Isaac: Son of Promise

by Gene Taylor

"Of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called'" (Hebrews 11:18).

In accordance with the promise that God had made to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, whose name means "laughter," was born to them when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old. His birth was miraculous in that it was physically impossible for Sarah to have had a child (Gen. 18:11). He was named "Isaac" because of both the command of God and the reaction of Sarah. After Ishmael, Abraham's son born of Hagar the handmaid of Sarah, scoffed Isaac, Abraham sent Ishmael away in accordance with Sarah's wishes and God's instruction.

In Genesis 22, Isaac accompanied his father to the land of Moriah not realizing that he was going there to be sacrificed. He willingly laid on the altar Abraham had built waiting for his father's knife to plunge in him and kill him. But the angel of the Lord stayed Abraham's hand and Isaac was spared.

Abraham, wanting Isaac to marry someone from his family, sent his oldest servant to them to get a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). Outside of the city of Nahor, he prayed to God to assist him in finding a proper woman for Isaac. In response to his prayer to God, he met Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor, Abraham's brother. She gave him and his camels water from the well outside the city. She told him he could lodge at her father's house. Laban, Rebekah's brother, having heard her tell of Abraham's servant, went to the well and repeated the invi-tation to lodge with them. The servant told them of the purpose of his mis-sion and asked that Rebekah return with him to be Isaac's wife. They agreed.

After her marriage to Isaac, Rebekah was barren so Isaac prayed to God that she might have children (Gen. 25:20-28). God granted his plea and she conceived and bore twins. While she was with child, she thought something was wrong. God answered her fears and told her that two babies were within her. He also informed her that one would be stronger than the other and that the older would serve the younger.

The firstborn was Esau. He was red and hairy. He became a skillful hunter. Jacob was the younger. At birth he took hold of Esau's heel. He became a mild man, a dweller in tents. It is said that Isaac loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob.

There was a famine in Canaan which caused Isaac to journey to Gerar where Abimelech, king of the Philistines lived (Gen. 26). God told him not to go to Egypt but to sojourn in the land of the Philistines. God repeated to Isaac the promises He had made to Abraham (vv. 3-5).

While living in Gerar, Isaac repeated the lie of his father telling the men of Gerar that Rebekah was his sister for, like Sarah, she was beautiful and he feared for his life. Abimelech saw Isaac "showing endearment" to her (v. 8). He chastised Isaac for lying about her and charged his people not to touch her under penalty of death.

Isaac prospered in Gerar. He reaped a hundredfold from what he sowed. He had great flocks and herds and many servants. The Philistines envied and feared him so Abimelech sent him away.

He redug the wells that his father had dug that the Philistines had filled with earth. In two instances they were taken from him by the herdsmen of Gerar but the third well provided him and his flocks and herds plentifully.

Upon his return to Beersheba, Abimelech came to him. He recognized God was with Isaac and wanted to have peace with him. They feasted and made an oath with one another.

In Genesis 27, nearly blind, Isaac desired to bless Esau before he died. He instructed Esau to provide for him and then he would bless him. Rebekah overheard and instructed Jacob to deceive his father into blessing him with the blessing he intended to bestow upon Esau. She put skins of animals on him so that he would appear to be hairy like Esau and then prepared food for him to give to Isaac. Isaac unwittingly bestowed Esau's blessing on Jacob. Esau tearfully pleaded with his father to revoke the blessing but Isaac would not. In the blessing he then gave to Esau, Isaac said that he would serve his brother. Esau was angry with his brother so Isaac sent Jacob to Laban, Rebekah's brother, so that not only could he get away from Esau but also could marry one of Laban's daughters instead of a Canaanite woman.

Isaac died at Hebron at the age of 180 years (Gen. 35:27-29).

Some Lessons and Applications

The Bible has many references to Isaac. In Amos 7:9,16, Israel is identified as his people. He is used to ilustrate the resurrection of the dead and life after death in both Matthew 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27. In Galatians 4:28-31 he is used to illustrate the relation of the Old Law to the New. His blessing of his sons is cited as an example of faith in Hebrews 11:20.

While these are important, in his role in the sacrifice in Genesis 22, he, I believe, sets forth his most important lesson. For in it he is seen as a type of Jesus. Consider the chart below.

Isaac (Genesis 22)

Jesus

Only son of promise (v. 2) Only begotten of Father (John 3:16)
To be sacrificed in Moriah (v. 2) Sacrificed in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 3:1)
Considered dead by father for three days (v. 4) Dead for three days (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
Carried wood for his own sacrifice (v. 6) Bore his own cross (John 19:17-18)
Submitted willingly to father (vv. 6, 8) Submitted willingly to Father (Matt. 26:39)
Raised from altar, his life spared by the power of God Raised from the dead by the power of God (Rom. 6:4)