Summary: Isaac seems to have lived in the shadows of his father (Abraham) and his sons (Esau and Jacob). He is mentioned less than either of these, but he stayed faithful to the God of his father, Abraham. So can we!
Introduction: Isaac does not have as much coverage in the Bible as his father, Abraham, or his sons, Esau and Jacob. He still lived for the True and the Living God, serving Him much as Abraham had done and Jacob would do later on. Isaac outlived both father and son, finally dying at the age of 180. He did make his share of mistakes and committed his share of sins, but he was faithful to the LORD all his life.
1 Isaac’s early years
Text, Genesis 22:7. KJV: 7And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he (Isaac) said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
These are the first recorded words of Isaac, spoken while he and Abraham, his father, were on the way to a sacrifice—and he was the sacrifice! No wonder he asked Abraham where the lamb was for the burnt offering! But to his credit, he never resisted Abraham, even submitting himself to being bound and placed on the altar.
Although his age was not recorded, when this took place, he was probably old enough to resist, even to overpowering his father and running away if need be, To Isaac’s credit, though, he yielded to his father’s will and was willing to go through with this sacrifice. What a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who could have called “twelve legions of angels (thousands!)” according to Matthew 26:53 for protection. But He didn’t do so.
Imagine the relief when Abraham heard God say, “Don’t do it! Stop! You proved you wouldn’t withhold you son from Me.” Abraham found a ram for a sacrifice, offered it, then he and Isaac returned to their home near Beersheba (Gen. 22:19).
The next several years of Isaac’s life are hardly mentioned. After his mother, Sarah, died at 127 years of age (Gen. 23:1), Isaac seems to have stayed around the camp until a few years later when Abraham decided it was time for Isaac to have a wife. Genesis 24 tells the story how Abraham commissioned one of his servants to go back to Abraham’s home country and find a bride for Isaac. The servant did so, found Rebekah, and found her willing to go back with him and marry a man she had never seen.
And they were married, Isaac being 40 years old but Rebekah’s age is not given. They lived together as husband and wife, no hint of unhappiness (in fact, just the opposite took place: Isaac and Rebekah committed the same exact sin as Abraham and Sarah! Isaac claimed Rebekah was his sister but they engaged in some conduct that wasn’t exactly brotherly/sisterly! Abimelech, most likely a descendant of the Abimelech who knew Abraham, saw this and asked why Isaac had lied about Rebekah! As before, God intervened, and Abimelech promised nothing would happen either to Isaac or Rebekah (Genesis 26:6-11). How much this affected the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah is nowhere revealed. Sarah seemed to have forgiven Abraham—twice!—for doing this so perhaps Rebekah did too.
Even so, something was missing from Isaac and Rebekah’s life.
Isaac had received a promise from God in Genesis 26:2-5 which was very similar to the promise God had given Abraham in Genesis 15. There is some confusion as to whether this promise to Isaac came before his sons were born or after: in Genesis 26, there is no mention of any children either in the promise or in the text itself. This would mirror or parallel the promise of Genesis 15 when Abram (Abraham’s name at the time) had no children and was concerned his estate would pass to his steward, Eliezer of Damascus (Gen. 15:2-3). On the other hand, at the end of Genesis chapter 26, Esau is mentioned as being 40 years of age and taking two Hittite women for his wives. Jacob is not mentioned at all. So there is no contradiction, simply a literary device to project and review events as part of a narrative.
The important thing is that after 20 years of marriage, and 20 years of barrenness, Isaac prayed and the LORD answered. Rebekah did conceive and discovered she was finally pregnant!
She noticed the children struggling even in her womb and asked (‘she went to inquire of the LORD”, 25:22) what this meant. Was she ever surprised to learn that A, she did indeed have twins (did she suspect this?) and B, her children were going to be very different people.
As years came and went, she saw this very clearly. As did Isaac.
2 Isaac’s later years
Text, Genesis 27, KJV (a long chapter, text mentioned but not posted to save space)
As chapter 27 begins, Isaac is now in his older years. He was at least 75 at this time, as he was born when Abraham was 100 years of age (Genesis 21:5); Abraham died at age 175 (Genesis 25:7) and both of his sons (Isaac and Ishmael) buried his body in the same place where Sarah’s body was buried (Gen. 25:9-10).