Genesis 25 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Genesis 25)

Verse 1

[1] Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

Five and thirty years Abraham lived after the marriage of Isaac, and all that is recorded concerning him during that time lies here in a very few verses: we hear no more of God's extraordinary appearances to him, or trials of him; for all the days even of the greatest saints are not eminent days, some slide on silently, and neither come nor go with observation: such were these last days of Abraham. We have here an account of his children by Keturah, another wife, which be married after the death of Sarah. He had buried Sarah, and married Isaac, the two dear companions of his life, and was now solitary; his family wanted a governess and it was not good for him to he thus alone; he therefore marries Keturah, probably the chief of his maid servants, born in his house, or bought with money. By her he had six sons, in whom the promise made to Abraham concerning the great increase of his posterity was in part fulfilled. The strength he received by the promise still remained in him, to shew how much the virtue of the promise exceeds the power of nature.

Verse 5

[5] And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac — As he was bound to do in justice to Sarah his first wife, and to Rebekah who married Isaac upon the assurance of it.

Verse 6

[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.

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 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.

Verse 7

[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 Abraham — He lived one hundred and seventy-five years; just a hundred years after he came to Canaan; so long he was a sojourner in a strange country.

Verse 8

[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.

He died in a good old age, an old man — So God had promised him. His death was his discharge from the burdens of his age: it was also the crown of the glory of his old age. He was full of years - 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.

And was gathered to his people — His body was gathered to the congregation of the dead, and his soul to the congregation of the blessed. Death gathers us to our people. Those that are our people while we live, whether the people of God, or the children of this world, to them death will gather us.

Verse 9

[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;

Here is nothing recorded of the pomp or ceremony of his funeral; only we are told, his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him - It was the last office of respect they had to pay to their good father. Some distance there had formerly been between Isaac and Ishmael, but it seems either Abraham had himself brought them together while he lived, or at least his death reconciled them. They buried him, in his own burying-place which he had purchased and in which he had buried Sarah. Those that in life have been very dear to each other, may not only innocently, but laudably, desire to be buried together, that, in their deaths, they may not be divided, and in token of their hopes of rising together.

Verse 11

[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 God blessed Isaac — The blessing of Abraham did not die with him, but survived to all the children of the promise. But Moses presently digresseth from the story of Isaac, to give a short account of Ishmael, for as much as he also was a son of Abraham; and God had made some promises concerning him, which it was requisite we should know the accomplishment of. He had twelve sons, twelve princes they are called, Genesis 25:16, heads of families, which, in process of time, became nations, numerous and very considerable. They peopled a very large continent that lay between Egypt and Assyria, called Arabia. The names of his twelve sons are recorded: Midian and Kedar we oft read of in scripture. And his posterity had not only tents in the fields wherein they grew rich in times of peace, but they had towns and castles, Genesis 25:16, where in they fortified themselves in time of war. Their number and strength was the fruit of the promise made to Hagar concerning Ishmael, Genesis 16:10. and to Abraham, Genesis 17:20; 21:13.

Verse 17

[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.

He lived an hundred and thirty and seven years — Which is recorded to shew the efficacy of Abraham's prayer for him, Genesis 17:18. O that Ishmael might live before thee! Then he also was gathered to his people.

And he died in the presence of all his brethren — With his friends about him. Who would not wish so to do?

Verse 20

[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 — Not much is related concerning Isaac, but what had reference to his father, while he lived, and to his sons afterward; for Isaac seems not to have been a man of action, nor much tried, but to have spent his day, in quietness and silence.

Verse 21

[21] And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife — Though God had promised to multiply his family, he prayed for it; for God's promises must not supersede but encourage our prayers, and be improved as the ground of our faith. Though he had prayed for this mercy many years, and it was not granted, yet he did not leave off praying for it.

Verse 22

[22] And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.

The children struggled within her — The commotion was altogether extra-ordinary, and made her very uneasy: If it be so, or, since it is so, why am I thus? - Before the want of children was her trouble, now the struggle of the children is no less so.

And she went to enquire of the Lord — Some think Melchizedek was now consulted as an oracle, or perhaps some Urim or Teraphim were now used to enquire of God by, as afterwards in the breast-plate of judgment. The word and prayer, by which we now enquire of the Lord, give great relief to those that are upon any account perplexed: it is a mighty ease to spread our case before the Lord, and ask council at his mouth.

Verse 23

[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.

Two nations are in thy womb — She was now big not only with two children, but two nations, which should not only in their manners greatly differ from each other, but in their interest contend with each other, and the issue of the contest should be that the elder should serve the younger, which was fulfilled in the subjection of the Edomites for many ages to the house of David.

Verse 25

[25] And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

Esau when he was born was red and hairy, as if he had been already a grown man, whence he had his name Esau, made, reared already. This was an indication of a very strong constitution, and gave cause to expect that he would be a very robust, daring, active man. But Jacob was smooth and tender as other children.

Verse 26

[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.

His hand took hold on Esau's heel — This signified, 1. Jacob's pursuit of the birth-right and blessing; from the first he reached forth to have catched hold of it, and if possible to have prevented his brother. 2. His prevailing for it at last: that in process of time he should gain his point. This passage is referred to Hosea 12:3, and from hence he had his name Jacob, a supplanter.

Verse 27

[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.

Esau was an hunter — And a man that knew how to live by his wits, for he was a cunning hunter.

A man of the field — All for the game, and never so well but as when he was in pursuit of it.

And Jacob was a plain man — An honest man, that dealt fairly.

And dwelt in tents — Either, 1. As a shepherd, loving that safe and silent employment of keeping sheep, to which also he bred up his children, Genesis 46:34. Or, 2. As a student, he frequented the tents of Melchizedek or Heber, as some understand it, to be taught by them divine things.

Verse 28

[28] And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

And Isaac loved Esau — Isaac though he was not a stirring man himself, yet he loved to have his son active. Esau knew how to please him, and shewed a great respect for him, by treating him often with venison, which won upon him more than one would have thought. But Rebekah loved him whom God loved.

Verse 29

[29] And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:

Sod — That is, boiled.

Verse 30

[30] And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.

Edom — That is, red.

Verse 31

[31] And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

Sell me this day thy birth-right — He cannot be excused in taking advantage of Esau's necessity, yet neither can Esau be excused who is profane, Hebrews 12:16, because for one morsel of meat he sold his birth-right. The birth-right was typical of spiritual privileges, those of the church of the first-born: Esau was now tried how he would value those, and he shews himself sensible only of present grievances: may he but get relief against them, he cares not for his birth-right. If we look on Esau's birth-right as only a temporal advantage, what he said had something of truth in it, that our worldly enjoyments, even those we are most fond of, will stand us in no stead in a dying hour. They will not put by the stroke of death, nor ease the pangs, nor remove the sting. But being of a spiritual nature, his undervaluing it, was the greatest profaneness imaginable. It is egregious folly to part with our interest in God, and Christ, and heaven, for the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world.

Verse 34

[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.

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.