The Sons of Jokshan
“Yoqshan begat Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Ashshurim, Letushiym, and Leummiym.”
Moses gives us the genealogies of only two of these sons of Abraham and Keturah. That does not mean that the other sons did not have children, but simply these sons were marked as examples of Abraham’s fruitfulness and, with respect to the children of Midyan (in the following verse), he is most likely the great granddaddy of the Midianites who will eventually cause the Hebrews such grief. In terms of Yoqshan’s (or Jokshan) descendants, do not get them confused with the sons of Raamah (Genesis 10:7) who is the grandson of Ham. There seems to be no connection other than the use of the same names, not a terribly uncommon occurrence even today.
- Sheba: Probably this is an abbreviated version of the word bAbDv (shebab), meaning “to cut or chop” — as one would do with firewood. The plural of this word is used in Hosea 8:6 to refer to the calf of Samaria being broken into pieces. Scholars believe that it is from this son of Abraham that the Arabian tribe of Sheba developed which would lead rise to the later Queen of Sheba who arises in Solomon’s throne-room.
- Dedan: Likely derived from the Hebrew håd∂d (dadah), which means “to toddle or hop.” Again, it seems that these sons migrated south and that the Arabian tribe of the same name finds its ancestry in this son of Abraham.
- Ashshurim (Asshurim): Traditionally, this name has been understood to mean “those who are in want” which perhaps comes from the later use of the term to refer to those Asshurim as people of a lower class on the social scale. Note that all three sons of Dedan are given names in the plural (the im/iym ending). It is very possible that these refer not so much to specific sons as to Arabian tribes that descend from Dedan. Assuming that this is the same group of people that will later be referred to as Asshur, then once again we have a group of raiders that will bring grief to the people of Israel (Psalm 83:8).
- Letushiym (Letushim): A name meaning “manual craftsman.” Similar to the Ashshurim, this seems an indication of their being a working class group of people.
- Leummiym (Leummim): Translated by some as “hordes,” an apt description of an Arab tribe if I have ever heard one. As with Letushiym, this is all we know of this line of descendants.
The bottom line is that the sons of Abraham are spreading out, this group to the south, and nations will arise from them. Sadly, most of these nations will reject the God of their great ancestor, Abraham, and will pursue idols of their own making. This will bring judgment to them, but also a great deal of grief to the nation of Israel as she is born. It is through Isaac that God’s covenant will move through and God is withholding his Spirit from all others. This is one more reminder of God’s doctrine of sovereign election. All these tribes had the same father, but only one son will follow the God of the universe. Those who come to the Son must be brought by the Father (John 6:44).
The Children of Keturah
“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.