Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:20-23

20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;

21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,

22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.

23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.

Previously we learned about Abraham’s family, which had included his father Terah, brothers Nahor and Haran, and nephew Lot. Terah, Abraham, and Lot had left the land of the Chaldees for Canaan, but Haran died and Nahor had stayed behind. In today’s verses we learn that Nahor had become a father to eight sons of his own, the youngest of which was Bethuel.

These verses may seem like a random aside, but in a couple chapters this information will become very relevant when Abraham’s servant seeks a suitable wife for Isaac, and finds her in Bethuel’s daughter, Rebekah.

It is interesting that Isaac and his cousin Bethuel presumably never met one another. Their fathers parted ways long before they were even born. Yet one’s heritage and kin remain of great importance in the Biblical narratives, and distance and time do not dim the connections one has to their family.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:15-18

15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

One thing that stood out to me in this study was how many times God reaffirmed His promises to Abraham. This reaffirmation, though, coming after Abraham has passed the ultimate test of his obedience, is the last time. Before this moment every affirmation was only an offer from God, contingent upon Abraham’s continued faithfulness. Here, at last, the promise is made sure. There will be no more proving.

This is the goal that Peter speaks of in 2 Peter 1:10, where our calling and election are made sure. It is a long and difficult road to attain that surety, though. It is not a cheap gift, and so it cannot be earned cheaply. It is something to give one’s whole life in pursuit of.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:14

14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.

A small verse, but a significant one. It is a verse that introduces the significance of special holy places, such as mountains, the tabernacle, and the temple. Remember that Abraham wasn’t commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac just anywhere, he was told to go to this very place. It was up in a mountain, and several mountains will be the site of sacred visitations from God, such as the Mount of Transfiguration and Mount Sinai. Mountains were seen as God’s home, a place where one might find and visit with Him.

The meaning of the name Jehovah-jireh is also very significant. Jehovah is, of course, the name of God, and jireh is often translated as “provides.” So “the Lord provides” is the name of the place, which certainly fits, given the lamb caught in the thicket.

However there is a second definition for the word jireh, which is “to see,” such as when it is used in 1 Samuel 16:7: “but the LORD looketh on the heart.” This explains the second part of our verse: “in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” Exactly what it was Abraham saw, we do not know. For us looking back we can see in it a clear analogy of God giving up His son as a sacrifice for the world to save our lives. Was Abraham instructed in some of these matters at this time as well? We can’t be sure, the text does not specify.

This name might also be referring to how God saw that Abraham would obey Him in all things. In either case, the name reinforces the notion of mountains, tabernacles, and temples being sacred sites. These were special places to come and see God and be seen by Him.

And I’m sure that both of these interpretations, “to provide” and “to see,” were intended. Abraham had been both provided for in the form of a ram in the thicket, and he been made to see the heart and workings of God, and so he named this place accordingly.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:11-13

11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The day of Abraham’s offering had come, the altar had been prepared, and something needed to be sacrificed. But instead of it being Isaac, who is a representation of all humanity, the role was filled by an intervention of God instead.

But the intervention only came to Abraham when he was willing to surrender his all to God. Only by being willing to give God that which he loved best was the way opened for him to retain it.

Because if Abraham had withheld his son from God, what would he have accomplished? No matter how desperately he clutched to Isaac, he and the boy would eventually be parted by the grave anyway. Abraham was powerless to retain that which he loved any longer than mortal life allowed him.

But by giving up his modicum of control to God he invited powers that exceeded his own. Abraham couldn’t preserve his father-son relationship with Isaac, but God could. God could preserve Isaac and Abraham’s bond here and in heaven…but only if Abraham surrendered that relationship to Him first.

If there is anything that any of us want to hold onto forever, at some point we will have to surrender it to God, or else there won’t be any chance of it persisting beyond the grave.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:9-10

9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

Evidently Abraham had concluded that if he was going to follow through with this sacrifice, then he was going to do it fully and properly. Notice that he took the time to erect an altar, lay out the wood “in order,” and lay his son upon that altar, just as he would do for any other sacrifice. This was an offering to the almighty God, and he was going to do it with the same reverence and meticulous detail that he gave to all other such sacrifices.

It also stands out to me that the famous depiction of Abraham standing over his son, knife raised toward heaven, about to plunge it down may not be accurate. That, of course, is the most dramatic way to depict things, but all the record actually says is that Abraham had picked the knife up. Perhaps he did, in fact, step to the altar and raise his hand before the angel appeared, or perhaps not. In any case, it seems to be the grabbing of the knife that was the line Abraham had to cross before God was satisfied with his commitment.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:6-8

6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

I wonder if Abraham understood the significance of his phrase “God will provide himself a lab for a burnt offering.” Was he aware that he was foreshadowing the coming savior? I would assume not, as otherwise he would have had a reason to assume that God would prevent him from actually slaying his son.

And, of course, there is another foreshadowing of the savior here as well. Abraham taking the wood and laying it on his son is a type for Jesus bearing his own cross to the slaughter. It seems as though Abraham and Isaac are putting on a highly elaborate pageant of Jesus’ sacrifice, all while being totally oblivious to the fact that that is what they are doing!

How many times do we recreate these legendary stories in our own lives without realizing it either? I believe we many times point back to key events in the past, or key events in the future, totally ignorant of the significance of what it is we do, just as how the Roman guards who crucified the savior “knew not what they did.” We rehearse these gospel keystones because we, like Abraham and Isaac, are guided into them by the great, all-knowing storyteller.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:3-5

3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

It is hard to fathom what those three days must have been like for Abraham, traveling to the place where he is meant to sacrifice his son! That is a very long time for his thoughts to dwell on what is about to transpire.

We do get some insight into Abraham’s frame of mind from the passage in Hebrews 11:17-19. Here we learn that Abraham expected God to just raise Isaac from the dead after he had made the sacrifice. This would allow for both Abraham to keep God’s commandment and God to keep His own covenant that Isaac would become a righteous nation. After all, Isaac’s birth had been a miracle, so why not his rebirth?

Of course that solution would still require Abraham to go through the ordeal of slaying his own son, and God was going to spare Abraham from that as well. But while Abraham may have been mistaken in exactly what God’s methods would be, he was correct in his belief that God would somehow intervene to keep His promises. And that faith was enough to see him through what he had to do. So it is for us. We don’t need to know exactly how God will prevail in our lives, only that He will. If we accept that He will preserve good for us somehow, then that is enough for us to do what we have been called to.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:1-2

1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

The most famous of Abraham’s stories is this, the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. This can be a difficult story to grapple with. Yes, God doesn’t actually have Abraham go through with it, but even the suggestion to kill one’s own child seems torturous. God even stresses “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest,” as if to make this even harder on Abraham.

Killing is wrong, after all, especially killing one’s own flesh and blood. Destroying a child goes against every natural and paternal bond. When I hear this story it agitates me deeply, and I think the reason why is due to a key different between me and Abraham.

I just wouldn’t do it.

If I’m being totally frank and honest, I don’t love God more than my children. I don’t trust Him implicitly. I don’t assume that what He says will work itself out for good even if I don’t see how. My discomfort in this story is based around the incongruity of “I want to follow God, but I wouldn’t follow Him in this.” And that challenges and vexes me. He is a God that I am not ready to fully follow.

And honestly just acknowledging that helps me to surrender it. I’m not at that same level of trust and devotion, so I don’t get how to properly process this. I don’t have the answers, but I think for today I don’t need to. I’m still a work in progress. One day I hope to understand all, but I won’t get there by constantly agitating over things that are beyond me for now.