“And she bore to him: Zimran, Yoqshan, Medan, Midyan, Yishbaq, and Shuach.”
And here the children of Abraham and Keturah are remembered by name.
- Zimran: Likely derived from the Hebrew word rAmÎz (zamar), which refers to the playing of an instrument or the singing of praise to God. Children are indeed a blessing and God is the author of blessings, worthy of our praise.
- Yoqshan: Or, in many of our English translations, it is written Jokshan (the “Y” being exchanged for a “J” and the “Q” being exchanged for a “K”). This is a result of German scholarship in the 19th and 20th centuries and the way the Germans pronounced Hebrew words. It was left that way in English for consistency and for ease of pronunciation. Likely his name is derived from vAqÎy (yaqash), which means to snare something in a net or a trap.
- Medan: In Hebrew, this name means, “Controversy,” and is often rendered in the negative way of one who sows discord (see Proverbs 6:14,19). It is purely speculation as to why this name was given, but surely it reflects events that were transpiring in Abraham’s life at that given time.
- Midyan: A derivative of the word “Midian,” as well as “Medan,” again referring to one who is controversial or to one who brings controversy.
- Yishbaq: Likely borrowed from the Arabic word, qAbDv (shabaq), meaning to forestall or to obstruct. Like these other brothers, we know little about them save their name; nevertheless, as the name reflects much about the person’s character, it makes me wonder about these children of Abraham’s old age.
- Shuach: This is the Hebrew word that describes a gorge or a deep pit in rough terrain.
Again, we can only speculate as to the rationale behind some of these names; it should never be forgotten though, that names had a reason and a purpose in ancient times. They told of the character of the person but, like today, they identify the persons who happen to carry those names. These persons are not generic masses, but children of Abraham who are blessed by their connection to the “Father of the Great Multitude.” They had real hopes and fears just like you and me, and God the Holy Spirit thought it fitting to remember them if only in their connection to Abraham. Do not forget the human element of these texts. It is easy to get lost in the names and forget the people behind those names.
There is a reminder in these names for us as well. For most of us, there will come a day when our name will simply be an entry on someone’s family tree. May we remember that in the end, it is not about us or our legacy — it never was — it is about Christ and the legacy of Christ that we leave behind to our children.