(See ABRAHAM; ISHMAEL.) "laughter," because Abraham laughed in joy at the promise of his birth, type of the annunciation of Messiah's birth (Genesis 17:17); and Sarah too, with some degree of incredulity because of the improbability at her age (Genesis 18:12), but at his birth with thankful joy toward God, saying "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me" (Genesis 21:6-7; compare Isaiah 54:1). His miraculous conception and naming before birth typify Messiah (Luke 1; Matthew 1). Born at Gerar when Abraham was 100 years old. "Mocked" by Ishmael (who was "born after the flesh") at the weaning feast; the mocking, as Paul implies, containing the germ and spirit of persecution, profanely sneering at the object of the promise. The child of the bond-woman must therefore give place to the child of the freewoman born "by promise."
While the believing parents "laughed," Ishmael "mocked." With the laugh of derision and spite. Isaac is type of the believing "children of the promise," "born after the Spirit," therefore, "children of the free" church, "heirs according to the promise," persecuted by the children of legal and carnal bondage, but ultimately about to "inherit all things" to the exclusion of the carnal (Galatians 4:22-31; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 3:29; Revelation 21:7-8). Isaac's submission (at 25 years of age: Josephus, Ant. 1:13, section 2) to his father's will when binding him, and his bearing the wood for his own intended sacrifice, make him a lively type of Him who bore His own cross to Calvary (John 19:17), and whose language was, "Lo I come to do Thy will O God" (Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7). His living still after the three days (Genesis 22:4) in which he was dead in Abraham's purpose prefigures the Messiah's resurrection on the third day.
The scene of the sacrifice, Mount Moriah, was probably that of Christ's suffering. What Isaac's sacrifice wanted to perfect the type was actual death and vicarious substitution; the offering of the ram's life instead of the human life, hereby saved, supplied the defect; the ram and Isaac jointly complete the type. Isaac typifies Christ's Godhead, the ram typifies His manhood (Theodoret) "caught in a thicket by his horns" as Jesus was crowned with thorns. Isaac was of too excellent a nature to be slain, for God's law gives no sanction to human sacrifices. The Father, in love to us, prepared a human body (Hebrews 10:5) for His Son, which can suffer death, the penalty which divine righteousness required for our sin; Christ's Godhead could not suffer. The manhood and Godhead formed one Christ, at once the Son of man and the Son of God, as Isaac and the ram formed one joint type.
Thus Abraham had the wonderful honour of representing the Father, and Isaac, the only son of the promise, was the most remarkable of all the types of the Son Messiah. Abraham herein had the glimpse which he had desired of Messiah's day "and was glad" (Isaac meaning "laughter flowing from gladness") (John 8:56); not that he fully comprehended the anti-typical meaning. So Hebrews 11:19, "from whence (from the jaws of death, compare 2 Corinthians 1:9-10) he received him back in a parable," i.e. in the way of a typical representation of Christ's death and resurrection. So the slain goat and the scape-goat jointly on the day of atonement represented Christ's death and. resurrection.
By this work "Abraham's faith was made perfect" (James 2:21-23), not was vivified, but attained its crowning development. His "faith" alone was "counted for righteousness" long before, and he was justified before God (Genesis 15:6). By this work he was also "justified" evidentially before men. Philo Byblius preserves from Sanchouiatho the Phoenician tradition, "Cronus, whom the Phoenicians call Israel, being king, having an only son by a nymph, Anobret, called Jahoud (Hebrew: Yahid), even now the Phoenician name for only begotten, when perils from wars were impending, having clothed his son in royal apparel, offered him upon an altar which he built" (Eusebius, Praep. Evang., 1:10). This corruption of the Scripture history of Isaac's sacrifice was based on the pagan idea of the most precious human sacrifice being needed to appease the gods in times of calamity.
So the king of Moab sacrificed his son to Chemosh when sore pressed by Israel, Judah, and Edom (2 Kings 3:27). The idea though wrong in its application, rested on a primeval tradition of God's justice having appointed the sacrifice of precious life as the atonement for sin. Abraham's trustful loving obedience to the true God, at the cost of the greatest self-sacrifice, was by the test shown to be at least equal to that of idolaters to their false gods. The angel's intervention, the ram's substitution, and the prohibition of the human sacrifice prevent the possibility of supposing God sanctions any human sacrifice save that of the Antitype. Not in blind credulity, for Abraham had now long experience that God can order nothing wrong or harsh to His people, but in faith "accounting that God was able to raise His son even from the dead," he obeyed. At 40 Isaac married his cousin, Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, by whom at 60 he had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
His contemplative character appears in his "going out to meditate" or pray "in the field at the eventide." The death of his mother Sarah just before (Genesis 23) naturally pressed upon his spirit, and his resource in affliction was prayerful meditation, a type of Him who "went out into a mountain apart to pray" (Matthew 14:23), his calm and submissive temper also prefiguring the meek and lowly Lamb of God Isaiah 53:7). Solitude and prayer suit best the wounded spirit. That Sarah's death was uppermost in his meditation is implied most artlessly in what follows: Isaac "brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother's death." Rebekah supplied the void in his heart and home. Weakness and partiality for Esau, probably owing to the contrast which Esau's bold spirit presented to his own gentle unadventurous character, were his failings; his partaking of his favorite dish, venison, the produce of his son's hunting, confirmed his selfish partiality. The mother loved the steady, quiet Jacob.
The gift from God of the twin sons was the answer to Isaac's prayer, after 20 years of childless marriage; for God in giving the greatest blessings delays fulfilling His promise in order to call forth His people's persevering, waiting, prayerful faith (Genesis 25:21). When Isaac was 137, the age at which Ishmael died 14 years before, the thought of his brother's death at that age suggested thoughts of his own, and the desire to bless his favorite before dying. As he lived 43 years afterward, to see Jacob return from Mesopotamia, he probably was now dangerously sick; hence, loathing ordinary food, he longed to have "savoury meat such as he loved." Esau invited him to: "arise and sit" to eat of his venison; implying that he was laid in his bed. Moreover "he trembled exceedingly" when Esau came in. Esau's words imply his thinking Isaac near death, "the days of mourning for my father are at hand." Isaac's unexpected prolongation of life probably deterred Esau from his murderous purpose against Jacob for having stolen his blessing.
He reverenced his father amidst all his wildness, and finally joined with Jacob in paying the last mark of respect at his father's grave, even as Isaac and Ishmael had met at Abraham's Burial. Isaac's carnal partiality and Rebekah's tortuous policy eventuated in their being left in their old age by both children, Esau disappointed and disinherited, Jacob banished to a long and distant servitude; the idols of God's children becoming their scourges, in order to bring them back to Himself (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 2:19). His equivocation as to his wife, as if she were his sister, through fear of Abimelech's people at Gerar, was another blemish in Isaac (Genesis 26) So Abram had erred in Egypt and in this same Philistine kingdom (Genesis 20) under a king also bearing the common title (See ABIMELECH , i.e. my father a king. Isaac had obeyed God's vision in not going down to Egypt, a place of spiritual danger though abundant in food, but sojourning in Gerar during the famine. Lack of godly and manly firmness betrayed him into the untruth.
His wife was not taken into Abimelech's house, as Sarah had been. Abimelech discovering the real state of the case reproved him, and warned his people not to touch him or Rebekah. His meek, peaceable, and non-self-assertive character appears in his successively yielding to the grasping herdsmen of Gerar the wells Esek ("strife") and Sitnah ("hatred".) So, the Lord who had given him a hundredfold increase in his harvests made room for him at last; and he retained the well Rehoboth ("room") without further contention, and made a covenant with Abimelech; compare Romans 12:18-21; Matthew 5:5; Matthew 5:25; Proverbs 16:7. Isaac lived to see Jacob whom he had sent with his blessing (for faith at last prevailed over his partiality, and he gave Jacob the blessing of Abraham, Genesis 28:1; Genesis 28:4) to seek a wife in Padan-aram return with a large family to him at Hebron (Genesis 35:27),
Before he died at 180; the longest lived of the three patriarchs, the least migratory, the least prolific, and the least favored with revelations. He was buried in the cave of Machpelah. His blessing Jacob and Esau "even (Greek) concerning things to come," as if they were actually present, and not merely concerning things present, is quoted (Hebrews 11:20) as evidencing his faith; as similar dying charges evidenced Jacob's and Joseph's faith. A faithful husband of one wife (compare Ephesians 5:23, etc.), unlike Abraham and Jacob, of tender affections, he was a man of suffering rather than action; having the divine favor so markedly that Abimelech and his officers said, "we saw certainly that the Lord was with thee" (Genesis 26:28).
As Abraham foreshadows the unsettled early history of the nation, and Jacob their commercial unwarlike later course, so Isaac their intermediate days of peace and separation from the nations in their fertile land of promise. As Abraham is associated with morning prayer, and Jacob associated with night prayer, so Isaac with evening prayer (Genesis 19:27; Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:32; Genesis 24:63). God is still "the God of Isaac," who is one of the triad with whom the children of the kingdom shall sit down at the resurrection of the just (Luke 20:37-38, etc.; Matthew 8:11, etc.).