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Keturah’s Sons and Names Listed in the Torah

Question: In Genesis, Chapter 25, (Shishi of Chayei Sarah), the Torah begins by telling us that Avraham married Keturah and had six sons with her. It names them and then names the sons of two of them, the sons of Jokshan and the sons of Midian. It also lists the sons of one of the sons of Jokshan. Why does the Torah need:

a) To tell us the names of two of the sons of the sons of Keturah?
b) To tell us the names of the sons of one of the sons of one of the few sons of Keturah that the Torah does mention the sons of?

Answer: Hi! I think your question is a very good one. One place to start looking is in the Ramban (Nachmanides) on Parshas Pinchas in Bamidbar, where the families of the tribes of Israel are listed in detail. He goes through a number of questions there on why exactly this family was included and why that one was broken up into smaller ones, and I imagine the same issues apply here. Basically I think he says that some families and sub-families grew and became important and took on an independent identity, and others didn’t.

[I don’t know if you’ll find that kind of answer unsatisfying. There are parts of the Torah from which it is easy to see deep meanings and guidance for life, and others where it is harder. Certainly we’re more distant from understanding why we need to know the descendents of Yishmael or Esav. Sanhedrin 99b on King Menashe’s reaction to the verse “And Timna was the sister of Lotan” (end of Parshas Vayishlach) is interesting.

Maybe I’ll just add that the families of Israel were created by Hashgacha (deliberate guidance) from Hashem, not just happenstance. This is true of Yishmael’s descendants as well: there was an explicit prophecy to Hagar, and another to Avraham (Parshas Lech Lecha). These families are part of Hashem’s process of designing the structure of human civilization.]

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

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