by Mark Robinson
The world was shattered with the entrance of sin. Wars, famines, diseases, holocaust, murders, rapes, broken homes, abandoned children, sickness, and death all lie at the doorway of Adam’s sin. The collective heartache of all humanity throughout all history is the result of one seemingly innocuous act of disobedience to God; nevertheless, Adam’s sin does not absolve the individual of personal responsibility.
We all will give an accounting one day before the Judge of the universe. This one act of rebellion, though, produced not only the aggregate fruit of sin in this world, but also man’s separation from the God who loved him and created him.
Adam’s transgression would set in motion the redemptive plan of a merciful, loving God. The omniscient God of the universe was not taken by surprise. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). The ultimate coming of the Messiah was known and planned by God before the world was even created. Speaking of the coming of Jesus the Messiah, Peter would write, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:20).
Abram, or Abraham as he would eventually be called, and his descendants would be the center of God’s redemptive plan for the world. History, from God’s perspective, would be focused around the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. Ultimately, the redemptive history of Israel would reach its pinnacle in the Crown Jewel of the nation, the Messiah, when He died for our sins in Jerusalem. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her,” Ezekiel 5:5.
Abraham: The Promised Seed
Abram was a young man when he left Ur of the Chaldees. The biblical account of his leaving Ur simply says, “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there” (Genesis 11:31).
Abraham was “chosen” to be the progenitor of the nation that would be used by God to accomplish His purposes for the citizenry of this world. God told him “I will make of thee a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2). However, Abraham remained childless, so he suggested that God use the steward of his house, Eliezer of Damascus, to raise up the descendants he had been promised. In response, God told him that the offspring would come from his own body and not from that of another. God took Abraham and showed him the stars of heaven and said his descendants would be numbered as the stars. Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
The faith of Abraham would be tried a number of times. These “trials of faith” would be a pruning experience in his life. The first “test” is recorded in Genesis 12. Abraham took his family and servants to live in Egypt during a severe famine in Canaan. Abraham’s wife Sarai, or Sarah as she would later be called, was a very beautiful woman. Just before entering Egypt Abraham told her not to tell the Egyptians she was his wife, but that she was his sister. He feared that the Egyptians would kill him in order to have his gorgeous wife because they were known for their cruelty and sexual immorality. The best plan, Abraham figured, was to say she was his sister; this way they wouldn’t kill him to take his wife, and hopefully, they would be respectful to Sarah if they thought she was his sister.
Abraham’s plan was not a total lie. In fact, Sarah was the half-sister of Abraham (Genesis 20:12). They both had the same father, but not the same mother. A half truth, though, as has been said, is a whole lie. Abraham’s faith was misplaced. He had just received some glorious promises from God, and Sarah, being his wife, was part of those promises and would be protected by God. Instead of trusting in God, Abraham attempted to manipulate the situation.
Abraham’s cover-up worked; Sarah’s beauty was commended to Pharaoh by the princes of Egypt and she was brought into Pharaoh’s house. Abraham was treated well because of Sarah. Pharaoh gave him ‘sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.” However, God’s purposes could not be altered because of the lack of Abraham’s faith. He sent great plagues upon Pharaoh and his house. Pharaoh called Abraham and asked why he had brought this on him by his actions in this matter. Without waiting for any response, Pharaoh sent them all away with all he had given him.
One would think that Abraham would have learned a lesson from what happened in this encounter in Egypt, but ten years later he would take another step in his journey of faith that would have even greater ramifications.
Isaac or Ishmael?
The promise of descendants and a great nation must have seemed a very distant hope to Abraham. Ten years had passed and he was now 85 years old. Sarah was barren and it seemed hopeless for her to have children. The custom of that day was for a childless man to “raise up seed” through one of the women in his household; this course of action was suggested to Abraham by Sarah herself.
Abraham did not challenge Sarah; he would take Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid, to father a child. Interestingly, (yet sadly because of the inevitable consequences), Hagar very possibly came to be Sarah’s handmaid at the very time of their leaving Egypt accompanied by the gifts from Pharaoh — goods, animals, and servants. But, as ultimately will be seen, Abraham’s decision to gain a child from this union with Hagar would cause major problems for many people. The repercussions of this wrong choice would effect the lives of millions for centuries to come.
Hagar conceived a child by Abraham and from that time on despised her mistress, Sarah. Sarah, in turn, treated Hagar so harshly that she fled into the wilderness. There she was visited by the angel of the LORD who told her she was pregnant with Ishmael and that he would become the father of a multitude of people. This promise was repeated after the eventual birth of Isaac and his subsequent blessing at which time God told Abraham, “…as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). Yes, he would be blessed, but he would also “… be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).
Ishmael would be great, but the promises initially given to Abraham would not be filled through him. His brother Isaac would receive the blessings of the covenant. This is clear from the Word of God: “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him…my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” (Genesis 17:19,21). Isaac is the son of promise!
Many years passed in the life of Abraham and his family. Isaac was now a mature man of as old as 37.1 His days growing up were filled with learning about Jehovah and the promises He had made to his father and to him. How exciting it must have been to ponder his great promises from God during these formative years of growth.
Abraham was undoubtedly proud of his son Isaac. God had miraculously provided this young man when Sarah was beyond child-bearing years. How incredible that he had been born to a woman who was 90 years of age! Jehovah was surely One whose promises could be believed.
The trials Abraham had gone through during the past 50 years or so taught him much about God. As he looked back over those years he marveled at the faithfulness of his God. Every time he tried to manipulate a situation that looked dismal, he had gotten into trouble. How gracious and faithful Jehovah was to deliver him from the ramifications of his own choices.
His years of walking with God had been a great training ground. He would need to refer to past experiences to deal with the upcoming test. Without the previous trials, he might have flunked this final exam.
In Genesis 22:1 it says, “And it came to pass after these things…” “These things” may refer to the cumulative experiences Abraham had with God, and not to just the most recent events. Its as if Abraham had years to prove that God was always faithful so that he could be tested with the ultimate trial–being asked to take the life of his son.
God’s command to Abraham was clear and unequivocal, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2).
Slay your son–your only son (in the sense that the promises of God are all wrapped up in Isaac, he is his only son). The promises won’t come through Ishmael, but through Isaac. Take this son and offer him as a sacrifice!
There is no hint of doubt or hesitation in the Divine record. In fact, we are told that “… Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Abraham did not sleep in; he woke up early, desirous to follow the commands of his God.
As the four men approached the place God had appointed in the land of Moriah, we are given insight into Abraham’s supreme faith in Jehovah. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). Don’t miss the emphasis of this verse. Abraham was stating with the full assurance of God’s promises that “I and the lad will go yonder,” and “I and the lad will worship,” and “I and the lad will come again to you.”
The promises of God are such that even if Abraham had killed his son, God would have raised him from the dead because all of His promises are to be fulfilled through Isaac. Thus, the triumphant declaration of Abraham, and the obvious understanding of this passage as seen by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 11:17-19.
What follows is as notable as the preceding. Abraham tells his son “… My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:8). In response to Isaac’s questioning about the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham makes a statement that must be understood as Messianic. “God would provide himself a lamb.”
We can be sure of the above conclusion because of the following events that transpired. Isaac was bound on the altar, but the angel of the Lord intervened and prevented the sacrifice of Isaac just as the knife was to be brought down. He provided a substitute for Isaac. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son” (Genesis 22:13).
Notice what was provided–a ram. Remember what was promised? A lamb! There is a big difference between the two; one is young and innocent, and the other old and mature. The correct understanding of the passage (and very consistent with the rest of the Word of God) is borne out in the next verse. “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14).
The future tense is used twice in this verse. “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be seen,” speaks of Mt. Moriah, and Jehovah Jireh means “The LORD will provide.” Sometime in the future God would provide His Lamb for a sacrifice on this very mountain top. The ram is a substitute for Isaac but is not the fulfillment of the messianic promise of the lamb of verse eight.
Abraham passed this final exam with flying colors. In the process we received one of the most instructive and picturesque passages in the entire Word of God.
The Temple Mount
Approximately 1,000 years later we are again introduced to the mountain called Moriah in the story of David’s sin in numbering the armies of Israel which is recorded in 2 Samuel 24. Because of David’s trust in his military might and not in his God, he was given three choices of judgment by the prophet Gad. In verse 13 Gad asks David, (1) “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land?”, (2) “or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee?”, (3) “or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.”
David is convicted of his sin and confesses it, verse 17, and requests that the judgment be from God, and not the cruelty of man (verse 14). A pestilence was sent that resulted in 70,000 people dying. One can only guess at how many would have died if either of the first two choices were selected.
To stay the hand of judgment upon the people, David is told to “go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” From the City of David, there was only one direction up – north. This would take him to the top of Mt. Moriah where David purchased the site, built an altar, offered a sacrifice, and the nation was spared further death.
Solomon would build the Temple on this very mountain top years later. “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in Mt. Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
One thousand years earlier God had spared the life of one young man when a substitute offering was made on Mt. Moriah. Now God spares the nation of Israel when another substitute offering was made upon the mountain called Moriah!
Approximately 1,000 years after David’s purchase we are again introduced to a substitute offering on Mt. Moriah. “And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst,” John 19:17-18. Golgatha, or as it is also known – Calvary or “Skull Hill”, was the northern most part of Mt. Moriah.
Some 200 years or so before the time of Jesus, Mt. Moriah had a “trench” cut out of it so as to prevent the enemies of Israel from being on higher ground than the Temple and city and, thus, easily overrun and capture the city. The “slice” taken out of the mountain is very visible today. One of the best vantage points of the obvious “cut” in the mountain can be seen from Gordon’s Calvary.
Charles Gulston comments, “It is also believed that ‘Skull Hill’ is a continuation of Mount Moriah, being its southern end. The abrupt face of the hill is the result of a moat cut by the Maccabees to keep their enemies at bay, and few realize that Golgotha was at one time connected with the northern portion of Mount Moriah on which the temple was built.”2
When Jesus offered Himself for the sins of the world it was on the northern most end of Mt. Moriah. This mountain top was the place where Abraham had brought Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice, but God provided a substitute. We shouldn’t be surprised at this connection as God had said in this mountain, Moriah, the Lord will provide His lamb. Based on this passage, Jesus’ death had to be on Mt. Moriah.
Jerusalem is the center of world redemption. It was in the future city of Jerusalem, on Mt. Moriah, that a substitute was provided so Isaac was spared death. One thousand years later a sacrifice was made on Mt. Moriah, the ultimate Temple mount, so the nation of Israel could be spared. And then, after another one thousand years, Jesus died on Mt. Moriah, now called Golgotha, so that the entire world, at least potentially, could be spared death (spiritual).
It is this same Jerusalem, and Temple mount, that Jesus is returning to, to redeem the nation of Israel and establish His earthly kingdom. Jerusalem is the center of world redemption. Satan doesn’t want God, or the Jewish people to have anything to do with this holy city. Jerusalem has been attacked and destroyed more than any other city. It is the major point of contention today between Israel and the Muslim world. Satan will desecrate it through the anti-Christ in the Tribulation period, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. No wonder we are told to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
1. Jewish sources generally understand Isaac’s age to be as young as 26 and as old as 37 (Artscroll Tenach Series, Genesis, Vol. II, p. 781). Evangelical sources place his age from the teens to 30 (cf. The Genesis Record, Dr. Henry Morris, pg. 372) with some believing he was in his thirties (cf. Genesis Vol. II, J. Vernon McGee, pg. 250). Since Isaac in Genesis 22 is clearly a type of Christ perhaps his age was 33.
2. Charles Gulston, “Jerusalem: The Tragedy and the Triumph,” Zondervan, 1978, page 138-39