The journey to Moriah. — V.1. 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. After these happenings at Beersheba God tempted, or tested, Abraham, not by giving him an occasion to sin, Jas. 1, 13, but by trying his faith as to its soundness and strength. Upon the Lord’s calling to him, probably in a dream-vision, Abraham promptly signifies his eagerness to hear. V.2. And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. The Lord makes His proposal with deliberate, detailed emphasis. Abraham was to take his son, not Ishmael, but his only son, the darling of his old age, the one whom he loved dearly, namely, Isaac. Him he was to offer up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah, the mountain range in the neighborhood of what was afterward Jerusalem, on one of the mountains which the Lord would indicate to him. V.3. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac, his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him. There is not a word about excitement or turmoil in the heart of Abraham. Quietly and deliberately he made his preparations for a literal fulfillment of God’s command, girding the beast that was to bear the wood for the sacrifice and the food for the trip, ordering two of his young men, probably house-slaves, to accompany him, even splitting the wood which he would need for the sacrifice, and then setting out for Moriah. He did not consult with flesh and blood, for his faith was active in obedience. V.4. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place a far off. The distance from Beersheba to Jerusalem was forty-five to fifty miles and therefore required about two and one-half days of steady traveling. V.5. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. Although the servants of Abraham were devoted to him, they were hardly prepared to witness the scene which would be enacted on the mountain that lay before them. In spite of the fact that the outcome of his act of worship was hidden from Abraham, his faith clung to the promise of the Lord, accounting that God was able to raise up Isaac, even from the dead, Heb. 11, 17–19. For that reason he confidently says: We shall return to you. True faith trusts in God even when He seems harsh and angry, when the believer feels only His displeasure in his heart; for it is an easy matter for God to replace everything that He sees fit to take away, to bring back even that which was lost. V.6. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac, his son; and he took the fire in his hand and a knife; and they went both of them together. Abraham personally carried the knife for the slaughter and the fire, a glimmering coal or a bit of tinder wood in a kettle, while he laid the wood on Isaac, who thus became the type of the immeasurably greater sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who likewise bore the wood of His cross willingly and patiently and bore our sins in His body on the cross. V.7. And Isaac spake unto Abraham, his father, and said, My father; and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Isaac broke the oppressive silence with a question of childish curiosity. He had noted that everything else had been provided, but the absence of a sheep, a lamb, or a kid which was to serve for the sacrifice caused him to ask. Naturally, the innocent question must have increased the distress of Abraham considerably; but with unwavering steadfastness he walked on. V.8. And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering. So they went both of them together. It was not Abraham’s intention, as Luther remarks, to torture his son with the details of the divine command; and the quiet answer of his father satisfied Isaac.
The interference of God. — V.9. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac, his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. The detailed narrative again calls attention to the strict obedience of Abraham: the building of the altar, the laying in order of the proper amount of wood for consuming the offering, the binding of Isaac, who is here again designated as his son, and the placing of him on the altar. V.10. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. This is the climax, the most dramatic moment of the story: Isaac as a patient sacrifice, knowing himself to be the burnt offering which the Lord had provided, and the father ready to slaughter his son. V.11. And the Angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! And he said, Here am I. V.12. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me. The Angel of the Lord in the special sense of the word, the Son of God, is here again in evidence, interfering just in time to save the life of Isaac. God had now, by the most severe test which could have been devised, obtained evidence, made manifest by evident proof, discovered by actual experiment, that fearing God Abraham was, that this was the attitude of his mind and heart, since he had not spared even his only son for the sake of his obedience to God. Here also the type of Isaac as foreshadowing the greater sacrifice of the New Testament is emphasized, Rom. 8, 32. V.13. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. God here directed the attention of Abraham to the ram in the background, overlooked by him till now, caught in the thicket on the mountainside with his long, crooked horns. Acting upon the suggestion, he made the ram the sacrificial animal in the stead of his son Isaac, the ram thus, as in many of the later sacrifices, being the symbolical representation, taking the place of him who was destined to die. That fact also gave the great value to the sacrifice of Christ, for it was made for us, in our stead. V.14. And 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. As Abraham applied to the place of his sacrifice a name which means “the Lord will see or provide,” 5) [Footnote text: Yahweh Yireh seems to be the equivalent of the Babylonian Bel-En-Urta, as it is called in the Amarna letters. (Amer. Journal of Archeology, Vol. XXVI, 1922, 97.) ] so men afterward had a proverbial saying based upon this happening, “on the hill where Jehovah is manifested, or revealed,” from which the name Moriah originated.
The blessing of the Lord repeated. — V.15. And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, v.16. and said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, v.17. that in 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 seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; v.18. and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. A solemn declaration and prophecy, supported by the strongest oath which the Lord may swear, by Himself. The extent of the promise, which points forward to a numberless progeny, to the complete overthrow of all enemies, and especially to the fact that in his Seed, in the one great Seed of the woman, all nations of the earth should be blessed, precludes the understanding of a mere temporal blessing. It is chiefly to this blessing that St. Paul refers when he writes: “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, ‘And to thy Seed,’ which is Christ,” Gal. 3, 16. In Christ all nations of the earth are blessed; in His power the people of God, the spiritual descendants of Abraham, conquer all their enemies. That is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. V.19. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham dwelt at Beersheba. Abraham’s faith had been fully vindicated; his trust had been rewarded in a most wonderful manner. He now, with Isaac, returned to the place where his servants were waiting for him, and together they journeyed back to Beersheba.
The family of Nahor. — V.20. And it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor: v.21. Huz, his first-born, and Buz, his brother, and Kemuel, the father of Aram, v.22. and Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel. V.23. And Bethuel begat Rebekah; these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. V.24. And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah. Of these children of Nahor, Buz is mentioned Jer. 25, 23 and Job 32, 2, and Maachah Deut. 3, 14; Josh. 12, 5. The others may, in part, have been fathers of tribes later found in Southern Mesopotamia and Northern Arabia, the country where Job and his children afterward lived. But the chief interest of the list is in the fact that it shows the lineage of Rebekah, who was a legal granddaughter of Nahor and the daughter of Isaac’s cousin.