Biblical People

Biblical People: Isaac

Isaac is a child of older parents—much older. His mother, Sarah, is ninety when Isaac is born. And her husband Abraham is one hundred. At this advanced age, it seems impossible to have a child, yet through God all things are possible.

From a human standpoint, we call Isaac’s arrival a miracle—a miracle conception and a miracle birth.

Though Isaac is Sarah’s only son, he has an older half-brother, Ishmael. But Abraham and Sarah send Ishmael and his mother away after Isaac is born. 

With Ishmael no longer in the picture, God deems Isaac as Abraham’s only son (Genesis 22:2, 12, and 16).

God tells Abraham to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his boy as a burnt offering.

Though this is something other gods demand of their people—and God will later tell Moses that human sacrifice is unacceptable—since God can raise Isaac from the dead, it’s not out of the question for God to tell Abraham to kill his son. Even so, it’s a horrific request.

Abraham intends to do exactly what God commanded. With the altar built and Isaac bound and lying atop it, Abraham raises his knife to kill his son—his one and only son—the son he dearly loves. 

At this point, God stops Abraham from plunging the dagger into his son’s chest. It was just a test, and Abraham passed. This proves that though Abraham loves his son much, he loves God even more.

Yet let’s not look at this story only from Abraham’s perspective but also from young Isaac’s. His father is willing to kill him and nearly does. 

This isn’t something a child would ever forget. Not only would this surely scar Isaac in his relationship with his father, but it could also make him wary of the God behind it. 

Would Isaac ever trust his father again? Would Isaac ever be able to trust God? We wouldn’t blame Isaac if he turned his back on both his father and God. Yet Isaac sticks around. He doesn’t reject his father, and he doesn’t reject God. This is a tribute to Isaac’s character.

This story serves as an encouragement to us that, regardless of our past, we can rise above it and not let it define who we become. Though things could have happened that we might want to blame on God, we can still trust him with our future and with our life.

Let’s take a step back from the story. This isn’t the only time the Bible talks about a father sacrificing his one and only son. Centuries later, Father God sacrifices his one and only son, Jesus. In doing so he proves his deep love for us. God wants to save us so we can be in a right relationship with him.

Our Heavenly Father sacrifices his one and only son to serve as the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices for all the things all people have done throughout all time. 

It’s a gift of eternal life. All we need to do is accept it.

Has God ever asked us to do something that seemed too big or too hard? Could we sacrifice our child, as God later did with his? 

More importantly, do we follow Jesus, God’s sacrificed son, as our Lord and Savior?

[Read Isaac’s story in Genesis 21–22 and 26–28. Discover more in Genesis 17:19–21 and Hebrews 11:17–19.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at