In addition to the written teaching below, here’s the audio to tonight’s CUMO Mid-Week Bible Study.
Genesis 22 is one of the most well-known and most important chapters in the Bible. It is the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham’s obedience to God, and God providing the lamb in the place of Isaac. I rarely look at commentaries anymore, I looked through eight to 10 to see what they said about the climactic event of Abraham’s life. While commentaries have some useful information, I wasn’t surprised to find that the commentaries rarely, if ever, mentioned Jesus (which is why I rarely read commentaries anymore). I find this astounding, considering that Genesis 22 is an astounding prophetic revelation of Jesus.
Let’s take a look, sort of verse by verse, to see Jesus.
AFTER THESE THINGS
Genesis 22:1 begins “After these things…”
After what things?
Well, everything from Genesis 12 through Genesis 21.
Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
The very first thing we read about Abram is that God calls him to be a great nation and that Abram will both be blessed and be a blessing. God could only fulfill his promise to Abram if he had a son. But, at this time Abram has no son, which is somewhat ironic since Abram’s name means exalted father.” At the time of God’s call, Abram was 75 years old.
In Canaan, “the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Genesis 12:7) The Hebrew word for offspring also means seed and derives from the root word meaning to sow. From chapter 12 through chapter 22, offspring occurs 23 times. While, I haven’t studied Hebrew, I want to throw out the idea that a number of these 23 uses of the word offspring are used with the concept “your sowed seed” being implied. I say this because in John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Abram’s seed needs to be planted. The seed needs to die.
- will be given Canaan (Genesis 12:7)
- will be given Canaan and counted as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:15-16)
- shall be numbered [not counted, but written about] as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:13)
- will be given the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18)
- will be given and keep an established covenant and will be given all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-12)
- will have a covenant established with Isaac and his offspring (Genesis 17:19)
- will have his offspring named through Isaac (Genesis 21:12)
In chapter 17, God reiterates his promise to and covenant with Abram. And, God changes his name to Abraham, which means exalted father of a multitude. At this time, Abram has a son Ishmael, but Abraham does not have the son of the promise yet. However, God says that from the son, Isaac, Abraham’s offspring will be named. In chapter 17, Abraham is 99 years old. So, 24 years have passed since God first called and made his promise to Abraham.
One year later, Abraham finally has the son, Isaac, in Genesis 21. So, the son came 25 years after the initial promise from God.
It’s “after these things” that Genesis 22 takes place.
GOD TESTED ABRAHAM
Genesis 22:1 says, “After these things God tested Abraham.” This is the first use in the Bible of the Hebrew word nasa. Nasa means to venture; to put someone to the test; to give experience, train; to conduct a test. A test is a critical examination, observation, or evaluation. As the first test in the Bible, Abraham’s test sets the precedent for all future testing.
So, what is God testing Abraham on?
To understand God’s testing of Abraham, we need to see that Jesus was tested. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” What does it mean that Jesus learned obedience? If Jesus always obeyed, then what does it mean that he learned obedience? Jesus didn’t learn to obey, but he did learn the cost of obeying. He learned this by being tested. The Greek word for “learned” denotes the action of deciphering the meaning of information both practically and conceptually. Jesus learned what it meant to obey.
What did Jesus’ testing lead to? Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus’ testing led his death, burial, and resurrection. This is the gospel.
Is this what Abraham is being tested on?
In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 when he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
So, what did Abraham believe?
Galatians 3:5-8 says, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or hearing by faith – just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”
Abraham had the gospel preached to him and he believed it. Read The Scripture Preached the Gospel to Abraham? to see how that happened.
Therefore, in Genesis 22, God was testing Abraham’s belief.
Abraham’s test was about God providing his own son as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world to die for his sins and that God’s son would be resurrected to give life. If Abraham passed the test, then this gospel would be how all the families of the earth would be blessed.
It’s important to understand how old Abraham was at the time of testing. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. We know that Isaac was weaned in chapter 21. That’s at least three more years before Abraham was tested. We also know that in chapter 23 Sarah died at the age of 127 when Isaac was 37 years old. And, we know that Isaac s a type of Jesus. Given that Sarah gave birth to Isaac, I think that makes Sarah a type of Israel in this story. In effect, Israel, as God’s wife, gave birth to Jesus. When did Israel (Sarah) die, or come to an end? Shortly after Jesus’ death when he was about 33 years old. So, I think Genesis 22 takes place when Isaac is about the same age as Jesus when he died. I believe that the point is that Isaac was not a small boy in Genesis. This would make Abraham about 130 years old. Their ages will be important later.
YOUR SON, YOUR ONLY SON ISAAC
In Genesis 22:3, God tells Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac.” Abram had a son, Ishmael. But, Abraham had the son, Isaac. Plus, Ishmael had been sent away. Isaac was Abraham’s only son. Similarly, in the Old Testament, the angels are called the sons of God. But, God has only one Son.
- “glory as of the only Son into the world.” – John 1:14
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” – John 3:16
- “that God sent his only Son into the world” – 1 John 4:9
WHOM YOU LOVE
God tells Abraham to take his only son, “whom you love.” God loves his son, Jesus.
- “The Father loves the Son.” – John 3:35
- “as the Father has loved me” – John 15:9
- “So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” – John 17:23
- “to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” – John 17:24
- “I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” – John 17:26
AND GO TO THE LAND OF MORIAH
Abraham is to take the son whom he loves “and go to the land of Moriah.” The only other mention of Moriah is in 2 Chronicles 3:1, which says, “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The threshing floor is a symbol of judgment. It is the place where the husk was separated from the grain by beating and the place where the grain is crushed. Isaiah 53:5 says, “he [Jesus] was crushed for our iniquities.”
The root word of Moriah means to see, to understand, to spy, to reveal, look at, examine, or inspect. We could think of Moriah as the place where Christ was examined and inspected for his worthiness.
Another meaning of Moriah is “bitterness of the Lord.” At the time of the call in Genesis 22:3, Abraham and Isaac were in Beersheba. Beersheba means the well of underground water. But, Abraham and Isaac were journeying to the bitterness of the Lord, which speaks to the separation of the Father and the Son.
SO ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING
Having been told by God what to do, Abraham set to action right away. He took Isaac and headed out to Moriah early in the morning. When did Jesus’ testing begin? Early in the morning. In Luke 22, after the last supper and early in the morning, Jesus was praying with his disciples in the garden. We know it was early in the morning because the disciples kept falling asleep. In Luke 22:66, Jesus was arrested early in the morning, and when day came, the elders, chief priests, and scribes gathered together to hold a trial.
SADDLED HIS DONKEY…AND HE CUT THE WOOD FOR BURNT OFFERING
When the journey started, Abraham cut the wood for sacrifice and put it on the donkey for the three day journey. This is a picture of Jesus, who had someone carry the cross for him at one point.
- “And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” – Luke 23:26
- “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.” – Matthew 27:32
- “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” – Mark 15:21
Consider that neither the donkey nor Simon had any choice in the matter. The donkey was saddled, and Simon was seized or compelled. Also, notice that Simon carried the cross behind Jesus, which is where a donkey would walk.
AND TOOK TWO OF HIS YOUNG MEN WITH HIM
Having saddled the donkey with the wood for the sacrifice, Abraham and Isaac set out for Moriah with two of Abraham’s you men. What is this a picture of?
- “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.” – Luke 23:32
- “Then two robbers were crucified with him.” – Matthew 27:38
- “And with him the crucified two robbers.” – Mark 15:27
ON THE THIRD DAY ABRAHAM LIFTED UP HIS EYES AND SAW THE PLACE AFAR OFF
The journey from Beersheba to Moriah was three days. So, three days after setting out, Abraham sees the place that he was to sacrifice Isaac afar off. Last week, I mentioned that the third day is an important day in the Bible as an unusually high number of events take place on the third day. This is because on the third day Jesus is resurrected. But, how do we reconcile that Abraham saw the place of Isaac’s sacrifice on the third day, which represents resurrection, but Isaac has not been sacrificed yet? The day they set out on the journey and Abraham obeyed God was the day that Isaac was sacrificed in Abraham’s mind. Isaac died on the first day of the journey. This was the day Abraham and Isaac set out from Beersheba, which is the well of underground water. This is the well spring of life. When Abraham and Isaac left this place it spoke of their broken fellowship and the broken fellowship between the Father and the Son.
The third day speaks of resurrection. And, on the third day, Abraham sees the place afar off. Abraham sees the place that Isaac would be resurrected. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did received him back.”
But, Abraham saw much more than how far away in distance Isaac’s resurrection on the third day. The Bible says he “saw the place afar off.” I think this is not speaking of distance but of time. Listen to what Jesus says in John 8:37, 39-40, 56, 58, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you…If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who was told the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
THEN ABRAHAM SAID TO HIS YOUNG MEN, “STAY HERE WITH THE DONKEY”
Having seen the place of Isaac’s resurrection, Abraham tells his two young men to stay behind. He and Isaac would go off alone. Even though the thieves were always present on either side of Jesus during his crucifixion, I believe there was a moment when the Father and Jesus were “alone.” Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” I think the Father and Jesus were “alone” at this time because no one understood what Jesus was saying. They thought he was calling out to Elijah.
I AND THE BOY WILL OVER THERE TO WORSHIP AND COME TO YOU AGAIN
Abraham and Isaac went off by themselves to worship. We see this with the Father and Jesus too. In Luke 23:46, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is quoting Psalm 31:5, and it is even the title of the psalm. John 19:30, says, “He [Jesus] said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus’ spirit went back to the Father. They were worshiping together.
But, this was also the moment that Abraham clearly expressed his belief in the gospel – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This was the moment that Abraham showed that he clearly knew Isaac would be resurrected since he said they would both come back to the servants. Perhaps Abraham even knew that he was acting out an exact prophecy of Jesus’ death.
AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT OFFERING AND LAID IT ON ISAAC HIS SON
At this time, Abraham is likely 130 years old and Isaac is probably in his early 30s. Abraham was not sacrificing a small boy that he could force the wood upon. Abraham was sacrificing a grown man. And, given the age difference, a man that he could not force to do anything. Therefore, Isaac willingly let Abraham put the wood on him. He did not fight or resist. This is a perfect picture of the Father and Jesus. The Father did not force Jesus to the cross. Rather, Jesus willingly went to it. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR HIMSELF THE LAMB
The Hebrew word “for” has a range of meanings, including of, by, that, and from. Try reading verse 8 with each of those words substituted for the quite common translation “for.” I think when we understand this entire chapter with Abraham and Isaac as a picture of the Father and Jesus going to the cross we see that what Abraham is saying is that the lamb that God will provide is himself. So, I think the ISV translation gets it right, “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” Jesus, as God, is not just any lamb, but the lamb for the burnt offering.
ABRAHAM…BOUND ISAAC HIS SON AND LAID HIM ON THE ALTAR, ON TOP OF THE WOOD
Abraham assured Isaac that God would provide himself the lamb. Did Abraham just preach the gospel to Isaac, if he hadn’t already? Because the lamb that God would provide is nowhere to be found yet.
So, Abraham and Isaac reach the place God showed Abraham. Abraham built an altar and laid the wood on top of Isaac. Isaac was bound, but he willingly let it happen, just like Jesus let himself be bound.
- “The chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and delivered him to Pilate.” – Mark 15:1
- “And they bound him.” – Matthew 27:2
- “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” – John 19:11
The priest, scribes, elders, and Pilate had no authority to bind Jesus. The authority came from the Father, and Jesus willingly let it happen.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD CALLED TO HIM FROM HEAVEN
Throughout the entire chapter, it was God telling Abraham what to do. But, now the angel of the Lord, Jesus, calls out from heaven. Notice how the angel of the Lord seems to be equated with God.
The angel of the Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” We would have expected God the Father to say this to Abraham. But, instead it’s the angel of the Lord, Jesus, that says because Abraham has not withheld his only son Abraham has passed the test. The angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes the gospel and, indeed, believes in him. This is important because it’s when we believe in Jesus that he gives us life.
- “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16
- “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” – John 3:36
- “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” – John 5:24
- “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” – John 6:40
- “whoever has the son has life” – 1 John 5:12
BEHOLD, BEHIND HIM WAS A RAM, CAUGHT IN THE THICKET BY HIS HORNS
Now that the angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes, Abraham looks behind him and sees a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. God provided not just a lamb, but a ram. Is that because Jesus was fully grown, a man, and not a small boy? I think so.
The ram was caught by his horns. Horns are a symbol of power throughout the Bible. Horns are on the head of the animal. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” And, 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that Jesus is the power of God. John 19:2 says, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” The ram was caught by his horns in a thicket, or thorn bush. And, Jesus, the power of God, had a crown thorns put on his head.
Thorns were produced by the earth due to Adam’s sin. And, Christ bore the crown of thorns, our sins, on the cross. It says in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”
It was while Jesus had the crown of thorns on his head on the cross that the full power of God was revealed. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Why did the ram have to be caught by its horns? If the ram had been caught anywhere else, then its flesh would have been torn. But, 1 Peter 1:19 says that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
“THE LORD WILL PROVIDE” AND “ON THE MOUNT OF THE LORD IT SHALL BE PROVIDED”
Now that the ram has been provided, Abraham calls the name of the place of the resurrection (remember we are three days from Beersheba) “the Lord will provide.” And, according to Moses, the place is still called “on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
However, “provide” and “provided” are not the correct translations. According to the multiple Hebrew dictionaries I looked at, that is not what the Hebrew word jireh means. Therefore, I believe we have been mistranslating Jehovah Jireh. Jireh means to see; to understand, to spy, to reveal, to look at, to examine, to inspect, to show. Therefore, verse 14 should say, “So Abraham called the name of that place ‘The Lord will be seen’, as it is to this day, ‘On the mount the Lord shall be seen.’” There are actually a couple of Bible translations that translate the verse this way. This is more appropriate because Abraham is acting out prophecy and has already seen the place afar off in time. He’s looking ahead and seeing the Lord Jesus in his resurrection. Remember what Jesus says in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
BY MYSELF I HAVE SWORN, DECLARES THE LORD
After Abraham declares the Lord will be seen in his resurrection in this place, the angel of the Lord calls from heaven a second time. Just like God, the angel of the Lord, who calls himself Lord, has the power to swear and take action. In John 5:21, Jesus says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
What does the angel of the Lord declare? He reiterates the original promise to Abraham. “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.”
In this statement by the angel of the Lord, every use of the word offspring is singular. Remember, that in Galatians 3:16 Paul points out that this means it is referring to Jesus. So, the angel of the Lord, says that he will multiply Abraham’s single offspring, or seed, who is Jesus. There are several verses in the New Testament that fulfill this entire statement from the angel of the Lord.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
- “Therefore from one man, and in him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” – Hebrews 11:12
- “So that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” – Galatians 3:14
- “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” – Revelation 7:9-10
ABRAHAM LIVED AT BEERSHEBA
After the angel of the Lord reconfirmed the promise to Abraham, Abraham and his young men went together to Beersheba. They go back to the well of underground water, which is the place of living water, or eternal life. But, it’s interesting that Isaac is not mentioned as going back to Beersheba. Is this because he has ascended to the Father?
So, Genesis 22 is an amazingly detailed prophetic passage of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. While the information provided in commentaries may be helpful, it doesn’t make my heart burn within me. But, when I see Jesus in almost every word, then I feel like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus translated where he was in all the scriptures.