The Binding of Isaac

Again today, we will consider the book of Jasher that’s been mentioned twice in the Bible in addition to the Genesis account concerning the binding of Isaac [also known as “The Akeidah”].

Jasher 22 tells us that Abraham had been raising Isaac to know the Lord as we would expect him to do. One day, Ishmael was with Isaac and boasted to him about the day he had been circumcised and how he had given his soul to the Lord at that time. Isaac didn’t think Ishmael’s circumcision was such a big deal and in response voiced his willingness to die as an offering to the Lord if God ever asked Abraham to do so. Despite what many may have imagined, Isaac was 37 years old at the time this took place. Isaac’s age can be confirmed because the Bible says Sarah was 90 when he was born and 127 when she died (Gen. 17:17; 23:1).

The writer of Jasher said that God heard Isaac and Ishmael’s conversation that day and thought about testing Abraham in this matter. Later, a scene takes place in Jasher 22 that sounds strangely similar to that of the opening chapter of the book of Job. God asked Satan if He has considered His servant Abraham and told Satan that if He asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as an offering to Him, Abraham would do so. Satan responded by basically asking God to prove it.

Jasher 23 opens similarly to Genesis 22 with God commanding Abraham to take Isaac, the son he loves to Mount Moriah and offer him as a whole burnt offering. Abraham seemed intent to do this but his main concern was how to separate Sarah from Isaac. He decided to explain to Sarah that he needed to take Isaac to study the service of his God with Shem and Eber. Sarah loved Isaac very much but agreed to allow him to go. Jasher says her soul was so bound to Isaac’s that she cried all night before he left and gave many instructions concerning him. It goes on to describe how she dressed Isaac in a robe that Abimelech had given her, put a turban on his head, and enclosed a special stone in the top of his turban before they left. It also tells us she was worried she would never see Isaac again.

According to Genesis 22, Abraham took two servants with them. Jasher 23:21 identifies them as Eliezer and Ishmael, Hagar’s son. The writer of Jasher continues by saying Ishmael told Eliezer that Isaac would be sacrificed and that after Isaac was dead, Abraham would give him an inheritance. Eliezer reminded Ishmael that he’d been cast out of the house and that he wasn’t going to inherit anything.

Along the way, Satan appeared in various forms to them in order to convince them not to obey the Lord but Abraham perceived who it was and rebuked him on three occasions. According to both Jasher and Genesis, it took 3 days before they could see Mount Moriah in the distance. Eliezer and Ishmael were asked to stay with the donkey and wait for their return. Jasher explains that both Abraham and Isaac could see a pillar of fire and a cloud with the glory of the Lord upon it on the mountain but Ishmael and Eliezer could not so they had to stay behind.

Abraham put the wood on Isaac’s back and he carried his knife and fire for the offering. Even though Ishmael seemed to perceive that Isaac would be a burnt offering, Isaac did not know it until they had left the others. Jasher and Genesis differ on Abraham’s answer when Isaac asked about the whereabouts of the animal for sacrifice. In Genesis 22:8, Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (NKJV) Eventually, Abraham had to tell Isaac that he was to be the lamb to be sacrificed. Jasher admits this is the case from the time Isaac made his inquiry. Jasher 23:51-57 then says, “And Isaac said unto his father, I will do all that the Lord spoke to thee with joy and cheerfulness of heart. 53 And Abraham again said unto Isaac his son, Is there in thy heart any thought or counsel concerning this, which is not proper? tell me my son, I pray thee, O my son conceal it not from me. 54 And Isaac answered his father Abraham and said unto him, O my father, as the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, there is nothing in my heart to cause me to deviate either to the right or to the left from the word that he has spoken to thee. 55 Neither limb nor muscle has moved or stirred at this, nor is there in my heart any thought or evil counsel concerning this. 56 But I am of joyful and cheerful heart in this matter, and I say, Blessed is the Lord who has this day chosen me to be a burnt offering before Him. 57 And Abraham greatly rejoiced at the words of Isaac, and they went on and came together to that place that the Lord had spoken of.”

Genesis leaves out much of the dialogue that took place between father and son that day. It goes on to say that Abraham built the altar, bound Isaac, and was ready to slay him with his knife when the Angel of the Lord stopped him.

Jasher 23:61-64 says, “And Isaac said to his father, Bind me securely and then place me upon the altar lest I should turn and move, and break loose from the force of the knife upon my flesh and thereof profane the burnt offering; and Abraham did so. 62 And Isaac still said to his father, O my father, when thou shalt have slain me and burnt me for an offering, take with thee that which shall remain of my ashes to bring to Sarah my mother, and say to her, This is the sweet smelling savor of Isaac; but do not tell her this if she should sit near a well or upon any high place, lest she should cast her soul after me and die. 63 And Abraham heard the words of Isaac, and he lifted up his voice and wept when Isaac spake these words; and Abraham’s tears gushed down upon Isaac his son, and Isaac wept bitterly, and he said to his father, Hasten thou, O my father, and do with me the will of the Lord our God as He has commanded thee. 64 And the hearts of Abraham and Isaac rejoiced at this thing which the Lord had commanded them; but the eye wept bitterly whilst the heart rejoiced.”

Jasher continues by saying the angels of mercy came and interceded for Isaac before the Lord stopped Abraham from slaying him and gave him a ram that had been prepared from that day to be burned instead. It explains that Satan hindered this ram from approaching Abraham but that Abraham was able to take it and offer it in place of Isaac. Satan didn’t stop there because he appeared in yet another form to Sarah and convinced her Abraham had killed Isaac.

Sarah and her servants made inquiries about them in Hebron but did not find him. Satan appeared to her again later and confessed he had lied to her. She was so overcome with joy from this news that she died at the age of 127 which is the same age given in Genesis 23:1.

Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, and Eliezer came home after Abraham and Isaac worshipped the Lord. Soon after, they heard about Sarah and arrangements were made to buy a place of burial for her.

If we fast forward in time to Jesus’ final days we can see similarities exist between Jesus and Isaac:

  • Jesus and Isaac were described as “only sons” and were loved by their fathers.
  • The number 3 is present in the narratives. It took 3 days to get from Abraham’s home until they could see Mount Moriah. Jesus was in the grave 3 days and 3 nights after dying on the cross at what many refer to as Mount Calvary.
  • Intercession took place. Jesus’ disciples interceded for Him. Angels of mercy interceded for Isaac.
  • The mothers of Jesus and Isaac loved their sons very much. I’m sure Mary cried and worried all night just like Sarah.
  • They had servants with them. Ishmael and Eliezer were with Abraham and Isaac. Jesus’ disciples were with Him.
  • Satan tried to prevent God’s will from being accomplished and was rebuked. Abraham rebuked Satan who appeared to him in different forms. Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16:23 for rebuking Him and later Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest in an attempt to stop the inevitable (Luke 22:50; John 18:26).
  • Jesus and Isaac carried the wood of their sacrifice on their backs.
  • They were beautifully dressed in clothes from the father of the king. Isaac wore the clothes of Abimelech (father of the king). After Jesus’ resurrection, He was clothed by His Heavenly Father and left the grave clothes behind.
  • Tears were shed. Sarah cried at home. Abraham and Isaac wept together as their sacrifice was being prepared. Jesus shed tears over the city of Jerusalem before entering it for His final days (Luke 19:41). Peter cried bitterly after denying Jesus three times (Luke 22:62).
  • Satan and Ishmael had both been cast out of their original homes and did not get the inheritance they expected.
  • A substitutionary sacrifice took place. A knife was used to kill the ram that was offered in place of Isaac and Jesus was pierced with a spear after He died in place of those who would trust in the atonement of His blood.
  • Women experienced joy at the news of life. Sarah was full of joy when she found out Isaac was really alive and not dead. The women who came to Jesus’ tomb were thrilled to find out Jesus had risen from the dead.
  • Servants searched for Jesus, Abraham, and Isaac. When Sarah came to Hebron, she asked if anyone had seen Abraham and Isaac. Her servants helped her search for Abraham and Isaac. After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples searched the tomb where Jesus had lain.
  • Abraham and Isaac went home but Jesus returned to heaven.

There are still a couple of things we can speculate about and consider:

  1. I’m sure Satan thought he would inherit everything that belonged to Jesus once He was dead just like Ishmael thought he would inherit what belonged to Isaac. Even today Satan takes various forms to deceive and keep us from walking the path that has been set before us. We must be keen enough to perceive when he is at work around us so we won’t be deterred from the goal that has been set before us.
  2. It’s hard to know exactly what Jesus said to His Father while He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His death. He certainly said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39; NKJV) I’m sure Jesus was concerned about how His mother would deal with His death and the news of His resurrection too. Even today we often think about how our parents might respond to decisions we make in our lives as we walk the path God has laid out for us. Pray for their understanding and support as you remain focused on doing the will of the Lord.



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