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Abraham and Isaac

by Mark Ottaway on August 17, 2017

One of the greatest tests of faith in the Scriptures is recorded in the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.  God had commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.  The great challenge for Abraham of course, was not only that this was his son whom he loved (Gen 22:2), but he was also the very son who the Lord had promised to Abraham in his old age.  Isaac would have represented to Abraham the culmination of a life’s hope, as well as the clear answer to the promises of God.  Ultimately all those who would be saved, from the Old Testament saint to the New Testament saint to those saved today, would come through the line of Abraham; as it was through Abraham’s descendants came the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Luke wrote, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 – NKJV).  This command of God to offer Isaac on the altar places these very promises of God at risk.  Well, you know the story—Abraham demonstrates his faith by being obedient to the Lord’s command and set to go up the mountain along with his son, Isaac (Gen 2:3). 

While the willingness of Abraham to be obedient and to sacrifice his son is apparent in the story, sometimes we might miss the willingness of Isaac to become the sacrifice.  In comparing the story to the Heavenly Father and His Son, it is imperative that Abraham be willing, just as the Father was willing to give His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16).  But also important is that Isaac was willing to give his own life, just as Christ was willing to offer Himself on the tree (Gal 1:4).

In the story of Abraham and Isaac, we often picture the older Abraham heading up the mountain with his “little guy” Isaac.  Thus we convince ourselves that this little boy was naively and happily going along with his Dad.  However, there are many indications in the Bible which would give understanding that Isaac was not a little boy, but much older.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is found in Genesis 22.  Prior to this event, we read of some significant recordings in Genesis which have a bearing on Isaac’s age.  Abraham was 100 years old (Gen 21:5), and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born.  In chapter 21, we see where Isaac is circumcised at eight days.  We also read that Isaac was weaned (vs 8), suggesting that he could be anywhere from 2-5 years of age.  After the incident on the mountain, we read in chapter 23 that Sarah died at the age of 127.  So far we have concluded that Isaac is likely over 5 years of age and under 37 years of age.  However, in Genesis 21:34 (after the weaning of Isaac) it says that Abraham “sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days (NASB), and then in 22:1, it speaks about “after these things.”

We also see in Genesis 22:2 that Abraham is commanded by the Lord to go to the land of Moriah which would be approximately a three-day journey.  Some have suggested that Isaac would have been at least old enough here to care for himself.  However, one of the most significant pieces of information we are given is in 22:6, where Abraham gives the wood to his son Isaac to carry.  According to verse 9, Isaac was required to carry this wood for the remaining portion of the trip.  Henry Morris writes, “Isaac was no longer a little child, but was certainly in his teens, and quite possibly twenty-five or thirty years old” (Henry Morris, The Genesis Record 372).  Certainly the lapsed time, Isaac’s climb up the mountain, the fact that Isaac carried the wood, and Isaac’s familiarity with all that went on during the sacrifice; though we are not told specifically, would indicate that he was likely older as opposed to younger.  A beautiful picture of Calvary where both the Heavenly Father and the Son are working together for the salvation of man is pictured in Genesis 22:6 where the writer says, “So the two of them walked on together” (NASB).  In concluding the account in chapter 22, Morris adds, “The writer would have us know beyond question that Abraham was not compelling his son to go; instead Isaac willingly accompanied his father” (380).