Exit Abraham

Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah…with Sarah his wife” (Gen. 25:8-10).    

- Genesis 25:1–18

Having provided us with Abraham’s last will and testament in Genesis 24, Moses records Abraham’s death in chapter 25. Yet before he dies, we read of another wife he took named Keturah (v. 1).

Since we later learn that Keturah was the patriarch’s concubine (1 Chron. 1:32), or secondary wife, most commentators think he married her while Sarah was still alive, much as he wed Hagar in Genesis 16. In any case, the many sons of Abraham and Keturah further prove that the Lord has fulfilled His promise to make the patriarch the father of many nations (12:1-3). Midian is the most significant of Abraham’s sons by Keturah (25:2) as his descendants later play an important role in the life of Moses (Ex. 2:11-22; 18).

Abraham divides his estate among his sons before he dies. Tradition did not mandate that he give anything to anyone besides his primary heir, but Abraham provides gifts to all his sons (Gen. 25:6), since men of God are to support their families (1 Tim. 5:8). Nevertheless, Isaac gets the lion’s share of Abraham’s wealth (Gen. 25:5) because he inherits the promises of land and seed. Abraham does not let God’s oath to bless Isaac (22:15-19) make him passive in the unfolding of the Lord’s plan. Instead, he acts to continue the work of redemption through his family after he dies, ensuring his sons will inherit the Promised Land by giving all he had to Isaac, especially Machpelah, the one piece of Canaan Abraham owned before he died (Gen. 23:17-20; 25:5). True, the success or failure of God’s plan does not rest finally upon any one of us. However, all those redeemed by grace know God typically works out His will through His people, and they act to make sure kingdom work goes on after they die.

Old age is a blessing for the righteous, not a curse (Prov. 16:31). Others lived longer lives, but Abraham, as the church father Jerome points out, is the first man explicitly said to reach “old age” in Scripture, and this is a good thing (Gen. 25:8). Abraham “is called an old man because his old age had been anointed with rich oil. …His was a good old age because it was full of days, for the whole of his life was day and not night” (Homilies on the Psalms, chap. 21).

Coram Deo

Our culture is presently obsessed with youth, but those righteous people who reach an old age are blessed indeed. For they have the benefit of seeing many instances of God’s good work in this world. They have also seen His forgiveness time and again, and can wisely advise others. If you have reached a good, old age, know that the Lord still desires to use you to further His plans, especially through prayer and counsel. Those who are young, treat your elders with respect.

Passages for Further Study

Lev. 19:32
Ps. 92:12–15
Luke 2:36–38
1 Tim. 5:1–2

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