This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
It is of the utmost importance to keep the covenants in mind when reading and studying the Bible. The covenants that are detailed in Scripture reveal the intentions of God throughout history. God made the first covenant with Noah after he got off the ark, and promised never again to destroy the world by water but to let it continue on in established cycles of seasons and years. God made the second covenant in the Bible with Abraham. This is known as the Abrahamic covenant. It is more precise to say that God made the covenant with Himself on Abraham’s behalf, for God alone ratified the covenant and God alone is responsible to bring it about. However, that in no way negates God’s expectation of faithfulness and obedience on Abraham’s part or on his family’s part. In short, God promised Abraham a kingdom full of his own descendants that would be a blessing to all the nations and families of the earth. This covenant included the cursing of their enemies and the blessing of their allies.
By Genesis 22, only a small percentage of the covenant had been fulfilled. Abraham had received from God a child in his old age through his wife, Sarah. This child, Isaac, would multiply exceedingly into the promised great nation. Abraham had pondered the covenant promises for decades, had been chastened for the times where he did not trust God, and had seen the miraculous birth of Isaac as surety of the rest of the promises. Now it was time for Abraham’s faith to be tested.
1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
What an incredibly hard thing for God to ask of Abraham! This was the son of the covenant that they had awaited for twenty five years. Now God was asking him to sacrifice him upon an altar. It is amazing to see Abraham’s growth in his walk with the LORD. He trusted that God would keep His covenant to bring about a great nation from Isaac. He knew that God would never go back on that word, even to the point that he believed that God would raise him from the dead if necessary.
Abraham did not argue. There is no response recorded. He simply obeyed God.
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
We are given very little information about Abraham’s mindset. Like Jesus many years later, he was determined to go to obey the command of the LORD. There was surely a sadness and an inner turmoil about sacrificing his son, yet Abraham exhibits a restful confidence in God’s promise. Thus he told the men that he and Isaac would return after they worshiped.
6 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 the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Isaac is often depicted as a young boy at this time, but he must have been quite older. It is impossible to be precise about his age at this point, but he could have been no older than 37 since this occurred before his mother died. He could not have been too young, because he carried the wood for the offering quite a ways. Since we are to see this as a type of the sacrifice of Christ, it may be safe to surmise that Isaac was close to thirty. However, it is impossible to know exactly. The point is that he was not a young boy at this time.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay 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 stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
What a relief it must have been for Abraham that he did not have to slay Isaac for a sacrifice. God intervened before the knife fell, but after it was clear that Abraham was going to go through with it. Abraham had passed the test, showing that he trusted God enough to obey Him even when he did not understand fully. And what benefit Abraham’s obedience has for us, that we have a wonderful picture of the sacrifice God made when He offered His own Son for the forgiveness of sins.
13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
Mount Moriah is one of the mountains that Jerusalem is built upon. It is where the threshing floor was that David bought to build an altar after he took the census (2 Sam 24; 1 Chron 21). It is where Solomon built the temple (2 Chron 3:1). Herod’s Temple was built in the same place. It seems also that there will be another temple built there at some point (Dan 9:27). It is also significant that Jesus Christ was crucified near this same mountain. How wonderful is it that God provided the greatest sacrifice of all, His Son, upon the mount of the LORD. God did not stay His hand when He sacrifice Jesus. There was no substitute for Him, for He Himself was the substitute for us. He died in our place so that we would have life.
15 Then 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 thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Lest we missed the covenantal overtones in this passage, it is spelled out. God assured Abraham again after this incident that nothing had changed. God had sworn by Himself, so it must all come to pass exactly as He said it would. Yet there is also the need for Abraham’s obedience.
19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Abraham continued to live by the well in the land of Gerar. After some time he received some news:
20 Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram 22 and Chesed and Hazo and Pildash and Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah; these eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah and Gaham and Tahash and Maacah.
Abraham was probably already thinking about the need to find a bride for Isaac. It would not be appropriate for the son of the covenant to marry a woman from the land of Canaan. If he did, there would be the danger of apostasy and assimilation. The search for Isaac’s bride will be the focus of chapter 24.
From the descendants of Isaac would come one called the Messiah. He is the Seed that was promised by God after the Fall. The Messiah, Jesus, was born in the kingly line of the nation of the Hebrews. He was no ordinary man. He was the Second Person of the Trinity incarnated, God in the flesh. Unlike all other people, Jesus never sinned. He was perfect. He alone was fit to deal with the sin problem that was brought on by Adam and Eve in the Fall. God gave His Son in the place of sinners to receive the penalty due their sin: death. He died as a substitute for all who believe on His name. Those who believe receive everlasting life, being imbued with the righteousness of Christ. They are heirs with Christ, and will receive the Kingdom of God as their inheritance. Christ will reign forever, and those who believe will reign with Him over all the earth.