Summary: At a death we typically would look back over a biblical person’s life for the lessons we might learn. But Abraham is one figure for whom we look into the future to understand his place in God’s work.
Genesis 25:1-12 A Promise Kept
6/26/16 D. Marion Clark
We are nearing Independence Day. Here is a question for us Americans. “Who is the father of our country?” George Washington. The nation of Israel can even more easily and unitedly identify their father – Abraham.
Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.
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.
We have come to the end of Abraham’s life. Verses 1-6 reveal an interesting side note about Abraham that is surprising. Abraham had married again and had not one but six sons! It is somewhat unclear when this additional family came to be. The wording in Hebrew is such that Abraham could have taken the wife while Sarah was still alive. Either way, we are left scratching our heads at Abraham’s prowess. The concubines in verse 6 are evidently Keturah and Hagar. A concubine is what might be called a second-tier wife – a legal marriage, but the wife and her children are not on equal footing with the primary wife or wives.
Other than to raise eyebrows, why make note of the extra wife and sons? The author Moses is likely giving the sources of the very people whom the Hebrews are meeting in their wilderness journey. These sons are sent east of Canaan, the territory that the Hebrews must pass through. Should their descendants lay claim that Abraham is also their father, Moses demonstrates that they are nevertheless not claimants of the covenant promise, especially that of the land. That is for the descendants of Isaac.
Abraham dies at the ripe old age of 175, full of years. He is buried in the only piece of property that he ever owned – the burial land for Sarah, now for himself, and for his family who succeed him. Think about that. One hundred years earlier, God made his first promise to Abraham of land and of offspring so that he will become a great nation. What does Abraham end up with? A burial plot and one son of the covenant promise.
Even so, Abraham still has faith in that covenant. He sends the other sons away, as if there was not enough land to hold them all. He gives gifts to the other sons, but he passes on his estate to Isaac alone. He still believes that God will come through on his promise.
It is at such a juncture that we typically would look back over a biblical person’s life for the lessons we might learn. But Abraham is one figure for whom we look into the future to understand his place in God’s work.
In the next chapter, Isaac is moving through the land. There is a famine. The Lord appears to him and says, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (26:3-4).
The one thing for us to note is the place of Abraham in the promise made to Isaac. It is the same promise made to Abraham, and now all the more will be carried out by the Lord because of Abraham’s faithfulness in obeying the Lord. Isaac subsequently has to move because of dispute about land. God appears to him again and reassures him, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake” (26:24).