The Story of Abraham and Isaac Bible Study Guide

The sacrifice of Isaac was Abraham's ultimate test of faith

Abraham and Isaac
Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac when he sees a ram in the thicket. DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images

The story of Abraham and Isaac involves one of the most agonizing test—a trial both men pass because of their total faith in God. God instructs Abraham to take Isaac, the heir to God’s promise and sacrifice him. Abraham obeys, binding Isaac to the altar, but God intervenes and provides a ram to offer instead. After, God reinforces His covenant with Abraham.

Question for Reflection

As you read the story of Abraham and Isaac reflect on these thoughts:

Sacrificing one's own child is the ultimate test of faith. Whenever God allows our faith to be tested, we can trust that he has a good purpose in mind. Trials and tests reveal our obedience to God and the genuineness of our faith and trust in him. Tests also produce steadfastness, strength of character, and equip us to weather the storms of life because they press us closer to the Lord.

What do I need to sacrifice in my own life to follow God more closely?

Bible Reference

The story of God’s test of Abraham and Isaac appears in Genesis 22: 1–19.

Abraham and Isaac Story Summary

After waiting 25 years for his promised son, Abraham was told by God, "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." (Genesis 22:2, NIV)

Abraham obeyed and took Isaac, two servants, and a donkey and set off on the 50-mile journey. When they arrived at God's chosen location, Abraham ordered the servants to wait with the donkey while he and Isaac went up the mountain. He told the men, "We will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5, NIV)

Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the sacrifice, and Abraham answered that the Lord would provide the lamb. Saddened and confused, Abraham bound Isaac with ropes and placed him on the stone altar.

The Ultimate Test

Just as Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham to stop and not harm the boy. The angel said he knew that Abraham feared the Lord because he had not withheld his only son.

When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. He sacrificed the animal provided by God, instead of his son.

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said:

"I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." (Genesis 22:16-18, NIV)

Themes

Trust: Earlier God had promised Abraham that he would make a great nation of him through Isaac. This knowledge forced Abraham to either trust God with what mattered most to him or to distrust God. Abraham chose to trust.

Isaac also had to trust in God and his father to willingly become the sacrifice. The young man had been watching and learning from his father Abraham, one of the most faithful figures in Scripture. 

Obedience and Blessing: God was teaching Abraham that covenant blessings require total commitment and obedience to the Lord. Abraham’s willingness to surrender his beloved, promised son secured the fulfillment of God’s promises to him.

Substitutionary Sacrifice: This incident foreshadows God's sacrifice of his only son, Jesus Christ, on the cross at Calvary, for the sins of the world. When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, the Lord provided a substitute for Isaac in the same way he provided Christ as our substitute through his sacrificial death. God's great love for us required of himself what he did not require of Abraham.

Points of Interest

Abraham told his servants "we" will come back to you, meaning both he and Isaac. Abraham must have believed God would either provide a substitute sacrifice or would raise Isaac from the dead.

Mount Moriah, where this event took place, means "God will provide." King Solomon later built the first Temple there. Today, the Muslim shrine The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem, stands on the site of the sacrifice of Isaac.

The author of the book of Hebrews cites Abraham in his "Faith Hall of Fame," and James says Abraham's obedience was credited to him as righteousness.

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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "The Story of Abraham and Isaac Bible Study Guide." Learn Religions, Jul. 6, 2021, learnreligions.com/abraham-and-isaac-bible-story-summary-700079. Zavada, Jack. (2021, July 6). The Story of Abraham and Isaac Bible Study Guide. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/abraham-and-isaac-bible-story-summary-700079 Zavada, Jack. "The Story of Abraham and Isaac Bible Study Guide." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/abraham-and-isaac-bible-story-summary-700079 (accessed July 28, 2021).

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