GENESIS - CHAPTER 22
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
22:1. “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”
After the birth of Isaac, and after the expulsion of Hagar and her son, God tested Abraham. (The KJ rendering of the word “did tempt” is misleading: it is more accurately “tested”).
Sometimes God’s testings are designed to remove self-confidence, so that our faith will be in Him and in Him alone; others, like this testing of Abraham, are designed to reveal the reality of faith. Job, for example, had great faith. In the midst of testing he exclaimed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15), but he also had a good deal of self-righteousness, which nothing but the divinely permitted testing could reveal and remove. The result was that he was made to see himself as he really was, and the revelation caused him to cry, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). With his self-righteousness gone, he became the recipient of richer blessing, “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning....” (Job 42:12).
The temptings that come from Satan (and what comes from him are always temptings, not testings) are designed for our harm. The testings that come from God are always for our good.
God began by calling Abraham by name, and we may learn something from this. The coming test must be recognized as something that was exclusively between God and His servant. God would teach us that in every circumstance of life we are to lift our eyes to Him. When we see Him as the Author of the circumstances there is less chance of our being overwhelmed by them. With many of us, unfortunately, it is as stated in Job 33:14 “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” The man who would profit by God’s testings must have His eye on God, and have his ear attuned to hear His voice, for “ chastening ... yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb 12:11). The circumstance that isn’t seen as coming from God’s hand will yield no profit.
There is a lesson also in Abraham’s answer “Behold, here I am.” This is the response of the heart that is ready to yield implicit obedience to any command God may choose to give, that will accept with perfect equanimity any circumstance He may order or permit. This is the only attitude that brings blessing. It is one thing to give lip service to Ro 8:28 “All things work together for good to them that love God,” but quite another to believe it when seeming adversity comes.
22:2. “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 that I will tell thee of.”
Abraham had already given up much in obedience to God’s commands. He had begun by giving up country, kindred and his father’s house. Then of his own free will he had yielded up to Lot the plain of Jordan, rather than displease God by fighting over it. Then he had relinquished claim to the goods of Sodom, which he had recovered from the Babylonian invaders, his reason being that God might not be robbed of honor. And he had also given up his firstborn, Ishmael, whom he apparently loved very dearly.
But all of these paled into insignificance compared with the sacrifice he was now being called upon to render.
When he sent Ishmael away he still had Isaac left. And there was the hope of his seeing Ishmael again, for the command to send him away had been accompanied by the promise “Of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed” (Ge 21:13). But Isaac was not to be sent away: he was to be slain, and for what purpose? Ishmael’s dismissal was because God’s purposes were to be worked out through Isaac, but what, humanly speaking, would Isaac’s death accomplish? It would seem, in fact, to negate every promise God had made, for the divine promise was “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” This command seemed to leave Abraham with nothing but a broken heart, and God’s broken promises.
We can’t even begin to measure the faith of the man, who in the face of all this, “rose up early in the morning” to render a speedy obedience. Well, indeed, is Abraham called the friend of God. In whom, apart from Christ, has God ever found obedience like this!
Scripture, however, makes it clear that Abraham’s obedience was far more than just stoical acceptance of circumstances. He might not know how, but “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” (Heb 11:17-19). Abraham’s faith was in the God of resurrection!
Nothing apparently could shake Abraham’s faith in God’s word, so believing that God would keep His word, this great man of faith reasoned logically that since Isaac had been pointed out as the channel of blessing, then God must raise him up again out of death. And there can be no question that that faith was founded on the circumstances attending Isaac’s birth. He had come from two people, who as far as begetting or bearing children, were “as good as dead” (Heb 11:11-12). Abraham reasoned rightly that the God Who had brought this son out of two dead bodies, could just as easily bring that same son out of death again. The miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth foreshadows that of Christ. He too had come out of a body, which humanly speaking, was incapable of bearing a child. Mary was a virgin.
The great lesson written over all of this, and one God would have us never forget, is that all His promises will be made good in resurrection. Our spiritual birth is also miraculous. We too stand before God as a new creation, having been brought out of death, for we were once dead in trespasses and sins, and we are to live our lives in anticipation of that great resurrection day when the Christ Who has Himself been raised from death, will come to the air to resurrect and translate the believers of this present age, from earth to heaven (1 Co 15:51-52; 1 Th 4:13-18). God would have us occupied, not with this world where death reigns, but with Him, and with the heaven where Life reigns.
The place where Isaac was to be offered was in “the land of Moriah,” which means my teacher is God: seen of God. The lesson here is easy to read. When Abraham came into the land, the second-mentioned stopping place was Moreh, a word very similar to Moriah, and meaning teacher. This greatest test of Abraham’s life was also for his learning. In all of this God would teach us that earth is His school where every circumstance is a lesson designed to equip us for the eternal state. If the events making up our lives were viewed in this light, we would be found more often acknowledging that “All things (do) work together for good to them that love God” (Ro 8:28).
Here in Ge 22 Abraham was bidden to go into the land of Moriah, and to offer Isaac upon a mountain that God would show him. In 2 Chr 3:1 it is recorded that Solomon’s temple was built on mount Moriah, and many competent Bible scholars are of the opinion that the mountain where Abraham offered his son, is the same mount on which the temple was built. If this is correct, and there is every reason to believe that it is, then one lesson at least being taught is that just as God’s literal house rested on the place where Abraham offered his son, so does God’s spiritual house, the Church, rest upon the secure foundation laid at the place where He gave His Son to die in my guilty place and yours.
No Spirit-taught believer fails to recognize that Abraham’s offering of Isaac is a figure or type of God’s giving His Son at Calvary, and in this connection it is to be noted that the sacrifice of Isaac is described as a burnt offering, i.e., it was all for God, for His glory. A fact not understood by many believers is that the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was a burnt offering. It was first for God’s glory, and then for the redemption of men’s souls.
22:3. “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 which God had told him of.”
The difficulty of his task didn’t prevent Abraham from yielding an immediate obedience: he rose up early in the morning. As always with this faithful servant, God’s business came first.
”... and saddled his ass.” As noted in earlier studies, the wild ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature, given without restraint to the indulgence of fleshly lusts, while the saddled or bridled ass portrays the body also as the servant of the old nature, but with some measure of moral restraint imposed, as in the case of the moral, but unconverted man. Abraham’s saddling his ass, therefore, is the symbolic declaration of the truth that he refused to listen to the voice of nature. Natural affection for Isaac must not be permitted to beget disobedience of God.
This is a lesson we would do well to take to heart. If the “ass” were “saddled” more often, there would be more glory brought to God in our daily lives. He who would walk obediently before God must also “saddle his ass,” i.e., keep the old nature under subjection.
Abraham also took two of his young men with him. In our study of chapter 18 we noted that the young man represents spiritual strength or maturity (Pr 20:29), and two is the number of witness or testimony. These two young men therefore, are the symbolic witness to Abraham’s spiritual strength. He was a spiritual giant!
”... and Isaac his son.” As has been noted already, worship is the presentation of Christ to God; and Isaac, the obedient son, is a picture of Christ in His perfect submission to the Father’s will. Without Isaac, Abraham’s going to Moriah would have been pointless. Unless Christ goes with us, as that which we will offer God when we assemble around the Lord’s table on the first day of each week, our going there is equally pointless. It will be a mere empty form. He goes with us in the form of the thoughts of Him that have occupied our minds and hearts during the preceding week, those meditations being the material from which the Holy Spirit makes His selection of that, which blended together by Him, constitutes our corporate worship.
”... and clave the wood for the burnt offering.” Wood, in Scripture, represents humanity; and this wood, cut into pieces, was to furnish the fuel for the burning of the sacrifice. Certainly we may see in Isaac’s carrying the wood, a picture of Christ as He went to Calvary “bearing His cross,” but the type goes beyond that, for since wood represents humanity, the symbolic picture is of the Lord’s taking upon Himself the body prepared for Him by the Father (Heb 10:5), His assumption of humanity being essential, for as God He could not die.
The pieces into which the wood was cleft may point to the many facets of the Lord’s life, e.g., in the Gospel of Matthew we see Him as the King; in Mark, as the perfect Servant; in Luke, as the perfect Man; and in John, as the Son of God; while other Scriptures set Him before us as Prophet, Priest, Shepherd, Bread, Manna, etc.
A practical lesson taught by the cleft wood is that as it was essential to the presentation of that burnt offering (itself a figure of worship), so is it necessary for us in our meditations to “cleave” the Scriptural record of Christ, for it is meditation upon all the different aspects of Him, that constitutes true worship. Quick reading should not be mistaken for profitable study. There will be spiritual profit only as the written Word is carefully and prayerfully dissected.
”... and went unto the place of which God had told him.” It is significant that special emphasis was laid upon the place where the sacrifice was to be offered. As has been discussed already, many believe that the mountain was identical with the one on which the temple was later built. If this is correct, then it links together Isaac and the temple. The Lord was also linked with the temple, for He Himself declared it to be a symbol of His body, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.... But He spake of the temple of His body” (Jn 2:19-21). Just as Solomon’s temple may have been built on the very spot where Isaac died symbolically, so has the death of Christ become the foundation of that great mystical temple, the Church.
22:4. “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.”
A burst of enthusiasm sometimes impels us to embark on some course of action for God; but long before completion of the task enthusiasm dies away, and the work is never finished. Not so with Abraham. That three-day journey provided ample time for him to change his mind, but the third day found his resolve as firm as on the first. His was no vacillating obedience. As the Lord “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), so did Abraham, with the same steadfastness, set his face to go to Moriah. We would do well to have the same steadfastness mark our own response to God’s commands, for “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62).
Since three is the number of resurrection, this three-day journey would remind us that it was never God’s intention to have the journey end in death, but in the joy of resurrection. Nor is His wish different for the journey of life. He would have that also culminate in the joy of resurrection, for He is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9).
22:5. “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.”
In Abraham’s leaving the young men and the ass, God would teach us something about worship. He who would worship “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23-24), must separate himself from everything that would distract. The two young men, representing spiritual strength, were left behind. He who would worship must be occupied, not with his own spiritual state, but with Christ. The ass, too, was left behind. Again, the worshipper must be occupied, not with what he is as a man still in the body here on earth, but with Christ. “I and the lad will go....” Only Abraham and Isaac went to the mountain to worship. True worship requires the dismissal of everything except the Lord Jesus Christ.
”... and come again to you.” Heb 11:17-19 supplies the reason for Abraham’s statement: “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 they seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from which also he received him in a figure.” Faith reckoned that the God Who had first brought Isaac out of two bodies as good as dead, could bring him also out of death itself. Abraham knew God as the God of resurrection, and so must every man who would be saved, for it is written “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Ro 10:9).
22:6. “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.”
In this section there is clearly a blending together of at least two typological pictures. While Abraham certainly pictures the worshipping man, it is equally clear that he is also a type of God the Father yielding up His only Son, that Son of course being represented by Isaac.
Since wood is the symbol of humanity, Abraham’s laying the wood upon Isaac may be a foreshadowing of that moment when the Lord Jesus Christ assumed humanity, “... when he cometh into the world, He saith ... a body hast Thou prepared Me.... We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Heb 10:5-10). Its being emphasized that it was the wood “of the burnt offering” reminds us that Christ was the true burnt offering. That sacrifice at Calvary was first for God’s glory, and then for the redemption of our souls.
”And he took the fire in his hand.” The fire represents the holiness of God, and also the Holy Spirit, and Abraham’s taking it with him is the symbolic revelation of the part played by the Holy Spirit in connection with the offering of Christ at Calvary, for He “... through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God” (Heb 9:14). But when we turn to view Abraham as a type of the worshipping man, the lesson of the fire then becomes the truth that there can be no worship apart from the Holy Spirit, “... the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.... They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23-24).
“... and a knife.” The knife and the sword are both symbols of the Word, the knife representing the Word applied to our lives to cut away all that would hinder us in the heavenly race, while the sword represents that same Word as our weapon of offense and defence in the warfare between us and the unseen forces of darkness. Abraham’s taking the knife would remind us of the part which the Scriptures played in the Lord’s life and death. The Word of God governed His every step, the Holy Spirit being careful to remind us of that in Jn 19:28 “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.”
Turning again, however, to view Abraham as a type of the worshipping man, we see in his taking the knife, the symbolic declaration of the truth that the order of worship is to be according to the Word of God, the further truth also being taught is that the worshipper must also have applied “the knife” (the truth of the Word) to his own life.
“... and they went both of them together.” In this we are being taught that the Father and the Son were equally involved that day when the type was fulfilled and the Lord Jesus Christ went to Calvary to redeem the ruined sons of Adam.
The practical lesson is that worship centers on Christ. He is the very essence of worship. Without Isaac, Abraham had nothing to offer God, nor, without Christ, do we. At our corporate worship on the first day of each week, we present Christ to God, using hymns, prayers and Scripture to express our appreciation of Him, and thus set Him before the Father; and in our personal worship we present Him to the Father as we seek to walk in obedience, so that in our lives - our thoughts, words and deeds - God and men see Christ living His life in us.
22:7. “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?”
Isaac as yet was unaware that he himself was to be the burnt offering. No such ignorance was found in Christ. Frequently during His life He declared that He must die, e.g., Jn 12:32-33, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said signifying what death He should die.”
Isaac’s question wasn’t fully answered till that day when John the Baptist pointed to Christ and said “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:19).
22:8. “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”
Abraham’s answer, though he may have been unaware of it that day, was invested with prophetic significance. Certainly that very day God provided a literal lamb, but the true Lamb wasn’t provided until that day when Pilate pointed to Christ, and said, “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5).
The repetition of the concluding words of verse six “they went both of them together,” would emphasize again the Father’s part in the sacrifice offered at Calvary.
22:9. “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.”
Having built the altar, he laid the wood in order upon it, the word order being itself the translation of a Hebrew word meaning to array. It is used also in Ex 40:4,23 to describe the orderly arrangement of the utensils, and the shew bread upon the golden table in the tabernacle. It is used again in Le 1:7,8,12; 6:12 to describe the orderly arrangement of the wood and the pieces of the burnt offering upon the altar. The wood was never just thrown in a heap upon the altar, but was carefully arranged, so that even as it burned, it provided a secure foundation upon which the offering rested.
Keeping in mind that wood is the Biblical symbol of humanity, we learn the lesson, then, from this orderly arrangement of it upon the altar, that it speaks of Christ’s obedient life. It was His human life “arrayed” in perfect order before God and man that was the basis upon which He could offer Himself as a burnt offering to the Father. There was no flaw, no blemish in that life. This is the same truth set forth in God’s command relative to the Passover lamb, “Your lamb shall be without blemish” (Ex 12:5), that lamb being itself a figure of Christ, of Whom it is written, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Co 5:7).
That carefully arranged wood, then, points to the perfectly ordered life of Christ. Every thought, word, and deed was according to the Father’s will.
”... and bound Isaac his son.” It is generally recognized that Isaac was probably about seventeen years old, so that he could easily have resisted had he wished, but God would have us see in the perfect compliance of Abraham’s son, the submission which adumbrates that of Christ to His Father’s will.
A practical lesson we may learn from Isaac’s willing submission is that we are to be equally submissive to our Father’s will, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (lit., spiritual worship)” (Ro 12:1).
22:10. “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”
The knife we have already seen to be a type of the Word, and its being the implement that would slay Isaac, points to the fact that it was the Word that slew Christ, for it is the Word that pronounces the sentence of death against the sinner, and that sentence must be executed against the sinner’s Substitute, even though that Substitute was God’s sinless Son.
22:11. “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.”
The angel of the Lord is generally recognized as being the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The repetition of Abraham’s name would seem to imply urgency, as though he were so close to completing the sacrifice of his son that there wasn’t a second to be lost if the lad’s life was to be saved. We can’t begin to measure the completeness of Abraham’s obedience, or the full extent of his faith.
22:12. “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.”
Someone has very aptly commented that it was Abraham’s heart, not Isaac’s life that God wanted; and C.H. MacIntosh in his Notes on Genesis has added the thought that “there was no voice from heaven when, on Calvary, the Father offered up His only Son.” The same writer reminds us that “without trial we can be but theorists, and God would not have us such.”
Abraham was no mere theorist. His faith expressed itself, not just in word, but in deed. It is interesting to compare Abraham with Peter. In Mt 26:35 Peter declared “though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,” but before that night ended, Peter had denied his Lord three times.
It is abundantly clear that God has never sanctioned human sacrifice. Abraham’s hand was stopped just short of slaying his son. But one thing we do learn from this chapter is that God was revealing that redemption must come through the death of a man, and not by the death of an animal. It was man who had transgressed, and it is man who must die. Adam had forfeited man’s life, and it was the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who yielded up that life to God on man’s behalf. But the last Adam did more than simply yield up the life forfeited by the disobedience of the first Adam: He arose again from the dead. “He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Ro 4:25).
His being delivered for our offenses is pictured in the Isaac bound on the altar, but His being raised again for our justification is just as clearly pictured in the Isaac who was raised up from that altar alive.
“... now I know that thou fearest God.” Didn’t God know what was in Abraham’s heart? Of course He did! Why then subject Abraham to this test? At least two reasons present themselves. God would show others the extent of Abraham’s faith. That is one reason. Another, and probably the more important, is that He would show us in type, and on a level suited to our human comprehension, what it cost Him to redeem our souls.
Abraham’s love for God was measured by what he was willing to give up, and the principle remains the same: it is what we are willing to give up that measures our love, and by that standard how little love most of us are shown to have!
This is what God desires above all else. In Lk 10:27 the lawyer’s correct summation of the law was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart ....” In Jn 21:15 the Lord asked Peter, “... lovest thou me more than these?” The question is repeated in verse 16 “... lovest thou me?” and is repeated for the third time in verse 17 “... lovest thou me?”
How much do we love Him? What are we willing to give up for His sake? God’s love is measured by what He was willing to give, for in Jn 3:16 we read, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son....”
22:13. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, 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.”
Here the typical picture changes. Abraham remains a type of God the Father; but Isaac, bound in the place of death, becomes a picture of the sinner similarly bound under divine condemnation. The ram that died in his place is a picture of Christ, the One Who has died in man’s guilty stead.
That the animal was a male, points to the activity of Christ’s will completely devoted to doing the Father’s will, for in Scripture the male portrays activity of the will; and the female, passivity. The perfect submission of His will to that of the Father has already been displayed in Isaac’s submission to Abraham’s will.
In the substitutionary ram’s being behind him, we are being taught perhaps that Christ was “the Lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pe 1:19-20). Before Abraham was born, before Adam was created, before the world was made, God foresaw man’s sin, and even then had already prepared the remedy. No matter how far man might look behind him, there was the Lamb, Christ, foreordained from before the foundation of the world.
The ram, however, is a double type, first, of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Substitute Who would die in man’s stead, but also of man himself. As the ram faced a slow lingering death by starvation and thirst, so man, entrapped by sin, is dying daily even while he lives, for each passing day brings him closer to the grave, and eventually the lake of fire. The spiritual lesson is equally clear, for literal food represents the Word in its ability to nourish spiritual life, while water represents that same Word in its ability to refresh and cleanse the believer. The unbeliever is dying also spiritually, for the Word is food and water only to the man of faith.
”... Abraham went and took the ram.” Only by taking what God Himself had provided, did Abraham save his son; and since Isaac’s life was but the perpetuation of Abraham’s, his own life as well. Christ is as available to every man as was that ram to Abraham. None will be saved, however, except those, who like Abraham, take by faith the Lamb God has provided to bear away man’s sin.
“... in the stead of his son.” Isaac lived because the ram died in his place. The simple lesson God would teach is that it is either my life or Christ’s. One of us must die. He is a fool who refuses to present God with the true Burnt offering, Christ. His refusal will cost him his soul.
22:14. “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.”
Jehovah-Jireh means Jehovah will see (provide). Of all the types of Scripture, few more clearly portray Calvary. Here where the type becomes almost reality, all may see the revelation of man’s condemned state both in the Isaac bound to the altar, and in the ram caught in the thicket. But all may see too, in Abraham, the heart of God revealed: the Father Who “spared not His Own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” And he is blind indeed who fails to see in Isaac’s submission, a picture of Christ’s submission to His Father’s will, even though that will meant the agony of Calvary. On that mountain in the land of Moriah God saw and provided for the need of one obedient man. But it is a miniature of Calvary where God saw and provided, not for the need of obedient men, but for the need of a ruined rebel race.
22:15. “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven, the second time.”
The angel of the Lord is still the Lord Jesus Christ. The first call was to stay Abraham’s hand, and save Isaac alive. This second call was to announce the opening of God’s hand in abundant blessing to His obedient servant. It is beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand the extent of the blessing with which God will reward obedience, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Co 2:9); but it is equally beyond human comprehension to grasp the extent of the punishment that will be the eternal portion of the man who rejects the salvation so dearly purchased at Calvary.
22:16. “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:”
Before declaring what the blessing would be, God was careful to lay a sure foundation for Abraham’s confidence. That foundation was His own immutable Word, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself ....” (Heb 6:13). The better promises given us, rest upon the same sure foundation.
Abraham’s reward was in response to the great sacrifice he had been willing to make: he had not withheld his only son. A practical lesson we shouldn’t miss is that our reward at the Bema will be in proportion to the obedience we render here on earth. An aspect of our eternal reward that shouldn’t be lost sight of, however, is that it will be great because it will be according to God’s grace, and not according to what we deserve. Were it to be on the basis of what we deserve, then it would have to be small indeed, for even the most faithful service pales into insignificance when viewed in the light of the knowledge that God has no need of us: He deigns to use us.
22:17. “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.”
The content of the blessing was left undefined, nor was there limit either as to its duration or content. It still continues, for we are Abraham’s spiritual seed, and heirs according to the promise (Ga 3:29), and he “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (things) in Christ” (Eph 1:3).
As has been noted in earlier studies, this multiplication of Abraham’s seed is in two areas: the spiritual, and the physical, the spiritual seed being represented by the stars; the physical, by the sand. Who can even begin to number how many of both have been since that day till the present, and will yet be in the future? And all question as to whether the last clause refers to Christ is settled by what is written in Ga 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many: but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
In Scripture the gate is synonymous with the place of government, and the assurance that Christ will possess the gate of His enemies is the symbolic declaration of His coming glorious universal reign, when “He shall rule them (the nations) with a rod of iron” (Re 19:15). That we shall share in that reign is assured in Re 2:26-27, “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron,” and 2 Tim 2:12, “If we suffer (endure), we shall also reign with him.”
22:18. “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
The reference is still to Christ, for He is the true Seed. Not only will the nations be brought under His rule in the Millennium: they will also enjoy fullness of blessing, for blessing and submission to Christ’s rule always go together. Whether it be an obedient man, or an obedient nation, the result is the same: blessing will attend obedience. Abraham was to be blessed because he obeyed God’s voice.
Two thoughts connect themselves with the words “in thy seed.” The first is that the blessings will come through Christ; the other, that the blessings will come to those who are themselves in Christ.
As His millennial reign begins, all the nations will be in Christ, for every unbeliever will have been banished from the earth following the judgment of the nations at the end of the Tribulation. But as the Millennium continues, the children born to those believers will be born as are all men - unbelievers. The result will be that the population of the millennial earth will again become a mixture of believers and unbelievers, not all of whom will accept Christ as Savior. Those, therefore, who will be compelled to yield outward obedience, but who in heart will be rebels, will continue to enjoy the literal blessings of that glorious reign, but their eternal portion will be with the unrepentant of all ages in the lake of fire. Only those in Christ will inherit eternal blessing.
What isn’t always recognized, however, is that the blessing attending our obedience may extend beyond ourselves, for the Lord has commanded us “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Just as Israel’s obedience in spreading the knowledge of God, would have brought blessing to the nations, so will our faithful proclamation of the Gospel bring blessing to a perishing world. We do well therefore, to heed what is written, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro 10:14).
22:19. “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.”
We may learn much from the omissions of Scripture. It isn’t said that Isaac returned with his father to the young men, though undoubtedly he did, but in omitting the mention of it, God would perhaps teach us something about worship. We are left here with nothing more said about Isaac than what has been written in verse 9, “... and Abraham ... bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar.” God would imprint that sight upon our memories. What transpired on that mountain is a picture of Calvary, but since the essence of worship is the presentation of Christ to God, it is also a picture of worship, with Abraham set before us as the representative worshipper. Certainly a living Isaac returned with Abraham, but can there be any doubt that what was indelibly imprinted on Abraham’s memory was the sight of Isaac bound on that altar, about to die? In Isaac’s returning with Abraham, though that fact isn’t specifically stated, we are perhaps being reminded that the Lord Jesus Christ, though unseen by natural eyes, is with us even in the ordinary affairs of life.
The hour when we meet around the Lord’s table to present our corporate worship soon passes, but as we return to resume our walk through this world, God would have us continue to remember Calvary, where His Son was “bound on the altar” in our guilty stead. That is the sight He would have us take with us from the table, and carry with us until the next first day of the week, or until we see Him face to face. Abraham’s returning to the young men portrays the believer’s returning from worship to the ordinary affairs of life.
Beer-sheba means well of the oath, so that Abraham’s going there, and his continued dwelling there, would speak of the believer’s living his life around the Word, for it is the true Beer-sheba. It is the unfailing well of God’s promises, His oath sealed with the blood of His Son. Not one of those promises will go unfulfilled, for it is written, “All the promises of God in him (Christ) are yea, and in him Amen ....” (2 Co 1:20).
22:20. “And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor.”
There was considerable intermarrying apparently within Abraham’s family. Sarah was his half sister (Ge 20:12), and his brother Nahor had taken for his wife, Milcah, his own niece. She was the daughter of his dead brother Haran (Ge 11:29).
Milcah means a queen, and Nahor, snorter. One of their sons, Bethuel, was the father of Rebekah, and she became Isaac’s wife.
”After these things ...” indicates that this section is the typical portrayal of events that will transpire during this age of grace, i.e., between the death of Christ (typically foreshown in the offering of Isaac), and the rapture of the Church (Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah being clearly an OT type of the Rapture, while the death of Sarah in chapter 23 is generally accepted as portraying the death of Israel following their rejection of Christ).
There can be little doubt therefore, that in Nahor’s family, God intends us to see His symbolic picture of the Gentile nations during this present age of grace and in the Tribulation era. It is from this family group that Rebekah, the bride of Isaac, comes, just as it is out of the Gentile nations that the Church, the Bride of the heavenly “Isaac” comes.
During this present age the Jews have been scattered amongst the Gentiles, their national autonomy having been restored only in 1948, that restoration being one of the signs that this age of grace is almost ended. For all practical purposes therefore, there have been only Gentile nations on the earth during this present age, and Satan is their prince, see 2 Co 4:4 where he is described as “the god of this world.”
Nahor snorter, then, as head of the families described in this section, is a figure of Satan, for evil is connected with his name, see Jer 8:16 where snorting is mentioned in connection with the horses of those sent by God to ravage Israel because of her sin. In Job 41:18 neesings or sneezings (a word connected with snorting) is used to describe the activity of leviathan, a creature which is itself a figure of Satan.
His being Abraham’s brother doesn’t alter the symbolic picture. Abraham’s righteousness didn’t carry over to Nahor any more than did Abel’s to his evil brother Cain.
Nahor’s wife Milcah means a queen, and it is significant that the Church is never referred to as a queen until after the Rapture, she being presented in that role only at Christ’s second advent, see Ps 45:9; but Satan’s harlot travesty is quoted in Re 18:7 as saying “I sit a queen and am no widow.”
As has been discussed in other studies, the wife represents the expression of the man’s spiritual life, either genuine spiritual life, or the religion which the natural man mistakes for spiritual life. Milcah therefore, represents the world’s religious systems, whose head is Satan, religion passing among the nations for spiritual life.
In Ga 4:26 Paul declares that the believer has a spiritual mother “Jerusalem which is above ... is the mother of us all.” The unconverted nations also have a spiritual mother: the great harlot church described in Re 17:5 as “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” Every false religious system is a spiritual harlot, and an abomination to God, the greatest of them being that which reigns as a queen from Rome.
These two, then, Nahor and his wife Milcah, represent the spiritual parents of the nations, he being a figure of Satan; and she, of false religion. Consistent exegesis therefore, requires us to recognize that their children represent the Gentile nations, and the meanings of the names of those children confirm the accuracy of the typological picture.
22:21. “Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram.”
Huz means counsellor, which is obviously connected with wisdom, and certainly the world has wisdom, but God’s condemnation of that wisdom is recorded by Paul, “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Co 1:20).
Buz means contempt, and the world’s contempt of God has been clearly displayed at Calvary.
Kemuel means avenge ye God. How often has man in his spiritual blindness, and in a zeal inspired by Satan, undertaken to execute vengeance in the name of God! Saul, in his blind persecution of the Church, is a prime example of the natural man as a spiritual “Kemuel.” Note also the merciless slaughter of thousands of true believers by the great harlot church during Europe’s “dark ages,” the hatred no less murderous today, but restrained by law.
Kemuel is the father of Aram which means exalted, and speaks of pride. The spiritual relationship between the two needs little comment. Spiritual “Kemuel” always begets spiritual “Aram.” The harsh execution of vengeance which the natural man thinks is zeal for God, invariably begets spiritual pride.
22:22. “And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel,”
Chesed means as harrower. The harrow is an agricultural instrument used to break up clods of earth, so that Chesed represents the natural man in his occupation with earthly things, to the exclusion of the spiritual, as we read in 1 Co 15:47 “The first man is of the earth earthy .... (and) as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy.”
Hazo, meaning his vision: as seen of him, may have reference to how the natural man sees things. He sees through spiritually blind eyes.
Pildash means he threshed the separated: iron (bolt?) of fire. It is difficult to determine exactly what separated thing might be threshed, but if the reference is to God’s separated ones, then the lesson is easily read. The threshing would speak of the persecution meted out to believers by the world. In this context the second meaning iron bolt of fire may declare that God’s ultimate recompense of that threshing will be to avenge His own with the thunderbolts of His wrath directed against the persecutor.
Jidlaph means he will weep. Weeping and wailing will be the eternal portion of the man who dies in unbelief.
22:23. “And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.”
Bethuel means point ye out God. Having regard to the fact that he was the father of Rebekah, who is a type of the Church, and noting also that he is the eighth in this list (the Biblical number of a new beginning), he appears to represent those from among the nations who are saved (have had a new beginning), and who as His witnesses “point out God” to others. As Rebekah came from Bethuel, so does the Church come from those among the nations who trust in Christ during this present age of grace, and as noted already, Nahor’s family appears to represent the nations during that period.
22:24. “And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.”
If we have been correct in viewing Nahor and Milcah as the spiritual father and mother of the Gentile nations during this present age of grace and in the coming Tribulation era, then it may be that Reumah and her four children represent Israel during the Tribulation period. (Since Israel has had no national identity until 1948, she would have no typical representation during this age of grace).
The number of Ruemah’s children (four, the number of earth and testing) would seem to confirm that this view may be correct, for Scripture makes it very clear that the Tribulation will be particularly the time of Israel’s testing (Jer 30:7).
The meaning of her name raised up: see ye aught?, would seem to add further confirmation that our interpretation may be correct, for it will be as a nation “raised up” out of national death that she will exist in the Tribulation, but it will be as a nation spiritually blind, unable to “see aught” of spiritual truth.
Tebah, meaning a slaughter, needs little comment. The Tribulation will be a time of slaughter such as the world has never seen.
Gaham means the valley was lost: the devastator waxed hot. Is God perhaps pointing to that fast approaching day when the rebel armies of earth will be gathered in the valley of decision mentioned in Joel 3:12-14, as “devastators” hot in their hatred of Israel, only to find themselves confronted with the Lord Himself, the valley becoming the place where they will lose, not only their lives, but also their souls?
Thahash means badger: seal skin. One of the Tabernacle coverings was badger (lit. seal skins), and in Ez 16:10 it is written concerning Israel “I shod thee with badgers’ skins (lit. seal skins)”, so that badger or seal skin is Scripturally connected with Israel. In addition, Thahash was Reumah’s third son (number of resurrection), and the Tribulation will be, not only the time of Jacob’s trouble, but also of Israel’s spiritual resurrection.
Maachah means pressure (lit. she was pressed), and in the present context, would remind us that in the Tribulation, both Israel and the nations will find themselves in the winepress of the Lord’s fierce anger (Re 14:14-20).