Keturah (Hebrew: קְטוּרָה, Modern Ktura Tiberian Qəṭûrā ; "Incense") was a wife or concubine of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham married Keturah after the death of his first wife, Sarah, and they had six sons.
One modern commentator on the Torah has called Keturah "the most ignored significant person in the Torah". Some Jewish scholars have believed Keturah was the same person as Abraham's concubine Hagar, but this position is not universally held.
The ancestry of Keturah is not stated. She is mentioned in the Book of Genesis and the First Book of Chronicles, as well as in the secular work Antiquities of the Jews by the 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian Josephus.
Keturah and Hagar
There is disagreement amongst Jewish theologians and philosophers as to whether Keturah was, or was not, the same person as Abraham's concubine Hagar, who (together with her son Ishmael) was sent away by Abraham at the insistence of Sarah.
The discussion of Genesis 25:1–6 in the Genesis Rabbah includes statements by Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi arguing that Hagar returned to Abraham and was renamed Keturah. Her new name is said to refer to the pleasant aroma of incense—symbolic of her having turned from misdeeds committed during her time away from Abraham. An alternative interpretation of the name Keturah (based on an Aramaic root meaning "to tie" or "to adorn") is also cited in the Genesis Rabbah to suggest that Hagar did not have sexual relations with anyone else from the time she left Abraham until her return. The theory that Keturah was Hagar was also supported by the 11th-century scholar Rashi.
Richard Elliott Friedman dismisses the identification of Keturah with Hagar as "an old rabbinic idea" for which "there is no basis ... in the text", and also notes that the idea was rejected by traditional commentators such as Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Rashbam. The apocryphal Book of Jubilees also supports the conclusion that Keturah and Hagar were two different people, by stating that Abraham waited until after Hagar's death before marrying Keturah.
Keturah bore Abraham six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The Genesis and First Chronicles accounts list seven grandsons; additionally, the Genesis account lists three great-grandsons. Keturah's sons represented Arab tribes south and east of Palestine.
- Easton, M. G., ed. (1897). "Keturah". Easton's Bible Dictionary. London: T. Nelson and Sons.
- Genesis 25:1–4. "Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim. The descendants of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Enoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah."
- 1 Chronicles 1:32–33. "The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Midian: Ephah, Epher, Enoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the descendants of Keturah."
- Friedman, Richard Elliott (2001). Commentary on the Torah. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 85. ISBN 0-06-062561-9.
Keturah. The most ignored significant person in the Torah. Rashi follows an old rabbinic idea that she is Hagar. But there is no basis for this in the text, and other traditional commentators reject it (Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rashbam).
- Flavius Josephus (1930). Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Books I–IV. Thackeray, H. St. J. (translator). William Heinemann Ltd. p. 117 (book 1, ch. 15, para. 238).
Abraham afterwards married Katura, by whom he had six sons, strong to labour and quick of understanding....
- Genesis 21:9–14. "Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, 'Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.' ... Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba."
- Harris, Maurice (1901). The Talmud Midrashim and Kabbala. M. Walter Dunne. p. 241.
Rashi supposes that Keturah was one and the same with Hagar—so the Midrash, the Targum Yerushalmi, and that of Jonathan.... but Aben Ezra and most of the commentators contend that Keturah and Hagar are two distinct persons....
- Neusner, Jacob (1985). Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis: A New American Translation 2. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. pp. 334–335 (section 61:4). ISBN 0-89130-933-0.
'Abraham took another wife' ... R. Judah said, 'This refers to Hagar.'
- Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, eds. (1907). "Keturah". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
Keturah is called 'the concubine of Abraham,' and, probably for this reason, she is identified in the Midrash ... and in the Palestinian Targumim with Hagar, who was the first concubine of Abraham. The Midrash explains the name 'Keturah' as based on her acts, which were pleasant like frankincense.
- Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, eds. (1907). "Hagar". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
[Hagar's] fidelity is praised, for even after Abraham sent her away she kept her marriage vow, and therefore she was identified with Keturah....
- Jubilees 19:11. Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, eds. (1907). "Jubilees, Book of". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
- Orr, James, ed. (1915). "Keturah". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Chicago: Howard-Severance Co.
[Keturah] was the mother of 6 sons representing Arab tribes South and East of Palestine (Genesis 25:1–6), so that through the offspring of Keturah Abraham became 'the father of many nations.'
- Equiano, Olaudah (1995). The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Penguin Books. p. 44. ISBN 0-14-243716-6.
Indeed this is the opinion of Dr. Gill, who, in his commentary on Genesis, very ably deduces the pedigree of the Africans from Afer and Afra, the descendants of Abraham by Keturah his wife and concubine....
- Able, John (2011). Apocalypse Secrets: Baha'i Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. McLean, Virginia: John Able Books Ltd. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-9702847-5-4.
Baha'u'llah descended doubly, from both Abraham and Sarah, and separately from Abraham and Keturah.