🔼The name Keturah: Summary
- Incense, Indiscriminative Distribution Of Society's Surplus
- From the verb קטר (qatar), to produce smoke.
🔼The name Keturah in the Bible
Keturah is the second wife of Abraham, whom he took after the death of his first wife Sarah, and who bore him six additional sons, namely Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah (Genesis 25:1-2). We know surprisingly little about Keturah. We don't know from what nation she came, who her parents were or whether she outlived Abraham or not.
Some Jewish sages have proposed that Keturah and Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, are the same person, but there's no evidence in the text to support this, and this proposition is ultimately fantastic. What we do know is that Keturah became to mother of six Abrahamic sons, one of whom, Midian, became a nation that both rivaled Israel and became one of the most dominant tributaries to its theology and social structure. After all, Moses met YHWH in Midian (Exodus 3:1-6), and Moses' priestly father-in-law Jethro thought Moses all about the great benefits of delegated governance (Exodus 18:24).
It's rarely noticed that Abraham complained that he was too old to have Isaac (Genesis 17:17), but when Isaac was 36 years old (compare 17:17 to 23:1) Sarah died, and some undisclosed time after, Abraham married Keturah and sired another six sons.
🔼Etymology of the name Keturah
The name Keturah comes from the verb קטר (qatar) meaning to produce pleasant smoke:
The verb קטר (qatar) probably originally meant to rise up but came to denote the rising up of sacrificial smoke, which in turn commonly marked celebrations and surplus, and smelled pleasant after roasts or incense.
The difference between (a) selective distribution of food and merriment to one's favored customer or project and (b) unselective distribution to everyone around is the same difference between the generosity of modern philanthropy and that of God: the former "gives" only to whatever endeavor makes the giver stronger, whereas God gives to all people without discrimination (Matthew 5:45, Joel 2:28), and allows everybody to grow into whatever they can and sort their stuff out by their own authority and responsibility.
Nouns קטרת (qetoret), קטר (qitter), מקטר (muqtar) and קטורה (qeturah) refer to incense. Noun קיטור (qitor) refers to thick smoke. Noun מקטר (miqtar) describes a place of sacrificial smoke, מקטרת (miqteret) means censer and מקטרה (meqattera) means incense altar.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names agree: the name Keturah means Incense.
What may not be immediately obvious to the modern reader is that the name Keturah demonstrates a very high level of governance and social sophistication, namely the idea that a healthy society is not healthy because the government suppresses what it perceives as bad or supports what is perceives as good, but rather because the government endows all elements with enough safety that none needs to be scared, enough food that none needs to be hungry, and enough wealth that none needs to feel stifled, stunted or duped.
There have been quite a few revolutions and uprisings in the world, and although critics love to blame religion and differences in opinion, the main reason why people revolt is because their liberties are curtailed to the point that their lives aren't livable. In fact, a difference in opinion is often a characteristic of political peace rather than the reason for its demise.