Hints Of The Messiah In The Binding Of Isaac

It is written:

To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2  Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3  So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4  Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5  And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 6  So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7  But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8  And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. 9  Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10  And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11  But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” 12  And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13  Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14  And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:1-14)

In Genesis 22, we read about how God instructed Abraham to offer his son, Isaac in order to test his faith. Within this story are several prophecies of Jesus Christ. Let’s notice some of the parallels between Isaac and Jesus.

First, the text tells us that Isaac is called Abraham’s “only” son (Genesis 22:-1-2). In the Greek Septuagint, this is translated with the phrase monogenes, or “only begotten.” Indeed, Isaac is referred to as the “only begotten” son of Abraham (Hebrews 11:17). The phrase didn’t mean ONLY son’; it meant the only son in a special unique way. Consider now how Jesus is identified:

John 3:16-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Second, Isaac was about thirty years old when this incident took place.

“Where did this concept of righteous martyrdom first arise? According to Jewish tradition, it went back to the binding of Isaac. When Abraham was ready to offer his own son as a sacrifice to God, this same Book of Fourth Maccabees states: “Isaac offered himself for the sake of righteousness…. Isaac did not shrink when he saw the knife lifted against him by his father’s hand” (4 Maccabees 13:12; 16:20). This was the understanding of the rabbis. They believed that Isaac was a grown man (actually, thirty-seven years old!) when God tested Abraham, commanding him to offer Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis sis 22). Although the biblical account emphasizes the obedience of Abraham, the rabbis also stressed the obedience of Isaac. In fact, there is a midrash that says at the time of creation, when God was about to make man, the angels asked what man’s significance was. One of his answers was this: “You shall see a father slay his son, and the son consenting to be slain, to sanctify my Name” (Tanhuma, Vayyera, sec. 18). That was the height of sacrificial service: A father offering up his own son, and the son willingly laying down his life for the glory of God. Yes, I know that sounds like the gospel. In fact, the midrash compares Isaac, who carried on his shoulder the wood for the burnt offering (himself!), to “one who carries his cross on his own shoulder.”270”. (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections Vol. 2, 158-159 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

In the same way, the events of Jesus’ crucifixion took place when He was in His thirties also.

Luke 3:23-Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Third, remember that Isaac was to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah.

Genesis 22:2-Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Mount Moriah is one of the hills upon which the city of Jerusalem is built, and where Jesus was crucified!

2 Chronicles 3:1-Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Luke 23:33-And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.

Fourth, notice that both Isaac and Jesus carried the wood of their sacrifices.

Genesis 22:6-So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

John 19:17-And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

One author has well pointed out:

“The account of the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) provides many details that parallel the binding and sacrifice of Messiah Jesus. In both accounts the father led his son to be sacrificed. Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering in the same way Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha. Even the rabbis alluded to this connection when they wrote that Isaac carried the wood “like one who carries his own cross upon his shoulder.” 10 Interestingly the numeric value of “his cross” (134) in Luke 9: 23 is the same as “I sacrifice to the LORD” (Ex. 13: 15 NIV) and the verb meaning to “pardon [sin]” (Isa. 55: 7). This affirms that the Messiah, like Isaac, would carry His own cross and sacrifice Himself to the Lord to forgive our sins. Isaac asked his father about what they would offer as the sacrifice (Gen. 22: 7). He understood that he was going to be slaughtered but continued voluntarily, completely submissive to the will of his father. This foreshadows Jesus, who asked the Father three times to please take the cup from Him but in the end submitted by saying, “Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22: 42). Jesus, like Isaac, wanted to please His Father and do His will. Isaac was laid upon the wood as Jesus was laid upon the cross. Both had their hands and feet bound. Jesus was metaphorically bound when the religious leaders “led him away and handed him over to Pilate” (Mark 15: 1 NIV); His hands and feet were later bound to the cross.” (Rabbi Jason Sobel, Mysteries of the Messiah: Unveiling Divine Connections From Genesis To Today, 43-44 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group).

Fifth, notice the connection between the ram and the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.

Genesis 22:13-Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

Mark 15:17-20-And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, 18  and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19  Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. 20  And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

Speaking of this, Bercot has written:

“There’s another interesting detail. Once God stopped Abraham from offering up Isaac, He pointed to a ram. Again, I think we would all recognize this ram as also prefiguring Christ. It says in our English Bibles: “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns” (Gen 22: 13). However, the Septuagint says that the ram was caught “in a sabek plant” by its horns. Now, the sabek plant was a thorny, Mideastern plant. Do you get the picture? The ram’s head was surrounded by thorns, just as Jesus’ head was circumscribed by the crown of thorns.” (David Bercot, Shadows Of Christ In The Old Testament, 323-332 (Kindle Edition); Amberson, PA; Scroll Publishing)

Sixth, the Bible teaches us that it was on the “third day” that Abraham received his son back “from the dead.”

Genesis 22:4-Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.

In the same way, we are reminded that it was on the third day that Jesus arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Throughout the Old Testament, the number three was used symbolically to represent hope out of hopelessness and life out of lifelessness.

“We should first look at some prophecies that make reference to restoration—or rescue from death—on the third day. • Hosea 6:1-2 states, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” This is a word given to Israel as a whole, but the sequence is there: full restoration on the third day!352 • According to Genesis 22:4, it was on the third day that Abraham arrived at Mount Moriah and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac—that important event known in later Rabbinic tradition as the Akedah, “the binding (of Isaac)”—an event seen as a Messianic foreshadowing by the rabbis (see above, 4.1). In similar fashion, the Letter to the Hebrews notes, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:19)—and this took place on the third day. • This was the time set for the miraculous healing of King Hezekiah, who as a son of David serves as somewhat of a Messianic prototype (cf. also b. Sanhedrin 94a, 98a): “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD’ ” (2 Kings 20:5; cf. also v. 8). • Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days (a deathlike experience, to be sure!—cf. Jonah 2:1-9) before being spit out on dry land, and hence saved from his watery tomb (Jonah 1:17; 2:10). Jesus himself makes reference to this event in the context of his death and resurrection (see, e.g., Matt. 12:40). Elsewhere in the Tanakh, it is striking to see how often the third day has special significance: • God told the children of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai to be ready for the third day “because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exod. 19:10). • After calling the people to fast for three days for divine intervention to save her Jewish people from annihilation, on the third day, Esther stood before the king and appealed for mercy (Esther 5:1). • The building of the Second Temple was completed on the third day of the month of Adar (Ezra 6:15). • On the third day after Joseph interpreted the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners—both of whose dreams included a symbolic “three”—one of the men was hung and the other man restored to his former position (Gen. 40:1-23). • Sacrifices left until the third day could no longer be eaten but were to be wholly consumed by the altar’s flames (Lev. 7:17-18; 19:6-7). • It was on the third day—and in the third battle—that the Israelites defeated their Benjamite brothers in battle (see Judges 20, esp. 20:30). • After three days the Israelites crossed the Jordan—by the miraculous intervention of God (Josh. 1:11; 3:2).353 Based on this biblical data, the German biblical scholar Roland Gradwohl argued that “‘three days’ is a stereotyped phrase used bv the Old Testament in describing a situation when something will be fulfilled or completed within a useful and reasonable time…. The ‘third day’ is used to describe the moment when an event attains its climax.”354 Another German scholar, K. Lehmann, wrote an entire volume on the subject of resurrection on the third day, pointing to passages such as Exodus 19:11, 16; Genesis 22:4; 2 Kings 20:5; Esther 5:1; Hosea 6:2 (all cited above) as evidence that the third day was associated with special divine activity, something that caught the attention of the ancient rabbis as well.355 These insights, coupled with some key verses about restoration, salvation, or rescue from death on the third day, give Paul the right to say that the Messiah rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. There would have been no day more suitable than this, from the viewpoint of the Word of God.356” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Three-Messianic Prophecy Objections, 181-183 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Truly, the binding of Isaac foreshadows the Lord Jesus in many incredible ways!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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