Gleanings In Genesis
26. The Offering Up Of Isaac
"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (try) Abraham" (Gen. 20:1). These words refer us back to the context, a context that is rich in typical significance. The immediate context is the twenty-first chapter, where we have recorded the Birth of Isaac—a remarkable type which, with what follows it, needs to be viewed from two standpoints: its individual application, and its dispensational application. In our last paper we considered the former, here we shall deal briefly with the latter.
The birth of Isaac awakened the enmity of Ishmael, and in consequence Sarah came to Abraham saying, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Gen. 21:10). From the Epistle to the Galatians (Gal. 4:22-31) we learn there was a profound meaning to the act here requested by Sarah, that it possessed a dispensational significance. It is to be noted first that Sarah refers to the "inheritance"—the son of Hagar should not be "heir with Isaac." Now Isaac, as we have shown in our last, not only foreshadowed the Lord Jesus in His miraculous birth, but also pointed forward to those who now become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. In a word, Isaac stands for Divine sonship. Only the spiritual family of promise answers to Isaac, and takes the title of "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Israel, nationally, does not inherit with the church. Hence, as Isaac in Genesis 21 foreshadowed those who are members of the Body of Christ, Ishmael stands for the Nation of Israel which is now "cast out" during the time that God is visiting the Gentiles and taking from among them a people for His name (Acts 15:14). With this key in hand let us turn to the second part of Genesis 21 and note how the course of Israel as a nation is pursued in the type.
1. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away, and she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba" (Gen. 21:14). First we note (and we shall be as brief as possible) that Hagar and her son became wanderers in the wilderness. How true the picture. Such has been Israel’s portion ever since she rejected Abraham’s greater Son, the Lord of Glory. Throughout all these centuries, during which God has been building the Church, the Jews have dwelt in the wilderness, and "wanderers" well describes "the nation of the weary foot!"
2. "And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs" (Gen. 21:15). In type, the Holy Spirit is here taken from Israel—the water was spent. This it is which explains the tragic "veil" which is over the heart of the Jews as they read the Scriptures (2 Cor. 3:15), for without the Spirit none can understand or draw refreshment from the Word of God.
3. "And she went and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept" (Gen. 21:16). We see here a foreshadowment of Jerusalem bemoaning her desolations, and at this point the lamentations of Jeremiah are most appropriate to her condition. O, how the above type anticipated the poor Jews "wailing" before the gates of Jerusalem!
4. "And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is" (Gen. 21:17). And here is where hope begins. It is not until the Jew bewails his sins (see Hosea 5:15, etc.), confesses his dreadful crime of crucifying the Son of God, not until after much bitter humiliation they shall cry, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39), that Jehovah will take up again His covenant people.
5. "And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the lad drink" (Gen. 21:19). In type the Spirit is given once more to Israel. Just as God here "opened the eyes of Hagar," so in a near-coming day will He open the eyes of the Jews, and even during the days of the now rapidly approaching tribulation, a pious remnant shall keep the testimony of God and wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 14:3, 4; 20:4).
6. "And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer" (Gen. 21:20). Couple with this the promise of verse 18, "For I will make him a great nation." How accurate the type! Thus it will be with Israel in the Millennium after God has taken into favor again the chosen race.
7. "And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran" (Gen. 21:21). Paran means "Beauty or Glory," speaking in type of Palestine, the dwelling place of Israel in the Millennium, when the wilderness shall be made to blossom as the rose, for the curse now resting on the material creation shall then be removed; and then the Shekinah Glory shall once more be in their midst.
8. "And his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt" (Gen. 21:21). In type this allies Israel with Egypt, and thus will it be during the Millennium—"In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance" (Isa. 19:24, 25).
9. "And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spoke unto Abraham saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest" (Gen. 21:22). How this reminds us that in the Millennium the Gentile will seek out the Jew, because conscious that Jehovah is once more in their midst! As it is written, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:23).
10. Note the close of this chapter: "And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-Sheba" (Gen. 21:33). This action of the patriarch was deeply significant when viewed typically. It marked the change from strangership to possession. Abraham, who stands figuratively as the federal head of the nation plants a "grove" in Beer-Sheba, which means, "Well of the oath," for all is founded upon the Covenant, and thus takes possession of the land, for the planting of a tree emblematizes settled and long continuance—"They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 64:22).
11. "And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-Sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God" (Gen. 21:33). Here Abraham calls not on Jehovah, nor on the Almighty, but on the Lord, "the Everlasting God." So will it be when the Kingdom comes in power and glory. Instead of ceaseless change and decay in all around we see, as now, there shall be fixity, permanence, peace and blessing, Then shall Israel say, "Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before Thee" (Ps. 102:27, 28).
12. One more notice is given to this type and it completes the picture—"These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations" (Gen. 25:16). In the Millennium the whole of the twelve tribes of Israel will be restored and raised to princely dignity among the nations.
And now what follows this marvelous sketch of Israel’s course?—for marvelous it surely is to the anointed eye. What follows? why, that unparalleled foreshadowing of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection. And why this linking of the two together? To show us, and later the Jews, that Israel owes her Millennial blessedness, as we do our present and eternal blessings, to the precious Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But we must leave the dispensational application of the type, and turn and consider once more its individual application.
In our last article we pointed out how that in seven particulars the birth of Isaac was a type of the Birth of the Lord Jesus. Now, we are to see how the offering up of Isaac upon the altar pointed forward to the Cross of Calvary.
This twenty-second chapter of Genesis has ever been a favorite one with the saints of God, and our difficulty now is to single out for mention that in it which will be most precious to our hearts and most profitable for our walk. Ere examining it in detail it should be said that this is, we believe, the only type in the Old Testament which distinctly intimated that God required a human sacrifice. Here it was that God first revealed the necessity for a human victim to expiate sin, for as it was man that had sinned, it must be by man, and not by sacrifice of beasts, that Divine justice would be satisfied.
1. "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" (Gen. 22:2). This is one of the very few Old Testament types that brings before us not only God the Son but also God the Father. Here, as nowhere else, are we shown the Father’s heart. Here it is that we get such a wonderful foreshadowment of the Divine side of Calvary. Oh! how the Spirit of God lingers on the offering and the offerer, as if there must be a thorough similitude in the type of the antitype—"thy son—thine only son—whom thou lovest"! Here it is we learn, in type how that God "spared not His own Son" (Rom. 8:32). Really, this is central in Genesis 22. In this chapter Abraham figures much more prominently than Isaac—Isaac is shown simply (and yet how sweetly!) obeying his father’s will. It is the affections of the father’s heart which are here displayed most conspicuously.
2. "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" (Gen. 22:3). Here we see in type the Father setting apart the Son for sacrifice. Just as we find the passover-lamb was separated from the flock four days before it was to be killed (Ex. 12:3), so here Isaac is taken by Abraham three days before he is to be offered upon the altar. This brings before us an aspect of truth exceedingly precious, albeit deeply solemn. The seizure and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was something more than the frenzied act of those who hated Him without a cause. The cross of Christ was according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and Jews only did "whatsoever" God’s hand and counsel "determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28). Christ was the Lamb "without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20). Yes, the Lord Jesus was marked out for sacrifice from all eternity. He was, in the purpose of God, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). And note how this is suggested by our type, "And Abraham rose up early in the morning" (Gen. 22:3).
3. "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" (Gen. 22:5). Here we see in type that what took place on that mount of sacrifice was a transaction between the Father and the Son ONLY. How jealously God guarded these types! Nothing whatever is said of Sarah in this chapter though she figures prominently in the one before and is mentioned in the one succeeding. Abraham and Isaac must be alone. Up to the time the appointed place enters their range of vision "two young men" (Gen. 22:3) accompany Isaac; but as they near the scene of sacrifice they are left behind (Gen. 22:5). Is it without a reason we are told of these two men journeying with Abraham and Isaac just so far? We think not. Two is the number of witness, but there is more in it than this. These two men witnessed Isaac carrying the wood on his shoulder up the mountain, but what took place between him and his father at the altar they were not permitted to see. No; no human eye was to behold that. Look now at the Anti-type. Do you not also see there "two men," the two thieves who followed Abraham’s greater son so far but who, like all the spectators of that scene, were not permitted to behold what transpired between the Father and the Son on the altar itself—the three hours of darkness concealing from every human eye the Divine Transaction.
4. "And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son" (Gen. 22:6). This was no half grown boy (as pictures so often represent Isaac), but a full-grown man who is here brought before us, one who could, had he so wished, have easily resisted the aged patriarch. But instead of resisting, Isaac quietly follows his father. There is no voice of protest raised to mar the scene, but he acquiesces fully by carrying the wood on his own shoulder. How this brings before us the Peerless One, gladly performing the Father’s pleasure. There was no alienated will in Him that needed to be brought into subjection: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God," was His gladsome cry. "I delight to do Thy will" revealed the perfections of His heart. Christ and the Father were of one accord. Note how beautifully this is brought out in the type—"And they went both of them together;" twice repeated. We need hardly say that Isaac carrying "the wood" foreshadowed Christ bearing His cross.
5. "And he took the fire in his hand and a knife; and they went both of them together" (Gen. 22:6). And he (Abraham) took the fire in his hand. Here, as everywhere in Scripture, "fire" emblematizes Divine judgment. It expresses the energy of Divine Holiness which ever burns against sin. It is the perfection of the Divine nature which cannot tolerate that which is, evil. This was first manifested by the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Gen. 3:24). And it will be finally and eternally exhibited in the Lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. But here in our type it pointed forward to that awful storm of Divine judgment which burst upon the head of the Sin-Bearer as He hung upon the Cross, for there it was that sin, our sin, Christian reader, was being dealt with. Just as Isaac’s father took in his hand the fire and the knife, so the beloved Son was "smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa. 53:4).
6. 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" (Gen. 22:7, 8). These words of Abraham have a double meaning. They tell us that God was the One who should "provide" the "lamb," and they also make known the fact that the lamb was for Himself. God alone could supply that which would satisfy Himself. Nothing of man could meet the Divine requirements. If sacrifice for sin was ever to be found God Himself must supply it. And mark, the "lamb" was not only provided by God but it was also for God. Before blessing could flow forth to men the claims of Divine holiness and justice must be met. It is true, blessedly true, that Christ died for sinners, but He first died (and this is what we are in danger of forgetting) for God, i.e., as the Holy Spirit expresses it through the apostle "to declare His righteousness . . . that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). Note how this comes out in our passage: it is not "God Himself will provide a lamb," but "God will provide Himself a lamb"—put this way, abstractly, so as to take in both of these truths.
7. "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. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the Angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham, and he said, Here am I. 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. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and beheld 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. 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" (Gen. 22:9-14). Here the type passes from Isaac to the ram offered up—"offered up in his stead"—a beautiful foreshadowment of Christ dying in the stead of sinners who are, as Isaac was, already in the place of Death, "bound," unable to help themselves, with the knife of Divine justice suspended over them. Here it was that the Gospel was "preached unto Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). Similarly in other scriptures we find this double type (both Isaac and the ram) as in the sweet savor and the sin offerings, the two goats on the Day of Atonement, the two birds at the cleansing of the leper.
8. "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, 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" (Heb. 11:17-19). From this scripture we learn that Genesis 22 presents to us in type not only Christ offered upon the altar, but Christ raised again from the dead, and that on the third day, too, for it was on "the third day" Abraham received Isaac back again, for during the three days that elapsed from the time Abraham received command from God to offer him up as a burnt offering, his son was as good as dead to him. And now to complete this wonderful picture, observe how Genesis 22 anticipated, in type, the Ascension of Christi It is very striking to note that after we read of Isaac being laid upon the altar (from which Abraham received him back) nothing further is said of him in Genesis 22. Mark carefully the wording of verse 19—"So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba." Our type leaves Isaac up in the mount!
This article would not be complete did we say nothing about the remarkable trial of Abraham’s faith and of the Divine grace which sustained him, yet, a very brief word is all we now have space for.
The spiritual history of Abraham was marked by four great crises, each of which involved the surrender of something which was naturally dear to him. First, he was called on to separate himself from his native land and kindred (Gen. 12:1); Second, he was called on to give up Lot (Gen. 13:1-18); Third, he had to abandon his cherished plan about Ishmael (Gen. 17:17, 18); Fourth, God bade him offer up Isaac as a burnt offering. The life of the believer is a series of tests, for only by discipline can Christian character be developed. Frequently there is one supreme test, in view of which all others are preparatory. So it was with Abraham. He had been tested again and again, but never as here. God’s demand is, "Son, give Me thine heart (Prov. 23:26). It is not our intellect, our talents, our money, but our heart, God asks for first. When we have responded to God’s requirement, He lays His hand on something especially near and dear to us, to prove the genuineness of our response, for God requireth truth in the inward parts and not merely on the lips. Thus He dealt with Abraham. Let us consider now, The Time of Abraham’s Trial.
It was "after these things" that God did try Abraham; that is, it was after the twenty-five years of waiting, after the promise of a seed had been frequently repeated, after hope had been raised to the highest point, yea, after it had been turned to enjoyment and Isaac had reached man’s estate. Probably Abraham thought that when Isaac was born his trials were at an end; if so, he was greatly mistaken. Let us look now at, The Nature of Abraham’s Trial.
Abraham was bidden to take his son—and what? Deliver him to some other hand to sacrifice? No: be thou thyself the priest; go, offer him up for a burnt offering. This was a staggering request! When Ishmael was thirteen years old, Abraham could have been well contented to have gone without another son, but when Isaac was born and had entwined himself around the father’s heart, to part with him thus must have been a fearful wrench. Add to this, the three days’ journey, Isaac having to carry the wood and Abraham the knife and fire up the mountainside, and above all, the cutting question of the son asked in the simplicity of his heart, without knowing he himself was to be the victim—"Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Gen. 22:8)—this would seem to be more than the human heart could bear. Yet, this shock to Abraham’s natural affection was not the severest part of the trial. What must it have been to his faith. It was not only that Isaac was his son, but the promised seed, the one in whom all the great things spoken of the seed were to be fulfilled. When he was called to give up his other son God condescended to give him a reason for it, but here no reason was given. In the former case, though Ishmael must go, it was because he was not the child of promise ("in Isaac shall thy seed be called"), but if Isaac goes who shall substitute for him? To offer up Isaac was to sacrifice the very object of faith! Turn now and consider, Abraham’s Response.
Mark his promptitude. There was no doubt or delay, and no reluctance or hesitation; instead, he "rose up early in the morning." There was no opposition either from natural affection or unbelief, rather did he bow in absolute submission to the will of God. Faith triumphed over natural affection, over reason, and over self-will. Here was a most striking demonstration of the efficacy of Divine grace which can subdue every passion of the human heart and every imagination of the carnal mind, bringing all into unrepining acquiescence to God. And what was the effect of this trial upon Abraham? He was amply rewarded, for he discovered something in God he never knew before, or at most knew imperfectly, namely, that God was Jehovah-Jireh—the Lord who would provide. It is only by passing through trials that we learn what God is—His grace, His faithfulness, His sufficiency. May the Lord grant both writer and reader more of that power of faith which, with open hand, takes every blessing which God gives us, and with open hand gives back to Him, in the spirit of worship.
 The writer has little doubt that the particular “mountain” upon which Isaac was bound to the altar was Calvary itself. Here, the mountain is not denominated, it was “one of the mountains” in the “land of Moriah” (it is significant that “Moriah” means “the Lord will provide”), and Calvary was one of the mountains in the land of Moriah. What seems to identify Isaac’s mountain with Calvary is not only that the marvelous fullness and accuracy of this type would seem to require it, but the fact that in Genesis 22:14 this mount on which Isaac was offered Is distinctly termed “the mount of the Lord.” Surely this establishes it, for what other save Calvary could be thus named!