Genesis 22:1
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXII.

THE OFFERING OF ISAAC ON MOUNT MORIAH.

(1) God did tempt Abraham.—Heb., proved him, put his faith and obedience to the proof. For twenty-five years the patriarch had wandered in Palestine, and seen the fulfilment of the promise perpetually deferred, and yet his faith failed not. At length the long wished for heir is born, and, excepting the grievous pain of parting with Ishmael, all went well with him, and seemed to presage a calm and happy old age. He was at peace with his neighbours, had quiet possession of ample pasture for his cattle, knew that Ishmael was prosperous, and saw Isaac fast approaching man’s estate (Genesis 22:12). In the midst, nevertheless, of this tranquil evening of his days came the severest trial of all; for he was commanded to slay his son. The trial was twofold. For, first, human sacrifice was abhorrent to the nature of Jehovah, and Abraham’s clear duty would be to prove the command. Could such a deed really be enjoined upon him by God? Now no subjective proof would be sufficient. In after times many an Israelite was moved by deep religious fanaticism to give his firstborn in the hope of appeasing the anger of God at his sin (Micah 6:7); but instead of peace it brought only a deeper condemnation upon his soul. Had Abraham been moved only by an internal and subjective impulse, his conduct would have deserved and met with similar condemnation But when, upon examination, he became convinced that the command came from outside himself, and from the same God with whom on former occasions he had so often held converse, then the antecedents of his own life required of him obedience. But even when satisfied of this, there was, secondly, the trial of his faith. A command which he had tested, not only subjectively by prayer, but objectively by comparison with the manner of previous revelations, bade him with his own hand destroy the son in whom “his seed was to be called.” His love for his child, his previous faith in the promise, the religious value and worth of Isaac as the appointed means for the blessing of all mankind—this, and more besides, stood arrayed against the command. But Abraham, in spite of all, obeyed, and in proportion to the greatness of the trial was the greatness of the reward. Up to this time his faith had been proved by patience and endurance, but now he was bidden himself to destroy the fruit of so many years of patient waiting (Hebrews 11:17-19), and, assured that the command came from God, he wavered not. Thus by trial was his own faith made perfect, and for Isaac too there was blessing. Meekly, as befitted the type of Christ, he submitted to his father’s will, and the life restored to him was henceforth dedicated to God. But there was a higher purpose in the command than the spiritual good of these ‘two saints. The sacrifice had for its object the instruction of the whole Church of God. If the act had possessed no typical value, it would have been difficult for us to reconcile to our consciences a command which might have seemed, indirectly at least, to have authorised human sacrifices. But there was in it the setting forth of the mystery of the Father giving the Son to die for the sins of the world; and therein lies both the value and the justification of Abraham’s conduct and of the Divine command.

Genesis

FAITH TESTED AND CROWNED

Genesis 22:1 - Genesis 22:14
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I

A life of faith and self-denial has usually its sharpest trials at or near its beginning. A stormy day has generally a calm close. But Abraham’s sorest discipline came all sudden, like a bolt from blue sky. Near the end, and after many years of peaceful, uneventful life, he had to take a yet higher degree in the school of faith. Sharp trial means increased possession of God. So his last terrible experience turned to his crowning mercy.

1. The very first words of this solemn narrative raise many questions. We have God appointing the awful trial. The Revised Version properly replaces ‘tempt’ by ‘prove.’ The former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worse part of a man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of a man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says: ‘Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’ Trial, or proving, says: ‘Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.’ The one is ‘a sweet, beguiling melody,’ breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.

God’s proving does not mean that He stands by, watching how His child will behave. He helps us to sustain the trial to which He subjects us. Life is all probation; and because it is so, it is all the field for the divine aid. The motive of His proving men is that they may be strengthened. He puts us into His gymnasium to improve our physique. If we stand the trial, our faith is increased; if we fall, we learn self-distrust and closer clinging to Him. No objection can be raised to the representation of this passage as to God’s proving Abraham, which does not equally apply to the whole structure of life as a place of probation that it may be a place of blessing. But the manner of the trial here presents a difficulty. How could God command a father to kill his son? Is that in accordance with His character? Well, two considerations deserve attention. First, the final issue; namely, Isaac’s deliverance, was an integral part of the divine purpose from the beginning of the trial; so that the question really is, Was it accordant with the divine character to require readiness to sacrifice even a son at His command? Second, that in Abraham’s time, a father’s right over his child’s life was unquestioned, and that therefore this command, though it lacerated Abraham’s heart, did not wound his conscience as it would do were it heard to-day. It is impossible to conceive of a divine injunction such as this being addressed to us. We have learned the inalienable sacredness of every life, and the awful prerogative and burden of individuality. God’s command cannot enforce sin. But it was not wrong in Abraham’s eyes for a father to slay his son; and God might shape His message to the form of the existing morality without derogation from His character, especially when the result of the message would be, among other things, to teach His abhorrence of human sacrifices, and so to lift the existing morality to a higher level.

2. The great body of the history sets before us Abraham standing the terrible test. What unsurpassable beauty is in the simple story! It is remarkable, even among the scriptural narratives, for the entire absence of anything but the visible facts. There is not a syllable about the feelings of father or of son. The silence is more pathetic than many words. We look as into a magic crystal, and see the very event before our eyes, and our own imaginations tell us more of the world of struggle and sorrow raging under that calm outside than the highest art could do. The pathos of reticence was never more perfectly illustrated. Observe, too, the minute, prolonged details of the slow progress to the dread instant of sacrifice. Each step is told in precisely the same manner, and the series of short clauses, coupled together by an artless ‘and,’ are like the single strokes of a passing bell, or the slow drops of blood heard falling from a fatal wound. The homely preparations for the journey are made by Abraham himself. He makes no confidante of Sarah; only God and himself knew what that bundle of wood meant. What thoughts must have torn his soul throughout these weary days! How hard to keep his voice round and full while he spoke to Isaac! How much the long protracted tension of the march increased the sharpness of the test! It is easier to reach the height of obedient self-sacrifice in some moment of enthusiasm, than to keep up there through the commonplace details of slowly passing days. Many a faith, which could even have slain its dearest, would have broken down long before the last step of that sad journey was taken.

The elements of the trial were two: first, Abraham’s soul was torn asunder by the conflict of fatherly love and obedience to God. The narrative intimates this struggle by continually insisting on the relationship between the two. The command dwells with emphasis on it: ‘thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.’ He takes with him ‘Isaac his son’; lays the wood on ‘Isaac his son.’ Isaac ‘spake unto Abraham his father’; Abraham answers, ‘Here am I, my son’; and again, ‘My son, God will provide.’ He bound ‘Isaac his son’; he ‘took the knife to slay his son’; and lastly, in the glad surprise at the end, he offers the ram ‘in the stead of his son.’ Thus, at every turn, the tender bond is forced on our notice, that we may feel how terrible was the task laid on him-to cut it asunder with his own hand. The friend of God must hold all other love as less than His, and must be ready to yield up the dearest at His bidding. Cruel as the necessity seems to flesh and blood, and specially poignant as his pain was, in essence Abraham’s trial only required of him what all true religion requires of us. Some of us have been called by God’s providence to give up the light of our eyes, the joy of our homes, to Him. Some of us have had to make the choice between earthly and heavenly love. All of us have to throne God in our hearts, and to let not the dearest usurp His place. In our weakness we may well shrink from such a test. But let us not forget that the trial of Abraham was not imposed by his own mistaken conceptions of duty, nor by a sterner God than the New Testament reveals, but is distinctly set before every Christian in essence, though not in form, by the gentle lips from which flowed the law of love more stringent and exclusive in its claims than any other: ‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.’

The conflict in Abraham’s soul had a still more painful aspect in that it seemed to rend his very religion into two. Faith in the promise on which he had been living all his life drew one way; faith in the later command, another. God seemed to be against God, faith against faith, promise against command. If he obeys now, what is to become of the hopes that had shone for years before him? His whole career will be rendered nugatory, and with his own hand he will crush to powder his life’s work. That wonderful short dialogue which broke the stern silence of the journey seems to throw light on his mood. There is nothing in literature sacred or secular, fact or fiction, poetry or prose, more touching than the innocent curiosity of Isaac’s boyish question, and the yearning self-restraint of the father’s desperate and yet calm answer. But its value is not only in its pathos. It seems to show that, though he knew not how, still he held by the hope that somehow God would not forget His promise. Out of his very despair, his faith struck, out of the flint of the hard command, a little spark which served to give some flicker of light amid the darkness. His answer to his boy does not make his sacrifice less, but his faith more. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives a somewhat different turn to his hopes, when he tells us that he offered up the heir of the promises, ‘accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead.’ Both ways of clinging to the early promise, even while obeying the later command, seem to have passed through his mind. The wavering from the one to the other is natural. He is sure that God had not lied before, and means what He commands now. He is sure that there is some point of reconciliation-perhaps this, perhaps that, but certainly somewhat. So he goes straight on the road marked for him, quite sure that it will not end in a blind alley, from which there is no exit. That is the very climax of faith-to trust God so absolutely, even when His ways seem contradictory, as to be more willing to believe apparent impossibilities than to doubt Him, and to be therefore ready for the hardest trial of obedience. We, too, have sometimes to take courses which seem to annihilate the hope and aims of a life. The lesson for us is to go straight on the path of clear duty wherever it leads. If it seem to bring us up to inaccessible cliffs, we may be sure that when we get there we shall find some ledge, though it may be no broader than a chamois could tread, which will suffice for a path. If it seem to bring us to a deep and bridgeless stream, we shall find a ford when we get to the water’s edge. If the mountains seem to draw together and bar a passage, we shall find, when we reach them, that they open out; though it may be no wider than a canon, still the stream can get through, and our boat with it.

3. So we have the climax of the story-faith rewarded. The first great lesson which the interposition of the Divine voice teaches us, is that obedience is complete when the inward surrender is complete. The outward act was needless. Abraham would have done no more if the flashing knife had buried itself in Isaac’s heart. Here is the first great proclamation of the truth which revolutionises morality and religion, the beginnings of the teaching which culminates in the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the gospel of salvation, not by deeds, but through faith. The will is the man, the true action is the submission of the will. The outward deed is only the coarse medium through which it is made visible for men: God looks on purpose as performance.

Again, faith is rewarded by God’s acceptance and approval. ‘I know that thou fearest God,’ not meaning that He learned the heart by the conduct, but that, on occasion of the conduct, He breathes into the obedient heart that calm consciousness of its service as recognised and accepted by Him, which is the highest reward that His friend can know. ‘To be well pleasing to Him’ is our noblest aim, which, cherished, makes sacrifice sweet, and all difficult things easy. ‘Nor know we anything more fair Than is the smile upon Thy face.’

Again, faith is rewarded by a deeper insight into God’s will. Much has been said about the sacrifice of Isaac in its bearing upon the custom of human sacrifice. We do not believe that Abraham was led to his act by a mistaken idea, borrowed from surrounding idolatries. His position as the sole monotheist amid these, the absence of evidence that human sacrifice was practised then among his neighbours, and, above all, the fact of the divine approval of his intention, forbid our acceptance of that theory. Nor can we regard the condemnation of such sacrifices as the main object of the incident. But no doubt an incidental result, and, we may perhaps say, a subsidiary purpose of it, was to stamp all such hideous usages with the brand of God’s displeasure. The mode of thought which led to them was deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Old World, and corresponded to a true conception of the needs of humanity. The dark sense of sin, the conviction that it required expiation, and that procurable only by death, drove men to these horrid rites. And that ram, caught in the thicket, thorn-crowned and substituted for the human victim, taught Abraham and his sons that God appointed and provided a lamb for an offering. It was a lesson won by faith. Nor need we hesitate to see some dim forecast of the great Substitute whom God provided, who bears the sins of the world.

Again, faith is rewarded by receiving back the surrendered blessing, made more precious because it has been laid on the altar. How strange and solemn must have been the joy with which these two looked in each other’s faces! What thankful wonder must have filled Abraham’s heart as he loosed the cord that had bound his son! It would be many days before the thrill of gratitude died away, and the possession of his son seemed to Abraham, or that of life seemed to Isaac, a common thing. He was doubly now a child of wonder, born by miracle, delivered by miracle. So is it ever. God gives us back our sacrifices, tinged with a new beauty, and purified from earthly alloy.

We never know how sweet our blessings are till we have yielded them to Him. ‘There is no man that hath left’ anything or any person for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s who will not ‘receive a hundred-fold more in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.’

Lastly, Abraham was rewarded by being made a faint adumbration, for all time, of the yet more wondrous and awful love of the divine Father, who, for our sakes, has surrendered His only-begotten Son, whom He loved. Paul quotes the very words of this chapter when he says: ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.’ Such thoughts carry us into dim regions, in which, perhaps, silence is best. Did some shadow of loss and pain pass over the divine all-sufficiency and joy, when He sent His Son? Was the unresisting innocence of the son a far-off likeness of the willing eagerness of the sinless Sufferer who chose to die? Was the resolved surrender of the father a faint prelude of the deep divine love which gave His only Son for us? Shall we not say, ‘Now I know that Thou lovest me, because Thou hast not withheld Thy Son, Thine only Son, from me’? Shall we not recognise this as the crown of Abraham’s reward, that his act of surrender of his dearest to God, his Friend, has been glorified by being made the mirror of God’s unspeakable gift of His Son to us, His enemies?

Genesis

THE CROWNING TEST AND TRIUMPH OF FAITH

II

The first words of this lesson give the keynote for its meaning. ‘God did prove Abraham’; the strange command was a test of his faith. In recent times the incident has been regarded chiefly as embodying a protest against child-sacrifices, and no doubt that is part of its intention, and their condemnation was part of its effect, but the other is the principal thing. Abraham, as the ‘Father of the Faithful,’ has his faith tested by a series of events from his setting out from Haran, and they culminate in this sharpest of all, the command to slay his son. The life of faith is ever a life of testing, and very often the fire that tries increases in heat as life advances. The worst conflicts are not always at the beginning of the war.

Our best way of knowing ourselves is to observe our own conduct, especially when it is hard to do nobly. We may easily cheat ourselves about what is the basis and ruling motive of our lives, but our actions will show it us. God does not ‘test’ us as if He did not know what was gold and what base metal, but the proving is meant to make clear to others and ourselves what is the worth and strength of our religion. The test is also a means of increasing the faith which it demonstrates, so that the exhortation to ‘count it all joy’ to have faith tried is no overstrained counsel of perfection.

The narrative plainly declares that the command to sacrifice his son was to Abraham unmistakably divine. The explanation that Abraham, living beside peoples who practised child-sacrifice, heard but the voice of his own conscience asking, ‘Canst thou do for Jehovah what these do for Moloch?’ does not correspond to the record. No doubt God does speak through conscience; but what sent Abraham on his terrible journey was a command which he knew did not spring up within, but came to him from above. We may believe or disbelieve the possibility or the actuality of such direct and distinguishable commands from God, but we do not face the facts of this narrative unless we recognise that it asserts that God made His will known to Abraham, and that Abraham knew that it was God’s will, not his own thought.

But is it conceivable that God should ever bid a man commit a crime? To the question put in that bald way, of course there can be but one answer, No. But several conditions have to be taken into account. First, it is conceivable that God should test a man’s willingness to surrender what is most precious to him, and what all his hopes are fixed on; and this command was given with the purpose that it should not be obeyed in fact, if the willingness to obey it was proved. Again, the stage of development of the moral sense at which Abraham stood has to be remembered. The child-sacrifices around him were not regarded as crimes, but as worship, and, while his affections were the same as ours, and his father’s heart was wrung, to slay Isaac did not present itself to him as a crime in the way in which it does so to us. God deals with men on the moral and spiritual level to which they have attained, and, by descending to it, raises them higher.

The purpose of the command was to test faith, even more than to test whether earthly love or heavenly obedience were the stronger. There is a beautiful and instructive climax in the designations of Isaac in Genesis 22:2, where four times he is referred to, ‘thy son, thine only son,’ in whom all the hopes of fulfilment of the divine promise were concentrated, so that, if this fruit from the aged tree were cut off, no other could ever grow; ‘whom thou lovest,’-there the sharp point pierces the father’s heart; ‘even Isaac,’ in which name all the ties that knit him to Abraham are gathered up. Each word heightens the greatness of the sacrifice demanded, and is a fresh thrust of the dagger into Abraham’s very life. Each suggests a reason for not slaying Isaac, which sense might plead. God does not hide the painfulness of surrender from us. The more precious the treasure is, the more are we bound to lay it on the altar. But it was Abraham’s faith even more than his love that was tested. The Epistle to the Hebrews lays hold on this as the main element in the trial, that he who ‘had received the promises’ was called to do what seemed to blast all hope of their being fulfilled. What a cruel position to have God’s command and God’s promise apparently in diametrical opposition! But faith loosened even that seemingly inextricable tangle of contradiction, and felt that to obey was for man, and to keep His promise was for God. If we do our duty, He will see to the consequences. ‘Tis mine to obey; ‘tis His to provide.’

Nothing in literature is more tenderly touched or more truly imagined than that long, torturing journey-Abraham silent, Isaac silently wondering, the servants silently following. And, like a flash, at last ‘the place’ was seen afar off. How calmly Abraham speaks to the two followers, mastering his heart’s throbbing even then! ‘We will worship, and come again to you’-was that a ‘pious fraud’ or did it not rather indicate that a ray of hope, like pale light from a shrouded sun, shone for him? He ‘accounted that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.’ Somehow, he knew not how, Isaac slain was still to live and inherit the promises. Anything was possible, but that God’s word should fail was impossible. That picture of the father and son alone, the one bearing the wood, the other the fire and the knife, exchanging no word but once, when the innocent wonder of Isaac’s question must have shaken Abraham’s steadfastness, and made it hard for him to steady his voice to answer, touches the deepest springs of pity and pathetic sublimity. But the answer is in the same spirit as that to the servants, and indicates the same hope. ‘God will provide Himself a lamb, my son.’ He does not know definitely what he expects; he is ready to slay Isaac, but his faith is not quenched, though the end seems so inevitable and near. Faith was never more sharply tested, and never more triumphantly stood the test.

The divine solution of the riddle was kept back till the last moment, as it usually is. The place is slowly reached, the hill slowly climbed, the altar built, the unresisting Isaac bound {with what deep thoughts in each, who can tell?}, the steady hand holding the glittering knife lifted-a moment more and it will be red with heart’s blood, and not till then does God speak. It is ever so. The trial has ‘its perfect work.’ Faith is led to the edge of the precipice, one step farther and all is over. Then God speaks, all but just too late, and yet ‘right early.’ The willingness to make the sacrifice is tested to the utmost, and being proved, the sacrifice is not required.

Abraham had said to Isaac, ‘God will provide a lamb,’ and the word ‘provide’ is that which appears in the name he gave to the place-Jehovah-jireh. The name, then, commemorated, not the servant’s faith but the Lord’s mercy, and the spirit of it was embodied in what became a popular saying, ‘In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ If faith dwells there, its surrenders will be richly rewarded. How much more dear was Isaac to Abraham as they journeyed back to Beersheba! And whatever we lay on God’s altar comes back a ‘hundred-fold more in this life,’ and brings in the world to come life everlasting.Genesis 22:1. Here is the trial of Abraham’s grace, and especially of his faith, whether it continued so strong, so vigorous, so victorious, after a long settlement in communion with God, as it was at first, when by it he left his country: then it appeared that he loved God better than his father; now, that he loved him better than his son. After these things — After all the other exercises he had had, all the difficulties he had gone through: now perhaps he was beginning to think the storms were blown over; but, after all, this encounter comes, which was sharper than any yet. God did tempt Abraham — Not to draw him to sin, so Satan tempts; but did try him, as the word here used signifies, to discover his graces, how strong they were, that they might be “found to praise, and honour, and glory.” Behold, here am I — What saith my Lord unto his servant? Probably he expected some renewed promise, like those, Genesis 15:1; Genesis 17:1; but to his great amazement that which God hath to say to him is in short, Abraham, go, sacrifice thy son — And this command is given him in such aggravating language as makes the temptation abundantly more grievous, every word being as “a sword in his bones.” Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that he should afflict? No, it is not; yet when Abraham’s faith is to be tried, God seems to take pleasure in the aggravation of the trial.22:1,2 We never are secure from trials In Hebrew, to tempt, and to try, or to prove, are expressed by the same word. Every trial is indeed a temptation, and tends to show the dispositions of the heart, whether holy or unholy. But God proved Abraham, not to draw him to sin, as Satan tempts. Strong faith is often exercised with strong trials, and put upon hard services. The command to offer up his son, is given in such language as makes the trial more grievous; every word here is a sword. Observe, 1. The person to be offered: Take thy son; not thy bullocks and thy lambs. How willingly would Abraham have parted with them all to redeem Isaac! Thy son; not thy servant. Thine only son; thine only son by Sarah. Take Isaac, that son whom thou lovest. 2. The place: three days' journey off; so that Abraham might have time to consider, and might deliberately obey. 3. The manner: Offer him fro a burnt-offering; not only kill his son, his Isaac, but kill him as a sacrifice; kill him with all that solemn pomp and ceremony, with which he used to offer his burnt-offerings.Returned unto the land of the Philistines. - Beer-sheba was on the borders of the land of the Philistines. Going therefore to Gerar, they returned into that land. In the transactions with Hagar and with Abimelek, the name God is employed, because the relation of the Supreme Being with these parties is more general or less intimate than with the heir of promise. The same name, however, is used in reference to Abraham and Sarah, who stand in a twofold relation to him as the Eternal Potentate, and the Author of being and blessing. Hence, the chapter begins and ends with Yahweh, the proper name of God in communion with man. "Eshel is a field under tillage" in the Septuagint, and a tree in Onkelos. It is therefore well translated a grove in the King James Version, though it is rendered "the tamarisk" by many. The planting of a grove implies that Abraham now felt he had a resting-place in the land, in consequence of his treaty with Abimelek. He calls upon the name of the Lord with the significant surname of the God of perpetuity, the eternal, unchangeable God. This marks him as the "sure and able" performer of his promise, as the everlasting vindicator of the faith of treaties, and as the infallible source of the believer's rest and peace. Accordingly, Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days.

- Abraham Was Tested

2. מריה morı̂yâh, "Moriah"; Samaritan: מוראה môr'âh; "Septuagint," ὑψηλή hupsēlē, Onkelos, "worship." Some take the word to be a simple derivative, as the Septuagint and Onkelos, meaning "vision, high, worship." It might mean "rebellious." Others regard it as a compound of יה yâh, "Jah, a name of God," and מראה mı̂r'eh, "shown," מורה môreh, "teacher," or מורא môrā', "fear."

14. יראה yı̂r'ēh, "Jireh, will provide."

16, נאם ne'um, ῥῆμα rēma, "dictum, oracle; related: speak low."

21. בוּז bûz, "Buz, scoffing." קמוּאל qemû'ēl, "Qemuel, gathered of God."

22. חזו chăzô, "Chazo, vision." פלדשׁ pı̂ldâsh, "Pildash, steelman? wanderer?" ידלף yı̂dlâp, "Jidlaph; related: trickle, weep." בתוּאל betû'ēl, "Bethuel, dwelling of God."

23. רבקה rı̂bqâh, "Ribqah, noose."

24. ראוּמה re'ûmâh, "Reumah, exalted." טבה ṭebach, "Tebach, slaughter." גחם gacham, "Gacham, brand." תחשׁ tachash, "Tachash, badger or seal." <מעכה ma‛ăkâh, "Ma'akah; related: press, crush."

The grand crisis, the crowning event in the history of Abraham, now takes place. Every needful preparation has been made for it. He has been called to a high and singular destiny. With expectant acquiescence he has obeyed the call. By the delay in the fulfillment of the promise, he has been taught to believe in the Lord on his simple word. Hence, as one born again, he has been taken into covenant with God. He has been commanded to walk in holiness, and circumcised in token of his possessing the faith which purifieth the heart. He has become the intercessor and the prophet. And he has at length become the parent of the child of promise. He has now something of unspeakable worth, by which his spiritual character may be thoroughly tested. Since the hour in which he believed in the Lord, the features of his resemblance to God have been shining more and more through the darkness of his fallen nature - freedom of resolve, holiness of walk, interposing benevolence, and paternal affection. The last prepares the way for the highest point of moral likeness.

Verse 1-19

God tests Abraham's unreserved obedience to his will. "The God." The true, eternal, and only God, not any tempter to evil, such as the serpent or his own thoughts. "Tempted Abraham." To tempt is originally to try, prove, put to the test. It belongs to the dignity of a moral being to be put to a moral probation. Such assaying of the will and conscience is worthy both of God the assayer, and of man the assayed. "Thine only one." The only one born of Sarah, and heir of the promise. "Whom thou lovest." An only child gathers round it all the affections of the parent's heart. "The land of Moriah." This term, though applied in 2 Chronicles 3:1 to the mount on which the temple of Solomon was built, is here the name of a country, containing, it may be, a range of mountains or other notable place to which it was especially appropriated. Its formation and meaning are very doubtful, and there is nothing in the context to lend us any aid in its explanation. It was evidently known to Abraham before he set out on his present journey. It is not to be identified with Moreh in Genesis 12:6, as the two names occur in the same document, and, being different in form, they naturally denote different things. Moreh is probably the name of a man. Moriah probably refers to some event that had occurred in the land, or some characteristic of its inhabitants. If a derivative, like בריה porı̂yâh, "fruitful," it may mean the land of the rebellious, a name not inapposite to any district inhabited by the Kenaanites, who were disposed to rebellion themselves Genesis 14:4, or met with rebellion from the previous inhabitants. If a compound of the divine name, Jah, whatever be the other element, it affords an interesting trace of the manifestation and worship of the true God under the name of Jab at some antecedent period. The land of Moriah comprehended within its range the population to which Melkizedec ministered as priest.

And offer him for a burnt-offering. - Abraham must have felt the outward inconsistency between the sacrifice of his son, and the promise that in him should his seed be called. But in the triumph of faith he accounted that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. On no other principle can the prompt, mute, unquestioning obedience of Abraham be explained. Human sacrifice may have been not unknown; but this in no way met the special difficulty of the promise. The existence of such a custom might seem to have smoothed away the difficulty of a parent offering the sacrifice of a son. But the moral difficulty of human sacrifice is not so removed. The only solution of this, is what the ease itself actually presents; namely, the divine command. It is evident that the absolute Creator has by right entire control over his creatures. He is no doubt bound by his eternal rectitude to do no wrong to his moral creatures. But the creature in the present case has forfeited the life that was given, by sin. And, moreover, we cannot deny that the Almighty may, for a fit moral purpose, direct the sacrifice of a holy being, who should eventually receive a due recompense for such a degree of voluntary obedience. This takes away the moral difficulty, either as to God who commands, or Abraham who obeys. Without the divine command, it is needless to say that it was not lawful for Abraham to slay his son.

Upon one of the hills of which I will tell thee. - This form of expression dearly shows that Moriah was not at that time the name of the particular hill on which the sacrifice was to be offered. It was the general designation of the country in which was the range of hills on one of which the solemn transaction was to take place. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning." There is no hesitation or lingering in the patriarch. If this has to be done, let it be done at once.

CHAPTER 22

Ge 22:1-19. Offering Isaac.

1. God did tempt Abraham—not incite to sin (Jas 1:13), but try, prove—give occasion for the development of his faith (1Pe 1:7).

and he said, … Here I am—ready at a moment's warning for God's service.God tempts Abraham, Genesis 22:1; to sacrifice Isaac, Genesis 22:2. He readily goes about it, Genesis 22:3-6. Isaac’s question, Genesis 22:7. Abraham’s answer, Genesis 22:8. They come to the place; he binds Isaac; lays him on the altar; takes the knife, Genesis 22:9,10. The Lord sees his integrity, and forbids him, Genesis 22:11,12. A ram caught, and offered in the stead of Isaac, Genesis 22:13. The name of the place, Jehovah-jireh, Genesis 22:14. The Lord calls a second time, Genesis 22:15; swears by himself; confirms his promise to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 22:16-18. Abraham returns to Beer-sheba, Genesis 22:19. The posterity of his brother Nahor, Genesis 22:20-24.

After the accomplishment of God’s promises made to Abraham, and especially of that promise concerning the blessed Seed, when now he seemed to be in a most prosperous and secure condition, he meets with a severe exercise from God,

God did tempt Abraham. The word tempt is ambiguous, and signifies either,

1. To entice to sin, in which sense devils and wicked men are said to tempt others, but God tempts no man, Jam 1:13. Or,

2. To prove or try, and in this sense God is said to tempt men. See Deu 8:2 13:3 Judges 2:22. Thus God tempted Abraham, i.e. he tried the sincerity and strength of his faith, the universality and constancy of his obedience, and this for God’s great honour, and Abraham’s great glory and comfort, and for the church’s benefit in all following ages.

Beheld, here I am; an expression signifying a man’s attentive hearing what is said to him, and his readiness to execute it, as Genesis 22:7,11 Ge 27:1 1 Samuel 3:4,6.

And it came to pass after these things,.... Recorded in the preceding chapter: according to the Talmudists (b), the following affair was transacted quickly after the weaning of Isaac, when he was about five years old, which is the opinion of some, as Aben Ezra on Genesis 22:4; makes mention of; but that is an age when it can hardly be thought he should be able to carry such a load of wood as was sufficient to make a fire to consume a burnt offering, Genesis 22:6; the age of thirteen, which he fixes upon, is more likely: Josephus (c) says, that Isaac was twenty five years of age; and in this year of his age Bishop Usher (d) places this transaction, twenty years after the weaning of him, in A. M. 2133, and before Christ 1871; and near to this is the computation of a Jewish chronologer (e), who makes Isaac to be at this time twenty six years of age; but some make him much older: according to the Targum of Jonathan, he was at this time thirty six years old; and it is the more generally received opinion of the Jewish writers (f) that he was and with whom the Arabic writers (g) agree: so that this affair, after related, was thirty years after the weaning of Isaac and the expulsion of Ishmael, supposing Isaac to be then five years old. But, however this be, what came to pass was after many promises of a son had been given him, and those fulfilled; and after many blessings had been bestowed upon him; and when he seemed to be well settled in the land of the Philistines, having entered into an alliance with the king of the country; his family in peace, and his son Isaac, the son of the promise, grown up and a hopeful youth; the first appearance of which seemed to threaten the destruction of all his comforts, hopes, and expectations; and it was so:

that God did tempt Abraham; not to sin, as Satan does, for God tempts no man, nor can he be tempted in this sense; and, had Abraham slain his son, it would have been no sin in him, it being by the order of God, who is the Lord of life, and the sovereign disposer of it; but he tempted him, that is, he tried him, to prove him, and to know his faith in him, his fear of him, his love to him, and cheerful obedience to his commands; not in order to know these himself, which he was not ignorant of, but to make them known to others, and that Abraham's faith might be strengthened yet more and more, as in the issue it was. The Jewish writers (h) observe, that Abraham was tempted ten times, and that this was the tenth and last temptation:

and said unto him, Abraham: calling him by his name he well knew, and by that name he had given him, to signify that he should be the father of many nations, Genesis 17:5; and yet was going to require of him to slay his only son, and offer him a sacrifice to him:

and he said, behold, here I am; signifying that he heard his voice, and was ready to obey his commands, be they what they would.

(b) T. Bab. Sanhedrin: fol. 89. 2.((c) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 13. sect. 2.((d) Annales Vet. Test. p. 10. (e) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 6. 1.((f) Zohar in Gen. fol. 68. 2. & 74. 4. & 76. 2. Targ. Hieros. in Exodus 12.42. Praefat. Echa Rabbat. fol. 40. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 31. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 1. p. 3. Juchasin, fol. 9. 1. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 3. 1. (g) Patricides, p. 19. Elmacinus, p. 34. Apud Hottinger. Smegma, p. 327, &c. (h) Targum. Hieros. in loc. Pirke Eliezer, c. 31.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. after these things] An indefinite note of time referring to Isaac’s birth and the expulsion of Ishmael: cf. Genesis 22:20. See note on Genesis 15:1.

God did prove Abraham] “Prove” in the sense of “make trial of,” cf. Exodus 15:25; Exodus 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16; Psalm 66:10. The A.V. had “tempt,” in the old English sense of “put to the test” = Lat. tentare. On the test of faith and obedience, to which human nature is continually subjected, see the N.T. passages: 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:17; James 1:12-13; 1 Peter 1:6-7. “Deus tentat, ut doceat: diabolus tentat, ut decipiat” (Augustine in Joan. Tract. 30, Serm. 2). It is instructive to compare the “proving” of Abraham, which is here referred directly to God Himself, with the “proving” of Job, which, in chaps. 1 2, is brought about by “the Satan.”

and said unto him] Presumably in a dream during the night; cf. Genesis 22:3, “Abraham rose early”; compare Genesis 19:27, Genesis 20:8, Genesis 21:14.

Here am I] The first instance of this response. Cf. 11, Genesis 27:1.

1–19. From E; but Genesis 22:15-18 are, probably, from another source, possibly R. As a piece of simple and vivid narrative, this passage from E’s narrative is unsurpassed.

SPECIAL NOTE ON THE SACRIFICE OF ISAAC

This episode occupies an important place in the religious teaching of Genesis. It is (1) the crowning test applied to the faith of the patriarch Abraham, and (2) the supreme example of the difference between the God who revealed Himself to the patriarchs, and the gods of the nature-religions of the Semitic peoples.

It has, however, raised difficulties in the minds of many readers, who have been unable to reconcile the command to offer Isaac for a burnt-offering with their conception of a good God. The following points deserve, in this connexion, a careful consideration.

1. Human Sacrifice. This was a religious custom widely prevalent among the ancient Semites.

(a) The Israelites. Besides the present passage, there are to be found in the Pentateuch several passages strongly condemnatory of the usage (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 20:5; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10). But it is evident from the instances of Jephthah’s daughter (Jdg 11:29 ff.), and of Hiel’s sons (1 Kings 16:34) that the practice was not easily eradicated. The prophets denounced it: “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7). In the dark days of the later kings, and subsequently, we gather that the people shewed an evil tendency to revert to this barbarity (see 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Ezekiel 20:26; Ezekiel 23:37 : cf. Psalm 106:37-38).

It hardly admits of doubt that the ancient laws of Israel, by which the firstborn were dedicated to God (Exodus 22:29), and by which an animal was to be sacrificed in order to redeem the firstborn son (Exodus 34:20), point back to the custom of an earlier age, in which the primitive Hebrews had practised the sacrifice of the firstborn. The redemption of the firstborn with a lamb at the Feast of the Passover (Exodus 13:12-15) has been considered by some to be traceable to a similar origin.

(b) Other Nations. Instances of the practice in connexion with Moloch worship are mentioned in passages quoted above from the O.T. Mesha, the king of Moab, in order to propitiate his god, Chemosh, and obtain the defeat of the Israelite invaders, sacrificed his eldest son (2 Kings 3:27). In 2 Kings 17:31 “the Sepharvites” are said to “have burnt their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.”

The excavations, carried out in recent years at Gezer, Megiddo, and Taanach, have shewn that the practice was followed by “the primitive Semitic inhabitants of Palestine, and even, at least at Megiddo, in the Israelite period” (Driver’s Schweich Lectures, pp. 68, 69).

There is evidence to shew that human sacrifice prevailed from the earliest times in Egypt, though the victims may generally have been taken from the ranks of the enemy (cf. Handcock, p. 75, quoting Budge’s Osiris, pp. 197 ff.).

2. The Command to sacrifice Isaac. We may assume, then, that in Abraham’s time the religious custom of human sacrifice prevailed among the peoples of the land. We have to think of the patriarch as he was, as a man of his own time and race. God spoke to him in language that he could understand. God proved his faith by a test, which, horrible as it sounds to our ears, was consonant with the feelings and traditions he had inherited from his forefathers. The command to sacrifice Isaac, in the year 2100 b.c., would not have suggested anything outrageous or abominable, as it does to our minds. We must remember that, startling as it may appear, it would have seemed to the ancient inhabitants of Palestine far more wonderful that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, than that He should have given the order for its being offered. The command to sacrifice his son corresponded to the true religious instinct to offer up his best and highest.

3. The Triumph of Abraham’s Faith. We are told that “God did prove Abraham.” In the presence of the people of the land who practised this custom, would not conscience, the voice of God, again and again have whispered: “thou art not equal to the supremest surrender; thou art not prepared to give up ‘thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac’ ”? The command, then, to offer up Isaac came as a threefold test of faith: (i) did Abraham love and obey his God as sincerely as the heathen around him loved and obeyed their gods? (ii) did he, in the conflict of emotions, put his affection for his son before his love for his God? (iii) could he himself undertake to obey a command of his God, which was in direct conflict with that same God’s repeated promises that in Isaac should his name be called1[20]? It was this last which constituted the most acute trial of Abraham’s faith. But he stood the test; and in the surrender of everything, will, affections, hope, and reason, he simply obeyed, trusting, that, as a son had been granted to him in his old age, when he was as good as one dead, so, in God’s good providence, His promises would yet somehow be fulfilled, and Isaac would live.

[20] Cf. “Nam quasi Deus secum ipse pugnet, puerum ad mortem postulat, in quo spem aeternae salutis proposuit. Itaque hoc posterius mandatum quidam erat fidei interitus” (Calvin).

The completeness of this faith was tested up to the moment when his hand was outstretched to commit the fatal act.

4. The Nature of God. The prohibition of the sacrifice of Isaac proclaimed a fundamental contrast between the God of Abraham and the gods of the nations round about. The knowledge of the God of Abraham was progressive: there was continually more to be learned of His Will and Nature. It was now shewn that human sacrifice could not any longer be thought to be acceptable to Him.

There was a true element in sacrifice which in Abraham’s case had been tested to the uttermost. This was the surrender of the will and of the heart to God. The spirit of the offerer, not the material of the offering is the essence of sacrifice. This is the anticipation of Israelite prophecy (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11 ff.; Jeremiah 6:20; Amos 5:21).

There was a false element in the current conceptions of sacrifice, which tended to make its efficacy depend upon material quantity and cost. In the case of a human offering, the suffering, bereavement, and agony, mental and physical, seemed only to augment its value. The Deity that required to be propitiated with human life, was capricious, insatiable and savage. This hideous delusion about God’s Nature was finally to be dissipated. God had no pleasure in suffering or in death, in themselves. God was a God of love. Life should be dedicated unto Him, not in cruelty, but in service.

Sacrifice in the Chosen Family was to be free from the taint of this practice. The substitution of an animal for a human victim was to be the reminder of a transition to a higher phase of morality. The Revelation of the Law of Love was to be traced back by the devout Israelite to the Patriarchal Era, and to the religious experience of Abraham, the founder of the race. The Episode is a spiritual Parable.

5. The Rights of the Individual. Among ancient Semitic peoples the rights of the individual were merged in those of the family or the tribe. Life and death were in the hands of the father. Isaac possessed no rights of his own. The same Revelation, that prohibited his sacrifice, proclaimed that every one born in the image of God had individual and inalienable rights and duties. Human personality had a sanctity and a freedom of its own. True sacrifice implied the surrender of self, not of another. The substitution of the ram was the memorial of the abrogation of an inhuman system, which disregarded mercy and outraged humanity.

6. References in O.T., Apocrypha, and N.T. There appears to be no other mention in the O.T. of the sacrifice of Isaac. Some have needlessly supposed it is alluded to in Isaiah 41:8, “Abraham my friend”; cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7. There is probably a reference to it in Sir 44:20, “And when he was proved he was found faithful.” Cf. Wis 10:5, “Wisdom knew the righteous man … and kept him strong when his heart yearned toward his child.” 1Ma 2:52, “Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation?” 4Ma 16:18-20, “Remember that for the sake of God ye have come into the world …; for whom also our father Abraham made haste to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our nation; and Isaac, seeing his father’s hand lifting the knife against him, did not shrink.” In the N.T. it is twice mentioned: Hebrews 11:17 ff., “By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; even he to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead; from whence he did also in a parable receive him back.” James 2:21, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?”

7. Jewish Tradition found a fertile subject in the ‘aḳêdah, or binding, of Isaac. The following passage from the Targum of Palestine is a good example of Haggadah (i.e. legend, or explanatory tradition): “And they came to the place of which the Lord had told him. And Abraham builded there the altar which Adam had built, which had been destroyed by the waters of the deluge, which Noah had again builded, and which had been destroyed in the age of divisions [i.e. the dispersion of the peoples]. And he set the wood in order upon it, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And Isaac answered and said to his father, Bind me properly, lest I tremble from the affliction of my soul, and be cast into the pit of destruction, and there be found profaneness in thy offering. Now the eyes of Abraham looked on the eyes of Isaac; but the eyes of Isaac looked towards the angels on high, and Isaac beheld them, but Abraham saw them not. And the angels answered on high, Come, behold how these solitary ones who are in the world kill the one the other; he who slays delays not; he who is to be slain reacheth forth his neck. And the Angel of the Lord called to him, &c.”

“According to Jose ben Zimra, the idea of tempting Abraham was suggested by Satan who said, ‘Lord of the Universe! Here is a man whom thou hast blessed with a son at the age of one hundred years, and yet, amidst all his feasts, he did not offer thee a single dove or young pigeon for a sacrifice’ (Sanh. 87b; Gen. R. lv.). In Jose ben Zimra’s opinion, the ‘aḳedah took place immediately after Isaac’s weaning. This however is not the general opinion. According to the Rabbis, the ‘aḳedah not only coincided with, but was the cause of the death of Sarah, who was informed of Abraham’s intention while he and Isaac were on the way to Mount Moriah. Therefore Isaac must then have been thirty-seven years old (Seder ‘Olam Rabbah, ed. Ratner, p. 6; Pirke R. El. xxxi.; Tanna debe Eliyahu R. xxvii.).” Jewish Encycl. s.v. Isaac.

“The Jews implore the mercy of God by the sacrifice of Isaac, as Christians by the sacrifice of Christ” (Mayor, Ep. James, p. 97). The merits of Isaac’s submission were regarded as abounding to the credit of the whole race; e.g. “For the merit of Isaac who offered himself upon the altar, the Holy One, blessed be He, will hereafter raise the dead” (Pesikta Rab. Kahana, p. 200, ed. Buber).

8. Patristic References. In the Fathers, the story was seized upon for purposes of Christian allegory. Isaac is the type of Christ who offers Himself a willing sacrifice. The ram caught in the thicket is the type of Christ fastened to the wood of the cross. Thus according to Procopius of Gaza, the words of the Angel, “seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son,” imply, “neither will I spare my beloved Son for thy sake. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son … (John 3:16). Wherefore also Paul did greatly marvel at His goodness, saying, ‘Who spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all’ ” (Romans 8:32). His note on “the ram” is: “Aries mactatus ab interitu redemit Isaacum; sic Dominus occisus salvavit nos ab impendente aeterna morte” (ed. Migne, P. G. 87, Pars i. p. 391).

Primasius: “Occisus est Isaac quantum ad voluntatem patris pertinet. Deinde redonavit illum Deus patriarchae in parabola, id est, in figura et similitudine passionis Christi … Aries significabat carnem Christi. Isaac oblatus est et non est interfectus sed aries tantum; quia Christus in passione oblatus est, sed divinitas illius impassibilis mansit” (quoted by Westcott, Ep. Hebrews 11:19).

The earliest reference occurs in the Epistle of Barnabas: “Seeing that there is a commandment in scripture, Whosoever shall not observe the fast shall surely die, the Lord commanded, because He was in His own person about to offer the vessel of His Spirit a sacrifice for our sins, that the type also which was given in Isaac who was offered upon the altar should be fulfilled” (chap. 7). Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers. p. 251.

Irenaeus speaks of Abraham as “having with a willing mind yielded up his own only-begotten and beloved son as a sacrifice to God, in order that God also might be well pleased, on behalf of his seed, to grant His own only-begotten and beloved Son as a sacrifice with a view to our redemption” (ed. Stieren, i. p. 572).

St Augustine compares Isaac bearing the wood for the sacrifice with Christ bearing His cross; while the ram, caught in the thicket, typifies Jesus crowned with thorns: “Propterea et Isaac, sicut Dominus crucem suam, ita sibi ligna ad victimae locum quibus fuerat imponendus ipse portavit … Postremo quia Isaac occidi non oportebat, posteaquam est pater ferire prohibitus, quis erat ille aries, quo immolato impletum est significativo sanguine sacrificium? Nempe quando eum vidit Abraham, cornibus in frutice tenebatur. Quis ergo illo figurabatur, nisi Jesus, antequam immolaretur, spinis Judaicis coronatus?” (Aug. De Civ. Dei, xvi. c. 32).Verse 1. - 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 Vers. 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 Ver. 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; Deuteronomy 13:3; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Psalm 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). Abimelech's Treaty with Abraham. - Through the divine blessing which visibly attended Abraham, the Philistine king Abimelech was induced to secure for himself and his descendants the friendship of a man so blessed; and for that purpose he went to Beersheba, with his captain Phicol, to conclude a treaty with him. Abraham was perfectly ready to agree to this; but first of all he complained to him about a well which Abimelech's men had stolen, i.e., had unjustly appropriated to themselves. Abimelech replied that this act of violence had never been made known to him till that day, and as a matter of course commanded the well to be returned. After the settlement of this dispute the treaty was concluded, and Abraham presented the king with sheep and oxen, as a material pledge that he would reciprocate the kindness shown, and live in friendship with the king and his descendants. Out of this present he selected seven lambs and set them by themselves; and when Abimelech inquired what they were, he told him to take them from his hand, that they might be to him (Abraham) for a witness that he had digged the well. It was not to redeem the well, but to secure the well as his property against any fresh claims on the part of the Philistines, that the present was given; and by the acceptance of it, Abraham's right of possession was practically and solemnly acknowledged.
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