The Scriptorium

Separate for Now

Why all these genealogies of unbelieving peoples? Genesis 25.1-5

Gleanealogy: Foundations (5)

Pray Psalm 66.17-20.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!

Sing joyfully and with thanksgiving Psalm 66.17-20.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
When we cried to You, You answered, filled our mouths with highest praise.
Let not sin abide within us, lest we languish all our days.
Bless the Lord, Who hears our pleadings and preserves His love always.

Read Genesis 25.1-5, Genesis 25.12-18, and Genesis 36.1-43.

1. In these genealogies of the nations, how many names do you recognize that show up later in the Old Testament? In what role do these names appear later on?

2. How does Genesis 25.5 put these genealogies into the context of God’s project?


We recall that the narrative of God’s redemptive program – which begins in Genesis and takes shape around the various toledoth given there – includes a focus on place (the earth, then narrowing to the land of Canaan), two peoples (the chosen people and all the rest of the peoples and families of the earth), and a project (bringing the blessing of God through His people to all the families of the earth, Gen. 12.1-3). We have been focusing on the line of God’s chosen people, but we must not lose sight of the other families of the earth, whose peoples and nations, descending from Noah, include those listed in these three genealogies.

Why should we care about these nations and peoples, these families who are beyond the pale of the chosen people? Because God does. With loving care God preserved these three toledoth to come into Moses’ possession, that he might include them in the unfolding story of God’s redemptive love. Moses did not want the people of his generation to think that God was not concerned for all the families of the earth. We see them listed here, adding to the lists previously given (Gen. 4, 10), and creating the impression that they who are beyond the pale of God’s promises are a growing population. Let’s look a little closer at each toledoth.

The offspring of Keturah (25.1-4), Abraham’s wife after Sarah died, are given in Genesis 25.1-4. But to make certain we understand that nothing has changed in God’s program, after their names are given, we are told that “Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac” (v. 5). Isaac was the promised seed. We note in the names of those descending from Abraham through Keturah, nations that will become a bane to Israel in later generations: Midian (v. 2) and Assyria (Asshurim, v. 3). These families of the earth lost sight of their descent from Abraham and God’s promise to bless them through Isaac’s seed; but those who are of the line of promise must not forget their heritage.

Ishmael (25.12-18) was also Abraham’s son, and his descendants would occupy a crescent from east of Egypt under the land of Canaan and up to Assyria (v. 18). Their place, in other words, was not within the place of the chosen seed. As Abraham sent Keturah’s sons away to the east of Canaan (25.6), so Ishmael’s were dispersed to the west and south.

The toledoth in Genesis 36 gives extensive treatment to the offspring of Esau, rejected brother of Jacob, but brother still. In these lists we recognize the names of many of the nations which occupied Canaan when Israel arrived from Egypt (Hittites, Hivites, Temanites, Philistines [Timna]). The insertion of a personal note in v. 24 indicates a measure of appreciation for these peoples; and the mention of war between nations (v. 35) gives us a hint about their nature. These too are separated from the people of Isaac and Jacob, but in the case of Esau, it seems almost to have been a gesture of love that he moved, rather than drive his brother out (vv. 6-8).

The emphasis here is on the increasing number and dispersion of the families of the earth, away from the descendants who are the focus of God’s promises. God is separating them for now, but He does not want us to forget them, because He is not finished with them yet (cf. Mic. 4.1-8, Is. 54.1-3; Matt. 28.18-20). Use these three toledoth, as you come across them in your regular reading of Scripture, to pray for the nations of the world today, and to thank God for the grace He has shown them.

1. Why was it important for Israel to remember the origins of the various nations around them?

2. How do these toledoth teach us to regard the nations of the world in our day?

3. Why was it important for us to know that the chosen people were kept separate from the other families of the earth? Is there a principle here that could guide us in our own walk with the Lord?

Abraham took for himself a concubine after the death of Sarah, so that through the uprightness of his many sons who were to be scattered throughout the entire earth, knowledge and worship of the one God would be spread. Abraham then had sons from Keturah, and he sent them eastward with gifts.
Ephrem the Syrian (306-373), Commentary on Genesis 22.1

Lord, You have commanded us to make all the nations disciples, and for me, today, that means…

Pray Psalm 66.1-16.
Pray for the lost people in your Personal Mission Field, and for the nations of the world, that they might turn too the Lord with thanksgiving and praise, that His grace might reach and save them, just as it has reached and saved you.

Sing Psalm Psalm 66.1-16.
Psalm 66.1-16 (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Shout for joy to God, all people, sing the glory of His Name!
Give Him glorious praise and say, “How great Your pow’r and great Your fame!
All the earth shall worship gladly as they praise Your glorious Name!”

Great and awesome is our Savior in the works which He has done.
He the sea and river dried to let His people cross as one.
Then our joy was great to worship Him our mighty, sovereign One.

He the nations watches ever – all you rebels, humbled be;
Bless our God, all men and nations, praise His Name eternally!
He preserves our souls, and He will keep His paths beneath our feet.

You have tried us, Lord, as silver, and have brought us into nets,
Made us carry heavy burdens, let men trample o’er our heads.
But through all Your grace sustained us and has brought us through to rest.

To Your house we come with off’rings, what we vowed, Lord, help us do.
O, receive our praise and homage as we give ourselves to You.
Come and listen, all who fear Him: hear what this great God can do!

T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore