Summary: Abraham was told to make a special offering. He didn't want to do it, but he didn't want to disobey the LORD, either. What could he do? What did he do?
Introduction: Several years have come and gone since Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21) and this encounter. Abraham had made a number of altars and had offered several sacrifices since he had come to Canaan, but this was an offering he didn’t want to make. Even so, he obeyed God and received a reward from God after he obeyed God’s commands.
1 Another Test of Abraham’s Faith
Text, Genesis 22:1 19, KJV: 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. 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.
Abraham had been walking with God for many years but one day he received some shocking news. He heard God say “Abraham!” and he replied, “Behold, here I am”—probably not knowing just what was going to happen. Besides, Abraham had only heard God call him by name once before (Gen. 15:1) even though God had spoken to Abraham many times.
This time, however, was different: when Abraham heard God’s Voice this time, I wonder what he was thinking! Moses wrote that God did “tempt” Abraham but this was not a “temptation” to do anything evil, as the word usually means. The Geneva Bible of the sixteenth century has the words “God did prove Abraham”; in other words, God was about to put Abraham to a test.
And what a test this was going to be! Even though Abraham had offered a number of sacrifices since he arrived in Canaan, this was going to be very different. This time, God told Abraham to take his only genuine son—by his marriage to Sarah—and offer him as a “burnt offering”. This meant, and not to be too graphic, the item to be sacrificed would be killed and the carcass would be totally and completely burned on an altar.
Abraham, as mentioned, knew about this from the previous sacrifices he had offered. But never had he considered offering anything than animal sacrifices; clearly, not his own flesh and blood!
But, obedient, Abraham “rose up early in the morning (probably the next morning)” then saddled his donkey; selected two young men and Isaac, and “clave (split)” wood for the burnt offering. The type of wood is not specified and is not significant at this time. Once this preparation was completed, they started on the journey to the place God had indicated.
The destination wasn’t close; in fact, it was three days away! Abraham was living near Beersheba at this time and the mountain was near Jerusalem. On the third day, Abraham saw the place “afar off,” or in the distance. He told the two young men to stay put; he and Isaac would be back.
2 The New Altar Built by Abraham
Text, Genesis 22:6-11, KJV: 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. 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.
Abraham knew exactly what God was asking him to do, even before they left Beersheba (Gen. 21:31) and headed north to the place of the sacrifice. How much Isaac, and the two young men, were able to piece together is not certain but each of them must have wondered just what was going on. After all, there was wood, fire, and people—but nothing to offer as a sacrifice.