(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 2)

sum, or five shekels. For since nothing is added after the word "bekah," 
it has reference to the greater number. Otherwise here is no suitable 
proportion between the bracelets and the ornaments for the head. 
Moreover, if we take the shekel for four Attic drachms, the value is 
trifling; therefore I think the weight of gold is indicated, which makes 
the sum much greater than the piece of money called a shekel. 
  26. "And the man bowed down his head." When the servant of Abraham 
hears that he had alighted upon the daughter of Bethel, he is more and 
more elated with hope. Yet he does not exult, as profane men are wont to 
do, as if the occurrence were fortuitous; but he gives thanks to God, 
regarding it, as the result of Providence, that he had been thus 
opportunely led straight to the place he had wished. He does not, 
therefore, boast of his good fortune; but he declares that God had dealt 
kindly and faithfully with Abraham; or, in other words, that, for his 
own mercy's sake, God had been faithful in fulfilling his promises. It 
is true that the same form of speech is applied to the persons present; 
just as it follows soon after in the same chapter, (ver. 49,) "If ye 
will deal kindly and truly with my master tell me." The language is, 
however, peculiarly suitable to the character of God, both because he 
gratuitously confers favours upon men, and is specially inclined to 
beneficence: and also, by never frustrating their hope, he proves 
himself to be faithful and true. This thanksgiving, therefore, teaches 
us always to have the providence of God before our eyes, in order that 
we may ascribe to him whatever happens prosperously to us. 
  28. "And the damsel ran and told them of her mother's house." It is 
possible, that the mother of Rebekah occupied a separate house; not that 
she had a family divided from that of her husband, but for the purpose 
of keeping her daughters and maidens under her own custody. The 
expression may, however, be more simply explained to mean, that she came 
directly to her mother's chamber; because she could more easily relate 
the matter to her than to her father. It is also probable, that when 
Bethuel was informed of the fact, by the relation of his wife, their son 
Laban was sent by both of them to introduce the stranger. Other 
explanations are needless. 
  33. "I will not eat until I have told my errand." Moses begins to show 
by what means the parents of Rebekah were induced to give her in 
marriage to their nephew. That the servant, when food was set before 
him, should refuse to eat till he had completed his work is a proof of 
his diligence and fidelity; and it may with propriety be regarded as one 
of the benefits which God had vouchsafed to Abraham, that he should have 
a servant so faithful, and so intent upon his duty. Since, however, this 
was the reward of the holy discipline which Abraham maintained, we 
cannot wonder that very few such servants are to be found, seeing that 
everywhere they are so ill-governed. 
  Moreover, although the servant seems to weave a superfluous story, yet 
there is nothing in it which is not available to his immediate purpose. 
He knew that it was a feeling naturally inherent in parents, not 
willingly to send away their children to a distance. He therefore first 
commemorates Abraham's riches, that they might not hesitate to connect 
their daughter with a husband so wealthy. He secondly explains that 
Isaac was born of his mother in her old age; not merely for the purpose 
of informing them that he had been miraculously given to his father, 
whence they might infer that he had been divinely appointed to this 
greatness and eminence; but that an additional commendation might be 
given on account of Isaac's age. In the third place, he affirms that 
Isaac would be the sole heir of his father. Fourthly, he relates that he 
had been bound by an oath to seek a wife for his master Isaac, from 
among his own kindred; which special choice on the part of Abraham was 
very effectual in moving them to compliance. Fifthly, he states that 
Abraham, in full confidence that God would be the leader of his journey, 
had committed the whole business to him. Sixthly, he declares, that 
whatever he had asked in prayer he had obtained from the Lord; whence it 
appeared that the marriage of which he was about to treat was according 
to the will of God. We now see the design of his narration: First, to 
persuade the parents of Rebekah that he had not been sent for the 
purpose of deceiving them, that he had not in anything acted craftily, 
or by oblique methods, but in the fear of the Lord, as the religious 
obligation of marriage requires. Secondly, that he was desiring nothing 
which would not be profitable and honorable for them. And lastly, that 
God had been the director of the whole affair. 
  Moreover, since the servant of Abraham, though persuaded that the 
angel of God would be the guide of his journey, yet neither directs his 
prayers nor his thanksgivings to him, we may hence learn that angels are 
not, in such a sense, constituted the ministers of God to us, as that 
they should be invoked by us, or should transfer to themselves the 
worship due to God; a superstition which prevails nearly over the whole 
world to such a degree, that men turn aside a portion of their faith 
from the only fountain of all good to the rivulets which flow from it. 
The clause, "the Lord, before whom I walk," (ver. 40,) which some refer 
to the probity and good conscience of Abraham, I rather explain as 
applying to the faith, by which he set God before him, as the governor 
of his life, being confident that he was the object of God's care, and 
dependent upon his grace. 
  "If ye will deal kindly." I have lately related the force of this 
expression; namely, to act with humanity and good faith. He thus 
modestly and suppliantly asks them to consent to the marriage of Isaac 
and Rebekah: should he meet with a repulse from them, he says, he will 
go either to the right hand or to the left; that is, he will look around 
elsewhere. For he places the right hand and the left in contrast with 
the straight way in which he had been led to them. It is, however, with 
fertile ingenuity that some of the Hebrews explain the words as meaning, 
that he would go to Lot, or to Ishmael. 
  50. "The thing proceedeth from the Lord." Whereas they are convinced 
by the discourse of the man, that God was the Author of this marriage, 
they avow that it would be unlawful for them to offer anything in the 
way of contradiction. They declare that the thing proceedeth from the 
Lord; because he had, by the clearest signs, made his will manifest. 
Hence we perceive, that although the true religion was in part observed 
among them, and in part infected with vicious errors, yet the fear of 
God was never so utterly extinguished, but this axiom remained firmly 
fixed in all their minds, that God must be obeyed. If, then, wretched 
idolaters, who had almost fallen away from religion, nevertheless so 
subjected themselves to God, as to acknowledge it to be unlawful for 
them to swerve from his will, how much more prompt ought our obedience 
to be? Therefore, as soon as the will of God is made known to us, not 
only let our tongues be silent, but let all our senses be still; because 
it is an audacious profanation to admit any thought which is opposed to 
that will. 
  52. "He worshipped." Moses again repeats that Abraham's servant gave 
thanks to God; and it is not without reason that he so often inculcates 
this religious duty; because, since God requires nothing greater from 
us, the neglect of it betrays the most shameful indolence. The 
acknowledgment of God's kindness is a sacrifice of sweet-smelling 
savour; yea, it is a more acceptable service than all sacrifices. God is 
continually heaping innumerable benefits upon men. Their ingratitude, 
therefore, is intolerable, if they fail to exercise themselves in 
celebrating those benefits. 
  54. "And they rose up in the morning." On this point Moses insists the 
more particularly; partly, for the purpose of commending the faithful 
industry of the servant in fulfilling his master's commands; partly, for 
that of teaching, that his mind was inflamed by the Spirit of God, for 
he is so ardent as to allow no truce to others, and no relaxation to 
himself. Thus, although he conducted himself as became an honest and 
prudent servant, it is still not to be doubted that the Lord impelled 
him, for Isaac's sake, to act as he did. So the Lord watches over his 
own people while they sleep, expedites and accomplishes their affairs in 
their absence, and influences the dispositions of all, so far as is 
expedient, to render them assistance. It is by a forced interpretation, 
that some would explain the ten days, during which Laban and his mother 
desire the departure of Rebekah to be deferred, as meaning years or 
months. For it was merely the tender wish of the mother, who could ill 
bear that her daughter should thus suddenly be torn away from her bosom. 
  57. "We will call the damsel." Bethuel, who had before unreservedly 
given his daughter in marriage, now seems to adhere, with but little 
constancy, to his purpose. When, however, he had previously offered his 
daughter, without making any exception, he is to be understood as having 
done it, only so far as he was able. But now, Moses declares that he did 
not exercise tyranny over his daughter, so as to thrust her out 
reluctantly, or to compel her to marry against her will, but left her to 
her own free choice. Truly, in this matter, the authority of parents 
ought to be sacred: but a middle course is to be pursued, so that the 
parties concerned may make their contract spontaneously, and with mutual 
consent. It is not right to understand that Rebekah in answering so 
explicitly, showed contempt for the paternal roof, or too anxiously 
desired a husband; but since she saw that the affair was transacted by 
the authority of her father, and with the consent of her mother, she 
also herself acquiesced in it. 
  59. "And they sent away Rebekah." Moses first relates, that Rebekah 
was honorably dismissed; because her nurse was given unto her. Moreover, 
I doubt not that they had domestic nurses, who were their handmaidens; 
not that mothers entirely neglected that duty, but that they committed 
the care of education to one particular maid. They therefore who 
assisted mothers with subsidiary service were called nurses. Moses 
afterwards adds, that Rebekah's relatives "blessed her," (verse 60,) by 
which expression he means, that they prayed that her condition might be 
a happy one. We know that it was a solemn custom, in all ages, and among 
all people, to accompany marriages with all good wishes. And although 
posterity has greatly degenerated from the pure and genuine method of 
celebrating marriages used by the fathers; yet it is God's will that 
some public testimony should stand forth, by which men may be 
admonished, that no nuptials are lawful, except those which are rightly 
consecrated. Now, the particular form of benediction which is here 
related, was probably in common use, because nature dictates that the 
propagation of offspring is the special end of marriage. Under the 
notion of victory (ver. 60) is comprehended a prosperous state of life. 
The Lord, however, directed their tongues to utter a prophecy of which 
they themselves were ignorant. "To possess the gates of enemies," means 
to obtain dominion over them; because judgment was administered in the 
gates, and the bulwarks of the city were placed there. 
  63. "And Isaac went out." It appears that Isaac dwelt apart from his 
father; either because the family was too large, or because such was the 
custom. And perhaps Abraham had already married another wife; so that, 
for the sake of avoiding contentions, it would seem more convenient for 
him to have a house of his own. Thus great wealth has its attendant 
troubles. Doubtless, of all earthly blessings granted by God, none would 
have been sweeter to Abraham than that of living with his son. However, 
I by no means think that he was deprived of his society and assistance. 
For such was the piety of Isaac, that he undoubtedly studied to 
discharge every duty towards his father: this alone was wanting, that 
they did not live in the same house. Moses also relates how it happened 
that Isaac met with his wife before she reached his home. For he says, 
that Isaac went out in the evening to meditate or to pray. For the 
Hebrew word "suach" may mean either. It is probable that he did this 
according to his custom, and that he sought a place of retirement for 
prayer, in order that his mind, being released from all avocations, 
might be the more at liberty to serve God. Whether, however, he was 
giving his mind to meditation or to prayer, the Lord granted him a token 
of his own presence in that joyful meeting. 
  64. "And Rebekah lifted up her eyes." We may easily conjecture that 
Isaac, when he saw the camels, turned his steps towards them, from the 
desire of seeing his bride; this gave occasion to the inquiry of 
Rebekah. Having received the answer, she immediately, for the sake of 
doing honour to her husband, dismounted her camel to salute him. For 
that she fell, struck with fear, as some suppose, in no way agrees with 
the narrative. She had performed too long a journey, under the 
protection of many attendants, to be so greatly afraid at the sight of 
one man. But these interpreters are deceived, because they do not 
perceive, that in the words of Moses, the reason is afterwards given to 
this effect, that when Rebekah saw Isaac, she alighted from her camel; 
because she had inquired of the servant who he was, and had been told 
that he was the son of his master Abraham. It would not have entered 
into her mind to make such inquiry respecting any person whom she might 
accidentally meet: but seeing she had been informed that Abraham's house 
was not far distant, she supposes him at least to be one of the 
domestics. Moses also says that she took a veil: which was a token of 
shame and modesty. For hence also, the Latin word which signifies "to 
marry," is derived, because it was the custom to give brides veiled to 
their husbands. That the same rite was also observed by the fathers, I 
have no doubt. So much the more shameful, and the less capable of 
excuse, is the licentiousness of our own age; in which the apparel of 
brides seems to be purposely contrived for the subversion of all 
  67. "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent." He first 
brought her into the tent, then took her as his wife. By the very 
arrangement of his words, Moses distinguishes between the legitimate 
mode of marriage and barbarism. And certainly the sanctity of marriage 
demands that man and woman should not live together like cattle; but 
that, having pledged their mutual faith, and invoked the name of God, 
they might dwell with each other. Besides, it is to be observed, that 
Isaac was not compelled, by the tyrannical command of his father, to 
marry; but after he had given his mind to her he took her freely, and 
cordially gave her the assurance of conjugal fidelity. 
  "And Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." Since his grief 
for the death of his mother was now first assuaged, we infer how great 
had been its vehemence; for a period sufficiently long had already 
elapsed. We may also hence infer, that the affection of Isaac was tender 
and gentle: and that his love to his mother was of no common kind, 
seeing he had so long lamented her death. And the knowledge of this fact 
is useful to prevent us from imagining that the holy patriarchs were men 
of savage manners and of iron hardness of heart, and from becoming like 
those who conceive fortitude to consist in brutality. Only care must be 
taken that grief should be duly mitigated; lest it burst forth in 
impious murmurings, or subvert the hope of a future resurrection. I do 
not however entirely excuse the sorrow of Isaac; I only advise, that 
what belongs to humanity, ought not to be altogether condemned. And 
although it was culpable not to be able to efface grief from the mind, 
until the opposite joy of marriage prevailed over it; Moses still 
reckons it among the benefits conferred by God, that he applies a remedy 
of any kind to his servant. 
Chapter XXV. 
1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name [was] Keturah. 
2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and 
Ishbak, and Shuah. 
3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were 
Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 
4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and 
Eldaah. All these [were] the children of Keturah. 
5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 
6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave 
gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, 
eastward, unto the east country. 
7 And these [are] the days of the years of Abraham's life which he 
lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. 
8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old 
man, and full [of years]; and was gathered to his people. 
9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in 
the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which [is] before 
10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was 
Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife. 
11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his 
son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi. 
12 Now these [are] the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar 
the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham: 
13 And these [are] the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, 
according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and 
Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, 
14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 
15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: 
16 These [are] the sons of Ishmael, and these [are] their names, by 
their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their 
17 And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and 
thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was 
gathered unto his people. 
18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that [is] before Egypt, as 
thou goest toward Assyria: [and] he died in the presence of all his 
19 And these [are] the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham 
begat Isaac: 
20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the 
daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the 
21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she [was] barren: 
and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 
22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If [it 
be] so, why [am] I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. 
23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations [are] in thy womb, and two 
manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and [the one] 
people shall be stronger than [the other] people; and the elder shall 
serve the younger. 
24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, [there 
were] twins in her womb. 
25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they 
called his name Esau. 
26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's 
heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac [was] threescore years 
old when she bare them. 
27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; 
and Jacob [was] a plain man, dwelling in tents. 
28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of [his] venison: but 
Rebekah loved Jacob. 
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he [was] 
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red 
[pottage]; for I [am] faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 
32 And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit 
shall this birthright do to me? 
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he 
sold his birthright unto Jacob. 
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat 
and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised [his] 
  1. "Then again Abrahaqn took a wife." It seems very absurd that 
Abraham, who is said to have been dead in his own body thirty-eight 
years before the decease of Sarah, should, after her death, marry 
another wife. such an act was, certainly, unworthy of his gravity. 
Besides, when Paul commends his faith, (Rom. 4: 19,) he not only asserts 
that the womb of Sarah was dead, when Isaac was about to be born, but 
also that the body of the father himself was dead. Therefore Abraham 
acted most foolishly, if, after the loss of his wife, he, in the 
decrepitude of old age, contracted another marriage. Further, it is at 
variance with the language of Paul, that he, who in his hundredth year 
was cold and impotent, should, forty years afterwards, have many sons. 
Many commentators, to avoid this absurdity, suppose Keturah to have been 
the same person as Hagar. But their conjecture is immediately refuted in 
the context; where Moses says, Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his 
concubines. The same point is clear]y established from 1 Chron. 1: 32. 
Others conjecture that, while Sarah was yet living, he took another 
wife. This, although worthy of grave censure, is however not altogether 
incredible. We know it to be not uncommon for men to be rendered bold by 
excessive license. Thus Abraham having once transgressed the law of 
marriage, perhaps, after the dispute respecting Hagar, did not desist 
from the practice of polygamy. It is also probable that his mind had 
been wounded, by the divorce which Sarah had compelled him to make with 
Hagar. Such conduct indeed was disgraceful, or, at least, unbecoming in 
the holy patriarch. Nevertheless no other, of all the conjectures which 
have been made, seems to me more probable. If it be admitted, the 
narrative belongs to another place; but Moses is frequently accustomed 
to place those things which have precedence in time, in a different 
order. And though this reason should not be deemed conclusive, yet the 
fact itself shows an inverted order in the history. Sarah had passed her 
ninetieth year, when she brought forth her son Isaac; she died in the 
hundred and twenty-seventh year of her age; and Isaac married when he 
was forty years old. Therefore, nearly four years intervened between the 
death of his mother and his nuptials. If Abraham took a wife after this, 
what was he thinking of, seeing that he had been during so many years 
accustomed to a single life? It is therefore lawful to conjecture that 
Moses, in writing the life of Abraham, when he approached the closing 
scene, inserted what he had before omitted. The difficulty, however, is 
not yet solved. For whence proceeded Abraham's renovated vigour, since 
Paul testifies that his body had long ago been withered by age? 
Augustine supposes not only that strength was imparted to him for a 
short space of time, which might suffice for Isaac's birth; but that by 
a divine restoration, it flourished again during the remaining term of 
his life. Which opinion, both because it amplifies the glory of the 
miracle, and for other reasons, I willingly embrace. And what I have 
before said, namely, that Isaac was miraculously born, as being a 
spiritual seed, is not opposed to this view; for it was especially on 
his account that the failing body of Abraham was restored to vigour. 
That others were afterwards born was, so to speak, adventitious. Thus 
the blessing of God pronounced in the words, "Increase and multiply," 
which was annexed expressly to marriage, is also extended to unlawful 
connexions. Certainly, if Abraham married a wife while Sarah was yet 
alive, (as I think most probable,) his adulterous connexion was unworthy 
of the divine benediction. But although we know not why this addition 
was made to the just measure of favour granted to Abraham, yet the 
wonderful providence of God appears in this, that while many nations of 
considerable importance descended from his other sons, the spiritual 
covenant, of which the rest also bore the sign in their flesh, remained 
in the exclusive possession of Isaac. 
  6. "But unto the sons of the concubines." Moses relates, that when 
Abraham was about to die, he formed the design of removing all cause of 
strife among his sons after his death, by constituting Isaac his sole 
heir, and dismissing the rest with suitable gifts. This dismissal was, 
indeed, apparently harsh and cruel; but it was agreeable to the 
appointment and decree of God, in order that the entire possession of 
the land might remain for the posterity of Isaac. For it was not lawful 
for Abraham to divide, at his own pleasure, that inheritance which had 
been granted entire to Isaac. Wherefore, no course was left to him but 
to provide for the rest of his sons in the manner here described. If any 
person should now select one of his sons as his heir, to the exclusion 
of the others, he would do them an injury; and, by applying the torch of 
injustice, in disinheriting a part of his children, he would light up 
the flame of pernicious strifes in his family. Wherefore, we must note 
the special reason by which Abraham was not only induced, but compelled, 
to deprive his sons of the inheritance, and to remove them to a 
distance; namely, lest by their intervention, the grant which had been 
divinely made to Isaac should, of necessity, be disturbed. We have 
elsewhere said that, among the Hebrews, she who is a partaker of the 
bed, but not of all the goods, is styled a concubine. The same 
distinction has been adopted into the customs, and sanctioned by the 
laws of all nations. So, we shall afterwards see, that Leah and Rachel 
were principal wives, but that Bilhah and Zilpah were in the second 
rank; so that their condition remained servile, although they were 
admitted to the conjugal bed. Since Abraham had made Hagar and Keturah 
his wives on this condition, it seems that he might lawfully bestow on 
their sons, only a small portion of his goods; to have transferred, 
however, from his only heir to them, equal portions of his property, 
would have been neither just nor right. It is probable that no 
subsequent strife or contention took place respecting the succession; 
but by sending the sons of the concubines far away, he provides against 
the danger of which I have spoken, lest they should occupy a part of the 
land which God had assigned to the posterity of Isaac alone. 
  7. "And these are the days." Moses now brings us down to the death of 
Abraham; and the first thing to be noticed concerning his age is the 
number of years during which he lived as a pilgrim; for he deserves the 
praise of wonderful and incomparable patience, for having wandered 
through the space of a hundred years, while God led him about in various 
directions, contented, both in life and death, with the bare promise of 
God. Let those be ashamed who find it difficult to bear the disquietude 
of one, or of a few years, since Abraham, the father of the faithful, 
was not merely a stranger during a hundred years, but was also often 
cast forth into exile. Meanwhile, however, Moses expressly shows that 
the Lord had fulfilled his promise, "Thou shalt die in a good old age:" 
for although he fought a hard and severe battle, yet his consolation was 
neither light nor small; because he knew that, amidst so many 
sufferings, his life was the object of Divine care. But if this sole 
looking unto God sustained him through his whole life, amidst the most 
boisterous waves, amidst many bitter griefs, amidst tormenting cares, 
and in short an accumulated mass of evils; let us also learn--that we 
may not become weary in our course--to rely on this support, that the 
Lord has promised us a happy issue of life, and one truly far more 
glorious than that of our father Abraham. 

  8. "Then Abraham gave up the ghost." They are mistaken who suppose 
that this expression denotes sudden death, as intimating that he had not 
been worn out by long disease, but expired without pain. Moses rather 
means to say that the father of the faithful was not exempt from the 
common lot of men, in order that our minds may not languish when the 
outward man is perishing; but that, by meditating on that renovation 
which is laid up as the object of our hope, we may, with tranquil minds, 
suffer this frail tabernacle to be dissolved. There is therefore no 
reason why a feeble, emaciated body, failing eyes, tremulous hands, and 
the lost use of all our members, should so dishearten us, that we should 
not hasten, after the example of our father, with joy and alacrity to 
our death. But although Abraham had this in common with the human race, 
that he grew old and died; yet Moses, shortly afterwards, puts a 
difference between him and the promiscuous multitude of men as to manner 
of dying; namely, that he should "die in a good old age, and satisfied 
with life." Unbelievers, indeed, often seem to participate in the same 
blessing; yea, David complains that they excelled in this kind of 
privilege; and a similar complaint occurs in the book of Job, namely, 
that they fill up their time happily, till in a moment they descend into 
the grave. But what I said before must be remembered, that the chief 
part of a good old age consists in a good conscience and in a serene and 
tranquil mind. Whence it follows, that what God promises to Abraham, can 
only apply to those who truly cultivate righteousness: for Plato says, 
with equal truth and wisdom, that a good hope is the nutriment of old 
age; and therefore old men who have a guilty conscience are miserably 
tormented, and are inwardly racked as by a perpetual torture. But to 
this we must add, what Plato knew not, that it is godliness which causes 
a good old age to attend us even to the grave, because faith is the 
preserver of a tranquil mind. To the same point belongs what is 
immediately added, "he was full of days," so that he did not desire a 
prolongation of life. We see how many are in bondage to the desire of 
life; yea, nearly the whole world languishes between a weariness of the 
present life and an inexplicable desire for its continuance. That 
satiety of life, therefore, which shall cause us to be ready to leave 
it, is a singular favour from God. 
  "And was gathered to his people." I gladly embrace the opinion of 
those who believe the state of our future life to be pointed out in this 
form of expression; provided we do not restrict it, as these expositors 
do, to the faithful only; but understand by it that mankind are 
associated together in death as well as in life. It may seem absurd to 
profane men, for David to say, that the reprobate are gathered together 
like sheep into the grave; but if we examine the expression more 
closely, this gathering together will have no existence if their souls 
are annihilated. The mention of Abraham's burial will presently follow. 
Now he is said to be gathered to his fathers, which would be 
inconsistent with fact if human life vanished, and men were reduced to 
annihilation: wherefore the Scripture, in speaking thus, shows that 
another state of life remains after death, so that a departure out of 
the world is not the destruction of the whole man. 
  9. "And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him." Hence it appears, that 
although Ishmael had long ago been dismissed, he was not utterly 
alienated from his father, because he performed the office of a son in 
celebrating the obsequies of his deceased parent. Ishmael, rather than 
the other sons did this, as being nearer. 
  12. "Now these are the generations of Ishmael." This narration is not 
superfluous. In the commencement of the chapter, Moses alludes to what 
was done for the sons of Keturah. Here he speaks designedly more at 
large, for the purpose of showing that the promise of God, given in the 
seventeenth chapter, was confirmed by its manifest accomplishment. In 
the first place, it was no common gift of God that Ishmael should have 
twelve sons who should possess rank and authority over as many tribes; 
but inasmuch as the event corresponded with the promise, we must chiefly 
consider the veracity of God, as well as the singular benevolence and 
honour which he manifested towards his servant Abraham, when, even in 
those benefits which were merely adventitious, he dealt so kindly and 
liberally with him; for that may rightly be regarded as adventitious 
which was superadded to the spiritual covenant: therefore Moses, after 
he has enumerated the towns in which the posterity of Ishmael was 
distributed, buries that whole race in oblivion, that substantial 
perpetuity may remain only in the Church, according to the declaration 
in Psalm 102: 28, "the sons of sons shall inhabit." Further, Moses, as 
with his finger, shows the wonderful counsel of God, because, in 
assigning a region distinct from the land of Canaan to the sons of 
Ishmael, he has both provided for them in future, and kept the 
inheritance vacant for the sons of Isaac. 
  18. "He died in the presence of all his brethren." The major part of 
commentators understand this of his death; as if Moses had said that the 
life of Ishmael was shorter than that of his brethren, who long survived 
him: but because the word "naphal" is applied to a violent death, and 
Moses testifies that Ishmael died a natural death, this exposition 
cannot be approved. The Chaldean Paraphrast supposes the word "lot" to 
be understood, and elicits this sense, that the lot fell to him, so as 
to assign him a habitation not far from his brethren. Although I do not 
greatly differ in this matter, I yet think that the words are not to be 
thus distorted. The word "naphal" sometimes signifies to lie down, or to 
rest, and also to dwell. The simple assertion therefore of Moses is, 
that a habitation was given to Ishmael opposite his brethren, so that he 
should indeed be a neighbour to them, and yet should have his distinct 
boundaries: for I do not doubt that he referred to the oracle contained 
in the sixteenth chapters where, among other things, the angel said to 
his mother Hagar, "He shall remain, or pitch his tents in the presence 
of his brethren." Why does he rather speak thus of Ishmael than of the 
others, except for this reason, that whereas they migrated towards the 
eastern region, Ishmael, although the head of a nation, separated from 
the sons of Abraham, yet retained his dwelling in their neighbourhood? 
Meanwhile the intention of God is also to be observed, namely, that 
Ishmael, though living near his brethren, was yet placed apart in an 
abode of his own, that he might not become mingled with them, but might 
dwell in their presence, or opposite to them. Moreover, it is 
sufficiently obvious that the prediction is not to be restricted 
personally to Ishmael. 
  19. "These are the generations of Isaac." Because what Moses has said 
concerning the Ishmaelites was incidental, he now returns to the 
principal subject of the history, for the purpose of describing the 
progress of the Church. And in the first place, he repeats that Isaac's 
wife was taken from Mesopotamia. He expressly calls her the sister of 
Laban the Syrian, who was hereafter to become the father-in-law of 
Jacob, and concerning whom he had many things to relate. But it is 
chiefly worthy of observation that he declares Rebekah to have been 
barren during the early years of her marriage. And we shall afterwards 

(continued in part 3...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-02.txt