Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 22

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 22:1. Here is the trial of Abraham’s grace, and especially of his faith, whether it continued so strong, so vigorous, so victorious, after a long settlement in communion with God, as it was at first, when by it he left his country: then it appeared that he loved God better than his father; now, that he loved him better than his son. After these things — After all the other exercises he had had, all the difficulties he had gone through: now perhaps he was beginning to think the storms were blown over; but, after all, this encounter comes, which was sharper than any yet. God did tempt Abraham — Not to draw him to sin, so Satan tempts; but did try him, as the word here used signifies, to discover his graces, how strong they were, that they might be “found to praise, and honour, and glory.” Behold, here am I — What saith my Lord unto his servant? Probably he expected some renewed promise, like those, Genesis 15:1; Genesis 17:1; but to his great amazement that which God hath to say to him is in short, Abraham, go, sacrifice thy son — And this command is given him in such aggravating language as makes the temptation abundantly more grievous, every word being as “a sword in his bones.” Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that he should afflict? No, it is not; yet when Abraham’s faith is to be tried, God seems to take pleasure in the aggravation of the trial.

Verse 2
Genesis 22:2. And he said, Take thy son — Not thy bullocks and thy lambs; how willingly would Abraham have parted with them by thousands to redeem Isaac! Not thy servant, no, not the steward of thy house. Thine only son — Thine only son by Sarah. Ishmael was lately cast out, to the grief of Abraham, and now Isaac only was left; and must he go too? Yes: take Isaac, him by name, thy laughter, that son indeed. Yea, that son whom thou lovest — The trial was of Abraham’s love to God, and therefore it must be in a beloved son: in the Hebrew it is expressed more emphatically, and might very well be rendered, Take now that son of thine, that only son of thine, whom thou lovest, that Isaac. And get thee into the land of Moriah — Distant three days’ journey, that he might have time to consider it, and if he do it, might do it deliberately. And offer him for a burnt- offering — He must not only slay his son, but slay him as a sacrifice, with all that sedateness and composedness of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offering.

Verse 3
Genesis 22:3. The several steps of this obedience all help to magnify it, and to show that he was guided by prudence, and governed by faith, in the whole transaction. 1st, He rises early — Probably the command was given in the visions of the night, and early the next morning he sets himself about it, did not delay, did not demur. Those that do the will of God heartily, will do it speedily. 2d, He gets things ready for a sacrifice, and, it should seem, with his own hands “cleaves the wood for the burnt-offering.” 3d, He left his servants at some distance, lest they should have created him some disturbance in his strange oblation. Thus, when Christ was entering upon his agony in the garden, he took only three of his disciples with him.

Verse 6
Genesis 22:6. Isaac’s carrying the wood was a type of Christ, who carried his own cross, while Abraham, with a steady and undaunted resolution, carried the fatal knife and fire.

Verse 7
Genesis 22:7. Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb? — This is,

1st, A trying question to Abraham; how could he endure to think that Isaac is himself the lamb? 2d, It is a teaching question to us all, that when we are going to worship God, we should seriously consider whether we have every thing ready, especially the “lamb for a burnt-offering.” Behold, the fire is ready, the Spirit’s assistance, and God’s acceptance: the wood is ready, the instituted ordinances, designed to kindle our affections, which indeed, without the Spirit, are but like wood without fire. All things are now ready, but where is the lamb? — Where is the heart? Is that ready to be offered up to God, to ascend to him as a burnt-offering?

Verse 8
Genesis 22:8. My son, God will provide himself a lamb — This was the language either, 1st, Of his obedience; we must offer the lamb which God has appointed now to be offered; thus giving Isaac this general rule of submission to the divine will, to prepare him for the application of it to himself: or, 2d, Of his faith; whether he intended them so or not, the meaning of his words proved to be that a sacrifice was provided instead of Isaac. Thus, 1st, Christ, the great sacrifice of atonement, was of God’s providing: when none in heaven or earth could have found a lamb for that burnt-offering, God himself found the ransom. 2d, All our “sacrifices of acknowledgment” are of God’s providing too; it is he that “prepares the heart.” The broken and contrite spirit is a sacrifice of God, of his providing.

Verse 9
Genesis 22:9. After many a weary step, and with a heavy heart, he arrives at length at the fatal place; builds the altar, an altar of earth, we may suppose, the saddest that ever he built; lays the wood in order for Isaac’s funeral pile; and now tells him the amazing news. Isaac, for aught that appears, is as willing as Abraham; we do not find that he made any objection against it. God commands it to be done, and Isaac has learned to submit. Yet it was necessary that a sacrifice should be bound; the great Sacrifice, which, in the fulness of time, was to be offered up, must be bound, and therefore so must Isaac. Having bound him, he lays him upon the altar, and his hand upon the head of the sacrifice. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and wonder, O earth! here is an act of faith and obedience which deserves to be a spectacle to God, angels, and men; Abraham’s darling, the church’s hope, the heir of promise, lies ready to bleed and die by his own father’s hands! Now this obedience of Abraham in offering up Isaac is a lively representation, 1st, Of the love of God to us, in delivering up his only begotten Son to suffer and die for us, as a sacrifice. Abraham was obliged, both in duty and gratitude, to part with Isaac, and parted with him to a friend, but God was under no obligations to us, for we were enemies. 2d, Of our duty to God in return for that love; we must tread in the steps of this faith of Abraham. God, by his word, calls us to part with all for Christ, all our sins, though they have been as a right hand, or a right eye, or an Isaac; all those things that are rivals with Christ for the sovereignty of our hearts; and we must cheerfully let them all go. God, by his providence, which is truly the voice of God, calls us to part with an Isaac sometimes, and we must do it by a cheerful resignation and submission to his holy will.

Verse 12
Genesis 22:12. Lay not thy hand upon the lad — God’s time to help his people is, when they are brought to the greatest extremity: the more imminent the danger is, and the “nearer to be put in execution,” the more wonderful and the more welcome is the deliverance. Now I know that thou fearest God — God knew it before, but now Abraham had given a memorable evidence of it. He need do no more; what he had done was sufficient to prove the religious regard he had to God and his authority. The best evidence of our fearing God is our being willing to honour him with that which is dearest to us, and to part with all to him, or for him.

Verse 13
Genesis 22:13. Behold a ram — Though that blessed Seed was now typified by Isaac, yet the offering of him up was suspended till the latter end of the world, and in the mean time the sacrifice of beasts was accepted, as a pledge of that expiation which should be made by that great Sacrifice. And it is observable, that the temple, the place of sacrifice, was afterward built upon this mount Moriah, 2 Chronicles 3:1; and mount Calvary, where Christ was crucified, was not far off.

Verse 14
Genesis 22:14. Abraham called the place Jehovah-jireh — That is, The Lord will provide, alluding, it seems, to what he had said, Genesis 22:8, God will provide himself a lamb. This was purely the Lord’s doing: let it be recorded for the generations to come, that the Lord will see and provide; will always have his eyes upon his people in their straits, that he may come in with seasonable succour in the critical juncture: as it is said to this day — The time when Moses wrote this account; or is become a proverb in frequent use; In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen — The words thus rendered, namely, the words of the proverb, should certainly be translated either, In the mount the Lord well appear, or rather, In the mount the Lord will provide. That is, in his people’s greatest perplexities and extremities, and when matters are come to a crisis, the Lord will appear to provide for them. Or, according to the proverb used with us, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”

Genesis 22:15-18. And the angel — Christ, called unto Abraham — Probably while the ram was yet burning. Very high expressions are here used of God’s favour to Abraham, above any he had yet been blessed with. Multiplying I will multiply thee — Those that part with any thing for God, shall have it made up to them with unspeakable advantage. Abraham has but one son, and is willing to part with that one in obedience to God; Well, saith God, thou shalt be recompensed with thousands and millions. In blessing I will bless thee — 1st, The promise of the Spirit is here included, which is that blessing of Abraham which was to “come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ,” Galatians 3:14. 2d, The increase of the church; that believers, his spiritual seed, should be many as the stars of heaven. 3d, Spiritual victories; Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies — Believers by their faith overcome the world, and triumph over all the powers of darkness. Probably Zacharias refers to this part of the oath, Luke 1:74, “That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.” But the crown of all is the last promise, 4th, The incarnation of Christ; In thy seed (one particular person that shall descend from thee, for he speaks not of many, but of one, as the apostle observes, Galatians 3:16) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed — Christ is the great blessing of the world. Abraham was ready to give up his son for a sacrifice to the honour of God, and on that occasion God promised to give his Son a sacrifice for the salvation of man.

Verse 20
Genesis 22:20. This is recorded here, 1st, To show that though Abraham saw his own family highly dignified with peculiar privileges, yet he did not look with contempt upon his relations, but was glad to hear of the increase and prosperity of their families. 2d, To make way for the following story of the marriage of Isaac to Rebekah, a daughter of this family.