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Son of Abraham

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  • Son of Abraham

    The Genesis 22 account of God commanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac is widely regarded as one of the most perplexing passages of Scripture. Yet the striking similarities between that event and Jesus’ crucifixion strongly suggest that God was foreshadowing the most significant event of history.


    It is well known that Jesus is referred to as God’s "only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God similarly referred to Isaac as Abraham’s "only son" three times in the account (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16). Although Abraham had an elder son, Ishmael, God had told him: "in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Genesis 21:12). God specifically referred to Isaac as: "thy only son... whom thou lovest" (Genesis 22:2). Similar wording was used at both Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration, when God the Father referred to Him as: "my beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17, 17:5).

    When they approached the place of sacrifice, Isaac asked Abraham: "My Father... where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7).Abraham’s replied: "My son, God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). Two millenia later John the Baptist, seeing Jesus coming toward him, said: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). On the following day John again referred to Christ in the same manner (John 1:36). "The Lamb" is the title most frequently used for Him in the book of Revelation (Revelation 5:6, 5:8, 5:12, 5:13, etc.). He was also likened to a lamb by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7). And the apostles Paul and Peter referred to Him in connection with the lamb of Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7 & 1 Peter 1:19 with Exodus 12:5-6).

    It is significant that Isaac was to be "a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:3, 22:13). The first burnt offerings mentioned in Scripture were those offered by Noah after the flood. The Bible records how thereafter God: "smelled a sweet savour" (Genesis 8:20-21, see also Leviticus 1:9). Using the similar wording, Paul wrote of how Christ has "given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Ephesians 5:2). As Abraham was to "offer" Isaac as an "offering", it was prophesied of Jesus that God would "make his soul an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10). The same language is used in the book of Hebrews concerning Him: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ...Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:14, 28).

    Abraham’s words to his servants when parting from them shows that he expected to return along with Isaac: "...I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5). Abraham trusted God to fulfill the promise to carry on his lineage through Isaac, even if it meant raising him from the dead: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure" (Hebrews 11:17-19). In light of this, it seems significant that Isaac was spared on "the third day" after God commanded that he be offered (Genesis 22:4). For a key component of the gospel is that God raised Christ from the dead on "the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:4).

    As Isaac was bound prior to being offered (Genesis 22:9) the Lord Jesus was bound before being brought to Pilate (Mark 15:1). During the last part of the journey, Abraham "took the wood... and laid it upon Isaac" - the very wood upon which he was to be offered (Genesis 22:6, 9). Likewise Jesus carried the wooden cross upon which He would be crucified (John 19:17) and God the Father "laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). In the biblical record of Abraham placing Isaac on the altar, there is no mention of resistance. Similarly, the Lord Jesus foretold that He would lay down His own life in submission to His Father, saying: "...I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I of My Father" (John 10:18, see also Matthew 26:42).

    Abraham took a knife to slay his son (Genesis 22:10). Sharp instruments were also used at the crucifixion of Jesus: the nails that pierced His hands and feet, and the spear that was thrust into His side (John 19:18, 19:34, 20:25). God commanded that Isaac be slain by his own father. In like manner, although the crucifixion was maliciously devised and carried out by men, Jesus was in fact given over by His Father.

    Peter declared at Pentecost: "[Jesus], being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). When Abraham took the knife, God suddenly intervened to spare Isaac. In contrast, Paul wrote of how God "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Romans 8:32). And as a ram was offered by Abraham "in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:13) Jesus suffered and died instead of us, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).


    After offering the ram, "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" (Genesis 22:14). The name "Jehovah-jireh" is very significant. The Hebrew word jireh (**רי) is the same word used later in the verse: "In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen". This word was also used earlier in the account when Abraham told Isaac: "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). Therefore jireh literally means "see" and implies "provide" - similar to how it’s said in English: "I will look after the food." So Abraham essentially called the place: God will provide. And it was said even in the Genesis-author’s day: "In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen [or provided]" (Genesis 22:14). This raises two important questions:

    What would be provided/seen at that place? And where was "that place"?

    In response to the first question: It is most reasonable to assume that what would be provided was that which was previously referred to using the same Hebrew word: "God will provide (*ארי) himself a lamb" (Genesis 22:8). Interestingly, it was specifically a ram which was provided rather than "a lamb" (a lamb is a young sheep, while a ram is an older sheep). As mentioned, John the Baptist twice said of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 1:36). Since "behold" and "see" are synonyms, John basically said: "See the Lamb of God."

    In answer to the second question: "that place" was in "the land of Moriah... upon one of the mountains" (Genesis 22:2) and was later referred to as: "the mount of the LORD" (Genesis 22:14). There is only one other occurrence in Scripture where the place name Moriah is found: "Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah..." (2 Chronicles 3:1). This mount is easily identifiable to this day, being the mount in Jerusalem where the temple buildings stood. The apostle John, who was eyewitness to Jesus’ sufferings (John 19:26, 19:35), described the location of the crucifixion: "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him..." (John 19:17-18). John also specified that the place of a skull was near to the city of Jerusalem (John 19:20). A rocky hillside just outside Jerusalem’s Old City wall can be visited to this day which bears remarkable resemblance to the likeness of a skull. What is even more fascinating is that it is located on Mount Moriah, near the summit. It is therefore not unlikely that God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac at the very place where He would ultimately offer His own Son for the sin of the world.

    The Lord Jesus once startled His listeners in saying: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). What was Jesus referring to, which Abraham "saw"? Remembering that it was said prophetically: "In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen" (Genesis 22:14), Abraham quite possibly foresaw the redeeming work by which Christ would save His people (including Abraham himself) from their sins. Yet Jesus’ audience replied cynically, saying: "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" (John 8:57). He responded: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Here, Jesus not only declared that He pre-existed Abraham who had lived nearly two thousand years earlier, He also took for Himself the name of God as revealed to Moses: "I AM" (see Exodus 3:14). His Jewish listeners recognized that He was proclaiming Himself to be God, and therefore took up stones to kill Him, assuming this to be blasphemy (John 8:58).


    In the first verse of the book of Matthew, Jesus is given the title: "the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). He is similarly identified as the "seed" of Abraham in Galatians 3:16 - a nearly synonymous expression (in certain contexts "seed" speaks of a collective group, and in others it speaks of an individual). God mentioned Abraham’s seed three times when He blessed him for his obedience concerning Isaac. The first instance refers to a multitude, while in the second and third it refers to one distinct person. God promised: " 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; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:17-18). The "seed" in whom all nations of the earth would be blessed is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus, as shown by Peter in his address to fellow Israelites: "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:25-26). Therefore God sent Jesus to bless the nation of Israel with repentance, and thereby began to fulfil His promise: that in Christ, the seed of Abraham, all nations of the earth would be blessed.

    The harrowing account of Abraham nearly offering Isaac provides a graphic example of what it really meant for God to offer Christ for our sins. Though God spared Abraham’s son Isaac, He did not spare His own... "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

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