The Faithful God: Canonical Context

In WCF 1.9, the divines affirmed the analogy of faith which is the clearer Scripture interprets the murkier Scriptures. Therefore, Scripture as a cohesive whole interprets itself and makes many connections to specific passages throughout both the OT and NT. These connections are clear in Gen. 22 in direction quotations and allusions as well as general themes.

Direct Quotations or Allusions

A subtle, but important, allusion to Gen. 22 lies in 1 Cor. 10:13, James 1:12, 13, and 1 Pet. 1:6-7. This test of Abraham was difficult for him to bear. It is unclear if Abraham would have carried out the slaughter if the angel of the Lord did not stop him. Either way, God demonstrated his faithfulness by providing him a way of escape. Abraham remained steadfast to the command of God and his faith was proved genuine. As Ronald Youngblood says, “Satan tempts us to destroy us …, but God tests us to strengthen us … .”[1]

Even within the chapter, there is an internal allusion. For example, in 22:8, Abraham says that the Lord will provide, and in 22:14, Abraham calls the place “The Lord will provide.” It is unclear whether Abraham truly believed the Lord would provide a substitute sacrifice. However, by the end of the narrative, the Lord answered Abraham’s prayers and provided a substitute. 

James 2:21 alludes to justification when it comes to Abraham. James is not making an argument that Abraham’s sacrifice made him justified. Instead, what James is getting at is that Abraham’s ability to follow the command of God, even to the point of killing his own son, confirmed his justification—his faith—in God and his promises. 

God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be innumerable, and it is echoed throughout the Scriptures: Jer. 33:22 and Gen. 15:5, 26:4.[2] More specifically, within the family, there are blessings to having many heirs (Gen. 24:60, Ps. 127:5). While this fulfillment certainly happened in the physical nation of Israel, in the New Testament this focused primarily on those who would come to God through faith—not necessarily physical descendants.

Through Abraham’s obedience, God would bless him and those who would bless him also because of his obedience such as in Gen. 12:3, 18:18, 22:3, and 26:5. Not only that, but Paul highlights this connection in Gal. 3:8. The promises of growth and multiplication was another protoevangelium. Plus, Peter cites this passage in his sermon in Acts 3:25—there is a direct line from Peter’s age back to Abraham.

What exegetical paper would this be if Heb. 11:17-19 remained absent? Due to Abraham’s faith, he made it into the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Abraham knew that God would be faithful to his promises. Therefore, if Abraham did indeed kill Isaac, God would bring him back from the dead.[3] Although Abraham did not kill Isaac, it is believed that because he is absent from the falling action and resolution, that they departed on their own separate paths—Isaac was ready to continue fulfilling the covenant obligations.[4]

While Mount Moriah is not discussed at great length in the Scriptures, it does make another appearance in 2 Chron. 3:1. The altar Abraham built and his faith in God was confirmed is the same place the temple was built by Solomon. The Israelite people would come to worship their God who provided them a place to live and dwell with him at this place. Additionally, the final location Beer-sheba has a significant connection to oaths found in Gen. 21:31. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God’s commitment to his word is constantly echoed, especially in Ps. 105:8, Luke 1:73, and Heb. 6:13. Even amid tests and trials, God will ensure that his promises are fulfilled. In fact, as Zechariah prophesied, the Lord did keep his covenant obligations by sending his Son Jesus to redeem all things. Thankfully, the ability to fulfill the covenant did not depend on people, but on him who made the promise.

Thematic Connections

An interesting thematic connection deals with the object of the sacrifice. In Gen. 22, Isaac was the object of sacrifice. However, in the New Testament, Jesus was the object of sacrifice (John 1:29, 36, 19:17; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:12). While the main point of this narrative is not prefiguring Jesus’ work, the parallels are striking. For instance, Isaac carries the wood on his back, just like Jesus carried the cross on his back. Although not Abraham’s only son, Isaac is the promised son just like Jesus is the promised son. Finally, God spared Isaac from ultimate death, but he would not spare his Son from death—and his death would redeem all things. 

Another thematic connection has to do with obedience and righteousness (Gen. 26:5; Mic. 6:7, 8). While God did command sacrifices in his law, he desired obedience above all else. It is interesting that Abraham’s obedience exceeded the original command of sacrifice. He did offer a sacrifice, but his obedience proved just righteousness.

  1. Quoted in Waltke and Fredricks, Gen., 304.
  2. Though readers will note that sometimes this quantity can be troublesome like in Gen. 13:16.
  3. Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 48.
  4. Arnold, Gen. (NCBC), 1:209; Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT, 1:161.
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