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B'resheet/Genesis 25:6 But to the sons of Avraham's concubines, Avraham gave gifts
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Starting at the beginning of B'resheet chapter 25, the narrator tells us about how Avraham lives in his closing years. After Sarah dies, he takes another wife - Keturah, although Rabbi Judah tries to tell us that this was Hagar under another name (B'resheet Rabbah 61:4) - and has six children with her. However, the Torah is very clear that "Avraham willed all that he owned to Isaac" (B'resheet 25:5, NJPS), while - in our text, the following verse - he gave gifts to these other sons and "sent them away from his son Yitz'khak eastward, to the land of the East" (v. 6, NJPS). Shouldn't Keturah's sons have shared Avraham's estate in the usual way: one portion each and a double portion for the first-born? Well, that depends on the legal status of Keturah; was she or was she not Avraham's wife? The Chronicler gives us another reading of the story: "The sons of Keturah, Avraham's concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah" (1 Chronicles 1:32, NJPS). There, Keturah is explicitly identified as , a concubine.
We find the same word being used in our text - , despite the mp ending, actually a fp noun - translated "the concubines". Used in this precise form only in this verse, it and the word in 1 Chronicles appear to come from a four letter root that has no use or meaning as a verb. RabbiHirsch, however, explains that a added to the root , to be half, shows how a concubine is a wife who has only partial legal rights: "the moral and personal bond between husband and wife is established, but she has no legal claim to his fortune or possessions." In our text, the word is plural, the Sages say, to refer to Keturah and Hagar, According to ancient custom, when a wife is named, the details of her family and background are given, while when a concubine is mentioned, these details are not supplied. The Ramban says that "explains why we know nothing about [Keturah's] family or background"; she is just a woman who appears, as it were, from nowhere.
What were these gifts, these - an fp noun from the root , to give - that Avraham gave to his other sons?Ibn Ezra says that "he gave them money"; the Rashbam adds "a great deal of money." Nahum Sarna suggests that "the gifts to the other sons would either be a gesture of generosity on the part of Avraham designed to secure their goodwill to Yitz'khak or in compensation for their surrender of future claims." The Mishnah teaches that "if a man gives property to any of his children as a gift, in his lifetime, it is valid - providing he does not call it 'an inheritance.'" The Sforno explains that "this Avraham did with the children of the concubines. These were given not as an inheritance but a gift so that it be legal and binding at once." Let us assume that Avraham feels a measure of both responsibility and parental affection for these sons that he has fathered; he wants to see them succeed and prosper, so he provides them with a generous gift to start them on their way, a foundation on which to build an independent future.
Let's consider the difference between a gift and an inheritance. A gift is exactly that; a present, given without any strings attached, that you take and go on your way. Unless, as Sarna suggested above, there are conditions attached, a gift has no forward-looking element to it and places no obligation or expectation upon you; you are not required to do anything or be involved further with the giver or their affairs, you do not have to work or labour in order to realise the value of your gift. An inheritance, on the other hand, is almost exactly the opposite in every way. An inheritance has every expectation that you will remain intimately connected with the giver until they die and that you will then take over their affairs and continue to manage them in much the same way as they would have done themselves, working to and upholding similar values and aspirations. If you inherit only a part of or a share in the overall inheritance, then you have to work with and alongside the other people who have inherited the rest, to maximise the value not only of your part but the whole and for the benefit of all. A gift is a tangible and known item: so many cattle, so much silver; it can easily be quantified and valued. An inheritance, on the other hand, contains many intangibles such as goodwill, reputation and know-how; these cannot easily be valued.
Now let's apply that understanding to Avraham's estate and family. While Avraham gave gifts to his other sons, so that they could start their own lives, afford to get married, establish their own households, these were given as golden handshakes. The rest of the verse tells us that Avraham "sent them away from his son Yitz'khak eastward, to the land of the East" (B'resheet 25:6, NJPS): "Goodbye, go away and don't come back - you are on your own!" By contrast, "Avraham willed all that he owned to Yitz'khak" (v. 5, NJPS); as well as the flocks and herds, tents and equipment, money and valuables, Yitz'khak got all the workers, the water rights, his father's name and reputation - and all the responsibilities: looking after all the families, setting the vision, holding everybody together and keeping the covenants. Yitz'khak was the master of everything and everybody, while he carried on the business and commitments of his father. Yitz'khak's half-brothers were very deliberately not co-inheritors of the estate and had been sent away, well out of the area. They had no input to, responsibility for or benefit from their father's estate.
At the most basic level, we can see that G-d gives gifts to each of us, whether we know and acknowledge Him or not. Yeshua explains that, "He sends His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45b, TLV). G-d gives those gifts to everyone - good, generous gifts - so that we might all have a place to start. On the other hand, they are given out free of charge and without commitment or obligation; they are gift. Of and by themselves, while they are essential for agriculture, they don't do anything; they neither make or require connection with G-d. An inheritance, on the other hand, while freely available to all those who seek G-d and want to know Him, requires that we come under His authority, become a part of His household, serve His agenda and purposes rather than our own, and work with and alongside all those who share our inheritance. Yeshua Himself, of course, is our inheritance and at the same time, the senior inheritor and therefore sets the vision and direction for the estate - the kingdom of G-d - in accordance with the will of the Father.
So the question for us today is: are you living on a grant or in your inheritance? Are you simply working through a pile of money, trying to hold out while you make more, but when it's gone, it's gone, or are you living and working in your inheritance as a co-heir with Messiah. The way you see yourself - in both cases as a son, but as a co-inheritor or as a gift - will govern how secure you are in the Father's love and how involved you are in the Father's work. If you are a co-heir then the apostle Peter says that you have three things that a gift-holder can never have.
Peter's first possession for co-heirs is "a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3, ESV). That hope comes, by the Ruach, because we know that we too will be resurrected in the last day; as Yeshua was resurrected, "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV), so all of those who trust in Him will also know resurrection to eternal life as Yeshua said: "everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:40, NASB). Indeed, Yeshua explained, that resurrection has already started: "an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live" (John 5:25, NASB). That is why now, already in this life, we have received the Ruach: "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it" (Ephesians 1:14, ESV).
Secondly, Peter explains, co-heirs have "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4, ESV). Everything on this earth is liable to corruption "where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19, NASB). But G-d's promised inheritance for those who know His Son and are found in Him is secure against all possible spoil or depredation because He has already "raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua" (Ephesians 2:6-7, ESV). Our inheritance, while it can and should be manifest in our lives right now, is held for us in heaven and we will inherit its fullness in the age to come.
Thirdly, Peter finishes, co-heirs, by G-d's power that is already at work among us, "are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5, ESV). We are held safe in His hand because "no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:29, NASB). G-d Himself is guarding - protecting, keeping safe - us so that when Yeshua is revealed by His return to this earth, all those who have trusted in Him will be revealed as His disciples and will receive His reward. Make sure that you know that you are a full son by adoption and not just relying on being a half son by a concubine. Whether you have an inheritance or not depends on it!
Further Study: Romans 8:14-17; Colossians 3:1-6; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Application: Are you living in a gift or your inheritance? Is your capital shrinking in this world or growing in the next as you invest your joint inheritance with all the saints in Messiah Yeshua? To get an honest appraisal, you need to speak with the Underwriter Himself. Make the call today and don't get sent off to the land of the East with the sons of the concubines!
Comment - 06:54 13Nov22 Joshua VanTine: Ruach, inheritance and protected, guarded in the Father's hands! How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us!!! That we should be called sons of G-d, hallelujah! Thank you for this drash that should stir our souls like Yitz'chak to carry the wood, ask the question and journey together fully trusting in G-d's promises, yes and amen in Messiah Yeshua HaNotzri.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2022
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