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The Supreme Test of Abraham's Faith!

Jehovah appeared again to Abraham, confirming and enlarging His covenant promise by declaring: “To your seed I am going to give this land.” (Ge 12:7) 

Abraham not only built an altar to Jehovah there but, as he moved southward through the land, he built other altars along the way; and he called on the name of Jehovah. (Ge 12:8, 9) 

The supreme test of Abraham’s faith came about 20 years later. According to Jewish tradition, Isaac was now 25 years old. (Jewish Antiquities, by F. Josephus, I, 227 [xiii, 2]) In obedience to Jehovah’s instructions Abraham took Isaac and traveled N from Beer-sheba at the Negeb to Mount Moriah, situated directly N of Salem. 

There he built an altar and prepared to offer up Isaac, the promised seed, as a burnt sacrifice. And indeed Abraham “as good as offered up Isaac,” for “he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.” 

Only at the last moment did Jehovah intervene and provide a ram as a  
substitute for Isaac on the sacrificial altar. It was, therefore, this implicit faith backed up by complete obedience that moved Jehovah to reinforce his covenant with Abraham with a sworn oath, a special legal guarantee.—Ge 22:1-18; Heb 6:13-18; 11:17-19.

"Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
22 "You see that his faith was active along with his works and his faith was perfected by his works,"
 23 "The scripture was fulfilled that says: “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” and he came to be called Jehovah’s friend."

15 And Jehovah’s angel called to Abraham a second time from the heavens, 
16 saying: “‘By myself I swear,’ declares Jehovah, ‘that because you have done this and you have not withheld your son, your only one, 
17 I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand on the seashore,and your offspring will take possession of the gate of his enemies.18 And by means of your offspring all nations of the earth will obtain a blessing for themselves because you have listened to my voice.’” (Genesis 22:15-18,"

4 sons
7 other sons
Daughter 1
Daughter 2
6 sons
JACOB Sons of Jacob are shown numbered in order of birth
LEVI (3)
The line in which Jesus Christ was born
DAN (5)
GAD (7)
indicates marriage or concubinage
indicates offspring

Yes, his Blessings came that his "seed" brought the Messiah and the Blessings of all Nations being Blessed even today! Appreciate that! What an example for us! 



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The Supreme Test of Abraham's Faith! Jehovah appeared again to Abraham, confirming and enlarging His covenant promise by declaring: “To your seed I am going to give this land.” (Ge 12:7)  Ab

Isaac was young and his father old.  He could have pushed his father away and said: No.  So he willingly lay down to be  sacrificed by his father - a willing participant - so he also displayed faith i

Bible believers have anguished over this account about Abraham and Isaac for thousands of years. Some have tried to soften the impact, because it jars our sensibilities. It's like reading about David

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Isaac was young and his father old.  He could have pushed his father away and said: No.  So he willingly lay down to be  sacrificed by his father - a willing participant - so he also displayed faith in the resurrection and the promises from Jehovah about the seed coming from his  family line.  

Abraham did not have to go the whole way.... but Jehovah did go the whole way by allowing his son to die.   Jesus willingly came to earth and offered his life to be sacrificed.  This is a future picture of the greatest sacrifice offered up for mankind.  As appalling as it feels to us that Abraham did this - it is actually a picture of how appalling this was to Jehovah se offer up his son.  Both Jehovah and Jesus knew how necessary this was - otherwise we could not have the opportunity to live - we needed a legal ransom.

When Jesus died it became night and the earth shook which demonstrated Jehovah's distress that his son had died..... while being perfect..... it was an unjust death because it was not deserved.  Jesus, by his death proved that Adam could have stayed faithful to Jehovah - he was not created with a flaw.  He knew what he was doing when he chose Eve above Jehovah. One perfect man sinned and brought death upon his offspring and one man's loyalty to Jehovah until death (under much more taxing circumstances than Adam), provided the ransom to give us life.

I always ask Muslims why did god allow Abraham to offer up his son. (They believe it was Ishmael- and they do not believe that Jesus died.  They say it was made to appear so....)  If this was a picture of a future event..... Who provided that sacrificial death?   Jesus or Mohammad?

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Bible believers have anguished over this account about Abraham and Isaac for thousands of years. Some have tried to soften the impact, because it jars our sensibilities. It's like reading about David having his enemies hacked up, or Jephthah offering his daughter as a burnt offering. Or Hosea being asked to marry a prostitute, or Ezekiel being asked to cook with human excrement, or Isaiah being asked to father a child by a prophetess who isn't described as his wife, and to walk around completely naked for three years. The list could go on and on. For centuries, Bible translators have often made decisions to soften the ideas from the original languages to protect more modern readers.

But this particular account is the most disturbing. How many of us would kill our child because we heard a voice and we had faith was God's voice. Abraham had the faith to go through with it. And we have no idea if the already weaned child was 5 years old, 6 years old, 10 years old, or even 20 years old, which is about the maximum age that the Hebrew word for "boy" is generally used of someone's son. We know he could speak, and that he could carry a bundle of sticks.

It's hard to say if Isaac really had faith in the resurrection at the time. Abraham lied to him or misled him when Isaac asked where the animal for sacrifice was. If Abraham was not misleading him when he told Isaac that God would provide the sheep, then that would mean that Abraham did not really have faith to offer up his son, because he expected a replacement all along. The Bible does not say that Isaac was willing to be bound. If Isaac was really willing to have a knife plunged into him, there might be no need to bind him anyway.

At any rate, this is not a story that we should just think of as another story for a book of children's Bible stories. It should make us anguish over what it really means to have faith. What is the difference in following a voice and dreams that tell you to murder, or voices and dreams that really come from God? The difference in Abraham's case seems to be a relationship with Jehovah that was undeniably real and close, as if he were speaking to a friend. And yet it wasn't completely based on things actually seen, but things unseen: faith.

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Isaac was between 18 and 25 years old and yes - so he was not a baby - he was a thinking individual.  He knew the miracle of his mothers womb which was closed for many years and was restored to bear him.  He also knew of the promise of the seed through his family line.  Abraham and Sarah would have raised him with a strong faith and told him over and over about his miracle birth and the direct promise from Jehovah and the circumcision of this covenant.

There are many instances in the Bible where people saw miracles and did not believe it (like the Pharisees who saw the miracles of Jesus; and Israel saw the plagues and the fire cloud at night and quickly ran to idolatry)  but there are those who will show faith/obedience by hearing about the promise.  Isaac had good reasons to believe his own miraculous birth and the promise made to his father.  Isaac showed faith....and a willingness to work with his father and it therefore was a perfect picture of Jesus who did the same and displayed perfect obedience.  I think it takes a special frame of mind to do this but both of them were not without 'direct evidence' from Jehovah of the 'realities' even though the final 'promise' was not yet beheld. (Hebr 11:1)

His father did not tell him immediately that he was to be the sacrifice.  His father was pretty old - and Isaac was much stronger - he could definitely have refused if he wanted to and his father would not have been able to do anything about it. He obviously believed that Jehovah had spoken to Abraham.  (There are other instances in the Bible where prophets were told to enact a story (like marrying a prostitute) to indicate what would happen in future). His obedience to his father was like that of Jesus to Jehovah.

I use this picture a lot with Muslims to explain that this picture is a picture of the 'true messenger' and what was foretold he would do.  He was promised to die.   Jesus did die - Mohammad did not - so he is not the fulfilment of the Mosaic law.  The death of Jesus brought the fulfillment of the Mosaic law which was a tutor until Christ.   


Both Abraham and Isaac believed the promise Jehovah had made that the legal legitimate son would bring forth the Messiah.  They trusted that Jehovah would do justice by them - even if Isaac died.  We should also show this kind of faith in the justice of Jehovah.

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13 minutes ago, Arauna said:

Isaac was between 18 and 25 years old and yes - so he was not a baby - he was a thinking individual.

You make some good points in your post, but where did you get this information that he was between 18 and 25?

The exact same word can be used of someone 18 to 25, but near this same context of Genesis it's also used like this:

  • (Genesis 21:15-19) 15 Finally the water in the skin bottle was used up, and she pushed the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went on and sat down by herself, about the distance of a bowshot away, because she said: “I do not want to watch the boy die.” So she sat down at a distance and began to cry aloud and to weep. 17 At that God heard the voice of the boy, and God’s angel called to Haʹgar from the heavens and said to her: “What is the matter with you, Haʹgar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy there where he is. 18 Get up, lift the boy and take hold of him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the skin bottle with water and gave the boy a drink.


  • (Exodus 2:5-7) 5 When Pharʹaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the Nile, her female attendants were walking by the side of the Nile. And she caught sight of the basket in the middle of the reeds. She immediately sent her slave girl to get it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and the boy was crying. She felt compassion for him, but she said: “This is one of the children of the Hebrews.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharʹaoh’s daughter: “Shall I go and call a nursing woman from the Hebrews to nurse the child for you?”


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Insight book says more or less 25 years old.  Isaac also carried the wood for the sacrifice on a 3 day trip to the land of Moriah -  (The same mountain on which the temple was later built by David - Jehovah planned it this way - the continuity).  Mount Moriah was next to mount Zion.

Excerpt of Insight book:

"This dramatic episode proved the faith and obedience not only of Abraham but also of his son Isaac. Jewish tradition, recorded by Josephus, says that Isaac was 25 years old at the time. At any rate, he was old enough and strong enough to carry a considerable quantity of wood up a mountain. So, he could have resisted his 125-year-old father when the time came to bind him if he had chosen to be rebellious against Jehovah’s commandments. (Jewish Antiquities, I, 227 [xiii, 2]) Instead, Isaac submissively let his father proceed to offer him as a sacrifice in harmony with God’s will. For this demonstration of Abraham’s faith, Jehovah then repeated and enlarged upon his covenant with Abraham, which covenant was transferred by God to Isaac after the death of Isaac’s father.Ge 22:15-18; 26:1-5; Ro 9:7; Jas 2:21.

More important, a great prophetic picture was there enacted, portraying how Christ Jesus, the Greater Isaac, would in due time willingly lay down his human life as the Lamb of God for mankind’s salvation.Joh 1:29, 36; 3:16."


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@Arauna OK, Thanks. No argument from me. It's just that you said it so definitively I wondered if there was some additional resource you might have known about. (Hoping there was some related tradition from Islam, or something like that.)

As far as traditions handed down from Josephus, that was in the original post, too. We usually treat Josephus with some skepticism when he adds things that aren't indicated in the Bible record.


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11 hours ago, Arauna said:

"This dramatic episode proved the faith and obedience not only of Abraham but also of his son Isaac. Jewish tradition, recorded by Josephus, says that Isaac was 25 years old at the time. At any rate, he was old enough and strong enough to carry a considerable quantity of wood up a mountain.

Interesting discussion. Something which came to mind for me reading this.

We obviously cannot be any more certain of Isaac's age than the suggestion in the Insight book. The term "At any rate" is often used to modify the preceding statement in a sentence. In this case, the defining of a specific age for Isaac in Jewish tradition being speculative, the writer prefers reasoning on the task Isaac is carrying out as a preferable indicator of his age. In view of the comparison with Jesus, I would feel a need to place Isaac toward the upper end of the age spectrum here. However, that would be a personal judgement.

Another interesting question for me relating to the demonstration of faith here would be in connection with Abraham's statement that "God himself will provide the sheep". Was Abraham using a  strategy as a consideration for Isaac's inadequate faith? Or was it a prophetic utterence, regarding the yet to be clarified ransom provision? After all, even the High Priest Caiaphas prophesied regarding the ransom without understanding the significance of his words (Jo 11:49-52). 

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Eoin,  I would actually put his age at 30..... but we do not have proof.  He was a prophetic picture of Jesus.  The true lamb was offered up in future and hence, I agree with you, that Abraham may have uttered a prophecy.  The level of obedience was so great because of faith... and his faith was based on reality because he had "evidence" direct from God on several occasions.

I look at this entire activity in the light of its place in the overall purpose of Jehovah.  Since Jehovah is absolute in his logic and justice and also loving and giving - there is much about his ways that we do not understand.  What we do understand is everything relating to His purpose, which is clearly set out in the bible and how this purpose has been "administered/managed"  throughout the ages. (Eph 1: 9)  This prophetic event had special meaning relating to his purpose- a future sacrifice for our sins.  Jehovah is not unjust - and he would have given Abraham and his son more than enough evidence of his existence and confirmation of their role in his future purpose - which he did.

Most cities - in those days had a priest-king.  A type of government that controlled the entire life of its citizens.  Abraham had left two moon-god cities to live in the open without protection and on one occasion went and fought with foreign kings to bring Lot back. (He was no ninny - but also discreet when he needed to be).   He knew that human governance systems were corrupt and unjust and gave power to false religion.   He did not name the future type of government (because he called it a city) but he was waiting on Jehovah in future to provide what humans needed.   His faith is a real example to us because he truly believed the future promises of Jehovah.  Jehovah gave him this role to play in the future of mankind because he was trustworthy and showed this level of faith BEFORE his circumcision and the promise from Jehovah.

With regard to Josephus - I do not give worldly sources more credence than the Bible but "tradition" does help sometimes.  Where I come from we still call am 18 year old a "boy" and even adults who are not mature we call a "boy."...  So this description of Ishmael did not jar with me.  

Ismael was NOT the legitimate heir of a legal wife and his teasing was a threat to the future outworking to the purpose of  Jehovah.  If Isaac was lost there would have been a problem with the "promise" and Abraham knew this - so he knew that Jehovah would step in somehow (during or after the sacrifice) and he trusted Jehovah completely. 

Ishmael was much older than Isaac and it seems that the teasing was not light but threatening - if one takes into account the nasty behavior of Hagar towards Sarah after she fell pregnant - she could have passed on this bad attitude to Ishmael. She could have taught him that he is to inherit all because he was born first.  Sarah stepped in and had her slave girl (Hagar belonged to her) sent away to make the point clear that he is not the legitimate heir of the promise. Abraham at first resisted her but Jehovah stepped in.

There is also a prophecy in the Bible regarding the future of Ishmael which does not augur well.  But it seems that Satan was ready to use this boy for his purposes because islam today claims that it was Ishmael that was offered up by Abraham and Mohammad tried to legitimize his prophet hood by claiming to be a descendant of Ishmael - although there is no written record of this.  We have a record of the genealogy of Christ in two places in the Bible and Jesus was sacrificed as the prophecy indicated.

After Sarah died Abraham had 6 more sons (Gen 25) and if one reads the account  Abraham sent them all away with a "gift" and Isaac inherited his father's things - and the promise from Jehovah.  Abraham made sure to send them away (like he did Ishmael) to ensure that there was no misunderstanding as to whom was the legitimate heir of the promise. 

At one time I thought Keturah was a legitimate wife but I found a scripture which said she was a concubine.  So the six sons, which formed the arabic tribes and intermarried with Ishmael (Midianites) were not those of a legal wife. Ishmael was half Egyptian and married an Egyptian woman and it was an Ishmaelite tribe which took Joseph to Egypt - so Ishmael later had strong ties with Egypt.


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