Bible Commentary

Genesis 22

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Genesis 22)

Verse 1

[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.

Here is the trial of Abraham's 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 is stranger than any yet.

God did tempt Abraham — Not to draw him to sin, so Satan tempts; but to discover his graces, how strong they were, that they might be found to praise and honour and glory. The trial itself: God appeared to him as he had formerly done, called him by name Abraham, that name which had been given him in ratification of the promise: Abraham, like a good servant, readily answered, Here am I; what saith my Lord unto his servant? Probably he expected some renewed promise, like those, Genesis 15:1; 17:1, but to his great amazement that which God hath to say to him is in short, Abraham, go kill thy son: and this command is given him in such aggravating language as makes the temptation abundantly more grievous. When God speaks, Abraham, no doubt, takes notice of every word, and listens attentively to it: and every word here is a sword in his bones; the trial is steel'd with trying phrases. 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

[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 which I will tell thee of.

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 thine 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 'tis expressed more emphatically, and I think might very well be read thus, Take now that son of thine, that only son of thine, whom thou lovest, that Isaac.

And get thee into the land of Moriah — Three days journey off: so that he might have time to consider it, and if he do it, must do it deliberately.

And offer him for a burnt offering — He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, with all that sedateness and composedness of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offering.

Verse 3

[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 of which God had told him.

The several steps of this obedience, all help to magnify it, and to shew that he was guided by prudence, and governed by faith, in the whole transaction. (1.) 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. (2.) He gets things ready for a sacrifice, and it should seem, with his own hands, cleaves the wood for the burnt-offering. (3.) He left his servants at some distance off, left 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

[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.

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

[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?

Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb? — This is, 1. A trying question to Abraham; how could he endure to think that Isaac is himself the lamb? 2. 'Tis 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; that is, 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, but the Spirit works by them. 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

[8] And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

My son, God will provide himself a lamb — This was the language either, 1. Of his obedience; we must offer the lamb which God has appointed now to be offered; thus giving him this general rule of submission to the divine will to prepare him for the application of it to himself. Or, 2. Of his faith; whether he meant it so or no, this proved to be the meaning of it; a sacrifice was provided instead of Isaac. Thus, 1. 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. 2. All our sacrifices of acknowledgement are of God's providing too; 'tis he that prepares the heart. The broken and contrite spirit is a sacrifice of God, of his providing.

Verse 9

[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.

With the same resolution and composedness of mind, he applies himself to the compleating of this sacrifice. 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 be built; lays the wood in order for Isaac's funeral pile; and now tells him the amazing news. Isaac, for ought 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 is necessary that a sacrifice 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, 1. 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. 2. Of our duty to God in return of 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, tho' they have been as a right hand, or a right eye, or an Isaac; all those things that are rivals with Christ for the sovereignity of our heart; and we must chearfully 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 chearful resignation and submission to his holy will.

Verse 11

[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 — That is, God himself, the eternal Word, the Angel of the covenant, who was to be the great Redeemer and Comforter.

Verse 12

[12] And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Lay not thine hand upon the lad — God's time to help his people is, when they are brought to the greatest extremity: the more eminent the danger is, and the nearer to be put in execution, the more wonderful and the more welcome is the deliverance.

Now know I 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

[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.

Behold a ram — Tho' 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

[14] And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

And Abraham called the place Jehovah-jireh — The Lord will provide. Probably alluding 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; he will always have his eyes upon his people in their straits, that he may come in with seasonable succour in the critical juncture. And that he will be seen, be seen in the mount, in he greatest perplexities of his people; he will not only manifest but magnify his wisdom, power and goodness in their deliverance. Where God sees and provides, he should be seen and praised. And perhaps it may refer to God manifest in the flesh.

Verse 15

[15] And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

And the Angel — Christ.

Called unto Abraham — Probably while the ram was yet burning. Very high expressions are here of God's favour to Abraham, above any he had yet been blessed with.

Verse 16

[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:

Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not with-held thy son, thine only son — He lays a mighty emphasis upon that, and Genesis 22:18, praises it as an act of obedience, in it thou hast obeyed my voice.

By myself have I sworn — For he could swear by no greater.

Verse 17

[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;

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. Here is a promise, 1. Of the Spirit, In blessing I will bless thee - The Gift of the Holy Ghost; the promise of the Spirit was that blessing of Abraham which was to come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:14. 2. Of the increase of the church; that believers, his spiritual seed, should be many as the stars of heaven. 3. Of 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, 4. Of 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

[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;

This is recorded here, 1. To show that tho' 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. 2. To make way for the following story of the marriage of Isaac to Rebekah, a daughter of this family.

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