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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

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God promised Abraham and Sarah that, in spite of their old age, they would produce a child through whom God would carry on the process of fulfilling his covenant promises. That child was Isaac (Genesis 17:19; Genesis 17:21). The promises were that God would make Isaac’s descendants into a people for himself, that he would give them Canaan as their homeland, and that through them he would bring blessing to the whole world (Genesis 22:15-18).

Isaac and his father

It was entirely contrary to nature that a couple as old as Abraham and Sarah should produce a child, but this proved that it was the work of God (Genesis 18:10-14; Genesis 21:5). God had made a promise, and Abraham and Sarah had acted on it in faith. Isaac was therefore a ‘child of promise’. He was a living illustration that faith is the way to acceptance with God and enjoyment of his promises (Romans 4:17-22; Romans 9:7-9; Galatians 4:21-31). (For the contrast to the ‘child of promise’ see ISHMAEL.)

Abraham’s faith was further tested when God told him to sacrifice Isaac (by that time a youth; Genesis 22:6), the only person through whom God’s promises to him could be fulfilled. Abraham obeyed, believing that God was able to bring Isaac back from death. In a sense Abraham did receive Isaac back from death, when God provided a lamb as a sacrificial substitute for him (Genesis 22:1-2; Genesis 22:12-13; Hebrews 11:17-19; James 2:21-23).

In seeking a wife for Isaac, Abraham insisted that she come not from the Canaanites (who were under God’s judgment) but from his relatives in Paddan-aram. Since Isaac himself was not to leave the land promised to him (Canaan), Abraham sent his most senior servant to find the wife for him (Genesis 24:2-6). The woman the servant found was Rebekah. Isaac was forty years old when he married her (Genesis 24:58-67; Genesis 25:20).

Isaac and his sons

Isaac and Rebekah’s faith in the promises of God was tested when they remained childless for twenty years. In answer to their prayers, God gave them twin sons, Esau and Jacob. God declared that his covenant people would come through Jacob, though Esau also would father a nation (Genesis 25:21-26).

When a famine hit Canaan, Isaac proved his faith and his obedience by refusing to flee to Egypt (Genesis 26:1-5). God rewarded him with increasing prosperity (Genesis 26:12-14). Though on one occasion he lied to protect himself (Genesis 26:7), he showed much self-control and tolerance when rival herdsmen were hostile to him (Genesis 26:14-22).

Esau, the more outgoing of the two sons, was Isaac’s favourite. Isaac determined to pass on the divine blessing to Esau, even though God had said it was to go to Jacob (Genesis 27:4). But Rebekah and Jacob tricked Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob (Genesis 27:28-29). Later Isaac passed on the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob knowingly and willingly (Genesis 28:3-4).

Because of the deceit over Isaac’s blessing, Esau tried to kill Jacob. Jacob escaped to Paddan-aram (Genesis 27:41; Genesis 28:1-2; Genesis 28:5). When Jacob returned more than twenty years later, there was a reunion between the two brothers (Genesis 31:38; Genesis 33:4-5). Some time later Isaac died, and his two sons buried him in the family burial ground at Machpelah (Genesis 35:27-29; Genesis 49:30-31).

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Isaac'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​bbd/​i/isaac.html. 2004.
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