Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Cetura, his third wife; the former two being perhaps both dead. This Abraham did in his 137th year, that God might have witnesses also among the Gentiles. Cetura was before one of his handmaids. (Menochius) — God enabled him to have children at this advanced age; or perhaps, Moses may have related his marriage in this place, though it had taken place several years before. (St. Augustine, contra Jul. iii.) (Calmet) This learned father, City of God xvi. 34, supposes that the reason why Cetura is styled a concubine, though she was a lawful and only wife, is because her children prefigured heretics, who do not belong to the kingdom of Christ. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. Concubines. Agar and Cetura are here called concubines, (though they were lawful wives, and in other places are so called) because they were of an inferior degree: and such in Scripture are usually called concubines. (Challoner) — The solemnities of marriage were omitted on these occasions, and the children were not entitled to a share in the inheritance. Jacob’s two wives consented that all his children, by their handmaids, should be placed on the same footing with their own. (Calmet) — Abraham contented himself with making suitable presents to the children, whom he had by these secondary wives, reserving the bulk of his property to Isaac, chap. xxiv. 36. He also provided for their establishment himself, that there might be no contest after his departure.
Ver. 8. Good old age. Because well spent: though he lived not so long as many of the wicked; decaying not by any violent disorder, but dropping off like a ripe apple. — Being full. The Hebrew does not express of what; but the Samaritan, Chaldean, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic agree with the Vulgate. See chap. xxxv. 29. (Haydock) — Days, not years, as Protestants wrongfully interpolate. (Kennicott) — His people, the saints of ancient days, in limbo; while his body was placed near the remains of his wife, by the pious attention of his two chief sons, attended by their other brethren. (Haydock) — The life of Abraham was a pattern of all virtues, but particularly of faith; and it was an abridgment of the law. His equal was no where found, Ecclesiasticus xliv. 20. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. By their castles; or, the castles, towns, and tribes of principal note, received their names from these twelve princes, or phylarks, whose authority is still recognized among all the tribes of the Arabs. (Thevenot.) (Haydock) — The towns of these people were easily built, and more easily destroyed; for they consisted only of tents, Jeremias xlix. 31. Their castles were perhaps only sheep-folds, as the original Tiroth may signify; or they were a sort of watch-towers, to prevent the sudden attack of an invading enemy, and to serve also for a retreat. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. In the presence, &c. As he was the eldest, so he died first; having lived unmolested and fearless among his father’s children, chap. xvi. 12. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Barren. They had been married 20 years, (ver. 26.) during which time, St. Chrysostom says, Isaac had earnestly besought the Lord, (Menochius) and obtained by prayer what God long before decreed. See St. Gregory, Dial. i. 8. (Worthington)
Ver. 22. To be so. That is, if I must die, and my children also. She feared the worst; and immediately had recourse to the Lord, either in her oratory, or at one of his altars erected by Abraham; and received a gracious answer from him by means of an angel. (Haydock) — Others think she consulted Melchisedech at Mount Moria. (Menochius)
Ver. 23. The younger. The Idumeans shall be subdued by the arms of David: and the Jews themselves shall yield to the Christian Church. (St. Augustine, City of God xvi. 35.) St. Paul, Romans ix, draws another very important truth from this history, shewing the mercy of God to be gratuitous in choosing his saints. (Worthington)
Ver. 25. Red. Hence he was called Edom, as well as from the red pottage, ver. 30. (Haydock) — Hairy like a skin. On which account Rebecca afterwards clothed Jacob’s hands and neck with the skins of kids, to make him resemble Esau. Furry robes were not unusual among the Jews. Some imagine that the name of Sehar, was given to Esau, on account of his being hairy: but Esau was the title by which he was commonly known, and it means one made perfect; because he came into the world, “covered with hair like a man.” — Jacob: “a supplanter, or wrestler.” (Calmet) — From the birth of these twins St. Gregory shews the folly of astrologers, who pretend that our actions are under the influence of the planets; and that two, born at the same moment, will have the same fate. How different were the lives of Jacob and Esau! (Haydock)
Ver. 27. A husbandman: a rustic, both in profession and manners, like Cain; while Jacob was a shepherd, in imitation of Abel, plain and honest. (Haydock)
Ver. 28. Loved Esau, as his first-born, who shewed him all attention, and whom he would naturally have appointed his heir, if the will of God had not afterwards been revealed to him. Rebecca, to whom this was already known, gave the preference in her love to Jacob. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Pottage, of Egyptian lentiles, the most excellent in the world. (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Give me, &c. Hebrew, “make me devour this red;” which denotes, the very red quality of the pottage, and the greediness of Esau. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Sell me. He had been informed by his mother, that God had transferred the birth-right to him; and, therefore, he takes this opportunity to obtain the consent of Esau quietly. The latter, who knew nothing of God’s decree, shewed his little regard for that privilege. (Haydock) — He perhaps intended to assert his claim by force, notwithstanding this agreement. (Menochius) — It is not probable that he could plead in earnest, that he was famishing in the midst of his father’s house. (Du Hamel) — The birth-right was a temporal honour; though some assert, that the office of priesthood belonged also to it. This, however, does not seem to be certain; for we find Abel, Abraham, and other younger children offering sacrifice. The first-born were entitled to a double portion, (Deuteronomy xxi. 17; 1 Paralipomenon v. 2, 5) and to their father’s peculiar blessing, Ecclesiasticus iii. 12.[11.?] To despise such advantages betrayed a bad disposition, for which Esau is condemned, Hebrews xii. 16; Romans ix. (Calmet) — Jacob’s conduct was perfectly innocent, whether we consider this transaction as serious or not. Isaac never ratified the bargain; nor do we find that Jacob rested his claim on it. (Haydock) — But it is recorded by Moses, to shew the disposition of these two young men. (Calmet)
Ver. 33. Swore; and still we find him enraged above measure, when Isaac had, by mistake, ratified the transfer of the birth-right to Jacob; (Chap. xxvii. 41.) whence we may gather, that he did not intend to perform what he promised, even with the solemnity of an oath; which renders him still more deserving of the title profane, which St. Paul gives him. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Abraham’s children by Cetura, his death and that of Ismael. Isaac hath Esau and Jacob twins. Esau selleth his first birth-right to Jacob.
1 And Abraham married another wife, named Cetura:*
2 Who bore to him Zamran, and Jecsan, and Madan, and Madian, and Jesboc, and Sue.
3 Jecsan also begot Saba, and Dadan. The children of Dadan were Assurim, and Latusim, and Loomim.
4 But of Madian was born Epha, and Opher, and Henoch, and Abida, and Eldaa: all these were the children of Cetura.
5 And Abraham gave all his possessions to Isaac:
6 And to the children of the concubines he gave gifts, and separated them from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, to the east country.
7 And the days of Abraham’s life were a hundred and seventy-five years.
8 And decaying he died in a good old age, *and having lived a long time, and being full of days: and was gathered to his people.
9 And Isaac and Ismael his sons buried him in the double cave, which was situated in the field of Ephron the son of Seor the Hethite, over against Mambre,
10 Which he had bought of the children of Heth: there was he buried, and Sara his wife.
11 And after his death, God blessed Isaac his son, who dwelt by the well named Of the living and seeing.
12 These are the generations of Ismael the son of Abraham, whom Agar the Egyptian, Sara’s servant, bore unto him:
13 And these are the names of his children according to their calling and generations. *The first-born of Ismael was Nabajoth, then Cedar, and Adbeel, and Mabsam,
14 And Masma, and Duma, and Massa,
15 Hadar, and Thema, and Jethur, and Naphis, and Cedma.
16 These are the sons of Ismael: and these are their names by their castles and towns, twelve princes of their tribes.*
17 And the years of Ismael’s life were a hundred and thirty-seven, and decaying he died, *and was gathered unto his people.
18 And he dwelt from Hevila as far as Sur, which looketh towards Egypt, to them that go towards the Assyrians. He died in the presence of all his brethren.
19 These also are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac:
20 Who when he was forty years old, *took to wife Rebecca the daughter of Bathuel the Syrian of Mesopotamia, sister to Laban.
21 And Isaac besought the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and he heard him, and made Rebecca to conceive.
22 But the children struggled in her womb: and she said: If it were to be so with me, what need was there to conceive? And she went to consult the Lord.
23 And he answering, said: *Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.
24 And when her time was come to be delivered, behold twins were found in her womb.
25 *He that came forth first was red, and hairy like a skin: and his name was called Esau. **Immediately the other coming forth, held his brother’s foot in his hand: and therefore he was called Jacob.
26 Isaac was threescore years old when the children were born unto him.*
27 And when they were grown up, Esau became a skilful hunter, and a husbandman: but Jacob, a plain man, dwelt in tents.
28 Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his hunting: and Rebecca loved Jacob.
29 And Jacob boiled pottage: to whom Esau, coming faint out of the field,
30 Said: Give me of this red pottage, for I am exceeding faint. For which reason his name was called Edom.*
31 And Jacob said to him: Sell me thy first birth-right.
32 He answered: Lo I die, what will the first birth-right avail me.
33 Jacob said: Swear therefore to me. Esau swore to him, and sold his first birth-right.
34And so taking bread and the pottage of lentils, he ate, and drank, and went his way; making little account of having sold his first birth-right.
1: 1 Paralipomenon i. 32.; Year of the World about 2150, Year before Christ 1854.
8: Year of the World 2182, Year before Christ 1821.
13: 1 Paralipomenon i. 29.
16: Genesis xvii. 20.
17: Year of the World 2231, Year before Christ 1773.
20: Year of the World 2148, Year before Christ 1856.
23: Romans ix. 10.
25: Osee xii. 3. — ** Matthew i. 2.
26: Year of the World 2168, Year before Christ 1836.
30: Hebrews xii. 16.; Abdias i. 1.