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promised to do, and he was satisfied with the expected result by whatever mode it might be effected. That he was fully assured of Isaac's return with him from the place of sacrifice, is plain from what he said to his servants when he left them behind him at the foot of the mountain : “Behold, I and the lad will go yonderand worship, and come again to you.
The interval of three days, between the command and its execution, occupied with the beloved object in the journey to Moriah, must have added greatly to the trial. Had the command required immediate execution on the spot, the compliance would have been less wonderful. But time was given for meditation on all the tremendous circumstances, for the operation of all the patriarch's feelings, and for all the efforts of the enemy to shake his resolution. How tedious must the journey, and the days it employed, have seemed ! How strong that faith which wavered not in such an interval, when bent on such an exercise as that to which Abraham was called ! No similar test of faith had been demanded in the past history of the world. It was new and extraordinary. No instance of a resurrection from the dead had as yet been witnessed. It was an untried path in which the patriarch had to walk.
But faith surmounted every difficulty. “Early in the morning” after receiving the Divine
mandate, the aged patriarch arose, took his Isaac with him, and departed for the place whether he was appointed to go. Mount Moriah was about 20 leagues distant from Beersheba, where Abraham then dwelt. By what indication the spot was pointed out to him, is not recorded; but the Targum of Jonathan says, that “ Abraham saw the cloud of glory smoking on the mountain, and thereby knew the place.” This tradition is not improbable, as the symbol of the Divine presence was usually exhibited at places appropriated to Divine worship, and Abraham was not unacquainted with its import. *
Abraham left his servants who accompanied him, probably, among other reasons, that he might have no interruption in the performance of his revolting duty from their interference. He and Isaac ascended the mountain alone, the latter carrying the wood intended to be employed in the consumption of his own remains. During this ascent the heart rending conversation was held, which is recorded to have taken place between Isaac and his venerable parent, in which the faith of Abraham again appears in all its glory. “My son, God will provide Himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering.” When the object of the journey was made known to the son, bis submission and “obedience unto death,” are no
* See Letter XXIX.
less worthy of our admiration than the magnanimity of the father. On this latter subject the Jewish Rabbies relate many particulars, which, as they have no foundation in the inspired record, I pass by without transcribing them.
Isaac was at length bound and laid on the altar on the wood, and the determined patriarch lifted up his hand, armed with the sacrificing knife, to slay his son. At this tremendous crisis his arm was arrested by the voice of “the Angel of the Lord,” or the Angel-Jehovah, calling him by name, and informing him that his fidelity was sufficiently tried, and that his Isaac should live. He who had given the command could alone revoke it; and we must therefore identify the Angel of the Lord with God who had required him to sacrifice his son. Indeed, this angel is afterwards introduced as saying, “By MySELF have I sworn;" language which would be blasphemous as proceeding from the lips of the most exalted among created intelligences.
A ram providentially caught in an adjoining thicket by his horns, was substituted in the stead of the original victim; and thus the typical exhibition was completed, while the patriarch, “ in a figure,” according to his expectation, " received his son from the dead.”
Without taking up your time by reciting the various interpretations which have been given of St. Paul's assertion, that Abraham received his son from the dead in a figure, I shall state that which appears to me to accord best with the context, and with the meaning of the word parahole or parable* in a similar use of it. The interpretation then of the Apostle's words which I espouse is this, that the virtual resurrection of Isaac, in whose stead the ram was sacrificed, was a type of the real resurrection of Him, whom Isaac personated in the whole of this adumbrative scene.
The escape of Isaac from the death intended was a parabolic resurrection. This is the view taken of the Apostle's words by the far greater number of commentators, ancient and modern, and by no means clashes with the opinion of others who understand the Apostle to make the ram the similitude or parabolic representative of Isaac, or who consider the parabolic resurrection of the latter to be an intended specimen of the general resurrection of the pious dead.
That the offering of Isaac was a typical exhibition of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, can hardly be called in question by any person who has attentively read the Scriptures. That it was so, was maintained by both the Greek and Latin Fathers in general, and in that opinion there is also a general concurrence of more modern interpreters of Scripture. Indeed the declaration of St. Paul already cited is sufficient evidence on the subject: (Heb. xi. 19.) and in the previous declaration of Christ himself, that “ Abraham rejoiced to see his day; that he saw it and was glad,” “there is great reason to believe our Lord particularly refers to a special revelation made to Abraham, when he received the command from God to offer up Isaac; by which he was informed, that the sacrifice then enjoined him was a symbol of the method which God would really take for the redemption of sinful men, by the death and resurrection of his own Son."* In addition to this evidence from the New Testament, we may cite the 14th verse of the chapter in which the narrative is contained; where we are told that “ Abraham called the name of that place” where he offered his Son, “ Jehovah JIREH, as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” So our translators have rendered the passage. But, perhaps, it should have been rendered, “In the mount Jehovah will be seen, or will appear,” of viz.
* A parable is “a comparison, similitude, or simile, in which one thing is compared with another.” In this place, the restoration of Isaac, and the resurrection of Christ, are the things compared. In Heb. ix. 9, the word is used in a sense parallel to this, when the Mosaic tabernacle with its services is called a parable, i. e. a visible type, emblem, or figurative representation, of the good things of Christianity."