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Children of Midian

“And the sons of Midyan were Eyphah, Epher, Chanok, Abiyda, and Elddaah. All these were the sons of Keturah.”

(Genesis 25:4)

 

Moses gives us the final listing of the grandsons of Abraham and Keturah, in this case through the line of Midyan (Midian). These are the sons who will establish the tribes of the Midianites that will give the people of Israel so many problems in the generations to come, hence their likely inclusion. There are others in the Bible who share the same name, but as with people  today who are named John, Samuel, and Paul, these names were not totally uncommon in the ancient near east. Apart from the parallel in 1 Chronicles 1:33, we know little else about these sons and grandchildren.

  1. Eyphah (Ephah): Literally, his name is translated as “darkness.” Perhaps more literally, the idea conveyed by the word is the presence of that gloom whose effect is to create a darkened state — see Job 10:22. However you explore the nuances of this name’s meaning, its connotations are ominous.
  2. Epher: There is some debate as to the term from which this word gets its name. Traditionally it has been understood to be a derivative of rRpOo (opher), which refers to a young fawn or gazelle. It may also be derived from rDpDo (aphar), which refers to the dust of the earth. In either case, both are fleeting. The deer runs swiftly from its hunter and the soil, when dry, is scattered by the wind, much like the wicked before God’s judgment.
  3. Chanok (Hanoch): Typically this name is rendered as “Enoch” in our Bibles (see Genesis 4:17 & 5:18 for example) and means “dedicated.” In the context of the son of Cain, a city was dedicated to him. In the case of the son of Jared, he was dedicated to God. As this Enoch is not part of the Covenant line, most likely the former is the intended meaning, not the latter.
  4. Abiyda (Abida): Literally: “My Father has Known Me.” Here we probably have the most positive of the group, though again history makes clear that the Father in question is an earthly father, not a heavenly one.
  5. Elddaah (Eldaah): Literally: “One who seeks God.” Yet does anyone ever really seek after God of their own accord? No, not even one (Romans 3:11-12). Only those that the Father draws to himself will come (John 6:44).

Keturah…

“And it came to pass that Abraham once again took a wife, and her name was Qeturah.”

(Genesis 25:1)

 

As Abraham completes his sojourn in this life, he takes on another companion to be his wife. These last few verses of Abraham’s story cover the last 38 years of Abraham’s life. It is interesting that so little is recorded of this time when so much is recorded of the 25 years that passed between God’s call to travel to Canaan and the birth of Isaac. We really know very little about most of this patriarch’s life, though of the most important part of his life, we do know a great deal. This is a good reminder first that our Bibles are a record of redemptive history and thus not every chronological detail is recorded. Secondly, it is a reminder that the legacy which we leave behind that will be of lasting value will be that spiritual legacy that points people toward Christ. The other stuff, while not unimportant, will fade away.

Thus, we find that Abraham takes a wife of Qeturah — or as is commonly transliterated in English, “Keturah.” Apart from the children she bore to Abraham, we know nothing of this woman or where she is from. Her name means, “Fragrant Smoke,” and is a reference to the food offerings that would be lifted up to God (not necessarily of perfumes). The writer of Chronicles refers to her as his concubine (1 Chronicles 1:32), but this should not prove to be too great a stumbling block, for the wife of Abraham in redemptive history was Sarah — nations would rise from Hagar and Keturah, but God worked his promise through Isaac and then Isaac’s son, Jacob. It is through this line that all of the nations (including those descending through his other wives) would find their blessing.

The baton of God’s covenant promise has now passed from Abraham to Isaac, these first verses of chapter 25 serve as a transition as this friend of God comes to the end of his travels and prepares to go home. Solomon writes that we should rejoice in the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18), which is indeed true, but praise God for that wife who is our companion in our old age as well. While Solomon’s later words in Ecclesiastes are not typically considered overly “inspirational,” they do add meaning to our wives’ role as helpmates (Genesis 2:20) in this fallen world.

“Find meaning in life with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life, which he has given to you under the sun — all the days of vanity. For it is your portion in life and in your troubles in which you trouble under the sun.”

(Ecclesiastes 9:9)

The Great Nation of Ishmael

“And unto Ishmael, I have heard you, so behold, I will bless him and will cause him to bear fruit and I will make him exceedingly great. He will bear twelve princes and I will give to him a great nation.”

(Genesis 17:20)

Because of God’s promise to Abraham, God blesses Abraham’s firstborn and allows him to build a nation. Like Jacob, from Ishmael we are told that 12 princes would come (see Genesis 25:13-16 for the list of Ishmael’s twelve sons). These sons would grow in stature and influence and founded many of the nations that surrounded ancient Israel and which are even today seeking to destroy the rest of those who descend from Abraham. These, of course, are ultimately the current Islamic nations.

So why did God permit the rise of Islam? Couldn’t God have just cut off the line of Hagar as he did with Keturah (Abraham’s wife after the death of Sarah)? Indeed, God could remove all of the obstacles between us and glory, yet God uses those obstacles to refine us and to mature us in our faith. Islam is also designed to be a reminder to us of the grace and mercy of God. Their religion is law, law, law and it is as contradictory to the Christian faith as light is to darkness. If man’s natural bent since the fall were not legalism, Islam would have no appeal.

As we look at the political landscape of the world around us, one may be quick to wonder if life indeed would be easier if the Muslims were not a threat. Not only has there been centuries of warfare between Christians and Muslims but that warfare has been coupled with terrorist activities. In additions, Muslims are immigrating all over Europe and America and some are suggesting that one day these once Christian nations will be under Sharia Law.

So, indeed, what is the solution to this great dilemma that Christians are facing today? The answer is the same, beloved, as it has always been: be bold in your witness of the Gospel. Part of the reason that Islam, Humanism, eastern Mysticism, and other false religions are making such headway into the thinking of lands who have once been dominated by Christianity is that Christianity no longer dominates in the public square. We have sadly turned inward and have decided to focus more on building buildings, running programs, and having a following than in making disciples of all nations. Can you imagine what America would be like if we were so bold with our testimony of the Gospel that everyone who came would end up converting to Christianity? If that were the case, we would be excited about more Muslims immigrating from the Middle East because that would mean that they would soon be becoming Christian. Even many pastors have become defeatists, acting as if they are serving the church in Sardis, strengthening what is about to die, rather than engaging and breaking down the gates of Hell. God has given us the armor and weapons of warfare to do so; will we not use them?

Beloved, we have been called by our great captain to engage the enemy, let us do so with vigor and with boldness and proclaim that we will not lay down our arms before the foe because the war has already been won by Jesus Christ upon the cross. Let Christianity once again be on the march because it is through Isaac and through Christ that the promise is given, not through the other children of Abraham.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

Forward into battle see His banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;

On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!

Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;

Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,

But the church of Jesus constant will remain.

Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;

We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,

Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.

Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,

This through countless ages men and angels sing.

–Sabine Baring-Gould