Monday, November 29, 2010

Genesis 25:5-11 Abraham's last days

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.  While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them towards the east, and away from Isaac.  Although this may seem a bit cold, it is actually quite practical:  God had designated Isaac as heir of the land of Canaan, and the other sons could not be given any portions of that place, even if Abraham had wanted to do so.  These sons were sent to seek their fortunes in other places.  Thus, Abraham's actions were actually in their best interests.  If they had remained near Isaac and conflict arose, as it almost certainly would, these sons would be fighting a battle which they could not win, since they could not prevail against God's plans.  How much better, then, for all involved, to send them to make a life elsewhere, where they might have a chance of success and happiness?  I am sure that Abraham sent these sons away with gifts of livestock and other valuables in order to begin their new lives. (v. 5-6)

"Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years.  The Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people."  (Genesis 25:7-8 NIV)  These verses, with their repetition of the fact of Abraham's longevity ("died at a good old age","an old man", "full of years") speak of the fullness and contentment of a life lived in obedience to God.  They also note the fulfillment of the promise which God had made to Abraham in Genesis 15:15 (NIV):  "You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age."

Speaking of living in peace, it appears that Isaac and Ishmael were at least cordial enough to be able to unite for the burial of their father.  "His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites.  There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah." (Genesis 25:9-10 NIV)  The solemnity of a death in the family can often put an end, at least temporarily, to conflicts between siblings.  That Ishmael would participate also says something of his own character.  Even though his current position was not what he may have wished, he continued to perform the duties of a son.

Notice in the verses above, that Isaac is listed first.  As the one with the birthright and the heir of the covenant promises, Isaac is listed first.  After Abraham's death, the text says that God blessed his son Isaac, who was living near Beer Lahai Roi at that time. (v.11)  However, God did not forget about Ishmael, either.  In the following post we will take a look at how God kept his promises regarding Ishmael as well.

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