Because you trusted me, I will bless you greatly
Reading I : Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18
- In the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, the sin of disobedience that brought alienation and death is healed by obedience.
- The Canaanites believed the first born belonged to God.
- Abraham’s test of faith emphasizes the fact that God demands obedience, not sacrifice.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
God's Justice Bible
The Strangeness of God’s Demand
Genesis 22:1–2 In one of the strangest and most haunting passages in the Bible, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son—the very son whom God has miraculously provided. Can a God of justice ask this? It goes so deeply contrary to what we know of God’s character that many have wondered whether such a God should be obeyed. Abraham, though, does not waver. Willing to make even this ultimate sacrifice—though in the end, it is not required—Abraham demonstrates his amazing faith in God.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
Obedience to God's Plan
Genesis 22:1-2 God’s request that Abraham sacrifice his son was a great test of faith, perhaps the greatest such test in history. Abraham’s lifelong dreams were being realized in his beloved son Isaac. Wasn’t God’s promise of numerous descendants to be fulfilled through this child? But Abraham believed that God had his best in mind—and Abraham was right! He believed that no matter what God required of him, his obedience to God’s plan was most important. He trusted that God would still make his promises come true, even without Isaac. Our faith in God’s program may be confronted by similar tests. Are we ready to follow through with obedience?
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible
God tests Abraham
Genesis 22:1 God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character. Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances. When we are tested we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our character. Genesis 22:3 Obeying God is often a struggle because it may mean giving up something we truly want. We should not expect our obedience to God to be easy or to come naturally. Genesis 22:7, 8 Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice? Pagan nations practiced human sacrifice, but God condemned this as a terrible sin (Leviticus 20:1–5). God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son. God was testing Abraham. The purpose of testing is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and his perfect timing. Through this difficult experience, Abraham strengthened his commitment to obey God. He also learned about God’s ability to provide. Genesis 22:12 It is difficult to let go of what we deeply love. What could be more proper than to love your only child? Yet when we do give to God what he asks, he returns to us far more than we could dream. The spiritual benefits of his blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. Have you withheld your love, your children, or your time from him? Trust him to provide (22:8).
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Boice Expositional Commentary
God himself will provide the lamb
When God eventually gave his Son for us, it was on the very mountain where Abraham had offered his sacrifice. We know this from 2 Chronicles 3:1, which identifies Jerusalem with Mount Moriah: “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David.” In Abraham’s day, there was no temple on this mountain. In fact, there was not even a city. It was a deserted, barren place. But the fact that this was the place God intended to build his city and in which he intended to have his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, die, explains why he had Abraham make the three-day journey to get there. God was showing that it was on this mountain (Jerusalem, or Mount Moriah) that he would see to our salvation. When all these facts are put together, the account is wonderful. Remember how Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” That was a good question, one the human race may well have asked again and again through the ages of Old Testament history leading up to the time of Jesus Christ. God commanded animal sacrifices so that people would learn the principle of substitution. But it must have been evident to many who thought about it deeply that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Sacrifices were a shadow of things to come, but they were not the real lamb. Moses may well have asked about that lamb as he confronted his own sin and that of his people: “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham had given the answer: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”
SOURCE: Content taken from BOICE EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY (27 Volumes). James Montgomery Boice, 2007.All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC Bible Study
The Testing of Abraham
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
Our Lenten season began with the account of Satan testing Jesus in the wilderness. This Sunday, we continue with another tale of testing. In the First Reading, we hear how God tested Abraham’s obedience in a covenant ordeal. He told Abraham to build an altar and to offer up his “beloved son,” Isaac, as a sacrifice on a mountain (Gen 22:1-2). It is a test of faith that Abraham passed because he believed God would keep His promise to give Abraham descendants from his beloved son, Isaac (Gen 17:19). Abraham had faith that God would resurrect his son from death to keep His promise (Heb 11:17-19).
The binding of Isaac
No other event recorded in the Old Testament so prefigures the Passion of the Christ as Abraham’s test of obedience in Genesis chapter 22. The event is the last record of Abraham’s direct experience with the divine and God’s final command to His servant Abraham. The Jews call this event the Akedah, which means the “binding” of Isaac, and Christians, from the earliest years of the Church, have seen it as an archetype for the sacrifice of Jesus (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, 3.18).
Abraham’s test of obedience
1 God put Abraham to the test.
These events took place about ten years or more after Ishmael’s exile (Abraham’s son by the slave Hagar) when Isaac was about 13 years old since he could carry the wood for the sacrifice (Gen 22:6). The narrative begins by revealing that God tested Abraham’s covenant relationship with Him through a covenant ordeal. A covenant ordeal is a testing of the obedience and faith of a person who was in the special relationship of a covenant union with God. In Abraham’s covenant ordeal, God tested his faith, trust, and obedience when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. It was also a covenant ordeal for Isaac, who did not resist.
The importance of the opening statement allays any doubt concerning God’s purpose in Abraham’s covenant ordeal. It was a test, and He did not intend an actual human sacrifice. Human sacrifice, especially child sacrifice, was widely practiced in the ancient Near East and was an abomination to God. Archaeological excavations in Canaanite cemeteries have found thousands of clay jars containing the bones of sacrificed children.
Difference between Satan tempting us and God testing us
There is a difference between Satan tempting us and God testing us. Satan tempts us to sin to separate us from our relationship with God and to destroy us (1 Chr 21:1; Mt 4:1; 1 Pt 5:8; Rom 6:23). God never tempts us to do evil. St. James wrote, No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity, it gives birth to death (Jam 1:13-15, also see Sir 15:11-15). God only tests us to strengthen us and give us the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy (Ex 20:20; Dt 8:2; 1 Kng 10:1; 1 Ch 29:17; 2 Chr 9:1; Dan 1:12, 14; Wis 3:1, 4-7; 1 Cor 10:13).
|Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-24)||Failure|
|Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)||Success|
|Jesus at Gethsemane (Mt 28:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46)||Success|
|Peter in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial (Mt 26:69-75; Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:55-62; Jn 18:16-27)||Failure|
|St. Stephen at his trial with the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 6:8-60)||Success|
The land of Moriah
1b He called to him “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. 2 Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love [your beloved son], and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”
The Hebrew word “Moriah” is from the root r’h, meaning “to see” and its derivative nouns mar’a and mar’e, denoting “sight, spectacle, or vision” (Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson, page 94-95).
Yahweh first called Abraham in a test of faith and obedience when He told him to leave the city of Ur and “go to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1). In the final call in Genesis 22, Yahweh again commanded Abraham “go to,” but this time to “go to the land of Moriah.” Genesis 22:4 identifies the land of Moriah as a significant three-day journey from Abraham’s camp at Beersheba. 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies the Land of Moriah with the mountain range where the city of Jerusalem stood. It is the same location where the Temple of Yahweh would be built a thousand years after Abraham during King Solomon’s reign. It is significant that the same Hebrew words “go to” (lek-leka) are found in God’s first command in Genesis 12:1 and again in the final command in 22:2 (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 27, 50; Waltke page 301). These particular words do not appear together anywhere else in the Old Testament (Waltke, page 301).
Abraham’s trust in God
The event in Genesis 22 was a test of Abraham’s faith and obedience as clearly stated in 22:1; however, it was also a test of Abraham’s trust in God to fulfill His covenant promises despite what seemed to be impossible odds against the fulfillment. God promised Abraham many descendants through Isaac and the gift of the land of Canaan to Isaac’s descendants, but that promise seemed unattainable if he sacrificed his “only son” (Gen 12:1-3; 15:5-6; 17:19). This is the reason Bible scholars, both ancient and modern, refer to Abraham’s test as a “covenant ordeal.” There is no doubt that the story’s focus involved Abraham’s son (apparent in the repetition of the word “son”). In the Hebrew text, the word “son” (ben) appears ten times in the narrative (Gen 22:2 (twice), 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 16), while the word “only” (yahid) son is found three times (Gen 22:2, 12, 16). Isaac is Abraham’s “only beloved son.” Ishmael, the slave-girl Hagar’s son, was sent away because he was a threat to the “son of the promise” (Gen 17:11-14a). Isaac was the son God promised would father a nation of descendants for Abraham (Gen 17:4-9, 19) in fulfillment of parts one and two of Abraham’s three-fold covenant: land, descendants, and a world-wide blessing that God first made when He called him to go to Canaan (Gen 12:1-3).
Altar, wood, and knife
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. 10 Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Having carried the wood for his sacrifice, Isaac, the beloved son, was bound and laid upon the rock altar and the wood that was intended to completely consume the sacrifice in fire. 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies Mt. Moriah as the site where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and names the mountain elevation located near the city of Jerusalem. It was where Isaac’s descendant, King David, would have a vision of Yahweh and where God commanded him to build an altar. It is the same site upon which his son, King Solomon, built Yahweh’s Temple. Jesus of Nazareth also carried the wood for His sacrifice, the Cross, to which He was bound and His life completely consumed in physical death. Jesus suffered crucifixion on an elevation of Mt. Moriah below the Temple Mount, just outside Jerusalem’s gates.
The angel’s intervention
10 Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the LORD’S messenger [Angel/Messenger of Yahweh] called to him from Heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. 12 “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” 13 As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham passed the test of his covenant ordeal. At the most dramatic moment, as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into the chest of his submissive son, the Angel of Yahweh stopped him by calling out to Abraham. The angel, identified by God’s covenant name in Hebrew as “the Angel/Messenger of Yahweh,” made an appearance during significant moments in salvation history (Gen 16:7-11; 22:11-15; Ex 3:2; Num 22:22-35; Judg 2:1, 4; etc., 2 Sam 24:16; 1 Kng 19:7; 2 Kng 1:3, 15; 19:35; etc.; Zec 12:8). The event of the Akeda is undoubtedly one of those moments. The Angel of Yahweh may be a manifestation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the pre-Incarnate Christ active in the plan of salvation. Significantly, the “angel” tells Abraham: you did not withhold from me your own beloved son” (Gen 22:12), suggesting He was the pre-Incarnate Son of God.
The major difference in the outcome of the intended sacrifice is that Yahweh spared Abraham’s son by providing a male sheep (ram) for the sacrifice. It will be near that same site that God’s “beloved Son, Jesus, will become the Lamb of sacrifice.
Abraham’s belief that God would raise his son from the dead
However, some questions remain:
- Did Isaac struggle against his father when he was tied and placed on the altar?
- Why was Abraham prepared to go through with Yahweh’s command to sacrifice his son?
Evidently, Isaac submitted and did not struggle, even though Scripture recorded that he was bound (Gen 22:9), probably a foreshadowing of Jesus secured by nails to the altar of the Cross.
The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (probably St. Paul) provides the answer to the second question when he writes that Abraham believed God would give him descendants through this son with whom the covenant was to continue. The writer of Hebrews assures us that Abraham’s faith and trust in God’s promises led him to believe that God would raise his son from the dead to keep those promises (Heb 11:17-18).
God kept His covenant promises to Abraham in the new Israel of the New Covenant Church by raising His beloved Son from the dead to fulfill the promise of an uncountable number of descendants in a world-wide blessing and a home in the real “Promised Land” of Heaven (Mt 20:17-19).
Church Fathers: Passion of Christ
In their commentaries on this passage, the Church Fathers point out that when the Angel of Yahweh stopped Abraham and showed him the male ram “caught up” (sebeck in Greek and achaz in Hebrew) in a tree to offer in sacrifice in place of the boy. Abraham realized that Yahweh had indeed provided the sacrifice (as he told Isaac in Genesis 22:8). At that moment, Abraham’s son was “given back” to him on the third day after their journey of death had begun (Gen 22:4). The Church Fathers saw this event as foreshadowing the Passion of the Christ “caught up” (like Isaac’s ram of sacrifice) on the tree of the Cross and also given back to His Father on the third day after His resurrection.
St. James: Works of Faith
Abraham’s willingness to trust God with his life and the life of his son was not just belief; it was a work of faith. We are all called to “works of faith” in our journeys to salvation. St. James, writing to the Church about the necessity of demonstrating living and active faith, held Abraham up as an example of such faith: Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus, the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God” (Jam 2:21-23).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. titles added.
God will provide
Points to consider
- God put Abraham to the test. On one level I think to myself: that story again, which we also hear at the Easter Vigil. But I dig in, reading carefully until I am listening with my inner ear, in prayer, to every word.
- Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and offer him up as a holocaust. Yes, it says in Genesis that God said that. Yes, I already know that God will stop him and reward him for … what? For putting love of God above love of family and children? Either he worships a cruel bloodthirsty god like Moloch, or he has much to learn about the one God. I will interpret the voice of God to Abraham here like a suggestion in a dream, like the God of Job who is willing to push people to their breaking point.
- Father and son walk ahead, up to a height that I will point out to you. I hear the basic details and no more: he built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. How can I read with detachment? The future of a people and perhaps the very revelation of the one God are at risk! Let me practice a more tragic voice here.
- And afterwards? You did not withhold from me your own beloved son. These words find echoes in both of the readings that follow. Shall I say them like the cruel god Moloch? I have often heard them read that way. Or like the jealous God of Israel who pushes his faithful ones hard indeed? Sometimes I hear this. What about a voice like the God of Moses who repented of a threat to destroy the people? Or like an incredulous parent or coach whose charges have taken her at her word: Oh, I know now! Your own beloved son!? I will work on that.
- Last of all comes the renewal of the covenant. Because you acted as you did –Abraham has made a lasting impression on God because he acted above and beyond the call. Maybe an Almighty God, the God of many theologians and faithful, would know all along. My God, the God revealed to Abraham and to Jesus, is constantly distressed and elated by the responses of created men and women. I will bless you abundantly. This is not your garden variety blessing, and so I must make it sound monumental: as countless as the stars of the sky.
- Climax: The true climax, “God will provide,” has been excised in our lectionary. I would concentrate on the angel’s double cry of Abraham! Abraham!, sounding the first like a sharp thunderclap and the second like an urgent pleading. I would even pronounce the name differently from the way I pronounced it at the beginning of the reading, to indicate that the patriarch has been called to a new understanding of himself and his God.
- Message for our assembly: In your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Let us give deepest thanks for the witness of the people Israel that has reached and enriched us all.
- I will challenge myself: to avoid a sense of detachment before a very old story that is merely interesting today – and to rehearse until I find the right feelings to confirm my reading of this and other central themes of our salvation
Loyalty to God
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
In one short passage, God declares human sacrifice unacceptable, and expects a loyalty even more fierce than the desire for children and family.
Our Liturgical Setting
The Catholic custom on the second Sunday of lent is to consider the transfiguration of Jesus, with the voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (Protestant churches generally use this gospel story and related readings on the Sunday before lent begins, the last Sunday of the Epiphany season.) This year, we all read that episode from Mark 9:2-10. After reading Sunday’s gospel passage (as usual, the best way to start preparing for your own service as lector), you’ll see how the images in the reading about Abraham and Isaac echo the images in the gospel.
The Historical Situation
For brevity, the editors of the Lectionary have left out of this selection several verses. You’ll do well to read the whole chapter, Genesis 22, to yourself. This story is all the more poignant because Abraham and Sarah had been childless so long and so unhappily until the birth of Isaac.
The Theological Background
In itself, the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac carries great significance. Various scholars have pointed out these themes in it:
- The call to follow God is absolute, superseding the natural desire to have children and to pass on one’s name to them.
- But, while God’s call is absolute, the God of Abraham is different from the gods of contemporary pagan religions, in that this God rejects and prohibits the ritual sacrifice of children.
- The descendants of Abraham are to be many and powerful, always to enjoy a special relationship with God.
Proclaiming the Passage
Read it slowly, telling the story in a matter-of-fact way, until the last paragraph. Make this last declaration most solemn. It’s the great promise upon which the People of the Promise, our ancestors in the faith, were founded. “All the nations of the earth shall find blessing” in the people constituted here. We believe that blessing is the spread of the good news about Jesus, the descendant of this faithful Abraham.
Jesus and Isaac: Two Beloved Sons
Jesus is depicted as the fulfillment of many Old Testament types, such as Adam, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Joseph, and so on. In this week’s video see some of the types Jesus is fulfilling in the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, in particular Jesus being a New Isaac.Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more.
BISHOP ROBERT BARRON
Abraham, Isaac, and Christ
Why would a loving God make Abraham sacrifice his only son?
Today’s question answered: “If God is loving, why would He make Abraham kill and sacrifice his only son Isaac? What kind of God would do that?”