The death and burial of Abraham

In later age, Abraham took a new wife, Keturah who bore him six sons, including some lines which would become significant (and enemies of Isaac) in later chapters – the Ashurites (Assyrians), Letushites, Midianites, Shuhites, and Leummites.  Abraham left everything to Isaac and gave gifts to his remaining sons and sent them away to land in the east.

Abraham lived to be 175 years old when he died.  His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him with Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah just east of Mamre in the district of Hebron.

God blessed Isaac who then went on to live near Beer Lahai Roi (the location, between Kadesh and Bered in southern Palestine, where Isaac was waiting for the return of his future wife, Rebekah).

What the story means to us today

Closing a legacy and starting a new subplot

The short mention of Abraham’s death closes his legacy and introduces characters that will later go on to form great tribes, some of which will prove to be enemies of God’s people.

Reconciliation between family members

Several passages are somewhat reconciliatory in nature and show that many of the characters, despite sometimes difficult relationships, still loved each other.  For instance, the story shows that any enmity between Isaac and Ishmael were buried along with their father.  Whatever ill feelings existed between the two brothers, they had apparently resolved and reconciled them.  Similarly, Abraham’s giving of gifts to his other sons before sending them away shows that he loved all of his sons.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Timeline of events

It is generally believed that the events described did not occur in chronological order.  The genealogical discourse is intended to document Abraham’s descendants.

Heading off potential family conflict

Abraham sent his remaining sons East, away from the promise land and towards Arabia, in order to head off any potential family conflicts which might complicate the progress of God’s promise through Isaac’s descendants.

Was Keturah a wife or concubine?

Some biblical scholars theorize that Keturah was a concubine (similar, but secondary to a wife), and not a true wife.  This theory derives from a later chapter (Chronicles) in which Keturah is mentioned as a concubine.  Either way, in all likelihood, Abraham took Keturah as a wife (or possible a concubine) after the death of Sarah.

Abraham gathered to his people

In the scriptures, when describing Abraham’s death, it is said that he was “gathered to his people”.  It is likely that this is meant in a spiritual sense and not indicating that he was interred with elder family members.

Cave of Machpelah

The Cave of Machpelah, venerated by modern day Christians, Jews, and Muslims, is once again mentioned.  Prior to Abraham’s death, his wife Sarah had been buried there.  Later on, Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob would all be buried on this plot.

The Science behind the story

Cave of Machpelah

See notes for the death and burial of Sarah (Gen 23:1 – 23:20) for in-depth details on the cave of Mechpelah and its modern-day significance.

Bible Text

NIV

25 Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

7 Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then 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. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. u There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The Message

1–2 Abraham married a second time; his new wife was named Keturah. 2 She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

3 Jokshan had Sheba and Dedan.

Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.

4 Midian had Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah—all from the line of Keturah.

5 But Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. 6 While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons he had by his concubines, but then sent them away to the country of the east, putting a good distance between them and his son Isaac.

7 Abraham lived 175 years. 8 Then he took his final breath. He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, next to Mamre. 10 It was the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. Abraham was buried next to his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

The NET Bible

25:1 Abraham had taken another wife, named Keturah. 25:2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 25:3 Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurites, Letushites, and Leummites. 25:4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

25:5 Everything he owned Abraham left to his son Isaac. 25:6 But while he was still alive, Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them off to the east, away from his son Isaac.

25:7 Abraham lived a total of 175 years. 25:8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man who had lived a full life. He joined his ancestors. 25:9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar, the Hethite. 25:10 This was the field Abraham had purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 25:11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

King James Version

25 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. 7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. 8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife. 11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biblical Archaeology
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