KETURAH (Heb. קְטוּרָה), a wife (Gen. 25:1) or concubine of Abraham (cf. 25:6; I Chron. 1:32). She bore him six sons (Gen. 25:2; I Chron. 1:32), the most prominent of these being *Midian. All these names are eponyms of peoples and locales. These children complete the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). Abraham is said to have given them gifts and to have sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East (Gen. 25:6). The text emphasizes that Abraham was still living when he sent Keturah's sons away in order to show that they had no claims to rival Isaac. The peoples and locales Sheba, Dedan, Ephah, Midian, and Medan are mentioned in connection with ancient international trade, especially in spices, gold, and precious stones which were brought from southern Arabia (Isa. 60:6; Ezek. 27:15, 20, 22; cf. Gen. 37:25, 28, 36). Given that these locales were on the incense route, it is probable that the writer of the account named Abraham's wife Keturah to connect her with the word ketoret (qeṭoret, קְטֹרֶת, "incense"), of which a by-form ketorah (qeṭorah, קְטוֹרָה) occurs in Deuteronomy 33:10.
[Israel Eph'al /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
In the Aggadah
Keturah is identified with Hagar. The connection with incense (see above) is that her good deeds gave off a fragrance like incense; or that she combined (kitrah) in herself piety and nobility (Gen. R. 61:4). She was a daughter of Japheth (Yal. Reub. Gen. 26:2, 36c).
E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906), 312–22; J.A. Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible (1934), 42–45. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 375. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary Genesis (1989), 171–73; E. Knauf, in: ABD, 4:31.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.