Abraham Takes Another Wife
Sarah has passed on and now we see that Abraham takes another wife whose name is Keturah. The sages teach that Keturah is the same as Hagar. So, why is her name changed?
For her deeds were [now] as pleasing as the ketoret.
Ketoret is the transliteration of the Hebrew word קטרת, which is translated, in English, as incense. The word ketoret means bonding. This bonding, as we shall see, is necessary to build the unity of the body of Mashiach. Ketoret is a substance which is associated with joy, prayer, and protection. Clearly, ketoret is a most unusual substance! – Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)
She was no longer Hagar, the Egyptian hand maid, now she is Keturah, wife of Abraham. Remember, there was a time when Abraham was known as Abram and Sara was known as Sarai. God changed their names when he breathed His life into them. The “H” added to their names signifies the breath of God.
We then see that Abraham had more children with Keturah in his old age. These children did not hold the promise that Isaac held, and they were kept separated from Isaac because he (Isaac) was set apart as holy by the LORD.
It is also noteworthy that when the Scriptures tell us about these sons it ends with, “All these were the sons of Keturah.” A distinction is made between Sarah’s son, Isaac, and the sons of Keturah. It is not that these sons were second class or even into idol worship, they simply did not have the Divine mission that Isaac had.
The Death of Abraham
Genesis 25:7 These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years.
When Sarah passed away, the sages and Scripture gave us the “Three Faces of Sarah”, and told us that all of her life was equally good. We do not get the same type of description for Abraham. What we do get however is this:
With all his searching mind and extraordinary wisdom, Abraham submitted himself to G-d, wholeheartedly and completely. He showed us the true way of serving G-d, with love and reverence; he was truly a “lover of G-d” (Isaiah 41:8) as well as truly “G-d-fearing” (Gen. 22:12) .
Just as Abraham chose G-d, so did G-d choose Abraham and made an everlasting covenant with him and his children, the Jewish people. Said G-d to Abraham: “My Name was not known to My creatures, until you made Me known to them. I shall regard you as My partner in the creation of the world” (Gen. R. 43) . We, the children of Abraham, are the members of the everlasting Covenant and partnership which G-d made with Abraham our Father.-By Nissan Mindel
Abraham Buried in the Cave of Machpelah
Genesis 25:9 Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre,…
Notice here the order of the sons named that buried him, first mentioned is Isaac and next mentioned is Ishmael. The order of things mentioned in Scripture can give us a lot of information even when we do not realize it. It is not mistake that Isaac is mentioned first, even though technically, Ishmael was the firstborn son.
 Ishmael respectfully allowed Isaac to lead: Although Ishmael had repented before Abraham’s funeral,160 the Torah makes no mention of this fact before this. This is because Ishmael’s primary sin was his assertion that since he was the firstborn, he should receive a double portion of the inheritance;161 thus, the proof that he had truly repented came only after Abraham died, when he could have claimed the double inheritance due the firstborn. By allowing Isaac to walk ahead of him, he was demonstrating that he had truly repented, since he was conceding that Isaac was Abraham’s legitimate heir.
It is appropriate that Ishmael’s repentance is mentioned specifically in parashat Chayei Sarah, for Sarah deserves the credit for Ishmael’s reformation. Her insistence on disciplining Ishmael eventually led him to repent and recognize the truth.162
God Blessed Isaac
Genesis 25:11 It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.
It was customary for the father to bless his sons in the order of their birth before his death. This is kind of like the reading of the will; he hands out the inheritance. Verses 5 and 6 tell us that “Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east.” These verses do not state that he “blessed” Isaac, or any of them as was customary; however the Scriptures do stat that “God blessed his son Isaac.” Notice the wording “his son Isaac,” I do not think this means Abraham’s son, but God’s son. This blessing came after the death of Abraham, not while Abraham was still alive.
Isaac is a foreshadowing of Jesus:
- He was the “promised son”
- He was chosen for the sacrifice in “Abraham’s test”
- God calls him “his son”
Descendants of Ishmael
The best explanation that I can find to offer on this portion of Scripture comes from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and there is, in my mind, no other way to explain this. So, here are the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
12 Ishmael son of Abraham, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham: Before describing Ishmael’s greatness and enumerating his many descendants, the Torah reiterates his lesser status for two reasons: (a) in order that his descendants remember that their forefather was merely the son of Sarah’s maidservant, meaning that they therefore had no claim to the birthright of Abraham and Isaac; and (b) so that the descendants of Isaac not be intimidated by Ishmael’s descendents.
This, too, is part of Sarah’s legacy.165
18 He dwelt throughout the area of all his brethren: This is similar to God’s earlier promise to Abraham that Ishmael would “dwell near all his brothers,”166 but with one significant difference. The literal translation of the word for “he dwelt” used here (nafal) is “he fell.” The Torah thus informs us that as long as Abraham was alive, Ishmael would continue to “dwell” securely in his father’s merit; once Abraham would die, Ishmael would “fall” and be harassed by his enemies.167
On a deeper level, however, this statement—made now, after the Torah has enumerated Ishmael’s descendants—reinforces the lesson inherent in the Torah’s reiteration of Ishmael’s inferior lineage before it detailed his descendants.168 Ishmael’s well-being depends upon his cognizance of his status as Abraham’s son through Sarah’s maidservant. As long as the spirit of Abraham lives within him and he recognizes Isaac’s superiority, he is capable of “dwelling.” As soon as Abraham perishes in his mind and he ignores his identity, “he falls.”169
He dwelt throughout the area of all his brethren: Or, literally, “He fell throughout the area….” Ishmael was the “fallen” version of Abraham. Abraham personified holy love—love for God and kindness to others. Ishmael personified love in its “fallen” version, an obsessive desire for physicality and sensuality.
In our own lives, it is our task to transform our love for material things—the fallen love of Ishmael—into a holy love for God.170
The names of both patriarchs mentioned in this verse each appear twice; these four mentions allude to the four types of motivation to fulfill God’s will:
- Isaac (severity/fear): doing God’s will out of fear—either out of fear of punishment or out of fear of the spiritual defilement caused by sin. This is referred to as the lower level of fear (yirah tata’ah).
- [Son of] Abraham (kindness/love): doing God’s will and loving Him in order to receive material or spiritual reward. This is called “small love” (ahavahzuta).
- Abraham: doing God’s will and loving God without regard for reward. This is called “great love” (ahavah rabbah).
- [was the father of] Isaac: doing God’s will out of a humility born of the awareness of God’s loftiness and infinite greatness. On this level, one is not motivated by fear of the repercussions of contravening God’s will but rather by revulsion at the very act of contravening the will of the infinite God. This is the higher level of fear (yirah ila’ah). This level transcends the level of “great love,” since in the latter, some vestige of the self that experiences love remains. In this fourth and highest level, we have risen to a state of true selflessness.
The sequence in which Abraham and Isaac’s names are mentioned reflects the order in which we climb the ladder of spiritual development, first serving God out of self-interest 8 and eventually maturing to a relationship built on self-transcendence.
We tend to limit our relationship with God to being either love-based or fear-based, since we all possess a natural propensity toward one or the other. This verse teaches us that as heirs of Abraham and Isaac, we are both able and obligated to fulfill God’s will out of all four levels of motivation, regardless of our natural predisposition.9 – The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Genesis 25:21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.
We remember that God had promised Abraham that his descendants would come through Isaac and be as the stars in the sky and the sands on the beach…and Isaac’s wife is barren? How can this be? The sages teach that Rebekah was barren for at least 20 years! But Isaac prayed for his wife. Men, you are to be your wife’s prayer covering! Yes, she can pray and God will answer her, but as the head of the house walking in the holy space of husband, you are your wife’s prayer covering. Pray for her!
The sages teach that Isaac not only prayed on behalf of Rebekah, he pleaded to God for her. And this is the result of that pleading:
The Talmud15 thus associates the word for “plead” (יעתר) with the word for “pitchfork” (עתר). Just as a pitchfork overturns the grain and moves it from place to place, so do the prayers of the righteous “overturn” God’s attitude toward us, changing it from severe to merciful.16 – The Sages
Genesis 22-23 But the children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”
On these verses, the sages teach:
23 When one rises, the other will fall: Metaphorically, Jacob and Esau represent the two opposing drives that exist within us all. We each possess an inner Jacob—our Divine soul with its Godly drives, and an inner Esau—our animating soul with its selfish drives. When our Divine soul asserts itself, it weakens the materialistic tendencies of the animating soul.
The Divine soul overcomes the animating soul in the same way that light overcomes darkness. Light does not have to actively exert itself to disperse darkness—the darkness simply fades away. Similarly, as soon as we let the holiness and goodness of our Divine souls shine, by studying the Torah and observing the commandments, the selfishness of the animating soul disappears.24
So what then does all of this have to do with Praying for Fearless Boldness? 2 Corinthians 5:18 And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. We have learned through Sarah and Abraham that loving kindness shown to others helps bring about reconciliation to God. We see through Keturah (Hagar) that reconciliation with God is possible even after you have slid back into idolatry. You can become a new person worth of temple service as the incense, the beautiful smell to God’s nose. Even Ishmael had somewhat of a reconciliation to God
We have learned that when a man, a husband, pleads to God on behalf of his wife miracles happen! This teaches us the importance of husbands providing a prayer cover, like a garment, over their wives! And we have learned that in each of us is a Jacob and an Esau. Which one will you feed? The Divine soul with its godly drives, or the animalistic soul focused on self? The one that you feed will be that one that is dominant.
We are reconciled to God through Jesus. He dwells within us and it is through him and his glory that we can complete the task of reconciling people to him! Genesis 25 is a chapter of reconciliation with many valuable lessons for us to learn. Although it looks at the death of Abraham, death is not the central focus of this chapter, it offers us so much life!
My most gracious Father, I thank you that you not only dwell in heaven, but you dwell on earth with us, as Abraham and Sarah taught us. I thank you that in all of your infinite wisdom you can show us life in death. It is my prayer that the life I live will reconcile others to You, not just my words, but the actions of my life, the way I live. I pray that my words here, in this blog, also speak and bring life to those who read it. Father, I thank you for the ones you direct to this page. I ask you to bless them abundantly in all areas of their life. Please bring complete healing to their broken bodies, abundant increase to their broken pocketbooks, wisdom and knowledge where there seems to be lack. May you receive all of the glory and honor for the miracles you perform even today. In Jesus name. Amen.