THE OFFERING OF ISAAC ON MOUNT MORIAH.
(1) God did tempt Abraham.--Heb., proved him, put his faith and obedience to the proof. For twenty-five years the patriarch had wandered in Palestine, and seen the fulfilment of the promise perpetually deferred, and yet his faith failed not. At length the long wished for heir is born, and, excepting the grievous pain of parting with Ishmael, all went well with him, and seemed to presage a calm and happy old age. He was at peace with his neighbours, had quiet possession of ample pasture for his cattle, knew that Ishmael was prosperous, and saw Isaac fast approaching man's estate (Genesis 22:12). In the midst, nevertheless, of this tranquil evening of his days came the severest trial of all; for he was commanded to slay his son. The trial was twofold. For, first, human sacrifice was abhorrent to the nature of Jehovah, and Abraham's clear duty would be to prove the command. Could such a deed really be enjoined upon him by God? Now no subjective proof would be sufficient. In after times many an Israelite was moved by deep religious fanaticism to give his firstborn in the hope of appeasing the anger of God at his sin (Micah 6:7); but instead of peace it brought only a deeper condemnation upon his soul. Had Abraham been moved only by an internal and subjective impulse, his conduct would have deserved and met with similar condemnation But when, upon examination, he became convinced that the command came from outside himself, and from the same God with whom on former occasions he had so often held converse, then the antecedents of his own life required of him obedience. But even when satisfied of this, there was, secondly, the trial of his faith. A command which he had tested, not only subjectively by prayer, but objectively by comparison with the manner of previous revelations, bade him with his own hand destroy the son in whom "his seed was to be called." His love for his child, his previous faith in the promise, the religious value and worth of Isaac as the appointed means for the blessing of all mankind--this, and more besides, stood arrayed against the command. But Abraham, in spite of all, obeyed, and in proportion to the greatness of the trial was the greatness of the reward. Up to this time his faith had been proved by patience and endurance, but now he was bidden himself to destroy the fruit of so many years of patient waiting (Hebrews 11:17-19), and, assured that the command came from God, he wavered not. Thus by trial was his own faith made perfect, and for Isaac too there was blessing. Meekly, as befitted the type of Christ, he submitted to his father's will, and the life restored to him was henceforth dedicated to God. But there was a higher purpose in the command than the spiritual good of these 'two saints. The sacrifice had for its object the instruction of the whole Church of God. If the act had possessed no typical value, it would have been difficult for us to reconcile to our consciences a command which might have seemed, indirectly at least, to have authorised human sacrifices. But there was in it the setting forth of the mystery of the Father giving the Son to die for the sins of the world; and therein lies both the value and the justification of Abraham's conduct and of the Divine command.
that God did tempt Abraham; not to sin, as Satan does, for God tempts no man, nor can he be tempted in this sense; and, had Abraham slain his son, it would have been no sin in him, it being by the order of God, who is the Lord of life, and the sovereign disposer of it; but he tempted him, that is, he tried him, to prove him, and to know his faith in him, his fear of him, his love to him, and cheerful obedience to his commands; not in order to know these himself, which he was not ignorant of, but to make them known to others, and that Abraham's faith might be strengthened yet more and more, as in the issue it was. The Jewish writers (h) observe, that Abraham was tempted ten times, and that this was the tenth and last temptation:
and said unto him, Abraham: calling him by his name he well knew, and by that name he had given him, to signify that he should be the father of many nations, Genesis 17:5; and yet was going to require of him to slay his only son, and offer him a sacrifice to him:
and he said, behold, here I am; signifying that he heard his voice, and was ready to obey his commands, be they what they would.
(b) T. Bab. Sanhedrin: fol. 89. 2.((c) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 13. sect. 2.((d) Annales Vet. Test. p. 10. (e) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 6. 1.((f) Zohar in Gen. fol. 68. 2. & 74. 4. & 76. 2. Targ. Hieros. in Exodus 12.42. Praefat. Echa Rabbat. fol. 40. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 31. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 1. p. 3. Juchasin, fol. 9. 1. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 3. 1. (g) Patricides, p. 19. Elmacinus, p. 34. Apud Hottinger. Smegma, p. 327, &c. (h) Targum. Hieros. in loc. Pirke Eliezer, c. 31.