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Isaac, son of Abraham, was the son who would fulfill the first geneartion of the Abrahamic covenant. He was the forefather of the Israelites, the chosen people of God. He was born to Abraham's wife, Sarah, despite her infertility.

However, before that, Sarah thought it was impossible, so she took matters into her own hands, convincing Abraham to impregnate her Egyptian slave named Hagar. As a result, Abraham's first son, Ishmael was born. After this, though, tension was high between the women, but God fulfilled his promise to Abraham and she bore Isaac when she was ninety years old.

Once Isaac grew up he married a beautiful woman named Rebekah, by whom he had twin sons: Jacob and Esau. Though the younger son, Jacob gained the rights of inheritance and became the forefather for God's chosen people while Esau became the father of the nation of Edom.

Etymology

The name Isaac in Hebrew means "Laughter". which can have both good and bad connotations. This was seen in the very history of his birth. His mother Sarah had laughed in disbelief when she heard God's messengers say she would become pregnant. But when the child was born, the laughter was in joy.

Biography

Background

When Abraham had been called to leave his family and go into Canaan God told Abraham that he would be the father of many great nations, with one in particular being his chosen people. God specified that the son who would become the ancestor of the chosen people would be of Abraham's union with his own wife[1].

But though Abraham's age was not particularly a factor, a woman Sarah's age (she was 65 at the time), was unthinkable. After ten years, Sarah had her husband go into her Egyptian slave girl, and her son Ishmael seemed to be an answer to the promise.

Early life

Birth

God was gracious to Sarah and fulfilled His promise, allowing her to become pregnant though she had been infertile and Abraham was of one-hundred years old.[2] In joy Sarah laughed and so Abraham named him Isaac.[3] When Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him.[4]

Sacrifice

When Isaac was a young man, his father took him up to Mount Moriah. Here his father was to sacrifice as him, as commanded by the LORD to test him. Isaac was told that they were going up to the mountain to make a sacrifice, but there was no lamb for the offering. Isaac pondered this and asked his father about the lamb they needed to make a sacrifice, while the altar materials were all there. Abraham told him that God would provide the lamb, perhaps realizing God wouldn't allow his son's death or to make sacrificing him easier[5]. They continued up the mountain to the place God had instructed and Isaac carried the wood for making the altar.[6]

Abraham built an altar and laid Isaac upon it, as God had instructed him. One can imagine that Isaac probably screamed when he realized he was the sacrifice the Bible is silent on this. Just as Abraham was about to end his son's life with his knife an Angel shouted to him, telling him not to kill his son for a ram was available in a nearby bush. It had been a special test for Abraham and an opportunity for reaffirming that through Isaac God's chosen people would be born.[7]

Marriage

When Isaac was around 40 years old, he lived in the Negev and lived near Beer Lahai Roi.[8] It was about three years since Isaac's mother died when Abraham sought to comfort his son[9] and ensure security for his son's future family. Abraham called his most trusted servant and under oath entrusted him with the task of finding a wife for Isaac. Isaac's wife could not be from among the Canaanites, but needed to be from Abraham's relatives.

The servant embarked to the town of Nahor to find family of Abraham, praying to God to find a wife for Isaac. In answer to his prayer, he met a young virgin named Rebekah. With the approval of her father Bethuel and her brother Laban, Rebekah was taken back to Isaac to become his wife.[10] When Isaac came up from the town to meditate in a field, he spotted a caravan of camels approaching.

Seeing Isaac approaching, Rebekah dismounted from her camel. The Servant told Isaac of his father's plans for marriage, therefore Isaac took her into his mother's tent and they became man and wife. At the age of forty Isaac was now married to a woman of his own.[11] Isaac loved his wife and found comfort after his mother's passing.[9]

Isaac's Own Family

Jacob and Esau

Like his mother, Isaac's wife was barren. So Isaac prayed that his wife would be able to bear children and his prayer was answered; Rebekah conceived and became pregnant by Isaac. Rebekah had twins who quarreled in the very womb. When they were born one was red and hairy and was named Esau. The other was born holding the heel of Esau and he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when he had his first children, twenty years after he had married.[12]

Esau grew up and became a nature-loving hunter, while Jacob preferred staying at home. Isaac loved hunting, so he favored Esau while his wife favored Jacob.[13] After one tiring hunting trek, Esau sold his birthright to his brother in exchange for much needed food from him. Unbeknownst to Isaac his possessions would not go to his first born and favored son.

Receiving Inheritance

Fifteen years after the twins were born, Abraham died at 175 years old[14]. Isaac met with his long-lost brother Ishmael and together they buried their father with his first wife Sarah.[15] There is no indication that Isaac ever saw Ishmael again. The brothers may have been even more divided after receiving inheritance. Isaac received everything that his father owned and was blessed after his death.[16]


Refugee in Philistia

Moving to Philistia

After Esau's birthright was sold, a famine hit the land. Isaac was forced to abandon his homestead and took refuge in Gerar, Philistia in order to survive. Here he and his family was under the protection of King Abimelek. After only a short time there, Isaac planned to to move on to prosperous Egypt where his father had also stayed during a famine. God asked Isaac not to and promised him prosperity if he remained in Gerar.[17]

While in Gerar Isaac repeated the same mistake his father did concerning his wife. The Philistines began asking Isaac about Rebekah for her beauty. Afraid that the Philistines would kill him and take Rebekah he told them that she was his sister. After this Isaac remained there a long time and lived with his wife, who was thought to be his sister.[18]

However, while Isaac continued the lie that she was his sister, his interactions with her were beyond brotherly. Isaac was intimately caressing his wife. Abimelech spotted this from his window so he summoned Isaac in outrage, afraid that one of the Philistines would have have slept with her. So Abimelech put an order of protection over Isaac and his wife: anyone who brought harm to either of the two would be executed.[19]

Wealth

While still living in Gerar, Isaac planted crops and later that year reaped a hundredfold harvest, because God had blessed him. Isaac began to enter the upper class and his success continued until he was immensely wealthy. The flocks and workers of Isaac were envied by all the Philistines so much that all of his wells (built by his father and given through inheritance) were filled. Abimelech even asked Isaac to move from Gerar, because he was considered too powerful.[20]

At Abimelech's request, Isaac moved out Gerar into the nearby valley. When trying to harvest water from the wells, Isaac was met with resistance from local Philistine herders claiming ownership. So Isaac had his servants dig up another well, but again was chased off by the men of Gerar. Finally Isaac moved to an area and dug a well with no quarrel over ownership. He named it Rehoboth, because God had given space for him; in contrast he name the other two wells Esek and Sitnah named for the quarrelling.[21]

From there Isaac pitched his tent in Beersheba and had his servants build an altar and dig a well. While he was staying in Beersheba Abimelech along with his adviser, Ahuzzath and Military Commander, Phicol came up to Beersheba to meet Isaac. At first Isaac was astonished they had come to visit him, because of their inhospitality towards him. Abimelech explained that he wished to make a peace treaty with him, due to his immense power. Isaac obliged and held a feast for his guests. The next morning they swore the peace treaty and they both went their separate ways.[22] Isaac moved back to Mamre where his father lived near Hebron.[23]

Later life

When Isaac was one hundred years old, his eldest and most favored son Esau married. He married two women, both Hittites: Judith and Basemath. These women caused much grief for Isaac and his wife.[24]

Several years later Isaac became blind and concerned with his mortality called his son Esau to bless him with his inheritance. Isaac told Esau to hunt some game and prepare it as food and he would give him the inheritance blessing. Rebekah overheard this and she plotted with Jacob to take Esau's blessing. Taking advantage of Isaac's blindness, Jacob dressed like Esau and presented food before his father. While Isaac recognized the voice as Jacob's, his son deceitfully claimed he was Esau so he blessed him.[25]

Later Esau came in and presented his father with food, but Jacob had already received the blessing. When Isaac learned of this deceit he had only a prophecy to place upon his favored son.[26] After this Esau planned to murder his brother, so Jacob was sent away to live with Rebekah's brother.

Once he was sent away Rebekah complained to Isaac about the wives Esau had married. Before Jacob left Isaac forbade him from marrying a Canaanite and blessed him. When Esau heard this, he realized his wives were an annoyance for Isaac. In a vengeful attitude Esau went to his uncle (Isaac's brother), Ishmael and married one of his daughters.[27]

Death

Despite his blindness, Isaac continued to live on for several more years. During this time both Jacob and Esau had many children, making Isaac a grandfather of many. After the death of his wife, Jacob returned home and lived with his father for some time. At the age of one hundred and eighty, Isaac died and his two sons came together and buried him.[28] He was buried with his father and mother in the family cave tomb in Mamre.[29]

Legacy

Forefather of Israel

Isaac is biblically considered as a forefather of Israel, literally the father of Israel. He is often compared alongside Abraham as an ancestor of the Nation of Israel.

Verses

  1. Genesis 18:10 (Link)
  2. Genesis 21:1-2 (Link)
  3. Genesis 21:3, 6-7 (Link)
  4. Genesis 21:4 (Link)
  5. Heb. 11:17-19 (Link)
  6. Genesis 22:2-8 (Link)
  7. Genesis 22:9-18 (Link)
  8. Genesis 24:62, 25:11 (Link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Genesis 24:67
  10. Genesis 24:1-61 (Link)
  11. Genesis 25:20 (Link)
  12. Genesis 25:26 (Link)
  13. Genesis 25:27-28 (Link)
  14. Gen. 25:7; compare Gen. 21:1-2 (Link)
  15. Genesis 25:7-10 (Link)
  16. Genesis 25:5 (Link)
  17. Genesis 26:1-6 (Link)
  18. Genesis 25:7 (Link)
  19. Genesis 26:8-11 (Link)
  20. Gen 26:12-16 (Link)
  21. Gen 26:17-22 (Link)
  22. Gen 26:26-31 (Link)
  23. Gen 35:27 (Link)
  24. Gen 26:43-35 (Link)
  25. Gen 27:1-29 (Link)
  26. Gen 27:30-40 (Link)
  27. Gen 28:1-9 (Link)
  28. Gen 35:28-29 (Link)
  29. Gen 49:29,31 (Link)
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