Genesis 25:1-18

 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 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.

These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 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 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.

12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen. [1]

The raging international fear of the moment is an upper respiratory virus with a potential mortality rate of almost 1% of the infected population. It presents an interesting case study of how humans react to events they clearly cannot control that pose even the slightest risk of death. The same people who consider survival of the fittest to be a necessary part of their religion of evolution and an axiom of social interaction are becoming terrified they may not be among the fittest. Underlying all the hysteria is the fear of what we cannot control: death. Princess Sarah died. Father Abraham died. Ishmael died. Isaac will die in the timeline of Genesis. You and I will die. Death shatters the human illusion of control like no other element of humanity. But even here in the very first book of God’s divine revelation, there is a bedrock theology of hope that earthly death is not the end of human life.

Scripture offers a profoundly comforting perspective on life and death. We get a taste of it here in our text in verses 7-8, “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” You may have noticed that Abraham’s death is framed by two genealogies. The first is of his children by a second wife/concubine, Keturah (vv.1-4) The final genealogy is that of Ishmael’s 12 sons (vv. 12-18). Both of these serve as proof of God’s fulfilling his covenant promise that Abraham’s offspring would be uncountable and multiple nations would spring from them (17:6). The genealogies also mark out Isaac as the patriarch of the Promised Seed. Abraham’s multiple descendants at the time of his death are proof that God was faithful to his word and that Abraham believed God, making use of his physical restoration at Isaac’s birth to take a concubine and begin begetting more offspring. Luther points out that Abraham’s procreation, at his advanced age, was far more a duty than a pleasure.[2]


Sarah’s death was a blow to the Family Abraham. But with that change came the shift from Sarah as the matriarch to Rebecca as the matriarch living in Sarah’s tent. Rebecca’s epic travel from the East (remember, “East bad; West good”) to the Promised Land happened under the clear providence of YHWH, the God of chesed (covenant loyalty, loyalty love, lovingkindness). It is unclear when Abraham took his wife/concubine. Moses does not specify the time period. Was this before or after Sarah’s death? There’s no clear answer in the text. But by Abraham’s death, he and Keturah would have been married at least 35 years. Keturah’s name means “Spices.” Many of her sons – because of their relocation to the East, the Arabian Peninsula and its central location to the spice trade – are thought to have become spice traders. “These six sons (v. 2) plus the twelve sons of Ishmael (vv. 13-15) would come to occupy the region over toward Egypt and would truly make Abraham the father of many tribes and nations.”[3]

Keturah was not, so far as we know, one of Sarah’s slaves. Her sons did not have the same legal sonship as Ishmael had before his mother was set free. Isaac received all Abraham’s inheritance as the child of promise. These other sons received unspecified “gifts” (v. 6). Moses tells us “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac.” Of the other sons we’re told, “while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.” Remember, East bad; West good. Abraham’s sending them east indicates they are outside the promised line. Derek Kidner, in his Commentary on Genesis, writes, “In God’s plan, these sons were sent away that there might be a true home, in the end, to return to.”[4] The same can be said for Ishmael’s descendants. Isaiah prophesied the unchosen descendants’ return as part of the future glory of God’s people:

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house. [5]

On this side of Mt Calvary, all Abraham’s physical descendants may come by faith into the person and work of Christ, the Promised Seed, just as salvation has always come. All those who trust into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial death of Jesus become Abraham’s spiritual seed and heirs to the promise that God will be their God, that they will be his people, and that he will live with them. Paul assures us in Galatians 3:29, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.[6]


Moses doesn’t give us details from Abraham’s final decades of life. In our modern Western culture, we have come to see growing old as a terrible thing. I can’t work as efficiently as I used to, but I’ve gotten excellent at complaining about the increasing limitations of my advancing years. My complaining reveals more about where my hope actually is (in my fitness to do everything I want) rather than in Christ. We who trust into Christ have the ability to accept our growing physical limitations because we know we will be resurrected into gloriously perfect bodies to live and a sinless land. When our hope shifts to Christ, rather than our declining abilities, we find the peace Abraham found.

These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.[7] He was 75 when he left Ur, so he lived in the land as a sojourner for 100 years. He had come to learn that his final dwelling place would never be on earth. He looked beyond this world to the ultimate city of God. He died, “an old man and full of years.” Like all of us, his time was fixed in eternity past by divine providence as an act to take place in the fullness of time. “Our full complement of years is already determined. None of us die too soon, whether we die at nine months or ninety years.”[8]

David sang in Psalm 139, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; /in your book were written, every one of them, /the days that were formed for me, /when as yet there was none of them.” [9] In Psalm 39:4-5, he sang, “O Lord, make me know my end /and what is the measure of my days; /let me know how fleeting I am! /Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, /and my lifetime is as nothing before you. /Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath![10]

It isn’t morbid or defeatist to understand that God has only granted us so much time on this sin-fractured earth. The more you see the cost and the effects of sin, the more you long to be with the Man in Heaven and the more you long for him to return and make all things new. That was the hope that gave Abraham a peaceful passing. Victor Hamilton writes:

It is one thing to live a long life. It is another thing to live a long life that is also a happy life. This obituary notice about Abraham draws attention to the fact that Abraham died not only at an elderly age but in a frame of mind filled with inner shalom and satisfaction. That is the thrust of the phrase full of days or “contented.”[11]

Abraham’s obituary ends with hopeful notes, he “was gathered to his people.” He is not gathered to Sarah’s bones. He is not gathered to his tomb because his burial follows later. He is not buried with his ancestors. What does Moses mean by the phrase “gathered to his people”? It’s a phrase found ten times in the Pentateuch. “Of the six individuals in the Pentateuch of whom the phrase ‘gathered to his kin’ is used… four of them were not buried in an ancestral grave (Abraham, Ishmael, Moses, and Aaron).”[12]

James Boice writes:

Who were “his people” in the fullest sense? In the context of Genesis, which has traced the line of the godly from its very beginnings (from Adam and his son Seth), is it not true that Abraham’s people were the godly of previous generations? Is the reference not to Seth and Enosh and Kenan and Mahalalel and Jared and Enoch and Methuselah and Noah and the faithful who lived after them?[13]

He was gathered to his people just as the beggar in Jesus’ parable was said to be “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” (Lk. 16:22).[14] Abraham, along with all the Godly line from Adam and Eve onward who have trusted into the promise that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the great serpent-dragon still live. They are gathered into fellowship with God. That is a separate event that precedes the burial. The two estranged half-brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the cave at Machpelah with Sarah’s bones as a testimony to God’s promise that Abraham’s seed would one day possess the land. This was Abraham the prophet’s final prophecy. It was one Isaac would make as he was buried there by two his two estranged sons, one the child of promise and the other outside the promise. Note the order of the names in verse 9, the younger son Isaac is listed first because he is the child of promise.

ISHMAEL (12-18)

Because Isaac is the man of promise, God blesses him. Moses doesn’t directly elaborate on how Isaac was blessed. In verse 11, we read “Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.” Beer-lahai-roi is the well where God’s angel appeared to distraught and pregnant Hagar. It was also Ishmael’s birthplace. Isaac settling in the place where Ishmael was born shows, geographically, Isaac is indeed the chosen seed, and that Ishmael has been replaced.[15] But there were temporal blessings for Ishmael. God had promised Abraham that Ishmael would be an earthly patriarch (16:10), and so he became as his genealogy concludes in verses 12-18. He fathered twelve sons and lived his life (unlike his mother) as free man at nobody’s beck and call. Derek Kidner writes of Ishmael:

To some degree this son of Abram would be a shadow, almost a parody, of his father, his twelve princes notable in their times (17:20; 25:13) but not in the history of salvation; his restless existence no pilgrimage but an end in itself; his nonconformism a habit of mind, not a light to the nations.[16]

Ishmael’s people were all wanderers in the east, like Cain. The scope of their wanderings stretched “from the northern Sinai (Abdeel) to the western border of Babylonia (Kedar, Nebaioth, and Massa).”[17] Though he received the sign and seal of God’s covenant through circumcision, Ishmael had rejected the Promised Seed and been sent out of the land. It’s significant Moses notes that he died but does not tell us where he is buried. Ishmael had no place in the promised land, and ultimately (so far as our text is concerned) no resting place in the lands to the east where he wandered. But Moses tells us in verse 17, that Ishmael “breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.” Who were Ishmael’s people? His was the fellowship of darkness shared with Cain, Lamech, the Nephilim, Nimrod, the builders of the great ziggurat of Babylon, and all the other citizens of the City of Man who lived before him.

There would be hope for Ishmael’s seed, as Isaiah sang. The descendants of his sons, Nebaioth and Kedar, appear in the prophet’s song about the glory of the New Jerusalem. But Ishmael lived his entire life in opposition to all his neighbors. That’s what Moses meant when he wrote in verse 18, “He settled over against all his kinsmen.” He fought with everyone, including his children. He died and was gathered to his unsettled, rebellious, God-rejecting people. Recall we mentioned Jesus parable in Luke 16 and how the poor man, Lazarus by name, died “and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side”?[18] That was only half the story. The rich man who had ignored poor Lazarus his entire life died also and was gathered to his people:

The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.[19]

One day, we shall die. Not one of us will pass out of this earth one nanosecond sooner or later than God has already decreed in eternity past. No virus can steal your life sooner than the Lord intends. The question for you is not whether you will die, or even when you will die. The unavoidable statistic is: “One out of one die.” The REAL question is: “Who are your people?” One day you too with die and be gathered to your people. Will your people be those, like Abraham, who are at peace? Or, will your people be those who, like Ishmael, are in anguish?

The rich man begged that word be sent to his five brothers to warn them of the torment to come should they be gathered to him. But Father Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ …If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” [20] So, let me make this very clear: I am not your podcast app. It is not my job to play what you want to hear. I don’t measure my messages by any “coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’ said” critiques (1 Cor. 4:1-4). I am God’s mouthpiece here to tell you that, right now, you have heard your warning from the Lord.

If you are not trusting into the righteousness of Christ the Promised Seed earned through his keeping all of God’s law perfectly in thought, word, and deed, and into his sacrificial blood-shedding death on a cross as the substitute for all those born into Adam’s sin, then your people are NOT Abraham’s people and your place at death will be one of anguish.

The One to whom Abraham looked was Christ Jesus the Promised Seed. With his eyes upon that promise Abraham “breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” Abraham passed in peace into the true and eternal Promised Land where all his people who once lived by trust now live by sight. They are God’s people. He is their God. And, they dwell in Immanuel’s (God with them) Land.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 25:1–18.

[2] Luther, 4:302ff.

[3] Hughes, 324. Kindle Edition.

[4] Kidner, 1:161.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 60:6–7.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 3:29.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 25:7–8.

[8] Hughes, 326. Kindle Edition.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 139:16.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 39:4–5.

[11] Hamilton, 2:167.

[12] Id., 168. Cf.: Abraham, Gen. 25:8; Ishmael, Gen. 25:17; Isaac, Gen. 35:29; Jacob, Gen. 49:29, 33; Moses, Num. 27:13; Deut. 32:50; and Aaron, Num. 20:24; Deut. 32:50.

[13] Boice, 2:729.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 16:22.

[15] Hamilton, 2:169.

[16] Kidner, 1:138.

[17] Hamilton, 2:171.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 16:22.

[19] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 16:22–25.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 16:29–31.