1. And it came to pass. This chapter contains a most memorable narrative. For although Abraham, through the whole course of his life, gave astonishing proofs of faith and obedience, yet none more excellent can be imagined than the immolation of his son. For other temptations with which the Lord had exercised him, tended, indeed, to his mortification; but this inflicted a wound far more grievous than death itself. Here, however, we must consider something greater and higher than the paternal grief and anguish, which, being produced by the death of an only son, pierced through the breast of the holy man. It was sad for him to be deprived of his only son, sadder still that this son should be torn away by a violent death, but by far the most grievous that he him self should be appointed as the executioner to slay him with his own hand. Other circumstances, which will be noted in their proper place, I now omit. But all these things, if we compare them with the spiritual conflict of conscience which he endured, will appear like the mere play, or shadows of conflicts. For the great source of grief to him was not his own bereavement, not that he was commanded to slay his only heir, the hope of future memorial and of name, the glory and support of his family; but that, in the person of this son, the whole salvation of the world seemed to be extinguished and to perish. His contest, too, was not with his carnal passions, but, seeing that he wished to devote himself wholly to God, his very piety and religion filled him with distracting thoughts. For God, as if engaging in personal contest with him, requires the death of the boy, to whose person He himself had annexed the hope of eternal salvation. So that this latter command was, in a certain sense, the destruction of faith. This foretaste of the story before us, it was deemed useful to give to the readers, that they may reflect how deserving it is of diligent and constant meditation.
After these things God did tempt Abraham. The expression, “after these things,” is not to be restricted to his last vision; Moses rather intended to comprise in one word the various events by which Abraham had been tossed up and down; and again, the somewhat more quiet state of life which, in his old age, he had lately begun to obtain. He had passed an unsettled life in continued exile up to his eightieth year; having been harassed with many contumelies and injuries, he had endured with difficulty a miserable and anxious existence, in continual trepidation; famine had driven him out of the land whither he had gone, by the command and under the auspices of God, into Egypt. Twice his wife had been torn from his bosom; he had been separated from his nephew; he had delivered this nephew, when captured in war, at the peril of his own life. He had lived childless with his wife, when yet all his hopes were suspended upon his having offspring. Having at length obtained a son, he was compelled to disinherit him, and to drive him far from home. Isaac alone remained, his special but only consolation; he was enjoying peace at home, but now God suddenly thundered out of heaven, denouncing the sentence of death upon this son. The meaning, therefore, of the passage is, that by this temptation, as if by the last act, the faith of Abraham was far more severely tried than before.
God did tempt Abraham. James, in denying that any one is tempted by God, (James 1:13,) refutes the profane calumnies of those who, to exonerate themselves from the blame of their sins, attempt to fix the charge of them upon God. Wherefore, James truly contends, that those sins, of which we have the root in our own concupiscence, ought not to be charged upon another. For though Satan instils his poison, and fans the flame of our corrupt desires within us, we are yet not carried by any external force to the commission of sin; but our own flesh entices us, and we willingly yield to its allurements. This, however, is no reason why God may not be said to tempt us in his own way, just as he tempted Abraham,—that is, brought him to a severe test,—that he might make full trial of the faith of his servant.
And said unto him. Moses points out the kind of temptation; namely, that God would shake the faith which the holy man had placed in His word, by a counter assault of the word itself. He therefore addresses him by name, that there may be no doubt respecting the Author of the command. For unless Abraham had been fully persuaded that it was the voice of God which commanded him to slay his son Isaac, he would have been easily released from anxiety; for, relying on the certain promise of God, he would have rejected the suggestion as the fallacy of Satan; and thus, without any difficulty, the temptation would have been shaken off. But now all occasion of doubt is removed; so that, without controversy, he acknowledges the oracle, which he hears, to be from God. Meanwhile, God, in a certain sense, assumes a double character, that, by the appearance of disagreement and repugnance in which He presents Himself in his word, he may distract and wound the breast of the holy man. For the only method of cherishing constancy of faith, is to apply all our senses to the word of God. But so great was then the discrepancy of the word, that it would wound and lacerate the faith of Abraham. Wherefore, there is great emphasis in the word, “said.” because God indeed made trial of Abraham’s faith, not in the usual manner, but by drawing him into a contest with his own word.2 Whatever temptations assail us, let us know that the victory is in our own hands, so long as we are endued with a firm faith; otherwise, we shall be, by no means, able to resist. If, when we are deprived of the sword of the Spirit, we are overcome, what would be our condition were God himself to attack us with the very sword, with which he had been wont to arm us? This, however, happened to Abraham. The manner in which Abraham, by faith, wrestled with this temptation, we shall afterwards see, in the proper place.
And he said, Behold, here I am. It hence appears, that the holy man was, in no degree, afraid of the wiles of Satan. For the faithful are not in such haste to obey God, as to allow a foolish credulity to carry them away, in whatever direction the breath of a doubtful vision may blow. But when it was once clear to Abraham, that he was called by God, he testified, by this answer, his prompt desire to yield obedience. For the expression before us is as much as if he said, Whatever God may have been pleased to command, I am perfectly ready to carry into effect. And, truly, he does not wait till God should expressly enjoin this or the other thing; but promises that he will be simply, and without exception, obedient in all things. This, certainly, is true subjection, when we are prepared to act, before the will of God is known to us. We find, indeed, all men ready to boast that they will do as Abraham did; but when it comes to the trial, they shrink from the yoke of God. But the holy man, soon afterwards, proves, by his very act, how truly and seriously he had professed, that he, without delay, and without disputation, would subject himself to the hand of God.
1 It is impossible to identify Some time later (see 15:1) with a specific antecedent. Is it some time after Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech, or is it some time after the disappearance of Hagar and Ishmael? And how much later is it? Days? Months? Years? It is more likely years, since Isaac does not appear to be a newborn or a toddler in ch. 22. Yet Abraham’s reference to Isaac as a naʿar, a “lad” (v. 5), suggests that Isaac is not a man who is physically in the prime of life. Then again, to one who has reached the century mark the term naʿar would understandably have a broad range. Early Jewish tradition (Midrash Gen. Rabbah 56:8) suggested that Isaac was 37 at the time of his binding by Abraham. This number is arrived at by subtracting the age at which Sarah gave birth to Isaac (90) from the age at which she died (127), a sudden death caused by discovering that Abraham is about to slaughter Isaac. By putting Isaac in his late 30s, Jewish tradition gives a much larger role to Isaac than Christian tradition, which has highlighted the obedience of Abraham and the faithfulness of God.
Two items in v. 1 highlight the intensity of the situation. One is the addition of the definite article to ʾĕlōhîm (hence, lit., “the God”). This feature appears also in vv. 3, 9, but not in vv. 8, 12. In the narrator’s mouth “the God” is used, but in direct discourse “God” is sufficient. The three instances in which ʾĕlōhîm is definite describe God as “speaking” (ʾāmar) to Abraham. The affixing of the article in these three instances may be the narrator’s way of emphasizing that it was God, Abraham’s God, who was speaking to Abraham. What he was hearing came from no other source nor from his own imagination.
The second feature is the word order. Normal Hebrew syntax calls for the verb to precede the subject; hence we would expect: “tested Elohim Abraham.” But the placing of the subject first, as here, draws special attention to it: “the Elohim—he tested Abraham!” Since the “he” is already contained in the verb, “the Elohim” must be taken as a casus pendens.
The text clearly makes the point that what follows is a divine testing, not a demonic temptation. This particular verb, with God as the subject, does not occur again until Exod. 15:25 (and cf. Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 16; 33:8 for references to the same time period; also Deut. 13:4 [Eng. 3]; Judg. 2:22; 3:1, 4 for other divine testings). The wilderness period, after the departure from Egypt, is a testing experience. Will the Israelites take freedom with all the insecurities that freedom brings, or will they take incarceration and the guarantee of regular meals? That is the test. Whenever a human being is the subject of this verb and God is the object, the testing is negative, uncalled for, and out of place. Perhaps the closest parallel to Gen. 22:1–19 for the “divine testing” motif occurs in Exod. 20:20, right after the revelation of the Decalogue. In both instances the source of the test is hāʾĕlōhîm, some form of the verb nāsá is used (nissá/nassôṯ), and the aim of the testing is to evidence the fear of God (yerēʾ ʾĕlōhîm, Gen. 22:12; tihyeh yirʾāṯô, Exod. 20:20). The major difference between the two is that in Exod. 20:20 the people know well, via Moses, that through the revelation of his law God will test his people. How will his people respond to this God who has revealed himself in word and act? By contrast, the reader, but not Abraham, knows that what he is about to hear is a divine test.
22:1 / Some time later, God put Abraham to the supreme test. To prepare the reader to hear this disturbing account, the narrator departs from the usual oblique style of the patriarchal narratives by stating at the outset the purpose of what was about to take place: God was going to test Abraham. God, however, never gave Abraham a hint that this was only a test.
That God needs to test a person might seem incomprehensible in light of the belief in God’s full knowledge, but God is involved with those who fear him—leading, guiding, and testing them. There are many references in the OT to God’s testing Israel (Exod. 15:22–26; 16:4; 20:18–20; Deut. 8:12–16; 13:1–3; Judg. 2:21–22; 3:1–4). God’s test of Hezekiah is another reference to an individual being examined (2 Chron. 32:31). God examines people not only to discover their true character but also to develop in them certain desirable qualities.
On this occasion God called Abraham, speaking his name a single time. This style contrasts with the times God repeated a name to get a person’s attention (e.g., v. 11; Exod. 3:4, the call of Moses; 1 Sam. 3:10, the call of Samuel). The ease with which God got Abraham’s attention attests that he was in close fellowship with God. Responsively Abraham replied: “Here I am,” indicating that he was ready to do whatever God asked.
Ver. 1.—And it came to pass—the alleged mythical character of the present narrative (De Wette, Bohlen) is discredited not more by express Scripture statement (Heb. 11:17–19) than by its own inherent difficulties—after—how long after may be conjectured from the circumstance that Isaac was now a grown lad, capable of undertaking a three days’ journey of upwards of sixty miles—these things (literally, words, of benediction, promise, trial that had gone before—that God—literally, the Elohim, i. e. neither Satan, as in 1 Chron. 21:1, compared with 2 Sam. 24:1 (Schelling, Stanley), nor Abraham himself, in the sense that a subjective impulse on the part of the patriarch supplied the formal basis of the subsequent transaction (Kurtz, Oëhler); but the El-Olam of ch. 21:32, the term Elohim being employed by the historian not because vers. 1–13 are Elohistic (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson,)—a hypothesis inconsistent with the internal unity of the chapter, “which is joined together like cast-iron” (Oëhler), and in particular with the use of Moriah in ver. 2 (Hengstenberg),—but to indicate the true origin of the after-mentioned trial, which proceeded neither from Satanic instigation nor from subjective impulse, but from God (Keil)—did tempt—not solicit to sin (James 1:13), but test or prove (Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:2; 13:3; 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 26:2)—Abraham, and said unto him,—in a dreamvision of the night (Eich-horn, Lange), but certainly in an audible voice which previous experience enabled him to recognise—Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. “These brief introductions of the conversation express the great tension and application of the human mind in those moments in a striking way, and serve at the same time to prepare us for the importance of the conversation” (Lange).
1 The introduction, “After these things God tested Abraham,” is of great moment, both from a dramatic and a theological perspective. It serves to cushion the listener from the full impact of the horrific command to Abraham, and it diverts attention from the question whether Isaac will be sacrificed to whether Abraham will stand up to the test. “After these things” suggests that some time has elapsed between this trial of Abraham and the events recorded in chap. 21 (cf. 21:34, “Abraham dwelt … many days”). It may well be that Isaac is now to be envisaged as at least a teenager, just as Ishmael was when expelled from Abraham’s household; in both narratives they are called “lads” (נער; cf. 22:12; 21:12).
“God” (here and in vv 3, 8 with the definite article). It is unusual that this story begins with this generic form rather than with his personal name, “the Lord.” Frequently in Genesis where the body of a story speaks of “God,” the narrator prefaces it by a comment, using his proper name (e.g., 17:1; 21:1). Here the term “God” is used in vv 1, 3, 8, 9, and “the Lord” first appears in v 11 when “the angel of the Lord” calls from heaven. If we assume that this variation is more than a literary whim, it may be that “God” is used to avoid the anachronistic implication that Abraham knew him by the name “the Lord” (v 8; cf. Exod 6:3). But since, contrary to his usual practice, the narrator also avoids using “the Lord” to introduce the narrative, Delitzsch may be correct to see a theological motive behind the variation. “He who requires from Abraham the surrender of Isaac is God the creator … but it is Jahveh in his angel who forbids the extreme act, for the son of promise cannot perish” (Delitzsch, 2:91). In Gen 2–3, the covenant creator is consistently termed “the Lord God,” but in the temptation scene, where alienation between deity and humanity becomes evident, the word “God” appears by itself (3:1–5). Similarly, here in the first half of the story where God is acting in a strange, remote, and inexplicable way, he is called אלהים, but when he is revealed as savior and renews the covenant promises, his personal name, “the Lord,” is appropriate and is reintroduced.
“Tested” (נסה). “Testing” shows what someone is really like, and it generally involves difficulty or hardship. The queen of Sheba tested Solomon with riddles (1 Kgs 10:1); Daniel and his companions were tested by being put on a simple diet (Dan 1:12, 14). God is often said to test Israel through hunger and thirst in the wilderness (Exod 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Deut 8:2, 16), through false prophets (Deut 13:4 ), or through foreign oppression (Judg 2:22; 3:1, 14). The purpose of such trials is to discover “what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deut 8:2; cf. Exod 16:4), “to humble you … to do you good in the end” (Deut 8:16; cf. Heb 12:5–11). The use of the term here hints that Abraham will face some great difficulty but that he will ultimately benefit from it. This is the only time God is said to have tested an individual, but pace Westermann, this is no proof of the lateness of this text. Early non-religious usage (e.g., 1 Kgs 10:1) certainly covers individuals.
1b–2 Scene 1: A divine monologue matching scene 6, with clear echoes of Gen 12:1. “Abraham … Here I am.” It is not really necessary to preface the command with the two brief speeches found here; the narrative could simply begin “Abraham, please take …” (cf. 12:1; 15:1; 16:8; 17:2). Yet this prolongation is suggestive. Is God hesitating before giving his awful order? The text does not say so, but the break in the address raises such questions. And it certainly allows Abraham’s attentiveness and potential obedience to come through in his reply, “Here I am.” Three times in this story we have the refrain “Abraham (my father)” with its response “Here I am” (vv 1, 7, 11); each signals a tense new development in the narrative.
22:1 after these things: A new story is about to begin (15:1). The term God includes the definite article (“the God”; Gen. 6:2; 27:28; 31:11; 46:3; 48:15). This is a way of indicating that the “Genuine Deity” or the “True God” is making these demands, not a false god or a demon. Note that the same use of the definite article occurs in 41:32 twice. This is the seventh time that God revealed Himself to Abraham since Abraham came to the land of Canaan. God tested Abraham in order to give Abraham an opportunity to show his true character. The verb does not suggest entrapment to harm or to destroy Abraham and his faith, but to refine him, to allow him to display his inner character. The words “do not lead us into temptation” in Matt. 6:13 suggest thee same idea.
22:1 — Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham .…
God permits testing for all of His children, including His own Son, Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1). For Abraham, this had to be a dark time—but it lasted only so long as was necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in Abraham’s life.
 Calvin, J., & King, J. (2010). Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (Vol. 1, pp. 559–562). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Hamilton, V. P. (1995). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50 (pp. 100–101). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Hartley, J. E. (2012). Genesis. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 206). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Genesis (pp. 282–283). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 16–50 (Vol. 2, pp. 103–104). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 42–43). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ge 22:1). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.