Genesis is halfway down as we continue to work on the series Through the Whole Bible. Today, Genesis 25 (link) is in focus. Here’s a sermon link. We make a major turn here, as Abraham, our focal person for more than half of Scripture so far, passes on. That’s a major transition. Abraham has almost as many column inches in the text as Peter and Paul, and is behind only David and Moses in terms of human character development.
This chapter is the end of his life, though it’s not the end of his story. He continues to figure in the whole of the Biblical narrative. Yet the story of his life ends here.
We find some details in his passing that weren’t evident throughout his life. We see that he was not only the father of Isaac and Ishmael but of other children. We have a reference in Genesis 25:6 to the sons of Abraham’s concubines and 25:1 tells us that Abraham married Keturah after the death of Sarah.
This actually surprised me the first time I read it back in college. We often put Abraham on so high a pedestal that we skip the first part of this chapter. There’s a good story with easy application at the end, after all, with Jacob, Esau, and trading the birthright, but we need to note this at the beginning.
Abraham has obviously become the father of more than just Isaac by this point, so he becomes the father of more than just the Jewish people. He is the father of multiple nations.
He does recognize, though, that family strife is bound to jeopardize the future of all of his sons. After his passing, there will be strain about who receives the inheritance. This is certain between Isaac and Ishmael, as there will be questions over whether Ishmael’s firstborn status could be transferred to Isaac. Not knowing the identity of Abraham’s concubines or their children, the same confusion is possible there.
So, Abraham provides an inheritance for his other sons and sends them away. Then, he breathes his last and is buried at Machpelah with Sarah.
What do we take from this?
#1. In death, many of the items we’ve kept hidden during our lives will be known. Too much secrecy in life will tarnish our legacy and cause our efforts to be forgotten.
#2. When those around us pass, we may find out truths we don’t like about them. They may have made errors or held viewpoints that we cannot believe were their own. For example, some of Martin Luther’s writings on the Jews are beyond bad—what do we do with that knowledge?
We do not simply discard the good because we find out the bad. One cannot toss Abraham any more than we would toss out “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” because we’ve learned a few more things about Thomas Jefferson than was known by many at the time.
While we definitely need to weigh the whole of a person’s legacy before we build statues and such for them, we also do not ignore the good that has been done. It is certainly not possible for anyone to do enough good to outweigh his sins. That’s not the evaluation that we make.
We have to weigh the individual deeds and ideas. Is it right? Is this idea worth continuing? There will be surprises that come out, but do not let the revelation that people were, in fact, people, destroy your faith.
Don’t lose your birthright due to short-sightedness. That would make you too much like Esau at the end of the chapter.