Sunday, March 05, 2006


Genesis 25


February 26, 2006

Good morning! We meet again to continue our study in
the Book of Genesis. Last time we followed Abraham’s
loyal servant, Eliezer as he found Rebekah and brought
her home as a wife for Isaac, the son of his master.
Now the history continues, and as is so often the case
with Genesis we will jump right into controversy. Let
us look at the passage.

Genesis 25:1-6. Read.

Here is our controversy. I consulted a half dozen
commentaries on this passage and four of them insisted
that Abraham had married Keturah long before Sarah
died. They base this on “logic”. Reminding us that
Abraham considered himself dead as far as male
functioning went by the time he was 100 and that it
would make more sense to think this had happened long
before the miraculous birth of Isaac. As we would
expect, MacDonald takes no sides on this issue, simply
continuing as though the narrative were
chronologically accurate. That’s one of the reasons I
love MacDonald. He simply takes God at his word. To
me that is the essence of true Fundamentalism.
Surprisingly to me, it is the New Bible Commentary,
certainly not a bastion of conservatism which stands
up for textual accuracy here, explaining…

The fact that Abraham, whose body could have been
regarded as “dead” when he was 100 years old…

Genesis 17:17. Read.

Romans 4:19. Read.

Now had six sons by Keturah, is to be explained as due
to the new generative strength which came to him with
the gift of Isaac.

I believe the refusal of the commentators to accept
that this could have happened as the Bible describes
is yet another case of men thinking not only that they
know more than Moses, but that they know more than
God. I will remind you also that Sarah’s miraculous
return to youthful vigor made possible her bearing of
Isaac as well as possibly being attractive enough to
capture the attention of the ruler to whom Abraham
attempted to pass her off as his sister. This same
miracle may have worked also in Abraham.

So we may ask, who was this Keturah and why did
Abraham wed her? Verse 6 seems to make it plain that
she was one of his concubines. So we need to look at
that word first. In modern usage concubine has come
to mean no better than a prostitute or a fallen woman.
At best we tend to think of a concubine as a mistress
or a kept woman. A full study of the nature of
concubines and their existence in the Old Testament is
beyond the scope of this lesson and could be the
source of a whole sermon by itself. Let me say
briefly that it is used in the time of the patriarchs
to describe a form of lesser marriage. Scripture
elsewhere shows that concubines were bound by the same
commandments against adultery as were wives. It seems
apparent that when a rich man or ruler was making
political alliances which often had to be sealed with
marriage, a less important or less powerful ally would
give his daughter into concubinage rather than full
acceptance into the inheritance. European royal
history is rife with examples. So common was it for
the children of concubines to be involved in court and
the military, the name “bastard” was applied to them.
In order that they might be identified in armor,
knights wore a cloth bib over their chest. The sons
of the ruler’s wife had diagonal stripes going from
upper right to lower left. The sons of concubines had
stripes going from upper left to lower right. Thus
the knight who became a criminal who was the son of a
concubine was referred to as “a villain of the worst
stripe”. And to this day men’s ties only slant from
upper right to lower left.

I quote John Wesley on this verse:

“He gave gifts – Or portions to the rest of his
children, both to Ishmael, though at first he was sent
empty away, and to his sons by Keturah. It was
justice to provide for them; parents that do not do
that are worse than infidels. It was prudence to
settle them in places distant from Isaac that they
might not pretend to divide the inheritance with him.
He did this while he yet lived, lest it should not
have been done, or not so well done afterwards. In
many cases it is wisdom for men to make their own
hands their executors, and what they find to do, to do
it while they live. These sons of the concubines were
sent into the country that lay east from Canaan, and
their posterity were called the children of the east,
famous for their numbers. Their great increase was
the fruit of the promise made to Abraham, that God
would multiply his seed.”

Genesis 25:7-11. Read.

This is the history of Abraham’s death and burial.

Genesis 25:7. Read.

So he lived 175 years. He spent a complete century in
the land of Canaan. One hundred years as a “stranger
in a strange land”.

Genesis 25:8. Read.

God had promised this to him and the promise was kept.
To quote Wesley again, “A good man, though he should
not die old, dies full of days, satisfied with living
here, and longing to live in a better place.” We
should remember that our bodies are gathered to the
assembly of the dead, but if we are believers our
SOULS are gathered to the assembly of the blessed.

Genesis 25:9. Read.
We don’t know here if Ishmael and Isaac were
reconciled to each other by Abraham before his death
or if the event brought them together, but the fact
they were able to cooperate at least in this gives us
hope for broken families today. I might point out
that the financial support Abraham gave to Ishmael
before his death may have played a large part in this.

Genesis 25:10. Read.

Though Abraham continued on after her death, he never
forgot his beloved Sarah and chose to be laid to rest
beside her.

Genesis 25:11. Read.

We are reminded here once more that we have a God who
keeps his promises. We may fail him, but he never
fails us. As he blessed the father he continued and
blessed the son.

Genesis 25:12-16. Read.

We are reminded here that God did not just keep his
promise to Abraham but even to Hagar.

Genesis 16:10. Read.

And God had also made promises to Abraham concerning

Genesis 17:20. Read.

So tell me, how many sons did Ishmael have in verse 16
of chapter 25? Does God keep his promises? Did he
know us before the foundation of the world? Yes!
And lastly:

Genesis 21:13. Read.

Can we believe our Lord when he says, “I go to prepare
a place for you?” Of course we can. This book is the
record of promises kept to sinful man by a hold God.

Genesis 25:17,18. Read.

We can envy the man who dies with his family and
friends around him. The fact he lived for so many
years is also proof of God answering even prayers made
in ignorance.

Genesis 17:18. Read.

Now Moses turns back to the narrative of Abraham’s
seed through Isaac.

Genesis 25:19-23. Read.
A number of commentators point out that we don’t hear
much about Isaac in scripture. Once says that this
must mean he was not a man of action and lived in
silence. I do not agree, what we see in this passage
concerning him is very positive.

Genesis 25:21. Read.

God had promised to multiply Isaac’s family. But
Rebekah was barren. The first thing that is important
about this is what he did NOT do. He did not find
another wife or a concubine. In fact it is part of
one of the great love stories of scripture that Isaac
was the only one of the patriarchs to have only one
wife. He never diluted his loyalty to the lovely
young woman who alighted from her camel and walked
across the sand to meet him. He did not attempt to
put her away, he did something revolutionary: he
intreated the Lord.

He prayed for years. He never lost faith. And in the
end his prayers were answered. I disagree strongly
that Isaac was not a man of action. He began where
all men of action should begin… on his knees.

Genesis 25:22. Read.

Rebekah only thought her troubles were over when she
at last became pregnant. Phylliss could share some
insight with you here. Our first two children were
twins, a boy and a girl. They struggled. There’s not
a lot of room in there to begin with and two active
babies can roll a woman right out of bed, literally.
But this was especially distressing. Here is why
Rebekah is such a fine example. Feeling distressed,
she did not keep complaining, she “inquired of the
Lord.” That is our job. When situations get past
our ability to understand, we should take it to the

Genesis 25:23. Read.

And the Lord answered. Some scholars believe she had
consulted Melchizedek as an oracle here and this
answer came through him. I don’t know. I DO know how
fortunate we are today to have his word already and be
able to consult it for his answers. And as far as
God’s promises being kept… the Edomites ended up later
in scripture as being under subjection to the house of
David for ages.

Genesis 25:24-26. Read.

Esau means “hairy”. He was also red or ruddy. In
some ways it was as though he was already grown,
already very independent. The people of that time,
looking for signs in everything, assumed he would be
daring, a robust, active man. Jacob was simply a
normal baby, smooth and tender. But he did one
important thing:

Genesis 25:26. Read.

From the beginning Jacob would pursue the blessing.
Remember the significance of the heel in the line to
the throne of Messiah. It was the heel that would
bruise the serpent’s head and the heel that would be
bruised. The observers realized this at once and he
was named “Supplanter”.

And there is more to this story.

Hosea 12:3. Read.

Note carefully that Hosea records that Jacob was
grasping Esau’s heel IN THE WOMB. This was the cause
of the distressful combat Rebekah felt within her.
This went back before birth.

We also know from this verse that Rebekah was 60 years
old when at last she gave birth. She and Isaac had
waited and prayed for 40 years. How long are we
willing to wait for God to answer our prayers?

Now comes the part of the story that is most familiar
to us:

Genesis 25:27-34. Read.

We are familiar with this story, but tend to make some
incorrect assumptions. Let us look at verse 27 again.

Genesis 25:27. Read.

The operant word here is “cunning”. This is a man who
could live by his wits. He knew the field… he was an
outdoorsman. He also exhibited some of the traits of
the predator; he would do anything to win the battle.
But here is where we may make a mistake. The story
does not start off with Joseph being a sly trickster.
He was a “plain man.” This means that up until this
time he was an honest man, one who dealt fairly. But
he is soon to be faced with a terrible temptation.

But first we have to look at what is meant by
“dwelling in tents”. It could mean that Jacob loved
the quiet life of a shepherd and raised his sons to it
as we’ll see in chapter 46, but some commentators
believe it means he frequented the tents of
Melchizedek or Heber, learning divine things from
them. Why it can’t mean both, I don’t know.

Genesis 25:28. Read.

Isaac, now far advanced in age, loves his active,
outdoorsman of a son, and loves his fresh wild meat.
But Rebekah, rightly or wrongly, loved the one the
Lord had already chosen. This is not just because he
was a “stay at home ‘momma’s boy’”. The Lord had
specifically prophesied himself to her that he would
be the leader.

Genesis 25:29. Read.
“Sod” is Middle English for “boiled”. We still refer
to something soaked with water, as food is when it has
been boiled a long time as “sodden”. Esau has been
out tramping in the wilderness and is famished.

Genesis 25:30. Read.

If you have a King James Version, you’ll notice here
that the word “pottage” is in italics. That is
because it is not in the original Hebrew. Esau called
the stew by it’s color… “Red”. He did this so
emphatically and it had such an impact on his future,
it became his official nickname. Though you’ll
remember that he was even born ruddy, so he was
several steps along on the way to that nickname

Genesis 25:31. Read.

Now Jacob, until this point, “the plain man”, possibly
under the influence of Rebekah, tries to help God out
a little by taking matters into his own hands. Esau’s
future and the future of his descendants hangs in the
balance. Let me share with you Col. Scofield’s
insight on the birthright.

Scofield Note 2. Read.

Genesis 25:32. Read.

For the immediate pangs of hunger, Esau trades away
what is precious. Hebrews 12:16 says that he was
profane to do this. When someone cheapens the value
of Almighty God by cursing using his name, we call
that profanity. Profanity is what Esau is guilty of

And Jacob at last has a firm grasp on his brother’s

Genesis 25:33. Read.

It happened so easily.

Genesis 25:34. Read.

A last time I will quote from Wesley’s notes:

“He did eat and drink, and rise up and went his way –
Without any serious reflections upon the ill bargain
he had made, or any shew of regret.

Thus Esau despised his birth-right –He used no means
to get the bargain revoked, made no appeal to his
father about it but the bargain which his necessity
had made, (supposing it were so) his profaneness
confirmed, and by his subsequent neglect and contempt,
he put the bargain past recall.”

Mathew Henry said of this verse: “People are ruined,
not so much by doing what is amiss, as by doing it and
not repenting of it.”

This is a passage that is often used as an object
lesson for the tragedy of refusing God’s free gift of
salvation for the temporal pleasures of this life.
And it certainly is all of that. But there is another
application to believers. We have a birthright. God
has promised us an abundant life. He has said that at
his hand are “pleasures forever more”. We carry
within our lives the possibility of living
victoriously. But he lets us choose. We can choose
as Martha did, the lesser things. We can turn our
backs on what would be the Father’s very best for us
in exchange for a mess of pottage. The acceptance of
our unsaved or carnal friends or the brief pleasure of
sin for a season. And we will have traded away what
could have been our birthright for a mess of pottage.
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