PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATION
|NASB||NKJV||NRSV||TEV||NJB (follows MT)|
|The Offering of Isaac||Abraham's Faith Confirmed||The Testing of Abraham||God Commands Abraham to Offer Isaac||Abraham's Sacrifice|
|The Family of Nahor||The Descendants of Abraham's Brother Nahor||The Descendants of Nahor||The Descendants of Nahor|
READING CYCLE THREE
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:1-8
1Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 2He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." 3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you." 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.
22:1 "God" This is the Hebrew word Elohim. This is one of the common names for God which is found in the early parts of Genesis. We are uncertain of its etymology, but because of the play on words found in Gen. 31:29, it seems to be related to the phrase "be strong." Critical scholarship of the 18th and 19th centuries have used the terms Elohim and YHWH, found in different chapters of the book of Genesis, to postulate a documentary hypothesis of several sources. However, the rabbis say that the distinction between these names is found in the character of God which they represent. Elohim represents God's power and concern as Creator, while YHWH represents God's covenant mercies. I think the rabbinical explanation is much to be preferred.
▣ "tested Abraham"
▣ "Abraham" God changed his name from Abram, which means "exalted father," to Abraham, which means "father of a multitude." God is about to ask Abraham to do something that will jeopardize his new name! The Septuagint doubles God's address to Abraham, but the Hebrew manuscript has only a single "Abraham" in v. 1, while the double is in v. 11.
▣ "Here I am" This is a Hebrew idiom of availability (cf. v. 11; Exod. 3:4; I Sam. 3:4; Isa. 6:8).
22:2 Notice the series of commands given to Abraham concerning Isaac.
1. "Take now your son," BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative
2. "Go to the land of Moriah," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative (it is interesting to note that this verb in this form is found only here and Gen. 12:1, which links these two tests as promise and fulfillment [also note v. 18 and 12:3])
3. "Offer him there," BDB 748, KB 828, Hiphil imperative
▣ "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac" This seems to be a purposeful series of phrases referring specifically to Isaac, the special son of promise. Also notice that he is the "only" (BDB 402) son (cf. vv. 2,12,16). Ishmael was not the son of promise and he has been sent away! All of Abraham's hope for descendants is in this boy, and YHWH directs him to sacrifice!
▣ "to the land of Moriah" This term (BDB 599) has been translated many ways.
1. the Vulgate and the Samaritan Pentateuch have "visions"
2. the Targums translate it as "worship"
3. the Septuagint has "high"
4. the Peshitta has "of the Amonites"
5. some scholars translate it as "shown of YHWH"
6. others "the chosen"
7. still others "the place of appearing"
It seems that "the place of appearing" might be the best possible translation based on the other use of this term in II Chr. 3:1, which mentions that the temple was built on Mt. Moriah, the place where God appeared to David. This can either refer to II Sam. 24:16 or more probably, I Chr. 21:18-30. The mention of Abraham offering Isaac in that context is either omitted because it was so well known or it was unknown to the author of I Chronicles. Also Moriah seems to relate to the city of Melchizedek, Salem (14:18), later called Jebus, which became Jerusalem.
▣ "a burnt offering" This is the Hebrew term "holocaust" which means "a completely burned sacrifice" (BDB 750). Not only did it involve ritually cutting his throat, but also ritually butchering him. What a shocking command from the Deity who promised him a son and caused him to send Ishmael away! Abraham must trust God without understanding, much like the Numbers 21 incident alluded to in John 3:14.
22:3 "Abraham rose early in the morning" Notice that there is no hesitation or questioning on Abraham's part recorded, but what a bad night it must have been. Whether this is an omission or a sign of the development of Abraham's faith is uncertain. Abraham is certainly not perfect, but the greatness of his trust in God can surely be seen in this account. This was the climactic test of trust.
22:4 "on the third day" The distance between Beersheba and Mt. Moriah is about a two and a half days walk, but with a donkey and the other supplies, it may have taken longer.
22:5 Notice the commands to his servants and the description of his intent.
1. "stay here," BDB 442, KB 444, Qal imperative
2. "I and the lad will go yonder," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal cohortative
3. "we will worship," BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel cohortative
4. "we will return to you," BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal cohortative
▣ "we will worship and return to you" Abraham's faith in God is so certain that Heb. 11:17-19 assumes that Isaac will be raised from the dead if necessary in order to accompany Abraham back to their home. This is in line with God's previous promise to Abraham in 21:12 that Abraham would have descendants through Isaac. Although Abraham did not understood the how or why, he certainly knew and understood the God who was able.
22:6 "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son" There are many connections between what happens to Isaac and what later happens to Jesus. Personally, I am nervous about any allegory and typology which is not mentioned specifically in the NT because of how much it has been abused by commentators throughout the life of the church. There is obviously an allusion between Isaac and Jesus. What God would not allow Abraham to do to Isaac, He did Himself to His own Son. I think we can understand something of the intensity of the love of God when we empathize with the love and faith of Abraham.
▣ "the fire and the knife" Whether this fire refers to the coals of the previous night's campfire or to the small bag of flint and kindling is uncertain. The knife is the term for a "butcher knife" (BDB 38), a very large knife which was used for cooking purposes (cf. Jdgs. 19:29; Pro. 30:14).
22:7 "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering" Isaac's question must have cut Abraham to the heart, to which Abraham expresses his faith in God so beautifully in v. 8. The fact that Isaac was acquainted with sacrifices shows that the sacrificial system predates the Mosaic legislation. This can be seen (1) in Cain and Abel (Genesis 4); (2) in Noah (Genesis 8:20); and (3) in Job (Job 1:5).
22:8 "and Abraham said, 'God will provide for Himself the lamb'" The phrase "God will provide" later becomes a name for God in v. 14 ("YHWH," BDB 217 and "see," BDB 906). We have seen how common it is for the acts of God to result in a new name to describe His character and actions. The Hebrew term "will provide" is really "will see to it" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect), but it came to be used in this specialized sense (the One who sees is the One who provides).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:9-14
9Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." 13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the Lord it will be provided."
22:9 "Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar" We see something, not only of the great faith of Abraham, but of the great faith of Isaac. Isaac was apparently old enough to carry the wood up the hill and he was old enough to resist being tied up by his father. I am sure that this incident caused hours of religious discussion later between Abraham and Isaac.
The verb "bind" (BDB 785, KB 873, Qal imperfect) is found only here in the OT. The same root (BDB 785) means to bend or twist. Therefore, it is assumed to mean twist the legs of a sacrificial animal so as to tie them together.
22:10 "Abraham stretched out his hand" This apparently refers to the ritual act of slitting the throat of the sacrificial animal.
22:11 "but the angel of the Lord" It is obvious when we read vv. 11 and 12 together that this "angel of the Lord" is the personification of God Himself (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 18:1; 19:1; 21:17, 19; 22:11-15; 31:11, 13; 32:24, 30; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2, 4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 6:12, 14; and Zech. 3:1, 2). But, notice how in v. 12 the angel refers to "God." It is difficult to affirm a strict monotheism with all the other spiritual entities mentioned in Genesis (i.e., "Spirit" in Gen. 1:2; "Let us" in Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; "the angel of the Lord above," and also note "the Lord says to my Lord" in Ps. 110:1). How all these inter-relate is a mystery. Christians affirm, along with Jews, the monotheism expressed in Deut. 6:4. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at 20:13.
22:12 There are two negative commands.
1. "do not stretch our your hand against the lad," BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal imperfect, but used in a jussive sense
2. "do nothing to him," BDB 793, KB 889, Qal jussive
The following perfects show that YHWH is fully satisfied with Abraham's trusting faith.
1. "for now I know," BDB 393, KB 390, Qal perfect
2. "since you have not withheld your son," BDB 362, KB 359, Qal perfect
The repetitive phrases referring to Isaac are found in v. 2 and repeated in v. 12 (cf. v. 16).
Just a word about "now I know." Does this call into question YHWH's foreknowledge or is this a literary way of showing approval to Abraham's faith? I understand it in the second sense. I am uncomfortable with Open Theism.
REB"a god-fearing man"
This term (BDB 431) occurs often in the OT. It can mean "fear" (cf. Gen. 3:10; 18:15; 20:8; 28:17; 32:7; 42:35; 43:18), but in certain contexts it transitions to "awe," "respect," or "honor" when describing a human's attitude toward Deity. Note the following texts: Gen. 42:18; Exod. 1:17; 9:30; 18:21; Lev. 19:14,32; 25:17,36,43; Deut. 6:2,24; 10:12,20; 14:23; 17:19; 25:18; 28:58; 31:12-13; Ps. 33:8. This "fear" should issue in worship and obedience. It is a lifestyle relationship, not a set of isolated events, places, creeds, or rules. Obedience flows from respect and love, not fear of reprisal. Disobedience is primarily against love, as well as law! One's relationship with God becomes the priority of life! The "Abraham believed God" (Gen. 15:6) has been demonstrated in life!
NASB, RSV"behind him a ram"
NKJV"and there behind him was a ram"
NRSV, TEV"a ram"
There are variations in the Hebrew manuscripts at this point. The MT has the adverb "behind" (רחא, BDB 29), but some Hebrew manuscripts and the Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, and Peshitta have "one" (דחא, BDB 25), translated "a" ram.
▣ "in place of his son" God did not ask Abraham to sacrifice the ram, but Abraham on his own behalf and with thanksgiving, offered it to God on the very mountain that would one day be the site of Solomon's temple. This may be the incipient form of sacrifice as the substitutionary act that is later developed, not only in the Mosaic legislation, but also supremely in the sacrifice of Christ (cf. Isaiah 53 and John 1:29; the book of Hebrews; I Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:11-14).
22:14 "as it is to this day" This may be the literary marker of a later editor. It could even be Moses, or Moses' priestly scribe. I personally think that much of Genesis, up to Joseph's day, comes from Patriarchal oral or written traditions.
▣ "Abraham called the name of the place The Lord Will Provide" This seems to be based on God's act and Abraham's answer to Isaac in v. 8.
▣ "in the mount of the Lord it will be provided" This seems to be a foreshadowing of the location of the phrase "the place God will cause His Name to dwell" (cf. Deut. 12:5,11,21; 14:23,24; 16:2,6,11, etc. Originally this referred to the tabernacle, but it came to refer to the temple on Mt. Moriah).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:15-19
15Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." 19So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.
22:16 "By Myself I have sworn" This is the only time in the book of Genesis where God swears by Himself in relationship to the covenant. This becomes a major theological point for Heb. 6:13-18. Notice that it is an unconditional promise based on God's love, but it is in response to Abraham's great act of faith (i.e., "because you obeyed My voice," v. 18). The unconditional/conditional nature of the covenants of the Bible seem to be related to God's unconditional love, but human's conditional response.
22:17 "indeed I will greatly bless you" There are two grammatical structures which denote emphasis in this verse.
1. The Piel infinitive absolute and the Piel imperfect verb of the same root, "bless" (BDB 138, KB 159), therefore, translated "I will greatly bless you."
2. The Hiphil infinitive absolute and the Hiphil imperfect verb of the same root, "multiply" or "make many" (BDB 915, KB 1176), therefore, translated "I will greatly multiply your seed."
This seems to go back to the beginning promise to Abraham in chapter 12 (as it was in the initial creation), the promise of a seed and of a land. The NT emphasizes the promise of the seed and de- emphasizes the promise of the land.
▣ "I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore" These are two of several metaphors used to describe the multitudinous nature of Abraham's descendants (cf. dust, Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10; stars, Gen. 15:5; 26:4; and sand, Gen. 32:12).
▣ "and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies" The gate symbolized the security of the ancient, walled cities. To secure someone's gate meant to capture their city. Therefore, this is a metaphor for the military victory of the descendants of Abraham against all those who would be against them. This same metaphor is used in the NT in Matthew 16 for "the gates of hell shall not overcome the church."
From the Prophets we know that even these promises are conditional on Israel's obedience, as they were on Abraham's obedience (cf. 15:6; 22:16,18). YHWH's promises have been abrogated by Israel's continual disobedience and idolatry. We must remember that the primary focus in Scripture is God's character and faithfulness. However, it must also be said that His desire is that His people reflect His character to an unbelieving world (i.e., the nations) so that they also can respond to Him!
22:18 "in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" The grammatical and theological issue involved is how to translate the Niphal and Hithpael perfects of the verb "bless" (BDB 138, KB 159) that seem to be parallel in
1. Gen. 12:3, Niphal perfect
2. Gen. 18:18, Niphal perfect
3. Gen. 22:18, Hithpael perfect
4. Gen. 26:4, Hithpael perfect
5. Gen. 28:14, Niphal perfect
The Niphal stem is usually passive (this verb appears only in Genesis texts translated as passives), but can function as reflexive or reciprocal. The Hithpael stem is reflexive or reciprocal (cf. Deut. 29:19; Ps. 72:17; Isa. 65:16 [twice]; Jer. 4:2).
The NT quotes of this crucial promise are passives. See Acts 3:25 and Gal. 3:8. The question relates to the missionary mandate of Israel to be a "kingdom of priests" for the nations (cf. Exod. 19:5-6). Although this is not stated unambiguously until the eighth century prophets, it is assumed and alluded to in these Genesis texts.
In one sense Israel was to provide the information about God (through their obedient lifestyle observance of the Mosaic law). Ultimately the nations had to respond and trust the trustworthiness of YHWH (as Abraham did, cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23). They must recognize and respond to the revelation provided by YHWH to and through Israel. If Israel was disobedient, instead of the witness of abundance as well as a stable society, all the nations saw only the judgment side of YHWH. Israel has failed in her missionary mandate and it has passed to the church (i.e., "the Great Commission," Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8)!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 22:20-24
20Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, "Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: 21Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram 22and Chesed and Hazo and Pildash and Jidlaph and Bethuel." 23Bethuel became the father of Rebekah; these eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. 24His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah and Gaham and Tahash and Maacah.
22:20-24 This family genealogy seems to be somewhat unusual here, but in reality it is very significant in laying the groundwork for Isaac's future bride, Rebekah, who will be mentioned in v. 23.
22:23 "Bethuel" This name means "man of God" (BDB 143 I).
▣ "Rebekah" It is possible that the Hebrew etymology of this name (BDB 918) means "to tie up an animal" and thereby came to mean "the place of tying" or when used of a woman "an ensnaring one." The rabbis see this as meaning that Rebekah's beauty was enticing and she "tied up" Isaac's affection.
22:24 "Reumah" This word (BDB 910) has two possible meanings: (1) "to be raised," which seems to be appropriate since she was raised from a slave to a concubine or (2) "pearl" or "coral," which seems to be a closer correlation to the Hebrew term.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Does God really test His children? If so, why?
2. What is the meaning of the term "Moriah" and where is it located?
3. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice the son of promise?
4. Why are vv. 20-24 included in this passage?
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