Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Genesis 25:18

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

They dwelt from Havilah unto Shur - The descendants of Ishmael possessed all that country which extends from east to west, from Havilah on the Euphrates, near its junction with the Tigris, to the desert of Shur eastward of Egypt; and which extends along the isthmus of Suez, which separates the Red Sea from the Mediterranean.

As thou goest toward Assyria - "These words," says Calmet, "may refer either to Egypt, to Shur, or to Havilah. The desert of Shur is on the road from Egypt to Assyria in traversing Arabia Petraea, and in passing by the country of Havilah. I know not," adds he, "whether Ashshurah in the text may not mark out rather the Asshurim descended from Keturah, than the Assyrians, who were the descendants of Asshur the son of Shem."

He died in the presence of all his brethren - The original will not well bear this translation. In Genesis 25:17; it is said, He gave up the ghost and died, and was gathered to his people. Then follows the account of the district occupied by the Ishmaelites, at the conclusion of which it is added נפל אחיו כל פני על al peney col echaiv naphal, "It (the lot or district) Fell (or was divided to him) in the presence of all his brethren:" and this was exactly agreeable to the promise of God, Genesis 16:12, He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren; and to show that this promise had been strictly fulfilled, it is here remarked that his lot or inheritance was assigned him by Divine Providence, contiguous to that of the other branches of the family. The same word, נפל naphal, is used Joshua 23:4, for to divide by lot.

On the subject of writing the same proper name variously in our common Bibles, the following observations and tables will not be unacceptable to the reader. "Men who have read their Bible with care," says Dr. Kennicott, "must have remarked that the name of the same person is often expressed differently in different places. Indeed the variation is sometimes so great that we can scarcely persuade ourselves that one and the same person is really meant. A uniform expression of proper names is diligently attended to in other books: perhaps in every other book, except the Old Testament. But here we find strange variety in the expression, and consequently great confusion: and indeed there is scarcely any one general source of error which calls for more careful correction than the same proper names now wrongly expressed. I shall add here, from the Pentateuch, some proper names which are strangely varied: first, twenty-three names expressed differently in the Hebrew text itself, and seventeen of them in our English translation; and then thirty-one names expressed uniformly in the Hebrew yet differently in the English.

"Nothing can be more clear than that these fifty-four proper names (at least the far greater part of them) should be expressed with the very same letters, in the places where they are now different. In the second list, instances 6, 10, and 13, have been corrected and expressed uniformly in the English Bible printed at Oxford in 1769. And surely the same justice in the translation should be done to the rest of these proper names, and to all others through the Bible; at least, where the original words are now properly the same. Who would not wonder at seeing the same persons named both Simon and Shimon, Richard and Ricard? And can we then admit here both Seth and Sheth, Rachel and Rahel? Again: whoever could admit (as above) both Gaza and Azzak, with Rameses and Raamses, should not object to London and Ondon, with Amsterdam and Amstradam. In short, in a history far more interesting than any other, the names of persons and places should be distinguished accurately, and defined with exact uniformity. And no true critic will think lightly of this advice of Origen, Contemnenda non est accurata circa Nomina diligentia ei, qui volurit probe intelligere sanctas literas? No person who desires thoroughly to understand the sacred writings, should undervalue a scrupulous attention to the proper names." - Kennicott's Remarks.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 12-18

- Section XI. - Isaac

- LII. History of Ishmael

13. נבית nebāyot Nebajoth, “heights.” קדר qēdār Qedar, “black.” אדבאל 'adbe'ēl Adbeel, “miracle of God?” מבשׂם mı̂bśām Mibsam, “sweet odor.”

14. משׁמע mı̂shma‛ Mishma‹, “hearing.” דוּמה dûmâh Dumah, “silence.” משׂא maśā' Massa, “burden.”

15. חדר chădar Chadar, “chamber;” or חדד chădad Chadad, “sharpness;” תימא tēymā' Tema. יטוּר yeṭûr Jetur, “enclosure,” akin to טוּר ṭûr “a wall,” and טירה ṭı̂yrâh “a wall.” נפישׁ nāpı̂ysh Naphish, “breathing.” קדמה qēdemâh Qedemah, “before, eastward.”

16. חצר chātsēr “court, village, town.”

According to custom, before the history of the principal line is taken up, that of the collateral branch is briefly given. Thus, Cain‘s history is closed before Sheth‘s is commenced; Japheth and Ham are before Shem; Haran and Nahor before Abram. And so the sons of Keturah are first dismissed from the pages of history, and then Ishmael.

Genesis 25:12

The present passage begins with the formula, “and these are the generations,” and forms the eighth document so commencing. The appearance of a document consisting of seven verses is clearly against the supposition that each of these documents is due to a different author. The phrase points to a change of subject, not of author.

Genesis 25:13-16

Nebaioth - Isaiah 60:7 is preserved in the Nabataei inhabiting Arabia Petraea, and extending far toward the East. “Kedar” Isaiah 21:17 appears in the Cedrei of Pliny (H. N. 5,12) who dwell east of Petraea. “Adbeel Mibsam,” and “Mishma are otherwise unknown. The last is connected with the Μαισαιμενεῖς Maisaimeneis of Ptol. (v. 7,21). “Dumah” Isaiah 21:11 is probably Δούμεθα Doumetha (Ptol. vi. 19,7) and Domata (Plin. H. N. 6,32) and Dumat el-Jendel in Nejd and the Syrian desert. “Massa” may be preserved in the Μασανοὶ Masanoi of Ptolemy (v. 19,2), northeast of Duma. “Hadar” is Hadad in 1 Chronicles 1:30, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Onkelos, perhaps the Septuagint, and many codices. It is supposed to be Χαττηνία Chatteenia (Polyb.), Attene, and to lie between Oman and Bahrein. “Tema” Job 6:19; Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23 lay on the borders of Nejd and the Syrian desert. “Jetur” remains in Ituraea, Jedur, northeast of the sea of Galilee. Some suppose the Druses descended from him. “Naphish” 1 Chronicles 6:19, 1 Chronicles 6:22 lay in the same quarter. “Kedemah” is otherwise unknown. “In their towns and in their castles.” The former are unwalled collections of houses or perhaps tents; the latter, fortified keeps or encampments. “Twelve princes,” one for each tribe, descended from his twelve sons.

Genesis 25:17-18

Ishmael dies at the age of a hundred and thirty-seven. “From Havilah,” on the borders of Arabia Petraea and Felix. “Unto Shur,” on the borders of Arabia and Egypt. This was the original seat of the Ishmaelites, from which they wandered far into Arabia. “In the presence of all his brethren” - the descendants of Abraham by Sarah and Keturah, those of Lot, and the Egyptians who were his brethren or near kindred by his mother and wife. “He had fallen” into the lot of his inheritance. Thus was fulfilled the prediction uttered before his birth Genesis 16:12.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Ishmael had twelve sons, whose families became distinct tribes. They peopled a very large country that lay between Egypt and Assyria, called Arabia. The number and strength of this family were the fruit of the promise, made to Hagar and to Abraham, concerning Ishmael.
Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 174

Abraham's early teachings had not been without effect upon Ishmael, but the influence of his wives resulted in establishing idolatry in his family. Separated from his father, and embittered by the strife and contention of a home destitute of the love and fear of God, Ishmael was driven to choose the wild, marauding life of the desert chief, “his hand” “against every man, and every man's hand against him.” Genesis 16:12. In his latter days he repented of his evil ways and returned to his father's God, but the stamp of character given to his posterity remained. The powerful nation descended from him were a turbulent, heathen people, who were ever an annoyance and affliction to the descendants of Isaac. PP 174.1

The wife of Lot was a selfish, irreligious woman, and her influence was exerted to separate her husband from Abraham. But for her, Lot would not have remained in Sodom, deprived of the counsel of the wise, God-fearing patriarch. The influence of his wife and the associations of that wicked city would have led him to apostatize from God had it not been for the faithful instruction he had early received from Abraham. The marriage of Lot and his choice of Sodom for a home were the first links in a chain of events fraught with evil to the world for many generations. PP 174.2

No one who fears God can without danger connect himself with one who fears Him not. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. The happiness and prosperity of the marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. They are serving two masters, between whom there can be no concord. However pure and correct one's principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving companion will have a tendency to lead away from God. PP 174.3

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