Abraham was tested ten specific times in order to prepare
him to be a successful family priest, living and teaching the truth of
God to those around him. The ultimate goal for his life is stated at Gen.
"For I have chosen him in order that he may command
and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing
righteousness and justice; in order that Yahweh may bring upon
Abraham what He has spoken about him."
See Topic: Abraham's Growth Process
Although Abraham was not always consistent in the application
of truth to his pressure situations, he ultimately reached a level of growth
that consistently glorified God as he represented God's truth to others.
That success is described in two ways.
(1) A summary is found at Genesis 26:5.
"Abraham listened to my voice and kept My commission,
My commandments, My statutes and My laws."
(2) As a result of Abe's progress in spiritual growth
and his consistent application of truth throughout his life, he is designated
by God as "My friend," (Isaiah 41:8); and is recognized historically
as "the friend of God," (James 2:23; 2 Chron. 20:7).
The tenth test is the subject of Genesis 22:1-19. Here
we see demonstrated, not only Abe's love for God, but also his total, unquestioned,
undoubting trust in God's character and plan.
The first statement, "God tested Abraham," is
a summary of the events that follow. God first gets Abe's attention by
calling to him. When Abe answers, God gives him the instructions of verse
2, which clearly tell him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering at a special
location on Mount Moriah.
We do not know how old Isaac is at this time, but he is
old enough, or at least "big" enough to carry the load of wood
for the offering (V.6).
The word, "lad," does not help in determining
Isaac's age since the word (nAar, in the Hebrew) is used for infants (Ex.
2:6); teenagers (Gen. 37:2; 21:12); and grown men (2 Sam. 18:5); but always
with the emphasis on general youthfulness.
There is no hesitation -- no doubt in Abe's response.
The very next morning, he organizes the supplies and begins the journey.
We are told at Hebrews 11:17, that it was "by faith"
that Abraham obeyed God's instructions to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering.
This word, "faith," summarizes the faith-rest attitude of Abe
as he considered the promises of God and placed upon them greater value
than his love for his only son. He focused as well on the character of
God which was "able to raise men even from the dead," so that
there was nothing to fear in doing what God had requested.
See Topic: Faith Rest
After a three days journey, they came to the designated
place of worship.
Here we see a further demonstration of Abe's trust in
God. He indicates the intent to worship God and the confidence that they
will return. He knows that God will either prevent the sacrifice or restore
the slain Isaac to life. Thus he could say with absolute confidence that,
"we will worship and return to you."
We learn that Isaac was old enough or at least "big"
enough to carry the load of wood, and that there was a unity of mind and
purpose as they walked together to the place of worship.
As they are walking toward the place of worship, Isaac
inquires about a lamb for the offering. This is a reasonable inquiry, but
we learn from it the obvious fact that Abe had not informed his son of
the game plan.
Abe's response is a common idiom to express a positive
intent to "serve" the one who is speaking. At verse 1, Abe is
saying to God that I am here for whatever you want. Here, Abe is telling
Isaac the same thing, and again at verse 11, in response to God.
Abe's response continues the attitude of total trust in
God's character and plan as he tells Isaac that "God will provide
for Himself the lamb."
Abe knows that it is not God's policy to use "human"
sacrifices in worship activity and he expresses his confidence that God
will either allow Isaac to be the lamb for the sacrifice and then bring
him back, or will provide a real lamb.
There is a typology that needs to be examined in this
story. The validity of such application is based on Hebrews 11:19, which
"from which (the dead) he also received him back
as a type."
What needs to be determined is the exact nature of that
"type," and this study will attempt to confirm or dismiss the
commonly held view that Isaac was a type of Christ.
After arriving at the designated location, they prepared
the altar and then Abe tied up Isaac and placed him on the altar. Some
have suggested that Isaac was told and acceded to Abe's intentions. However,
were this the case, I suggest that there would have been no need to tie
It seems that Abe actually had to tie him in order to
keep him secure on the altar. The focus in this event is NOT the faith
of Isaac, but the faith of Abraham. We may be able to picture the protestations
of Isaac as Abe over powers him and binds him on the altar and then proceeds
to slay him. Whether Abe has told Isaac at this point, or not is not pertinent
since the boy still required binding.
Abe proceeds to slay the child as instructed by God, after
which, he would burn him on the altar. We have here then, the ultimate
demonstration of Abe's faith. Perhaps it would be "easy" for
any one to proceed to this point of the scenario, for it actually does
not require any kind of sacrifice on Abe's part. But to actually wield
the knife is that which vindicates the previous actions as truly "faith-actions"
which show a total dedication to the character and plan of God. Abe was
faithful in the "easy" part of God's request, and faithful also
in the most difficult part.
At this point God interrupts Abe with an urgent vocative,
1. The Angel of the Yahweh (The LORD) refers to the revealed
member of the Godhead and is identified in every passage where He is mentioned
as God Himself. See Topic: The Angel of the LORD.
In this context as well, the Angel of Yahweh is the one
who is the recipient of the sacrifice as is indicated at verse 12, "you
have not withheld . . . from me," and is therefore to be considered
as a manifestation of God.
2. Abe answers with the idiom of total availability, "here
I am," and is eager to do whatever God requests of him.
God instructs Abe to refrain from killing Isaac since
it has now been demonstrated that Abe does indeed love and value God more
Of course, God knew this all along, but the purpose for
the testing is to strengthen the person tested. It is for Abe's benefit
that God takes him through this test. The word, "fear," refers
to the attitude of reverence and respect directed toward God. It is the
operative attitude for all worship and service activity. It indicates that
the "creature" recognizes that he is indeed a creature and totally
dependent on the creator. It indicates that the "believer" recognizes
that he is owned by God and left here on earth to serve Him. See Topic:
The Fear of the Lord.
Abe sees the ram caught in the bush and uses it as a SUBSTITUTE
for ISAAC. Hebrews 11:19, says that Abe received Isaac back "as a
type," which in context appears to be a type of human resurrection
in general and not the specific resurrection of Christ. Isaac is a type
of mankind under a death sentence, which is given a reprieve by the substitutionary
sacrifice of another. There is no basis for making anything of the fact
that Isaac was Abe's "only begotten" son, for that simply states
the facts of the case. Ie, Isaac was the only legal heir to come from the
genes of Abe and Sarah. This is an issue only in magnifying the severity
of the test. Nor should we make a thing of the fact that Isaac is being
sacrificed and find some correlation to Jesus, for Isaac was NOT sacrificed
but was delivered through the sacrifice of another. The life that Isaac
possesses as a result of the substitute sacrifice, represents spiritual
life and resurrection life through the sacrifice of the Messiah. Many also
see Isaac as a type of Christ in his relationship with Rebekah (Gen. 24),
but there is no biblical basis for forcing this application onto the story
of Isaac. The only reference we have to Isaac being a type is found at
the Hebrews 11 passage and that is restricted to the time when he was offered
up by Abraham.
Such arbitrary assignment of "types" to people
and events in the bible only causes confusion and misunderstanding, and
in some cases, even the teaching of error.
Abe designated the location of this event as
which means Yahweh SEES. It is explained as Abe says, "In the mount
of Yahweh it will be SEEN." This is usually translated as "provided"
because the focus in the event seems to be on God's provision not only
FOR Isaac but in reference to the many promises that were given to Abraham.
The story gives us application for the "continued"
expression of faith in God's character and word throughout our post-salvation
life here on earth. Such faithfulness, which is described by Paul at Col.
2:6 as, "continually be walking in Him," demonstrates one to
be a child of God. It does not "make" one a child nor does it
preserve one's salvation. Without the continued faithfulness on the part
of the believer, it would not be evident that he is a believer (for the
principle of Mat. 6:20, "you shall know them by their fruits,"
remains operative), but the absence of such "fruits" does not
mean he is NOT a believer. That is why we are exhorted time and time again
to act like children of God. The "light" needs to be seen. When
it is, then the believer is vindicated -- demonstrated as righteous in
both STATUS and EXPERIENCE, as a "functional" child of God. This
is what James is talking about at James 2 and 3 and is summarized at 3:13,
"Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him demonstrate BY MEANS
of his good behavior, his deeds (of righteousness) in the sphere of the
humility of wisdom."
See Commentary: James Two