Genesis chapter 25

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What does Genesis chapter 25 mean?

Genesis 25 records the deaths of both Abraham and Ishmael, as well as the births of Jacob and Esau, and the purchase of the most expensive bowl of stew in history.

First, though, we learn about Abraham's "other wife" Keturah. Scholars are divided about whether Abraham married Keturah before or after Sarah's death. She is listed elsewhere in the Bible as a concubine. When Sarah died, at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1), Abraham would have been nearly 140 (Genesis 17:17). It would seem more likely, then, that Abraham took Keturah as a wife well before Sarah's death. Still, Abraham has six sons with Keturah, including Midian, who becomes the father of the Midianites. And though Abraham gave gifts to the "sons of his concubines," Genesis is quick to tell us that he gave all he had to Isaac, his sole true heir (Genesis 25:1–6).

Abraham then dies at the age of 175, an old man and full of years. Isaac and Ishmael reunite to bury Abraham at the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17–20) where Sarah had been buried nearly 40 years earlier (Genesis 25:10).

Next, the chapter lists the 12 sons of Ishmael by birth order. The names of these "princes" became the names of the villages and encampments of the tribes that were their descendants. These dozen groups settled to the east of what would become Israel. Ishmael himself lived a good long time, to the age of 137 (Genesis 25:12–18).

Finally, Genesis 25 turns its attention to Isaac, now the patriarch. As was the case with his mother Sarah, his wife Rebekah does not become pregnant. In fact, 20 or so childless years pass. At some point, Isaac prays to the Lord. The Lord hears and answers, and Rebekah becomes pregnant (Genesis 25:19–21).

Her pregnancy is so difficult that Rebekah approaches the Lord to ask Him why. She receives a prophecy about the "two nations" in her womb that will be divided. The older will serve the younger. This prophecy likely makes more sense to her when she delivers twins. The firstborn is red and hairy, and they name him Esau. The second is called "heel grabber," Jacob, because he emerges with Esau's heel in his hand (Genesis 25:22–26).

The pair grow into very different sorts of men. Esau, the outdoorsman and hunter, is loved by his father for bringing home the meat. Jacob, a quiet, stay-at-home fellow is loved by his mother (Genesis 25:27–28). This is more than simple preference. Later passages will show that each parent blatantly favors one child over the other, leading to further strife and rivalry.

The chapter ends with a scene between Jacob and Esau that flatters neither. Esau returns from the fields exhausted and asks for a bowl of Jacob's red stew. Jacob demands Esau's birthright in exchange for the stew. Esau foolishly agrees, swearing an oath to seal the deal. Jacob gladly accepts the payment and shares what turns out to be lentil soup.
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