Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Abraham lifts up his eyes again in verse 13. He did the same thing in verse 4.
From The Pulpit Commentary:
And Abraham lifted up his eyes (in the direction of the voice), and looked, and behold behind him—either at his back (Furst, Keil, Lange, Murphy), or in the background of the altar, i.e. in front of him (Gesenius, Kalisch). The LXX; Samaritan, Syriac, mistaking אַחַר for אֶחַר, read “one,” which adds nothing to the sense or picturesqueness of the composition—a ram— אַיִל; in the component letters of which cabalistic writers find the initial letters of אֱלהִים יִרְאֶה־לּוֹ, God will provide for himself. In the animal itself the Fathers rightly discerned a type of Christ, though it is fanciful to detect a shadow of the Crown of thorns in the words that follow—caught in a thicket by his horns (the sebach being the intertwined branches of trees or brushwood): and Abraham went and took the ram, and (though not directed what to do, yet with a fine spiritual instinct discerning the Divine purpose) offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son—whom be thus received from the dead as in a figure (Hebrews 11:19).
ram (Strong’s H352) = אַיִל ʼayil, ah’-yil; from the same as H193; properly, strength; hence, anything strong; specifically a chief (politically); also a ram (from his strength); a pilaster (as a strong support); an oak or other strong tree:—mighty (man), lintel, oak, post, ram, tree.;
Interestingly, this word is believed to be the word from which the word for “god” is derived.
god = אֵל ʼêl, ale; shortened from H352; strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity):—God (god), × goodly, × great, idol, might(-y one), power, strong. Compare names in ‘-el.’
As the note above reminds Christians, Jesus is often associated with a sacrificial lamb. Christians believe of course that God did Himself what He prevented Abraham from doing – He sacrificed his son as an atonement for sin. (I will have to study why Jesus is associated with lambs and not rams at a later date.)
Going on with Verse 14 in Ellicott’s bible Commentary:
(14) Jehovah-jireh.—That is, Jehovah will provide. In Genesis 22:8, Abraham had said “Elohim-jireh,” God will provide. He now uses Jehovah as the equivalent of Elohim. It is added that hence arose a proverb “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen,” or rather, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided.—The verb literally means to see, or, to see to a thing, and the sense of the proverb plainly is that in man’s necessity God will Himself see to it, and provide due help and deliverance. The Samaritan, Syriac and Vulg. have a better reading, namely, “In the mount Jehovah will provide.” This makes no change in the consonants, which alone are authoritative, but only in the vowels, which were added since the Christian era, and represent the tradition of the Jewish school of Tiberias. The LXX., without changing the vowels, translate, “In the mount Jehovah shall be seen,” which would be a prophecy of the manifestation of Christ. The other two renderings, besides their general proverbial sense, point onward to the providing upon this very spot of the sacrifice that was to take away the sins of the world (comp. Isaiah 53:5).
But when and how did this grow into a proverb? and who added this note? It may have been inserted by Moses when he arranged these marvellous. documents; less probably by Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue, when they collected and revised the several books of Holy Scripture after the exile. In either case, the proverb is a national testimony to the genuineness of the record, and proves that the facts narrated in it were so impressed upon the memory of Abraham’s descendants, as to shape their thoughts and language.
Ellicott makes a note about “The Lord will provide” from this verse. We saw Abraham lift his eyes earlier in the chapter, and then do so again in verse 13. Now we also see a repeat of an idea with a variation. In verse 8, Abraham says God will provide. In verse 14, he says Jehovah will provide. If we interpret Elohim literally, here, he first says “the gods will provide” and then the second specifies which god… namely Most High.
The literal interpretation of Elohim is “the gods” – a point of confusion for translators and scholars for millennia. Part of this confusion may stem from a modern view of what the word “god” represents. We associate specific attributes with the word “god.” To an ancient, though, could “gods” have applied to a being with the attributes of an angel? I suppose so if said ancients worshipped the being with those angelic attributes.
What is my point? My point is that the first statement of “the gods will provide” can be followed up with a specific rendering of Jehovah will provides… and that is not necessarily a threat to the idea of monotheism. Jehovah/Yahweh can be included among a larger host calling itself “the gods” (perhaps speaking from a Divine Council of which He is the leader) and also named individually.
That of course might also be a wrong interpretation. But I want to keep options open as we study here. It seems intuitive to me that the phrase is used twice and that it is changed slightly in its second usage for a reason, “the gods will provide” vs. “the Lord will provide.”
Returning to the text and verses 15 through 18, at The Pulpit Commentaries:
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,—the object of the first call having been to arrest the consummation of the fatal deed which threatened Isaac’s life, and to declare the Divine satisfaction with the patriarch’s complete spiritual surrender of his son, the purpose of the second was to renew the promise in reward for his fidelity and obedience—and said, By myself have I sworn,—by my word (Onkelos); by my name (Arabic); equivalent to by himself, by his soul (Jeremiah 51:14), or by his holiness (Amos 4:2)—an anthropomorphism by which God in the most solemn manner pledges the perfection of his Divine personality for the fulfillment of his promise; an act which he never again repeats in his intercourse with the patriarchs. The oath here given to Abraham (frequently referred to in later Scripture: Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 42:5, 11; Exodus 32:13; Exodus 33:1; Isaiah 45:23; Hebrews 6:13) is confirmed by the addition of—saith the Lord,—literally, the utterance of Jehovah;like the Latin air, inquit Dominus, the usual prophetic phrase accompanying Divine oracles (cf. Isaiah 3:15; Ezekiel 5:11; Amos 6:8), though occurring in the Pentateuch only here and in Numbers 14:28—for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son (vide supra, Numbers 14:12; from which the LXX; Syriac, and Samaritan insert hero the words “from me”): that in blessing I will bless thee, and, multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore;—literally, upon the lip of the sea;a repetition and accumulation of the promises previously made to the patriarch concerning his seed (cf. Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 13:14-16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:1-8), with the special amplification following—and thy seed shall possess (i.e. occupy by force) the gate of his enemies; shall conquer their armies and capture their cities (Keil, Murphy); though that the spiritual sense of entering in through the doorway of their susceptibilities in conversion (Lange) is not to be overlooked may be inferred from the appended prediction—and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (vide Genesis 12:3, where “families of the ground” occur as the equivalent of “nations of the earth”); because thou hast obeyed my voice. Originally unconditional in its grant, the promise is here distinctly declared to be renewed to him as one who, besides being justified and taken into covenant with Jehovah, had through trial and obedience attained to the spiritual patriarchate of a numerous posterity.
The note above makes special emphasis on the phrase “by myself, I have sworn, declares the Lord.”
The phrase is also commented upon by Ellicott:
(16) By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord (Jehovah).—This solemn interposition of an oath (Hebrews 6:17), of which the present is the sole instance in Holy Scripture, plainly indicates that this trial of Abraham’s faith was of no common kind, and that its typical teaching is of no ordinary value. Abraham might have appealed to God’s own attributes, and said, Far be it from thee, Lord, to command a human sacrifice, and bid a father slay his son. He might have pleaded the promises bound up with Isaac’s life. But no, as soon as he is convinced that the command comes from God. he obeys, and, against hope, still believes that the promises will all be fulfilled in the sacrificed Isaac. He is thus the highest and most perfect example of faith, and by his offering of his son the Church received the assurance that the Son of God incarnate in the flesh would upon that very mountain offer the sacrifice Divinely necessary for the pardon of man’s sins.
The blessing now given to Abraham differs from those that precede it in three particulars. First, it is no longer a promise, but a solemn compact ratified by an oath. Next, it assures Abraham’s seed of victory, whereby the spiritual Israel is certified of the ultimate triumph of the Gospel. Lastly, it transfers to Abraham’s offspring the promise of being the means of blessedness to all mankind.
We see in Ellicott’s notes yet another connection drawn between this event and the life of Jesus – including the mountain upon which the sacrifices occur. This seminal moment in Judaism is also a seminal moment for Christianity which is itself an offshoot of Judaism.
The note also makes a point of distinguishing God’s promises from God’s solemn oaths. The sense we get through this section of verses is that God’s promise was conditional whereas now the sense is that the compact/oath is not conditional.
“By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Look specifically here at the words “because you have done this.” That raises the question of what would have happened had Abraham not done this, doesn’t it?
because = יַעַן yaʻan, yah’-an; from an unused root meaning to pay attention; properly, heed; by implication, purpose (sake or account); used adverbially to indicate the reason or cause:—because (that), forasmuch (+ as), seeing then, + that, + whereas, + why.
you have done = עָשָׂה ʻâsâh, aw-saw’; a primitive root; to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application:—accomplish, advance, appoint, apt, be at, become, bear, bestow, bring forth, bruise, be busy, × certainly, have the charge of, commit, deal (with), deck, displease, do, (ready) dress(-ed), (put in) execute(-ion), exercise, fashion, feast, (fight-) ing man, finish, fit, fly, follow, fulfill, furnish, gather, get, go about, govern, grant, great, hinder, hold (a feast), × indeed, be industrious, journey, keep, labour, maintain, make, be meet, observe, be occupied, offer, officer, pare, bring (come) to pass, perform, pracise, prepare, procure, provide, put, requite, × sacrifice, serve, set, shew, × sin, spend, × surely, take, × thoroughly, trim, × very, vex, be (warr-) ior, work(-man), yield, use.
this thing = דָּבָר dâbâr, daw-baw’; from H1696; a word; by implication, a matter (as spoken of) or thing; adverbially, a cause:—act, advice, affair, answer, × any such (thing), because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, chronicles, commandment, × commune(-ication), concern(-ing), confer, counsel, dearth, decree, deed, × disease, due, duty, effect, eloquent, errand, (evil favoured-) ness, glory, harm, hurt, iniquity, judgment, language, lying, manner, matter, message, (no) thing, oracle, × ought, × parts, pertaining, please, portion, power, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, × (as hast) said, sake, saying, sentence, sign, so, some (uncleanness), somewhat to say, song, speech, × spoken, talk, task, that, × there done, thing (concerning), thought, thus, tidings, what(-soever), wherewith, which, word, work.
The Pulpit Commentaries includes a Homily by J.F. Montgomery covering the trial of Abraham in chapter 22 and its relationship to the sacrifice of Jesus as seen by Christians:
“And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. The key to this narrative is John 1:29. It sets forth in type the way of salvation. Whether Abraham understood this we need not inquire. The lesson is for us. Isaac, i.e. laughter (cf. Luke 2:10), the child of promise (Romans 9:7), type of “the children of the kingdom,” is yet condemned to die (cf. Romans 5:12). So in Egypt the Israelites were not exempted; God’s gift to them was a way of escape. What is that way? (cf. Micah 6:6). Every age of the world has asked this question. A sense of separation from God has led to many efforts for its removal. Hence sacrifices, offerings, austerities, &c; but all in vain (Hebrews 10:4). Still the soul asked, “Where is the Lamb?” the effectual sacrifice for sin. The answer of prophecy, i.e. God’s answer, “God will provide himself a lamb” (cf. John 1:29; John 8:56). Man has no claim upon God, yet his need is a plea (cf. Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). We know not what was in Abraham’s mind; perhaps he was escaping from the direct answer, unable to utter it; perhaps there was a hope that God would in some way preserve or restore his son (cf. Hebrews 11:19). There are many instances of prophecy unconsciously uttered (cf. John 11:50). Isaac was bound—type of man’s helplessness to escape from the curse (cf. Luke 4:18), or from the law of sin in the members. The law of God of itself can only condemn. It can only he fulfilled by one who loves God; but he who is not at peace with God cannot love him. The sacrifice was now complete as far as Abraham could offer it. He had cast down self-will (cf. Matthew 26:39); he had sacrificed himself (Romans 12:1). This is the state of mind of all others most prepared to receive blessings (cf. 2 Kings 4:3-6). “Lay not thine hand upon the lad.” God’s purpose our deliverance (Romans 8:1). The work of the law, bringing home the conviction of sin, is the prelude to the knowledge of life (cf. Romans 7:10-13)—life through death. God’s way of deliverance (Isaiah 53:6). The type, the ram caught in the thicket; the antitype, Christ fulfilling the Father’s will. The practical application of this shown in brazen serpent (John 3:14). Marvelous love of God (Romans 5:8). We had no claim on him, yet he would not that we should perish (Ezekiel 33:11). He wanted, for the fullness of his blessedness, that we should partake of it, and therefore Christ came that he might die in our stead; and now in him we are dead (2 Corinthians 5:4). Do not dilute the truth by saying he died for believers only. This is to miss the constraining power of his love. If there is any doubt of his death being for each and all, the gospel is no longer felt to be “whosoever will” (Revelation 22:17). Behold the Lamb. We need not now to say, “God will provide; “he has provided (1 John 2:2). The universe could not purchase that propitiation. No efforts could make thee worthy of it, yet it is freely offered to thee today. And mark what that gift includes (Romans 8:32)—the help of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), wisdom (James 1:5), help in trials (1 Corinthians 10:13), peace (Romans 8:33), needs of this life (Luke 12:30). Bring all thy sins, thy wants, thy hindrances to the mercy-seat (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord will see, will look upon thy need; and ere thy prayer is offered he has provided what that need requires.—M.
David Guzik’s Commentary makes a note regarding the promise/oath given in Verse 17:
b. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore: By rough calculations, the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the seashore are the same: 10 to the 25th power.
That is a lot of descendants.