{8}         Testing of Abraham (Gen 22—23)


Part J. Abraham’s Old Age (22:1—24:67)

J1.    Testing of Abraham (22:1–19)

·         Chapter 22 is known in Jewish tradition as the Akedah (Heb. aqeda), “the binding” (v.9), an important religious event. It is the final test of Abraham’s faith. There are striking connections between 12:1–9 and 22:1–19. The call at Haran required Abraham to leave his past; the call at Beersheba required Abraham to relinquish the future by offering Isaac as a sacrifice.

·         God’s tests are a means for revealing man’s obedience (Ex 15:25; 16:4; Jdg 2:22), producing fear as to rouse piety (Ex 20:20; Ps 26:2), discovering man’s authenticity (Dt 8:2; 13:3; 2Ch 32:31), and producing man’s well-being (Dt 8:16).

·         Heb 11:17–19 tells about the faith of Abraham. Abraham trusted God to raise Isaac from the dead to fulfil His promise. Here Isaac’s survival is described as a figure of resurrection. Isaac is commonly used by Biblical scholars as a type for Christ. However, there is no “explicit” reference to an Isaac-Christ typology in the Bible.

·         The most likely alleged typology is in Ro 8:32 where Paul mentioned “He who did not spare his own son” with the same verb used in Gen 22:12,16. The church fathers, however, often read the Akedah story typologically as the redemptive story of Christ’s crucifixion.

J2.    Nahor’s family (22:20–24)

·         The Nahor (brother of Abraham) genealogy is in anticipation of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. This is the Aramean branch (v.21) of the Terah clan who remianed in Haran. The marriage of Milcah, Haran’s daughter, to her uncle Nahor united the two of the 3 branches of Terah’s family. With the marriage of Rebekah to Isaac, all 3 branches were united.

J3.    Death of Sarah (23:1–20)

·         Sarah’s death required the purchase of a family burial plot. The notion of burial indicates permanency. That Abraham secured a family plot in Canaan rather than returning to Haran conveys his commitment to the land promised to him.


22:1     Some time later: Isaac had grown to at least an adolescent what could endure a climb bearing wood (v.6) but was still considered a “boy” (v.5,12).

22:2     the region of Moriah: “Mount Moriah” was mentioned only once in the Bible (2Ch 3:1) and is the traditional location of Abraham’s sacrifice. It is the site of Solomon’s temple.

burnt offering: The term first occurs in Gen 8:20 after the Flood. The sacrificial animal was to be fully consumed, producing an aroma that pleases the Lord (Gen 8:21; Lev 1:9).

22:3     Early the next morning: showing Abraham’s prompt obedience and full submission.

22:4     On the third day: 3 days of travel, perhaps less than 3 full days. From Beersheba to Jerusalem is an 80-km journey. Abraham had ample time to ponder retreat but he steadfastly moved forward.

22:7     where is the lamb: The absence of the animal was obvious to Isaac and to the servants. Here is the only recorded words of Isaac in the story.

22:8     God himself will provide: In Levitical sacrifice, the offerer himself provided the animal. Here, Abraham reversed the means, showing that God’s command made it His own responsibility.

22:9     He bound his son Isaac: Isaac was a willing victim who must have recognized at this point that he was the intended offering. He, as the stronger and swifter of the two, submitted without struggle to the binding. Isaac’s silence parallels Christ’s silence (Isa 53:7) when led to death.

22:11   the angel of the LORD called out: The voice marks the turning point of the story; the test had accomplished its purpose.

22:12   Now I know that you fear God: “Fear God” describes the man’s obedience and trust motivated by his love of God—perhaps “reverence” is a better word. James observes that Abraham’s “faith was made complete by what he did” (Jas 2:22).

22:13   a ram: The death of the discovered ram “instead of his son” symbolizes the idea of substitutionary atonement—both in the Levitical system and in the death of Jesus. The appearance of the snared animal was certainly a miracle (v.14).

22:14   called that place The LORD Will Provide: The name (Heb. yahweh yireh) for the mountain could be interpreted in 2 ways: provide/see (Heb. raa) and “he saw” (Heb. wayyar). The phrase “it will be provided” as the object refers to the animal promised in v.8. The Greek reading could mean “on the mountain the Lord was seen” as the object refers to God—God appeared.

22:17   I will surely bless you: This passage recalls earlier promises and expands upon them: (1) “surely” is added; (2) “make your descendants as numerous” is added to the comparison to the stars; (3) “the sand on the seashore” is included; (4) “possession of the cities of their enemies” is new.

22:18   your offspring: (Heb. zera) may refer to an individual or a collective group. The ambiguity can bring both meanings. For the Jews, it can be interpreted to mean David and the Israel nation. For Christians, it can be interpreted to mean an individual (Jesus Christ) and the group (Israel or even the church). Peter quotes Gen 22:18 in Ac 3:25 in showing the Jewish leaders that Christ is the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promise of blessing intended for all families.

22:23   Rebekah: Rebekah’s name could mean “a cow” or “cattle” or “blessing” (Heb. beraka).

23:2     mourn for Sarah: Mourning rites in the ancient Near East included many expressions of sorrow: loud weeping, tearing clothes, sitting in dirt, wearing sackcloth, and shaving the head.

23:6     mighty prince: could also meant “a prince of God” or “the elect of God”,  showing their recognition of Abraham’s special stature.

23:11   give you the field: Ephron offered to give the field to Abraham. However, many commentators explain this as a form of haggling. If Abraham accepted, it would be similar to an insult to Ephron who could then rescind the offer, now or later.

23:16   Abraham agreed: The custom of the day was to ask for double the fair market value, fully expecting the buyer to offer half the stated price. Abraham’s acceptance of the price with no reservation made the transaction immediate, legitimate, and permanent.


·         God tested Abraham not to see whether Abraham was faithful and obedience. God knew beforehand what the result would be. The test was for the benefit of Abraham so that he could develop his character. Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances. Through this difficult experience, Abraham strengthened his commitment to obey God and he also learned about God’s ability to provide.

·         It is difficult to let go of what we deeply love. Have you withheld your love, your children, your money, your time from God? Yet when we do give to God what He asks, He returns to us far more than we could dream.