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.…
I. THE TRIAL ITSELF.
1. The time of it. The same things may be more or less trying as they are connected with other things. If the treatment of Job's friends had not been preceded by the loss of his substance, the untimely death of his children, the cruel counsel of his wife, and the heavy hand of God, it had been much more tolerable; and if Abraham's faith and patience had not been exercised in the manner they were anterior to this temptation, it might have been somewhat different from what it was. It is also a much greater trial to be deprived of an object when our hopes have been raised, and in a manner accomplished respecting it, than to have it altogether withheld from us. It was "after these things that God did tempt Abraham" — that is, after five-and-twenty years waiting; after the promise had been frequently repeated; after hope had been raised to the highest pitch; yea, after it had been actually turned into enjoyment; and when the child had lived long enough to discover an amiable and godly disposition.
2. The shock which it was adapted to produce upon his natural affections is also worthy of notice. The command is worded in a manner as if it were designed to harrow up all his feelings as a father: "Take now thy son, thine only son (of promise), Isaac, whom thou lovest" — or, as some read it, "Take now that son... that only one of thine... whom thou lovest... that ISAAC!" And what! Deliver him to some other hand to sacrifice him! No; be thou thyself the priest; go "offer him up for a burnt-offering!" But the shock which it would be to natural affection is not represented as the principal part of the trial; but rather what it must have been to his faith. It was not so much his being his son, as his only son of promise; his Isaac, in whom all the great things spoken of his seed were to be fulfilled.
II. THE CONDUCT OF ABRAHAM UNDER THIS SHARP TRIAL. We have here a surprising instance of the efficacy of Divine grace, in rendering every power, passion, and thought of the mind subordinate to the will of God. There is a wide difference between this and the extinction of the passions. This were to be deprived of feeling; but the other is to have the mind assimilated to the mind of Christ, who, though He felt most sensibly, yet said, "If this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done!"
III. THE REWARD CONFERRED UPON HIM. A repetition of the promised blessing.
IV. THE GENERAL DESIGN OF THE WHOLE.
1. Though it was not the intention of God to permit Abraham actually to offer a human sacrifice, yet He might mean to assert His own right as Lord of all to require it, as well as to manifest the implicit obedience of faith in the conduct of His servant. Such an assertion of His right would manifest His goodness in refusing to exercise it.
2. But in this transaction there seems to be a still higher design; namely, to predict in a figure the great substitute which God in due time should see and provide. The very place of it, called "the mount of the Lord" (ver. 14.), seems to have been marked out as the scene of great events; and of that kind, too, in which a substitutional sacrifice was offered and accepted.
3. One reason of the high approbation which God expressed of Abraham's conduct might be its affording some faint likeness of what would shortly be His own.
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.