Saturday, December 27, 2008

Genesis 25:1-6 Abraham Marries Keturah

Genesis 25:1-6: Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Hanoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah. Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East.

After Abraham loses his wife Sarah and then marries his son Isaac off to Rebekah, he finds himself alone as far as having someone special to share life with. It is also possible, as we may deduce from Genesis 24:1 that he was in poor health given his advanced age. Hear in this passage, the text records that Abraham took another woman named Keturah to be his wife. While her nationality is not given, the Hebrew translation of her name is ‘incense’, and she did indeed provide a sweet aroma for Abraham in his old age. She bore him six sons, at least three of which also provided Abraham with grandsons. From Genesis 23:1 we know that Sarah was 127 years old when she died and from Genesis 17:17 that Abraham was ten years older. So, we can deduce that he was at least 137 years old when he married Keturah.

We do not know how old Keturah was but in all probability given that she bore Abraham at least six children, she was younger. Remarriage under these circumstances was and continues to be an acceptable practice for a believer, even at a very old age.

Keturah never became a “full-status” wife and was more in line with Abraham’s concubines. Later scripture (I Chronicles 1:32) will confirm this. Perhaps Abraham realized that no one could really replace Sarah, the mother of his chosen son, Isaac. He did not want anyone after her to be considered as having been given the same status or dignity as he had shown towards Sarah. Keturah at least, unlike his other concubines, was important enough to be named in scripture.

The text also records that he indeed officially gave all that he had to Isaac. It is possible, given the next phrase of this sentence, that the word ‘left’ (upon his death) would have been preferable. This too was evidence of how special Sarah and her offspring were to him. It is also most likely that God’s covenant with him continued to be foremost in his mind and in his wishes for the legacy he would leave behind. God’s blessing would come ultimately through Isaac. He was the son of promise. So he gets the wealth and the land.

Finally, it is possible that this promise of God caused him to simply allot to each of the sons of his concubines gifts while he was still living rather than through an inheritance. I have observed in various families how sometimes older parents or grandparents tend to give some children or grandchildren numerous possessions while they are still alive, but save things that are very dear to them for one or two special descendants to be received after their death. This may include a family home or investments, etc. The idea being that the others were taken care of earlier while those closer to the deceased person would be recognized with more significant giving’s after one is gone.

The other point of interest is that Abraham continued to have more than one concubine right up to his death. Certainly that was a custom of those days for those that could afford it. Concubines were not mistresses per se, but were viewed as “lesser wives” with fewer privileges. A concubine lived in a lawful marriage arrangement with a man, but her status was regarded as being less than a wife. Concubines were respected, had legal rights, and their children were regarded as legitimate, although the children of the wife (or wives) were most often given preference in matters of inheritance.

As a wise patriarch, who remembers his own experience with his nephew Lot, Abraham decides, while he is still living, to separate the sons of his concubines from Isaac. To that end, he sends them all of them away from where Isaac would remain and eastward to a very different part of the land and at some distance. He wanted to make sure that he did all he could to avoid future conflicts between Isaac, the child of promise, and his half-brothers. As the six sons of Keturah left, they settled in various parts to the south and east of what became known as Palestine and each one represented an Arab tribe. It is through these sons of Keturah’s, as well as through the descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael (whom she bore to Abraham when Sarah gave her to him), that Abraham became “the father of many nations” as promised in Genesis 17:4. But it is through Isaac that the chosen people would come.

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