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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-22.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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And it cams to pass—the alleged mythical character of the present narrative (De Wette, Bohlen) is discredited not more by express Scripture statement (Hebrews 11:17-19) than by its own inherent difficulties—after—how long after may be conjectured from the circumstance that Isaac was now a grown lad, capable of undertaking a three days journey of upwards of sixty miles—these things (literally, words, of benediction, promise, trial that had gone before—that God—literally, the Elohim, i.e. neither Satan, as in 1 Chronicles 21:1, compared with 2 Samuel 24:1 (Schelling, Stanley), nor Abraham himself, in the sense that a subjective impulse on the part of the patriarch supplied the formal basis of the subsequent transaction (Kurtz, Oehler); but the El-Olam of Genesis 21:32, the term Elohim being employed by the historian not because Genesis 21:1-13 are Elohistic (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson,)—a hypothesis inconsistent with the internal unity of the chapter, "which is joined together like cast-iron" (Oehler), and in particular with the use of Moriah in Genesis 21:2 (Hengstenberg),—but to indicate the true origin of the after-mentioned trial, which proceeded neither from Satanic instigation nor from subjective impulse, but from God (Keil)—did tempt—not solicit to sin (James 1:13), but test or prove (Exodus 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deu 13:3; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Psalms 26:2)—Abraham, and said unto him,—in a dream-vision of the night (Eichhorn, Lunge), but certainly in an audible voice which previous experience enabled him to recognize—Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. "These brief introductions of the conversation express the great tension and application of the human mind in those moments in a striking way, and serve at the same time to prepare us for the importance of the conversation" (Lange).
And he said, Take now—"the נַא modifies the command, and seems to express that Elohim wished to receive the sacrifice as a free-will offering" (Lange)—thy son (not a lamb, but thy child), thine only son—not ἁγαπητὸν (LXX.), but unigenitum (Vulgate), meaning the only son of Sarah, the only legitimate offspring he possessed, the only heir of the promise, the only child that remained to him after Ishmael's departure (cf. ὁ μονογενὴς, John 1:18)—Isaac, whom thou lovest,—or, whom thou lovest, Isaac; the order and accumulation of the terms being calculated to excite the parental affection of the patriarch to the highest pitch, and to render compliance with the Divine demand a trial of the utmost severity—and get thee—literally, go for thyself (cf. Genesis 12:1; Genesis 21:16)—into the land of Moriah. Moriah—vision (Vulgate, Symmachus, Samaritan), worship (Onkelos, Jonathan), high (LXX.), rebellious (Murphy); but rather a compound of יה and מֹרִי, meaning God is my instructor, alluding to the temple from which the law should afterwards proceed (Kalisch), or, better, of יה and ראה, and signifying "the shown of Jehovah," i.e. the revelation or manifestation of Jehovah (Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Keil, &c.); or "the chosen, i.e. "pointed out of God," with reference to its selection as the site of the Divine sanctuary (Gesenius), or rather because there God provided and pointed out the sacrifice which he elected to accept (Lange). And offer him there for a burnt offering—not make a spiritual surrender of him in and through a burnt offering (Hengstenberg, Lange), but actually present him as a holocaust. That Abraham did not stagger on receiving this astounding injunction may be accounted for by remembering that the practice of offering human sacrifices prevailed among the early Chaldaeans and Canaanites, and that as yet no formal prohibition, like that of the Mosaic code, had been issued against them—upon one of the mountains—not Moreh in Sicbem (Tuch, Michaelis, Stanley, Grove, et alii), which was too distant, but Moriah at Jerusalem (Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Keil, Kalisch), where subsequently God appeared to David (2 Samuel 24:16), and the temple of Solomon was built (2 Chronicles 3:1)—which I will tell thee of—i.e. point out (probably by secret inspiration) as thou proceedest.
And Abraham rose up early in the morning,—a habit of the patriarch's after receiving a Divine communication (cf. Genesis 19:27; Genesis 20:8; Genesis 21:14)—and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him (the ass for the wood, and the young men for the ass), and Isaac his son (explaining to him as yet only his intention to offer sacrifice upon a distant mountain), and clave the wood for the burnt offering (obviously with his own bands), and rose up (expressive of resolute determination), and went unto (or towards) the place of which God had told him—literally, the Elohim had spoken to him. The accumulation of brief, sententious clauses in this verse admirably represents the calm deliberation and unflinching heroism with which the patriarch proceeded to execute the Divine command.
Then on the third day—Jerusalem, being distant from Beersheba about twenty and a half hours' journey according to Robinson, could easily; be within sight on the third day—Abraham lifted up his eyes,—not implying that the object of vision was above him (cf. Genesis 13:10)—and saw the place (which Calvin conjectures he had previously beheld in vision) afar off. Though Mount Moriah cannot be seen by the traveler from Beersheba till within a distance of three miles, the place or region where it is can be detected (Kalisch).
And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye (for similar forms of expression cf. Genesis 12:1; Genesis 21:6; Genesis 22:2) here with the ass;—partly because the beast required watching, though chiefly because the contemplated sacrifice was too solemn for any eyes but God's to witness—and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. An act of dissimulation on the part of Abraham (Knobel, Kalisch, Murphy); an unconscious prophecy; the expression of a hopeful wish (Lange); a somewhat confused utterance (Calvin, Keil); the voice of his all-conquering faith, which last seems the teaching of Hebrews 11:19.
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son;—instinctively the mind reverts to the cross-bearing of Abraham's greater Son (John 19:17)—and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife (to him terribly suggestive weapons); and they went both of them together. Doubtless in silence on Abraham's part and wonder on Isaac's, since as yet no declaration had been made of the true purpose of their journey.
And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father,—during the progress of the journey, after leaving the young men, solitude inviting him to give expression to thoughts which had been rising in his bosom, but which the presence of companions had constrained him to suppress—and said, My father:—a term of filial reverence and endearment that must have lacerated Abraham's heart. As used by Isaac it signified a desire to interrogate his parent—and he said, Here am I, my son (literally, Behold me, my son—Well, my son, what is it? in colloquial English). And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering. Another hint that the sacrificial system did not originate with Moses.
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:—the utterance of heroic faith rather than the language of pious dissimulation (vide on Genesis 22:5)—so they went both of them together. To see in this twice-repeated expression a type of the concurrence of the Father and the Son in the work of redemption (Wordsworth) is not exegesis.
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there,—i.e. upon the mountain summit or slope (Genesis 22:2)—and laid the wood in order (it is scarcely likely that Isaac was permitted to assist in these affecting preparations), and bound Isaac his son, who must have acquiesced in his father's purpose, and thereby evinced his faith in the Divine commandment. The term "bound," though seeming to convey the idea of violence, derives its significance from the binding of the sacrificial victim—and laid him on the altar on the wood. The feelings of the patriarch throughout this transaction are simply inconceivable.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son—who even in the last moment offers no resistance, but behaves like a type of him who was led like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).
And the angel of the Lord—Maleach Jehovah (vide Genesis 16:7); introduced into the narrative at this point not as a Jehovistic alteration (Bleek, Kalisch, et alii), but because the God of redemption now interposes for the deliverance of both Isaac and Abraham (Hengetenberg)—called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham (the repetition denotes urgency, as contrasted with Genesis 22:1): and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him. Abraham's surrender of the son of his affections having been complete, there was no need to push the trial further. The voice from heaven has been accepted as evidence of God's rejection of human sacrifices (Lange, Murphy), only that is not assigned as the reason for Isaac's deliverance. For now I knew—literally, have known; not caused thee to know, but caused others to know (Lange); or the words are used anthropomorphically (Calvin)—that thou fearest God,—Elohim; the Divine intention being to characterize the patriarch as a God-fearing man, and not simply as a worshipper of Jehovah—seeing—literally, and (sc. in proof thereof)—thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. Καὶ οὐκ ἐφείσω τοῦ ὑιοῦ σοῦ ἁγαπητοῦ δε ἐμέ (LXX.). Cf. ὅς γε τοῦ ἰδιοῦ ὑιοῦ οὐκ ἐφείσατο (Romans 8:32), as applied to the sacrifice of Christ. In this verse the angel of Jehovah identifies himself with Elohim.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes (in the direction of the voice), and looked, and behold behind him—either at his back (Furst, Keil, Lange, Murphy), or in the background of the altar, i.e. in front of him (Gesenius, Kalisch). The LXX; Samaritan, Syriac, mistaking אַחַר for אֶחַר, read "one," which adds nothing to the sense or picturesqueness of the composition—a ram—אַיִל; in the component letters of which cabalistic writers find the initial letters of אֱלהִים יִרְאֶה־לּוֹ, God will provide for himself. In the animal itself the Fathers rightly discerned a type of Christ, though it is fanciful to detect a shadow of the Crown of thorns in the words that follow—caught in a thicket by his horns (the sebach being the intertwined branches of trees or brushwood): and Abraham went and took the ram, and (though not directed what to do, yet with a fine spiritual instinct discerning the Divine purpose) offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son—whom be thus received from the dead as in a figure (Hebrews 11:19).
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh:—i.e. the Lord will provide (Jonathan, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, &c.), rather than the Lord selects, or looks out, i.e.. the sacrifices to be afterwards offered in the temple worship on Morish (Kalisch); or, the Lord shall appear (Oort, Kuenen), which overlooks the manifest allusion to Genesis 22:8—as it is said to this day,—or, so that it is said; cf. Genesis 13:16 (Keil)—In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen—or "it shall be provided" (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Dathe, 'Speaker's Commentary'), though by competent authorities it has been otherwise rendered. "In the mount the Lord shall appear, or be seen" (LXX.); "in the mount the Lord will see, or provide" (Vulgate, Syriac, Samaritan); "in the mount of the Lord he will be seen" (Murphy); "in the mount of the Lord one shall be seen," or "people appear," i.e. the people of God shall gather on this mountain for worship (Kalisch); "on the mountain where Jehovah appears" (Keil). Amidst such a conflict of interpretations absolute certainty is perhaps unattainable; but the sense of the proverb will probably be expressed by understanding it to mean that on the mount of Abraham's sacrifice Jehovah would afterwards reveal himself for the salvation of his people, as he then interposed for the help of Abraham—a prophecy which was afterwards fulfilled in the manifestations of the Divine glory given in the Solomonic temple and in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,—the object of the first call having been to arrest the consummation of the fatal deed which threatened Isaac's life, and to declare the Divine satisfaction with the patriarch's complete spiritual surrender of his son, the purpose of the second was to renew the promise in reward for his fidelity and obedience—and said, By myself have I sworn,—by my word (Onkelos); by my name (Arabic); equivalent to by himself, by his soul (Jeremiah 51:14), or by his holiness (Amos 4:2)—an anthropomorphism by which God in the most solemn manner pledges the perfection of his Divine personality for the fulfillment of his promise; an act which he never again repeats in his intercourse with the patriarchs. The oath here given to Abraham (frequently referred to in later Scripture: Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 42:5, 11; Exodus 32:13; Exodus 33:1; Isaiah 45:23; Hebrews 6:13) is confirmed by the addition of—saith the Lord,—literally, the utterance of Jehovah; like the Latin air, inquit Dominus, the usual prophetic phrase accompanying Divine oracles (cf. Isaiah 3:15; Ezekiel 5:11; Amos 6:8), though occurring in the Pentateuch only here and in Numbers 14:28—for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son (vide supra, Numbers 14:12; from which the LXX; Syriac, and Samaritan insert hero the words "from me"): that in blessing I will bless thee, and, multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore;—literally, upon the lip of the sea; a repetition and accumulation of the promises previously made to the patriarch concerning his seed (cf. Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 13:14-16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:1-8), with the special amplification following—and thy seed shall possess (i.e. occupy by force) the gate of his enemies; shall conquer their armies and capture their cities (Keil, Murphy); though that the spiritual sense of entering in through the doorway of their susceptibilities in conversion (Lange) is not to be overlooked may be inferred from the appended prediction—and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (vide Genesis 12:3, where "families of the ground" occur as the equivalent of "nations of the earth"); because thou hast obeyed my voice. Originally unconditional in its grant, the promise is here distinctly declared to be renewed to him as one who, besides being justified and taken into covenant with Jehovah, had through trial and obedience attained to the spiritual patriarchate of a numerous posterity.
So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they role up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.
Mount Moriah, or the mount of sacrifice.
I. ABRAHAM'S TRIAL.
1. Divine in its origin. However explained, the appalling ordeal through which the patriarch at this time passed was expressly created for him by Elohim. Only he who made the human heart can adequately search it; and he alone who has a perfect understanding of the standard of moral excellence can pronounce upon the intrinsic worth of his creatures.
2. Unexpected in its coming. After all that had preceded, it might have been anticipated that not only were the patriarch's trials over, but that the need for such discipline in his case no longer existed. It shows that neither length of years nor ripeness of grace, neither conscious enjoyment of Divine favor nor previous experience of suffering, can exempt from trial or place beyond the need of testing; and that mostly "temptations" come at unexpected times, and in unlooked for ways.
3. Severe in its form. Trials to be efficient must be graduated to the strength of those they design to test Only a temptation of great force could be of service in the case of moral heroism like Abraham's. The intensity of the strain put upon his soul by the astounding order to make a holocaust of Isaac simply baffles description. Even on the supposition that Abraham was not unfamiliar with the practice of offering human victims, as it prevailed among the Canaanites and early Chaldeans, painful doubt must have insinuated itself into his mind
(1) as to the character of Jehovah, who in making such a barbarous and inhuman demand might seem little superior to the heathen deities around;
(2) as to his own enjoyment of the Divine favor, which could scarcely fail to be staggered by such an excruciating stab to his natural affection; but,
(3) and chiefly, as to the stability of the promise, which reason could not but pronounce impossible of fulfillment if Isaac must be put to death. Yet, overwhelming as the trial was, it was—
4. Needful in its design. The great covenant blessing was still- conditioned on the exercise by the patriarch of full-hearted trust in the naked word of God. Not until that standpoint had been reached by Abraham in his spiritual development was he able to become the parent of Isaac; and now that Isaac was born there was still the danger lest Isaac, and not the naked word of God, should be the ground of the patriarch's confidence. Hence the necessity arose for testing whether Abraham could resign Isaac and yet cling to the promise.
II. ABRAHAM'S VICTORY.
1. The splendor of it. The tremendous act of self-immolation was performed not without pain, else Abraham must have been either more or less than human, but
(1) with unhesitating promptitude—"Abraham rose up early in the morning," and "went unto the place of which God had told him;"
(2) with literal exactness—"Abraham laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him upon the altar on the wood;"
(3) in perfect sincerity—"Abraham stretched forth his hand to slay his son;" yet
(4) without ostentation—Abraham went alone with his son to the mount of sacrifice.
2. The secret of it. This was faith. He accounted that, though Isaac should be slain, God was able to raise him up again from the dead. Hence, though prepared to plunge the knife into his son's breast, and to reduce his beloved form to ashes, he "staggered not at the promise."
III. ABRAHAM'S REWARD.
1. The deliverance of Isaac.
(1) The time of it. At the moment when the sacrifice was about to be consummated, neither too soon for evincing the completeness of Abraham's obedience, nor too late for effecting Isaac's preservation.
(2) The reason of it. Because the piety and faith of the patriarch were sufficiently demonstrated. God often accepts the will for the deed.
(3) The manner of it. By the substitution of a ram, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whose atoning death the Isaac of the Church is delivered from condemnation.
(4) The teaching of it. If Abraham's surrender of Isaac was a shadow of the sacrificing love of the eternal Father in sparing not his only Son, and the bound Isaac typical of the Church's condemned condition before the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, and the substituted ram was emblematic of him who, though he knew no sin, was made a sin offering for us, the deliverance of Isaac was symbolic both of the resurrection life of Christ and of the new life of his redeemed people.
2. The confirmation of the blessing.
(1) A renewal of the promises—of a numerically great, territorially prosperous, and spiritually influential posterity, and more particularly of that distinguished seed in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed;
(2) a specification of the ground on which they were held, viz; the patriarch's believing obedience to the Divine commandment; and
(3) a solemn oath in guarantee of their fulfillment.
1. The certainty of trial.
2. The omnipotence of faith.
3. The blessedness of obedience.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Abraham's perfect fairly.
"Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." "The word of God," says Coleridge, "speaks to man, and therefore it speaks the language of the children of men. This has to be kept in mind in studying the remarkable incident recorded in this chapter. When God is represented as "tempting" Abraham, it only means that he tried or tested him.
I. THE TESTING OF FAITH. Abraham was to be the head of the faithful and type of the justified, therefore it was essential he should be tested. Entire obedience is the test of perfect faith. Abraham had shown his faith when he left his own land, and when he waited patiently for a son; now he has to show it in a different way. In the two former testings he had a promise to rest on; now he must go far without any promise to buoy him up in the perplexing sea of trial. "Take now thy son," &c. Surely there is some mistake! Must Abraham offer a human sacrifice? This event has perplexed many, and they have only escaped from the difficulties presented by regarding the event—
(1) As exceptional for the purpose of securing a unique type of the future sacrifice of Christ.
(2) As never intended to be actually carried out, God having foreseen the faith of his servant, and having determined at the right moment to interfere and prevent any disaster. There is also a miraculous element in the narrative, both in the special voice and the ram caught in the thicket. Some have thought that the impulse was from Abraham's own mind—that, seeing human sacrifices around, he wished to rise above all others in devotion to the one God. Had this been the case, the Scriptures would not have represented the testing as from God. In that age a father's right to do as he would with his son was as unquestioned as his right to do what he would with his slave. The command of God was not out of harmony with this idea, but it helped to correct the mistake. A single act of such self-sacrifice becomes of the highest value; it is even a means of education to the world. God elicited the highest exercise of faith, but not the blood of Isaac. What it must have cost the patriarch to submit to the Divine command! With one blow he must slay his boy and his own ardent hopes. The only gleam of light was in the thought that God who first gave Isaac could also restore him from death. This is indicated in the words he uttered to the young man, "We will come again to you." Tradition says that the mount was the same on which Adam, Abel, and Noah had offered sacrifice. Here possibly Abraham found an altar to repair or rebuild. Isaac helps in rebuilding the altar and in arranging the wood. Silent prayers ascend from father and son. Isaac wonders where the lamb is to come from. He finds out when his father has bound him and laid him on the altar. The knife gleams aloft, and, but for the arresting voice, would have been plunged in Isaac. The test was satisfactory.
II. GOD'S MANIFEST APPROVAL OF THE PATRIARCH'S FAITH AND PERFECT OBEDIENCE.
1. It was by a voice from heaven.
2. It was manifested also by the way in which God took away any pain consequent on obedience to his command. It is remarkable how those who appear to have little faith can become, when trial falls, perfectly submissive to the Divine will.
3. The approval was seen also in the way in which God provided a sacrifice.
4. And God repeated his promise of blessing, confirming it by a solemn covenant. "By myself have I sworn," &c. No such voice comes to us, and no such promise is audibly given; still we can have, in the inner calm of the soul, an evidence of the Divine approval. When our faith is strongest, after passing through some trial, we get a clearer view of the glory of God's working, both in our lives and in the world. What approval have we won? Does not Abraham put us to shame? Too many will laud the obedience of Abraham who will never try to emulate it. Abraham was glad to have his Isaac spared; so would the Father have been, but he gave up his "only-begotten, well-beloved Son" for us. Our readiness to accept and follow the Savior given is only another way of showing how we bear the testing of faith. "Thy will be done" should be the utterance of each believer. Perfect faith in the heart should be exhibited by perfect obedience in life.—H.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The Lamb of God.
"And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. The key to this narrative is John 1:29. It sets forth in type the way of salvation. Whether Abraham understood this we need not inquire. The lesson is for us. Isaac, i.e. laughter (cf. Luke 2:10), the child of promise (Romans 9:7), type of "the children of the kingdom," is yet condemned to die (cf. Romans 5:12). So in Egypt the Israelites were not exempted; God's gift to them was a way of escape. What is that way? (cf. Micah 6:6). Every age of the world has asked this question. A sense of separation from God has led to many efforts for its removal. Hence sacrifices, offerings, austerities, &c; but all in vain (Hebrews 10:4). Still the soul asked, "Where is the Lamb?" the effectual sacrifice for sin. The answer of prophecy, i.e. God's answer, "God will provide himself a lamb" (cf. John 1:29; John 8:56). Man has no claim upon God, yet his need is a plea (cf. Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). We know not what was in Abraham's mind; perhaps he was escaping from the direct answer, unable to utter it; perhaps there was a hope that God would in some way preserve or restore his son (cf. Hebrews 11:19). There are many instances of prophecy unconsciously uttered (cf. John 11:50). Isaac was bound—type of man's helplessness to escape from the curse (cf. Luke 4:18), or from the law of sin in the members. The law of God of itself can only condemn. It can only he fulfilled by one who loves God; but he who is not at peace with God cannot love him. The sacrifice was now complete as far as Abraham could offer it. He had cast down self-will (cf. Matthew 26:39); he had sacrificed himself (Romans 12:1). This is the state of mind of all others most prepared to receive blessings (cf. 2 Kings 4:3-6). "Lay not thine hand upon the lad." God's purpose our deliverance (Romans 8:1). The work of the law, bringing home the conviction of sin, is the prelude to the knowledge of life (cf. Romans 7:10-13)—life through death. God's way of deliverance (Isaiah 53:6). The type, the ram caught in the thicket; the antitype, Christ fulfilling the Father's will. The practical application of this shown in brazen serpent (John 3:14). Marvelous love of God (Romans 5:8). We had no claim on him, yet he would not that we should perish (Ezekiel 33:11). He wanted, for the fullness of his blessedness, that we should partake of it, and therefore Christ came that he might die in our stead; and now in him we are dead (2 Corinthians 5:4). Do not dilute the truth by saying he died for believers only. This is to miss the constraining power of his love. If there is any doubt of his death being for each and all, the gospel is no longer felt to be "whosoever will" (Revelation 22:17). Behold the Lamb. We need not now to say, "God will provide; "he has provided (1 John 2:2). The universe could not purchase that propitiation. No efforts could make thee worthy of it, yet it is freely offered to thee today. And mark what that gift includes (Romans 8:32)—the help of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), wisdom (James 1:5), help in trials (1 Corinthians 10:13), peace (Romans 8:33), needs of this life (Luke 12:30). Bring all thy sins, thy wants, thy hindrances to the mercy-seat (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord will see, will look upon thy need; and ere thy prayer is offered he has provided what that need requires.—M.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The great trial and the great revelation.
In such a history the representative character of Abraham must be remembered. He was tried not only for his own sake, but that in him all the families of the earth might be blessed.
I. The PREPARATION for this great grace God and Abraham recognizing each other; the servant called by name, responding with the profession of readiness for obedience.
II. The COMMANDMENT is itself a secret communication, a covenant. Do this, and I will bless thee; follow me in this journey "as I tell thee," and thou shalt see my salvation.
III. The simple, childlike OBEDIENCE of the patriarch is reflected in the quiet demeanor of Isaac bearing the wood of the burnt offering, type of Jesus bearing his cross, inquiring for the lamb with lamb-like innocence and patience. "They went both of them together" (Genesis 22:6 and Genesis 22:8)—"together" in the beginning of the journey, "together" in the end, in the trial and in the blessing.
IV. FAITH which accepts the will of God and takes up the Divine mission WILL COMMIT THE FUTURE TO THE GRACIOUS PROVISION ON WHICH IT DEPENDS. "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). Already Abraham was saying, "The Lord will provide." We say it sometimes with a fearful burden upon our heart; but when we go steadfastly and hopefully forward we say it at last with the remembrance of a great deliverance sending its glory along the way of our future.
V. THE TRIAL OF THE TRUE HEART IS OFTEN STRETCHED OUT TO ITS LAST EXTREMITY, that the revelation which rewards faithfulness may be the more abundant and wonderful (Genesis 22:9, Genesis 22:10). We must take God at his word, otherwise we shall not experience the promised deliverance. "Take thy son, and offer him there" (Genesis 22:2). "And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son." What else could he do? The commandment must be obeyed. The obedience must be "good and perfect and acceptable" as the will of God.
VI. AT THE POINT OF ENTIRE SURRENDER APPEARS THE ANGEL, is heard the voice of relief, the assurance of acceptance, the change in the method of obedience, the opened eyes, the provided sacrifice, THE RETURNING JOY OF SALVATION (Genesis 22:11-13). There is a blindness of self-sacrifice which leads to a sight of immeasurable joy. Abraham saw nothing before him but the plain path of obedience; he went on, and at last "lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold' the self-sacrifice changed into peaceful offering of an appointed substitute (Genesis 22:13) "in the stead of his son."
VII. THE CLIMAX OF OUR EXPERIENCE AND OF DIVINE MERCY BECOMES TO US A NEW NAME OF JEHOVAH. We know him henceforth by that knowledge of fact. "Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide): as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be provided" (or seen) (Genesis 22:14).
1. Not before the mount, but in the mount; therefore go to the summit and wait.
2. What the Lord will provide will be better every way than what we could provide.
3. The offering on the mount is the great provision, the whole burnt offering for the sins of the world, by which the true humanity is redeemed and the true "joy" ("Isaac," laughter) is retained.
4. The last name of Jehovah which Abraham gave him was Jehovah the Everlasting; now he adds to that name that which brings the Everlasting into the sphere of daily life—"Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide." We name that name when we reach the mount where the great sacrifice was provided—Mount Moriah, Mount Calvary.
5. The end of the great trial and obedience was a renewal, a solemn republication, of the covenant. "God could swear by no greater; he swore by himself" (Hebrews 6:13). On the foundation of practical faith is built up the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord swears shall include all nations, and be supreme in all the earth. The notes of that kingdom are here in the history of the patriarch—
(1) acceptance of the word of God,
(3) faith instead of sight,
(4) withholding nothing,
(5) perseverance to the end.
Beersheba became now a new place to Abraham, for he carried to the well and grove which he had named after the oaths of himself and Abimelech the remembrance of the Divine oath, on which henceforth he rested all his expectations. After this the man in whom all nations shall be blessed looks round and finds the promise being already fulfilled, and his kindred spreading widely in the earth.—R.
And it came to pass after these things (probably not long after his return to Beersheba), that it was told (by some unknown messenger or accidental traveler from Mesopotamia) Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah (vide Genesis 11:29), she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor—as Sarah has born a son to thee. From this it would almost seem as if Milcah had not begun to have her family at the time Abram left Ur of the Chaldees; but vide Genesis 11:30. The present brief table of Nahor's descendants is introduced for the sake of showing the descent of Rebekah, who is soon to become Isaac's wife.
Huz his firstborn,—(vide Genesis 10:23, where Uz appears as a son of Aram; and Genesis 36:28, where he recurs as a descendant of Esau. That he was a progenitor of Job (Jerome) has no better foundation than Job 1:1—and Buz his brother,—mentioned along with Dedan and Tema as an Arabian tribe (Jeremiah 25:23), and may have been an ancestor of Elihu (Job 32:2)—and Kemuel the father of Aram. "Not the founder of the Arameans, but the forefather of the family of Ram, to which the Buzite Elihu belonged; Aram being written for Ram, like Arammim, in 2 Kings 8:29, for Rammim, in 2 Chronicles 22:5" (Keil).
And Chesed,—according to Jerome the father of the Chasdim or Chaldees (Genesis 11:28); but more generally regarded as the head of a younger branch or offshoot of that race (Keil, Murphy, Lange; cf. Job 1:17)—and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph (concerning whom nothing is known), and Bethnel—"man of God" (Gesenius); dwelling of God (Furst); an indication probably of his piety.
And Bethuel begat Rebekah—Ribkah; captivating, ensnaring (Furst); "a rope with a noose," not unfit as the name of a girl who ensnares men by her beauty (Gesenius). Rebekah was the child of Isaac's cousin, and being the daughter of Nahor's youngest son, was probably about the same age as her future husband. These eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother.
And his concubine (vide on Genesis 16:3), whose name was Reumah,—raised, elevated (Gesenius); pearl or coral (Furst)—she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah—whence probably the Maachathites. That three of Terah's descendants (Nahor, Ishmael, and Jacob) should each have twelve sons has been pronounced" a contrived symmetry, the intentional character of which cannot be mistaken" (Bohlen); but "what intention the narrator should have connected with it remains inconceivable, unless it was to state the fact as it was, or (on the supposition that some of them had more than twelve sons) to supply a round number easily retainable by the memory" (Havernick).
Good news from a far country.
I. THE JOYFUL BUDGET.
1. Tidings from home. For nearly half a century Abraham had been a wanderer in Palestine, and with something like an emigrant's emotion on receiving letters from the old country would the patriarch listen to the message come from Haran beyond the river.
2. News concerning Nahor. It demands no violent exercise of fancy to believe that Abraham regarded his distant brother with intense fraternal affection, and that the unexpected report of that distant brother's prosperity struck a chord of joy within his aged bosom.
3. A message about Milcah. When the two brothers parted it would seem that neither of their spouses had begun to have a family. Now information reaches the patriarchal tent that the union of Nahor and Milcah, like that of himself and Sarai, has been blessed with offspring; and, in particular, that the second generation had begun to appear in Nahor's house, the queenly grace of Milcah being reproduced in her captivating grandchild Rebekah.
II. THE WELCOME MESSENGER.
1. His unknown name. One is curious to know who it was that brought the tidings from the old home. Some spirited adventurer who at the distance of half a century sought to emulate the Chaldaean chieftain who left the valley of the Euphrates for the bleak hills of Palestine; some Mesopotamian Stanley whom Nahor, now a wealthy Emir, had dispatched upon a mission of inquiry after his long-lost brother; or some chance traveler who had come across the patriarch's tent.
2. His timely arrival. Whoever he was, his appearance at this particular juncture was exceedingly opportune, when, the great trial having passed, Isaac's marriage must have loomed in the prospect as a near possibility. To Abraham it must have seemed not a fortuitous occurrence, but a providential arrangement.
1. That no passage of Scripture can be said to be entirely useless.
2. That joy and sorrow mostly lie in close contiguity in human life.
3. That it becomes good men and women to be interested in each other's welfare.
4. That in God's government of the world there are no such things as accidents.
5. That it becomes good men to keep an outlook upon the leadings of Divine providence.