Genesis 25:1–18: The Completion of Abraham
In Genesis 25:1–18, we read about the end of Abraham’s life in this world. As reach Abraham’s last chapter, we must give a final assessment to the question that we have been able to answer only provisionally up to this point: Has God been faithful to keep his promises to Abraham? God promised to make Abraham exceedingly fruitful and to give Abraham and his offspring the land of Canaan. By the end of Genesis 24, however, Abraham only has two children—Ishmael (whom Abraham sent away; Gen. 21:8–21) and Isaac. Can we really say that God has fulfilled his promises to multiply Abraham into innumerable offspring? Furthermore, Abraham only owns the plot of land containing the burial cave for Sarah, where Abraham himself will be buried (Gen. 25:9–10). Can we really say that God has fulfilled his promises to give Abraham the whole land of Canaan?
This last narrative about Abraham’s life does not tie up the loose ends of all God’s unfulfilled promises to Abraham. We will indeed learn more about how God partially fulfills his promises to Abraham. The primary emphasis of this passage, though, directs our attention forward to learn how God will eventually fulfill all his promises to Abraham. In the same way, God also assures us that he will be faithful to keep his promises to us, but with an important caveat: God’s faithfulness does not move as quickly as we would always like. After all, a thousand years is like a day in God’s sight (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8). Nevertheless, the story of God’s work over thousands of years of human history demonstrates that God is faithful, even when we do not live to see the fulfillment of his promises. This passage about Abraham’s death underscores the point that in order to fulfill his promises completely, God does not fulfill his promises immediately.
1. Where does God seem slow to fulfill his promises toward you? How does God’s seeming slowness tempt you do doubt his faithfulness toward you? What have the narratives about Abraham taught you about God’s faithfulness, even when we wish he would move faster? What comfort might we take from seeing Abraham die before God fulfills all his promises toward him?
2. During the majority of Abraham’s life, was it plausible to him believe that he would indeed become the father of a multitude of nations? How was he tempted to doubt God’s promises to give him offspring? How did God show his faithfulness to Abraham, in spite of his doubts? How has God shown his faithfulness to you, in spite of your doubts?
3. In the larger plan of redemption, why must Abraham give the entire inheritance to Isaac send away his other sons (Gen. 25:5–6)? Why must God single out Isaac for the blessing (Gen. 25:11)? How does God use the offspring of Isaac ultimately to raise up the Lord Jesus Christ? How does this long view give us perspective for what God might be doing in our own lives?
4. What hope does God offer in Isaiah 60 about bringing back the exiled sons of Abraham? What does this teach about God’s grace and mercy toward these exiled peoples? What does this teach about God’s righteousness and faithfulness toward these exiled peoples? What does this teach about God’s grace, mercy, righteous, and faithfulness toward us?