Genesis 22

CHAPTER XXII

The faith and obedience of Abraham put to a most extraordinary

test, 1.

He is commanded to offer his beloved son Isaac for a burnt-offering, 2.

He prepares, with the utmost promptitude, to accomplish the will

of God, 3-6.

Affecting speech of Isaac, 7;

and Abraham's answer, 8.

Having arrived at mount Moriah he prepares to sacrifice his son, 9, 10;

and is prevented by an angel of the Lord, 11, 12.

A ram is offered in the stead of Isaac, 13;

and the place is named Jehovah-jireh, 14.

The angel of the Lord calls to Abraham a second time, 15;

and, in the most solemn manner, he is assured of innumerable

blessings in the multiplication and prosperity of his seed, 16-18.

Abraham returns and dwells at Beer-sheba, 19;

hears that his brother Nahor has eight children by his wife Milcah, 20;

their names, 21-23;

and four by his concubine Reumah, 24.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXII

Verse 1. God did tempt Abraham] The original here is very

emphatic: vehaelohim nissah eth Abraham, "And

the Elohim he tried this Abraham;" God brought him into such

circumstances as exercised and discovered his faith, love, and

obedience. Though the word tempt, from tento, signifies no more

than to prove or try, yet as it is now generally used to imply a

solicitation to evil, in which way God never tempts any man, it

would be well to avoid it here. The Septuagint used the word

επειρασε, which signifies tried, pierced through; and Symmachus

translates the Hebrew nissah by εδοξαζες, God glorified

Abraham, or rendered him illustrious, supposing the word to be the

same with nas, which signifies to glister with light, whence

nes, an ensign or banner displayed. Thus then, according

to him, the words should be understood: "God put great honour on

Abraham by giving him this opportunity of showing to all

successive ages the nature and efficacy of an unshaken faith in

the power, goodness, and truth of God." The Targum of Jonathan

ben Uzziel paraphrases the place thus: "And it happened that Isaac

and Ishmael contended, and Ishmael said, I ought to be my father's

heir, because I am his first-born; but Isaac said, It is more

proper that I should be my father's heir, because I am the son of

Sarah his wife, and thou art only the son of Hagar, my mother's

slave. Then Ishmael answered, I am more righteous than thou,

because I was circumcised when I was thirteen years of age, and if

I had chosen, I could have prevented my circumcision; but thou

wert circumcised when thou wert but eight days old, and if thou

hadst had knowledge, thou wouldst probably not have suffered

thyself to be circumcised. Then Isaac answered and said, Behold,

I am now thirty-six years old, and if the holy and blessed God

should require all my members, I would freely surrender them.

These words were immediately heard before the Lord of the

universe, and meimera daiya, the WORD of the LORD, did

try Abraham." I wish once for all to remark, though the subject

has been referred to before, that the Chaldee term meimera,

which we translate word, is taken personally in some hundreds of

places in the Targums. When the author, Jonathan, speaks of the

Divine Being as doing or saying any thing, he generally represents

him as performing the whole by his meimera, which he appears to

consider, not as a speech or word spoken, but as a person quite

distinct from the Most High. St. John uses the word λογος in

precisely the same sense with the Targumists, Joh 1:1; see the

notes there, and see before on Ge 21:22, and Ge 15:1.

Verse 2. Take now thy son] Bishop Warburton's observations on

this passage are weighty and important. "The order in which the

words are placed in the original gradually increases the sense,

and raises the passions higher and higher: Take now thy son,

(rather, take I beseech thee na,) thine only son whom thou

lovest, even Isaac. Jarchi imagines this minuteness was to

preclude any doubt in Abraham. Abraham desired earnestly to be let

into the mystery of redemption; and God, to instruct him in the

infinite extent of the Divine goodness to mankind, who spared not

his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, let Abraham feel by

experience what it was to lose a beloved son, the son born

miraculously when Sarah was past child-bearing, as Jesus was

miraculously born of a virgin. The duration, too, of the action,

Ge 22:4, was the same as that between Christ's death and

resurrection, both which are designed to be represented in it; and

still farther not only the final archetypical sacrifice of the Son

of God was figured in the command to offer Isaac, but the

intermediate typical sacrifice in the Mosaic economy was

represented by the permitted sacrifice of the ram offered up,

Ge 22:13, instead of Isaac." See

Dodd.

Only son] All that he had by Sarah his legal wife.

The land of Moriah] This is supposed to mean all the mountains

of Jerusalem, comprehending Mount Gihon or Calvary, the mount of

Sion and of Acra. As Mount Calvary is the highest ground to the

west, and the mount of the temple is the lowest of the mounts, Mr.

Mann conjectures that it was upon this mount Abraham offered up

Isaac, which is well known to be the same mount on which our

blessed Lord was crucified. Beer-sheba, where Abraham dwelt, is

about forty-two miles distant from Jerusalem, and it is not to be

wondered at that Abraham, Isaac, the two servants, and the ass

laden with wood for the burnt-offering, did not reach this place

till the third day; see Ge 22:4.

Verse 3. Two of his young men] Eliezer and Ishmael, according

to the Targum.

Clave the wood] Small wood, fig and palm, proper for a

burnt-offering.-Targum.

Verse 4. The third day] "As the number SEVEN," says Mr.

Ainsworth, "is of especial use in Scripture because of the Sabbath

day, Ge 2:2, so THREE is a mystical number because of Christ's

rising from the dead the third day, Mt 17:23; 1Co 15:4; as he

was crucified the third hour after noon, Mr 15:25: and Isaac, as

he was a figure of Christ, in being the only son of his father,

and not spared but offered for a sacrifice, Ro 8:32, so in sundry

particulars he resembled our Lord: the third day Isaac was to be

offered up, so it was the third day in which Christ also was to be

perfected, Lu 13:32; Isaac carried the wood for the

burnt-offering, Ge 22:6, so Christ carried the tree whereon he

died, Joh 19:17; the binding of Isaac, Ge 21:9, was also

typical, so Christ was bound, Mt 27:2.

"In the following remarkable cases this number also occurs.

Moses desired to go three days' journey in the wilderness to

sacrifice, Ex 5:3; and they travelled

three days in it before they found water, Ex 15:22; and

three days' journey the ark of the covenant went before them, to

search out a resting place, Nu 10:33; by the

third day the people were to be ready to receive God's law,

Ex 19:11; and after

three days to pass over Jordan into Canaan, Jos 1:14; the

third day Esther put on the apparel of the kingdom, Es 5:1; on

the third day Hezekiah, being recovered from his illness, went up

to the house of the Lord, 2Ki 20:5; on the

third day, the prophet said, God will raise us up and we shall

live before him, Ho 6:2; and on the

third day, as well as on the seventh, the unclean person was to

purify himself, Nu 19:12: with many other memorable things which

the Scripture speaks concerning the third day, and not without

mystery. See Ge 40:12,13; 42:17,18; Jon 1:17; Jos 2:16; unto

which we may add a Jew's testimony in Bereshith Rabba, in a

comment on this place: There are many THREE DAYS mentioned in the

Holy Scripture, of which one is the resurrection of the

Messiah."-Ainsworth.

Saw the place afar off.] He knew the place by seeing the cloud

of glory smoking on the top of the mountain.-Targum.

Verse 5. I and the lad will go and come again] How could

Abraham consistently with truth say this, when he knew he was

going to make his son a burnt-offering? The apostle answers for

him: By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up

Isaac-accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the

dead, from whence also he received him in a figure,

Heb 11:17,19. He knew that previously to the birth of Isaac

both he and his wife were dead to all the purposes of procreation;

that his birth was a kind of life from the dead; that the promise

of God was most positive, In Isaac shall thy seed be called,

Ge 21:12; that this promise could not fail; that it was his

duty to obey the command of his Maker; and that it was as easy for

God to restore him to life after he had been a burnt-offering, as

it was for him to give him life in the beginning. Therefore he

went fully purposed to offer his son, and yet confidently

expecting to have him restored to life again. We will go yonder

and worship-perform a solemn act of devotion which God requires,

and come again to you.

Verse 6. Took the wood-and laid it upon Isaac] Probably the

mountain-top to which they were going was too difficult to be

ascended by the ass; therefore either the father or the son must

carry the wood, and it was most becoming in the latter.

Verse 7. Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb]

Nothing can be conceived more tender, affectionate, and affecting,

than the question of the son and the reply of the father on this

occasion. A paraphrase would spoil it; nothing can be added

without injuring those expressions of affectionate submission on

the one hand, and dignified tenderness and simplicity on the

other.

Verse 8. My son, God will provide himself a lamb] Here we find

the same obedient unshaken faith for which this pattern of

practical piety was ever remarkable. But we must not suppose that

this was the language merely of faith and obedience; the patriarch

spoke prophetically, and referred to that Lamb of God which HE had

provided for himself, who in the fulness of time should take away

the sin of the world, and of whom Isaac was a most expressive

type. All the other lambs which had been offered from the

foundation of the world had been such as MEN chose and MEN

offered; but THIS was the Lamb which GOD had

provided-emphatically, THE LAMB OF GOD.

Verse 9. And bound Isaac his son] If the patriarch had not been

upheld by the conviction that he was doing the will of God, and

had he not felt the most perfect confidence that his son should be

restored even from the dead, what agony must his heart have felt

at every step of the journey, and through all the circumstances of

this extraordinary business? What must his affectionate heart

have felt at the questions asked by his innocent and amiable son?

What must he have suffered while building the altar, laying on the

wood, binding his lovely son, placing him on the wood, taking the

knife, and stretching out his hand to slay the child of his hopes?

Every view we take of the subject interests the heart, and exalts

the character of this father of the faithful. But has the

character of Isaac been duly considered? Is not the consideration

of his excellence lost in the supposition that he was too young to

enter particularly into a sense of his danger, and too feeble to

have made any resistance, had he been unwilling to submit?

Josephus supposes that Isaac was now twenty-five, (see the

chronology on Ge 22:1;) some rabbins that he was

thirty-six; but it is more probable that he was now about

thirty-three, the age at which his great Antitype was offered

up; and on this medium I have ventured to construct the

chronology, of which I think it necessary to give this notice to

the reader. Allowing him to be only twenty-five, he might have

easily resisted; for can it be supposed that an old man of at

least one hundred and twenty-five years of age could have bound,

without his consent, a young man in the very prime and vigour of

life? In this case we cannot say that the superior strength of

the father prevailed, but the piety, filial affection, and

obedience of the son yielded. All this was most illustriously

typical of Christ. In both cases the father himself offers up his

only-begotten son, and the father himself binds him on the wood or

to the cross; in neither case is the son forced to yield, but

yields of his own accord; in neither case is the life taken away

by the hand of violence; Isaac yields himself to the knife, Jesus

lays down his life for the sheep.

Verse 11. The angel of the Lord] The very person who was

represented by this offering; the Lord Jesus, who calls himself

Jehovah, Ge 22:16, and on his own authority renews the promises

of the covenant. HE was ever the great Mediator between God and

man. See this point proved, Ge 15:7.

Verse 12. Lay not thine hand upon the lad] As Isaac was to be

the representative of Jesus Christ's real sacrifice, it was

sufficient for this purpose that in his own will, and the will of

his father, the purpose of the immolation was complete. Isaac was

now fully offered both by his father and by himself. The father

yields up the son, the son gives up his life; on both sides, as

far as will and purpose could go, the sacrifice was complete. God

simply spares the father the torture of putting the knife to his

son's throat. Now was the time when it might properly be said,

"Sacrifice, and offering, and burnt-offering, and sacrifice for

sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure in them: then said

the Angel of the Covenant, Lo! I come to do thy will, O God."

Lay not thy hand upon the lad; an irrational creature will serve

for the purpose of a representative sacrifice, from this till the

fulness of time. But without this most expressive representation

of the father offering his beloved, only-begotten son, what

reference can such sacrifices be considered to have to the great

event of the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ? Abraham, the

most dignified, the most immaculate of all the patriarchs; Isaac,

the true pattern of piety to God and filial obedience, may well

represent God the Father so loving the world as to give his

only-begotten Son, JESUS CHRIST, to die for the sin of man. But

the grand circumstances necessary to prefigure these important

points could not be exhibited through the means of any or of the

whole brute creation. The whole sacrificial system of the Mosaic

economy had a retrospective and prospective view, referring FROM

the sacrifice of Isaac TO the sacrifice of Christ; in the first

the dawning of the Sun of righteousness was seen; in the latter,

his meridian splendour and glory. Taken in this light (and this is

the only light in which it should be viewed) Abraham offering his

son Isaac is one of the most important facts and most instructive

histories in the whole Old Testament. See farther on this

subject, Ge 23:2.

Verse 14. Jehovah-jireh] Yehovah-yireh, literally

interpreted in the margin, The Lord will see; that is, God will

take care that every thing shall be done that is necessary for the

comfort and support of them who trust in him: hence the words are

usually translated, The Lord will provide; so our translators,

Ge 22:8,

Elohim yireh, God will provide; because his eye ever affects his

heart, and the wants he sees his hand is ever ready to supply.

But all this seems to have been done under a Divine Impulse, and

the words to have been spoken prophetically; hence Houbigant and

some others render the words thus: Dominus videbitur, the Lord

shall be seen; and this translation the following clause seems to

require, As it is said to this day, behar Yehovah

yeraeh, ON THIS MOUNT THE LORD SHALL BE SEEN. From this it

appears that the sacrifice offered by Abraham was understood to be

a representative one, and a tradition was kept up that Jehovah

should be seen in a sacrificial way on this mount. And this

renders the opinion stated on Ge 22:1 more than probable, viz.,

that Abraham offered Isaac on that very mountain on which, in the

fulness of time, Jesus suffered. See Bishop Warburton.

Verse 16. By myself have I sworn] So we find that the person

who was called the angel of the Lord is here called Jehovah;

See Clarke on Ge 22:2. An oath or an appeal to God is, among

men, an end to strife; as God could swear by no greater, he sware by

himself: being willing more abundantly, says the apostle, to show

unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, he

confirmed it by an oath, that two immutable things, (his PROMISE

and his OATH,) in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might

have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on

the hope set before us. See Heb 6:13-18.

Verse 17. Shall possess the gate of his enemies] Instead of

gate the Septuagint have πολεις, cities; but as there is a very

near resemblance between πολεισ, cities, and πυλασ, gates,

the latter might have been the original reading in the Septuagint,

though none of the MSS. now acknowledge it. By the gates may be

meant all the strength, whether troops, counsels, or fortified

cities of their enemies. So Mt 16:18:

On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall

not prevail against it-the counsels, stratagems, and powers of

darkness shall not be able to prevail against or overthrow the

true Church of Christ; and possibly our Lord had this promise to

Abraham and his spiritual posterity in view, when he spoke these

words.

Verse 18. And in thy seed, &c.] We have the authority of St.

Paul, Ga 3:8,16,18, to restrain this to our blessed Lord, who was

THE SEED through whom alone all God's blessings of providence,

mercy, grace, and glory, should be conveyed to the nations of the

earth.

Verse 20. Behold, Milcah, she hath also borne children unto thy

brother] This short history seems introduced solely for the

purpose of preparing the reader for the transactions related

Ge 24:1-67, and to show that the providence of God was preparing, in

one of the branches of the family of Abraham, a suitable spouse

for his son Isaac.

Verse 21. Huz] He is supposed to have peopled the land of Uz or

Ausitis, in Arabia Deserta, the country of Job.

Buz his brother] From this person Elihu the Buzite, one of

the friends of Job, is thought to have descended.

Kemuel the father of Aram] Kamouel πατερασυρως, the

father of the Syrians, according to the Septuagint. Probably the

Kamiletes, a Syrian tribe to the westward of the Euphrates are

meant; they are mentioned by Strabo.

Verse 23. Bethuel begat Rebekah] Who afterward became the wife

of Isaac.

Verse 24. His concubine] We borrow this word from the Latin

compound concubina, from con, together, and cubo, to lie, and

apply it solely to a woman cohabiting with a man without being

legally married. The Hebrew word is pilegesh, which is

also a compound term, contracted, according to Parkhurst, from

palag, to divide or share, and nagash, to approach; because

the husband, in the delicate phrase of the Hebrew tongue,

approaches the concubine, and shares the bed, &c., of the real

wife with her. The pilegesh or concubine, (from which comes the

Greek παλλακη pallake, and also the Latin pellex,) in Scripture,

is a kind of secondary wife, not unlawful in the patriarchal

times; though the progeny of such could not inherit. The word is

not used in the Scriptures in that disagreeable sense in which we

commonly understand it. Hagar was properly the concubine or

pilegesh of Abraham, and this annuente Deo, and with his wife's

consent. Keturah, his second wife, is called a concubine,

Ge 26:15; 1Ch 1:32; and Pilhah and Zilhah were concubines to

Jacob, Ge 35:22. After the patriarchal times many eminent men had

concubines, viz., Caleb, 1Ch 2:46,48;

Manasses, 1Ch 7:14;

Gideon, Jud 8:31;

Saul, 2Sa 3:7;

David, 2Sa 5:13;

Solomon,2Ki 11:3; and

Rehoboam, 2Ch 11:21. The pilegesh, therefore, differed widely

from a prostitute; and however unlawful under the New Testament,

was not so under the Old.

FROM this chapter a pious mind may collect much useful

instruction. From the trial of Abraham we again see, 1. That God

may bring his followers into severe straits and difficulties, that

they may have the better opportunity of both knowing and showing

their own faith and obedience; and that he may seize on those

occasions to show them the abundance of his mercy, and thus

confirm them in righteousness all their days. There is a foolish

saying among some religious people, which cannot be too severely

reprobated: Untried grace is no grace. On the contrary, there may

be much grace, though God, for good reasons, does not think proper

for a time to put it to any severe trial or proof. But grace is

certainly not fully known but in being called to trials of severe

and painful obedience. But as all the gifts of God should be

used, (and they are increased and strengthened by exercise,)

it would be unjust to deny trials and exercises to grace, as this

would be to preclude it from the opportunities of being

strengthened and increased. 2. The offering up of Isaac is used

by several religious people in a sort of metaphorical way, to

signify their easily-besetting sins, beloved idols, &c. But this

is a most reprehensible abuse of the Scripture. It is both

insolent and wicked to compare some abominable lust or unholy

affection to the amiable and pious youth who, for his purity and

excellence, was deemed worthy to prefigure the sacrifice of the

Son of God. To call our vile passions and unlawful attachments by

the name of our Isaac is unpardonable; and to talk of sacrificing

such to God is downright blasphemy. Such sayings as these appear

to be legitimated by long use; but we should be deeply and

scrupulously careful not to use any of the words of God in any

sense in which he has not spoken them. If, in the course of God's

providence, a parent is called to give up to death an amiable,

only son, then there is a parallel in the case; and it may be

justly said, if pious resignation fill the parent's mind, such a

person, like Abraham, has been called to give his Isaac back to

God.

Independently of the typical reference to this transaction,

there are two points which seem to be recommended particularly to

our notice. 1. The astonishing faith and prompt obedience of the

father. 2. The innocence, filial respect, and passive submission

of the son. Such a father and such a son were alone worthy of

each other.

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