Profile Of The Prophets - ISAAC

by Joseph Hunting

Compared with Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's life was lived on a more mediocre plane. His father Abraham towered above his contemporaries, and as the founder of the Hebrew race commands one of the most prominent places of human history, certainly of Biblical history. And Isaac's son Jacob was named by the Eternal Israel, a prince of God, and as the father of the twelve patriarchs commanded a very important place in God's program.

Even so, Isaac's place in the Biblical records is unique. His mother Sarah was barren. However, Abraham sought the Lord and was given the promise of a son. As the years passed and they remained childless, both Sarah and Abraham agreed that the only way God could fulfil His promise would be for Sarah to give her maid Hagar to Abraham as wife. This union resulted in the birth of Ishmael, who according to the patriarchal system would be Abraham's legal heir. He would also be the heir to the Divinely bestowed promise of blessing upon his posterity.

This arrangement was not what God had originally planned, and it was not until Ishmael was thirteen years of age that God again appeared to them and assured this incredulous couple that the following year, when Sarah was ninety, she would have a son.

That which sets Isaac apart from the other patriarchs is the manner of his birth. Not only was Sarah barren, incapable of bearing children, but she was also long past the age when this was possible. On these two counts Isaac's birth was a biological miracle. He was indeed the child of promise.

"Your Son, Your Only Son Isaac"

There is a statement in the Bible which on the surface appears to be a contradiction. When Ishmael was thirty-one years and Isaac seventeen, God commanded Abraham: "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" (Genesis 22:2).

Although Ishmael was truly Abraham's firstborn and the legal son and heir, God did not recognize him as the seed to whom He would pass on the Divine blessing. It was not an act of wilful disobedience on the part of Abraham and Sarah in giving Hagar to be Abraham's wife to provide him with a son and heir; rather they made the mistake of interfering with God's promise instead of waiting for Him to fulfil the promise in His own good time.

Abraham and Sarah are not alone in falling into this error. Nevertheless the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac have known strife to this day because of their decision to help God out of a seemingly impossible situation.

No doubt Abraham was very aware of the faux pas he had committed, because his next action shows a man with implicit faith in God and a readiness to obey God immediately. As the Lord had disinherited Ishmael, then the covenant made with Abraham concerning his posterity being a great nation depended solely upon Isaac.

So if Isaac were to be offered as a burnt offering according to the Divine command, then it would be necessary for God to bring the lad back to life again. It is interesting to note that Isaac must have been a willing participant in this awesome drama, and as we saw in our last study concerning the patriarch Abraham (THE VINEYARD October 1995), God spared Isaac when He had proved His servant Abraham. He also Himself provided the sacrifice, namely "a ram caught in a thicket by its horns", a picture of the future "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

After the death of Abraham, Isaac lived in the Negev, "and the man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants: (Genesis 26:13,14).

When he was forty years of age he married Rebekah, who had been especially sought and chosen for him from his father's kindred by Abraham's faithful servant. But Rebekah in turn was also barren. "Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived" (Genesis 25:21).

Twins were born to them. The firstborn, Esau, was loved by Isaac, even as Ishmael was loved by Abraham. Yet again God was to reverse the patriarchal order regarding the birthright and blessing by giving them to Jacob. Evidently this Divine decision was given to Rebekah because she had specifically sought the Lord. "So she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body ... and the older shall serve the younger'" (Genesis 25:23).

Years later when "Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, 'My son ... behold now, I am old ... go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savoury food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die'" (Genesis 27:1-4).

It was at this crucial point that Rebekah intervened and instructed Jacob to go in haste and prepare a kid of the flock and then to stand before Isaac to receive the blessing. Jacob is often maligned for this act, but it must be remembered that God had revealed to Rebekah that "the older shall serve the younger" before the two were born, so in doing as she did, Rebekah was acting to prevent Isaac from passing on the blessing to the wrong son. Subsequent history has vindicated this action.

However, because of Isaac's wrath, Jacob, once again at his mother's command, and with is father's further blessing, fled to Syria and served his uncle Laban as a shepherd for fourteen years. In the meantime Isaac lived another twenty years and saw his son's return and the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob. He died at the ripe old age of 180 years. "So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (Genesis 35:29).