What was the Sign of Abraham’s Sacrifice?

Abraham is one of the most foundational characters of the Old Testament in helping us to understand the Gospel. He lived 4000 years ago traveling from what is modern-day Iraq to live as a wanderer in what is modern-day Israel. We saw in the Session on External Evidence that cities and names from his era are referenced in ancient tablets preserved for us today. So the setting of his account is entirely historical. There is no evidence from archaeology to dismiss his account and there is rather good reason to take this account seriously.

So I would like to look at a well-known part of the account of Abraham, the part where God asked him to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, for whom Abraham had waited many years, and on whom all his hopes for his future progeny rested.  This story is also known as the binding of Isaac.

So Abraham encounters his greatest test and it gives us a ‘peek’ into the Gospel.  I encourage you to read the full account in Genesis concerning the test of the sacrifice of his son here.

The sacrifice looking to the future

We can see from the account that this was a test for Abraham, yet it is also for us.  But to ‘see’ this we need to note a few observations from the account.  Here is the pertinent portion of the account:

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:13-14)

Notice the name that Abraham gave to that place where the test occurred. He named it ‘The LORD will provide’. The question we need to ask is: ‘Is that name in the past tense, present tense or future tense?’ It is clearly in the future tense. And to be even more clear the comment which follows (which Moses inserted when he compiled this account into the Jewish Torah about 500 years later) repeats “…it will be provided”. Again this is in the future tense and thus looking to the future.  But this naming occurs after the sacrifice of the ram (a male sheep) in place of Isaac. Many who read the account think that Abraham, when naming that place, is referring to the ram caught in the thicket and sacrificed in place of his son. But when Abraham names the place the ram is already dead, sacrificed and burnt. If Abraham is thinking of the ram – already dead, sacrificed and burnt – he would have named it ‘The LORD has provided’, i.e. in the past tense. And Moses, if he was thinking of the ram that took the place of Abraham’s son would have commented ‘And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’. But both Abraham and Moses clearly give it a name in future tense and therefore are not thinking of that already dead and sacrificed ram.

Where the sacrifice happened

So what are they thinking about then? If we look for a clue we see that the place where God told Abraham to go at the beginning of this Sign was:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (v.2)

This happened in ‘Moriah’. But where is that? Though it was a wilderness area in Abraham’s day (2000 BC), a thousand years later (1000 BC) King David established the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Solomon built the First Jewish Temple there. We read later in the Old Testament historical books that:

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David (2 Chronicles 3:1)

In other words, ‘Mount Moriah’ in the time of Abraham was an isolated mountain top in the wilderness but 1000 years later through David and Solomon it became the central and capital city of the Israelites where they built the Jewish Temple. And to this very day it is a holy place for the Jewish people.

Jesus and the Sacrifice of Abraham

And here we find a direct connection to Jesus and the Gospel. We see this connection when we consider one of the titles attributed to Jesus.  Now Jesus had many titles associated with him.  In the previous post I looked at the interplay of titles ‘Son of Man’ and ‘Son of God’ used at his trial.  And perhaps the most well-known title of his is ‘Christ’. But there is another title given to him that is not as well known, but hugely important. We see this in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist says:

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus (i.e. Jesus) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

In other words, Jesus was also known as ‘The Lamb of God”. Now consider the end of Jesus’ life. Where was he arrested and crucified? It was in Jerusalem (which as we saw is the same as ‘Mount Moriah’). It is very clearly stated during his arrest that:

When he [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.’ (Luke 23:7)

In other words, the arrest, trial and sentencing of Jesus happened in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah).

Back to Abraham. Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’? How could he know that something would be ‘provided’ there in his future that would so precisely mirror the drama of the scene he enacted on Mount Moriah? Think about it – in that drama Isaac is saved from death at the last moment because a lamb dies in his place. Two thousand years later, Jesus is called ‘Lamb of God’ and is arrested and dies on the same spot!  Both Abraham and Moses claimed that it was revealed to them by God.

A Divine Mind Reveals Himself

And indeed it is as though there is a Mind that is connecting these two events separated by 2000 years of history.

The prophecy in the sacrifice of Abraham on mount moriah is a pointer to jesus

The sacrifice of Abraham was a Sign – pointing forward 2000 years – to make us think about the death of Jesus.

But what makes this unique is that the earlier event is pointing to the second event two thousand years later.  We know the earlier was configured to point to the later because the name given by Abraham and Moses was ‘The LORD will provide’ i.e. it looks to the future.  The figure illustrates how the earlier event alludes to the later one and was configured to remind us of the later event.  This is evidence that this Mind is revealing Himself to us by coordinating events though separated by thousands of years.  This is evidence that God has spoken.  Take a look here for a discussion on other possible explanations.

Good News for you and me

But this account is also pertinent to us for more personal reasons. At the end of the exchange God declares to Abraham that

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18)

If you belong to one of the ‘nations on earth’ (and you do!) this has to concern you because the promise is that you then can get a ‘blessing’ from God himself!  Even only a possibility of a blessing from God should move us to investigate further.

But how is this ‘blessing’ given?  For starters, the word ‘offspring’ here is in the singular. It is not ‘offsprings’ as in many descendants or peoples, but in the singular as in a ‘he’, not through many people or a group of people as in ‘they’.   Again, this points to Jesus, the offspring of Abraham.  Just like the ram saved Isaac from death by dieing in his place, so the Lamb of God, by his death, saves us from the power of death.  The Good News of the gospel is foreshadowed beyond that of chance coincidences in the remarkable account of the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah, the same spot where 2000 years later it ‘was provided’

[Click here for this Sign explained to those with an Islamic perspective and an interest in Eid al-Adha and Ibrahim (PBUH).]

 

 

21 thoughts on “What was the Sign of Abraham’s Sacrifice?

  1. Excellent and thoughtful. May I cast a caveat unless I understand the history incorrectly. Mt. Moriah was not in the middle of nowhere (wilderness). Abraham eventually was greeted by” the priest of the God most high” Melchizedek, the king of Salem, after rescuing Lot.(Gen 14:18) Salem I believe is assumed to be the future Jebus. As the only spring in the area, the Gihon spring would have supplied the city, so to speak. (Also interesting that Gihon is the name of one of the rivers of Eden) There is only one spring that I could find tell of in the area, which ties in the area. Mt. Moriah would have been just up the hill from the spring and Salem. This in my mind reinforces the holiness of the mountain.

    Only other though is that the King’s Highway probably was intact then and passed through the area

    Thank you for an excellent article

      • God spoke, so it was His voice, but the verb was not ‘kill’ but ‘offer’. Take a look at the interlinear (here) and the def’n of the Hebrew word and you will see this word is also defined as ‘arise’ or ‘go up’ as well as offer.

        • Thanks for your reply. The exact words were a command: “Offer him there for a burnt offering (sacrifice) upon one of the Mountains (Moriah)
          which I will tell you of.” Abraham knew that it would require the death of his son and was about to kill Isaac first before he burned him up when another (different voice) told him to stop.
          The temptation from Lord Satan (the god of this world) was completed, as with Job, and the true Lord stopped Abaraham from actually killing his son. If you will study on the concept of the two Lords in the Bible you will see what I am trying to explain. Richard Murray has explained this very well in his article. I have also explained it in my book INTO THE FATHER’S HEART. Thanks for listening. http://www.godslastcallministries.org

          Your friend, Mike. mclute777@aol.com

  2. Thanks for your post on the naming of the mountain of Abraham,s sacrifice. Sir, “the Lord will provide” was the answer father Abraham gave to Isaac when the Isaac asked:”….where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” The sheep was yet to be shownto Father Abraham a long walk away from the place where Isaac asked the question & his father by faith said, “the Lord will provide” & theLord did pprovide a sheep in place of Isaac. Sir, it has nothing to do with the

    • Hi Tim
      It seems your comment was cut off, but I catch the gist of it. You are saying that when Abraham said “the Lord will provide” (future tense) in v.14 he was merely repeating the future tense in v.8 Though that is possible, that explanation does not make sense of the comment added after Abraham named the place. This comment was inserted by the compiler of Genesis after the events in that chapter. This compiler was Moses, who added this comment about 500 years later. Here is the complete v14 with Moses’ comment bolded.

      So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

      This comment shows that there was a future-looking in the tradition that sprung from that event. So it must be more than Abraham merely repeating himself from v8

      • Thank you sir. The fact that ‘up to this day’ the mountain is still called ‘upon this mountain, it will be provided’ EVEN AFTER THE LORD HAS BEEN SACRIFICED UPON THAT MOUNTAIN shows that the name is only a memorial of what transpired between Abraham & his son Isaac-an expressin of faith in JEHOVAH-JIREH. Otherwise, the name should’ve changed to ‘upon this mountain it was provided’ after the fulfilment of ‘your prophecy’ in the vicarious death of the Lord on that mountain’. Shalom!

        • Tim
          Let’s think about this. The account was written by Moses ca 1500 BC. He inserted this comment (‘up to this day…’) because in his day (1500 BC) they were still anticipating the fulfillment of this coming provision by the Lord which was to happen on that place. But once Moses writes it down and the Torah is established if Jesus fulfills this event 1500 years later no one is going back to change all the manuscripts to now make it past tense. Think about other issues unrelated to this one that were resolved or fulfilled later in Jewish history (and that have nothing to do with Jesus per se) that to this day are still in future tense:

          14 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” 15 be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15)

          No one (Jewish, Christian or otherwise) has ever changed this after King David was anointed to read ‘Now that he has been appointed …’

          5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7)

          Once Jerusalem was chosen as the place for the Temple no one ever added a comment or changed the future tense to say ‘Now bring today the offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem…’

          36 The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. (Deuteronomy 28:36)

          Once the Baylonian exile happened no one ever added to the text to read ‘ Now that King Zedekiah has been killed and we are on our way to Babylon …’

          These were all predictions by Moses that were part of the Torah and once the Torah was set it was never changed so that we can see how these predictions came about in later history. It is the same with the prediction in the sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Once Moses wrote it down (future from his point in time) it was set. To expect otherwise is to not understand what the Hebrews meant by ‘scripture’ or what we mean by history

        • Come on Tim!

          It is daylight clear the intention to look forward to the future.

          Moreover, according to the Christian tenets, the promise of a Redeemer started in the very Eden and the way explained by Ragnar is full consistent with it.

          There are lots of wrong beliefs that seem to be pious yet impossible to derive hermeneutically such as the likening of “Samaritan” with “good man”.

          Here, Jesus was turning the Mosaic understanding of “neighbor” as “another Israelite” into just “another human being”. I bet this was outrageous for the Jews as attested by first Christians that rejected to preach heathen.

          Thanks, Ragnar, for your insights!

      • Thank you Ragnar.Abraham’s faith & obedience is proverbial. His example is met for us God’s children to follow. If God places a demand on us, let’s not fear. Let’s believe like Abraham that God is able to provide for us to meet that demand.And then obey. This is the lesson we’re to learn–God never fails if we trust & obey Him. As to the prophetic significance of the naming of the mountain, you’re entitled to your opinion. Except you connect it to God’s faithfulness in providing for those who trust & obey, I think you are yet to do a complete job. Remain richly blessed sir.

  3. Hello Sir. I just read this article on Abraham. It is well written and clear and I agree with the basic idea. My question is this: The law says: “Thou Shalt not kill.” #6. So why would God tell Abraham to break His own law? Did Jesus ever hurt or kill anyone? And God does not change. Therefore, if the true Lord spoke or told Abraham to kill his son why did he turn right around a few seconds later and say “Stop. I changed my mind.”? That is not the character of God. Therefore, I beleve the false lord of this earth, Satan spoke first to Abraham telling him to go sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed because he did not know the difference between the voices at that time. But we can today because Jesus said, “My Sheep hear my voice.” (John 17:1-3 tells us there is..Only One True God, meaning there is a False lord, i.e. Satan). Peace, love and Blessing to you. Your friend, Mike.

    • Hi Mike
      Thanks for your comment. One point. The law says “Thous shalt not murder” not “thou shalt not kill” There is a world of difference between the two and I think it resolves the tension that your raise. As to your point about who spoke first to Abraham, the text is quite clear:

      22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
      “Here I am,” he replied.
      2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

      So the text is unequivocal that it was God who spoke.

  4. Hey Rag, thanks for this post.

    So it seems to me that the most important component of your argument for a Divine Mind is that Abraham’s naming of Moriah as “The LORD Will Provide” looks forward to Jesus’ future sacrifice. I follow your line of reasoning but am not really convinced.

    If you are right, then I must say that God’s message would have been a lot clearer if there was an explicit statement that something similar to the Abraham & Isaac story was going to happen later. As it is, I am more inclined to interpret “The LORD Will Provide” the way most people do — as in “Today I have seen that even when things look bleakest, the LORD will provide.” Just imagine it: the man is probably still reeling from the events that have just transpired. Then, in his worshipful reflection, he gleans this moral from the story.

    This interpretation of his naming makes the most sense to me. As far as I can see, you have chosen to interpret it as a prophecy in the absence of any corroborating evidence in the immediately surrounding text (though it does fit nicely into the picture you have painted by drawing from other parts of the Bible).

    This thread really reminds me of a past conversation we’ve had. I’ll spell it out for the benefit of other readers. Muslims claim that the last prophet would be an Ishmaelite based on “I will raise up for them a prophet like you [Moses] from among their [the Israelites’] brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him”(Deuteronomy 18:18-19). Muslims look at these verses and say, “Hey! The Israelites’ brothers are the Ishmaelites! Therefore this prophet must be Mohammad.” In this case we can prove that “their brothers” in all likelihood means other Israelites, since their king is also supposed to be selected from “among their brothers” (Deuteronomy 17:15). But even without the clarification from Deut 17:15, my first interpretation of 18:18-19 was that the prophet would be an Israelite.

    My point is, Muslims have drawn (what I think is) an incorrect conclusion by reading too much into the itty bitty details of language. I would submit that a similar phenomenon has occurred here.

    • Justin
      Thanks for another insightful comment. I would not disagree with your overall point from the data of this post, but I do not think your Muslim example quite fits the point you are making. The point with the mis-interpretation of the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18 being Muhammad is that the context shows clearly that ‘brother’ means Israelite (from Deut 17 as you say). So we know that this interpretation goes against the context explicitly written down. To advance it means to clearly disregard the context.
      The understanding of the binding of Isaac that I advanced is nowhere clearly negated in the context of the story. But, just because the context does not negate this viewpoint, it also does not follow that the interpretation that I advanced is proven. I could still possibly be reading too much into the account – and this I think is your main point and I do accept it as a valid concern.
      But I still do advance it in the spirit of this site for ‘consideration’. First of all, I want to point out direct observations that most people have missed (ie the name is future tense and it is on Mount Moriah – and almost everyone I have talked to does not know where that is). There was something that stirred within me when I noticed these finer details in the account that my Sunday School lessons had missed for me. I want others to at least see these same details. Sometimes it is in the noticing of details that were previously missed where the pieces of the puzzle come together.
      Also, this allows us to start to see something unique about the history of the Old Testament which I do not see it in any other histories. The history of the Old Testament is history but it is explicitly forward looking. It is that everywhere throughout. Even the fact that there can be a mis-interpretation of the Prophet in Deuteronomy 18 come because it says there to the effect “A Prophet will come..” (‘will’ as in future tense). Now focusing solely on whether one interpretation or another may be wrong, may make us miss asking the larger question “Why are things consistently forward-looking?”
      And, for me at least, it is in the cumulative foreshadowing of many of such forward-looking accounts that starts to lend weight to this interpretation. In other words, if this were the only such account that pointed to Jesus in this kind of way I would perhaps think I was reading too much into it. But if you look at the post on Passover (http://considerthegospel.org/blog/2012/08/20/the-passover-sign-of-moses/), Pentecost (http://considerthegospel.org/blog/2012/05/27/the-feast-of-pentecost-another-allusion-in-the-divine-plan/), the ‘Son of Man’ from Daniel (http://considerthegospel.org/blog/2012/08/03/the-irony-and-paradox-at-jesus-trial/) you will see that there is a case for a pattern of this kind of interpretation that is emerging. And this is only the beginning. There are many more and I want to walk in a systematic way through them. So I can only suggest that you hold your concern (ie do not forget it) but follow the different accounts and then you can determine for yourself if you also see such a pattern emerging.
      Now as to your direct objection as to why nothing explicit is stated, but more hinted at, in this binding account. I think I will show that there are several (many) places where explicit statements are given (again you can judge on a case-by-case basis). But critics take these and then argue that the Gospel writers made up their accounts to make them fit the explicit predictions. I will look at these allegations. But one answer to this objection to the explicit statements are the widespread occurrence of ‘hints’ like in this account for which it is difficult to ‘make up’ Gospel accounts to make them fit. So the Old Testament provides different kinds of foretellings. Some are explicit, some are hints, some are metaphors etc. so that in this tapestry a water tight case that addresses various kinds of objections can be developed. Explicit predictions address the kind of objection you raise against this hint, while hints address objections against the making up of ‘fulfillments’ etc. So the fact that this single account is more-or-less a ‘hint’ should not be cause either for discouragement or rejection. It should whet our appetites to make us ask ‘Is there more?’ and then we can consider the overall case. I hope to do this in a systematic way through ongoing posts.

      • “The Untouchables (Dalits) of India want economic, social, political, religious and educational equality in Society, not in the eyes of God.”
        (Harbans Lal Badhan)

        • I am following the debate, but something is burgling my mind. Mr Tim i will only agree with you about the mountain where Abraham sacrifice took place and the death of Christ. Besides i would not side with you about the test or the voice that came from another lord which is the lord of this world.ABRAHAM was tested by GOD if not GENESIS 22:12 will not say ” now you fear GOD” IF it was the devil he will allowed Abraham to kill His son, because he is a liar.1 John 2:21

Leave a Reply