The LORD tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. This event is a prophetic picture of the sacrifice of God’s Son.
GENESIS CHAPTER 22
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2
How much time later is not clearly expressed in the Scriptures. In the previous chapter we are told that Isaac had been weaned. His mother Sarah gave birth to him when she was ninety years old. Isaac may have been 3-5 years old at that time. Genesis 21 also records that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Some paintings portray Isaac as being just a boy at the time Abraham was called by God to offer up his son as a sacrifice. But this is very unlikely to be true. In one trip, a mere boy would not be able to climb up a mountain carrying a load of wood sufficient to fuel a fire large enough to consume a burnt offering. Abram who had lived in Ur of the Chaldeans for 75 years is recorded to have stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time. If Abraham only dwelled in the land of the Philistines for 10 years, Isaac would have been at least 13-15 years old.
Sarah who gave birth at ninety, according to Genesis 23:2, was a hundred and twenty-seven years old when she died. Therefore it is possible that Isaac may have been a man in his thirties when he carried the wood for the burnt offering up the mountain. One thing we know for sure, Isaac was definitely not a child.
God told Abraham to take his “only son” Isaac to the region of Moriah. Yet we know that Abraham had another son Ishamael at that time. When Ishmael and Hagar were sent away it was clear that Ishmael was not to be the rightful heir, but it is also clear that Ishmael would remain Abraham’s son. God said, “Nevertheless, I will make the slave girl’s son into a nation, since he, too, is your offspring” (Genesis 21:13). Ishmael, though loved by Abraham and an offspring from his body, was not the promised heir. Isaac alone was the heir. He was the “only son” of the promise. Father Abraham was told to take his “only son” whom he loved and sacrifice him on a mountain in the region of Moriah.
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. Genesis 22:3
Abraham lost no time in obeying God’s command. Early the very next morning he arose and made the necessary preparations for the trip. There would be little brush at the top of a mountain, so Abraham needed to bring the wood with him. Although he had servants, Abraham cut the wood himself because this was to be a personal act of sacrifice. He took two of his servants along with him and his son on the journey.
On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. Deuteronomy 17:6
Two is the number of witness and testimony. Abraham’s servants would serve as witnesses to his faithfulness to obey the LORD.
According to Torah, the burnt offering was an obligation but could also be a voluntary offering. The animal to be offered up was to be a male without defect. When offered by an individual, the person was to lay his hand on the head of the animal as an act of symbolically transferring his sins to the animal. The burnt offering was an offering for atonement.
With one swift cut across the throat, the animal was killed and the blood poured out into a basin. The carcass was flayed and the then the body cut into pieces. The offering was totally consumed by fire and regarded as ascending up to God. The burnt offering represented total submission and commitment to God.
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Genesis 22:4-5
It took three days to reach the mountain of sacrifice. Abraham did not lift up his eyes until the third day. During the course of this journey Abraham grieved and was downcast in his spirit knowing that his beloved son was supposed to be sacrificed. Yet, Abraham told his servants that he after Isaac had worshipped and the sacrifice had been offered, that they both would return.
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Genesis 22:6-7
Abraham did not place the wood for the burnt offering in Isaac’s arms, but placed it on his son Isaac’s shoulders. As they he walked up the mountain Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb?” This is a prophetic picture of God’s only Son whom the he dearly loved bearing the cross for our sins.
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. Genesis 22:8
Abraham declared that God himself will provide (future tense) the lamb that would serve as an atonement offering. Two thousand years later John identifies the promised lamb as God himself.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Genesis 22:9
Abraham who was well over 100 years old could not have forced Isaac to be bound and laid upon the altar. Isaac willingly laid down his life. Even if it meant that he had to die, Isaac submitted his will to the will of his father. This is another powerful prophetic picture of the coming Messiah.
Jesus said in Luke 22:42, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8b).
Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:10-12
Although it was the angel of the LORD who called out to Abraham from heaven, he said that I know you fear God because you have not withheld your son from “me”. It was God who told Abraham to make the sacrifice, yet the angel of the LORD said that you have not withheld your son from me. This is another instance of the appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ as the angel of the LORD.
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:13-14
The Book of Hebrews explains the reason that Abraham was able to declare to his two servants who were to wait for him, “We will worship and then we will come back to you”:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. Hebrews 11:17-19
Figuratively speaking, Abraham received Isaac back from the dead. The testing of Abraham and the submission of Isaac is a prophetic picture of the future atoning death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Abraham declared that God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice. But it was a ram, and not a lamb, that was sacrificed that day it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham called that place, “The LORD Will Provide.” There is archaeological evidence to support the notion that the place of the crucifixion of Jesus was at the summit of Mt. Moriah, probably near the present-day Damascus Gate and the Garden Tomb. The crucifixion of Christ on Mt. Moriah fulfilled the promise that “On the mountain of the LORD it (the final sacrifice for sin) will be provided.”
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.’” Leviticus 23:23-25
This holiday, The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), is popularly known as Rosh Hashanah meaning the “Head of the Year” or Jewish New Year. According to the ceremonial calendar, it is the first day of the seventh month. Although the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon to the Promised Land on the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:9), they gathered together on Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem on the first day of the seventh month (Nehemiah 7:73). At that time they heard the words of the Torah/Law translated and explained to them by Ezra and the Levites. After living for seventy years as an enslaved people, finally Jewish society was to again be governed by the commandments, regulations and ordinances of Mosaic Law. Therefore, the Jewish Civil Calendar commences on the first day the seventh month on the Hebrew Calendar. Much the same way in our culture, though January marks the first month of the year, some businesses and government agencies calculate the fiscal year beginning in April.
The liturgy in synagogues around the world not only includes the reading of the same biblical accounts on each Sabbath, but the same passages are read each year on each of the Festivals of the LORD. On Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks/Day of Firstfruits), the Book of Ruth is read because it concerns the harvest. On Rosh Hashanah, the Binding of Isaac is the Torah passage that is read in every synagogue throughout the world because it concerns a ram’s horn: Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns (Genesis 22:13a).
When the shofar sounds in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, it announces the raising of Isaac from the dead (figuratively speaking, Abraham did receive his son back from death). The Babylonian captivity lasted seventy years. The Jews that returned to the Promised Land had been dead as a nation for a lifetime (three score and ten years). When they returned on the Feast of Trumpets, the sound of the shofar blast announced the resurrection of a nation.
At the New Moon festivals and appointed feasts, trumpets were sounded. According to God’s command (Numbers 10:2), two silver trumpets were to be fashioned. They were to be used for calling the community together and for announcing that the camps set out.
On the Feast of Trumpets, which occurs on the first day of the seventh month (a New Moon Festival), both silver trumpets are blown which announces that the whole camp gather together in the presence of the LORD and the shofar is blown which is a reminder of the resurrection of the dead.
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1Corinthians 15:50-54
According to the Law of Moses, trumpets are sounded to gather God’s people into His presence. They were sounded to announce the setting out of the camps as each of the Israelite tribes followed the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night. Trumpets herald the approaching of a king. They are sounded when a battle is to take place.
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1Thessalonians 4:15-18
At the Feast of Trumpets, God’s elect will be translated in the blinking of an eye and gathered into His presence to be forever with the Lord.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. Genesis 22:15-19
Abraham which means “Father of Many” would be the patriarch of numerous natural children through both Ishmael (the Arabic tribes), as well as through Isaac (the tribes of Israel). Abraham is not only the father of many natural children, but also the father of many spiritual children who by faith have undergone the circumcision of their hearts (Romans 4:11-12).
Matthew chapter one and verse one reveals how all nations on earth will be blessed through the offspring of Abraham: This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. Jesus the Messiah who is the seed of Abraham blesses the elect of God from all nations under the heavens. Born-again believers in Messiah are blessed with forgiveness of sins and eternal life, with love, joy and peace, with grace and mercy, and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.