Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Genesis 25:7-10 The Death of Abraham

Genesis 25:7-10: And these are all the years of Abraham's life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, and the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife.

According to scripture, Abraham lived 175 years. We last left off with our timeline study (moving forwards from Genesis 1) as follows:

• 3271 Abraham was 100 when Sarah bore Isaac to him (Gen. 21:5)
• 3308 Isaac was 37 years old when Sarah died (3308 minus 3271)

Now we can add the following:

• 3346 Abraham died at age 175 (Genesis 25:7,8)

The text says that this was a ripe old age even for those days. There is no record of his being seriously ill at the time of death; he simply breathed his last and died. But more importantly, we read that he was satisfied with life. I do not believe that he had no regrets, but simply that his regrets were well outnumbered by those areas of his life that brought him satisfaction. While Abraham may not have been keeping score, clearly satisfying times far outweighed those were not so. No matter what one’s age is, it is interesting to stop and reflect, “If I were to die today, would my life have been satisfying?” From there, we could go on to ask ourselves, “If not, why not and what can be done about it even now? If yes, to what do we primarily attribute this satisfaction?”

But let us take this one step further. Clearly there is no record of Abraham saying, “I am satisfied with life.” Instead, what we have is that those who lived on after his death were able to categorically state that Abraham was indeed satisfied with his life, so much so, that word got out through several generations to the human author of Genesis many years later. Perhaps, then, the hardest question we can ask ourselves with respect to being satisfied in life is this: “If I were to die today, would my family and friends say I was ‘satisfied with my life’?” As we draw our study of Abraham to an end, we are challenged to consider two ultimate goals for ourselves. The first is to have a strong relationship with God, to love Him, and serve Him in all areas of life. The second is to live life in such a way as to both be satisfied with it and to show our satisfaction. Abraham did that. We can do that.

Abraham was gathered to his people. This is an interesting phrase and little is written about it. Some like the famous commentator Matthew Henry believe Abraham “was gathered to the congregation of the dead, and his soul to the congregation of the blessed.” Henry, based on his knowledge of the entire Bible, divides the gathering of the body from the gathering of the soul in his interpretation of this ‘gathering’. My preference, based solely on what we have in this passage is that when we die, we go to wherever those that died before us go, without any mention of separation of body and soul. The simple points that can be made with some assurance though are that death for each of us does come and that it many have already experienced it before us.

It is also interesting to note that Isaac (the son of Sarah) and Ishmael (the son of Hagar) buried Abraham. The sons of Keturah had been sent eastward by Abraham before he died. But how is it that Ishmael was still in the picture? Back in Genesis 21:14, we read that at Sarah’s request Abraham reluctantly sent Hagar and Ishmael away, but now we see Ishmael here helping to bury his father. Perhaps Hagar and her son had not gone too far when they were sent away and ended up living somewhere nearby. When word got to them that Abraham had died, and with Sarah out of the way, the two parts of the family were re-united. Isaac, being the kind and gentle person that he was, welcomed his older former playmate with open arms and together they buried their father. This event also shows that Hagar’s child had a greater significance in the life of Abraham for you will remember that God had also promised Abraham that Ishmael would have his own special blessing.

Abraham gets buried in the field he had purchased for Sarah’s burial. The land was purchased after Sarah died. There is no suggestion here that we all need to purchase land prior to someone’s death, although there is nothing that says we should not. Sometimes, it makes good sense and saves a lot of poor decision during a time of great distress and sorrow. However, when land is purchased, there is some indication that it should be sufficient to bury both a husband and a wife. Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. That is the preferred choice and some argument therefore can be made for us today to do all we can to return the bodies of those that died to be buried with their spouses.

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