Abraham is tested by God (Genesis 22:1 – 22:19)
God called out to Abraham commanding he take his son Isaac to the region of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Following God’s instructions, Abraham cut wood for the offering and the following morning, loaded his donkey and took two servants and Isaac with him to the location of the sacrifice. After three days, they reached their destination.
Pointing to the mountain in Moriah that God had led them to, Abraham told his servants,
“Stay here with the donkey while Isaac and I worship over there. We will then come back to you.”
While carrying the wood up the mountain, Isaac asked his father, “The fire and wood are here but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb for the offering, my son.”
When Abraham and Isaac reached the place where God had instructed, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood on top of it, and bound Isaac and laid him atop the wood. As Abraham raised the knife to slay Isaac, the angel of the Lord called out to him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld your son from me, your only son.”
Abraham then looked up and noticed a Ram entangled in the brush. He took the Ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead. In memory of the event, Abraham named the place “The Lord will Provide”.
The angel then called out to Abraham again, reiterating God’s promise to Abraham, that because of his faith and devotion, he and his heirs would be blessed because he obeyed God. Specifically, the angel told Abraham that God would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashores. He further promised that Abraham’s descendants would take possession of the cities of their enemies and that through his offspring, all nation on earth would be blessed.
Finally, it is noted that Abraham returned to Beersheba where he settled.
What the story means to us today
A powerful lesson
There is no more powerful story in the Bible that illustrates the importance of obeying God’s commands. No more difficult task, to kill your own child, could be imagined and thus, the story is profound as it recounts the ultimate test of Abraham’s relationship with God. The story shows us that not only must we obey God’s commands, but we must have faith, and trust him too.
Additional thoughts and considerations
The shocking command to kill his own child
The horrific command asked for by God is stunning to many. Even more shocking is that Abraham had enough faith to follow God’s command, even though he was being asked to kill his own son. But, there are several important points to consider here.
First, it may be difficult to comprehend how Abraham could have been willing to carry through with God’s command, but it may be easier to grasp if put into context. Abraham had an exceptional amount of faith in God and given his understanding that Isaac was his special son through which God’s covenant promises would be passed through, he may have believed Isaac would somehow be spared. It’s worthy to note that before approaching the altar area, Abraham told his servants, “We will come back to you”, which can be taken as an affirmation of his faith that Isaac would not be harmed.
Furthermore, when Isaac asked about the sacrifice materials required, Abraham told him that God “would provide the lamb for the sacrifice” providing further evidence that he may have believed that the outcome of events would be good. Whether or not Abraham felt God would stop him before he killed Isaac or whether God would bring Isaac back from the dead is not known but Abraham’s statements seem to indicate that he felt Isaac would return unharmed.
Lastly, it should be recognized that God’s command to Abraham, to sacrifice his only son, although difficult, was later carried out by God himself during the crucifixion of Jesus.
The covenant is reiterated
In this chapter, God again reiterates his covenant with Abraham stating that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beaches. He also adds that Abraham’s descendants would be victorious over their enemies. Already, the story of Israel has been firmly set.
God sees the future
After Abraham obeyed God’s command, the angel of the Lord said, “Now I know that thou fearest God.” Verses such as this bring into question God’s ability to see the outcome of future events. We can assume that God has the means to know the outcome of all future events but of course, for those events to transpire, they must be allowed to come to fruition.
Was Isaac Abraham’s “only son”?
The angel of the Lord confirmed Abraham’s faith noting that he was willing to sacrifice “his only son”. We know from previous chapters that Isaac was not Abraham’s only son – Ishmael (born of Hagar) was Isaac’s older brother. In this verse, “only son” is referring to birthright and not a genealogical relationship.
Rebekah first mentioned
The chapter closes with a brief genealogical account of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. It is relative to Isaac’s upcoming story – Rebekah, his future wife, is listed as the daughter of Bethuel.
The Science behind the story
The mention of Moriah only occurs in this story and later in Chronicles 3:1 where it is described as a mountain where eventually Solomon would build the temple. Whether both places are one and the same is debatable. In later stories regarding the temple site, the incident between Abraham and Isaac is not mentioned. It could be presumed that such an important event would surely be noted if the locations were one and the same.
On the other hand, we know that Moriah was three-days distant from Beersheba. The distance from Beersheba to Jerusalem is about 50 miles which could have required three days travel to reach. As such, it has been proposed that the location of Moriah is the rocky outcropping just north of Jerusalem, adjacent to, or directly on, the hill where the temple was built that housed the ark of the covenant.
Animal and human sacrifices
During Old Testament times, sacrifices were common amongst most religions of the world. Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices after his exit from the ark. Other Near Eastern flood stories, which parallel the story of Noah, also included tales of sacrifices. As this story demonstrates however, human sacrifice was not to become a part of our religion and the death of Christ eliminated the necessity of animal sacrifices altogether.
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, n because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
22:1 After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
3 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. 4 On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.
7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”
“Yes, my son.”
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.
9 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. 10 Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
11 Just then an angel of GOD called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 Abraham named that place GOD-Yireh (GOD-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of GOD, he sees to it.”
15 The angel of GOD spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: 16 “I swear—GOD’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, 17 I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies.
18 All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beer-sheba. Abraham settled down in Beer-sheba.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.
The NET Bible
22:1 Some time after these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” Abraham replied. 22:2 God said, “Take your son—your only son, whom you love, Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah! Offer him up there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.”
22:3 Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out for the place God had spoken to him about.
22:4 On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place in the distance. 22:5 So he said to his servants, “You two stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there. We will worship and then return to you.”
22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. 22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 22:8 “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together.
22:9 When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son. 22:11 But the LORD’s angel called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. 22:12 “Do not harm the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.”
22:13 Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place “The LORD provides.” It is said to this day, “In the mountain of the LORD provision will be made.”
22:15 The LORD’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven 22:16 and said, “ ‘I solemnly swear by my own name,’ decrees the LORD, ‘that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 22:17 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies. 22:18 Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.’ ”
22:19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set out together for Beer Sheba where Abraham stayed.
Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.
King James Version
22 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 Jehovah-jireh: 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 Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.