Does the sacrificing of Isaac prefigure Jesus?

“Yes, after all…
  • Both are promised-childs, miraculously conceived

      In their respective accounts, both Jesus1 and Isaac2 are promised-childs, miraculously conceived gifts from God (neither mother was supposed to be able to give birth). This is relevant because few figures share this property,3 and it is central to both Jesus and Isaac.

      1. Verses on Jesus's being miraculously conceived:
        Luke 1:30-35 -- The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. … Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered … the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
      2. Verses on Isaac's being a miraculously conceived:
        Genesis 18:9-10 -- [The angels] said to him, … “…behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” … Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself…
        Genesis 21:1-4 -- and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised.So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age,… Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
      3. Aside from Isaac and Jesus, there are only six other miraculous births in the Bible, the others being Jacob & Esau, Samson, the Shunammite woman‘s son (2 Kings 4), Samuel, and John the Baptist.
  • Both are called their father's special “only son”

      In both stories, Jesus1 and Isaac2 are explicitly identified as their father's special “one and only son.” This is relevant because few father-son relationships are described this way in the Biblical texts, and yet this unique specialness of the son to their father is central to both the story of Isaac and Jesus.

      1. Verses on Jesus being God's “only son”:
        John 3:16 -- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
        Romans 8:32 -- He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over
        Romans 5:10 -- we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son
        1 John 4:9-10 -- God sent his only Son … he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
      2. Verses on Isaac being Abraham's “only son”:
        Genesis 22:2 -- “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” v12 -- “…you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.
  • Both are to be sacrificed by their loving father

      In their respective accounts, both Jesus1 and Isaac2 were to be sacrificed by their father. This is relevant because few figures in story or history share this property, and yet it is a defining feature of Isaac and Jesus.

      1. Verses on Jesus being sacrificed by his loving Father.
        1 John 4:9-10 -- God sent his only Son … he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
        John 3:16 -- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
        Romans 8:32 -- He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over
      2. Verses on Isaac being sacrificed by his loving Father.
        Genesis 22:2 -- “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
  • Both are to be sacrificed in the same place (Moriah)

      In their respective accounts, Jesus1 and Isaac2 were to be sacrificed in the same location (hills of Moriah). This is relevant because no other Biblical figures share this property, and God commanded Abraham to travel about 50 miles to sacrifice Isaac at just this location, without ever offering an explanation.3 (It is as if God expected something special to happen there later?)

      1. Verses on Jesus being crucified in the location of Moriah:
        John 19:17 -- They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (cf. Mk 15:22, Mt 27:33, Lk 23:33) This is relevant because this hill (Golgotha) was a hill of Moriah. We know this because the hill Golgotha and the Temple (in Jerusalem) were 300 meters apart, with the latter being built on a hill in Moriah (called Mt. Moriah), and the former also being a hill in Moriah (part of the same range).
        2 Chronicles 3:1 -- Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David
      2. Verses on Isaac being Abraham's “only son”:
        Genesis 22:2 -- “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
  • Both are to be a sacrificial lamb to God (on wood)

      In their respective accounts, both Jesus1 and Isaac2 were to be sacrificial lambs to God.

      1. We know Jesus was meant to be a sacrificial lamb for two reasons:
        • Jesus was crucified during passover, which is when Jews were to sacrifice their unblemished lamb.
        • Texts report it explicitly:

        John 1:29 -- The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (v. 36 -- and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”)
        1 Peter 1:18 -- knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things… but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

      2. We know Isaac was meant to be a sacrificial lamb because of context:

        ◦ Genesis 22:1,7-8 -- offer him there as a burnt offering… Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

  • Both carry their own wood up on their back to die on

      In their respective accounts, both Jesus 1 and Isaac2 were ironically expected to carry the very wood up the hill that they were to be sacrificed on. This is relevant because no other Biblical figures share this property, and it is one of the few details given on the story of Isaac's being sacrificed, while also prominently featuring in the account of Jesus's death.

      1. Genesis 22:6 -- “Abraham took the wood and laid it on Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
      2. We know this because:
        • Victims of crucifixion in general were expected to carry their cross as far as possible.
        • It is reported explicitly in John 19:16-17 -- “So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull
  • Both voluntarily submitted to their being sacrificed

      In their respective accounts, both Jesus 1 and Isaac2 (much stronger than Abraham) submitted to their father's will to be sacrificed, without resisting. This is relevant because it is hardly expected in such a case, and yet is an essential and unique characteristic of how Jesus and Isaac went to die.

      1. We know Jesus did not resist for two reasons.
        • The reports of Jesus' death are numerous and details, and yet there is no indication that he tried resisting.
        • Quite the contrary, the reports consistently identify him as not resisting (not in his arrest [Mt 26:50] or in his trial either).
        Acts 8:32, 35 -- “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent”… Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
        Mt 26:50 -- And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
      2. Isaac was perfectly capable of fighting back (he was the one who carried all the wood up on his back).
  • Both narratives conclude: God will provide

      In both the story of Jesus1 and Isaac,2 the account ends with the message that “God will provide,” specifically he will provide sacrificial replacement so his loved ones do not. This is relevant because, while the analogue to Jesus shifts from Isaac to the ram, this was necessary to incorporate the final element: the substitionary death. The text emphasizes the ram was killed “in the place of his son.” The text really seemed to want to highlight this feature, saying they sacrificed the ram "in Isaac's place"; the story need need to say that.

      1. In the case for Jesus, he is sacrificed and dies for our sins. Romans 3:25 -- God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith.
      2. Genesis 22:12-14 -- [God] said, “Do not stretch out your hand against [Isaac],….” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”
  • Both fathers anticipated their son's resurrection

      In both stories, Jesus1 and Isaac2 were expected by their fathers to be resurrected by God.

      1. Jesus's father in this case is God, who being omniscient knew. Several texts also testify to God's awareness.
      2. There are two reasons to think Abraham believed this of Isaac:
        • Abraham did not object, and Isaac did not resist.
        • The whole situation was a test of Abraham's faith in God's promise just before:
        Genesis 21:21God said… 'it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.'”
        Genesis 17:9 -- “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
        In other words, insofar as Abraham believed both…
        • …that he would kill Isaac
        • …that Isaac would live on to have children and continue Abraham's line,
        Abraham seemingly had to God would raise Isaac from death. This was noticed by Jews long before.

        Hebrews 11:17-19 -- By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

  • “No, after all…
  • Isaac didn't die

      Unlike Jesus, Isaac did not actually die. Instead, he was spared. This is relevant because the death of Jesus is essential to his narrative, and it is missing from the story of Isaac.

      However, it is not clear that this wasn't the best way to do things from a foreshadowing or prefiguring perspective (if one took a poll, there would be significant disagreement). Which is better:

      (a) A prefiguring where Jesus and Isaac parallel and where finally Isaac too is killed, but no notion of substitutionary death provided by God is involved as in the Jesus story.

      (b) A prefiguring where Jesus and Isaac parallel, yet where Isaac is not killed, and in its place is the parallel of a substitutionary death provided by God: the Ram.1

      1. [Note: Also included is the foreshadowing in Genesis of Abraham saying God would provide the “Lamb.” This is relevant because instead only a Ram is provided in the story, leading many theologians to point out an ostensible implication that the fortold Lamb sacrifice on Moriah is still to come.]
  • SHOW/HIDE MENU