“Isaac lived to be 180 years old. Then he breathed his last, died and was gathered to his people, an old man full of years; and his sons ‘Esau and Jacob buried him.”-Genesis 35:28-29
As we progress through the Torah, slowly but surely we are becoming acquainted with the cultural peculiarities of the ancient middle east and how they are so different to our modern day customs and ways of thinking.
For instance, in the area of marital relations, we have seen how polygamy was a normal and accepted part of society.
Case in point is that Abraham’s wife Sarah saw nothing wrong with having Abraham sleep with her handmaiden so they could have children.
And speaking of children, in those times, a woman’s primary role was to bear children.
If she couldn’t do that or became infertile it was considered the equivalent of being cursed by God.
Also, for a man having a son was considered to be of primary importance.
It was believed that after the father died, in some mysterious way his existence lived on through his son.
So no son equalled one’s soul being extinguished at death.
We’ve also seen how the whole world was pretty much polytheistic (belief in many gods) at this time and that all of these gods were territorial.
In modern terms, for instance, you might have a god who ruled over San Francisco and another who ruled in Los Angeles.
There were gods responsible for climate control (bringing rain and so forth) and warrior gods who brought victory in war.
The idea of their being only one God who held power everywhere just did not exist in the minds of these ancient peoples.
Now what happened to a person after death was still a fuzzy concept at this time.
Verse 29 where it says Isaac “was gathered to his people“ is actually a reflection of ancestor worship.
This expression also indicated a peaceful death after having lived a long fulfilled life.
Such an expression would never have been used if Isaac had been murdered or died at a young age.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN GENESIS CHAPTER 36