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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 22

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Abraham Willing to Offer Isaac

A. God's command to Abraham and his response.

1. (Gen 22:1-2) God tests the faith of Abraham.

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

a. God tested Abraham: 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.

b. Take now your son, your only son Isaac: Significantly, God calls Isaac your only son Isaac, when in fact Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But since Ishmael was put away from Abraham's family, then as far as God was concerned, Abraham had only one son.

c. Offer him there as a burnt offering: God tells Abraham to offer him as a burnt offering. This was not an offering that was burned alive, but one first sacrificed and then completely burnt before the LORD.

i. How would we react if God told us to do such a thing? Jack Smith, a columnist for the L.A. Times, was discussing this Biblical incident with his readers. He said he would have told God to mind his own business. That's what the world always says to God.

ii. Would God tell someone to do this today? In 1993, a man named Andrew Cate was sentenced to 60 years in prison after being convicted of fatally shooting his 2-year-old daughter, then walking naked through his neighborhood carrying her body. Cate claimed he was acting out the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, and God would do a miracle to win his brother to Christianity. Cate believed God would miraculously stop him at the last moment before killing his daughter. The man was obviously deranged. What Abraham did was something completely unique in God's redemptive history, given for a specific purpose once for all fulfilled. There is no way God would ever direct someone to do this same thing today.

d. Offer him there as a burnt offering: This test was especially hard because it seemed to contradict the previous promise of God. Hadn't God promised in Isaac your seed shall be called (Genesis 21:12)? If Isaac hadn't had children to pass the promise on to yet, how could Abraham kill him? Wouldn't he be killing the very promise God made to him?

i. Abraham had to learn the difference between trusting the promise and trusting the Promiser. We can put God's promise before God Himself and feel it is our responsibility to bring the promise to pass, even if we have to disobey God to do it.

ii. Trust the Promiser no matter what, and the promise will be taken care of!

e. On one of the mountains of which I shall tell you: There was a specific place God commanded Abraham to go, a particular spot where this would happen. God is carefully directing each detail.

f. Your only son Isaac, whom you love: This is the first mention of love in the Bible, and it is the love between father and son, and connected with the idea of the sacrificial offering of the son.

2. (Gen 22:3) Abraham's immediate response of faith.

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

a. So Abraham rose early: There is not the slightest hint of hesitation on Abraham's part. Abraham rose early in the morning to do this. Yet at the same time, who could sleep that night?

i. 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.

ii. He didn't debate or seek counsel from others. He knew what to do and employed no stalling tactics.

iii. Abraham is trusting, 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.

iv. God had been training Abraham, bringing him to this place of great trust. In just the last chapter, God asked Abraham to "give up" Ishmael in a less severe way. God used that, and everything else, to train up Abraham.

b. Saddled his donkey: Abraham seems to personally saddle his donkey and split the wood. Though he had plenty of servants to do this for him, Abraham did it himself because even in his old age, is a bundle of nervous energy.

c. Went to the place of which God had told him: In wonderful, trusting obedience, Abraham went right to the spot. Abraham does this even though it would have been if God asked Abraham to offer himself instead of Isaac.

B. Abraham's offering of Isaac.

1. (Gen 22:4-8) Abraham journeys to the place of sacrifice with Isaac.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.

a. On the third day: Abraham came to the place on the third day. The region of Moriah is associated with Mount Moriah, which is modern-day Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1).

b. I will go yonder and worship: This is the first use of the word worship in reference to God in the Bible. The Hebrew word "shachah" simply means, "to bow down." While Abraham and Isaac did not go to the mount to have a time of joyful praise, they did go to bow down to the LORD.

c. And we will come back to you: Abraham is full of faith when he speaks to the young men who are with him. He believes that we will come back.

i. Does this mean Abraham somehow knew this was only a test and God would not really require this of him? Not at all. Instead, Abraham's faith is in the knowledge that should he kill Isaac, God would raise him from the dead, because God had promised Isaac would carry on the line of blessing and the covenant.

ii. He knew in Isaac your seed shall be called (Genesis 21:12), and Isaac had yet to have any children. God had to let him live at least long enough to have children.

iii. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

iv. He knew anything was possible, but it was impossible that God would break His promise. He knew God was not a liar. He had no precedent (no one in the Bible had yet been raised from the dead), but Abraham knew God was able. God could do it!

d. Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son: We see Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill.

e. He took the fire in his hand, and a knife: Abraham took the knife up the hill. He didn't "forget" it. "That knife was cutting into his own heart all the while, yet he took it. Unbelief would have left the knife at home, but genuine faith takes it." (Spurgeon)

f. The two of them went together: This literally means "the two of them went in agreement." Isaac is doing this knowingly and willingly. The phrase is repeated twice.

i. 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.

g. My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for 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 when he declares: Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

2. (Gen 22:9) Isaac willingly lies down on the altar.

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

a. Then they came to the place: Apparently, even on Mount Moriah, there was a specific place God told Abraham to stop, because this was the place to do this.

b. Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac: At this time, Abraham was more than 100 years old, and Isaac would have been able to get away had he chosen to. Yet he submits to his father perfectly. In remembering Abraham's faith, we should never forget Isaac's faith.

i. Jewish commentators think Isaac was in his thirties at the time of this event.

c. Upon the wood: As an obedient son, Isaac laid down on the wood, ready to be sacrificed.

3. (Gen 22:10-14) God's merciful reprieve.

And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided."

a. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son: 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.

i. One may say, "It's not fair or right. God told Abraham to do something and then told him not to. If God really wanted to test Abraham, He hould have made him plunge the knife into his son's chest."

ii. God often takes the will for the deed with his people. When He finds them truly willing to make the sacrifice He demands, He often does not require it. This is how we can be martyrs without ever dying for Jesus. We live the life of a martyr right now.

iii. But, "Often there are believers who wonder how they may know the will of God. We believe that ninety per cent of the knowing of the will of God consists in willingness to do it before it is known." (Barnhouse)

b. You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me: Abraham displayed his heart towards God in that he was willing to give his only son. God displays His heart towards us in the same way, by giving His only begotten Son (John 3:16).

i. When God asked Abraham for the ultimate demonstration of love and commitment, He asked for Abraham's son. When the Father wanted to show us the ultimate demonstration of His love and commitment to us, He gave us His Son. We can say to the LORD, "Now I know that You love me, seeing You have not withheld Your Son, Your only Son from me."

c. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son: All the while, God still required a sacrifice. God didn't call off the sacrifice. Instead, He required that there be a substitute provided by God Himself.

d. Abraham called the name of the place: The naming of the place is significant. Abraham called it, The LORD Will Provide (Jehovah Jireh); In this mount, it shall be provided.

i. 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 someday.

ii. As it is said to this day: apparently, Moses meant even in his own day, men would look at that hill and say, "In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided."

iii. This event is also a prophecy of Jesus' rising from the dead on the third day, as 1 Corinthians 15:4 says He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. But where does it say in the Old Testament specifically 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.

iv. Isaac's picture of Jesus becomes even clearer:

- Both were loved by their father.
- Both offered themselves willingly.
- Both carried wood up the hill of their sacrifice.
- Both were sacrificed on the same hill.
- Both were delivered from death on the third day.

4. (Gen 22:15-19) God reconfirms His promise to Abraham in light of his faith.

Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son; blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

a. Blessing I will bless you: Imagine how happy Abraham was after passing this test of trust.

b. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore: 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.

5. (Gen 22:20-24) The listing of Nahor's family.

Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, "Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel." And Bethuel begot Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.

a. "A concubine was an inferior kind of wife, taken according to the common practice of those times, subject to the authority of the principal wife, and whose children had no right of inheritance, but were endowed with gifts." (Poole)

© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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