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A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture

Chapter 13
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 old.
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 of God.
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 (Matt. 1:1).
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 the Redeemer.

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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