And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.…
This is the most extraordinary command which we find in Scripture. In order to set it in the most intelligible and instructive light, I shall make the following inquiries.
I. LET US INQUIRE, WHETHER GOD HAD A RIGHT TO GIVE THIS COMMAND TO ABRAHAM.
1. In the first place, God did not command Abraham to murder Isaac, or to take away his life from malice prepense. He required him only to offer him a burnt sacrifice; and though this implied the taking away of life, yet it did not imply anything of the nature of murder.
2. In the next place, it must be allowed that God Himself had an original and independent right to take away that life from Isaac, which He had of His mere sovereignty given him. It is a Divine and self-evident truth, that He has a right to do what He will with His own creatures. And this right God not only claims, but constantly exercises, in respect to the lives of men. He taketh away, and who can hinder Him? And He takes away when, and where, and by whom He pleases.
3. Farthermore, God has a right to require men to do that at one time which He has forbidden them to do at another. Though He had forbidden men to offer human sacrifices in general, yet He had a right to require Abraham, in particular, to offer up Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. And after He had required him to sacrifice Isaac, He had a right to forbid him to do it, as He actually did.
II. WHETHER ABRAHAM COULD KNOW THAT THIS COMMAND CAME FROM GOD. Now it must be granted by all, that if Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, or offer him upon the altar, he really thought God did require him to do it; and, if he did really think so, it must have been owing either to his own heated imagination, or to the delusion of some evil spirit, or else to some real evidence of God's requiring him to sacrifice his son. But it is evident that it could not be owing to his own heated imagination; because there was nothing in nature to lead him to form such an imagination. The command was contrary to everything that God had before required of him; it was contrary to what God had revealed in respect to human sacrifices; and it was contrary to all the natural instincts, inclinations, and feelings of the human heart. Nor is there any better reason to think that he was under the delusion of some evil spirit. We can by no means suppose that God would suffer such an excellent man as Abraham to be deluded in such an extraordinary case, by the great deceiver; nor that Satan would be disposed to tempt Abraham to do what he really thought would be for the glory of God. Nor can we suppose, if Satan viewed it as a criminal action, that he would have restrained him from committing the crime. But if Abraham was not led to think that God required him to sacrifice his son, by a wild imagination, nor by the delusion of an evil spirit, then we are constrained to conclude that he had clear and conclusive evidence of the command's coming from God.
III. WHY GOD COMMANDED ABRAHAM TO SACRIFICE HIS SON.
1. It is evident that Abraham's offering Isaac upon the altar was a lively type or representation of God's offering Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
2. God meant, by the command in the text, to try or prove whether Abraham loved Him sincerely and supremely.
IV. WHETHER THIS COMMAND TO ABRAHAM ANSWERED THE END WHICH GOD PROPOSED IN GIVING IT. And we find that Abraham did actually and punctually obey both the letter and spirit of the command; by which he gave an infallible evidence that he loved God sincerely and supremely.
1. He obeyed, in contrariety to all the natural feelings and affections of the human heart.
2. The cheerfulness and promptitude with which he obeyed the Divine command increase the evidence of the sincerity and supremacy of his love to God.
3. His obedience to the command to sacrifice his son was obedience to the mere will of God; which renders it, in the highest possible degree, evidential of his real and supreme love to Him.Improvement —
1. It appears from Abraham's ready obedience to the command in the text, that those who are willing to obey God, can very easily understand the real meaning of his commands.
2. Did Abraham exhibit the highest evidence of his sincere and supreme love to God, by obedience to His command? Then we learn that this is the only way for all good men to exhibit the highest evidence of their sincere and supreme love to God.
3. It appears from the obedience of Abraham to the Divine command, that all true obedience to God flows from pure disinterested love to Him.
4. It appears from God's design in giving the command in the text, and from the effects of it, that Christians have no reason to think it strange concerning the fiery trials which they are called to endure. God has a good design in all their trials.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.