A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture
Birth of Isaac and Abraham's Sacrifice
Sara gave birth to a son, as the Lord had promised. He was named Isaac, and
circumcised on the eighth day. Abraham loved this son very tenderly, and the
Lord wished to see whether he loved his son more than God. When the boy had
grown up (1), the Lord said to Abraham: "Take thy only-begotten son Isaac,
whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision, and there thou shalt offer
him (2) for a holocaust (3) upon one of the mountains which I will show thee."
Abraham instantly (4) arose, and by night saddled his ass, taking with him two
young men, and Isaac, his son. And when he had cut the wood for the holocaust,
he went to the place which God had shown him. On the third day he came in sight
of Mount Moria, where he was to sacrifice his son; and he said to the servants:
"Stay you here with the ass; I and the boy will go with speed as far as
yonder, and, after we have worshipped (5), will return to you." Then he
took the wood for the holocaust , and laid it upon the shoulders of Isaac. He
himself carried in his hands fire (6) and a sword. As they went along, Isaac
said: "My father." And Abraham answered: "What wilt thou, son?"
"Behold", said the son, "fire and wood: where is the victim (7)
for the holocaust?" Abraham replied: "God will provide Himself a victim
for the holocaust, my son." So they went on together.
When they reached the top of the mountain, Abraham erected an altar, placed
the wood upon it, bound his son, and laid him on the altar. Then he put forth
his hand and took the sword to sacrifice his son. And behold! an angel from
heaven cried out to him, saying: "Abraham, Abraham!" And he answered:
"here I am." And the angel said: "Lay not thy hand on the boy,
neither do thou anything to him! Now I know that thou fearest God, and hast
not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake." Abraham lifted up his eyes
and saw behind him a ram (8), sticking fast by his horns in the bushes; him
he took and offered, instead of his son. The angel of the Lord spoke again unto
Abraham, saying: "By My own self (9) have I sworn, saith the Lord; because
thou hast done this thing (10), and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for
My sake, I will bless thee, and will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven,
and as the sand that is by the sea-shore. And in thy seed (11) shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed (12) My voice."
And Abraham returned home with his son.
1. Grown up. He was perhaps about twenty or twenty-five years
2. Offer him. Almighty God wished to prove whether his faith were
firm and living, and if he really loved Him above all things.
3. Holocaust. In that kind of sacrifice the victim had to be first
killed, and then wholly burnt.
4. Instantly. Abraham obeyed immediately, although the required
sacrifice tore his heart. Since the destruction of Sodom he had lived at Bersabee
which lay to the south of Hebron. From Bersabee to Mount Moria, which was near
Salem, was about twenty-five miles. It was on this mountain that, in after years,
king Solomon built his splendid Temple.
5. Worshipped. i.e. when they had offered their sacrifice in worship
6. Fire. i.e. red-hot coals in a vessel.
7. Where is the victim? How the father's heart must have bled
at these questions of his son! And what must Isaac have felt, when his father
told him that he himself was to be the victim! He was so young, and now he was
to die by the hand of his own father! Nevertheless, he submitted to God's will,
when he learnt that it was He who had commanded it.
8. Ram. i.e. a male sheep. Abraham saw that it was by the will
of God that the ram was on that spot; so he took him and sacrificed him, instead
of his son.
9. By My own self. God, being the Most High, can swear by nothing
higher than Himself.
10. This thing. i.e. because thou hast obeyed the command of God,
and wert willing to offer up thy son.
11. In thy seed. i.e. in Jesus Christ, who is the son of Abraham
12. Because thou hast obeyed. As a reward for his obedience God
now solemnly repeats the same promise which He had made when He first called
Abraham, that is, the promise of a numerous posterity, and that the Saviour
should be born of his family.
Strength of faith. Abraham's faith was put to a most severe test. Almighty
God had promised him a numerous posterity, and that in his seed all the nations
of the earth should be blessed; and yet now He commands him to sacrifice that
son through whom alone he could have any descendants! Was not this an apparent
contradiction? Nevertheless, Abraham's faith in the word of the Lord was unshaken,
and he doubted neither the goodness nor the faithfulness of God. He did not
murmur and say: "How can God ask of me such a hard and unnatural sacrifice?
How can His promises possibly be fulfilled, if my only son is slain?" No,
on the contrary, he said to himself: "God is good, faithful and true: His
promise will surely be fulfilled, though how, or in what way, I know not!"
God is almighty: He is able to raise up Isaac even from the dead" (Hebr.
11:19). Abraham believed so firmly that he is called a man of faith, and
the father of the faithful. His example ought to lead us to believe firmly in
God's word, and trust in His goodness and faithfulness, whatever our temptations
and trials may be.
The love of God above all things. Abraham had a living faith, that is,
he lived up to his faith, and consequently loved God above all things. His love
of God had to stand a very severe test. He dearly loved the son whom God had
given him, and the command which Almighty God gave him to sacrifice this son,
was given to prove whether he loved God more than his son. Abraham, however,
did not hesitate for an instant. He got up at once in hte middle of the night,
and made his preparations for the required sacrifice. He had interceded for
the wicked cities, but he had no word to say for his son. He travelled along
with the boy for three long days, and his heart must have sorely ached, as he
looked upon Isaac and said to himself: "Very soon you will no longer be
among the living, for you will have died by the hand of your own father!"
However, his resolution never failed. He lifted up his heart to God and said:
"Thou, O God, didst give me this son. Thou hast bidden me sacrifice him
to Thee. So be it! Thy holy will be done! For love of Thee I will sacrifice
him, however hard it be to me!" -- Thus, during those three days' journey
he offered up his son a thousand times on the altar of his heart, before he
actually bound him and laid him as a victim upon the wood, and raised his hand
to slay him. What great, what mighty love! Isaac was dearer to him than anything
on earth, and on him he had set all his hopes; but he loved God more than he
loved Isaac, and for love of Him he offered up his son. He proved that he loved
God above all things.
The object of trials. Why did God try Abraham? Was this trial necessary
to show Him Abraham's dispositions? Did He not know beforehand that Abraham's
faith was firm, and that he was quite ready to sacrifice his son for love of
Him? Yes; God knew all this, because He is omniscient, and for Him, therefore,
the test was not necessary: He need never prove men in order to discover their
faith, obedience, etc. Almighty God did not prove Abraham for His own sake but
for Abraham's, in order to give him the opportunity of practising his virtues
of faith, love, etc. and of thus increasing his merits, and drawing down on
himself fresh graces and blessings. This is why Almighty God so often tries
us with all sorts of sufferings and adversities, these tests being of great
benefit to ourselves.
The third promise of the Messias. The words: "In thy seed shall
all the nations of the earth be blessed", contain a renewed promise of
Isaac, the fifth type of Jesus Christ. (We have already studied the
first four types: Adam, Abel, Noe, and Melchisedech.) In what way was Isaac
a type of our Blessed Lord? The birth of Isaac was promised repeatedly: so was
the coming of Jesus Christ. Isaac was the only and dearly beloved son of his
father: Jesus Christ is the only-begotten and beloved Son of God, in whom His
Father is well pleased. Isaac was obedient to his father, and was willing, out
of obedience, to give up his life, letting himself be bound, and waiting patiently
for his death-stroke: Jesus Christ was obedient to His Heavenly Father, unto
death, even unto the death of the Cross. "As a sheep He was led to the
slaughter, and like a lamb without a voice before his shearer, so opened He
not His mouth." Isaac himself carried up the mountain the wood on which
he was to be slaughtered: Jesus Christ carried up to Calvary thre Cross on which
He was to die. Isaac was saved from death by the wonderful intervention of an
angel: Jesus Christ was brought back to life by the greatest of all miracles,
His resurrection. You see in how many ways Isaac was a most plain type of our
Redeemer, of His death and of His resurrection; but the sacrifice of Isaac,
all the same, is not a perfect type of the Sacrifice of our Lord, for no figure
can perfectly show forth the infinite love of God in giving His son to die for
us. In one main point Isaac's sacrifice was very different from the Sacrifice
of Jesus Christ. Abraham was quite ready, out of love for God, to offer up his
beloved son; but Almighty God would not permit the sacrifice to be completed,
because sinful man could not be redeemed by a human sacrifice; and therefore
the angel of God cried out to him, just as he was going to slay his son: "Hold
thy hand!" God spared the son of Abraham, but He did not spare His own
Son, but gave Him over to a painful death for our sakes. When on Calvary, the
executioners raised their hammers to nail to the Cross the Hands and Feet of
God made Man, no angel cried out: "Hold thy hand!" The Sacrifice was
completed, and the Son of God died for us on the Cross in unutterable agony
of Soul and Body. "God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten
Son, that whoseover believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting"
(John 3, 16).
The Vicarious Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The ram whose head was caught
in the thorns, which was sacrificed instead of Isaac, is a type of Jesus Christ,
who was crowned with thorns, and offered Himself for us on the Cross.
Abraham obeyed without any questioning, when God demanded of him the hardest
of sacrifices. God asks nothing very hard of you, and yet you are often disobedient,
and transgress those commandments which, by the help of His grace, you might
very easily keep. When you disobey your parents, you disobey God, for it is
His will that you should obey your parents and superiors.
Abraham practised the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity
in a most perfect way. Try to kindle them in your own heart. Let us conclude
this lesson by making acts of faith, hope and charity.
Taken from A
Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture by TAN
Books & Publishers, Inc.
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