The Greatest Test of Abraham
Off to Moriah (1-10)
Abraham had sacrificed his firstborn son in sending him out with nothing like a sacrificial goat. Abraham, some years later, was called upon to sacrifice his son of promise (1). Abraham was to take his second son to the land of Moriah and offer him on one of the mountains Yahweh would show Abraham. As it ended up, Abraham took him to Jerusalem, to a mountain just above the city where Melchizedek was priest and king, about a forty-mile journey from where he was living. The site where Abraham offered Isaac is the very site where Solomon built his temple. On that mountain, Abraham took his son to offer him as a burnt offering to Yahweh (2).
According to Josephus, Isaac was twenty-five when God put his father Abraham to the test. This meant both men had to be in agreement as to the sacrifice which would take place three days after they were to leave home.
Abraham, as was his custom, loaded up the next day. He cut wood and saddled up all necessary provisions for a sacrifice and headed out to the place God had directed him (3).
On the third day, the mountain came into view, so Abraham broke camp, leaving his servants behind with the stuff and especially the donkey, while Abraham and his son headed off to worship on Moriah (4-5). The wood essential for sacrifice was placed on Isaac's back and Abraham took in his hand the fire and a knife. Willingly, Isaac accompanied his father (6). As they walked toward Jerusalem, it hit Isaac that they had everything for a sacrifice accept the sacrifice, so Isaac asked his father if he had forgotten the lamb (7). Abraham said, "God will provide Himself the lamb”—a better way to translate this might be, "God sees the lamb He has provided for the sacrifice.” Isaac seemed satisfied with the answer and moved on with his father (8).
Eventually, they arrived at the place they had seen at some distance. Abraham took some stones from around the area and built an altar. He then laid the wood on the altar and bound a willing Isaac to the altar (9). Abraham then took his knife, reached it to the heavens to take his son’s life who was giving it willingly to his father, and they both together were giving their all to God (10).
The Test Ended (11-19)
Right then the test ended, the Angel of Yahweh called to Abraham twice until he got Abraham's attention. Abraham responded, “Here I am" and then was told not to do anything to Isaac. Abraham would know from that moment on that even his own son did not trump Yahweh as exclusive and ultimate in Abraham's heart. The test was not for God but for Abraham, who came to realize through the grace of Yahweh that there was nothing and no one who rivaled God in his life (11-12).
At that moment, Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket by his horns and realized God had provided an offering in his son's place. This moment in Genesis is a foundational moment, for it would set the stage for the truth of God's provision of a substitutionary sacrifice or a sacrifice which would take the place of humans who needed to and should become sacrifice themselves (11-13).
It should be noted here that Abraham believed if he were to have killed and offered Isaac his son to God that Isaac would have been raised from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). No doubt Abraham's faith was communicated to his twenty-five-year-old son who believed also he would be raised and willingly allowed his father to bind him to the altar as Jesus gave up his life willingly and as God calls upon every follower to give up their life.
Abraham called the name of the mountain "the Lord will provide" which came to be called "on the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided." This would come to a further understanding in all followers of Yahweh—"when we come to the highest point of faith in Yahweh, the Lord always provides” (14).
Yahweh Rehearses the Covenant (15-19)
The voice of the Lord came to Abraham a second time; while on the mountain sacrificing the substitutionary ram, Yahweh rehearsed in a fresh way His covenant with Abraham.
a) Abraham to be blessed.
b) Abraham's offspring to be made up of heavenly children multiplied like stars and of earthly children multiplied like the sand.
c) Abraham's offspring to possess the gates of their enemies.
d) Abraham's offspring to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.
The confirmation came because Abraham would not allow anything to be more important to him than Yahweh.
Abraham went back to his camp and returned home to Beersheba.
News from Relatives (20-24)
When Abraham returned home, a messenger came from Haran giving a report of his brother's history. Remember, Abraham’s brother had traveled as far as Haran with the family and Terah, and then decided to remain in Haran by the Euphrates River as Abraham left with Lot for the promised land. Nahor, Abraham's brother, had a wife named Milcah and a concubine named Reumah. These women produced twelve sons, eight by his wife and four by his concubine. It stuck in Abraham's mind that Bethuel, one of Nahor's sons, gave birth to a woman named Rebekah.