About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Tested (ch. 22:1 - 19)
Chapter 22 verse one says
that "sometime later God tested Abraham".
How much later we don't know. There's
been speculation anywhere from four to
twenty four years later. The
fact of the matter is that we don't know.
We do know that the
events of this chapter was meant to be a test on God's part.
We know from the book of James in the New Testament that God does
not temp us, but He does test us.
There is a major difference. God
never tempts us to sin. He
does test our trust in Him though, and this is partly what He was doing to
Abraham in this chapter. I
say, partly, because I believe the events of this chapter has prophetic
significance and overtones that go much farther than a personal test for
Abraham. We will also
see that another reason why God tested Abraham was to make sure Abraham
The whole point to
following God, or in New Testament terms, being a Christian, a follower of
Jesus, is faith. Faith is
trust. I like the word trust
better than faith these days because it seems to me that the word faith
has lost much of its Biblical meaning in today's world.
I believe that most of us understand trust better than faith, and
they mean the same thing.
Abraham trusted God and
for that reason God declared Abraham to be a righteous man.
Yet we've seen Abraham's trust waver many times in the Genesis
account. So God tested
Abraham's trust by presenting him with a real challenge.
God will do the same with us, with anyone who claims to be a real
Christian. If you are a
Christian, you should expect God to test you with difficult circumstances.
If you don't recognize these times in your life, then you are too
worldly and not close enough to Jesus to know what is happening.
In verse 1 God simply
calls out to Abraham. He just
says, "Abraham". It's
nothing elaborate, just "Abraham".
In verse 1 Abraham
responds by saying, "here I am".
Once again, not many words. It's
just the simplicity of the voice of God speaking to one of His children,
and his child responding in like manner.
The test is presented in
verse 2. God tells Abraham,
"take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the
region of Moriah. Sacrifice
him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about".
There's a lot to comment
on in this one verse. First of
all note that God emphasizes who Isaac is.
He is Abraham's son, but not just his son.
Isaac is his only son, which makes the request harder than ever to
accept. Then, it's not just
his son, his only son, but the son whom Abraham loves.
Everyone knows Abraham loves Isaac, the son that God promised him.
The miracle son. And
now God wants him dead. How
stunning this must have been to Abraham.
It's a strange request, but one with great prophetic overtones as I
One thing that we should
understand here is the nature of sacrifices in these days.
It appears that God Himself made the first animal sacrifice in
Genesis 3 when He killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve's naked bodies.
Beyond this, there is no written account of God communicating to
men that he should sacrifice to God. We
do know that Cain and Abel did present a sacrifice to God, but how they
knew to do this has not been recorded.
We only speculate that God told them, or perhaps Adam, to do such a
thing. So by the time Abraham
was alive, animal sacrifices were an established practice among all
religions of the day, all of were polytheistic.
Yet somewhere along the
line animal sacrifices got distorted with the implementation of human
sacrifices. I use the word
"distorted" because I don't believe God was in favour of killing
humans in a sacrificial ceremony. I
also believe that the many polytheistic cultures and their worship of
multiple gods was a distortion of the worship of one true God as seen in
the Bible. Adam was
monotheistic. He not only
believed in one God, he experienced one God.
Within a few generations down the line, when man began not to
experience one God, they invented their own gods, thus the ancient
cultures that we study find their origins, or so I believe.
So when God told Abraham
to sacrifice his son Isaac, that was not a totally foreign concept to
hear. As hard as it
sounds to us, in those days, people did such things.
God told Abraham to take
Isaac to one of the mountains, one that He would later tell Abraham about,
in the region called Moriah. This
is present day
In verses 3 and 4 Abraham
begins to pass the test. He
got up the next morning and gathered wood, took Isaac, and two servants
and headed north to Mount
In verse 5 they finally
reach their destination. Abraham
tells the servants to stay where they had stopped while Abraham and Isaac
went off in the distance to worship.
Abraham viewed what was about to take place as worship, and that is
what obeying God is. It's an
act of worship. As Paul states
in Romans 12:1 and 2, our very lives should be one of worship, and worship
demands sacrifice on our part. Abraham's
sacrifice, as hard as it would be, was an act of worship. We
tend to think of worship as something we do on a Sunday morning, but
worship is way more than that. If
you think of worship in those terms alone, you've missed the point to
Notice in verse 5 that
Abraham tells his servant that he and the boy will go and worship and then
"we will come back". This
tells me that Abraham did believe that Isaac would not be killed, that God
would provide a sacrifice other than Isaac.
Another point to be made
concerning Abraham believing God would provide a sacrifice can be found in
Hebrews 11:19. The writer of
Hebrews said that Abraham believed that God could raise the dead.
So in the mind of Abraham, he thought that God would provide
another sacrifice, and if not that, God would actually raise Isaac from
the dead after he died. The
writer of Hebrews says that in one sense of the word Isaac was raised from
the dead. He came close to
death, but was rescued. This
to me would suggest that relationship between Isaac and Jesus, that is,
Isaac representing Jesus in a symbolic way.
As I have said, some believe that Isaac represents Jesus, while
others believe Isaac represents man. Both
ways of thinking have some validity.
Also notice the word
"boy" in verse 5 in the NIV.
You might think Isaac was a young boy because of the use of the
word "boy". That's
not necessarily so. The Hebrew
word translated a "boy" can mean young boy or even a young
adult, even a boy of thirty years old.
In verse 6 and 7 we see
Abraham placing the wood upon
Isaac. I believe this means
that Isaac carried the wood. The
text says that Abraham carried the fire and the knife.
The knife was to kill the sacrifice.
At this point Isaac began
to wonder what actually was going to be sacrificed.
Everything was there for the sacrifice, but where was the lamb that
was to be killed, so Isaac asked Abraham about this.
Once again, each step
that Abraham took here was a step of trust, and he was succeeding in each
and every step of trust.
Abraham answered Isaac in
verse 8 by saying that "God Himself would provide a lamb".
In the Hebrew, the word provide suggests that "God would see
to it Himself that a lamb would be available".
Often times people have
asked, "did Abraham really think that he would kill his own son as
God asked him"? Some
suggest that Abraham did not know what was going to happen, and that he
fully expected to kill his son. I'm
not sure this is the case. Abraham
specifically said here that "God would provide the lamb".
That tells me that Abraham didn't expect that he would actually
have to kill his son.
I also think that Abraham
would have remembered all of the promises God spoke to him about, that he
would have a son, and that through that son, he'd have many descendents
that would turn into a great nation, and that one particular offspring
would be very special. So I'm
not convinced that Abraham expected to kill Isaac, although in his trust,
he might have had much confusion. Confusions
sometimes, or even oftentimes accompanies trust.
God asks us to trust him with certain things that we don't know the
outcome of, or even why we've been asked to trust.
Still, as confusing at it may seem, God still wants us to trust
Verse 9 states that
Abraham and Isaac reached the place that God told them to make the
sacrifice. We don't know when
God told Abraham the exact place to sacrifice.
We only know that before he left on the trip, God said that he
would eventually tell Abraham the exact location.
The location is interesting because it was in and around the same
place where Jesus died on the cross, and I believe this event symbolizes
Jesus' death. There is some
discrepancy about this among scholars. Some
say this place is where the present day Dome of the Rock is in Jerusalem. Some suggest it is the
hill where Jesus was killed, Whatever
the case, the place where Abraham built the altar was in or around present
Verse 9 also tells us
that Abraham prepared the altar, put wood on it, and actually bound his
son on the altar. This
presents a question. Did Isaac
struggle against Abraham? If
not, why? The text does not
answer this question. For this
reason, some say that Isaac was quite young and did not have the ability
to fight off his father. Others
suggest at this point that Isaac was old enough to fight off his father
but submitted to him and what appeared to be the will of God.
Those people believe Isaac was much older, and even possibly in his
twenties. We don't know the
answer to these questions.
At his point we can
address how Isaac felt and thought. If
he was older, he clearly submitted to the will of Abraham. I suggest that
Isaac had faith as well. He
might have had faith in Abraham, or he might have had faith in the God of
Abraham. He saw his father's
faith and adopted the same faith for himself.
Paul, in the book of Romans often speaks of us today needing the
same faith as Abraham. Here
Isaac, the one who the "reckoned son" would come through seems
to have faith in God. Abraham
was the father of Israel, but in one sense of the word, so was Isaac, since it was through his
lineage that Jesus would be born. Isaac
appears to have the same faith as Abraham.
The events of this chapter, although mainly about Abraham, are
almost just as much about Isaac as well.
Verse 10 tells us that
Abraham took his knife out and was ready to kill Isaac as a human
sacrifice. Now this is trust.
Abraham got this far in trusting God.
Abraham was ready to pass the ultimate test of faith and trust.
What would have normally
happened in this case is that Abraham would have slit Isaac's throat and
burned him on the altar. Once
again, such things were done in various cultures in the day when Abraham
lived. This does not sound very pleasant, but this is what human
sacrifices were like. I might
add, that even today, in some distant cultures, some people still offer
animal, and even human sacrifices.
Verse 11 tells us that at
this point, as Abraham was ready to slit Isaac's throat, the angel of the
Lord called out to Abraham. He
said, "Abraham, Abraham…"
The mentioning of Abraham's name twice shows us the urgency of the
matter. Once again, most
people believe the angel of the Lord to be pre-incarnate Jesus here, and
elsewhere in the Old Testament where this term is used.
One other point to be made is that the term "angel of God" is used six times in the Old Testament. This is Jesus too.
Some people and cults will tell you
that this angel of the Lord is indeed Jesus, but then they will tell you
that Jesus is not God but an angel. This
is far from the truth. If you
note what the angel of the Lord says in the next few verses, you will see
that this is no angel, but God Himself. You
will notice this in all the passages in the Old Testament where the term
angel of the Lord is used.
Abraham thus replied by
saying, "here I am". This
might have been quite a relief for Abraham.
He felt that God would provide a lamb for this sacrifice. He might
have been wondering just when the lamb would appear.
God cut things pretty close.
In verse 12 God tells
Abraham through the angel of the Lord not to kill Isaac, or even lay a
hand on him. God
said that He now knew that Abraham feared Him.
Abraham had fallen short in his trust so many times, but not this
time. Not this important time.
He had passed the test of trust.
Notice that God finally knew that Abraham feared Him.
That was the meaning of this test.
The Proverbs say over and over that the fear of God is the
beginning of knowledge and wisdom.
That's just the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.
There's more knowledge and wisdom to follow.
Therefore, if you don't fear God, you cannot expect to know and to
There are two aspects to
this test from Abrahams standpoint. One
is a test of trust. The other
is a test to see if he feared God. Both
were important to him, and both should be important to us.
The fear of God is one of
the things that is really lacking in Christians today.
We've adopted a worldly and new age approach to God.
We too often see Him as our buddy, but He's not.
He is our Father, but a father to be feared, yet loved at the same
time. If we can begin to learn
to fear God, we will then, and only then begin to live the Christian life
as we should. So to the degree
in which we fear God will be the degree in which we will experience life
as a Christian as we should.
In verse 13 Abraham looks
up and sees a ram caught in some bushes and understood that this was God's
provision for him. He
sacrificed the ram instead of Isaac. How
relieved he must have been.
You might notice that in
verse 8 Abraham believed that God would "provide a lamb" to be
sacrificed. Yet in the bushes
was not a lamb but a "ram".
I simply point this out. I
don't know the significance. I
don't know why a lamb wasn't caught in the bushes.
There might be some prophetic significance here, but I can't say
for sure. Maybe God was
leaving the lamb for a later sacrifice in history, meaning, the lamb that
was provided turned out to be the "Lamb of God that takes away the
sin of the world", and that is Jesus.
In verse 14 Abraham
called this place "the Lord will provide".
And truly, this location is the place where God did make the
ultimate provision in the cross of Christ.
The events of this chapter are prophetic.
There is no doubt about that. Jesus
will also provide in the next age, when He rules on earth from this
location. He will provide
peace, safety, and salvation.
There are two ways of
viewing this chapter prophetically. One
is that Isaac represents Jesus while Abraham represents God.
Many people see this as the prophetic significance.
I tend to think this view is a bit faulty.
The main reason for this is that Isaac never died, and Jesus did.
The other way to view
this is that Isaac represents sinful mankind who should be killed for our
sin. Yet an innocent
ram, who signifies Jesus, is sacrificed on behalf of Isaac, that
is, the human race. I tend to
see this as being more logical.
Verses 15 through 18 is
yet another opportunity when God speaks to Abraham the covenant we call
the Abrahamic Covenant. God
says, "I swear by myself".
This is the nature of this covenant.
God did not make a covenant with Abraham.
He makes no covenant with man, because we are unable to hold up our
part of the covenant. He makes
the covenant with Himself. He
agrees with Himself to do certain things and these things will be done.
It does not matter what Abraham and his descendents do or don't do.
God will do as He states in these verses, and as He has stated
It is my understanding,
because what God says here, that this is the event where God declares
Abraham righteous. I could be
wrong on this point, but the text strongly suggests that because of this
one act of trusting obedience, God finally knew that Abraham trusted Him.
Certain promises are made
in verses 15 through 18. These
have been stated by God before, but once again, he confirms them to
Notice there are three
recipients of the promises. God
promises things to Abraham, to his descendents, and to his offspring.
One thing we need to note here is that Paul, in Galatians 3 tells
us how to view the word "offspring".
He says the word "offspring" refers
to Jesus. Paul does not tell
us to view the word "descendents" any differently that what is
meant in the Genesis account. The
word "offspring" is one of those words that is both singular and
plural. Paul tells us that we
should view this word as singular, that is, "one offspring" is
meant when God speaks of "offspring" here.
Since Paul does not discuss the word "descendents, which is
plural, we can thus conclude that descendents is plural as it really is,
and applies to Israel, who is Abraham's descendents.
Here are the promises. In
verse 17 God says that He will bless Abraham.
How He would bless Abraham is seen in the next couple sentences.
God says that Abraham's descendents would be as numerous as the
stars in the sky. That's a lot
of descendents. Of course, we
Both of these promises
are yet to be fulfilled. There
will be more Jews born, and they will possess the promised land when Jesus
returns to earth, takes the land for Himself, gives it to
Verse 18 says that
through Abraham's "offspring", that's Jesus, all nations of the
earth will be blessed. This
was partly fulfilled at the cross. All
nations of the earth have the opportunity to be blessed, but not all
nations want to be blessed. This
promise will ultimately be fulfilled when Jesus returns to earth and sets
up His earthly kingdom and rules from Jerusalem. At this point, every nation
and individual on earth will be blessed because of the presence and rule
Note the last phrase in
verse 18. All this will happen
because Abraham trusted God and was willing to offer his son.
This is why Abraham is so important.
We need to be really thankful of him. It
only goes to show what can happen when people actually trust God.
Concerning trusting God,
we need to trust Him for what He has said to us, not for what He hasn't
said to us. Abraham heard from
God. There was no doubt about
that. From my experience I've
seen some Christians trust God for things that I doubt that He has spoke
to them about, and especially things that don't necessarily line up with
the Bible. Do we trust God for
a new car, boat, and house. I
don't think so, unless he has clearly told you that, and I'd have my
suspicions about that.
Verse 19 ends this
section by telling us that Abraham and his people stayed in
In this section we see
Nahor and Milcah, Nahor's wife. Milcah
had a baby boy some time after the events seen earlier in this chapter.
Nahor had many children
including a boy named Bethuel, who the text says became the father of
Rebekah. Rebekah is probably
why this section is included into the Genesis account since she became the
wife of Isaac. Therefore, Isaac married his cousin
Verse 24 says that Nahor
had a concubine who also had sons. A
concubine is a secondary wife. Men
in the Bible who had concubines included Abraham, Nahor, Gideon, David,
and, Saul. Solomon took this to an extreme.
He had three hundred concubines.
He was a very busy man. This was the practice of wealthy men who
were often leaders in their community.
Deuteronomy 17:17 forbad kings from having so "many"
wives. The text does not say
he couldn't have more than one wife. It
just says he couldn't have lots of wives. These words were spoken in the
Law of Moses for a time that would come once
Deuteronomy 21:10 – 14
also permits men to take women who have been captured in a battle.
They were to mourn for the parents for one month, then the man
could take her as his wife, that is, have sex with her.
If for some reason she was not suitable, he could send her away but
not sell her.