25:1 Abraham remarries – That Abraham married again is not surprising when we remember that he survived Sarah by thirty-eight years. Apart from that, our Sages teach that man is not ‘whole’ without a wife, a human being’s mission is too great to be fully accomplished by one person alone. (Hirsch)
The Midrash and Rashi interpret the verse to include the word ‘again’. The Zohar specifically states that the term ‘and he again added’ here indicates not that Abraham took another wife, but that he took again his former spouse whom he had driven out with Ishmael.
Keturah is Hagar, who received this name because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (ketores); also because she remained chaste from the time she had separated from Abraham.
In 21:14 Rashi comments that Hagar reverted to idolatry of her father’s house. How then does he now call her action ‘beautiful as incense’? Rather, when she was expelled from Abraham’s household, she felt forsaken even by his God and she intended to revert to her idolatrous ways. But when the miracle occurred at the well, she repented.
The Zohar similarly comments that although she had relapsed into her ancestral idolatry, she later repented and changed her name, after which Abraham sent for and married her. From this we see that a change of name makes atonement for guilt, for she made this change of name symbolic of her change of behavior.
Although Hagar/Keturah was a first generation Egyptian (16:1) and therefore forbidden in marriage (Deuteronomy 23:9), nevertheless, since his first marriage to her was God’s sanction, she remained permissible to him for remarriage as well. Furthermore, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 60:4) specificially states that Abraham remarried Keturah/Hagar by Divine Command.
25:2 “..Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.” – Midian is a tribal name that frequently appears in the Bible. Further, (Exodus 3:1) we find Hethro (later Moses’ father-in-law), as the prist of Midian, while in Number 22 and 31 the Midianites appear as enemies of Israel. In Judges 6 we are told that they ruled Israel for a period of seven years until Gideon prevailed over them. Ishbak is unknown, and Shuah, ~the tribe of Job’s friend, Bildad~ is mentioned in Job 2:11 as a tribe of the land of Utz. (Hoffmann)
25:4 “All these were the descendants of Keturah.” – This expression means that all these were the sons of Keturah along with the grandchildren who lived during her lifetime. They are referred to as the descendants of Keturah since in fact, they are not reckoned in the Abrahamitic genealogy. (Malbim)
25:5 Since Abraham’s primary progeny was Isaac, Abraham distinguished him from his other children by giving him his physical and spiritual possessions. (Malbim)
In 24:6 Eliezer specifically states that Abraham bequeathed all his possessions to Isaac.
Abraham also gave Isaac ‘the blessing’ as a legacy God had told Abraham (12:2) ‘and you shall be a blessing’ which means ~ having the privilege of blessing whomever you wish. It was this that Abraham now bestowed upon Isaac.
25:7 The death of Abraham – Chronologically, Abraham lived until his grandson Jacob was fifteen years old and accordingly, his death took place after the events of the upcoming chapters. But in accordance with the Torah’s usual method of narration, it bids farewell, so to speak, to Abraham when there is nothing further of his life that needed to be narrated. Similarly, the Torah gives us whatever information it deems necessary about Ishmael’s family. Then it can go on uninterrupted to the central figure of the succeeding narrative, Isaac.
In the same way, Noah’s death is recorded in 9:29 before the history of his sons is mentioned although Noah was still alive well into the days of Abraham, and his son Shem lived to see Jacob. The passing of Terach (11:32) is recorded before the story of Abraham, although he lived another sixty years and the death of Isaac (35:28-29) before the narrations of Esau and Jacob, although Isaac was still alive when Joseph was sold into slavery.
25:8 Abraham died in the year of 2123 from Creation. (Seder Olam)
In the commentary to 15:15, Abraham was destined to live 180 years like his son but God caused him to die five years earlier so that he would not witness Esau’s evil conduct. For, as it is written in the Midrash Aggadah, the five years corresponds to the five sins Esau committed on the very day Abraham died for had Abraham lived he would have witnessed them. Esau stole, raped a betrothed maiden, murdered, denied the fundamental Principle (the existence of God), and despised the birthright. God therefore said, ‘I promised Abraham, ‘you shall be buried in a good old age. Is it good old age when he sees his grandson commit adultery, and murder? Better to let him die in peace.’
“..he was gathered to his people.’ – Most connect this expression specifically to the soul, for while it is in the body it is in isolation (from the Upper worlds); when the soul leaves the body, it rejoins the Source and is gathered back to its glory.
In the manner of a soul returning to its source, we find many similar expressions in Scripture: ‘You will come to your forefathers’ (15:15); ‘gathered in to his forefathers’ (Judges 2:10). Such expressions prove that belief in the Hereafter is an integral part of the Jewish faith. Death, therefore, is viewed as a reunification with earlier generations.
25:9 “His sons Isaac and Ishmael..” – Normally the oldest son is mentioned first. From this it can be concluded that Ishmael had repented and gave precedence to Isaac.
Perhaps the Torah mentions Isaac first because he is the son of Abraham’s wife Sarah and as such clearly merited precedence over Ishmael, the son of a maidservant. But the traditional hatred of the wicked for the righteous is so intense, and so defied the norm of dignified conduct, that if Ishmael were still wicked, he would never ~ under any circumstances ~ have allowed the righteous Isaac, to precede him. Therefore, the Sages derive from this verse that Ishmael had repented.
25:11 What does it mean ‘God blessed Isaac’? By ‘bless’ is meant that God comforted him in his mourning. Rashi also had another possible explanation. Although God had empowered Abraham to bless whomever he wished, he feared to bless Isaac because he foresaw that Esau would descend from him and he was apprehensive that Isaac would in turn prefer to pass on these blessings upon his favorite son, Esau, rather than Jacob. According to this interpretation we must assume that although Abraham was spared the ordeal of witnessing Esau’s public sinfulness, he nevertheless foresaw that Esau would be wicked. Abraham had therefore said, ‘Let the Master of the Blessings come Himself and bless Whomever He sees fit.’ God now came and blessed him since God knew that Jacob, and not Esau, would be the recipient of the Blessings.
According to Radak, the verse simply means that God prospered Isaac’s endeavors.
25:12-16 Ishmael’s Genealogy Verse 16 is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in 17:20 ~ ’He shall begat twelve chieftains (princes), and I will make him a great nation.’ Each of the twelve was a prince and the ancestor of a large family which carried his name as we see the names do appear later in Scripture ~ representing distinct family clans.
25:17 Ishmael’s age is given because it assists in calculations with respect to dating the various events which occurred in the life of Jacob.
Rashi explains that we calculate from Ishmael’s age at his death that Jacob attended the Academy of Eber for fourteen years from the time he left his father’s house ~ which coincides with Ishmael’s death (28:9) to the time he arrived at Laban’s house. (Megillah 17a)
According to the data cited in Megillah 17a, when Jacob stood before Pharaoh, he should have been a hundred and sixteen years old, yet Jacob himself gave his age at one hundred and thirty (47:9) The discrepancy is explained by the fact that he spent fourteen years at the Academy of Eber after leaving his father’s house.
According to the parallel explanation in the Midrash, Ishmael’s lifespan is given in order to assist in calculating Jacob’s age when he was blessed. Jacob received the blessings from Isaac at the time Ishmael died (28:9). Ishmael was 137 years old when he died. Isaac was Ishmael’s junior by fourteen years, since Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born and 100 years old when Isaac was born (21:5)
Therefore, since Isaac was 123 years old at Ishmael’s death, Jacob who was 60 years younger than Isaac (25:26) was 63 years old when he received the blessings.
Next: The Overview of Isaac