SECTION FOUR - ISAAC
THE CHILD OF PROMISE Genesis 21.1-8
Finally, after twenty-five years in the land of Canaan, waiting for the fulfillment of Godís promise, Abrahamís faith was rewarded. The apostle Paul has a beautiful commentary on this: "As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarahís womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness" Rom. 4:17-22
Abraham, therefore, is offered throughout the New Testament as the prototype of those who are justified by faith. The apostle Paul stresses that this imputed righteousness was received by Abraham even before he was circumcised (Romans 4:9-12) and long before the Mosaic law was given (Galatians 3:16-18), so that salvation depends neither on the ritual nor the moral law, but only on Godís grace received through faith. Abraham is called "the father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11) and "the father of us all" (Romans 4:16). Further, Scripture assures us that "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham," and that "they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:7,9).
Sarah also, though of doubtful mind for a time, became strong in faith. " Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11).
They were able to believe because:
In the same way today, we are saved on the basis of faith in the sure promises of Godís Word.
21:1 AS HE HAD SAID
God keeps His word . "The Lord visited Sarah as he had said; and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken." Furthermore, His promise was fulfilled on Schedule (Godís schedule, not manís!).
21:2 AT THE SET TIME
Sarah "bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him" . Like Abraham, we often become impatient waiting for God to work; but, like Abraham, we should learn to "be strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he is able also to perform."
21:3,6 ISAAC - LAUGHTER
Joy; an additional reason why the name Isaac was appropriate for the child. LAUGHÖÖÖÖme, In other words rejoice with me. The name chosen for their son of promise was an unusual name, Isaac, meaning "laughter." It was an appropriate name, however, for every time they would speak his name, they would remember how they had laughed at Godís promise (Genesis 17:17;18:12), a laugh of amazement in Abrahamís case, and of doubt in Sarahís case. They would also remember the great joy they shared when Isaac was finally born.
21:4 CIRCUMCISED HIS SON ISAAC - AS GOD HAD COMMANDED HIM
When Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had long ago commanded (Genesis 17:12), making sure that Isaac was under the terms of Godís covenant. His father and mother carefully taught him in the ways of righteousness (Genesis 18:19), and, no doubt, rehearsed over and over again all the great promises of God that centered in him. So far as the record goes, Isaac was an intelligent, handsome, and obedient son, fulfilling in every way his parentís hopes and dreams
21:7 IN HIS OLD AGE
The bodies of Abraham and Sarah had been miraculously rejuvenated, their ages being one hundred and ninety years old, respectively (Genesis 17:17; 21:5). Sarah was "young" enough again, not only to have a child, but to nurse him (verse7); Abraham was "young" enough again not only to father Isaac, but also six other sons of his wife Keturah, after Sarah died (Genesis 25:2)! When God miraculously heals, it is not a partial healing, but a complete and instant restoration.
HAGAR AND ISHMAEL CAST OUT BY SARAH Genesis 21:9-21
Almost forgotten, apparently, were Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael was now about sixteen years old (genesis 16:16; 21:5), and for a long time had been an only son. It was neither his fault nor his motherís that his birth had been a sort of accident, contrived due to a temporary lapse of faith on the part of Abraham and Sarah; so it is easy to understand his resentment at the unusual attention devoted to Isaac.
Sarah, however, could not endure his mocking. She had resented Ishmael and Hagar ever since Abraham had gone in to Hagar, even though it was at her own insistence that he do so. She could see that the rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac could only grow worse as time went on, since only Isaac was destined to share in the covenant promises and his fatherís inheritance.
21:10 CAST OUT HIS BONDWOMAN AND HER SON
She called Hagar "this bondwoman" and Ishmael "the son of this bondwoman," harsh words for her personal maid of over twenty years and for a loved son of her own husband. She insisted that Ishmael not be allowed to share in Abrahamís inheritance, all of it going only to "my son, Isaac."
21:17 THE ANGEL OF GOD
It is interesting that in Genesis 16:7, this divine being is called "the angel of Jehovah." Here he is called "the angel of Elohim." The reason for the change is that Jehovah is Godís covenant name, and Hagar was in the first instance still under the roof and protection of Abraham. Now, however, she has become a "stranger to the covenant of promise," and therefore the name of God which is used in the name associated with creation and power, rather than redemption.
21:19 AND GOD OPENED HER EYES
In other words she now perceived the well of water which was quite near her, but which in her anguish of mind she had overlooked. ĎThe Hebrew phrase To open the eyes is exclusively employed in the figurative sense of receiving new sources of knowledge, not in that of regaining the sense of sight.
ABRAHAM AND ABIMELECH MAKE A COVENANT Genesis 21:22-34
21:23 SWEAR UNTO ME HERE
The last portion of chapter 21 records an incident between Abraham and Abimelech, presumably the same king whom Abraham and encountered before in Gerar. He reminded Abraham that he had dealt kindly with him and had allowed him to dwell in his land. In return, he wanted Abraham to promise that he would not try to injure him or his people for Abimelech was well aware of Godís blessing and protection on Abraham.
The acceptance of the lambs would be equivalent to acknowledging Abrahamís right to the possession of the well..
The name is given a double etymology; Ďthe well of seven (lambs) Ď and Ďthe well of swearingí.
21:33 THE EVERLASTING GOD
Abraham planted a grove of trees (probably tamarisk trees) near the well, and there called on the name of "Jehovah, El-Olam," meaning "Jehovah is the eternal God." Though he had made a covenant with an earthly king, in order to avoid attack, he recognized that God Himself had made an eternal covenant with him, to give him and his seed all this land for ever . He would eventually come back to Beersheba to dwell (Genesis 22:19); but for the present he went back to the place where he had been living in the land of the Philistines, where he continued to live for many years, until, in fact, Isaac was a grown man.
THE TEST OF ABRAHAMíS FAITH WITH ISAAC Genesis 22:1-19
The next bit of chronological information we have is that Sarah died when she was 127 years old (Genesis 23:1). When Isaac was weaned, she was ninety-two or ninety-three. Thus, the events of the latter part of chapter 21 and all the events of chapter 22 occurred during the intervening period, giving all we know from Scripture of a period approximately thirty-five years in length. Since Genesis 21:34 mentions "many days" and Genesis 22:1 is introduced by the phrase "after these things," the inference at least is that the narrative of Genesis 22 took place many years after the birth of Isaac. Isaac was no longer a little child, but was certainly at least in his teens, and quite possibly twenty-five or thirty years old. He was thirty-seven when his mother died. While it is true that he is called a "lad" (verses 5,12), the Hebrew word (naar) is very flexible in meaning. Most frequently it is translated either as "servant" or as "young man." In fact, the same Hebrew word is used here in Genesis 22:5 in connection with the "young men" that went with Abraham and Isaac. Since exactly the same word is used, in the same verse, for the two servants and for Isaac, it is clear that the meaning in Isaacís case should also be "young man."
22:1 PROVE (Hebrew nasah - to test or try)
The Authorized Version has the older English Ďtempt Ď meaning to test; a trial (in older English, Ďa temptationí) is that which puts to the test. A test is never employed for the purpose of injury, but to certify the power of resistance. All his other trials of faith were to be crowned by Abrahamís willingness to sacrifice his dearest hope to the will of God.
Then, suddenly, the blow fell! Abraham had not heard from God directly for many long years. He seemed to have become silent. Never the less, Abraham continued to love and trust Him, knowing that He had wonderfully kept His promises.
But when God broke His silence, he did not speak as He had done in former days. He seemed to speak in judgment and even cruelty. It seemed as though every word was calculated to hurt Abraham as deeply as possible.
"Abraham" He said, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Mo-riíah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." Gen. 22:1,2
"But, Lord," Abraham may have thought, "that doesnít sound like you. You promised to make of Isaac a great nation, and he is not yet even married! True, the gods of the nations around us are sometimes worshipped by the sacrifice of sons and daughters [a fact abundantly verified by archaeological research], and I certainly love you as much as these people love their own false gods; but this type of thing surely is not pleasing to you. What will happen to all your promises if you make me do this thing? And what about Sarah? Why, this will literally bring her down to the grave with grief!"
Whether Abraham actually thought such things or not, Scripture does not say. All we are told is that he obeyed God, with no questions asked.
Now, of course, God did not really intend that Abraham should slay Isaac. As a matter of fact, Godís words were simply to "offer" Isaac for an offering; nothing was said about slaying him, though this is naturally the connotation that Abraham would have to place on the words. Likewise, we are commanded to present our own bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1), dead to the things of the world and alive and dedicated wholly to the service of Christ.
22:2 TAKE NOW
The Hebrew is peculiar: the imperative Ďtakeí is followed by the Hebrew particle ĎI pray theeí - God was speaking to Abraham Ďas friend to friendí.
THY SON, THINE ONLY SON
The repetition indicates the intense strain that was being placed upon Abrahamís faith, and the greatness of the sacrifice demanded.
22:2 WHOM THOU LOVEST
Another word is mentioned in these verses for the first time, and this in many ways is the most important word in the Bible. It is the word "love." :
We have frequently in these pages referred to the "principle of first mention," pointing out that, when an important word or concept occurs for the first time in the Bible, usually in the Book of Genesis, the context in which it occurs sets the pattern for its primary usage and development all through the rest of Scripture.
With this in mind, it does seem strange, at first, that "love" is first mentioned, not in connection with the love of a man for his wife, of a mother for her children, of brotherly love, of love for country, or even of manís love for God. Instead, it is used of the love of a father for his son. In Abraham and Isaac God is giving us a beautiful picture of the relationship between God as a father and His Son Jesus who is the Christ of God. (Matthew 3:17; 26:39; 27:46; 28:5,6)
Three times God shouts His love for His Son from the very heavens. But then, He tells us that He loved us, so much that He was willing to sacrifice His only and beloved Son, in order that we might be saved. This is far beyond our understanding, of course. (I John 4:9-11)
22:2 THE LAND OF MORIAH
Jewish Tradition identified the locality with the Temple Mount (2 Chron. 3:1).
AND OFFER HIM THERE
The meaning here is Ďlift him upí (upon the altar). God, in His command, did not use the word which signified the SLAYING of the sacrificial victim. From the outset, therefore, there was no intention of accepting a human sacrifice.
That Isaac is a type of Christ is confirmed by Galatians 3:16, and that the experience of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah is a type of the offering of Christ on Mount Calvary is confirmed by the terminology in Hebrews 11:17-19.
22:4 THE THIRD DAY
Why would God tell Abraham to go so far, and to just this spot? There is no explanation in the text itself; but there must have been a reason:
22:7 WHERE IS THE LAMB
"Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" The answer echoes back across the centuries: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Note the comparison:
Abraham built an altar there on Mount Moriah. He had built altars before-at Sichem, at Bethel, at Hebron, at Beersheba-but none of these would do. For the true sacrifice, not of an animal but of his only son, the altar must be on Mount Moriah. There is no substitute for Calvary, where the Lamb of God must be offered up in sacrifice for the salvation of a lost world.
22:11 ABRAHAM, ABRAHAM
This exclamation (Abraham, Abraham!) shows the anxiety of the angel of the Lord. Abraham had demonstrated that he believed God, and loved God, and trusted God so much that he would not withhold even his only son from Him. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
Note that the "angel of the Lord" commended Abraham because "thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me" (verse 12). It is evident here that this "angel of the Lord" is claiming to be none other than the Lord Himself.
Abraham named the location Jehovah-Jireh, which means "the Lord will provide," or, alternatively, "the Lord will appear." There is a difference of opinion among Hebrew scholars on this particular translation, the issue turning on certain vowel points. Perhaps both meanings are appropriate, with the former probably being preferable if a choice must be made.
SAND AND STARS Genesis 22:15-19
As far as the record goes, this is the last time God would speak personally to Abraham, so He summed up all His previous promises and enlarged on them. To emphasize as strongly as possible that His word would be accomplished, God made an oath to Abraham, swearing by His own name. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, Saying Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:13-18).
Jesus said: "He that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). God told Abraham: "Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son," therefore He would:
22:17 STARS OF THE HEAVEN, AND AS THE SAND
It is instructive to note Godís comparison of Abrahamís seed to the sand and to the stars. (Gen. 15:5) However, to the naked eye, one can only count approximately three thousand, at the most. See Gen. 13:16. No one knows the exact number of the stars but it can be roughly estimated, for the observable universe at least, as approximately 10/25. Since there are approximately 10/15 square feet of area on the earthís surface, and approximately 10 million grains of sand in a cubic foot of sand, if we assume that there is an average of 1,000 feet of unconsolidated sediments around the surface of the earth (probably deeper than this on the ocean bottom, but shallower on the land surfaces), then the number of sand-sized particles would also be calculated as 10/25. So the stars and the sand are of about the same order of magnitude in number
22:18 OBEYED MY VOICE
This is the first occurrence of the word "obey" in the Bible, and it stresses that obedience belongs to God first of all, and that obedience to God results in rich blessing.
GENEALOGY OF ABRAHAMíS BROTHER NAHOR Genesis 22:20-24
BORN OF MILCHA, the wife of NAHOR