Props to Isaac

In the Genesis account of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, I think most of us picture Isaac as a child: not toddler, but not a teenager either, maybe around 10, give or take a couple of years.

But what if he were older than that? Remember that Abraham was well over 100 years old, so if Isaac had been in his teens, then he could easily have resisted being bound and sacrificed if he had had a mind to. And that means that not just Abraham, but also Isaac, deserves a lot of credit for faith and obedience — and, on the part of Isaac, not only faith in God the Father but also in his father Abraham.

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And indeed the evidence is pretty strong that Isaac might well have been old enough to have been able to resist being sacrificed.

If we look at the narrative in Genesis 22, we read, “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac.” I am not an expert on the amount of wood you need for an burnt offering, but it would have been more than a couple of sticks if you’re sacrificing an animal of any size at all. It was also enough so that Isaac could be “laid … on top of the wood”; presumably it was also enough to make a burnt offering of the ram that was eventually used, and the ram was big enough to have horns that could get caught in a thicket. And we don’t know how exactly how far Isaac walked with the firewood, but just before Abraham loaded up Isaac with wood we are told that “Abraham had looked up and saw the place [they would walk to for the sacrifice] in the distance.” So Isaac had to be old enough to carry a substantial amount of firewood a considerable distance on foot.

There’s also this: Isaac is born at the beginning of Chapter 21 and “grew and was weened” — and then chapter 21 ends with the statement, “And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time”; the next sentence, which begins chapter 22, reads, “Some time later God tested Abraham.” Now, adding together “for a long time” and “Some time later” does not give us a precise measure, but it does support Isaac being well into his teens.

And, as I indicated, this is in addition to the fact that anyone who can carry a lot of firewood over a distance can also wrestle away from and outrun a man who’s 110+ years old.

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So props to Isaac. Cutting your son’s throat is not easy an easy thing to do on faith, but neither is letting your father cut your own throat.

Postscript: I like the discussion here, and I’ll note that, according to the Wikipedia entry on Isaac, “In rabbinical tradition, the age of Isaac at the time of binding is taken to be 37.”