Commentary on Parashat Vayeira (And He Appeared)

Beresheet (Genesis) 18:1–22:24

Our weekly reading takes us to one of the most well known stories of the Bible, known as “Isaac’s sacrifice” or “The Binding of Isaac”. Let’s read about it here (from Genesis 22:1–19):

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “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.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.  And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. And 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?” And Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 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. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lᴏʀᴅ Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lᴏʀᴅ it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lᴏʀᴅ, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

In last week’s blog from Parashat Lekh Lekha (You Go), I wrote on the issue of Abram’s great faith to obediently answer God’s call to “Go.” Abram had to leave everything he knew, loved, and trusted, and go to an unknown place. God gave Abram some great promises to encourage him, but it was ultimately Abram’s choice to trust God and obey Him, which shows us the important connection between believing and action, faith and works. And once again, we see Abraham’s quick response to God’s call when he says, “Here I am.”

At times we view our faith or walk with the Lord as a “one time deal.” Sometimes we have the attitude of, “I’ve done my job…” but the reality is that there is a measure of testing of our faith that happens every single day! We see God once again “testing” Abraham’s faith; He was checking the measure of Abraham’s faith and just how far Abraham was willing to go after Him.

I love Abraham’s immediate reply to God, “Hineini!” which means, “Here I am.” But it was so much more than just a simple “I’m here!” statement. It encompassed an attitude of, “I am ready, Lord, for whatever You have for me.” So many times we make statements like Abraham, but unlike Abraham, when the test actually comes, we are quick to give excuses for our lack of obedience. We may even try to run and hide!

Yet, even with such great faith, I am sure Abraham did not expect what God was about to ask of him in verse 2:

And He said, “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.”

Can you imagine what must have gone through Abraham’s mind? Abraham had waited so long for his son; he loved him and developed a close relationship with him. Abraham also knew that Isaac was the son through which God had chosen to fulfill His promises, yet God’s instructions were very clear, and as we know from the story Abraham willingly obeyed God, and was ready to do the unimaginable to demonstrate his faith.

I want to point out here that God specifically said to Abraham, “take your son, your only son…”. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. However, we see here in the language that God used to affirm the son through whom His promise would be realized (Isaac). Some of the sages read between the lines, and suggest that God had a dialog with Abraham in which He said to take his son, to which Abraham replied, “Which one?” and only then did God specify Isaac.

However, my personal belief is that God wanted to reaffirm His covenant through Isaac, as well as to foreshadow something greater to come. For this reason, I do not believe God’s words, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love,” are a mistake. In fact, they show us that this story will reflect a greater story which was to come. Abraham demonstrated his love for God by the fact that he was willing to sacrifice his son’s life… Our God demonstrated His love for us by choosing to give His only son, whom He loved, to restore us to Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

It’s also an important point to note that Isaac is a prophetic type of Yeshua. Not only were both Isaac and Yeshua silent as they faced death, but they were both also in their thirties when these important events occurred. And just like Yeshua knew of the death that lay before Him, Isaac also probably knew what was going to happen, and did not fight off his father as Abraham bound him to the altar. Even though Isaac was not sacrificed in the end, the parallel is still very strong between them both.

What is God asking you to lay down at the altar of faith? Are you willing to do so?

This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, October 2, 2017, and reposted with permission.