Genesis 22

Abraham Offers Isaac: The Death of Christ
Genesis 22
Genesis 22. As we remarked in Genesis 12, the life of Abraham in Genesis is divided into three series of chapters. Ch.12-14 deal with Abraham’s public history, in which Abraham is tested as to his willingness to live as a stranger and a pilgrim. The first series closes with a millennial scene, in which Melchizedek is a type of Christ in His Millennial office. Ch.15-21 deal with Abraham’s private life, in which God appears personally to Abraham a number of times, and his faith is tested by patient waiting for the promise of a son. This scene also closes with a Millennial picture. Now we have the third series (ch.22-25), which goes deeper and higher than the rest. It too ends with a millennial picture, in the sons of Abraham and Keturah. Another common theme with each series is that each begins with an altar or sacrifice of some kind. In our chapter, the sacrifice is that of a father’s only son. It is a vivid type of the sacrifice of Christ, and it is perhaps the most outstanding example of faith in the Word of God, except for the faith of Christ Himself as a man on earth.
“Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find such absolute trust in God, as when the father was proved willing to sacrifice his only son, with whom were bound up all God’s promises and his own expectations. To man death is the end of hope; to God it is but the occasion to exercise the power of resurrection.” – W. Kelly
But further, a great change takes place in this chapter, in which the Seed of Abraham becomes the central focus. Galatians 3 shows that in Genesis 22, the Abrahamic promises are confirmed to Christ, who is the only true Seed of Abraham. And it is because of Christ and our association with Him that the Gentiles can come into blessing on the principle of faith.

Abraham Offers Isaac on Mt. Moriah (22:1-19)

1 And it came to pass after these things, that God tried Abraham, and said to him, Abraham! and he said, Here am I. v.1 Ready to Hear. The characteristic expression “after these things” clues us into the fact that a new series is beginning. At the end of chapter 21, Abraham calls on the name of Jehovah, the Eternal God. His heart no doubt was overflowing with thankfulness. He had his son, the promised heir. He also had the Gentiles at his feet, asking for a covenant. All was coming together. Then a period of time passes, during which nothing is said. No doubt the years were filled with joy, because in v.2 we read of the love that Abraham had for his son. But God was not done with Abraham. He had more work to do in life of His friend, and much to teach us typically through him. “And it came to pass after these things, that God tried Abraham”. God tested Abraham in ch.22 in a way that no other Old Testament saint was tested. It was a trial of Abraham’s faith. Peter speaks of this as “the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7). It brings God glory when our faith is tested, because faith is really a divine gift (Eph. 2:8), and God loves to see faith in action. God calls Abraham’s name, and he responds quickly; “Here am I”. This is the answer of faith. He was ready to hear! 
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. v.2 The Test. The test for Abraham was staggering. He was to take his only Isaac, whom he loved, and offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord. Abraham had another son, but he had only one Isaac! Isaac was the depositary of the promises. He was the sole heir of Abraham. All of the patriarch’s hopes rested in this young man. He had waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born. Now God was asking Abraham to offer up his son. In Hebrews 11:17, we read, “he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son”. Isaac is a type of Christ, who is the only-begotten Son of God, in His death and resurrection. The cost of this sacrifice is highlighted in the expression, “thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest”. This is the first mention of love in scripture, and fittingly, it is the love of a father for his son. It represents the love between God the Father and God the Son from a past eternity. The next mention of love is in Genesis 24 with Isaac and Rebecca, which represents the love of Christ for His bride. Abraham was to offer Isaac as a “burnt-offering”. As we find in Leviticus, the burnt-offering was not on offering made by a person because they had sinned, but because it was a sweet savor to Jehovah; i.e. propitiation. It was also usually a free-will offering. This presents to us the highest aspect of the work of Calvary, which was all for God. Abraham was to offer Isaac on a certain mountain “in the land of Moriah”. Many years later, Solomon would build the temple on the same mountain, and it was also the same places as the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Chron. 3:1), where the Angel of the Lord sheathed his drawn sword after David’s sacrifice, and where the Lord answered by fire from heaven. It was also the site of a much greater sacrifice; that of God’s only-begotten Son.

Only-begotten. The expression "only-begotten" is one word in the Greek; 'monoganes'. It is an expression that confers the thought of uniqueness. A modern English equivalent is “one and only”. Most notably, "only-begotten" is used to convey the special place that the Son has in relation to God the Father.1 It is often coupled with the name "Son" or "Son of God", as in John 1:18, which shows that Sonship is our Lord’s unique identity. 'Monoganes' is used only a few other times in the New Testament. It is used three times in Luke for individuals healed by the Lord who were only children of their parents (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38). It is used in Hebrews 11:17 with regard to Isaac. The other occurrences refer to Christ as the Son of God; e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9. The usage of this expression in connection with Isaac shows us that the term "only-begotten" does not infer temporal existence; i.e. it does not mean that the Son of God began to exist at a certain time, like how human children begin to exist when they are begotten of their parents. Similar to the term "firstborn", which is also applied to the Son, and has also been falsely used to deny His eternal existence, the term "only-begotten" has a special significance. The use of the term in Hebrews 11:17 and its equivalent in Gen. 22:2 helps us to see this. Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But Isaac was his only-begotten. The term "only-begotten" has the sense of 'one of a kind', and it is used in this way with regard to Isaac. There was only one Isaac. It has to do with the son's place of affection in the heart of the father. In what sense is Christ the "only begotten" or unique One? We do not need to speculate, the scripture says; “the only begotten Son of God”. It is in His eternal identity as the Son of God that He is the Only-Begotten. We can conclude that this term, which has been used to deny the Eternal Sonship, as if He had a beginning in time, in fact it strengthens that truth, because it emphasizes that His Sonship is what makes the Son unique at the most fundamental level!

Faith in the God who Raises the Dead. Abraham’s heart must had shuddered at the thought of sacrificing his son. He had waited so long for a son. Why was God asking him to do this? His mind must have gone back to the promises of God, in which Isaac was named as the one through whom the promises would be fulfilled. “Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Heb. 11:18). How then could Isaac be sacrificed? Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed. His conclusion was not that God must have changed His mind about the promises. His conclusion was that God would make a way to keep His word regardless of every barrier, including physical death. Abraham came to the belief that God would raise Isaac from the dead; “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:19). Abraham had never seen a person raised from the dead before, but he had experienced the power of resurrection in his own life. Romans 4:17-22 reveals that in Genesis 15, Abraham believed in the God who raises the dead. His own body and Sarah’s womb were as good as dead, yet he “hesitated not at the promise of God through unbelief; but found strength in faith, giving glory to God”. His faith was in “the God whom he believed, who quickens the dead, and calls the things which be not as being”. Now, many years later, the same faith is tested in a different way. And once again, Abraham chooses to believe God in spite of all the circumstances, and even against the paternal pleadings of his own heart. He was fully persuaded that God would give Isaac back to him, and he was committed to go through with the sacrifice. There is no higher test of faith in the Old Testament. But while Abraham had seen resurrection power before in his life, in this trial his obedience rose to new heights. Although as a sacrifice, Isaac is the type of Christ, yet there is a certain sense in which Abraham is a type of Christ. Christ was in Himself the depositary of the promises. Going to the cross, Christ put His faith in God, counting that God would raise Him from the dead, and that the promises would not be in vain. Similar way to how Abraham trusted God to raise Isaac, Christ trusted God to raise Him from the dead once the sacrifice was complete!
3 And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up and went to the place that God had told him of. v.3 Preparation. The response from Abraham is beautiful. He obeyed instantly, rising early in the morning to make preparation for the journey. We find in scripture that obedience always comes before knowledge. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). Abraham obeyed long before he understood how God would keep the promise in spite of Isaac’s death. Strangely, mention is made of the wood for the burnt offering. Often in scripture wood is a type of humanity. The preparation of the wood by Abraham might typify the preparation of a human body for the Son of God; “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5).
4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 And Abraham said to 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 on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and the knife, and they went both of them together. vv.4-6 The Third Day. A time came when Abraham could see the place of the sacrifice afar off. The young men and the donkey that had travelled with them could go no further. Abraham and his son would go on alone. The energy of nature (young men) and the uncleanness of the flesh (donkey) had no place at the cross. The laying of the wood on Isaac might represent the incarnation. The fire and the knife were already in God’s hand, so to speak, when He sent the Son into the world as a man. The expression “they went both of them together” is of deepest moment. Even before the incarnation, the Father and Son were united in their purpose (in the eternal counsels of the Godhead) to accomplish the world of Calvary. And all the way to the cross, the Father was with the Son (John 16:32). It is wonderful to see Abraham’s faith even in speaking to the young men; “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you”. Abraham believed that he would return with Isaac. Perhaps he even had some sense that this trial would result in worship.
7 And Isaac spoke to 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 sheep for a burnt-offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself with the sheep for a burnt-offering. And they went both of them together. vv.7-8 Isaac’s Question. Isaac knew that they were going to offer a sacrifice, and he could see all the preparations for a burnt-offering, except the animal, or animals. Isaac asks the sad question; “Where is the sheep for a burnt-offering?” How this must have moved Abraham’s heart! Isaac did not know that he was to be offered. But Abraham’s response is wonderful. “My son, God will provide himself with the sheep for a burnt-offering.” I doubt that Abraham understood the typical significance of what he was doing. He simply trusted the Lord to provide. This is the simplicity of faith. Yet in this Abraham speaks as a prophet, because his words to Isaac could not have been more fitting. God would provide the means for the burnt-offering. God did not ask for a volunteer from the angels or from among men to be His sacrifice. Instead He sent His own Son to be the burnt-offering. He provided for the needs of His own glory. This is God’s side of the work. We have Christ’s side as well, in Eph. 5:2; “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” There is much typical meaning in the words “they went both of them together”. The Father and the Son enter into the cross in a way that is uniquely theirs, and share exclusively a communion and joy in all they have done together! The question, “Where is the lamb?” rings through the Old Testament, and it is not answered until John 1:29; “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
9 And they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built the altar there, and piled the wood; and he bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 And the Angel of Jehovah called to him from the heavens, and said, Abraham, Abraham! And he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Stretch not out thy hand against the lad, neither do anything to him; for now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. vv.9-12 Abraham Arrested. After arriving at the place which God had told him of, Abraham proceeded to follow through with the sacrifice. We read of no struggle or protest from Isaac. This answers to the qui et submission of Christ (Isa. 53:7). Abraham bound Isaac to the altar (Psa. 118:27). He went even so far as to reach forth his hand and take the knife. Then God stopped him. God called Abraham’s name in v.1 to tell Abraham to offer his son. In v.11 He calls his name twice, “Abraham, Abraham”, to tell Abraham not to slay the lad. And it is here the “Angel of Jehovah”, which is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son. Jehovah had proven Abraham’s faith; “for now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me”. The act was as good as done. The Lord knew Abraham had already made the sacrifice in his heart and mind. But God took no pleasure in the death of Isaac. He was testing Abraham’s faith. What heights of communion God could enjoy with His friend after this occasion! Abraham never had to use the knife or the fire. The case of God’s Son, the fire was used in type when the Lord Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin. In John’s gospel we have a touching detail added. In the brightness of His love, the Son lays down His own life (John 10:18), dismissing His spirit, thus sparing His Father having to do it!2
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt-offering instead of his son. v.13 The Ram in the Thicket. Abraham looked up, and saw that God had indeed provided a sacrifice. A ram was nearby in the brush, caught by its horns. The ram of course represents Christ as consecrated, or fully devoted to God (Ex. 29:15-26). It was an animal at its full strength. The ram was caught by his horns, holding the animal in place but leaving it unmarred and unblemished. The horns represent the strength of His devotion: the Lord could not pass by the cross. The thicket might speak of the issue of sin. This was a burnt-offering, not a sin-offering. God is the object in the burnt-offering, not us and our sins. But if it weren’t for sin, there would be no need for a sacrifice. The ram took the place of Isaac, so Isaac could return safely to Abraham’s side. Hebrews 11:19 shows that this is a type of resurrection; “whence also he received him in a figure”. The sacrifice of Isaac was as good as done, and the Spirit of God in the New Testament shows that Abraham’s receiving Isaac back to his side is a figure of receiving him back from death. When Jesus approached the cross, there was no ram caught in a thicket. He was the ram of God’s providing.
14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh; as it is said at the present day, On the mount of Jehovah will be provided. v.14 Jehovah-jireh Earlier when Isaac had asked, Abraham had simply answered “The Lord will provide”. Now Abraham could see that his faith was founded. The Lord had provided a ram for a burnt-offering. In a far greater way, in light of the finished work of Christ, we can echo the words ‘Jehovah-jireh’. How abundantly has God provided for His own glory and our blessing! This is one of seven extensions of the name ‘Jehovah’. Read more…
15 And the Angel of Jehovah called to Abraham from the heavens a second time, 16 and said, By myself I swear, saith Jehovah, that, because thou hast done this, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son17 I will richly bless thee, and greatly multiply thy seed, as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on 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 bless themselves, because thou hast hearkened to my voice. vv.15-19 The Lord Swears by Himself. Jehovah called to Abraham “a second time”. What the Lord then said to Abraham is of greatest moment. It is referenced in the New Testament at least three times. First of all, the Lord swears by Himself. In Hebrews 6, the writer explains that “men verily swear by the greater”. Men will make their oaths in the name of a great person, to lend weight to what they say. But when Jehovah swore to Abraham, “because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself”. This shows us that the Lord is abundantly adamant in what He promises Abraham. The oath was added to the Lord’s previous promise, so that there would be a double assurance; “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation” (Heb. 6:17-18). The two immutable things are God’s word and God’s oath. God wanted Abraham to have a strong assurance. It is not just “I will bless thee” (Gen. 12:2), but “I will richly bless thee”. This promise is now connected with Abraham’s obedience to Jehovah and not withholding his own son. He speaks in v.17 of Abraham’s numerous seed; the stars and sand being references to the children of Israel. See Genesis 15:5. The interpretation of these symbols in confirmed by the statement, “and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies”, which clearly refers to an earthly people. But in Galatians 3:16, Paul explains that a change occurs in v.18, and that the “seed” (singular) refers to Christ! Christ Himself, of whom Isaac is but a type, is the depositary of the promises. The nations will be blessed through Him, and even our blessing as Christians is in association with Him. It is all on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ as a burnt-offering. See also Acts 3:25.
Paul’s use of the Promises. William Kelly remarked on the difficulty of catching the point of the Apostle’s argument in Galatians 3. Numerous promises were addressed to Abraham and his family in Gen. 12:2,3,7; 13:13-17; 15:18-21; 17:1-14; 22:17,18. Some of these promises apply to the natural seed of Abraham (Israel). But the promise to Israel is not what forms the subject matter of Gal. 3. In Gal. 3:17 Paul uses only two verses:
  • Promises to Abraham – Gen. 12:3 "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed"
  • Promises to Isaac/Christ – Gen. 22:18 "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed"
Gentile blessing. Both Gen. 12:3 and Gen. 22:18 speak of the millennial blessing of the Gentiles, not the Jews. The Jewish blessing, as to the land, power over enemies, etc. is to a numerous seed (Gen. 22:17), as the stars and the sand. But in the blessing of the nations, not a word of a multiplied seed appears. The Spirit, in recording the promises of Gentile blessing, carefully restricted them to Abraham and to his seed alone, because His eye was really on Christ, the true and sole seed of promise.34 It is good to remember that the promises concerning Gentile blessing are millennial, when the Gentiles in that day shall be the tail and not the head. But by our association with Christ at the present time, we are blessed with Abraham on the principle of faith, through which blessing accrues in all ages. Christian blessing rise far higher than Millennial blessings, but they are all on the principle of faith, though God's promise to Christ.
Post-Resurrection. When Isaac had been offered up (in figure) and raised from the dead (in figure), the promises made to Abraham and his seed were confirmed of God in (or, they settled on) Christ, the true "seed" of Gen. 22:18. It does not say "to thy seed" before Moriah, but after! Here is the significance: while Christ was upon the earth, He was under law Himself (Gal. 4:4). But having gone into death because of the law's curse, and having risen from the dead, Christ has nothing to do with law (Rom. 6:10). It is to a risen Christ that the promise is confirmed! As Christians, we are associated with a risen Christ. Christ's death and resurrection is our foundation, not His keeping the commandments. All our blessings are "in Christ" risen from the dead.
19 And Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba. v.19 Abraham Returns. Now Abraham returns to the southern part of the land. He continues to dwell in Beer-sheba, which was the same place as where Abimelech had made the covenant with him in the previous chapter.
Human Sacrifices. In Lev. 18:21 the Lord said, “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God”, and in Deut. 18:10, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire”. If God’s moral character doesn’t change with time, how is it acceptable, or even righteous, for Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice? First of all, we must see that the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are to tell Israel that they should not follow the ways of the idolatrous heathen. Abraham got his instructions from God, and therefore there is no conflict with the later instructions. Secondly, there are things that would be immoral for us to do if done at our own charges, but when they are done in obedience to the word of God they are not merely excusable, but a full display of righteousness. Without a command from God, it would have been murder for Abraham to kill his son: an abomination in the sight of God (James 2:21-26). In the case of Abraham, it was the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:26). James tells us that Abraham’s faith was “made perfect” in this act. It isn’t merely that God never planned for Abraham to go through with it. In Hebrews 11:17 God gives Abraham credit for going through with the sacrifice; “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”. In God’s own case, He went through with the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. God himself is the standard of morality. Life is His to give and take. When there is an apparent moral contradiction in scripture, the issue lies not with God, but with our understanding of it.

The Genealogy of Rebecca (22:20-24)

20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she also has borne sons to thy brother Nahor: 21 Uz his first-born, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram, 22 and Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel. 23 (And Bethuel begot Rebecca.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24 And his concubine, named Reumah, she also bore Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maacah. vv.20-24 At the close of this chapter we have the genealogy of Rebecca. It might seem strange that this should come in at this time; “it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham,” etc. The call of Rebecca doesn’t come in until chapter 24, so why is her name mentioned here? Rebecca is a type of the church, the bride of Christ. In the following chapter, the death of Sarah represents the setting aside of Israel. The calling of the church could not properly come in until Israel was set aside. But Rebecca’s name is mentioned long before, just as the Church was in the mind of God from “before the foundation of the world”. She is the furthest back in the purposes of God, but last to be revealed. Yet Rebecca’s name is only mentioned after the figurative death and resurrection of Christ, though her genealogy stretched earlier.
  1. "First-begotten", used in Hebrews 1, conveys more the thought of preeminence, while "only-begotten" conveys uniqueness in affection.
  2. Rule, Don. Second Reading. Carrollton Bible Conference 2023.
  3. In Genesis 22, the two things are quite distinct. Where the seed is spoken of without allusion to number, the blessing of the Gentiles comes in; but where they are said to be multiplied as the stars and the sand, then the character is unequivocally Jewish precedence. Such is, I believe, the argument of the apostle. - Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
  4. Thus the Seed with no number or multiplicity annexed to it is shown to be Christ, typified by Isaac, risen again from the dead in figure, who blesses all the Gentiles, as now in the gospel, contra-distinguished from the numerous Jewish seed, who are to subject the nations and rule over them, in the age to come. The Seed risen from the dead has evidently broken the link with life or relationship on earth, and is in a wholly new condition wherein He is able to bless the Gentile as freely as the Jew. - Kelly, William. Abram, the Friend of God.