The Sacrifice of Isaac

1 Some time after these things God tested1 Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” Abraham2 replied. 2 God3 said, “Take your son – your only son, whom you love, Isaac4and go to the land of Moriah!5 Offer him up there as a burnt offering6 on one of the mountains which I will indicate to7 you.”

3 Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.8 He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out9 for the place God had spoken to him about.

4 On the third day Abraham caught sight of10 the place in the distance. 5 So he11 said to his servants, “You two stay12 here with the donkey while13 the boy and I go up there. We will worship14 and then return to you.”15

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand,16 and the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham,17My father?” “What is it,18 my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said,19but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? 8 God will provide20 for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together.

9 When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there21 and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up22 his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter23 his son. 11 But the Lord’s angel24 called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. 12 Do not harm the boy!”25 the angel said.26Do not do anything to him, for now I know27 that you fear28 God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.”

13 Abraham looked up29 and saw30 behind him31 a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he32 went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord provides.”33 It is said to this day,34In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.”35

15 The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “‘I solemnly swear by my own name,’36 decrees the Lord,37 ‘that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you,38 and I will greatly multiply39 your descendants40 so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession41 of the strongholds42 of their enemies. 18 Because you have obeyed me,43 all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another44 using the name of your descendants.’

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set out together45 for Beer Sheba where Abraham stayed.46

20 After these things Abraham was told, “Milcah47 also has borne children to your brother Nahor 21 Uz the firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (the father of Aram),48 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 23 (Now49 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.) These were the eight sons Milcah bore to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore him children – Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

122:1sn The Hebrew verb used here means “to test; to try; to prove.” In this passage God tests Abraham to see if he would be obedient. See T. W. Mann, The Book of the Torah, 44-48. See also J. L. Crenshaw, A Whirlpool of Torment (OBT), 9-30; and J. I. Lawlor, “The Test of Abraham,” GTJ 1 (1980): 19-35. 222:1tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 322:2tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 422:2sn Take your son…Isaac. The instructions are very clear, but the details are deliberate. With every additional description the commandment becomes more challenging. 522:2sn There has been much debate over the location of Moriah; 2 Chr 3:1 suggests it may be the site where the temple was later built in Jerusalem. 622:2sn A whole burnt offering signified the complete surrender of the worshiper and complete acceptance by God. The demand for a human sacrifice was certainly radical and may have seemed to Abraham out of character for God. Abraham would have to obey without fully understanding what God was about. 722:2tn Heb “which I will say to.” 822:3tn Heb “Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey.” 922:3tn Heb “he arose and he went.” 1022:4tn Heb “lifted up his eyes and saw.” 1122:5tn Heb “And Abraham.” The proper name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) for stylistic reasons. 1222:5tn The Hebrew verb is masculine plural, referring to the two young servants who accompanied Abraham and Isaac on the journey. 1322:5tn The disjunctive clause (with the compound subject preceding the verb) may be circumstantial and temporal. 1422:5tn This Hebrew word literally means “to bow oneself close to the ground.” It often means “to worship.” 1522:5sn It is impossible to know what Abraham was thinking when he said, “we will…return to you.” When he went he knew (1) that he was to sacrifice Isaac, and (2) that God intended to fulfill his earlier promises through Isaac. How he reconciled those facts is not clear in the text. Heb 11:17-19 suggests that Abraham believed God could restore Isaac to him through resurrection. 1622:6sn He took the fire and the knife in his hand. These details anticipate the sacrifice that lies ahead. 1722:7tn The Hebrew text adds “and said.” This is redundant and has not been translated for stylistic reasons. 1822:7tn Heb “Here I am” (cf. Gen 22:1). 1922:7tn Heb “and he said, ‘Here is the fire and the wood.’” The referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here and in the following verse the order of the introductory clauses and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 2022:8tn Heb “will see for himself.” The construction means “to look out for; to see to it; to provide.”sn God will provide is the central theme of the passage and the turning point in the story. Note Paul’s allusion to the story in Rom 8:32 (“how shall he not freely give us all things?”) as well as H. J. Schoeps, “The Sacrifice of Isaac in Paul’s Theology,” JBL 65 (1946): 385-92. 2122:9sn Abraham built an altar there. The theme of Abraham’s altar building culminates here. He has been a faithful worshiper. Will he continue to worship when called upon to make such a radical sacrifice? 2222:9sn Then he tied up. This text has given rise to an important theme in Judaism known as the Aqedah, from the Hebrew word for “binding.” When sacrifices were made in the sanctuary, God remembered the binding of Isaac, for which a substitute was offered. See D. Polish, “The Binding of Isaac,” Jud 6 (1957): 17-21. 2322:10tn Heb “in order to slaughter.” 2422:11sn Heb “the messenger of the Lord” (also in v. 15). Some identify the angel of the Lord as the preincarnate Christ because in some texts the angel is identified with the Lord himself. However, see the note on the phrase “the Lord’s angel” in Gen 16:7. 2522:12tn Heb “Do not extend your hand toward the boy.” 2622:12tn Heb “and he said, ‘Do not extend…’”; the referent (the angel) has been specified in the context for clarity. The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 2722:12sn For now I know. The test was designed to see if Abraham would be obedient (see v. 1). 2822:12sn In this context fear refers by metonymy to obedience that grows from faith. 2922:13tn Heb “lifted his eyes.” 3022:13tn Heb “and saw, and look.” The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) draws attention to what Abraham saw and invites the audience to view the scene through his eyes. 3122:13tc The translation follows the reading of the MT; a number of Hebrew mss, the LXX, Syriac, and Samaritan Pentateuch read “one” (אֶחָד, ’ekhad) instead of “behind him” (אַחַר, ’akhar). 3222:13tn Heb “Abraham”; the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. 3322:14tn Heb “the Lord sees” (יְהוָה יִרְאֶה, yÿhvah yireh, traditionally transliterated “Jehovah Jireh”; see the note on the word “provide” in v. 8). By so naming the place Abraham preserved in the memory of God’s people the amazing event that took place there. 3422:14sn On the expression to this day see B. Childs, “A Study of the Formula ‘Until this Day’,” JBL 82 (1963): 279-92. 3522:14sn The saying connected with these events has some ambiguity, which was probably intended. The Niphal verb could be translated (1) “in the mountain of the Lord it will be seen/provided” or (2) “in the mountain the Lord will appear.” If the temple later stood here (see the note on “Moriah” in Gen 22:2), the latter interpretation might find support, for the people went to the temple to appear before the Lord, who “appeared” to them by providing for them his power and blessings. See S. R. Driver, Genesis, 219. 3622:16tn Heb “By myself I swear.” 3722:16tn Heb “the oracle of the Lord.” The phrase refers to a formal oracle or decree from the Lord. 3822:17tn The use of the infinitive absolute before the finite verbal form (either an imperfect or cohortative) emphasizes the certainty of the blessing. 3922:17tn Here too the infinitive absolute is used for emphasis before the following finite verb (either an imperfect or cohortative).sn I will greatly multiply. The Lord here ratifies his earlier promise to give Abram a multitude of descendants. For further discussion see R. B. Chisholm, “Evidence from Genesis,” A Case for Premillennialism, 35-54. 4022:17tn The Hebrew term זֶרַע (zera’) occurring here and in v. 18 may mean “seed” (for planting), “offspring” (occasionally of animals, but usually of people), or “descendants” depending on the context. 4122:17tn Or “inherit.” 4222:17tn Heb “gate,” which here stands for a walled city. To break through the gate complex would be to conquer the city, for the gate complex was the main area of defense (hence the translation “stronghold”). 4322:18tn In the Hebrew text this causal clause comes at the end of the sentence. The translation alters the word order for stylistic Because you have obeyed me. Abraham’s obedience brought God’s ratification of the earlier conditional promise (see Gen 12:2). 4422:18tn Traditionally the verb is taken as passive (“will be blessed”) here, as if Abraham’s descendants were going to be a channel or source of blessing to the nations. But the Hitpael is better understood here as reflexive/reciprocal, “will bless [i.e., pronounce blessings on] themselves/one another” (see also Gen 26:4). Elsewhere the Hitpael of the verb “to bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 12:2 predicts that Abram will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11. Earlier formulations of this promise (see Gen 12:2; 18:18) use the Niphal stem. (See also Gen 28:14.) 4522:19tn Heb “and they arose and went together.” 4622:19tn Heb “and Abraham stayed in Beer Sheba. This has been translated as a relative clause for stylistic reasons. 4722:20tn In the Hebrew text the sentence begins with הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) which draws attention to the statement. 4822:21sn This parenthetical note about Kemuel’s descendant is probably a later insertion by the author/compiler of Genesis and not part of the original announcement. 4922:23tn The disjunctive clause gives information that is important but parenthetical to the narrative. Rebekah would become the wife of Isaac (Gen 24:15).