Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8 NASB
Satisfied with life – Let’s talk about death. In particular, let’s talk about the death of Abraham. Abraham is the father of our faith. Paul holds him up as the paradigm of God’s redemptive grace. He is first in the heroes of the faithful. His life is the foundation of God’s chosen people. God’s promise to Abraham is the reason we serve the Lord today. There is hardly a more important figure in the Tanakh than Abraham.
But far too often we think of Abraham’s faith in our categories, not his. We forget that Abraham didn’t have a single line from the Bible. He didn’t have the historical hindsight of our generation. He didn’t know anything about Yeshua. And most of his life, he experienced God’s silence. Abraham could not have endorsed our creeds, produced a modern statement of faith, written a systematic theology or recognized anything in our worship services. He is our father, but his understanding of YHWH was radically different than ours.
Some of this is just a matter of God’s progressive revelation. Abraham didn’t know because God didn’t reveal it to him. He knew what he had to know. But some of this enormous difference is the result of cultural importing. Instead of reading Abraham as an ancient near-eastern Semite, we read him as if he sat in the back of the sanctuary, saying “Amen” to our stage performance. Perhaps we can begin to appreciate how much we have misread Abraham if we consider his death instead of his life.
Notice that the verse says absolutely nothing about life after death. Not a hint! Abraham lived a long and fruitful life. Then he died. The NASB glosses the Hebrew idiom zaken vesavea, literally “aged full.” The idea that Abraham was satisfied with his life is a contemporary cultural import. We are the ones who demand to be satisfied with life. There is no indication that such an expectation was part of Abraham’s culture. In fact, there are several ancient near-eastern cultural facts that overturn such a translation. Consider these:
1. H. W. Wolff argues that “man does not have nephesh, he is nephesh, he lives as nephesh.” Nephesh is granted to Man. It still belongs to God. God is its source. We do not have it as a piece of divinity now inherently resident in us. Genesis 35:18 suggests that nephesh departs at death.
2. “Where the nephesh is related to awareness and perception, the ruah is related to consciousness and vitality. Like nephesh, the ruah is not understood as continuing to exist once the person dies. Indeed, it is difficult to demonstrate that a person has his/her own ruah. Rather, each person has God’s ruah.”
“What continues to exist in Sheol after death is neither nephesh nor ruah.” 
3. The near-eastern view of death means that life is returned to the Creator. To be human is to be a guardian of what originally and ultimately belongs to God. To die is to simply return to God what was always His.
4. Therefore, life is what life is NOW! To live a full life is to experience God’s purposes in my life now while I am the custodian of His gift. In fact, the singular orientation of the Tanakh, from Abraham to Isaiah, is the duty and honor of service to God while I live. It is not accidental that there is almost nothing about an after-life in the Tanakh. The preoccupation with eternal life had to develop during the time between the end of the prophets and the end of the Sages. How much of that development was influenced by Greek metaphysics and the Greek concern with the heavenly abode has yet to be determined.
This much is clear about Abraham. He lived a life purposeful to God – and he died. Whether or not Abraham considered his life satisfying is irrelevant and anachronistic. The story of Abraham is God’s autobiography, not Abraham’s biography.
Would you have the faith of Abraham? Would you follow God based on His call alone? Would your faith be diminished if you put aside the idea of heaven and heavenly rewards? Can you still love the Lord as much if the end is “gathered to your people”? I am not suggesting that heaven isn’t real or that there isn’t life after death. Yeshua clearly teaches that there is. What I am asking is more fundamental. Do you have faith like Abraham, who perhaps never knew any of the hope of the other side? Could you walk with God as Abraham walked if your life were returned to the Creator at death? Or are you “faithful” because you are looking for something more than “aged full”?
Topical Index: death, zaken vesavea, aged full, Genesis 25:8, Abraham
 John Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, p. 214