Abraham and Mount Moriah, Gen. 22
T. Ernest Wilson, USA
Considered as a type, Genesis 22 has remarkable significance. Here we see father and son going up together to mount Moriah. An altar is built and in a figure the son is sacrificed and raised from the dead. We have already considered the death of Christ typified
As atonement, covering the guilty sinner, in the coats of skins, Gen. 3.
As the basis of approach to God in Abel's sacrifice, Gen. 4.
As the ground of acceptance in Noah's burnt offering, Gen. 8.
Now we come to a fourth and fuller type in the offering up of the son, and this brings in not only death but resurrection, Heb. 11. 17-19. Thus we see a significant progress in prophetic revelation of Golgotha and the cross.
"And it came to pass after these things", v. 1, that is, the things recorded in chapters 12-21. Together these embrace his call, ch. 12, his covenant, ch. 15, and now the climax, ch. 22. "That God tried Abraham", J.N.D. trans. The Hebrew word nasah means, to try or test. It is often translated "prove"; cf. James 1. 13. This was the last of
Seven Tests of Abraham's Faith. After his call to leave Ur, the first test was:
Family. Arriving at Haran, his father Terah refused to cross the river Euphrates which separated his homeland from Canaan. We do not know how long he was delayed, but when Terah died, he obeyed the original command and crossed the river. From that time on, he was known as the "Hebrew" (the man from across the river). He never retraced his steps to go back to Ur. His next test was
Famine, 12. 10. The famines recorded in Scripture are full of spiritual lessons. Hunger can be a severe trial. Hearing of plenty in Egypt, the pilgrim band headed for that land which resulted in a third test, that of
Fear. He was afraid that his life would be in danger on account of his beautiful wife Sarai. Calling her his sister, Abram found that his fears were justified, when Pharaoh sent for Sarai, and took her into his court. But God was good to his erring servant, by warning Pharaoh not to touch the woman. Abram got out of Egypt, a humiliated but wiser man. A fourth test was
Friction. Both he and his nephew Lot were wealthy. Problems arose among the herdsmen of their respective flocks, and it became necessary to separate. Abram graciously gave the younger man the first choice of location. Lot, influenced by what he saw in Egypt, chose the well-watered plains of Sodom, which ended in his downfall. Abram overcame that test by remaining a pilgrim with his tent and altar. A fifth test was his attitude to
Filthy Lucre. He refused to touch the spoils of war from the soiled hands of the king of Sodom. A man's attitude to money is an acid test of his character. The sixth test was
Frustration. God had promised him an heir and a posterity as numerous as the dust of the earth and as the stars of heaven. The first promise was made when Abram was 75 years old, Gen. 12. 4, 7. The heir of promise, Isaac, was born when he was 100 years old, 21. 5. After ten years of waiting without result, he took matters into his own hands and married Hagar the Egyptian handmaid. He was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. This lapse of Abram's faith in God's promise has had age-long and worldwide consequences. In three of these tests of faith there was failure and in three there was victory. But in the
Final test, when God called upon him to offer up Isaac, there was complete triumph.
The Command. "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, v. 2.
There are five important expressions in this chapter that occur for the first time in Scripture. As the keys to the passage, they are:
Thine only son. This is found three times, w. 2, 12, 16. In the N.T. John uses the Greek equivalent (monogenes) five times of the Lord Jesus, the Only-Begotten, John 1. 14, 18; 2. 16, 18; 1 John 4. 9. The Unique One; cf. Rom. 8. 3, 32.
Love. Love of a father for his son; cf. John 5. 20; 10. 17; 17. 26. The second occurrence of the word, Gen. 24. 67, unfolds the love of a bridegroom for his bride.
Worship, v. 5. Translated "bowed" down, Gen. 18. 2; 19. 1 A.V., it involves giving the best to God; cf. Matt. 2. 2, 11.
Lamb) vv. 7, 8. Where is the lamb? The N.T. answer is found in John 1. 29.
(5) Obeyed. The response to the command, v. 18.
"The land of Moriah", v. 2. The name means "Jah provides", Young. The word "Moriah" is found only here and in 2 Chronicles 3. 1. It is associated with Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 22, Araunah's threshing floor, 2 Sam. 24. 18-25, and with Solomon's temple, 2 Chron. 3. It points away to Golgotha and the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Communion. They "went both of them together", vv. 8; cf. v. 19. It was three days journey from Beer-sheba, "the well of the oath" to the place of sacrifice. This reminds us of the three years communion and fellowship between the Father and the Son from the river Jordan to Calvary. The Gospel writers take up this theme. "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed", Mark 1. 35. The apostle John, especially, describes the Father and Son relationship. In his Gospel, he mentions the Father 120 times and the Son about 45 times.
There may have been periods of silence between Abraham and Isaac on that long journey; they are not recorded. But it is evident that they were of one mind in carrying out God's command; Abraham in his determination and Isaac in his subjection and obedience. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. This was the time and the place when the servants and the ass were left behind, the spot where Abraham's faith grasped the great truth of death and resurrection. The last sentence of verse 5 makes this plain, "I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you". The sacrifice of Isaac he describes as "worship", and Isaac as well as his father was to "come again". This is all the more remarkable seeing he carried both a knife and the fire, the instruments of death. The wood was laid on Isaac. The fire would consume the burnt offering. In all of Abraham's experience he had never seen or heard of a resurrection from the dead.
The Conversation, vv. 7-8. Finally the silence between the father and the son is broken by Isaac's question and Abraham's answer. "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? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together". There is not another word from Isaac, but what a wealth of meaning lies behind both the question and the answer! Some commentators suggest that Abraham spoke evasively, but rather it was the long sight of faith. Hebrews 11. 17-19 declares, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure". The force of the word "accounting" means that he argued the situation in his own mind, and on the basis of God's promises came to a definite conclusion. It is the highest peak of Abraham's faith. From the standpoint of volition, surrender and obedience, Isaac was really offered. But God in a wonderful way provided a substitute. The answer to Isaac's question "where is the lamb?" is given in John 1. 29, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world".
The Crisis, vv. 7-8. "And they came to the place which God had told him of, v. 9. The place is mentioned four times, vv. 3, 4, 9, 14. It was a place chosen by God, mount Moriah, the place where God had placed His Name, Deut. 12. 13-14, the place where the temple was built, the place of gathering and sacrifice. In connection with the fulfilment of that which was anticipated in Genesis, the Gospels mention the word "place" four times:
A place called Gethsemane, Mark 14. 32.
A place called Gabbatha, John 19. 13.
A place called Golgotha, John 19. 17.
"Come, see the place (the Garden Tomb) where the Lord lay", Matt. 28. 6.
This must have been the most sacred place on earth! Judas knew the place, John 18. 2, but sadly and tragically went to his own place, Acts 1. 25.
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". This is Abraham's fourth altar. The other three, at Shechem, Bethel-Hai and at Hebron, led up to and prepared him for it. The altar on mount Moriah was the final test and the climax of his faith. Between verses 9 and 13 the conjunction "and" occurs ten times. It is not eloquent grammatically, but it shows either the continuity and persistence, or word of remonstrance on his part. His experience must have typified that which our Lord passed through in a supremely greater measure in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.
Verses 10-12 graphically relate the extent to which Abraham's faith was tested. His uplifted hand holding the knife was about to strike. At the last possible moment, the angel of the Lord intervened. His obedience had been tested to the full, and had stood the test. He had not withheld his only son. This proved beyond doubt that he believed in the God of resurrection. It also points forward to an infinitely greater sacrifice when God "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all", Rom. 8. 32. The voice from heaven arrested the death blow on Isaac, but at Golgotha, amid the darkness, heaven is silent.
After the voice, Abraham's eyes were immediately directed to a God-provided substitute for a sacrifice on the altar. Looking behind him he saw, not a lamb, but a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Later, in the Levitical economy, the ram, the leader of the flock, was used in the trespass offering, Lev. 5. 15, and in the consecration of the priest for a burnt offering, 8. 18. Here it is a burnt offering "in the stead of his son. Although the word "substitute" does not occur in the text, here we see in the death of the sacrificial ram that which the word means. Thus we have in this incident another glorious type of the substitutionary death of the Saviour on the cross. Abraham recognized the wonderful way in which God had provided the substitute for a burnt offering by naming the place Jehovah-Jireh, "The Lord will provide".
The Covenant Confirmed and Expanded, w. 15-18. The angel of the Lord speaks twice from heaven, firstly averting the death-blow upon Isaac and assuring Abraham of the completeness of his obedience, v. 12. The second time, w. 15-18, he pronounces a fourfold blessing on the patriarch and his seed, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice".
This is the occasion referred to in Hebrews 6. 13-20, when God confirmed the promise of a seed to Abraham and sealed it with an oath. First the seed is compared to the dust of the earth, then to the stars of heaven, and now to the sand of the seashore; an earthly seed, a heavenly seed, and then a seed that would reach out to the nations. Galatians 3. 16 tells us that that Seed (in the singular) is Christ in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. All this blessing is guaranteed by the promise and the mighty oath of God. In this we can rest.
This great chapter is closed by a genealogy introducing Rebekah who is destined to be the bride of Isaac, Gen. 24. What a fitting conclusion to the narrative of Isaac who, in his miraculous birth, his submission to the will of his father, in his figurative death and resurrection, and then in his marriage to Rebekah, is a type of the Lord Jesus. In verse 67 love is mentioned the second time in Scripture. The first time, it is the love of a father for his son; the second, it is the love of a bridegroom for his bride.