June 6, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe


Lesson II.E.6: Abraham's Great Trial. (Gen. 22:1-19)      



Genesis 22:1-19 (KJV)


1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2 And he said , Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.






In this lesson we come to another great highpoint in the Bible. We are walking on the mountain peaks in the Book of Genesis. Chapter 22 is the account of Abraham offering his own son. God commanded him to offer Isaac on the alter, and then he stopped him at the last minute when he saw that Abraham was willing to go through with it. This chapter brings us to the seventh and last appearance of God to Abraham. After this, there is nothing more that God could ask him to do. This is the supreme test that he brought to this wonderful man of faith.





1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.


And it came to pass after these things

“After these things” is, of course, those things recorded in the preceding chapter. This is the narrative of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac at the command of God. There has been a great deal of conjecture concerning the age of Isaac at this time, whether he was a child or an adult, because, if he was an adult he must have been a willing participant in the ritual that took place that day. Some of the most widely held ideas concerning the age of Isaac are listed here:

  1. The Talmudists (Jewish Rabbis, scholars) say the affair was transacted shortly after the weaning of Isaac, when he was about five years old. Aben Ezra has pointed out one problem with this idea; that a child of five would hardly be able to carry a load of wood to a place “afar off” (v. 4), which would be sufficient to make a fire that would consume a burnt offering (v. 6). He believes Isaac’s age, at that time, was thirteen years.
  2. Josephus says that Isaac was twenty five years of age.
  3. Bishop Usher places this matter twenty years after the weaning of Isaac, which agrees with Josephus if he was five when weaned.
  4. A Jewish chronologer makes Isaac to be at this time twenty six years of age—very close to b and c.
  5. According to the Targum{1] of Jonathan, he was at this time thirty-six years old. This is also the generally received opinion of the Jewish and Arabic writers. That would place this incident thirty years after the weaning of Isaac and the expulsion of Ishmael, supposing Isaac to be five years old at the time.


I believe Isaac was thirty-six when Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his son, so I agree with the Targum of Jonathan{1]. This episode occurred after many promises of a son had been given Abraham, and after they were fulfilled; and after many blessings had been bestowed upon him; and when he seemed to be well settled in the land of the Philistines, having entered into an alliance with the king of the country; his family in peace, and his son Isaac, the son of the promise, grown up and an optimistic young man. He was able to take a long journey of sixty miles, walking beside the donkeys that carried the wood for the sacrifice and the supplies needed for the journey. He was his father’s pride and joy, but now, God and Abraham threaten to destroy all his hopes and expectations. Will he allow himself to become a sacrifice and will he give up all those hopes and expectations? Would Abraham go through with it, and sacrifice Isaac, killing the son he loved more than life itself. We find these words in Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son.”


That God did tempt Abraham

God did not tempt Abraham, as Satan does, for God tempts no man, nor can He be tempted [“Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).]; and, had Abraham slain his son, it would NOT have been a sin, since he would only be doing what God— the Lord of life, and the sovereign disposer of it—had commanded him to do. “Tried” or “proved” or “tested” would be better than “tempted” in this place, because what God had arranged was a test of Abraham’s faith in Him. He wanted to know his faith in Him, his fear (or “respect”) of Him, his love for Him, and if he would cheerfully obey his commands. Now, God did not need to know these things for Himself, for He already knew the answer; but, He wanted others to know, and He wanted Abraham to know, so that his faith might be strengthened even more. However, this was not so much a test to produce faith, as it was a test to reveal faith. God built Abraham slowly, piece by piece, year by year, into a man of faith. The Jewish writers say that Abraham was tempted ten times, and that this was the tenth and last temptation.


And said unto him, Abraham

He called him by the name He had given him to signify that he would be the father of many nations [“No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Ge. 17:5]; and yet, He was going to require him to slay his only son, and offer him as a sacrifice to Him.


And he said, behold, here I am

His response indicates that he heard the Lord’s voice, and was ready to obey his commands, regardless of what they might be.



2 And he said , Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.


And he said, take now thy son

This appears as a direct order that requires Abraham to act immediately. He probably left as soon as all the preparations were completed. There is never any hesitation on Abraham’s part, when he hears from God.


If childlessness was so unbearable for Abraham in the past [“But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless’” (Genesis 15:2).], what would it be now, after so many years of enjoying his son Isaac, and after giving up Ishmael for his sake [“And Abraham said to God, "O that Ish'mael might live in thy sight!”(Genesis 17:18).]? How can anyone know the depth of Abraham’s sorrow when he heard God say, “And offer him there for a burnt offering?”


Thine only son Isaac

Although Ishmael was his son, he was a son by his maid-servant, by his concubine, and not by his wife; Isaac was his only legitimate son, his only son by his lawful wife Sarah; the only son of the promise, his only son, in whom his seed was to be called. Remember, that in Isaac every promise God had ever made to Abraham was vested. It was through Isaac that Christ, the Seed, was to be born. It was through Isaac that the chosen nation was to spring forth. The lad had been called "Isaac" because of the great joy, the laughter, which had come to his father's house, when his birth was assured.


Whom thou lovest

There can be no doubt about it; Abraham loved Isaac, and it was a strong love motivated by him being a handsome young man, a dutiful son, and the child of promise. God had promised that he would be the father of many nations, and that meant that Isaac must have offspring, since he was Abrahams’ only legal son. All his hope and expectation of the numerous descendents promised him rested in Isaac, and most important, it was from his line the Messiah was to spring. Notice that in the instructions, God doesn’t mention Isaac’s name until the last, though from the description it is clear that it could be no one other than Isaac. Perhaps He put the name of his son last, and His instruction is given slowly, so that he might, by degrees, be prepared to receive the shocking order. Every word is emphatic and striking, and enough to pierce any tender heart, and especially when told what was to be done to him. The Jews picture God and Abraham engaged in a conversation. God says, “Take now thy son.” Abraham replies, “I have two sons.”  “Take thine only son,” says God. “They are both the only sons to their mothers,” says Abraham. God says, “Take him whom thou lovest.” “I love them both,” he replied. “Then take Isaac,” says God; thus ended the debate.


And get thee into the land of Moriah

Their destination was the “land of Moriah,” which was so called because it had a mountain with that name in it; the Septuagint renders it, “the high land”, the hill country of the land of Canaan, particularly that part of it where Jerusalem was afterwards to stand.  This land is mentioned by several historical writers:

  1. Aquila, another Greek interpreter, describes it as “conspicuous,” which hills and mountains usually are, and as “a mountainous country.”
  2. Onkelos and Jonathan paraphrase it, “a land of worship,” of religious worship; for afterwards the people of God dweltin this country. The city of the living God (Jerusalem) was built there, and the temple for divine worship and service was built upon Mount Moriah.
  3. The Targum of Jerusalem{1] renders it here, “to Mount Moriah.”


The Jews are divided about the reason for this name, some deriving it from a word which signifies to “teach,” and they think it is so called, because doctrine or instruction was given to Israel from Mount Moriah; others believe it came from a word which signifies "fear", and that it got its name because fear or terror was delivered from there to the nations of the world; but its derivation is from another word, which signifies to “see,” and which is confirmed by what is said in Genesis 22:14.


The proper name “Moriah” is found in only one other place in the Old Testament; in 2 Chronicles 3:1: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Mori'ah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jeb'usite.” It was there on “Mount Moriah,” that is, the hill in Jerusalem, on which was the threshing-floor of Ornan, the Jebusite, where the Angel appeared to David. This was the site of the Temple of Solomon. Obviously the expression, “the land of Moriah,” and the reference to the mountains in it, cannot here denote Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a town in the days of the patriarchs. Genesis 14:18 calls Jerusalem by its ancient name, Salem: “And Mel-chiz'edek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.” More probably the Chronicler, in 2 Chronicles 3:1, has recorded the popular tradition of his own time, according to which the scene of the appearance to David and the site of the temple at Jerusalem were identified with the place of Isaac’s sacrifice; and the name “Moriah,” occurring in this passage of Genesis was therefore popularly, although inaccurately, assigned to the Temple hill at Jerusalem. Therefore, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty the location of “the land of Moriah.”


It was a three day journey for this small band; but why would God require that they go so far away. Maybe it was to allow both Abraham and Isaac time to consider what each must do, and therefore, if they do it, they would be doing it deliberately.


And offer him there for a burnt offering

This was a dreadful thing he was called upon to do, and must have been extremely trying to him as a man, and much more as a parent, and as a worshipper of the true God, to commit such a personally disturbing act. Just imagine, he must not only slay his son, but slay him as a sacrifice with all that solemnity and composure of mind with which he used to offer his burnt-offering. By the law of the burnt-offering which was then known to Abraham, and afterwards published to all Israel, Isaac’s throat was to be cut, his body dissected into quarters, his intestines and organs taken out, and each piece laid in order upon the wood and afterwards he was to be burnt to ashes, so that if possible there was to be nothing left of him: and this must be done as a religious action, with deliberation, seriousness, and devotion.


The command of God was that this only son of Abraham's love should be offered by him as a sacrifice upon a mountain chosen by God in the land of Moriah. He was to kill the son, in whom all the promises were vested. This, was indeed a tremendous test of faith, as is made so plain in Hebrews 11:17-19{2]. There are some such as Hengstenberg who have argued that Abraham was not to kill Isaac, but to surrender him spiritually to God, and sanctify him by a burnt offering. But this is contradicted by the narrative itself, where it says, “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:10), and by that passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:17-19{2]), where the victory of Abraham’s faith is described as consisting in the belief, that even though Isaac were killed, nevertheless the promise would still in some Divine manner be fulfilled in him, because God was able and prepared to raise him from the dead.


Upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of

There were several mountains which were joined together, or pretty near each other, which afterwards went by different names, such as Mount Sion (Deuteronomy 4:48); the hill Acra; Mount Calvary (Luke 23:33); and Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), which is supposed to be the mount intended.


“Which I will tell thee of” suggests that God will point out by some visible sign or secret inspiration the place that He has chosen for the sacrifice of Isaac. Though, at the time, Abraham could not have known that the circumstances were divinely arranged so that many centuries afterwards the Temple would be built on the same mount, and his seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be sacrificed for the sins of mankind on the part of that mount called Calvary.


The next thing we will see is the energy with which Abraham responded to God’s command, rising up early in the morning, and the preparation he made to act in obedience. He departed with his son, two servants and wood for sacrifice.



3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.


And Abraham rose up early in the morning

It seems that the orders above were given by the Lord in a dream or vision; and as soon as it was morning Abraham got out of bed and prepared to execute them without any hesitation or delay.An early start on a journey is all-important in the East. Travelers avoid the heat of the day in the open sun, by travelling before the sun was up, and resting during the heat of the day.


We can see in this lovely story that Abraham is trusting God, even when he does not understand. Sometimes we say, “I’m not going to obey or believe until I understand it all,” but that is making myself equal with God. There is no place where He debated with God, nor did he seek counsel from others. He knew what to do and he did not make use of any stalling tactics. Abraham is trusting God, even when he does not feel like it. There is not a line in this text about how Abraham felt, not because he didn’t feel, but because he was walking by faith, not feelings. God had been training Abraham by the many trials he had faced, bringing him to this place of great trust. In just the last chapter, God asked Abraham to “give up” Ishmael in a less hurtful way. God used that, and everything else, to train up Abraham.


And saddled his ass

The term “saddled” could mean either loading the burden of wood and provisionsfor his journey on the donkey(s), or preparing them for human riders. Abraham would probably ride due to his great age and his position as head of the family. The servants probably carried some of the provisions and led the donkeys. All this is pure conjecture, of course. Riding an ass was a respected means of conveyance; kings rode on asses and our Lord rode an ass into Jerusalem only one week before he was crucified, by the same men who proclaimed him Messiah and Lord when he arrived. [“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).]


The modern saddle was not known at that time, but pieces of cloth and garments were tied on the back of the animal to provide the rider with a comfortable seat. [“And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it” (Mark 11:7).]


And took two of his young men with him

The Targum of Jonathan{1] says that the two young men were Ishmael his son, and Eliezer his servant, and there are other Jewish writers who agree with that idea. They suggest, that just at this time Ishmael came out of the wilderness to visit his father, and he took him with him; but there is no foundation for this notion. It is best if we take the Bible to mean what it says—he took with him two young men, his servants, of whom he had many.


Some have supposed that the young men went along to carry the wood, but since Isaac was able to carry all they needed up the mountain, the more likely conclusion is that the ass was burdened with the wood, food supplies, etc., required by four men on a projected six-day journey, and that the young men were present to aid Abraham in carrying out God's commandment, in case Isaac had resisted. Besides that, they took care of unloading, feeding, unsaddling, etc., at nights, also, no doubt, in the preparation of meals.


And Isaac his son

Of course, there was Isaac who was the principal person to be taken, since he was to be the sacrifice. Whether Abraham acquainted Sarah with the details of the affair and she consented to it, cannot be said with certainty. It is evident, however, from the question he asked his father, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (v. 7) that Isaac did NOT know what his father's intention was. And though Sarah and the whole family might know from the preparations he had made that he was going to offer a sacrifice, yet they did NOT know where, nor what it was to be.


And clave the wood for the burnt offering

Abraham was probably not familiar with the place where he was to go, and so, he would not know if there would be enough wood on the mountain for the sacrifice. The solution was to take the wood with him. I doubt that he would have split the wood himself, because of his age, and besides he had servants who could do it. These preparations show his full intention to obey the divine command.


Though I said that Abraham may have assigned the making of preparations to his servants, the verse reads as if he may have personally saddle his donkey and split the wood. Though he had plenty of servants to do this for him, Abraham may have done it himself because even in his old age, he is a bundle of nervous energy.


And rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him;

That is, he mounted his ass, and rode towards the place where God had directed him to go. From Beer-sheba to Moriah was a journey of three days, and all the while he had the painful secret pent up in his bosom. In wonderful, trusting obedience, Abraham went right to the spot. Abraham does this even though it would have been better if God asked Abraham to offer himself instead of Isaac.



4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.


Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes

The distance from where Abraham started out to his destination is given as anywhere from forty to sixty miles, depending upon the commentator. On the beginning of “the third day” of travel they could see the mount. “Lifted up his eyes” indicates that the “place” was on a lofty prominence visible at a distance. It is true that Moriah may not be three days’ journey from Beer-sheba. But we must take into consideration that the ass, upon which he rode, is a sluggish and slow creature, and that Abraham could go no faster than the rest of his company, who, from all likelihood, were on foot; and that the provisions which they carried along with them, both for their own and the ass’s subsistence, and for sacrifice, must have slowed them down.The journey from Beer-sheba to Jerusalem is computed to take less than 24 hours, but to travel twenty miles a day on foot, as Isaac and the servants seem to have done, there being but one ass among them, was far enough in those hot countries.


Now, all this while, Abraham had time to reconsider things in his mind, and thoroughly reflect on what he was about to do; and so, by proceeding on, after he had sufficient time to mull things over, it appears that he was satisfied that it was not an illusion, but a command of God that he was going to have to obey. This was not going to be something that Abraham had done rashly and hastily, and his faith and obedience were sufficiently tried, and found genuine. We may compare the patriarch’s feelings during these weary days of travel with those of Hagar as she wandered in the wilderness, and each day felt the death of her child growing nearer and more certain. But hers were human sorrows only, while Abraham was giving up the son on whom his spiritual hopes depended. God had promised him, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named" (Heb. 11:18). That promise was everything to him; He believed God would keep His word, and “He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead. . .” (Heb. 11:19).


The Jews take great notice of this particular third day, and compare the passage with Hosea 6:2—“After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him”—which they interpret as the third day of the resurrection. The deliverance of Isaac on this third day is symbolic of Christ's resurrection from the dead “on the third day.”


And saw the place afar off.

Abraham looked up, “and saw the place afar off”; where he was to offer his Son. The summit called the Mountain of the House, usually identified with Mount Moriah, cannot be seen by a traveler from Beer-sheba at a distancegreater than three miles (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 251). Hence it has been argued that some more conspicuous hill-top must be meant. But the phrase “afar off” is used very indefinitely, and three miles exactly agrees with what Abraham did—he immediately stopped and left the servants at that spot, and laid the wood on Isaac, and went the rest of the way on foot. It must have greatly taxed the strength of Isaac to be compelled to carry the wood a distance of three miles.It would appear from this, that God had indicated to Abraham that he would show him the place where he was to sacrifice his son, and that he had received a signal of some type which indicated that Mount Moriah, which had just come into his view, was that place. Some of the Jewish writers say the signal was a cloud upon the mount. The Targum of Jonathan{1] agrees, for there we read, “And Abraham lift up his eyes and saw the cloud of glory smoking upon the mountain, and he knew it afar off.” And others say that he saw the glory of the divine Majesty standing upon the mount, in a pillar of fire, reaching from earth to heaven; and they further state, that the place where he was, when he saw this, was Zophim, a place not far from Jerusalem.



5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.


And Abraham said unto the young men, abide you here with the ass

 The last phase of the journey would be the most difficult, for Abraham must go the final three miles alone with Isaac and without the help of the servants. Although the servants of Abraham were devoted to him, they were hardly prepared to witness the scene which would be enacted on the mountain that lay before them—they could not understand this act of worship and obedience. Therefore, at the place where he had first sighted Mount Moriah, he told “the young men, abide you here with the ass, for he feared that when they saw him binding his son with rope, and preparing to sacrifice him, that they would take hold of him, and stop him from doing it. That’s why “Abraham said unto the young men, abide you here with the ass.”


And I and the lad will go yonder and worship

Perhaps Abraham pointed to the place where the signal was, but whether they saw it or not is not certain. The Jews say Isaac did see it, but the servants did not; however, Abraham made them to understand that he was going to one of the mountains which were in sight, and there worship God by offering sacrifice to Him. There was nothing unusual about going up into a mountain to pray when on a journey, and at the time it would not have seemed strange to the two servants, although they must have wondered why he was not taking a lamb with him. Here Isaac is called a "lad," but he is probably about thirty-five, according to what we have shown in verse 1. Joshua the son of Nun is called a lad in Exodus 33:11, though at the time he was fifty-six years of age.


And come again to you

How could Abraham truthfully say, “I and the lad will . . . come again to you” when he knew he was going to make his son a burnt-offering? The apostle answers that question: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead . . .” (Heb. 11:17, 19). He knew that prior to the birth of Isaac both he and his wife were dead as far as being able to produce offspring; that Isaac’s birth was a kind of life from the dead; that the promise of God was most certain to happen, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12); that this promise could not fail; that it was his duty to obey the command of his Maker; and that it was as easy for God to restore Isaac to life after he had been a burnt-offering, as it was for him to give him life in the beginning. Therefore he went to the place of sacrifice fully determined to offer his son, and yet confidently expecting to have him restored to life again, because God both could and would for his promise sake, either preserve Isaac from being sacrificed, or afterward raise him from the dead. After all He had enabled Sarah to give birth, and has made His unbreakable promise in the covenant.


I wonder, did Abraham want to hide the truth from Isaac until the last moment? But surely God would have prepared Isaac for his part in the sacrifice to make it more meaningful. True faith trusts in God even when He seems harsh and angry, when the believer feels only His displeasure in his heart; for it is an easy matter for God to replace everything that He sees fit to take away, to bring back even that which was lost.



6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.


And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering

Probably the mountain-top to which they were going was too difficult to be ascended by the ass; therefore either the father or the son must carry the wood, and it was more appropriate for the younger man to carry the greater burden, as we see in the next clause


And laid it upon Isaac his son

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son: We see Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill. He was called a lad, Genesis 22:5, but he was now a grown man, around thirty-five years old, and therefore well able to bear that burden. Instinctively the mind reverts to the cross-bearing of Abraham's greater Son—“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)” (John 19:17). Isaac is seen as a type of Christ, on whom the wood of his cross was laid, and which he bore when he went to be crucified; and this wood may also a symbol of our sins laid on Him by His Father, and which He bore in his body on the tree—“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24); our sins were like wood to fire, fuel for the wrath of God, which came down upon Him.


And he took the fire in his hand

Embers from the hearth was carried in a vessel, and here it is called “fire.”

He carried the fire in one hand, and a knife in the other. The fire was to kindle the wood with, and the knife was to slay his son with; and to carry these for such purposes must be very distressing. This is the first time we read in Scripture of fire for use.


And a knife

And he took the fire in one hand, and a knife in the other. That knife was cutting into his own heart all the while, yet he carried it. Unbelief would have left the knife at home, but genuine faith takes it. “Knife", in the Hebrew language, got its name from its use in eating.


And they went both of them together.

This last part of the journey is described in verses 6-8, and it shows the strong conflict every step produced in the heart of the patriarch. They go together, Abraham with the fire and the knife in his hand, and his son with the wood for the sacrifice upon his shoulder. No doubt, there was silence on Abraham's part and wonder on Isaac's, since as yet no declaration had been made of the true purpose of their journey.At this time, Abraham doesn’t know how God will provide. He is still trusting in the ability of God to raise Isaac from the dead, but he won’t stop trusting just because he doesn’t know how God will come through. “And they went both of them together” literally means “the two of them went in agreement.” Could Isaac be doing this knowingly and willingly? The phrase is repeated in verse 8.



7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?


And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father


After leaving the young men, Abraham and Isaac walked together in silence, but a question had been nagging his conscience which Isaac couldn’t ask while in the presence of the two servants, but now the solitude invited him to ask it of his father.


And said, My father

Isaac addressed him as “My father,” a term of loving reverence and endearment, but it must have lacerated Abraham's heart and struck deeper into his heart than his knife could into the chest of Isaac. What he must soon do to this son whom he loved more than life itself was contrary to his nature and parental affections. He might have said to himself, “Don’t call me your father, for I am about to become your murderer; can a father be so barbarous, so perfectly lost to all the tenderness of a father?” Yet he keeps his feelings to himself, bottles them up inside, and calmly waits for his son’s question.


And he said, Here am I, my son

“Here am I, my son” is a response which showed that he had not lost his fatherly affection for him, and that his intention did not arise out of any unnatural and barbarous disposition, nor from any waning of love for him, but from a higher cause; the declared will of God. He may have intuitively known that the question would be asked, and was dreading to hear it from his son’s lips. He showed great strength of faith by grappling with such a trying enquiry.


And he said, Behold the fire and the wood

When the question finally comes it is preceded by a statement which calls his father’s attention to two of the elements of sacrifice, “Behold the fire and the wood”; the fire is in his father’s hand, and the wood was upon his own shoulders. Behold, the fire is ready, the Spirit’s assistance and God’s acceptance is ready; the wood is ready, the instituted ordinances designed to kindle our affections (which indeed, without the Spirit, are like wood without fire, but the Spirit works by them); all things are now ready—so Isaac asks . . .


But where is the lamb for a burnt offering

The sadness of the narrative reaches its climax in this simple expression of curiosity, which indicates that Isaac had a knowledge of his father’s regular practice of sacrificing animals. [Another hint that the sacrificial system did not originate with Moses.] He realized by the preparation made, by the fire and the wood, that it was to be a burnt offering which they were going to offer; but there was no animal provided for the sacrifice, therefore, he asks Abraham this question, “But where is the lamb for a burnt offering.” It appears from the question that as yet he was quite ignorant of the true purpose of this journey, and had no idea that he was to be the sacrifice: however, from what he said, it is evident that he had been used to sacrifices, and had been trained in them, and had seen them performed, and knew the nature of them, and what was necessary for performing them. But Abraham, as of yet, dares not tell him where the lamb is.


“But where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”, is a question that should be put to all of us, that is, when we are going to worship God, we should seriously consider whether we have every thing ready, especially the lamb for a burnt-offering. Where is your heart? Is it ready to be offered up to God, to ascend to him as a burnt-offering?


Abraham knew God would provide a sacrifice, but where? Where was the lamb? That question had been asked by all the faithful, from Isaac to Moses to David to Isaiah, all the way to the time of John the Baptist. John had the answer when he declares: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)



8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.


And Abraham said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering

It was a very practical answer which Abraham gave in reply to his son’s question, “But where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” “My son,” he said, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” This was the language, either:

  1. Of his obedience. We must offer the lamb which God has selected for the sacrifice, thus giving him this general rule of submission to the divine will in order to prepare him for the soon application of it to himself.
  2. Of his faith. Whether he meant for it to be or not, this proved to be the meaning of it; a sacrifice was provided instead of Isaac. How superbly does the case of Isaac bring to mind the great sacrifice of the Savior:
    1.  Christ, the great sacrifice of atonement, was provided by God when no one in heaven or earth could have found a lamb for that burnt-offering, God himself found the ransom—“I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (Ps. 89:20).
    2. All our sacrifices of acknowledgment are of God’s providing too. It is He that prepares the heart—“O LORD, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek; thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear” (Ps. 10:17). The broken and contrite spirit is a sacrifice of God—“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17)—of his providing.
  3. Of heroic faith, rather than the language of pious hypocrisy (v. 5). Abraham was confident that “God will provide himself a lamb”; either,
    1. Literally, though I know not how; for his wisdom and power are infinite: or,
    2. Mystically, as Christ, whose type Isaac was, is called a Lamb.


“My son, God will provide himself a lamb” is another expression of the unshaken faith for which Abraham is famous. But we must not suppose that this was the language merely of faith and obedience; the patriarch spoke prophetically, and referred to that Lamb of God which He had provided for himself, who in the fullness of time would take away the sin of the world, and of whom Isaac was a most dramatic type. All the other lambs which had been offered from the foundation of the world had been such as Men chose and Men offered; but this was the Lamb which God had provided—unequivocally, The Lamb Of God. In his Gospel, John wrote that Abraham foresaw Christ’s coming and rejoiced over the thought of it: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Abraham may have had the Messiah in view when he said “God will provide himself a lamb,” the Lamb of God, (John 1:29{3]), and whom God would make an offering for sin, Isaiah 53:10{4], and whom would die for your sin and mine, the just for the unjust.


His answer must have been good enough to satisfy Isaac for a time, since we are told next that they continued on their way.


So they went both of them together


They proceeded on in their journey until they came to the place they were directed to go. The Targum of Jonathan says, “they went both of them with a perfect heart as one”; the Jerusalem Targum is, “with a quiet, easy, and composed mind or heart”;' and Jarchi, says “with a like heart”; all signifying that Isaac was thoroughly informed of what was to be done, that he was to be the sacrifice, and that he heartily agreed to it, and that he and his father were of one mind in it, and that he went with the same will to be offered up, as his father did to offer him. However, everything to this point indicates just the opposite, especially the question which was just asked and answered. I don’t believe we will find concrete evidence that supports the idea that Isaac was aware that He was to be the sacrifice, although it will be apparent that he did not resist being the sacrifice, when the time arrived.


But let’s not let this matter interfere with our study of this wonderful chapter. I’ll tell you what I’ll do; when I have the opportunity to ask Isaac this question, I will find out, and I tell you, when I see you there, too!



9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.


And they came to the place which God had told him of

Apparently, there was a specific place on Mount Moriah where God had told Abraham to stop, because this was the place where he was to sacrifice Isaac. We can picture the scene with the mind’s eye. Abraham has the vessel containing the glowing embers in one hand and the knife in his other hand; Isaac is bent over from the burden of wood strapped to his shoulders; several thickets are nearby; there are numerous rocks scattered over the landscape which will be used to construct the alter; and though you can’t see Him, God is there, watching.


The Holy Spirit has not given us much information about “the place,” but we do have the observations of Jewish writers. Maimonides says, “it is a tradition in or by the hands of all, that this is the place where David and Solomon built an altar in the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite, and where Abraham built an altar, and bound Isaac on it; and where Noah built one when he came out of the ark, and is the altar on which Cain and Abel offered; and where the first man offered when he was created, and from whence he was created.”


And Abraham built an altar there

Abraham seemed to always be building altars. Wherever he went, the first thing he would do is to build an alter and worship God with his prayers and sacrifices. He had built alters at Sichem, Bethel, Hebron, and at Beersheba, but here the alter was for sacrificing his own son, and that made the stones he used heavy indeed! Never before had he built an alter for such a purpose as this, and yet he went about it straight away, and finished it. If there was an existing alter there, as some say, then he would be said to have rebuilt it or to have repaired it; but this account makes it perfectly clear, he built a new alter, because there was never an alter there before this.


And laid the wood in order

He had a certain procedure he followed when building an alter and offering sacrifice, and this was the final step before slaying the sacrifice—he “laid the wood in order.” It was done in a certain way, which had been developed through long practice for many years; and that is the meaning here. The sacrifice was then placed "upon the wood." Can there be any doubt that in all the other altars which Abraham had built that any such details were omitted? Absolutely NO!


And bound Isaac his son

Our twenty-first century minds wonder how a father could do this to his son, and yet, I hear all too frequently that a Muslim father has killed his daughter for no other reason than she dressed like a westerner or she had a Christian boyfriend—and I say, ”What’s the world coming to?” If the patriarch had not been bolstered by the conviction that he was doing the will of God, and if he had not been totally confident that his son would be restored from the dead, what agony must he have felt at every step of the journey, and through all the circumstances of this extraordinary episode? What must his affectionate heart have felt when his innocent and amiable son asked that daunting question: “But where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Oh, how he must have suffered while building the altar, laying on the wood, binding his treasured son, placing him on the wood, taking the knife, and stretching out his hand to slay the child of his hopes? Every view we take of the subject fascinates the heart, and exalts the character of this father of the faithful. But what about the son? Has the character of Isaac been given its due consideration? Isn’t it true that we have failed to recognize his extraordinary character because artists have always represented him as a child too young to have a real sense of his danger, and too feeble to offer any resistance, had he been unwilling to submit?


Isaac, at the time this happened, was shown in verse 1 to be 35 years old, very near the age of Jesus when he was crucified (33½ years)—Isaac being a type of Christ. He could have easily resisted any attempts by his father to control him, for we may suppose that Abraham was an old man of at least one hundred and twenty-five years of age. He could not have bound Isaac without his consent, since he was a young man in the very prime of life? In this case we cannot say that the superior strength of the father prevailed, but the piety, loving affection, and obedience of the son yielded to his father. All the same things can be said of Christ. In both cases the father himself offers up his only-begotten son, and the father himself binds him on the wood or to the cross; in neither case is the son forced to yield, but yields of his own accord; in neither case is the life taken away by the hand of violence; Isaac yields himself to the knife, Jesus lays down his life for the sheep. My wife sings a song that I truly love, “He could have Called Ten Thousand Angels;” He could have gotten off that cross anytime he wanted, but as the song says, “He died alone for you and me!”


“And bound Isaac ...” Every precious word here is loaded with eternal truth. The Son of God, of whom Isaac is a type, would also be bound and brought before the Sanhedrin, before Annas, before Caiphas, and before Pilate! And Abraham bound Isaac his son, with his hands and feet behind him, as Jarchi says; not lest he should flee from him, and make his escape, as Aben Ezra suggests. But he bound him more out of habit than anything else; it was his usual method to bind the sacrifices when they were offered; and perhaps he did it so that Isaac might be a type of the Messiah, who was bound by the Jews—“So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him” (John 18:12)—and afterwards, He was bound and fastened to the cross.


We noted above that Isaac agreed to be the sacrifice. Josephus' account of a conversation between Isaac and Abraham before this event has no Scriptural basis, but it is included here because it is a Jewish tradition of what happened:


The patriarch said, "It was by God's will that I became thy father; and it is now by his will that I relinquish thee. O my son, bear this consecration to God with a generous mind; for I resign thee up to God who has thought fit now to require the testimony of this honor to himself, on account of the favors he has conferred upon me ... Accordingly, thou my son, will now die, not in any common way of going out of the world, but sent to God, the Father of all men, before hand, by thy own father, in the nature of a sacrifice. Isaac said that he was not worthy to have been born at first, and that if he should reject the determination of God and his father, and should not readily resign himself up to their pleasure, it would have been unjust. So he went immediately to the altar.


And laid him on the altar upon the wood

As we noted above, it is highly probable that Isaac consented to his death at the hand of his father. He was thirty-five and able to have resisted his father, and he could have easily escaped from his aged parent.  It is very likely that previous to this Abraham explained the whole affair to him, emphasized the divine command, persuaded him to submit to it; and perhaps he might have suggested to him what he himself had come by faith to believe, that God would either cancel the command, or prevent the fatal blow by some divine intervention, or bring him back to life from the dead. Isaac might have felt that he must be obedient to the will of God, since disobedience might result in sad consequences for both of them. With such thoughts bouncing around in his mind, Isaac might have acquiesced to his father’s wishes, and willingly submitted to his own death. In this, once again, we see him as a type of Christ, who acquiesced to the will of his Father, freely surrendered himself into the hands of His enemies, and meekly and willingly gave Himself an offering for His people.


Now, think about this. Wasn’t our Lord also laid “upon the wood,” not only in the instance of His cradle being a humble manger in Bethlehem, but again upon Calvary when the soldiers stretched him there and hammered the savage nails into his hands and feet? The emotions are shocked and sucked dry by the contemplation of such things. And then like a stroke of lightening at midnight deliverance came!



10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.


And Abraham stretched forth his hand

Everything is ready for the execution; the altar built, the wood laid on it, the sacrifice bound and laid on the wood; nothing remained but to cut the throat of the sacrifice, and the instrument for doing it lay within his reach. “And Abraham stretched forth his hand”; one would think that it was a trembling hand, for what he was about do is enough to make one tremble just to think of it. We must believe Abraham was completely willing to plunge the knife into Isaac, because his faith was in God’s ability to raise Isaac from the dead, not in God’s desire to stop the sacrifice. Abraham didn’t think this was playacting.


Even in the last moments, Isaac offers no resistance, but behaves like a type of Him who was led like a lamb to the slaughter: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).


And took the knife to slay his son

He fully intended to do it, which was carrying his obedience to the divine will to its full extremity, and it shows that he was sincere and really intended to plunge the knife into his son’s rapidly beating heart. The Lord was there, for He had watched the whole scene play out; He who knows all men, even their thoughts and intentions, knew that Abraham would go through with it, so He accepted that in place of the actual act. Picture this, if you will, old Abraham had the knife in his hand, and it was near the throat of his son, and he was ready to make the fatal thrust; in another moment, so to speak, it would have been all over for Isaac; but in the nick of time God appeared and prevented it, and we are told how He did it in the next verse.



11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.


And the Angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven

This One is NOT a created angel, but the eternal one, the Son of God, who perhaps appeared in a human form, and spoke with an easily understood voice, as be frequently did. Two things make it clear that this was a divine person; first, there is His swearing by Himself, “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: (Genesis 22:16); and secondly, there is the renewing of the promises made to Abraham, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18).


And said, Abraham, Abraham

The repeating of his name indicates haste to prevent the slaughter of his son, which was on the verge of being done, and in which Abraham was not remiss, but ready, willing, and able to quickly dispatch his son; and therefore the Lord calls to Abraham by name and repeats it with greater eagerness and forcefulness in order to get his immediate attention, which it did.


And he said, here am I

There is no mistaking the voice of God. Whatever He says next, the patriarch is ready to listen to Him, and to obey any order he is given.



12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.


And he said, lay not thine hand upon the lad

It was the voice of God, and it came like a pardon (or a stay of execution) at the last moment; it reminds one of that call from the governor that comes just as the executioner prepares to throw the switch—it happens often in the movies and even in real life. Abraham was poised to strike the blow that would end his son’s life; and though the Lord had commanded him to take his son, and offer him for a burnt offering to test his faith, fear, love, and obedience, yet He never meant that he should actually slay him, for He always planned to prevent him at the last moment. The Lord doesn’t approve of or take delight in human sacrifices; and to prevent it from becoming an example, God stopped his hand in mid-strike with the command, “lay not thine hand upon the lad.” Gentiles, under the influence of Satan would imitate this episode, but they would carry it out to the extreme and kill their sacrifices, which were usually their own children, sacrificed to the god Molech.


Neither do thou anything unto him

It was over; God didn’t need to see anymore. It was done for Abraham’s sake, and for our sakes. God knew Abraham’s heart, and he knew he would go through with it. The Lord did not want to see blood spilled; He only wanted Abraham to see the depth of his own faith, and for people in all ages to see what great faith can do; thus the Lord’s command—“Neither do thou anything unto him,” by lacerating his flesh, letting out any of his blood, or wounding him ever so slightly in any part of his body.


For now I know that thou fearest God

“Fearing God” doesn’t mean that He causes you to have feelings of terror or dread or fright; but rather, that you have respect and reverence for Him along with fervent love, and strong affection, and joined with that there is a fear that includes the whole range of internal religious worship, awe of the divine Being, submission to His will, faith in Him, and love for Him, and obedience to the precepts and teachings revealed in His Word. We need to keep in mind that Abrahams actions were not a surprise to God; He knew all along how things would turn out; for he knew from all eternity what type of man Abraham would be, and what he would do. And He decided to bestow that grace upon him, which would influence and enable him to act the part he did; he knew full well beforehand what would be the consequence of committing him to such a trial. But He speaks here like a human man, who knows things with certainty only when they come to pass, and appear clear and evident: or this may be understood as a knowledge of conclusive proof, that the Lord now knew, and approved of the faith, fear, love, and obedience of Abraham, which were so conspicuous in this affair—“for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6). As one commentator interprets it, “I have made known”, that is, to others; God by trying Abraham made it manifest to others, to all the world, to all that should hear of or read this account of Abraham’s great trial, that he was a man that feared God, loved him, believed in him, and obeyed him, of which this incident is a full and convincing proof”


Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me

He never hesitated or discussed the matter with God, but as soon as he had the order to offer him up, he began the preparations for it, took a three days' journey, and took with him all things required for the sacrifice; when he came to the place, he built an altar, laid the wood on it in order, bound his son, and laid him on it, took the knife, and was going to put it to his throat; so that the Lord looked upon the thing as if it was really done. At this point it was clear to all—to anyone who would afterwards hear the story—that Abraham did not, and would not have withheld his son, but would have freely offered him as a sacrifice unto God at His command; and that he loved the Lord more than he did his son, and had a greater regard for the command of God than for the life of his son. “And thus God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).



13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.


And Abraham lifted up his eyes

Abraham had his eyes fixed upon his son’s chest, and on the place within his bosom where his rapidly beating heart lay, and his mind was occupied with thoughts so overwhelming and horrible that he almost didn’t hear the Lord say, “lay not thine hand upon the lad”; but hearing a voice from heaven above him, he lifted up his eyes to heaven.


And looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns;

Abraham must have expected to see the one who had just spoke to him, but instead his attention was drawn to another sound; a ram was making noise and rustling among the bushes behind the place where Abraham was, so he turned around, and looked in the direction of the sound, and then he saw it. This ram was caught and held by his horns in a thicket of briers, brambles, and thorns, or in the thick branches of the shrubs or bushes which grew upon the mount. The horns of a ram are crooked and easily entangled in such thickets, but not easily loosed. We are not told where this ram came from, but it can hardly have come from Abraham's fold, since he was 40-60 miles away from home; very likely it had strayed from neighboring flocks, and was directed there by the providence of God. The Jewish writers say, it was from the creation of the world; and it is not at all unreasonable to suppose that it was immediately created by the power of God; and that it was a type of our Lord Jesus, who was foreordained of God before the foundation of the world, and came into the world in an uncommon way and in the fullness of time, being born of a virgin, and that in due time He died for the sins of men. The ram gets its name from the Hebrew word for “strength”, and was a symbol of a great person (Daniel 8:3{5]); and may denote the strength and dignity of Christ as a divine Person. Being caught in a thicket may symbolize the decrees of God, by which He was appointed to be the Saviour; or the sins of His people, which were laid upon Him by imputation and bound to him by the will of His Father; or the hands of wicked men, comparable to thorns, by whom He was taken to be crucified; or the sorrows of death and hell that encompassed him, and the curses of a righteous law which lay upon him; and perhaps He never more resembled this ram caught in a thicket, than when a braided crown of thorns was put upon His head, and He was made to wear it.


And Abraham went and took the ram;

He took the lamb without any regard for whose property it was, since God, the owner and proprietor of all, had provided it for him, and brought it to him at a very opportune time, and directed him to take it.


And offered him for a burnt offering in the stead of his son;

The lamb itself is said to be a type of Christ, who was made an offering for sin, and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savour; and its being a burnt offering denotes the sufferings of Christ, and the severity of them, and which He suffered instead of His people, instead of God's Isaac, instead of the spiritual seed of Abraham, instead of the children of God of the promise, and instead of all his beloved ones; who therefore are let go, since justice has been satisfied by what Christ has done and suffered, and in every case it is as if they had suffered themselves. Here, Abraham has dealt with the ram as a type, the ram having, its throat cut, its blood shed, its skin flayed, and the carcass burnt to ashes, it is as if Isaac himself had been dealt with in the same manner.



14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.


And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh

Abraham didn’t name the place in reference to what he went through. He didn’t name it “trial hill” or “agony hill” or “obedience hill.” Instead, he named the hill in reference to what God did; he named it “provision hill.” He named it knowing God would provide the ultimate sacrifice for salvation on that hill, for someday Jesus would be suspended above that hill on the rough wooden cross which would become his alter of sacrifice. Abraham wanted to give the place a name which would remind people of what the Lord had done there, hence, he called it “Jehovahjireh”, which could be rendered either “the Lord hath seen,” or “the Lord hath provided.” Earlier that day, Abraham had said to Isaac, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (v. 8). Now he had provided, and the name “Jehovahjireh” was given for a memorial of it. When God’s people hear “Jehovahjireh” they will remember Abraham’s great faith and God’s saving grace, and that the Lord provided a ram in place of Isaac; and for all those who will trust in Him, He will send his only Son in the fullness of time to be a sacrifice for the sins of His people.


As it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen

This remarkable episode has been discussed in the homes of the Jewish people from this time to the times of Moses, and it continues to be taught even in today’s churches and synagogues. Throughout the ages, men have looked at that hill and wonder about what it would have been like to have been there and seen it play out, as God did. There is a proverbial saying, which goes like this, “Just as God appeared to Abraham and his son, in the mount, and delivered Isaac just as he was about to be sacrificed, so the Lord will appear for all those who will call upon him and trust in him, in all ages, in a time of difficulty and distress.


This may also refer to the presence of God in this mount, after the Temple had been built on it. “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David” (2 Chron. 3:1).


Finally, it may refer to the appearance of Christ in the Temple, for He was often seen there. Some choose to render the words, “in the mount the Lord shall be seen.” Christ is "God manifest in the flesh"—“Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16)—He is “Immanuel”, “God with us”—“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23)—who was frequently in the temple built on this mount, and often seen there in his state of humiliation on earth.


This event is also a prophecy of Jesus’ rising from the dead on the third day, as 1 Corinthians 15:4 says “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” He rose again on the third day, so that the Messiah would rise again on the third day? It says so here, through the picture of Isaac. Isaac was “reckoned dead” by Abraham as soon as God gave the command, and Isaac was “made alive” (“risen”) three days later.


Isaac’s picture of Jesus becomes even clearer:

1      Both were loved by their father.

2     Both offered themselves willingly.

3     Both carried wood up the hill of their sacrifice.

4     Both were sacrificed on the same hill.

5     Both were delivered from death on the third day.



15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,


Abraham’s obedience was graciously accepted by God; but God was not yet done with him. Abraham has arrived at the highest level of morality, of self-denial and resignation to the will of God. The angel of the Lord now confirms all His special promises to him with an oath. The object of the angel’s first call had been accomplished when he prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son; and God had declared the Divine satisfaction with the patriarch's complete spiritual surrender of his son. Here the angel calls the patriarch for the second time. The purpose of the second call was to reward his faithfulness and obedience by renewing the covenant that the Lord had made with Abraham while he was living in Ur of the Chaldees. Before he stirred from the place, probably while the ram he had sacrificed was still burning, God sent him this gracious message, and renewed and ratified His covenant with him, and confirmed it by an oath. When God makes an oath, it is a solemn pledging of himself in all the unchangeableness of his faithfulness and truth, to the fulfillment of his promise.



16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:


And said, by myself have I sworn, saith the Lord

 Here we have the only instance in the Holy Scripture of a solemn interjection by God of an oath, which plainly indicates that this trial of Abraham’s faith was a special kind, and that it has great value as an Old Testament teaching on faith, as well as a New Testament illustration of the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary death. Paul must have had this verse in mind when he wrote this in his letter to the Hebrews, “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath” (Hebrews 6:17; NIV). He meant to show in the most solemn manner that his purpose would not change. The plans of God never change; and all the hope which we can have of heaven is founded on the fact that his purpose is not capable of or susceptible to change. If he changed his plans; if he was controlled by impulse; if he willed one thing today and another thing tomorrow, who could confide in him, or who would have any hope of heaven? No one would know what to expect; and no one could put their confidence in him. The farmer plows and sows because he believes that the laws of nature are settled and fixed; we plant an apple tree because we believe it will produce apples, a peach because it will produce peaches, a pear because it will produce a pear. But suppose there were no established laws, that all was governed by whim and impulse; who would know what to plant? Who then would plant anything? The same question can be asked of religion. If there were nothing fixed and settled, who would know what to do? If God should change his plans based on some vague whim, and save one man by faith today and condemn another for the same faith tomorrow; or if he should pardon a man today and withdraw the pardon tomorrow, what security could we have of our salvation? How grateful, therefore, should we be that God is “unchangeable in all His ways” and that this is confirmed by a solemn oath! No one could honor a God that did not have such an immutability of purpose; and all the hope which man can have of heaven is in the fact that He is unchanging.


Abraham might have appealed to God’s own attributes, and said, “Far be it from thee, Lord, to command a human sacrifice, and bid a father slay his son.” He might have pleaded the promises bound up with Isaac’s life. But no, as soon as he is convinced that the command comes from God, he obeys, and, against hope, still believes that the promises will all be fulfilled in the sacrificed Isaac. He is thus the highest and most perfect example of faith, and by his offering of his son, the Church received the assurance that the Son of God incarnate in the flesh would upon that very mountain offer the sacrifice divinely necessary for the pardon of man’s sins.


But why did God swear by Himself? Paul gives the answer in Hebrews 6:13—“For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself.”Because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself: his own nature, perfections, and life; hence it appears that the Angel that called to Abraham was a divine Person, the true Jehovah.


For because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son,

If one would begin reading at this point or just a few verses earlier, they might think that God is going to reward Abraham for his act of faith; that he deserved or purchased the following promises by his obedience to the will of God. But that’s not the case, because the same things had been freely promised to Abraham long before this time and his recent actions, as the following verses clearly show:

  • I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)
  • I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. (Genesis 13:6)


All God is doing is confirming with an oath what He had promised beforehand. It was a testimony to the singular respect which God had for Abraham, and for this heroic instance of faith and obedience.


Thine only son

This is a repetition of the final clause of Genesis 22:12; and it is repeated  because it is such a marvelous thing, a wonderful instance of faith in God, and of respect for Him, and of love for Him, and obedience to him; for, with respect to the will of Abraham, he had gone as far as he was allowed to go, and done as much as he could possibly do;therefore, God looked upon it as if it had actually been done: yet this is not perceived as worthy of what follows; the promise which had been made before, but is now repeated to show that God took notice of it, and how well pleased He was with what had been done; and therefore renews the promise, which arose out of His own grace and goodwill, and the result was the strengthening of Abraham's faith, and encouragement for others to obey the Lord in whatsoever he commands them.



17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;


That in blessing I will bless thee

How wonderful and numerous are the Lord’s blessings! He gives both temporal (worldly, secular) and spiritual blessings! He blesses with the Spirit and all his graces; with Christ and redemption, justification, and salvation by faith in Him; and with eternal life, as the gift of God, through him. Imagine how happy Abraham was after passing this test of trust.


And in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore:

Who are Abraham’s “seed”? There is the natural seed and the spiritual seed. Abraham’s natural seed consists of all those descending from him in the line of Isaac, and his spiritual seed are Jews and Gentiles that are born again because they have trusted in Christ for their salvation. God promised to multiply Abraham’s seed; there’s going to be a lot of them, because—Multiplying I will multiply thee—those who will part with any thing for God, shall have it made up to them with unspeakable advantage. Abraham has only one son, but he is willing to part with that one in obedience to God.  “Well,” says God, “thou shalt be compensated with thousands and millions, for you have not withheld thy son.” The promise of the Holy Spirit is included here, since it is that blessing of Abraham which was to “come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.” Paul informed the Galatian believers of this particular promise when he wrote, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14). The increase of the church would come from believers, his spiritual seed, and they would be as numerous as the stars of heaven. By rough calculations, the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the seashore are the same: 10 to the 25th power. [Please don’t ask me how many zero’s that is, because I can’t tell you!]


And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies:

The gates of the city were important for more reasons than that of providing “security." It was there at the gates that the city fathers held court and decided legal matters and conducted business. The jurisdiction of these judges included the whole country around the city and was only limited by the limits of the jurisdiction of the surrounding cities. The prediction that “thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” was literally fulfilled in the times of Joshua, David, and Solomon; and spiritually in Christ, Abraham's principal Seed, when He destroyed Satan and his principalities and powers, overcame the world, made an end of sin, abolished death, and delivered His people out the hands of all their enemies; and in all of this, Abraham's spiritual seed are made more than conquerors over them, through Christ who has loved them.


 “Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” means that believers by their faith overcome the world, and triumph over all the powers of darkness. Probably Zacharias refers to this part of the oath in Luke 1:74 when he says, “That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.”


By the “gates” may be meant all the accumulated strength of the fortified cities of their enemies. So in Matthew 16:18 we read: “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”: that is, the supports, strategies, and powers of darkness shall not be able to prevail against or overthrow the true Church of Christ; and possibly our Lord had this promise to Abraham and his spiritual posterity in view, when he spoke these words.



18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.


And in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed

There is One coming in the family line of Abraham who will be a blessing to all the nations. He is the principal seed, the Messiah that would spring from him. The Apostle Paul makes that very clear in Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ.” We have it on the authority of St. Paul that it is our blessed Lord (one particular person), who was The Seed through whom all God's blessings of providence, mercy, grace, and glory, would be conveyed to the nations of the earth. Christ is the Great Blessor of the world. His blessings, though, are not for everyone, but only for the elect of God, of all nations under the heavens; they alone will be blessed with all spiritual blessings, with peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life, with grace here and glory hereafter. Peter quoted this verse when addressing a crowd outside the Temple in Jerusalem: “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Acts 3:25); meaning not every individual of all the families or nations of the earth; but only those who have believed in Christ, and they are blessed for his sake with all spiritual blessings; such as redemption, justification, remission of sins, sanctification, adoption, and eternal life. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).


Abraham was ready to give up his son for a sacrifice to the honour of God, and on that occasion God promised to give His Son a sacrifice for the salvation of man.



Because thou hast obeyed my voice

Abraham believed God, and his faith caused him to obey God by taking his son and making him an offering to God, as much as he was permitted to do; and therefore he honored God by his obedience to Him; therefore, God by his grace and goodness honors him with the promise of being the father of multitudes, both in a literal and spiritual sense, and with being the ancestor of the Messiah, in whom all the blessings of grace and goodness meet.



19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.


So Abraham returned to his young men

He had left them and the ass at a certain place, while he and Isaac went to the mount to worship; and they stayed there until he returned to them, because that is what he had ordered them to do (v. 5). No mention is made of Isaac, but there is no doubt that he returned with Abraham, since we hear of him afterwards in that section of Genesis which tells of his life; Gen. 25:19-26:35.


And they rose up, and went together to Beersheba

When Abraham and Isaac came to the place where the young men were waiting for them, they immediately started out on their return journey to Beersheba.


And Abraham dwelt at Beersheba

He continued to live in Beersheba for some time afterwards, but the next time we hear of him he is at Hebron: “And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:2).



scripture reference and special notes


{1] Targum—an Aramaic translation, usually in the form of an expanded paraphrase, of various books or sections of the Old Testament.


{2] (Heb. 11:17-19) By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.


{3] (John 1:29) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!


{4] (Isaiah 53:10) Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.


{5] (Daniel 8:3) I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later.

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