A Bible Lesson on Genesis 22:1-19

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

In Genesis 22 we have some of the most profound foreshadowings of the sacrificial work of Christ and the great grace of God the Father in the entire Old Testament.  It also teaches us yet more about the nature of true faith in the I AM.

The elements of the account are intensely real and gut-wrenching, aren’t neatly allegorical (admitting a simple-minded “this means this and that means that” exposition), and offend the unbelieving sensibilities of rebellious modern humanity.  But read for what it is—a vital part of the revelation of God to man—it is simply wonderful.

Gen 22:1  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”

God has given Abram a son of promise, the embodiment of His covenant with him, one through whom the promises will be fulfilled.  Abram has learned in hard things of life and God’s provision to trust Him, take Him at His word, and to obey Him.  God has renamed Abram as “Abraham” and now comes to him to “test” him again, to work in him a yet deeper understanding of His goodness and provision, to confirm again His great love for His people.

2 He said, “Take 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.”

So here it is, what sounds to modern ears as an absolutely abhorrent command.  Indeed God hates hideous practices that are (or amount to) child sacrifice.  But this is not about crass evil human sacrifice.  This is not just any son.  This is the very covenant itself, this is God’s promise personified.  This is “your son,” “your only son,” “whom you love.”  One must be purposely blind or very dull to not see in these words a foreshadowing of God’s only Son, Christ Jesus.  Abraham has a firm promise from God (see again Genesis 15) of offspring through Isaac (and, from them, eventual blessing for the whole of humanity), and is now given a glimpse of the great price to be paid by the Father for that promise to be enabled to hold good.  There is indeed a sacrifice of an only Son required.

Moriah is almost certainly what we know today as Jerusalem and the mountain either the temple mount or more likely Calvary.

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

Abraham doesn’t delay.  He knows the I AM.  He’s walked with Him and he’s learned obedience.  We moderns worry about how Abraham processes all this, how he reconciles the promise and the command, how he copes with his agony as a father.  The Scriptures concern themselves with what he does.  At this point Abraham has many years of experience with God.  He knows God’s nature and he knows his place as a human being.  So he rose early, ready to do what the I AM has commanded.

4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.

It’s the third day.  Again, one must be dull or purposely blind to not hear an echo of Easter here.  It’s a nice turn of phrase that he saw this “from afar.”

5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

We need to take this as it stands.  The servants are here by Abraham’s bidding, but now he and Isaac must go on alone.  What he says to the servants is absolutely true.  The obedience of Abraham and Isaac is true worship of God.  The “will … come again” are not just some meaningless words to smooth over what he expects to be a personally horrible outcome.  They are his confident expectation, on the basis of the promises and nature of God and His good will towards them.  Abraham surely has no idea of the particulars of how this is going to play out.  But he knows that the promise is sure and that the good will of God is to him and his son Isaac.  So he can say “I and the boy” will come again, and absolutely mean it.

6 And 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 they went both of them together.

The son carried the wood, much as the Son carried the cross.  The fire and the knife were in the hands of Abraham, much as the completely pure and righteous judgment of God were the Father’s on Calvary.  They went both of them together, the two of them only.  No other human had a part in this.  Ultimately, on Calvary it was the Father and the Son alone at work, dealing with your sin and mine.

7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

This is a most fundamental question.  Where, indeed, is the lamb?  There must be an adequate and appropriate sacrifice for sin … but from whence does it come?  The covenant is sure, God has guaranteed it Himself.  But Genesis 17 also makes it clear that the human side of the covenant must be kept.  How does this impossibility get resolved?  Where is the lamb?

Kidner points out that Abraham clearly and wonderfully answers the question posed much later by Micah.

Mic 6:6  “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Gen 22:8  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

“God will provide for himself.”  God will take responsibility for satisfying Himself.  Exactly how?  Abraham surely can’t see that in detail for either the short or the long run.  But it can be no other way than in God alone.  The promise is sure and the command to sacrifice has been clear.  Exactly how what looks to finite human minds like a contradiction is to be reconciled is not obvious, but the solution must lie with God.  God will provide for Himself the Lamb.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

Isaac is of necessity a willing participant here.  He’s at least a late teenager, if not older.  Abraham is an old man.  He doesn’t put Isaac on the altar against His will.  Christ went to the cross without disputing the will of the Father.  He agonized in Gethsemane, but went willingly to Golgotha.

The pace of the account is changing to excruciating slow motion.  This is agony for Abraham.  There is no cheap easy believism or playacting in this.  If God doesn’t intervene he will kill Isaac.  If God doesn’t provide the Lamb, the covenant promise dies.

10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.

11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”

12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

The question “Does Abraham revere the I AM?” has been definitively answered.  Abraham has acted in accord with a real understanding that God is God, that He keeps His promises, and that He is to be trusted in all things, whether or not Abraham can see to the end of them.  Abraham has confirmed again the judgment of Genesis 15:6, that he believed God (and it was counted to him as righteousness).

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

In the short run, God has indeed provided the lamb.  In the long run He will provide the Lamb.  As John the Baptizer said of Jesus:

Joh 1:29b  … Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Abraham responds in gratitude and great joy.

14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

“The LORD will provide” might be rendered “The LORD sees.”  James Boice did a great job of expounding the sense of the phrase as “The LORD will see to it.”  What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful truth.  The I AM will see to it.  He’s the blessed controller of all and loves His people.  He will provide propitiation for their sin.  On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.  Abraham acts and speaks prophetically of Calvary.  He provided the lamb for Abraham and Isaac.  He will (as Abraham speaks of the future) provide the Lamb for all who believe.

15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven

16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,

17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,

18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Abraham’s obedience that made real/clear his reliance upon God became blessing for you and me in Christ.  His example stands in Hebrews 11 as pattern for all who will love God.

Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,

Heb 11:18  of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

Heb 11:19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Gen 22:19  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

How matter of fact this is.  The basic attitude of heart of Abraham is not to be extraordinary but simply the common life of believing people.  Those who know God, His nature and His promises, are to face life unafraid that anything can separate them from His covenant love.  He will see to it.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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