Genesis 22 is a picture
of bold faith in action. The supreme test of Abraham
resulted in the supreme triumph of faith in God.
The Jewish tradition
calls the story in Genesis 22 the "Binding of
Isaac," and the writer of Hebrews refers to
Abraham's faith that God could raise Isaac, implying
Abraham's faith that God could raise the dead.
All of the promises God
made to Abraham depended on the survival of the
promised son (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 17:9; 18:10, 14;
21:1-12). Ishmael and any other sons of Abraham did
not count (21:8-13). The covenant promise was
clearly stated to Abraham that "through the line of
Isaac your posterity shall be traced" (v. 12, NEB).
Isaac was exclusive and unique as far as the
covenant was concerned. The fulfillment of God's
promises depended on Isaac's survival. If Isaac was
to die, how could these promises be fulfilled? The
extinction of Abraham's seed, Isaac, would be the
end of the promise in Genesis 12:1-3. But as we
shall see in Genesis 22 Abraham had no doubt that
God required the sacrifice of the son of promise.
How then could Abraham reconcile the promises of God
and the command of God to put him to death? For
Abraham, the problem is not really his, but God's so
he decided to trust Him.
Abraham had waited a long
time for the son of the promise. When he was finally
born, Isaac was nothing short of a miracle. He was
born to Abraham and Sarah when it was humanly
impossible for them to have children because of
their age. Abraham was one hundred years old, and
Sarah wasn't too far behind!
Moreover, all of the
great promises God had given Abraham were linked to
the son of promise. God would make Abraham into a
great nation and "in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
Could Abraham's love for
that son crowd aside his love for the LORD God? As
Isaac grew into manhood, Abraham would have been
increasingly attached to this special son. Would he
love his son of the promise more than his God?
The "Binding of
When Abraham was 115
years old and Isaac was a mature young man, "the One
true personal God," Ha Elohim, tested his servant.
He said to Abraham, "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"
God's message was
specific. There was no doubt as to whom God meant
when He said, "Your son, your only son, whom you
love, Isaac." Not Ishmael, but Isaac, is clearly
I doubt if Abraham slept
much that night. He had a personal intimate walk
with God. He had claimed by faith the great promises
God had made to him. This was an agonizing decision.
The Hebrews always considered human sacrifice wrong.
Neither Abraham nor his community practiced human
Therefore, how could a
holy God ask for a human sacrifice? God was asking
Abraham to give a spiritual sacrifice of his
promised son. God asked him to give back the gift
which He had made possible. The emphasis on the
spiritual sacrifice is made clear by the fact that
God Himself prevented the completion of the physical
The sacrifice itself
places emphasis on complete surrender to God.
Abraham is to give Isaac back to the LORD without
"God put Abraham to the
test." This is the "supreme test and the supreme
victory." The test originated with the one true
personal God (Ha Elohim).
Abraham responded quickly
to God's call for absolute obedience. Abraham rose
early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and woke
up Isaac and two of his servants. They piled wood on
the donkey for a burnt offering and began their slow
When they arrived at the
foot of the mountain God had chosen Abraham parted
company with the servants. By faith, he told the
servants, "stay here with the donkey, and I and the
lad will go yonder; 'and we shall worship and we
shall return to you'" (v. 5). Then he and Isaac
walked on alone. It was a statement of faith,
"Accounting that God is able to raise up, even from
the dead" (Hebrews 11:19). He was arguing with
himself, literally, "considering" and coming to a
definite conclusion. He was saying I will obey
regardless of the cost. He believed that God's
promise could not fail.
"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. 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?" (vv. 6-7).
God will provide.
Abraham responded, "'God
will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt
offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on
together" (v. 8).
This is the high
water-mark of Genesis 22, and the climax of
Abraham's life of faith in God.
"God will provide." "God
will provide for Himself." "God will provide for
Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
Faith talks. I think it was talking a lot as they
walked together. Abraham is confident that the LORD
God knows what He is doing. He will provide His own
lamb in due time.
When they arrived at the
place for the sacrifice Abraham built the altar,
arranged the wood, and bound his son, Isaac, and
laid him on the altar on top of the wood (v. 9).
Note the complete confidence and submission of Isaac
to his father. He has confidence in his father, and
an understanding of his father's love and faith in
Yahweh. It is an act of supreme faith Isaac has in
God, too. It echoes with the confidence of another
son who prayed, "Not my will, Thy will be done."
"God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt
offering my son" must have echoed in the minds and
hearts of both father and son.
Abraham stretched out his
hand, and took the long sharp knife and raised it
slowly above his head. Just as his arm began the
downward descent in a swift movement toward Isaac
there was an urgent shout from "the angel of the
LORD" saying, "Abraham, Abraham!" (vv. 10â€“11). The
urgency restrained him on the spot. There had been
complete surrender and submission to the will of
God. Abraham was obedient and had walked by faith
trusting God completely. Abraham put God first in
his life and love. He would let nothing stand
between himself and God (Deut. 6:4-5; Matt. 6:33).
The angel of the Lord
said to him, "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. 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" (v. 12-13). "The angel of
Yahweh" is the divine person who later assumed the
form of man (cf. Gen. 16:7-11; 21:17). God provided
the lamb in place of Isaac.
Abraham called the place,
Yahweh-Jireh. It means, Yahweh sees, or Yahweh
provides, it shall be provided. Yahweh sees and
provides. "The LORD will provide" (v. 14). That
mountain became a testimony. Every time someone
passed by it he said, "In the mount of the LORD it
will be seen and provided."
This mountain later
became the site of the Temple and the center of
Israel's sacrificial worship (2 Chron. 3:1). The
very heart of Israel's religion centered in the
Temple on Mt. Moriah. However, these animal
sacrifices were only a shadow of something to come;
they were not the Lamb of God (Heb. 10:4). God
commanded animal sacrifices to teach His people the
principle of substitution so that in due time He
would provide the perfect substitutionary atonement
for our sins.
Another son of the
promise came to that mountain two thousand years
later, but there was no substitute lamb for Him
because He was the "Lamb of God who takes away the
sin of the world" (John 1:29).
God provided the lamb for
the burnt offering. God alone can supply that which
will satisfy His holy demands. Nothing on the part
of man can meet the Divine requirements of a
righteous God. God did what sinful man can never do.
God supplied the perfect Lamb for the
substitutionary atoning sacrifice for sin (cf. Ex.
12; Isa. 53:6-7). The claims of Divine holiness and
justice were perfectly met in the atoning death of
Jesus Christ that God "might be just, and the
justifier of him who believes in Jesus" (Romans
The Hebrew scholars Keil
and Delitzsch note "in the fullness of time, God the
Father gave up His only-begotten Son as an atoning
sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, that by
this one true sacrifice the shadows of the typical
sacrifices might be rendered both real and true."
Moreover, God spared not His only Son, but gave Him
up to the real death, which Isaac suffered only in
spirit, that we might die with Christ spiritually,
and rise with Him to everlasting life (Rom. 8:32;
God's own Son was also
lifted up on "the mount of the LORD" and became our
substitute. "They took Jesus, therefore, and He went
out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the
Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew,
Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two
other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between"
Indeed, Jesus said, "For
this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down
My life so that I may take it again. No one has
taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own
initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I
have authority to take it up again. This commandment
I received from My Father" (John 10:17-18).
The only sacrifice God
accepts for our sin is the sacrifice that He has
provided. Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac
was a prophecy of the actual sacrifice by God of His
Son, Jesus Christ.
That day the lamb became
Isaac's substitute. God rescued Isaac with a
substitute ram. Our substitute saved us from the
penalty of the wages of sin. The Apostle Paul wrote,
"He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin
on our behalf, so that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
That is also the way Peter understood it. "He
Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;
for by His wounds you were healed" (2 Peter 2:24).
See also John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26; 4:4, 25; 5:6, 8,
15; 6:8-10; 8:32; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10.
Abraham learned that in
His perfect timing, God would see and provide His
own Son as a substitute to die for our salvation.
"By faith Abraham, when
he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had
received the promises was offering up his only
begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In
Isaac your descendants shall be called.' He
considered that God is able to raise people even
from the dead, from which he also received him back
as a type" (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Genesis 22:5 is a strong
affirmation of faith in a time of testing. "Stay
here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go
yonder; and we will worship and return to you." We
shall worship and we shall return to you." Abraham
believed in God's ability to raise the dead. He
could trust God to solve His own problem as to His
promises and His command to sacrifice Isaac. "We
will return back to you." The simplest meaning of
Abraham's words is that he fully expected to come
back with Isaac. How is it possible if Isaac is
offered up as a burnt-offering? It was possible only
if Isaac was to be raised from the dead after being
sacrificed. That is the clear understanding of the
writer of the book of Hebrews. Abraham's faith
reasoned that the fulfilment of the promises
depended on Isaac's survival, and since God was
bound to them, He would restore Isaac's life.
Evidently for Abraham, the resurrection of Isaac was
no great thing. Since God created him, He could
raise him from the dead. The author of Hebrews says
Abraham received Isaac back from the dead, "in a
figure," meaning in a manner that prefigured the
resurrection of Christ.
Isaac is therefore a type
of Christ's substitutionary atonement for sin. Early
Christians treated the sacrifice of Isaac as a
"detailed parable of the sacrifice of Christ." For
Irenaeus and many other early Christian writers,
Isaac carrying the wood is a type of Christ carrying
His cross to Golgotha. Isaac was figuratively
speaking dead, or as good as dead. It was as though
Isaac really had died and had been raised up to life
again. It is not surprising that from the earliest
times this event has been seen by the church as
parabolic or typical of the death and resurrection
John Calvin said
interestingly, "Isaac is not to be thought of as
simply one of the common company of men, but as one
who contained Christ in himself."
The key to Genesis 22 is
the fact that "Abraham accounted that God was able
to raise Isaac back from the dead." Abraham trusted
God believing he would see God perform a miracle and
raise Isaac form the dead. The son must live or God
would be found a liar. There is no contradiction in
God. The one, clear, logical conclusion is that God
is going to raise Isaac from the dead.
The Puritan theologian
John Owen wrote: "The ultimate object of Abraham's
faith was the power of God. Abraham firmly believed
. . . the resurrection from the dead." This "was we
see clearly from what is said of him in this text.
Abraham still firmly believed the accomplishment of
the great promise, although he could not discern the
way whereby it would be fulfilled. Abraham reasoned
within himself as to how the power of God would
fulfill the promise, and he accounted that if there
were no other way, yet after he had slain Isaac, and
burnt him to ashes, God could raise him again from
From that experience,
Abraham had a clearer understanding of God's eternal
plan of redemption. In the substitutionary ram was
prefigured the work of the Lamb of God to take away
the sin of the world. Abraham's experience
foreshadowed Christ's atoning death and anticipated
His victorious resurrection.
Hebrews 11:19 tells us
Abraham "considered that God is able to raise people
even from the dead, from which he also received him
back as a type." The author of Hebrews regarded the
incident as a "type" (en parabole) of the
violent death and resurrection of Christ. The
sacrifice of Isaac was a type of our Lord's
crucifixion. This ancient patriarch's faith was able
to reach the wonderful heights of the resurrection
and for this reason Isaac was restored to him as one
from the dead. Isaac was as a type of the death and
resurrection of the Son of God who was not spared
His life (cf. Rom. 8:32; Jn. 8:56).
understood better than we realize the wonder of the
Lord's provision when he said, "in the mount of the
LORD, He will appear." Jesus told the Pharisees
gathered about him, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to
see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56).
And we are, too!
Abraham had desired to
see "the day of Christ." He had the privilege to
stand on Mount Moriah, the same spot later called
Calvary. He saw the day of Christ--the day of His
extreme humiliation and extreme exhalation. He saw
the day clearly.
F. B. Meyer said, "There
is only one scene in history by which it is
surpassed: that where the Great Father gave His
Isaac to a death from which there was no
22:1-19 Isaac's Substitute Lamb
Christ in the Old Testament