Genesis 25:1—Why does Genesis 25:1 call Keturah Abraham’s wife, while 1 Chronicles 1:32 calls her his concubine?

Problem: Genesis 25:1 says, “Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.” However, 1 Chronicles 1:32 states, “Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine.” Was Keturah Abraham’s wife, or was she merely one of his concubines?

Solution: The contradiction is only apparent, and the problem can be easily solved by closer consideration. First, although in Genesis 25:1 the normal Hebrew word for wife (ishshah) is used, it is also the normal word for woman. It is not necessary to take the word in this case to mean wife, especially in light of verse 6 and the statement in 1 Chronicles 1:32 that Keturah was his concubine. Genesis 25:1 can be read simply as, “And Abraham took another woman” as his concubine.

Second, although 1 Chronicles employs the Hebrew word for concubine (pilegesh) in reference to Keturah, Genesis 25:6 uses the same word when referring to the mothers of all his other sons apart from Isaac. This would obviously include Keturah as one of his concubines. Additionally, Genesis 25:1 begins with a Hebrew word (vayoseph) which can be translated, “And adding” or “And in addition to.” Since Genesis 24:67 clearly states that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had died, verse 1 of chapter 25 could not mean that Abraham was adding to his number of wives. It is more reasonable to take this word as indicating that Abraham was adding to his number of concubines by taking another woman (ishshah).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.