Genesis 22–23. The Sacrifice.
The sacrifice of Isaac has always been a focal point for Old Testament discussion. It raises some very difficult questions. Some answers may appear in the study.
22:1 God called Abraham. He responded "Here am I".
22:2 "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and go the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountain I will tell you of." Three times in the chapter Isaac is called “your son, your only son”. This is an unbelievable command.
22:3 Abraham did not question or argue or hesitate.
22:4–9 The story is told slowly and more slowly as it approaches the climax. What did Abraham think for 3 days while he and Isaac journeyed toward death? Isaac was unaware. He wanted to know where the lamb for the offering was. Abraham prophesied:
"God will provide (himself) Himself the lamb for a burnt offering...."
22:9 We wonder how Isaac allowed himself to be bound without protest. Did Abraham tell him all would be well?
22;11–14 At the moment before Isaac's death, the Angel of JHWH called from Heaven and stopped Abraham's hand. Then a ram was found at hand for an offering in place of Isaac.
22:15–19 The Angel of God swore on His Own Name that because Abraham had obeyed, showing great faith, he would be blessed enormously. (The oath is repeated in Heb.6:13)
22:20 On returning home, they got news from Paddan Aram. Nahor and Milcah were also having children, one was a girl named Rebekah. This news forms the basis of the next episode.
23:1 Sarah died at 127 years. After a season of mourning, Abraham bought a field and cave at Machpelah, Hebron, Mamre, from the Hittites for 400 shekels of silver. The ceremony of purchase was done in classic courtesy. It was the only land in Canaan that he could legally call his own. Sarah and he, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob would be buried there.
God tempted Abraham. Does God tempt his children? Yes and no.
"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, but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire". (James 1:13)
God does not tempt us to do evil but tests His children to make them stronger; Satan seduces them to make them weaker. A good teacher knows that a good test makes the student better able to handle future problems.
“God tested you to know what was in your heart.” (Deut.8:2–6)
“The righteous God tries the heart and mind.”(Psa.7:9)
“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked.” (Psa.11:5)
“O Lord of Hosts, who judges righteously, who tries the heart and mind.” (Jer.11;20)
“Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.” (Heb.12:4)
“We speak...to please God who tries our hearts.’ (ITHes.2:4)
God said “…offer your son as a burnt offering.” ? Who was speaking, you might ask. The order is unthinkable. How could anyone do that? There was no question in Abraham's mind. This is the God whom he knew so well that he did not argue. But we are to try the spirits.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God". (IJn.4:1)
What was demanded? A sacrifice of the firstborn. Who owns the firstborn?
"...sanctify to me all the firstborn." (Ex.13:2)
"The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me." (Ex.22;29)
"All that opens the womb is mine, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep. The firstling of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb or break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem." (Ex.34;19)
"I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn that opens the womb." (Num.3:11–13)
Answer: God owns the firstborn but humans were to be redeemed with money rather than sacrificed.
What was Abraham's response? No hesitation, no questioning. In his mind, Isaac would be brought back from the dead. God had promised that He would establish His covenant with Isaac (Gen.17:21) and so He must.
“He considered that God was able to raise him even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Heb.11:19)
What was the dilemma? From God's side, would Abraham see Isaac as part of God's plan (and therefore subject to God's plan), or would he see Isaac, his precious only son, an end in himself? Abraham's dilemma:
If I obey I frustrate my plan for Isaac.
If I disobey I frustrate God's plan for me.
If I kill Isaac, I sin.
If I do not kill Isaac, I sin.
Why would God put any human being through such a trial? It seems that the trial was only to confirm Abraham’s faith. (Gen.22;16–18). But was such a trial necessary? Had Isaac become an idol in his parents’ eyes, and end in himself rather than a means of future blessing? “Your son, your only son, whom you love….”We are not told that exactly but it is very likely.
Further, would God ask his servant to do something He would not do Himself?
"He who did not spare His own son but delivered Him up for us all, shall He not with Him give us all things?" (Rom.8:32)
"The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isa.53:6)
"It was the will of God to bruise Him. He has put Him to grief." (Isa.53:10)
"Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many...." (Heb.9:28)
God did not ask Abraham to do something that He would not do. He carried out the sacrifice of Christ, His Only Son whom He loved (Matt.3:17), making Him an offering for us. (Rom.3:25). Hence we see in the sacrifice of Isaac a preview of the Cross.
What is the typical application of the chapter?
*Christ is the Father's One and Only Son whom He loves.
*God put Christ to grief for our salvation.
*Christ carried the wood of his own sacrifice.
*Christ was offered up at or near the place of Abraham's sacrifice.
*Christ willingly put himself on the altar.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (Jn.10:17–18)
*God has provided a Lamb as a substitute for us so that we did not have to die for our own sin.
What is the direct application of the chapter?
Warning: know that this trial was never to be repeated.
*Obey God even when it is very difficult.
*Do not hug your children to yourself. They belong to God. Hopefully they were dedicated to God. If they are called to dangerous service, let them go. (Having offered my own son, I know that is hard to do.)
*The Lord will provide. Jehovah Jireh. Trust Him for your provision.