Genesis 25:7-11 “The Death of Abraham”

Posted on February 6, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, February 6, 2011 Bryan E. Walker

 Genesis 25:7-11 7 These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. 9 Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. 11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

Pray

 

Introduction: Today we conclude our study of the life of Abraham which we began on March 29 of 2009. The challenge that is before us is what was said of Abraham at his death: “he was full”. Are we satisfied with Christ?

 

Literary Analysis:

The death of Abraham forms a fitting conclusion to the 6th toledoth in Genesis (11:27-25:11). These verses give us four facts surrounding his death: (1) His age at death; (2)His situation at death in vs.8; (3) His burial by both Isaac and Ishmael in vss.9-10; and, (4) The blessing of Isaac by God in vs.11.

Wenham writes, (p.160), on vss.7-8, “The more typical concluding genealogical formula would be ‘All the days of Abraham were 175 years and he died’ (cf.5:8; 9:29). Here the traditional phraseology is greatly expanded to underline the significance of Abraham’s career. The death notice of Adam (5:5) and Isaac (35:28-29) offer parallels, but Abraham’s is longer still, showing the overwhelming importance of his life.”

Verse 11 “God blessed Isaac his son” points us forward to the next section which deals with Isaac, and the phrase “Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi” points us back all the way to ch.16.

Ross writes, p.424, “It should be noted in passing that this unit is placed here to provide a fitting closing to the Abrahamic narratives but is not actually in chronological order. The subsequent account of the birth of Jacob and Esau appears to follow the death of Abraham. If however, Abraham died at the age of 175 and Jacob and Esau were born when Isaac was 60, then they were born fifteen years prior to the death of Abraham.”

Walton writes, p.535, “The author’s purpose in the two pericopes of chapter 25 (vv.1-11 and vv.12-18) is tie up the loose ends before moving on to the narratives concerning Jacob. Both have to do with covenant promises.”

Currid writes, 432, “We now read about the death and burial of Abraham. Those events are then followed by two genealogical lists of his descendants, one coming through his wife Keturah and one through his son Ishmael. These genealogies provide an inclusio for the entire story of Abraham: as his introduction in the Bible begins with a genealogy (see Gen. 11:27-32), so now it ends with genealogies. That literary feature underscores the importance of the continuation of the theme of the ‘seed’ throughout Scripture.”

  1. I.                   Abraham’s Death, vv. 7-10
    1. A.      Abraham lived 175 years, v.7
      1. 1.           It can be difficult to accept the given ages of the people in the Bible. I tend to accept the ages as given but I also understand that the Hebrews did some things with numbers that we today do not commonly do. For the Hebrews numbers can have a theological significance and can be used to represent other things than just strictly calendar years. I believe that long lives (in the hundreds of years) as portrayed in Genesis, make sense when you see that the closer back towards creation the longer people lived. We were created for living forever in the presence of God and sin probably corrupted the gene pool so that over time our lifespan decreased. With Abraham in particular I think his 175 years are accurate. The point of the miracle of Isaac’s conception is that you have an impossibly old couple that has been healed by God and are now having a baby. His marriage after Sarah’s death and the subsequent offspring demonstrate God’s keeping His word to make Abraham the father of many nations, thus he was fruitful til the end.
      2. 2.           While I readily accept the ages of the people in Genesis, I tend to think that the genealogies can be representative instead of all inclusive. In other words, there are gaps in the genealogies, many centuries may have been left out. Genealogies are written with more of a theological point to them than they are with a 21st century desire for total, all inclusive accuracy. Keep in mind that the kings’ lists in ancient Sumer included kings living for thousands of years each. While I think that that may be stretching it, the interesting thing to me is that in the land where Abraham was born, there was a memory of the ancients living longer, just as the Bible says.
      3. 3.           One of the interesting things about Abraham’s age is that he entered the Promised Land at age 75, and he died 100 yrs later, spending a full century walking with God in the land that was promised to his descendants. This would make Isaac to be 75 yrs old and Ishmael to be 89. Jacob and Esau would be about 15, but there is no record of Abraham ever seeing the twins. I can’t help but believe that he did see the boys.
      4. 4.           We need to have a sound and compassionate theology of aging. There is coming a serious crash to America in regards to Social Security, healthcare and aging. Modern science and medicine have been able to do much good in extending life and providing cures for so many diseases that shortened life and ruined the quality of life. But we have also found ways to extend dying and prolong suffering. As a country we are running out of money to the extent that somebody like me, a Baby Boomer, no longer expects to see Social Security money.
    2. B.      Abraham Died, v.8
      1. 1.           There is a sequence of four things that occur here- (1) Abraham breathed his last (2) and died in a good old age…(3) and was gathered to his people….(4)his sons buried him.
      2. 2.           Abraham died, v.8. God promised Adam that in the day that he ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil he would surely die. The principle of death entered the human gene pool at that time and everyone sense that time has died except Enoch and Elijah. A few have died twice (those whom the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles brought back to life) and many have had near death experiences. As great a man as Abraham was, with as much faith as he had, and he still died.

Quote from Ross, p.426, “No one is indispensable in God’s program. Good people die, and others take up the task to continue God’s program….Death seems to remain the most sobering element in the human struggle for the blessing of God. But the work of God to bless the world continues from generation to generation, as the report about Isaac indicates (v.11).”

  1. 3.           We all will face death, unless Jesus comes back in our lifetime. Are we ready to die? Heb.9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Are you ready to take your last breath? Do you partake of the world’s philosophy that says, “You only go around once in this life so grab all the gusto you can!”?
  2. 4.           Existential philosophy looks at life and the cosmos as a huge, sick, joke. We have life, we exist, we can be creative and loving and have fun, but in the end we die and there is nothing, no hope, no meaning, no ultimate purpose. We are alone in the universe, there is no God. This philosophy of despair can lead to all kinds of vain pursuits. But existentialism is clearly answered by Jesus who proclaims himself to be the “resurrection and the life” in John 1:25-26. Death should cause us to humble ourselves before the Lord and trust in him.

” Existential angst permeates our society. It is in our art, music, literature, movies, and plays: it is behind the increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide; it is the ennui and the sense of hopelessness that threaten to swallow our children.”
      ~ David N. Elkins, 1998, Beyond Religion, p. 62

http://www.existential-therapy.com/Existential_Quotes.html

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance

Jean-Paul Sarte, “Nausea

  1. 5.           Died in a good old age– looks back to 15:15 “you shall be buried in a good old age”. This, combined with the above verses detailing his marriage to Keturah and their 6 sons, indicates that Abraham had a good old age. He was generally healthy enough to father and raise 6 sons, he was wealthy and blessed in every way (24:1). There are many, many elderly people who are not having a ‘good old age’. Health problems, financial problems, no family to take care of them, no friends, one struggle after another. The Church is going to have to learn how to assist the elderly into a good old age.
  2. C.      Full of Years, v.8
    1. 1.           In the Hebrew, the earliest mss., it only says ‘full’. Other, later mss and translations include ‘of years’. The basic ideas here mean that Abraham dies satisfied to the full and that his years of living were complete. Currid, p.434f, “The patriarch dies exactly 100 years after his entrance into the land of Canaan (see 12:4). His death is peaceful and the serenity comes in part from the length of his life- it is ‘full of days’; in Hebrew only the word ‘full’ appears, but numerous manuscripts, such as the Septuagint, Syriac, and Samaritan Pentateuch, add ‘of days’. The verb ‘to be full’ can signify satisfaction, and that idea may be present here.” This is a huge concept that we must spend some time with.
    2. 2.           Abraham was given promises by God which he only began to see fulfilled late in life. He faithfully clung to the Word of God all those years and refused to give up, even to the point of offering up his beloved son Isaac. Though promised land, descendants and to be a blessing, the only land he owned was a tomb and a contested well. His descendants came late in life but were many: Ishmael had 12 sons and through Keturah he had 6 more, and through Isaac he saw the twins, Jacob and Esau. He did realize many of the promised blessings as recognized by the king of Sodom, Melchizedek, and Abimelech. He was rich, powerful and respected in his day, but the promise of land lay hundreds of years in the future. At the end of his life he is “full”, satisfied, complete.
    3. 3.           It seems to me that Abraham’s ‘fullness’ at the end of his life must lie primarily in his relationship with God. Scripture consistently portrays him as the prime example of faith.
    4. a.      Paul quotes Gen.15:6 in Romans 4:1-25.
    5. b.      James shows us that Abraham’s faith was not without works in James 2:14-26.
    6. c.       The promise of God for Abraham to be a blessing is fulfilled ultimately in Christ, according to Paul in Gal.3:15-29.
    7. d.      Abraham demonstrated faithfulness according to Heb.11:8-19. 
      1. 4.           Hamilton, p.167, “It is one thing to live a long life. It is another thing to live a long life that is also a happy life. This obituary notice about Abraham draws attention to the fact that Abraham died not only at an elderly age but in a frame of mind filled with inner shalom and satisfaction. That is the thrust of the phrase full of days or ‘contented’.”

 

  1. 5.           Are you satisfied with Jesus? This world offers a lot of fun, excitement, pleasure, wealth, power and influence. It is very easy to be satisfied with the apples from the world instead of relationship with the Creator of the apple tree. We can pursue every other thing and get some temporary satisfaction, but not the deep, lasting shalom, the fullness that Abraham experienced.
  2. 6.           I can’t get no satisfaction
    I can’t get no satisfaction
    ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
    I can’t get no, I can’t get noWhen I’m drivin’ in my car
    And that man comes on the radio
    He’s tellin’ me more and more
    About some useless information
    Supposed to fire my imagination
    I can’t get no, oh no no no
    Hey hey hey, that’s what I sayI can’t get no satisfaction
    I can’t get no satisfaction
    ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
    I can’t get no, I can’t get no

    When I’m watchin’ my TV
    And that man comes on to tell me
    How white my shirts can be
    But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
    The same cigarrettes as me
    I can’t get no, oh no no no
    Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

    I can’t get no satisfaction
    I can’t get no girl reaction
    ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
    I can’t get no, I can’t get no

    When I’m ridin’ round the world
    And I’m doin’ this and I’m signing that
    And I’m tryin’ to make some girl
    Who tells me baby better come back later next week
    ‘Cause you see I’m on losing streak
    I can’t get no, oh no no no
    Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

    I can’t get no, I can’t get no
    I can’t get no satisfaction
    No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction

http://www.lyriczz.com/lyrics/rolling-stones/9904-satisfaction-(i-can’t-get-no)/

  1. 7.           The B.B. McKinney song, “I Am Satisfied” based on Isaiah 58:11

I am satisfied with Jesus, He has done so much for me

He has suffered to redeem me, He has died to set me free

(refrain) I am satisfied, I am satisfied, I am satisfied with Jesus

But the question comes to me, As I think o fCalvary

Is my Master satisfied with me?

He is with me in my trials, Best of friends of all is He

I can always count on Jesus, Can He always count on me?

I can hear the voice of Jesus, Calling out so pleadingly

‘Go and win the lost and straying’ Is He satisfied with me?

When my work on earth is ended, And I cross the mystic sea

Oh, that I could hear Him saying, ‘I am satisfied with thee?’

  1. D.      Gathered to his People, , v.8
    1. 1.           This phrase comes in a sequence indicating that it is not a mere euphemism for death. First Abraham breathed his last, then he died, then he was gathered to his people, finally he was buried. Many people also think it is the same as being buried in the family tomb, but, again, it is a separate idea with its own meaning. Currid writes, (p.435) “After his death, Abraham is ‘gathered to his people’. This expression appears only in the Pentateuch and it is used of some of the major biblical figures at death: Ishmael (25:17), Isaac (35:29), Jacob (49:29), Aaron (Num. 20:26), and Moses (Deut. 32:50). It is to be equated with the later Hebrew phrase, ‘to lie down with one’s fathers’ (see 2Sam.7:12; 1Kings 2:10). The meaning of the expression is open to debate. Some argue that it refers to being buried in the ancestral grave. That is a problem because neither Abraham, Aaron nor Moses was buried with his ancestors in a family plot. Nor is the phrase a euphemism for death itself because it is an action that follows the person’s death. So what does it mean? Perhaps it is a not-so-subtle clue to a Hebrew belief in immortality, in which one is joined with one’s family in the afterlife. It may be an understanding of Sheol where relatives lie together after death.”
    2. 2.           The Jews did have some form of an idea of life after death and Abraham had the concept of resurrection, at least in regards to what God would do for Isaac. And Abraham knew first hand the healing touch of God as he and Sarah were healed from old age in order to conceive Isaac and raise him. But the full teaching and understanding of the resurrection awaits the revelation in the life of Jesus and the teaching of the Apostles.
    3. 3.           Hamilton, p.168, “The expression was gathered to his kin is found only ten times in the OT and all of them are in the Pentateuch. Here in 25:8 it is distinguished from death (v.8a) and burial (v.9), and accordingly suggests the reunion of the deceased with his forefathers. A fourfold process is involved here. An individual breathes his last, dies, is gathered to his kin, and is buried. Dying precedes being gathered to one’s kin, and being gathered to one’s kin precedes burial. Therefore, to be gathered to one’s kin cannot mean to be entombed in the grave. That one is gathered to one’s kin/fathers before being buried implies either a belief in a continued existence in the netherworld or that the spirit of the deceased joined the ancestors in the underworld, and that even in death family solidarity was not broken.”

 

  1. II.                Abraham’s Burial, v.9-10
    1. A.      Isaac and Ishmael, v.9
      1. 1.           Notice the sequence of the names: Isaac, the youngest first, followed by Ishmael, the oldest. This represents the theological truth of which son is the caretaker of the Covenant as well as father Abraham’s wishes. But notice the two sons are working together after all. This demonstrates that those in the Covenant can work with, cooperate with, those outside the Covenant in some matters of mutual interest. It demonstrates the healing touch of God within Abraham’s family.  We will see the same thing in Gen. 35:29 with Esau and Jacob burying Isaac, although there the sequence is Esau first and Jacob second.

 

  1. B.      The Cave of Machpelah, vv.9-10
    1. 1.           This is the cave he purchased for Sarah’s tomb in Gen.23

 

  1. III.             God Blessed Isaac, v.11
    1. A.      The Blessing, v.11
    2. B.      Beer-lahai-roy, v.11
      1. 1.           This is the location where Isaac was just prior to meeting Rebekah in 24:62-65, but more importantly, it was the place where Hagar, pregnant with Ishmael, had met the Lord. She called the place, You are a God of seeing” Beer lahai roi. The significance of finding Isaac here now is that he has supplanted Ishmael as the first born.

 

Conclusion: This final passage detailing Abraham’s death brings us to a close of this section of Genesis. Abraham is proved to be a man of great faith, a faithful man, who experienced the blessings of knowing God. The challenge for us who live in the New Testament era, knowing the Offspring of Abraham, Jesus, is to walk by faith and not by sight. Will we be satisfied with Jesus, and will he be satisfied with us?

 Bibliography:

Calvin, John. The Geneva Series of Commentaries. Genesis. Translated and edited by John King, 1847. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, Scotland 1965 (originally published in Latin, 1554. pp.36-38 in Vol.2)

 Currid, John D. Genesis volume 1: Genesis 1:1-25:18. Evangelical Press: Darlington, England 2003 (pp.432-436).

 Hamilton, Victor P. New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. William B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI. 1995 (pp164-169.)

 Hughes, R. Kent. Preaching the Word series, Genesis: Beginning & Blessing. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. 2004 (pp.323-329)

 Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26. Broadman&Holman: Nashville, TN 2005 (pp.355-356).

 Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.424-427).

 Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 1991 (656pp.)

 Walton, John H. and Matthews, Victor H. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy, Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, ILL. 1997 (pp.532-535).+

 Wenham, Gordon J. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books: Dallas, TX 1994 (pp.155-161).)

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