Sometimes the Bible says things that leave us scratching our heads and asking, “Huh? How can this be?” The record of Abraham’s passing is just such a passage.
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.
– Genesis 25:8, ESV
Abraham passed at age 175, a “ripe old age” to be sure. And when we think of Abraham, we think of things like his being called “the father of faith” by those of a Christian persuasion. He was called “Friend of God”1 by the apostle James. It was with Abram that God established the covenant wherein God said that Abram would be the father of many nations. It was in this context that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham.2 It is Abraham who was credited with righteousness because he believed the promise of God.3 All of this is positive and uplifting.
The Objective Look
But let’s step back momentarily and take an objective look at the life of Abraham.
Abraham was called by God to leave an established, satisfying life of luxury among his own people and follow God to some unnamed land of promise. It is true that Abraham prospered on this sojourn4 but it is equally clear that he gave up a great deal to follow God’s call. And though Abraham resided in the land for a time, he never “took possession” of it in any real sense. While there, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, essentially abandoned him and took the fertile ground as his own.5
While in this land of promise, Abraham experienced famine,6 challenges with truthfulness and fear,7 war,8 family strife,9 childlessness until his old age,10 stressful relations with neighbors,11, and ultimately the death of his wife, Sarah.12
Despite everything outlined above, scripture tells us that Abraham died “full,” וְשָׂבֵ֑עַ, weseibea. It is a term of pleasant satisfaction, contentment. It is the same attitude displayed by the apostle Paul when he told the church at Philippi that he knew the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether in plenty or in want, in hunger or in fullness.
How does this happen? How does scripture say that Abraham died satisfied and content? It is because Abraham embraced the Long View, the eternal perspective. Abraham knew the wisdom of measuring time by eternity.
By faith he lived as a stranger in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
– Hebrews 11:9-10, NASB
Abraham lived his life employing a paradigm that death could not touch, and this life cannot fulfill. Like Abraham, we walk by faith and not by sight and we die with that same contentment. Those who walk by sight and not by faith find the “fullness” of their lives emptied by the approach of death. We of faith carry our fullness into the next adventure.
1. James 2:23
2. Genesis 17:5
3. Genesis 15:6
4. Genesis 13:2
5. Genesis 13:5
6. Genesis 12:10
7. Genesis 12:13, 20:2
8. Genesis 14:1-24
9. Genesis 16:1-16
10. Genesis Chapters 16 & 21
11. Genesis 20:1-18
12. Genesis 23:2