Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis chapter 25, Abraham marries again. For Abravanel, the patriarch’s decision to
take a wife is more than baffling, it’s disturbing. That is because, at first glance, it seems so out of
“And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. And she
bore him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and
Abravanel shares his cognitive dissonance, let us call it. The patriarch was on in years, well on. We would
expect him to devote the limited time left to study and meditation, to commune with his Maker.
But there’s more to the strange turn of events surrounding his nuptials. Keturah was much, much
younger than Abraham, young enough to bear him children, as is written. “And she bore him Zimran,
and Jokshan, and Medan…” Abravanel, of course, intends to flesh out the holy patriarch’s decision.
For a starting premise, and to be blunt, Abravanel rules out sexual motives, namely that the patriarch
experienced a yearning for spousal intimacy. Absurd.
Below Bible students will find several intriguing reasons to explain Abraham’s conduct. For brevity, we
list two here. Please see Abravanel’s World for the full treatment of this counterintuitive, albeit telling
story. It will stimulate lively Bible study discussion and show how Abraham’s determination to marry
youthful Keturah bespoke purpose and moral clarity.
Earlier in Genesis, God had promised the patriarch: “But your name shall be Abraham, for the father of a
multitude of nations have I made you. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of
you, and kings shall come out of you.” The divine message presaged that Avraham would father many
and multitudinous progeny. By marrying Keturah, and having many children with her, it would set the
scene for God’s blessed tidings to come to fruition.
Here is a second rationale. When Abraham reached one hundred, God commanded him to undergo
circumcision. Together with the commandment, the patriarch received a prophecy. That is, the aged
Abraham would become a father. The Bible records his reaction: “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and
laughed, and said in his heart, shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old?” Incredulous.
After Abraham fulfilled the divine commandment to undergo circumcision, change took place. He was
strengthened, invigorated. So much so that in his late years, he married Keturah. With her, he fathered
six children. “But they that wait for God shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with the wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” The prophet Isiah penned these words; Abraham epitomized them.
As stated, Abravanel writes four additional rationales to explain Abraham’s choice to marry. Taken as a
whole, Bible students are the richer for it. They portray Abraham’s spiritual awareness and unwavering
service to God.