10. Abraham, Quite A Character


By Amanda Brazier

Abraham: The Binding of Isaac

As we enter this point in Abraham’s story, let’s remember a few things:

God has called childless Abraham – and his descendants – to bless the world. God has made a covenant with Abraham that has been developed over the course of many years. Abram and Sarai doubted that God would provide them a son; so, Sarai’s servant Hagar bore a son for Abram, named Ishmael. Yet, God proved faithful and sent the gift of Isaac…25 years after the initial promise in Genesis 12:1-3

The binding of Isaac is a culminating event in Abraham’s life; a bookend to Genesis 12. Abraham follows God into the unknown once again.

Questions for discussion

1. Have you ever received unexpected provision?

‘Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’ Genesis 22:1-2

a. What questions do you have about this section?

b. How would you feel if you were Abraham?

i. Rabbinical commentaries sometimes view this as a conversation between God and Abraham:

‘Take your son.’ ‘Which son?’ ‘Your only son.’ ‘But I have two.’ ‘Isaac.’ ‘Isaac?’ ‘Whom you love…’

ii. This text is shocking…A reversal of all the promises in the Abraham narrative. Isaac is the only link to God’s promise!

c. What kind of a God would demand such a thing?

i. We learn that this is only a test, something Abraham does not know.

ii. A test, not to torture Abraham, but to display a truth that can only be observed or experienced, not simply asserted.

iii. Abraham at the beginning would be incapable of meeting this test.

iv. Two questions come up in these first two verses: Will Abraham be faithful? Will God be faithful?

‘Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.’ Genesis 22:3-8

a. What questions do you have about this section?

b. ‘Where is the lamb?’ Have you ever been asked a question that you just couldn’t bear to answer?

c. ‘God will provide.’ Do you think Abraham believed his own words?

i. It is important to keep ‘God will provide’ in mind at all times while reading this story.

ii. Whether or not Abraham wholeheartedly believed his own words at that moment, his message speaks the truth that God sustains the world… especially those who love and obey him.

‘When they reached the place, God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.’ Genesis 22:9-10

a. What questions do you have about this section?

b. What would you be feeling now if you were Abraham? If you were Isaac?

c. Will God provide?

‘But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So, Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’ The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’ Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.’ Genesis 22:11-19

a. What questions do you have about this section?

b. What does ‘fearing God’ mean?

i. Holding God in profound respect and awe.

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ Proverbs 9:10

c. Was Abraham here justified by faith or works?

i. Perhaps this work brought his faith to completion? Faith and actions working together. (James 2:18-24)

ii. Beyond Abraham’s faith and actions, God’s providential care is exalted above all.

d. What do we learn about God in this story?

i. He wants dedication and reverence, not sacrifices. He is not the kind of God who wants human flesh or the sacrifice of innocent life.

ii. The LORD will provide. (This phrase, Jehovah Jireh, also means ‘The Lord sees’)

What (or who) does this story prefigure?

a. The passion (i.e. suffering and death) of Jesus.

b. The passion of Isaac is also the passion of his father; and the passion of Jesus is the passion of his Father.

c. Obedience requires the son to remain steadfast to the end.

d. Isaac asks about the lamb; Jesus knows he is the lamb.

e. Isaac and Jesus carried the wood of their sacrifice.

f. God provides!



"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16