eastward as you can, so you will not be burnt by the burning coal of Isaac (Gen. Rabbah 61:7). In another tradition, Abraham sends the sons of Keturah away with a writ of divorce, as a wife is sent away from her husband. This notion is based on 25:6: “But to Abraham’s sons by concubines Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac”; and this expulsion is both in this world and in the world to come (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 29).

The Rabbis ask: What gifts did Abraham nevertheless give the sons of Keturah? And they reply: he gave them “the name of impurity.” This apparently means that he taught them the secrets of sorcery, a characteristic occupation of the non-Jews, which distinguishes them from Israel (BT Sanhedrin 91a).

Returning to Ellicott for more information about Keturah’s sons:

(2) Zimran.—The home of Keturah’s descendants is placed by Josephus and Jerome in Arabia-Felix; but the supposed traces of their names are untrustworthy.

Midian is the one son of Keturah who had a great future before him, for his race became famous traders (Genesis 37:28); and as they are called Me· danites there in the Hebrew, in Genesis 37:36, it is probable that Medan and Midian coalesced into one tribe. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, belonged to them (Exodus 2:15-16), and, enriched by commerce, they became so powerful as to be dangerous neighbours to the Israelites. (Judges 6:7Judges 6:8)

Shuah.—From him perhaps descended Bildad the Shuhite, Job’s friend (Job 2:11). The name in the Hebrew is different from that also rendered “Shuah” in Genesis 38:2.

(3) Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan.—But Sheba and Dedan are also described as the sons of Raamah, the son of Cush (Genesis 10:7). We have here proof that these genealogies are to a certain extent geographical, and that whereas these districts at first were peopled by a Hamitic race, they were subsequently conquered by men of the Semitic stock, who claimed Abraham for their ancestor. Most probably, therefore, we ought not to regard Sneba and Dedan as the names here of men. As men they were the sons of Raamah, but when the sons of Jokshan wrested these two countries from the family of Cush, they called them sons of their progenitor, because the dominant portion of the population had sprung from him. They appear as countries in Jeremiah 6:20Jeremiah 49:8Ezekiel 25:13Ezekiel 27:15Ezekiel 27:22Ezekiel 38:13, &c.

Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.—These are certainly not the names of men, but of the three tribes into which the Dedanites were divided.

The names of subsequent generations are:

Sheba = שְׁבָא Shᵉbâʼ, sheb-aw’; of foreign origin; Sheba, the name of three early progenitors of tribes and of an Ethiopian district:—Sheba, Sabeans.

Dedan = דְּדָן Dᵉdân, ded-awn’; or (prolonged) דְּדָנֶה Dᵉdâneh; (Ezekiel 25:13), of uncertain derivation; Dedan, the name of two Cushites and of their territory:—Dedan.

Asshurim = אֲשׁוּרִי ʼĂshûwrîy, ash-oo-ree’; or אַשּׁוּרִי ʼAshshûwrîy; from a patrial word of the same form as H804; an Ashurite (collectively) or inhabitant of Ashur, a district in Palestine:—Asshurim, Ashurites.; אַשּׁוּר ʼAshshûwr, ash-shoor’; or אַשֻּׁר ʼAshshur; apparently from H833 (in the sense of successful); Ashshur, the second son of Shem; also his descendants and the country occupied by them (i.e. Assyria), its region and its empire:—Asshur, Assur, Assyria, Assyrians. See H838.

Letushim = לְטוּשִׁם Lᵉṭûwshim, let-oo-sheem’; masculine plural of passive participle of H3913; hammered (i.e. oppressed) ones; Letushim, an Arabian tribe:—Letushim.; לָטַשׁ lâṭash, law-tash’; a primitive root; properly, to hammer out (an edge), i.e. to sharpen:—instructer, sharp(-en), 

Leummim = לְאֻמִּים Lᵉʼummîym, leh-oom-meem’; plural of H3816; communities; Leummim, an Arabian:—Leummim.; לְאֹם lᵉʼôm, leh-ome’; or לְאוֹם lᵉʼôwm; from an unused root meaning to gather; a community:—nation, people.

Ephah = עֵיפָה ʻÊyphâh, ay-faw’; the same as H5890; Ephah, the name of a son of Midian, and of the region settled by him; also of an Israelite and of an Israelitess:—Ephah.; עֵיפָה ʻêyphâh, ay-faw’; feminine from H5774; obscurity (as if from covering):—darkness.

Epher = עֵפֶר ʻÊpher, ay’-fer; probably a variation of H6082; gazelle; Epher, the name of an Arabian and of two Israelites:—Epher.

Hanoch = חֲנוֹךְ Chănôwk, khan-oke’; from H2596; initiated; Chanok, an antediluvian patriach:—Enoch.; חָנַךְ chânak, khaw-nak’; a primitive root; (compare H2614) properly, to narrow; figuratively, to initiate or discipline:—dedicate, train up.

Abida = אֲבִידָע ʼĂbîydâʻ, ab-ee-daw’; from H1 and H3045; father of knowledge (i.e. knowing); Abida, a son of Abraham by Keturah:—Abida, Abidah.

Eldaah = אֶלְדָּעָה ʼEldâʻâh, el-daw-aw’; from H410 and H3045; God of knowledge; Eldaah, a son of Midian:—Eldaah.

After introducing this large group of people, we read that Abraham sends them away. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

And Abraham gave all that he had unto IsaacI.e. constituted him his chief heir, according to previous Divine appointment (Genesis 15:4), and made over to him the bulk of his possessions (Genesis 24:36). 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 (Genesis 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 Palestine).

From Ellicott:

(6) The east country.—By this is meant Arabia and Southern Mesopotamia, where, by their superior vigour and organisation, the descendants of Abraham were able to establish their supremacy over the natives. Burckhardt tells us that the Bedaween still follow Abraham’s practice. When their children are grown up, they give each of the younger sons his share of their goods (Luke 15:12), whereupon they move to a distance, and leave the eldest brother in quiet possession of the home.

This section of verses summarizes the last years of Abraham’s life. It is clear that noteworthy events continued occurring for him, and for the world, but the text’s focus is on his line through Isaac.

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