Genesis 22: The Sacrifice of Isaac

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

-”Here I am” are my favorite three words in the bible. These words are spoken by several servants throughout the bible and it is what every Christian should strive to want to say at all times. Whenever we get busy, whenever we get caught up in our own lives, at any time we must be ready to stop everything and say, “Here I am”. The story of Martha and Mary comes to mind when Jesus gives credit to Mary, the one just sitting there, over Martha who was busy doing all the work. This is found in Luke 10 starting in verse 38. I myself have been guilty of this in the past. We often get caught in a trap thinking we must be busy in order to be godly. But as had already been pointed out, faith is counted as righteousness, not works. It does not matter how many good works we do and how much we serve the Lord. The only thing that matters is taking the time to stop and listen and believe the things the Lord has told us through scripture and through the events of our lives. Never be so busy that at any time you cannot stop what you are doing to say, “Here I am. What will you have me do, my Lord?”

2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

– I’m sure Abraham wasn’t exactly expecting that when he said, “Here I am”. Perhaps he even suddenly regretted those words. There is no mistake about what God was asking of Abraham, he knew what “offer him as a burnt offering” meant, there can be no mistake. But interestingly there is no record of him questioning God and asking Him if he is sure as he has done in the past. Abraham questioned God on Sodom on account of Lot living there. Abraham questioned God when he finally told him Isaac will be the heir and he suggested Ishmael instead. But here, there does not need to be a question. Abraham has grown enough and experienced speaking with God enough to know it was Him and knows to do what He says. This is a brilliant display of faith on Abraham’s part. “Moriah” is actually in modern day Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 3:1 states, “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So it is quite possible the specific mountain right in Jerusalem is where all of these events took place.

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

-Abraham says “boy”which in Hebrew is the word “na’ar” which certainly means a “young lad, boy, adolescent”. I have heard many say that in actuality, Isaac was probably already a man and it sounded quite clever at the time because we also think of Isaac as a small child. But in reality, this Hebrew word cannot mean a man and the phrasing of the first verse “after these things” suggests not much time has passed since last chapter. The oldest Isaac could possibly be from the wording in this chapter is 19 years old because in ancient Hebrew culture, boys become men at 20. It seems more likely Isaac was about 10 years old based on how the story is told but we cannot be sure.

6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

-Abraham misleads his son by telling him God will provide the lamb. Is Abraham lying? Technically, Isaac was provided by God so Abraham spoke true but obviously mislead Isaac. Is this sort of “technically” telling the truth something Christians should do? No, it isn’t. Many say “white lies”are OK as long as you are protecting someone or doing a greater good but this is not the case before God. We know that sin is anything that is not God. God is perfect, so sin is anything that is less than perfect. A “technical” truth is the same as a “sort of”truth or a “mostly”or “kind of”true. It is a degree lower than perfection, therefore not “good”. Realistically of course, we cannot go about our lives without the occasional white lie, its impossible to live that way. But just because its hard, does not mean that it is OK and whenever we can, we should not even operate in technicalities. Abraham could have said, “It will be revealed in time, my son” instead of saying what he did and not have been only “technically” telling the truth. We’ve seen Abraham embrace technicalities by calling his wife his sister because it was still true. But we see both times he does this his wife is taken away to be used as a sex object. Never in the bible does God tell a truth in technicality. Everything God says is the truth, even if we don’t understand it or it doesn’t appear true at first. God does use metaphors and figurative language and Jesus spoke in parables but there is no claim that this figurative language is literal when used, it is obvious when it is figurative to illustrate a point. When God calls Israel “prostitutes”and “whores”, every single citizen of Israel is not literally a prostitute but this is not an exaggeration or a technicality either. It is explained that worshiping other God’s is akin to prostitution and so God labels Israel this way metaphorically to illustrate a point. There is no lie or technicality here. It’s important to point this out because as Abraham is about ready to demonstrate one of the greatest displays of faith in the bible, he is struggling and is still behaving less than perfect which is certainly understandable. Would you be able to perfectly obey if God told you to burn your son alive? Would you be able to obey at all? This event of course is not a credit to Abraham as a great man but a credit to God having worked with Abraham and revealed Himself to such an extent to instill this kind of faith in him?

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

-I would not want to see Abraham’s emotional state at this moment. He was actually going through with killing his son, the one he waiting his whole life with Sarah for, and then suddenly God speaks and stops him. I do say “God speaks” because even though it says “the angel of the Lord”, this angel is issuing a command and does not state that he is commanding on the Lord’s behalf but rather speaks as if He is the Lord. Jesus being the voice of God, gave this command. The big question from this story is why on earth did God put Abraham through with this? Did God need to test Him for His sake? Of course not, He is God. He knows everything and has the ability to instill faith in Abraham through his revelations of Himself as He has done. So this was obviously done for Abraham’s benefit. God was showing Abraham how faithful he was. God was revealing Himself again in this, revealing to Abraham that he has truly become a servant of God. In the end, our walk with God to become more like Him is really all that matters. God certainly has a plan for this world and he uses us in this plan. But this world is like a blink of the eye and our eternity with Him is all that matters. We can ask ourselves the question that if God desires to have a relationship with us and once we are saved we are “in” and no good deeds we do make a difference then why doesn’t He take us immediately? Why does He teach us things throughout our lives instead of just show us everything or we wait until we are with Him in heaven and are transformed to know everything we can know? We have to realize God loves us and like an excited fiancée, He cannot wait for the wedding! God gifts us with the greatest gift of all, Himself. He gives us the Holy Spirit and He makes us more like Christ. God is perfectly good, which means when we become more like Him, we become more perfect. From a human, worldly perspective, this event was horrible and if God exists, then He is very cruel to put Abraham through such a horrible thing! Why torture him in this way. But from the perspective of someone who acknowledges who God is and that He is sovereign, this event was a glorious gift God gave to Abraham to show him how much like Himself he has become. Otherwise, what else is the point? Why test Abraham’s faith? God doesn’t need to test anyone for Himself. Why does God present us trials and tribulations today? I think James 1:2-4 says it best, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” This testing of faith only produces more faith in Abraham and shows him that God would never actually have him kill his own son in this way. Abraham is closer to God as a result of this event. While we’re on James, James, the brother of Jesus, uses this event as an example of faith acting along with works produces righteousness. James 2:21-23, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”. The fact that Abraham was willing to do this demonstrated his faith, not that the deed he was going to do would have earned him favor. It only showed where Abraham’s faith was at this point.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

-What a relief! While he was willing to obey, obviously he did not want to have to do it. The name “The Lord will provide” probably had a lot of meanings for Abraham at this point. Abraham was provided with protection, direction, guarantees of the future, a son, land, and a nation to come from him. Now, God has provided an alternative to sacrificing his son. Some have drawn a parallel between this even and God giving up His own Son to forgive our sins. Perhaps God is showing through this event that He does not require us to give up our own sons to cover over our sins but instead, He will do it in our place.

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

-This angel swearing on Himself is Jesus, rightly, swearing to God the Father. How confusing this must have been before Jesus appeared and the church began. I can’t imagine writing a commentary like this if all I knew was the Hebrew scriptures we refer to as “The Old Testament”. None of this would make any sense without Jesus, the hidden, missing puzzle piece of the Old Testament. How else can I explain why God would swear on Himself and why he would be called an angel without making it all up? Instead, looking at scripture as a whole, we can fill in the blanks through what we are given without having to event the ways of God. He tells us everything. We still don’t have all the answers and sometimes information is limited, but 22 chapters in and I have not come across anything that is completely unanswerable or unexplainable given the whole of the bible. I have a feeling I’ll make it all the way through without any issue once we are finished.

19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba. 20 Now after these things it was told to Abraham, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, 22 Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 23 (Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24 Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

-The mentioning of Abraham’s brother Nahor’s children is relevant in two chapters as Abraham seeks to find a wife for Isaac. Isaac ends up with his 2nd cousin, Rebekah, who’s father is Bethuel mentioned above. We are still within the time where children can be born of at least half-siblings without complications. 2nd cousins are considered the line in at least United States culture in terms of being too closely related so certainly in this day there would be no possible problem with this nor anything odd about it.


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