Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Reflections on Old Testament Law and History #2

In another pattern, the Genesis text lists twelve sons not only of Jacob but also of Abraham's brother Nahor (Gen. 22:20-24) and Isaac's half-brother Ishmael (Gen. 25:13-16), yet only six through Keturah, Abraham's third wife (Gen. 25:1-2). The significance of these numbers may indicate their identity as people chosen to be blessed by God; for Nahor's family through intermarrying with Abraham's descendants, and for Ishmaels's family as recipients of the blessing God promised to Hagar (Gen. 21:17-18). By contrast, Keturah's sons are sent away from the Promised Land (Gen. 25:6).

Other people of interest in the Genesis narrative also fail to have so many sons: Lot has two, who become the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites (Gen. 19:36-38), and Esau has five, from whom descend the Edomites (Gen. 36:2-5, 8-9). The contrast these families provide is evident in the role their descendants play later as bane to the LORD's people. Together with the Philistines, the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites contend with Israel as the means of God's punishment of his people.

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