vs. 1-11: Abraham lived to be 175. Before he dies, however, he takes a wife named Keturah. Keturah bore Abraham six more children, then ten more grandchildren were also born to Abraham. The last act accorded to Abraham before he dies is the dispensing of his worldly possessions. He gives all that he has to Isaac, and we are also told that he gives gifts to his concubines before sending them away to the East. It is important to acknowledge that the sons of the concubines contribute to Abraham’s status as the father of many nations.
After Abraham’s death, his sons Ishmael and Isaac bury him in the same cave as Sarah. We will remember Ishmael as the son of Sarah’s handmaid Hagar from Genesis 16. Although Ishmael moved away after events that transpired in Genesis 21, he evidently did not live too far away to come back and honor his father by assisting with the burial. This too, is another example of Abraham as the father of many nations.
vs. 12-18: Here we have the record of Ishmael’s genealogy. Ishmael lived to be 137. He was the father of twelve princes, each with their own nation. Genesis 21:18 is fulfilled where God said to Hagar about Ishmael after saving the both: “I will make him a great nation.”
vs. 19-34: This passage concerns Isaac and his family. Isaac was 40 when he took Rebekah as a wife and she, like Sarah, is unable to bear children at the outset. But after Isaac pleads with God, Sarah conceives. She has two children in her womb and they struggle within her. This struggle troubles her and she inquires of God why this is so. God’s reply from Genesis 25:23: “Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.”
This reply from God tells Rebekah that her two sons will be in a state of conflict and that one will be in servitude towards the other. This conflict will continue as the brothers grow into men, with their progeny being at odds also. The twins were born when Isaac was 60 and the manner of their birth plainly demonstrates the conflict. Esau had red hair and was a very hairy baby while Jacob was born holding Esau’s heel. Esau was an outdoorsman, a skillful hunter while Jacob dwelt mostly away from the elements within tents. Jacob loved and appreciated his brother because he enjoyed eating the game that Esau killed. Their mother Rebekah however, favored Jacob.
vs. 29-34: Here we have a major consequence for Esau as the result of both his foolishness and the conflict with Jacob. As firstborn, Esau would have received a double portion of Isaac’s inheritance. In this case, the inheritance is especially important because it includes the covenant God promised to Abraham. Even though this inheritance (his birthright) was so valuable, Esau was still foolishly willing to trade it for a meal. Physical weariness happens to us all, but Esau’s flawed character led him to value food over this rich blessing. Jacob , for his part, is manipulative and usurping in his effort to gain the birthright. This was not honorable and Jacob and Esau’s divide will only deepen as their stories progress.
If you are disappointed in the behavior and character of Abraham’s grandsons, you are surely not alone. Abraham was not perfect, but his faith in God seems to have precluded him from behaving as badly as his grandsons do in this chapter.