Genesis 22:1-19 “By Myself I have sworn.”
Abraham’s covenant relationship with God is tested (v. 1). He is commanded to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice (v. 2), and he obeys by saddling up and traveling three days to the place prescribed (vv. 3-4). What is interesting is that when Abraham and Isaac finish the end of the journey on their own he tells his servants that both of them would return when they were done worshipping God (v. 5). Abraham and Isaac took everything needed to offer a sacrifice except for the sacrifice itself (v. 6). This led Isaac to ask his father about the sacrifice, because the lamb was missing (v. 7). But Abraham remembered the covenant where God alone passed through the severed sacrifices, so he confidently told his son that God would provide (v. 8). Apparently Isaac also believed, because he did not put up any fight when Abraham bound him up and placed him on the altar (v. 9).
This of course seems odd to us, but as a matter of fact the act of offering up one’s offspring as a sacrifice was not uncommon among the religions and cultures of the time. Abraham had already had affirmed to him that the promise of the covenant would come through Isaac (Cf. 21:12). However, according to the writer of the Hebrews, if God were to take Isaac’s life, he was also able to raise him from the dead (11:17-19). So when Abraham takes the knife to slay Isaac, “the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven,” as one equal to the LORD Himself (vv. 11-12). Immediately the LORD provided the sacrifice, and so Abraham called the place YHWH Yireh-the LORD will provide (vv. 13-14). Again, the LORD reiterates the core of the covenant of grace when He said, “By Myself I have sworn” (vv. 15-16a). Blessing would follow obedience (v. 17a).
The writer to the Hebrews picked up on this covenantal reality of God’s oath. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (6:16-17). Attached to the promise of a seed, was the promise that they would be both numerous in number and that they would defeat their enemies-possessing their gates, which represented their political rule and government (v. 17b). This promise would include being a blessing to all the nations of the earth. The promise was bigger that the “promised land,” it included the government of all the nations on the earth! The reason and basis for this promise would be fidelity to the word-the first axiom of all thought and existence (v. 18). Abraham then dwelt at the place of oath-Beersheba (v. 19).