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Genesis 22:1. God did tempt Abraham.] Try, prove, or put to the test.—
Genesis 22:2. Land of Moriah.] “A general phrase for the mountainous district of Jerusalem. But this Moriah is the same with the site upon which Solomon built the Temple, and was so called (2 Samuel 24:16-17) when the old name was revived on another occasion than this.” (See 2 Chronicles 3:1.) (Jacobus.)—
Genesis 22:4. On the third day.] “From Beer-Sheba to the Shalem of Melkizedec, near which this hill is supposed to have been, is about 45 miles. If they proceeded 15 miles on the first broken day, 20 on the second, and 10 on the third, they would come within sight of the place early on the third day.” (Murphy.) Saw the place afar off. The Jewish tradition is that the place was pointed out by a luminous cloud.—
Genesis 22:5. And come again to you.] This may have been an expression of faith that God would restore his son, even if actually sacrificed. But more probably it was a device to conceal his purpose from his servants. “Some fancy that his words were a mere excuse without truth, and refer to his dealings at Egypt and at Gerar. Nor would the inconsistency even at such a time be past example. One part of the moral being may be intensely alive, while another is dead and without sensation.” (Alford.)—
Genesis 22:6. And he took the fire in his hand.] A brand, or torch, kindled at the spot where he left the servants. Therefore there was but a short distance to the place of sacrifice.—
Genesis 22:8. God will provide Himself a lamb.] Heb. “God will see for Himself the lamb. The Heb. has no other word for provide than to see. The term is the same as in the name of the place given by Abraham, Jehovah-jirch, i.e., God will see, or provide.—
Genesis 22:11. The angel of the Lord.] “The names of God here introduced are worthy of note. It was Elohim, the Personal God—in distinction from heathen gods—who demanded the sacrifice—the God whom Abraham worshipped and served. And now it was the Angel of Jehovah—the Covenant Angel—who arrested him in the very act. God, as the true God, had the sovereign right to demand all that Abraham had; and yet God Jehovah, as the Covenant God, would not suffer His covenant to fail.” (Jacobus.)—
Genesis 22:12. Now I know that thou fearest God.] The Heb. word denotes that knowledge which is ascertained by experiment. Elohim is the name of God employed here—the general, not the covenant name. This was the trial of Abraham’s God-fearing character.—
Genesis 22:13. Behind him a ram.] Kalisch renders in the background, behind the things immediately present. The word never occurs in the O.T. as an adverb of place, but it is likely that it should be so understood here. “The voice from heaven was heard from behind Abraham, who on turning back and lifting up his eyes saw the ram.” (Murphy.)—
Genesis 22:14. In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.] In the popular proverb there is an allusion to the name Moriah, the mountain of vision. This is the probable meaning; but other views are given. Keil gives this sense—“So that it is said, on the mountain where the Lord appears (yearly), from which the name Moriah arose.” Kalisch: “On the mount of the Lord His people shall be seen, i.e., they shall worship on that mount.” Others give the sense—the Lord will be seen there for His people’s deliverance. Probably we are not far wrong in taking the following as the general meaning—that this was the spot of God’s choice for the manifestation of His visible presence, where the Sanctuary should be erected and sacrifices offered.—
Genesis 22:17. Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.] The L
XX. has, “Shall inherit the cities of their adversaries” “The most obvious sense is this—Israel should overcome his enemies and capture their cities, since he should seize and occupy their gates. But the gate here points to a deeper meaning. The hostile world has a gate, or gates, in its susceptibilities, through which the believing Israel should enter it. (Psalms 24:7-9.) The following words prove that this is the sense of the words here.” (Lange.)—
Genesis 22:18. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.] Heb. “Shall bless themselves, or count themselves blessed.” The verb is here in the Hithpael conjugation, which has a reflexive force. In Genesis 12:2 (the first form of the promise), the verb is in the Niphal conjugation, “shall be blessed.”
Genesis 22:20-24.] “This family register of Abraham’s brother is here inserted to prepare the way for the narrative of Isaac’s marriage. This was now the next step for the covenant son. And it was God’s expressed will that the house of Abraham should not intermarry with the heathen. Here, then, is Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel.” (Jacobus.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 22:1-18
THE TRIAL OF ABRAHAM’S FAITH
“God did tempt Abraham.” We are not to understand the word “tempt” in the unfavourable sense in which it is used of Satan. The meaning is, that God proved the faith and obedience of Abraham by putting them to a severe test. The teaching of this narrative is to be judged by the issue, which shows that God did not intend to sanction human sacrifices, but only to give an evident demonstration of Abraham’s complete surrender to the Divine will. The command was so given that Abraham could understand it only in one way, i.e., that he was bidden actually to offer up his son in sacrifice. But God had another end in view for his servant, who was by this trial to be selected from the rest of mankind as an extraordinary instance of faith. God meant to prove and to bless him—to set him firmly in that position which he was to hold in the history of the Church. Let us see what light the narrative throws upon the nature and meaning of this trial.
I. It was a trial for which Abraham had been carefully prepared.
1. By his spiritual history. His life, as a godly man, was remarkable for intense feeling and a fearless activity. He had been called to a high and singular destiny. He had obeyed that call with unwavering trust and hope in God. The accomplishment of the promises made to him was delayed, so that he was gradually taught to believe the Lord on His simple word. He had been taken into covenant with God. He had submitted to circumcision as the outward seal of that covenant, and in token of that faith which purifieth the heart. He had exercised the offices both of intercessor and prophet. God had at length given to him the child so long promised. By the performance of great duties, and by the experience of extraordinary grace, his character was built up to stability and power. He had acquired more and more a likeness to God. As our word worth signifies that which weareth well, so we may say that Abraham was a man of great spiritual worth. He had qualities of character which wore well—stood the test of time. Here was a strong man who could afford to be put to a severe proof.
2. By a life of trial. Ever since Abraham was called of God he had experienced one trial after another. It may be that in his days of spiritual ignorance he had suffered many things in common with those around him, but the life to which God called him brought with it new and peculiar trials. It was a trial when he left his father’s house to seek the land of Mesopotamia—trial when in the land of Egypt he feared for the safety and virtue of Sarah—trial when he parted from Lot, though his meekness gained the victory over human passion—trial when he was perplexed with the Divine dealings in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and when his soul could only take refuge in the ultimate rectitude of the Judge of all the earth—trial when he was sorrowfully forced to banish Hagar and her child—trial in his final separation from Ishmael—trial when he found that he had come to old age, and yet had no heir. Abraham was outwardly a prosperous man, and yet what a life of trials and struggles he had to endure! As a spiritual man, he endured the long-continued trial of promises unfulfilled and, to all human appearance, hopeless of fulfilment. It was “after these things” that “God did tempt Abraham.”
II. It was a trial of remarkable severity. This last trial was the hardest of all. It was emphatically the trial of Abraham’s faith. We may judge of its severity if we consider—
1. The violence done to his natural feelings. We read this incident well knowing the issue of it, and are therefore likely to be unmindful of that agony of distress which must have filled the heart of the patriarch on hearing this command. But Abraham did not know that issue. There was nothing before him but that awful word of God which was to be fulfilled with the greatest possible pain to his own feelings. Each successive portion of the command was calculated to fill him with increasing misery and terror. It seems as if each item in his suffering was arranged with cruel ingenuity. “Take now thy son.” He had been given by a miracle. Every time the father looked upon him he felt that he was a wonderful child. He was a special gift, most dear and precious. “Thine only son, Isaac.” He with whom all the greatness of thy future is connected—thine heir—the hope of nations. “Whom thou lovest.” As an only child, and so remarkably given, must be loved. We cannot conceive of a greater violence and outrage done than this to his human feelings as a parent. Moreover, Isaac was to die by his own hand. It would have been some relief to have delivered his beloved son to another to sacrifice him, so that a father might be spared the heart-rending agony of hearing his dying groans. But there was no way of escape. He must himself do the horrid deed. He must come to the appointed place, to the dread moment, and take the knife to slay his son. There was no loophole by which he could slip out of his duty by a sudden turn of circumstances—no possible way of escape. He is bound to face the fact, or to retire.
2. The violence done to his feelings as a religious man. Abraham owed certain duties to his son and to his God. Now these two duties clashed with each other, raising a conflict in his soul of the most terrible kind. It seemed as if conscience and God were at variance, and this to a religious mind must give rise to painful perplexity. Abraham might well doubt the Divine origin of the command. Could it possibly have come from God, who had forbidden murder as the very highest of crimes? Was not such a command contrary to the character of that God who is love? Did not God Himself promise that in Isaac all the families of the earth should be blessed, and if he was thus to be untimely slain how could such a promise be fulfilled? It seemed as if the very ground of all his hope was gone. Such doubts as these must have passed through the mind of Abraham, even though they were momentary and other considerations prevailed.
III. This trial was endured in the spirit of an extraordinary faith. The difficulties which Abraham felt, the doubts which must have raised a storm in his mind, the overwhelming trials of his heart—these are not told us in the Bible. We have only the simple fact that his faith was equal to the occasion. His spiritual strength was severely tested, but it had not given way. He had that heroic faith which could overcome all difficulties, and of this the course of the narrative affords abundant evidence.
1. His obedience was unquestioning. In this account the sacred writer makes no distinct reference to his faith. The thing insisted upon is his obedience. “Because thou hast done this thing.” “Because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Thus faith and obedience are one in essence, and we may employ one word or the other merely to describe the same thing from different points of view. In the same way we may speak of life, considered either in its principle or in its results. For faith is no dead sentiment, but a living power which is bound to give all the manifestations of life. The evidence that a man has life is that he is able to work. Where there is this self-determining activity there is life. Thus Abraham’s faith was made manifest by his prompt and unhesitating obedience.
2. His obedience was complete. He had nothing reserved, but gave up all to God. He did not devise an ingenious plan of escape from the hard duty, but made every possible provision that the deed should not fail to be done. He did not tell Sarah, for the mother’s heart would have pleaded hard and turned him from the steadiness of his purpose. Nor did he tell Isaac till the dreadful moment came. He took care that nothing should interfere with the carrying out of what was to him the will and purpose of God. All this shows that he meant to do the deed commanded. Had he known the issue of the event it would have been no sacrifice. But he expected to come back from the awful scene a childless man. Therefore his act, though interrupted at the critical moment, was a real sacrifice. There was a complete surrender of his will, and that is the life and power of sacrifice.
3. His obedience was marked by humility. There was no display of his heroic earnestness and devotion. He required no witnesses to the deed. He had no consciousness that he was doing any noble act. Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his ass. When he arrived at the foot of Mount Moriah he left his servants there, and went on alone with Isaac. All was to be done in secret. He had caught the spirit of that precept which our Lord lays down when He commands secrecy to be observed in our prayers, alms, and sacrifices.
4. His obedience was inspired by trust in a personal God. He had overwhelming difficulties to contend with, but he knew that he had to deal with God Himself, and that, in the end, all would be well. He therefore cast himself hopefully upon the future, believing that God in some way would accomplish His promises. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us how he was sustained by the belief that God could raise the dead. (Hebrews 11:12-19). The eye of his faith looked beyond this world to the things which are not seen and which are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18).
IV. God rewarded his faithful endurance of the trial.
1. By taking the will for the deed. Abraham was permitted to proceed just so far as was necessary to test his obedience, and then God restrained his hand from the awful deed. The God of infinite pity never intended that the deed should be done. “Lay not thine hand upon the lad” is the final decree. The thing which God required was only the complete surrender of the father’s will. Abraham was spared the outward form of the sacrifice, for he had offered it already, by his real intention, in the depths of his soul.
2. By renewing His promises. There was nothing new in the promises given to Abraham after this trial They were the same as God had given many years before. God had done and promised for Abraham all that He intended to do and promise. And so it is with all the children of faith. The old promises unfold more and more and yield new riches, but they remain the same unchanging Word of God.
3. By turning the occasion of the trial into a revelation of the day of Christ. There is little doubt that our Lord referred to this event when He said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56). The saints of the old dispensation looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, but it appears to have been the peculiar privilege of Abraham to see the day of Christ. Abraham saw the chief event in our Lord’s life—His atoning sacrifice—vividly represented before him. Abraham is made to stand upon Mount Moriah, which, as some think, is the very spot afterwards called the Hill of Calvary. There, after a manner, he sees actually transacted the scenes which we Christians associate with that memorable place.
(1) He sees represented the sacrifice of the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of God. Abraham erects the altar, lays the wood in order, binds Isaac, takes the knife and stretches forth his hand to slay his son. His own love as a parent must have been an affecting representation to him of the love of the Infinite Father. And yet Abraham’s stern devotion to duty represents that love of God which spared not His own Son, but made Him to be a sacrifice for us.
(2) There is suggested to him the idea of substitution. A ram is substituted in the stead of Isaac. Thus Christ was a ransom found for the doomed and condemned—an acceptable victim put in their place.
(3) The resurrection of Christ and His return to glory are also represented. Abraham verily received Isaac from the dead, and welcomed him to his embrace. So did the Son of God return to His Father, though not without sacrifice—not without blood. He endured that death which Isaac only underwent in a figure. Abraham looked forward to that restored state of things which the resurrection of Christ has proved to be possible. He saw how death could spring from life, how joy could be distilled from sorrow, and suffering end in glory. Learn:
(1) That the most distinguished of God’s servants are often subjected to the greatest trials.
(2) That trials test the strength and spirituality of our faith.
(3) That trials well endured set spiritual truths in a clearer and more affecting light. They give us clearer views of the day of Christ, of His atoning work and its blessed issues. We are encouraged to cast ourselves entirely upon the future. The spiritual world opens up before us, and we feel the worth and preciousness of the unseen. We are made to know that there is, beyond this short life of ours, an enduring world where all shall be restored again.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 22:1. Abraham had been assailed by many temptations from various quarters, but out of them all God delivered him. Now God Himself becomes his tempter; not, however, to lead him into sin, but to test his spirit of prompt and unquestioning obedience.
“After these things.”After five and twenty years of patient waiting; after the promise had been frequently repeated; after hope had been raised to the highest pitch; yea, after it had been actually turned into enjoyment; and when the child had lived long enough to discover an amiable and godly disposition.—(Fuller.)
God puts us upon our trial to “do us good in our latter end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). Satan ever seeks to do us hurt. He, when he comes to tempt, comes with his sieve, as to Peter (Luke 23:21); Christ with His “fan” (Matthew 3:12). Now a fan casteth out the worst and keepeth in the best; a sieve keepeth in the worst and casteth out the best. Christ by his trials purgeth our corruption, and increaseth grace; but the devil, if there be any ill thing in us, confirmeth it; if faith, or any good thing in us, he weakeneth it.—(Trapp.)
Life is all temptation. It is sad to think so, but surely we would not have it otherwise. For dark and hard as the dispensation seems, trial here is indispensable for the purifying of the soul. There is no strength or real goodness except that which is wrought out of circumstances of temptation. There is no strength in cloistered virtue, no vigour without trial. In some trials Abraham fell; in others he came off victorious. Out of failure was organised strength. Trials do not become lighter as we go on. It was “after these things that God did tempt Abraham.” What! no repose? No place of honourable quiet for the “friend of God,” full of years? No. There are harder and yet harder trials even to the end. The last trial of Abraham’s was the hardest of all to bear. For the soldier engaged in this world’s warfare, there is an honourable asylum for his declining years; but for the soldier of the cross there is no rest except the grave.—(Robertson.)
“After these things.” The enjoyment of peculiar blessings may be secured by unexpected trials. It is part of God’s way in Providence that life should be a chequered scene, joy and sorrow intermingled, sown with good and evil, light and darkness. From this—as it appears—disordered mixture many blessings arise. The passive virtues of self-denial and humility are cultivated, and the character acquires features of consistency and worth. In spiritual things God prepares for trial by eminent enjoyments. Moses beheld the burning bush, and received special manifestations of God’s favour. Thus he was prepared for the toils and trials of his embassy to Egypt. Jacob beheld the vision at Bethel, and this prepared him for his long servitude to Laban. Elijah was met by an angel in the wilderness, and received the cake baked on coals and the cruse of water, like a sacrament before suffering, and in the strength of it went fasting forty days. The disciples saw the glory of Christ on the Mount before they witnessed His agony in the garden.
Genesis 22:2. “And He said.” This was not a temptation of the ordinary kind, by the events and circumstances of life. It was the word of God that tried Abraham.
The fundamental principle of the Mosaic code, is that the first-born is consecrated to God in memory of the salvation of Israel’s first-born from the slaughter that came upon the households of Egypt (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 22:28). The substitution of an animal victim for the first-born son was allowed, but it is placed thus in the right light; for this adoption by God of the imperfect for the perfect (the animal for the son) is precisely the meaning of the Mosaic system. It is only the highest idea of this picture in the death of the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of the Father, which is the basis of the Gospel message and of our Christian hope (Romans 8:32).—(Jacobus.)
Here was everything to make this command a trial, and a heavy one. “Take thy son,” not thy servant nor the sheep of thy folds; but, verily, the fruit of thy body. Thine only Isaac. “Offer him,” not see him offered. In a burnt-offering the victim was to be cut in pieces, the separate parts laid in order on the wood, and the whole burnt with fire. All this long and mournful ceremony was to be performed by Abraham himself. So we, in like manner, may be called upon to make sacrifices which are terribly real. Christ speaks of cutting off a right arm, or plucking out a right eye. There are trials which touch our quick sensibilities—dishonour done to our good name—or the sorrows which fall upon those near and dear to us. God knows and observes the extent of our sacrifice.
Genesis 22:3. He murmured not, nor took counsel with flesh and blood. He waited not to consult with Sarah, nor listened to the misgivings of his own mind. The command was clear and the obedience prompt. The trial was long and painfully drawn out. Towards God, it was endured in the spirit of faith and loving obedience; towards men, in mournful silence.
Reason and feeling were against Abraham. The word of God was his sole warrant.
That which he must do he will do: he that hath learned not to regard the life of his son had learned not to regard the sorrow of his wife.—(Bp. Hall.)
Genesis 22:4. A great while for him to be plodding ere he came to the place. But we must conceive that his brains were better busied than many of ours would have been therewhile. We must not weigh the crop, for then it will prove heavy; we must not chew the pill but swallow it whole, else it will prove bitter; we must not plod too much, but ply the throne of grace for a good use and a good issue of all our trials and tribulations.—(Trapp.)
In the three days’ journey there was time given for reflection. The pleadings of nature would be heard, parental affection would revive and assert itself. The society and conversation of Isaac would strengthen the voice of nature against the hard command. Thus the struggle of faith is not short and momentary, but prolonged.
The place was probably pointed out by a luminous cloud, pre-intimative of the Shekinah, which rested upon it. Such is the tradition of the Jews. When God bade Abraham go to the place He would tell him of, and offer his son, he asked how he should know it; and the answer was, Wheresoever thou seest my glory, there will I stay and wait for thee. And accordingly now he beheld a pillar of fire reaching from heaven to earth, and thereby knew that this was the place.—(Bush.)
As this sacrifice was typical of that of Christ, so here may be a reference to the third day of His resurrection.
Genesis 22:5. This reminds us of Our Lord in Gethsemane, when He said to His disciples, “Tarry ye here while I go and pray yonder.” Going into such an agony, He could not admit others to go with Him. “The heart knoweth its own bitterness.” They would not understand the strange proceedings, and would only embarass Him in it all.—(Jacobus.)
He wished not to be interrupted. In hard duties and severe trials we should consider that we have enough to struggle with in our minds without having any interruptions from other quarters. Great trials are best entered upon with but little company.—(Fuller.)
We worship God truly when we yield obedience.
Genesis 22:6. Is this a type of our blessed Lord, the New Testament Isaac, bearing His cross? It was a trial to Isaac as well as to Abraham. The son of promise must bear His cross of sacrifice. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6.) Isaac’s faith also triumphs. He inquires, but goes meekly on. It is to be observed that Isaac was not now a mere boy, but a young man able to carry the amount of wood necessary to consume the offering. Josephus makes him to have been twenty-five years old. The Rabbins make him older. Some insist that his age was thirty-three, corresponding with that of the antitype, who was of this average age of man when He died for man’s sin.—(Jacobus.)
Isaac was ignorant of that awful part which he had to take in this sacrifice, but Jesus knew from the beginning that He must be offered up.
Genesis 22:7-8. If Abraham’s heart could have known how to relent, that question of his dear, innocent, and pious son had melted it into compassion. I know not whether that word, “my father,” did not strike Abraham as deep as the knife of Abraham could strike his son.—(Bp. Hall.)
The tenderness of this scene is only to be surpassed by those of Gethsemane and Calvary. But with the antitype that tenderness is heightened beyond our power to feel or know. If we think of man’s feeling towards another as involving strong love and self-sacrifice, we are obliged to say of God’s feeling towards us, “How much more!”
How, like the inquiry of the Great Sacrifice, “He looked, and there was none to help, and he wondered that there was no intercessor.” But Jesus answered that question. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not (of bulls and goats), but a body hast thou prepared me.” (Hebrews 10:5.)—(Jacobus.)
“God will provide.” This is one of the “faithful” sayings of the Old Testament. How many have been comforted by this thought in seasons of deep trial, when all seemed to be lost! When reason gives no light, and faith holds on to the bare command, with no encouraging prospect in sight, the soul can only point to God and rest satisfied.
In the sacrifice of Christ for sin God has provided for Himself “a lamb for a burnt offering.” This incident shows us, in what lies the value of that sacrifice, and with what feelings we should regard it. I. The sacrifice which God approves must be of His own appointing. Men have everywhere, and at all times, felt their need of a religion. They have a consciousness of sin, and they must, therefore, propitiate God. Hence the universal practice of offering sacrifice. The tendency amongst mankind has been towards excessive zeal in outward sacrifices and offerings, and to forget the fact that God requires self-renonciation. Man’s religion has “devotion’s every grace except the heart.” But, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.” “God will provide Himself a lamb.” He did not require the blood of Isaac, but the full surrender of Abraham’s will. He had provided a richer offering than that, the sacrifice of a stronger and more all-embracing love. “God so loved the world that He gave,” etc. The terms of salvation cannot be discovered by us; we can only know them as the revealed will of God who appoints His own sacrifice. All else is will worship. II. The sacrifice which God has provided is supremely worthy of acceptance, and graciously suited to our condition. Multitudes of the human race have proved the worth of the sacrifice which God has appointed. It has been the joy of faith, and will be for ever the song of heaven. It is the Everlasting Gospel. The value of this sacrifice may be gathered from what it has done.
1. It has reconciled us to God.
2. It has procured the forgiveness of sins.
3. It opens the way to endless bliss. Heaven becomes the purchased possession, and the central object there is the “Lamb slain” who has procured it for us. III. The acceptance of the sacrifice God has provided is the turning point of man’s spiritual history.
1. It includes all the rest—repentance, faith, love, obedience.
2. It gives efficiency to all the rest.
3. It is the true test of spiritual character. God’s sacrifice must be accepted by faith; and faith, in the Gospel sense of the term, is the most real and essential difference, the most vital mark of separation between man and man. This is the touchstone of the innermost nature of our heart.
Genesis 22:9. This was a place of trial both of God and man. Abraham’s faith was tried, and the gracious purposes of God towards the human race received visible proof. Both the father of the faithful and the faithful covenant of God are here revealed.
He bound Isaac. Here is also the proving of Isaac’s faith. Has he indeed trusted God to provide the lamb? Then what if God choose him for the victim? We hear no complaint from the son of promise. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter”—for a voluntary death, so far as we can judge from the record. It was not merely filial affection and pious obedience to the parent; it was implicit trust in God, on the ground set forth and accepted; that God will see—see to it and provide. Isaac made no resistance. We see in him the unresisting Son of God—Lamb of God—sacrifice for sinners. Isaac on the altar was sanctified for his vocation in connection with the history of salvation. He was dedicated there as the first-born, and “the dedication of the first-born, which was afterwards enjoined in the law, was fulfilled in him.”—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 22:10. The deed is virtually done when the will shows firm determination. God, who looketh upon the heart, regardeth the sacrifice as already made. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac” (Hebrews 11:17). He will take the will for the deed, but never the deed for the will.
Genesis 22:11. When we cannot see on any side a way of escape, then God comes and often shows us a wonderful deliverance.—(Lange.)
A moment more, and the victim would have been smitten; but in that moment the awful mandate is countermanded. A voice, too familiar to Abraham not to be at once recognised as that of God Himself, addresses him out of heaven, and averts the dire catastrophe. Though termed an angel, yet it is evident from the manner in which He here speaks of Himself, and from what is said (Genesis 22:12-16), that He was not a created being, but was no other than the Divine personage so often introduced into the sacred narrative under the title of the Angel-Jehovah, the Angel of the covenant.—(Bush.)
And said “Abraham, Abraham.” Twice for haste’s sake; yet not at all till the very instant. When the knife was up the Lord came. God delights to bring His people to the mount, yea, to the very brow of the hill till their feet slip, and then delivers them. He reserves His holy hand for a dead lift. Only be sure you look to your calling; for it was otherwise with Jephthah. (Judges 11:0).—(Trapp.)
The posture of attention to the voice of God will bring us out of all perplexity and trouble. The same voice which called us to duty will speak again, when we are in a great strait, and open up a way for our escape.
The deliverance by which God rescues His people in great emergencies is often as remarkable as the trial itself is severe. Things were brought now to a dreadful crisis, but the deliverance was sudden and complete.
Genesis 22:12. It is the province of God our Saviour to bring that deliverance which man can neither conceive of nor procure, and to bring it at the right time. Christ appeared when the human race was old enough to learn by sad experience that man was unable to save himself without a Deliverer from heaven.
In the work of redemption God has shown that the purpose of the Redeemer is not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
Here we have the evidence of a voice from heaven that God does not accept of human victims. Man is morally unclean, and therefore unfit for a sacrifice. He is, moreover, not in any sense a victim, but a doomed culprit, for whom the victim has to be provided. And for a typical sacrifice, that cannot take away but only shadow forth the efficacious sacrifice, man is neither fit nor necessary. The lamb without blemish, that has no penal or protracted suffering, is sufficient for a symbol of the real atonement. The intention, therefore, in this case was enough, and that was now seen to be real.—(Murphy.)
The voice of God was never so welcome, never so sweet, never so seasonable as now. It was the trial that God intended, not the fact. Isaac is sacrificed, and is yet alive; and now both of them are more happy in what they would have done, than they could have been distressed if they had done it. God’s charges are oftentimes harsh in the beginnings and proceeding, but in the conclusion always comfortable. True spiritual comforts are commonly late and sudden; God defers, on purpose that our trials may be perfect, our deliverance welcome, our recompenses glorious.—(Bp. Hall.)
God required not an experiment in order to gain knowledge, but only to make His knowledge evident to men—to teach the human conscience by example as well as by principle—to place Abraham in history for all time, as a tried and approved believer.
The underlying principle of Abraham’s spiritual experience was the complete surrender of himself, and all that was near and dear to him, to God.
It is not distinctly said that it was the faith of Abraham which was thus manifested, but his fear of God—that filial fear which springs of love, and produces the fruits of obedience.
St. Paul’s epistles teach us that believing and obeying are exhibitions of one and the same spiritual character of mind. For instance, he says that Abraham was accepted by faith, yet St. James says he was accepted by works of obedience. The meaning is clear, that Abraham found favour in God’s sight, because he gave himself up to Him. This is faith, or obedience, whichever we please to call it. No matter whether we say Abraham was favoured because his faith embraced God’s promises, or because his obedience cherished God’s commands, for God’s commands are promises, and His promises commands to a heart devoted to Him; so that, as there is no substantial difference between command and promise, so there, is likewise none between obedience and faith. Perhaps it is scarcely correct even to say that faith comes first and obedience follows as an inseparable second step, and that faith, as being the first step, is accepted. For not a single act of faith can be named but what has in it the nature of obedience; that is, implies making an effort and a consequent victory.—(J. H. Newman.)
As a sinner, Abraham was justified by faith only; but, as a professing believer, he was justified by the works which his faith produced.—(Bush.)
Genesis 22:13. This was, in fact, an accomplishment of what Abraham himself had a little while before unwittingly predicted. In reply to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” he had said, “My son, God will provide Himself with a burnt offering.” By this answer he merely intended to satisfy his son’s mind for the present, till the time should come for making known to him the command which he had received from God, in which command that provision was actually made. But now, through the miraculous interposition of Heaven, and the substitution of the ram in Isaac’s place, it had been literally verified in a way which he himself had never contemplated.—(Bush).
He that made that beast brings him thither, fastens him there. Even in small things there is a great providence.—(Bp. Hall).
Animal sacrifice was accepted instead of human. This was the great principle of the Mosaic economy, which pointed forward to the only acceptable substitute for man, the Lamb of God’s own providing.
Genesis 22:14. Jehovah-jireh.
1. A memorial of God’s great goodness.
2. A promise for the future; that He will give deliverance, in times of extremity, to those who trust in Him.
The passage is undoubtedly meant to inform us that the incident here related was so remarkable, the Divine intervention so illustrious, that it gave rise to the well-known proverbial saying, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen;” an expression of which, perhaps, the nearest equivalent in English is the familiar apothegm, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” The circumstance plainly teaches us, that whatever God has at any time done for the most favoured of His saints may be expected of us now, as far as our necessities call for it. Of all the events related in the Old Testament, scarcely anyone was so peculiar and so exclusive as this. Who besides Abraham was ever called to sacrifice his own son? Who besides him was ever stayed by a voice from heaven in the execution of such a command? And yet, this very event was made the foundation of the proverb before us; and from this, particular and exclusive as it was, all believers are taught to expect that God will interpose for them in like manner in the hour of their extremity.—(Bush).
On this same Mount Moriah, in the fulness of time, the only-begotten Son of God was offered up. Abraham verily saw the day of Christ.
The summit of the believer’s afflictions is the place of his deliverance.
Genesis 22:15-18. Here we find the covenant-promise repeated to Abraham, much the same as at first, yet with important variations. It is the same spiritual grant which the apostle designates as God’s “preaching before-hand the Gospel unto Abraham” (Galatians 3:8; Romans 4:16-17). It is the promise of salvation to all nations through Abraham. Only here
(1) it is the promise made with the additional sanction of the oath of God. (Hebrews 6:18)
(2) It is here expressed that the salvation of all people is to come through the seed of Abraham; whereas in Genesis 12:3, it was “In thee.” etc. This was fitting, after the offering of Isaac, which brought the promised seed to view so distinctly. St. Paul argues, by the Spirit, that “the seed” is Christ. The prediction and promise here given is, therefore, the very crown of all promises—as Abraham is father of the faithful.
(3) This concluding crowning form of the promise to Abraham dwells chiefly upon the seed; while, in other passages, it had been the land of promise more especially, and Abraham more personally. This is quite in accordance with the gradual unfolding of the Gospel revelation. The Messianic idea is more and more distinctly brought into view. The multiplying of the seed of Abraham here promised, to one who had now, in his old age, only the first-born of Hagar and Sarah, looks beyond mere natural posterity to the spiritual progeny, which should become innumerable.—(Jacobus.)
The multitude of his seed has a double parallel in the stars of heaven and the sands of the ocean. They are to possess the gate of their enemies, that is, to be masters and rulers of their cities and territories. The great promise, that all the nations should be blessed in his seed, was, at first, given absolutely without reference to his character. Now it is confirmed to him as the man of proof, who is not only accepted as righteous, but proved to be actually righteous after the inward man; because thou hast obeyed my voice. In hearing this transcendent blessing repeated on this momentous occasion, Abraham truly saw the day of the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Son of Man. We contemplate him now with wonder as the Man of God, manifested by the self-denying obedience of a regenerate nature, entrusted with the dignity of the patriarchate over a holy seed, and competent to the worthy discharge of all its spiritual functions.—(Murphy.)
The conquests of the seed of Abraham are those of the Christian Church, of which it is said that, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
The adherents of non-Christian systems of belief are more numerous than those who have embraced the religion of Christ. But these are the religions of nations which have no future. The nations of the earth are blessed in the seed of Abraham, for He who was emphatically such leads the way in the world’s progress.
The promises of God enlarge in successive revelations. To Adam, Christ was promised as the bruiser of the serpent; to Abraham, as the source of blessing to all nations.
What God had at the outset granted out of free grace alone, and unconditionally, He now confirms as the reward of Abraham’s act of faith. This faith which He had created, fostered, and proved, had now brought forth its fruits. God first promises, and by His revelation awakens faith in the heart. He then crowns with reward the works of this faith, which is the result of His grace.—(Gerlach.)
Abraham believed in promises which could only be realised long after his death. Though rewarded for obedience he must still live by faith.
The promise to Abraham is the third great patriarchal promise, and it is made to the third head of the race. Noah’s prediction of blessings upon Shem, and through Shem upon Japhet, is here taken up and expanded. To this Shemite a further Messianic promise is made, even when the line of Shem had become idolatrous. The great point of the promise is—
(1.) That blessings should come upon the whole human family through Abraham’s seed. Abraham must have understood that these blessings were spiritual, and that it was by the diffusion of true religion that he should become such a universal blessing. So Peter explains the promise that it was fulfilled in the advent and work of Christ (Acts 3:25-26). Paul declares that in this promise God preached beforehand the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, etc. (Galatians 3:8-16.) The promise is, therefore
(2), Of a universal religion for man, to come through Abraham. This is the great idea of the Bible. The unity of the race and their brotherhood in Christ, the seed of Abraham, is set forth in both Testaments—Christ all and in all.
(3.) This glorious result for men is by means of a chosen family and people, who are to train posterity according to the covenant seal. Christianity did not spring out of Judaism as a natural growth, for the Jewish religion had become corrupt, and so it battled the idea of such a universal Church as Christ came to establish. The idea was of God, and the plan thus prosecuted can be accounted for only as the plan of God, running through the ages, and the golden thread in all history. No heathen philosophy, nor any other religious system, ever proposed this spiritual blessedness of mankind as the object and end.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 22:19. Abraham’s return from the scene of his trial.
1. With the blessed consciousness of duty done. He had obeyed the voice of God, and had stifled every other voice.
2. With all his former blessings made more sacred and secure. He had given up his beloved Isaac, and behold he has him still, more dear than ever now, and like a fresh gift from God. No sacrifice is made for Him, but it is rendered back more than an hundred fold, and the offerer is thereby exalted and blest. We have that most surely which we resign to God. When we make our possessions His, then alone do we enjoy their full benefits. When we keep them back from God we lose them. “He that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
3. With fresh promises and encouragements, God was better to him than all his fears, yea, than all his hopes.
Isaac had never been so precious to his father if he had not been recovered from death; if he had not been as miraculously restored as given. Abraham had never been as blessed in his seed if he had not neglected Isaac for God. The only way to find comfort in an earthly thing is to surrender it in a believing carelessness into the hands of God.—(Bp. Hall.)
Abraham had now arrived at the summit of his spiritual vigour and experience. He was, henceforth, to be the grand example of faith.
In the person of Abraham is unfolded that spiritual process by which the soul is drawn to God. He hears the call of God, and comes to the decisive act of trusting in the revealed God of mercy and truth; on the ground of which act he is accounted righteous. He then rises to the successive acts of walking with God, covenanting with Him, and at length withholding nothing that he has or holds dear from Him. Here are the essential characteristics of the man who is saved through acceptance of the mercy of God. Faith in God (ch. 15), repentance towards Him (ch. 16), and fellowship with Him (ch. 18), are the three great turning points of the soul’s returning life. They are built upon the effectual call of God (ch. 12), and culminate in unreserved resignation to Him (ch. 22). With wonderful facility has the sacred record descended in this pattern of spiritual biography from the rational and accountable race to the individual and immortal soul, and traced the footsteps of its path to God.—(Murphy).
Genesis 22:20-24. The genealogy here given is undoubtedly introduced in order to make way for the following account of Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah, a daughter of the family of Nahor. It was contrary to the design of heaven that the family of Abraham should intermarry with the heathen races among whom he now dwelt, and to add to the recent tokens of the Divine favour, he is now cheered by the welcome tidings of the prosperity of his brother’s house, in which he would not fail to perceive how kindly God was preparing the way for the higher happiness of his son and the further fulfilment of His promises.—(Bush).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany