Daily MannaWeekly ParashahDonationsTrinity DoctrineAudio

Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Chayei Sarah 5-6

The Lives of Sarah

Genesis 25:1-11

Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.

Gen. 25:8 ESV

To what people was Avraham gathered?

If our father Avraham had come out of his native land and he didn't live near his relatives anymore, how is it possible that the Torah says that he was gathered to his people when he died?

The expression "gathered to his people" doesn't refer to the soul that possibly exists after death in an unknown and unreachable place for the living. So this is not about Avraham's soul being gathered to the people of the righteous ones who had died

This expression is a Hebraic form that refers to the ancient way of burying the dead. Ancient tombs had enough room for several bodies because they were usually family tombs. Inside the tomb, which could be a cave, chambers were excavated on the walls that were large enough to put the bodies in. In the middle of the tomb there was a place on a lower floor called "valley", where the bones of already decomposed bodies were placed. (cf. Ez. 37:1).

In ancient times, there were two burials. On the first one, the body was placed in the chamber on the wall. Then, they waited until the body decomposed, and the second burial would take place, generally a year after the first one. On the second one, they would take the bones out and gather them in the valley.

In a cemetery of the first century of the Common Era, located on the Mount of Olives, a custom of that time can be seen. It was to put the longest bone, the femur, in a small stone coffin, with inscriptions that identified the body, which was kept by the family.

In the time of the second temple the inheritance was given out on the second burial when the relatives gathered (cf. Matt. 8:21-22).

What we can learn from this is that the expression "he was gathered to his people" has to do with the custom of putting the bones of the deceased family members together in the same tomb.

Avraham buried his wife, Sarah, in a cave that he bought from the children of Chet. He was buried later in that same cave by his sons, Yitzchak and Yishmael (25:9) and in that way he was gathered to the bones of Sarah who was part of his people. Later on, his children Yitzchak and Yaakov were buried in the same cave, and also their wives Rivkah and Leah. In total, there are six bodies of the patriarchs and their wives buried in that cave. It is still known where that tomb is because its location has been passed down by tradition.

The Scriptures teach that a dead body has to go back to the earth from where it was taken (Gen. 3:19), which means that cremation is not an option for those who fear the Eternal.

Follow the example of your father Avraham and do not accept being cremated.

May the One who blessed Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov bless you so that you can fill your days according to His purpose for your life and does not allow you to die before time. May it please Him to do so, and let us say "amen".


Flash Player Needed