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Chapter 22

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ch. 22:22-24

Abraham 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 "feared Him".   


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 have said.


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 Jerusalem.  The sacrifice would take place on the same piece of property where the real sacrifice would take place many centuries later, and that is the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


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 Moriah.  Verse 4 tells us that it was a three day trip.  Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking on the long journey.  Each step he and his camels took would be a step in faith, a step in trusting God.


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 Godly worship.


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 Him.


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 day Jerusalem , the city of David , where Jesus died, just outside of the city gates.  Because this location was important to God; Abraham built the altar exactly right where God said,  it might well be the exact location where Jesus did die. This tells me that this particular piece of property is important to God, and to Jesus.  When Jesus returns, He will return to this very place. 


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 be wise.


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 elsewhere. 


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 Abraham. 


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 know that Israel is the descendents of Abraham.  God is speaking of Israel here.  He also says that Israel will possess the land He had promised to Abraham already. 


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 Israel , and rules Himself from Jerusalem.  I won't explain all of that here.  I've done that elsewhere.


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 of Jesus.


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 Beersheba. 


Nahor's Sons (ch. 22:22 - 24)


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 Israel wanted their own kings like other nations had.


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.


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