Chapter 25

  1. Abraham’s Other Wife and Sons

    • Abraham married another wife whose name was Keturah.

    • Abraham’s descendants through his wife Keturah:

    • Abraham gave everything he owned to Isaac, but he gave gifts to his sons by his concubines.

    • Abraham sent all his other sons to the east, away from Isaac.

      • Abraham sent his other sons away from Isaac in order to safeguard Isaac’s inheritance and blessing.

    • In light of theses passages you might be wondering, as I did, if God condoned polygamy in the Old Testament. After all, there are multiple examples of polygamy in the Old Testament and many of the patriarchs themselves had multiple wives: Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. The question then follows, if God condoned polygamy in the Old Testament does that mean He still condones it today? There are a lot of views and insight to be found on this topic, but one of my favorite articles on this subject is Polygamy in the Bible: A Sordid Tale.

        • The author makes this very valuable point about how we should read the Old Testament as a whole, “The problem, of course, is that the Bible–even the Old Testament–is not really a book of commandments and morality tales. The Bible does of course contain commandments, and lots of narratives. But hardly any of the narratives are about morally upright heroes who keep God’s commandments. Most of the narratives are about God’s actions and plans to save immoral human beings. Most of the human characters in Bible stories (even some of the most faithful ones) are morally dubious at best; in fact, many of their activities are downright sordid. You’re not supposed to read these stories as direct examples for your own life; you’re meant to read them to understand God’s actions in the midst of a tragic human history.”

      • God makes clear in Genesis 2:24 what His ideal intention is for marriage. However, when sin entered the world, many things began to happen that shouldn’t happen and that aren’t ideal, but God is gracious to work through those things or in spite of those things. That doesn’t mean those things are wise, Godly, or good.

      • So, what stands out about the polygamist relationships recorded in the Bible? Here’s a list with one addition of my own from the above article:

              1. The first polygamist, Lamech, calls a family conference so he can boast about his inordinate vengeful violence. He’s clearly not a nice man (Gen 4:19-24).

              1. Abraham’s relationship with Hagar not only caused bitterness and strife between Sarah and Hagar, but also between his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac is the father of the Jewish people while Ishmael is the father of the Arab people. We all know that historically these people groups have always been in conflict- even in the present day.

              1. Jacob has two wives and two concubines, a situation which creates family heartbreak, envy and, ultimately, attempted murder (Gen 29-37).

              1. Gideon has many wives and many sons (Judges 8:30). This results in civil war and wholesale slaughter in Israel (Judges 9).

              1. David has a seemingly insatiable appetite for women. He has many wives (2 Sam 5:13), and in the end steals another man’s wife and murders him (2 Sam 11-12). The resulting, big family was not a happy one: they ended up committing incestuous rape (2 Sam 13) and rebellion which almost destroyed David’s kingdom (2 Sam 14).

              1. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. They led his heart away from the Lord, and led to the break-up of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:3-4).

Conclusion: “The stories tell the story all by themselves, don’t they? Polygamy, according to the Bible, is a disaster.”

 

  • I also think it’s good to point out as I have before that our cultural and societal context is nothing like the culture and society of the Old Testament and this does have an effect, to a certain extent, on polygamy.

     Ancient societies were patriarchal and women who weren’t married relied on either their fathers or brothers to take care of them. If a woman’s father or brothers couldn’t or wouldn’t provide for her, her remaining options were prostitution, slavery, or starvation. Obviously this is not a desirable situation. Women have always outnumbered men and would have even more so in ancient times considering the high fatality rate of ancient warfare. Of course, today women no longer have to rely on men for their provision. So, whatever benefit polygamy would have afforded women in ancient times is all but obsolete in our own era.

    -As we’ve already stated God gives explicit affirmation that marriage is between one man and one woman in Genesis 1-2, which Jesus then confirms in Matthew 19:4-6. In the New Testament Paul makes clear that polygamy is undesirable. For example, I Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 both require that a spiritual leader be faithful to his wife (singular). The Greek text translated “the husband of one wife” is more literally translated “a one-woman man”. Since we are also called to be holy (I Peter 1:16) these standards apply to us as well.

    – My favorite quote from the article: “But that all needs to be understood within the bigger picture of the Bible’s story: God’s salvation of a sinful humanity through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus. Within this story, polygamy isn’t an example to be emulated. Rather, it’s an example of the many bad things Jesus rescues us from.”

2. Abraham’s Death

    • Abraham lived a long, satisfying life and at the age of 175, he died and joined his ancestors. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah with his wife Sarah.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Abraham’s death is recorded before the births of Jacob and Esau, but he lived until they were fifteen years old. This literary arrangement closes Abraham’s story before focusing on Isaac’s family.”

    • After Abraham’s death, God blessed Isaac who was living near Beer-lahai-roi.

3. Ishmael’s Family Records

    • Ishmael had twelve sons which became the founders of the 12 tribes named after them.

    • Ishmael lived to be 137 years old before he died and joined his ancestors.

    • His descendants lived to the east of Egypt in the lands from Havilah to Shur. They lived in open hostility with all of their relatives.

4. The Birth of Jacob and Esau

    • Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah.

    • He prayed to the Lord on her behalf because she was barren.

    • God answered Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah conceived.

      • Even the son of promise did not come into the promise easily. It only came through waiting and prayer… Even so, it was some 20 years until they would have children (Genesis 25:20, 26), and these were the only children born to Isaac and Rebekah.” (Guzik)

    • During Rebekah’s pregnancy, the babies struggled with each other inside of her and she prayed to the Lord asking “Why is this happening?”

    • The Lord told Rebekah, “The two sons you are carrying will become two nations that will be rivals from the beginning. One nation will be stronger than the other and your older son will serve your younger son.”

      • “God chose to go against the accepted pattern of the younger serving the older. In Romans 9:10-13, the Apostle Paul used this choice of Jacob over Esau before their birth as an illustration of God’s sovereign choice…God’s choice of Isaac instead of Ishmael seems more logical to us. Yet His choice between Jacob and Esau, regarding which one would be the heir of God’s covenant of salvation, was just as valid, though it seemed to make less sense…Paul wrote that God’s choice was not based on the performance of Jacob or Esau. The choice was made when they were not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil (Romans 9:11). ” (Guzik)

      • Many may wonder if it was “fair” for God to “favor” Esau over Jacob, but Guzik makes an excellent point, “Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if His choices were random and senseless. God chooses according to His divine wisdom, love, and goodness. We may not be able to understand God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to; but God’s choices are not random or capricious.”

    • Rebekah indeed gave birth to twins. The first one was very red and covered in hair like a fur coat, so they named him Esau.

    • Esau’s brother came out holding onto his heel, so they named him Jacob.

      • “Additionally, the idea of a “heel-catcher” meant something in that day. It had the idea of “trickster,” “con-man,” “scoundrel,” or “rascal.” It wasn’t a compliment.” (Guzik)

    • Isaac was 60 years old when his sons were born.

5. Esau Sells His Birthright

    • As the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter and outdoorsman while Jacob was quiet and enjoyed staying home. Isaac liked to eat wild game so he preferred Esau, but Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite.

    • One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in exhausted and starving.

    • Esau said to Jacob, “Let me have some of that red stew, I’m exhausted.”

    • Jacob responded that he would give him some stew if Esau would sell him his birthright.

      • “Jacob knew that the birthright was valuable and he wanted it. Passages like Deuteronomy 21:17 and 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 tell us the birthright involved both a material and a spiritual dynamic. The son of the birthright received a double portion of the inheritance, and he also became the head of the family and the spiritual leader upon the passing of the father…In the case of this family the birthright determined who would inherit the covenant God made with Abraham, the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah.” (Guzik)

    • Esau replied, “What good is my birthright if I starve to death.”

    • Jacob made Esau swear an oath selling him his birthright, then he gave Esau bread and stew.

    • Esau ate and left showing his disregard for his rights.

      • “Esau took Jacob’s bait and fell into the trap. He ate and left too quickly to have been near death. The final comment on the passage explains that Esau showed contempt for his birthright, considering it worthless (Hebrews 12:16). It is foolish to sacrifice spiritual blessings to satisfy physical appetites” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • Barnhouse notes, “History shows that men prefer illusions to realities, choose time rather than eternity, and the pleasures of sin for a season rather than the joys of God forever. Men will read trash rather than the Word of God, and adhere to a system of priorities that leaves God out of their lives. Multitudes of men spend more time shaving than on their souls; and multitudes of women give more minutes to their makeup than to the life of the eternal spirit. Men still sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.”

      • Leupold describes Luther’s take on a different aspect of this story, “Luther drew attention to an important fact: this was not a valid transaction, because Jacob tried to purchase what was already his, and Esau tried to sell something that didn’t belong to him.”

      • Regarding Jacob’s shady behavior, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Jacob was the better hunter on this occasion, but great danger lay in exercising strong ambition. God’s people should desire the things of God, but they must not seek them in the flesh. The Lord dealt severely with Jacob to purge him of carnal methods. He later received the promise not as crafty Jacob the usurper, but as Israel (meaning “God fights”), with God fighting on his behalf.”