Avraham's Many Wives

Introduction

Marriage in Old Age?

After the detailed story of Avraham's servant finding a wife for Yitzchak, Bereshit 25:1 speaks of another marriage, that of Avraham himself:

EN/HEע/E
וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה וּשְׁמָהּ קְטוּרָה.
And Avraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah.

It seems that once Sarah had died and Yitzchak was married off, Avraham decided to take another wife, Keturah. This marriage is somewhat surprising considering that, according to the simple chronological order of the narrative, Avraham is at least 140 at the time!1 Why is he looking to remarry at such an advanced age? The incongruity is highlighted by the fact that just a few verses after the marriage is mentioned, we read of Avraham's death. What is the Torah trying to teach us by recounting this episode?

Who is Keturah?

Who is this woman whom Avraham marries? She appears only in our story and in the genealogy list of Avraham's descendants in Divrei HaYamim I 1:32-33. While Bereshit describes her as a wife, there she is referred to as a concubine. What was her actual status and how is she related to the concubines of Avraham mentioned in Bereshit 25:6? Are these concubines yet other wives, or are they to be identified with either Keturah or Hagar? What were the nationalities of all of these women; did they come from afar, or did Avraham have no problem marrying local Canaanite women?2 Finally, what is the significance of all of these women for the Avraham narrative as a whole?

Bequeathing All to Yitzchak – Again?

Following the list of children that Keturah bore Avraham, Bereshit 25:5 tells us that Avraham bequeathed his entire inheritance to Yitzchak, giving merely gifts to the children of his concubines. Already in Chapter 24, though, Avraham's servant tells Rivka's family that Avraham had given all of his possessions to Yitzchak. How are we to understand this contradiction? Was the servant describing an event which had yet to happen? Alternatively, did this particular verse of 25:5 really occur earlier despite being recounted only here? Or, perhaps, did the entire chapter of Avraham's additional marriages transpire at a much earlier point in Avraham's life, and the whole story appears out of chronological order?

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