Genesis 22The Sacrifice of Isaac:ASimilitude!
ElderMelvin J. Ballard wrote:“You remember the story of how Abraham’s son came after long years of waiting and was looked upon by his worthy sire, Abraham, as more precious than all his possessions, yet, in the midst of his rejoicing, Abraham was told to take this only son and offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord.He responded.Can you feel what was in the heart of Abraham on that occasion?
You love your son just as Abraham did, perhaps not quite so much, because of the peculiar circumstances, but what do you think was in his heart when he started away from Mother Sarah, and they bade her goodbye?What do you think was in his heart when he saw Isaac bidding farewell to is mother to take three days’ journey to the appointed place where the sacrifice was to be made?I imagine it was about all Father Abraham could do to keep from showing his great grief and sorrow at that parting, but he and his son trudged along three days toward the appointed place, Isaac carrying the fagots that were to consume the sacrifice. The two travelers rested, finally, at the mountainside, and the men who had accompanied them were told to remain while Abraham and his son started up the hill.
“The boy then said to his father:‘Why, Father, we have fagots; we have the fire to burn the sacrifice; but where is the sacrifice?’“It must have pierced the heart of Father Abraham to hear the trusting and confiding son say:
‘You have forgotten the sacrifice.’Lookingat the youth, his son of promise, the poor father could only say: ‘The Lord will provide.’“They ascended the mountain, gathered the stones together, and placed the fagots upon them. Then Isaac was bound, hand and foot, kneeling upon the altar.I presume Abraham, like a true father, must have given his son his farewell kiss, his blessing, his love, and his soul must have been drawn out in that hour of agony toward his son who was to die by the hand of his own father. Every step proceeded until the cold steel was drawn, and the hand raised that was to strike the blow to let out the life’s blood.” (The Sacramental Covenant,”New Era, January 1976, 9-10).
Keepin mind that Abraham was saved from a similar fate instigated in wickedness by his own father. As with most people, Abraham must have abhorred human sacrifice.Why would the Lord require such a trial of his faith?What can be learned from the life of Abraham, who was faithful to the end?
Asimilitude is an object, act, or event in physical reality which corresponds to (is similar to or is a simulation of) some greater spiritual reality.Many miss the precise detail of this similitude that God used to teach about the future sacrifice of his only Son.
Learning from TrialsPresident Hugh B. Brown said that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Truman G. Madsen,The Highest in Us(1978), 49).I recall on one occasion, when I was returning from seminary to my home for lunch, that as I drove in my wife met me in the driveway. “Cliff has been killed” she said. “They want you to come over.” As I hastened around the corner to where Cliff lived with his wife and four sons and his little daughter, I saw Cliff lying in the middle of the highway with a blanket over him. The ambulance was just pulling away with little Colleen. Cliff had been on his way out to the farm and had stopped to cross the street to take little Colleen to her mother who waited on the opposite curb. But the child, as children will, broke from her father’s hand and slipped into the street. A large truck was coming. Cliff jumped from the curb and pushed his little daughter from the path of the truck --- but he wasn’t soon enough.
“A few days later I had the responsibility of talking at the funeral of Cliff and little Colleen. Someone said, ‘What a terrible waste. Certainly he ought to have stayed on the curb. He knew the child might have died, but he had four sons and a wife to provide for. What a pathetic waste!’And I estimated that – that individual never had – had the experience of loving someone more than he loved himself” (Problems in Teaching Moral Standards, addressed delivered at seminary and institute faculty summer school, BYU, 15 July 1958, 10-11).
Elder Oaks said:“The story of Abraham and Isaac shows the goodness of God in protecting Isaac and in providing a substitute so he would not have to die. Because of our sins and our mortality, we, like Isaac are condemned to death. When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice” (Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 51).
The following are some of the significant details:Genesis 22:2Abraham obviously was a type or similitude of the Father.Interestingly enough, his name Abram, means “exalted father.”Abraham means “father of a great multitude.”Both are names appropriate of Heavenly Father.
Genesis 22:2, 12Isaac was a type of the Son of God.He was the product of a miraculous birth.Genesis 22:2“Land of Moriah”
Today Mount Moriah is a major hill of Jerusalem. The site known traditionally as the place where Abraham offered Isaac is now the site of the Dome of the Rock, a beautiful Moslem mosque.A few hundred yards to the north on a higher point of the same hill system is another world-famous site known as Gordon’s Calvary.Its Hebrew name was Golgotha.Not only did Abraham perform the similitude, but he performed it in the same area in which the Father would make the sacrifice of His Son.
Genesis 22:3, 6“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son.”Some have seen in this action a similarity to Christ carrying of the cross upon his shoulders on the way to his crucifixion (Clarke,Bible Commentary, 1:139; John 19:17).
Genesis 22:4Thenon the third day.Three days --- journey ---resurrection!
5.Genesis 22:5“the lad”Josephus the Jewish Historian says that Isaac was 25 years old.In Hebrew “lad” would be marriageable age.The point is that Isaac voluntarily submitted to Abraham. He was likely an adult in his thirties. He could have easily over powered his father who was well over one hundred.
The Book of Jasher (an apocryphal book) revealed that Isaac was taught what would happen to him and agreed to it(59, 62-63). Why the authenticity of the book is questioned, the principle taught seems correct.The Book of Jasher reports Isaac’s first response to the news: “I will do all the Lord spoke to thee with joy and cheerfulness of heart (Book of Jasher, 61).Isaac responded as recorded in by Jasher: “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…. 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 burnt offering before Him (Book of Jasher, 62).
Josephusnoted the same obedient spirit: “Now Isaac was of such a generous disposition, as became the son of such a father,…and said, ‘That he was not worthy to be born at first, if he should reject the determination of God and of is father….’ So he went immediately to the altar to be sacrificed” (Josephus,Complete Works, 37).Abraham now understood, more keenly than ever before, the meaning of the atoning sacrifice. As his heart was about to burst in that brief moment when he raised the knife, he felt a pain akin to the Father’s pain and a love akin to the Father’s love.Genesis is silent as to the conversation that transpired between father and son on top of that holy mount. No doubt it was one of those sacred moments when silence thunders.
Sarahdied at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1). Isaac would have been 37 at the time of her death. Even if the journey to Moriah had happened several years before Sarah’s death, Isaac would have been in his thirties, as was the Savior at the time of the crucifixion.
Genesis 22:5Abide ye here!Abraham left the two young men like the Savior left his Apostles.
Genesis 22:6, 8v.6andthey went both of them together!v.8sothey went both of them together!It is apparent that they were in harmony with each other.It appears that Isaac knows that he was the sacrifice.
Genesis 22:9“And Abraham bound Isaac his son”Luke23:33 “Jesus nailed to the cross”Genesis 22:10Significantly, Abraham did not see the substitute ram on Mount Moriah until after the moment that mattered, when he obediently “stretched forth his hand, and took the knife….” Sometimes the cross must be taken up just that decisively. There is no time for an agonizing appraisal(Neal A. Maxwell,Deposition of a Disciple, 76).
Genesis 22:11An angel of the Lord visitsLuke 22:43 “Anangel strengthened him”
Genesis22:18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed by voice.The Abrahamic Covenant is now in full force, unconditionally (Doctrine & Covenants 132:29-37; 110:12; 124:58).Satan will lose!
Little wonder that throughout the scriptures Abraham is spoken of again and again as a great example of one with faith, of one who was obedient.“The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things” (Teachings, 322).Let us observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life….When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make the sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and than he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life” (Lectures on Faith6:7).
Three Blessings of Tribulation
Romans 5:3-5Doctrine & Covenants 122:71. Patience2. Experience3. Holy Ghost
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of His education…No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in Heaven…(Orson F. Whitney, Spencer W. Kimball,Faith Proceeds the Miracle, 1975, 98).
Isaac as a type or shadow of ChristLong wait for his birth (Genesis 17:17)His name and birth were foretold by an angel (Genesis 17:16)His mother conceived miraculously and brought forth a son (Genesis 21:2, 6-7)He was called the “only begotten son” (Hebrew 11:17)Traveled to Jerusalem with a donkey (Genesis 22:3)Those with him were asked to wait while he went yonder to worship/pray (Genesis 22:5)Was to be sacrificed on a hill in the area of Moriah (Genesis 22:2)
Carriedthe wood to be instrumental in his death (Genesis 22:6)Was one with his father (Genesis 22:6, 8)Was in similitude of his father (Abraham 1:5-16, Genesis 26:1-4, 24)Voluntarily submitted to the will of his father (Genesis 22:8-9)Those who accept the gospel become his seed --- his sons and daughters (Abraham 2:10; Genesis 26:1-4, 24)
Becausespiritual events can be discerned only by spiritual senses.Fortunately, there were some who understood the spiritual significance of sacrifices. For four thousand years every believer who raised a knife to slay the firstborn of his flock might momentarily identify with the Father of us all. Which of these pastors could thrust his blade with glacial emotion into the warm flesh of a lamb he had lovingly nurtured --- and perhaps on occasion defended from both element and enemy --- and not wince when the pulsating blood stained his cold steel?
Onsuch occasion the hearts of both sheep and shepherd were pierced. As significant as was the symbolism of this moment, however, the lasting lesson was not of the mind, but of the heart. We can never understand the passionate symbolism of this event by cold logic alone; it must be felt. Every herdsman who looked forward to a Redeemer would undergo his own spiritual catharsis, his own broken heart. Bu such experience, he would begin to feel, however small those swellings might be, the depth of sacrifice yet to be made in the meridian of time (Tad R. Callister,The Infinite Atonement, 281).