Keturah (Hebrew: קְטוּרָה, Modern Ktura, Tiberian Qəṭûrā ; "Incense") was a wife and concubine of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham married Keturah after the death of his first wife, Sarah; Abraham and Keturah had six sons.
One modern commentator on the Hebrew Bible has called Keturah "the most ignored significant person in the Torah". Some Jewish scholars have believed Keturah to be the same person as Abraham's concubine Hagar, but this view is not universally held.
Sources of information
The ancestry of Keturah is not stated. She is mentioned in two passages in the Hebrew Bible: in the Book of Genesis, and also in the First Book of Chronicles. Additionally, she is mentioned in the secular work Antiquities of the Jews by the 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, and also in the Talmud, the Midrash, the Palestinian Targumim, the Genesis Rabbah, and various other writings of Jewish theologians and philosophers.
Relationship of Keturah to Abraham
Keturah is referred to in Genesis as "another wife" of Abraham (Hebrew: אִשָּׁה Translit.: 'išāh Translated: woman, wife). In First Chronicles, she is called Abraham's "concubine" (Hebrew: פִּילֶגֶשׁ Translit.: pilegeš Translated: concubine). Eric Lyon theorizes that "it is possible that Keturah was Abraham’s 'concubine' in the beginning, and then became his 'wife' at a later time."
Keturah and Hagar
There is disagreement amongst Jewish scholars as to whether Keturah was, or was not, the same person as Hagar—the servant of Abraham's wife Sarah, and Abraham's concubine—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 (Keturah means incense in Hebrew) is said to refer to the pleasant aroma of incense—symbolic of her having turned from misdeeds committed during her time away from Abraham. Since Keturah is referred to in First Chronicles as Abraham's concubine (in the singular), some scholars concluded that this was why Keturah was identified with Hagar in the Midrash and the Palestinian Targumim. 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.
Biblical scholar 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 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. Genesis and First Chronicles also list seven of her grandsons (Sheba, Dedan, Ephah, Epher, Enoch, Abida, and Eldaah). Keturah's sons were said to have represented the Arab tribes who lived south and east of Palestine.
- Easton, M. G., ed. (1897). "Keturah". Easton's Bible Dictionary. London: T. Nelson and Sons.
- Genesis 25:1–4 (1917 Jewish Publication Society of America translation). "And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah...."
- 1 Chronicles 1:32–33 (1917 Jewish Publication Society of America translation). "And the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine...."
- 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....
- 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....
- Strong's Concordance, Hebrew word #376.
- Strong's Concordance, Hebrew word #6370.
- Lyon, Eric (2003). Was Keturah Abraham's Wife or Concubine?. Apologetics Press.
- Genesis 21:9–14.
- 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.
- Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, eds. (1907). "Hagar". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
- Rashi on Genesis 25:1 cites Genesis Rabbah 61:5 in his commentary: "Keturah: This is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasant as keturah (incense), and because she remained chaste (katrah, from the Aramaic for "restrained") and did not consort with another man from the day she separated from Abraham".
- 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.
- Equiano, Olaudah (1995). The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Penguin Books. p. 44. ISBN 0-14-243716-6.
- 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.