Abraham, Isaac and Jasher: The Story of a Son Loving a Father
To many, the account of Abraham offering up Isaac to God in Genesis 22 is one of the hardest stories in the Bible to read and comprehend. You don’t have to be a parent to feel the anguish Abraham must have felt, to question how he could attempt such a heartbreaking act, and even to doubt the goodness of God.
In addition to the emotion it raises, there are several unanswered logical mysteries as well. What did Abraham tell Isaac they were doing? Was Isaac really that gullible? The fact that Abraham had Isaac carry the wood up the mountain indicates that Isaac was stronger than Abraham. How did Abraham wrestle him onto the altar? Furthermore, the surrounding information indicates Isaac would’ve been an adult, probably near 37 years old. Just how did Abraham get him to go along with this preposterous plan? There are enough holes in the report to make us wonder if we’re really hearing the whole story.
Theologically, it makes perfect sense: God sacrificed His Son, Yeshua. Both Isaac and Yeshua were innocent, they were both brought into being by supernatural means, they both carried the wood on which they would die – the foreshadowing of Yeshua offering himself as a sacrifice is inescapable. But Isaac did not choose this for himself as Yeshua did; Isaac was not complicit in the plan from the beginning…was he?
More to the Story
The book of “Jasher” is mentioned in the Bible twice, in Joshua 10:13 and again in 2 Samuel 1:17-18. It parallels the Torah from Genesis into Joshua. While the origins of the current editions are ambiguous, I have found it rarely contradicting the Bible’s accounts and actually providing more explanations of many. While it certainly doesn’t have the authority of the Bible, I was captivated by the larger narrative it provides regarding the binding of Isaac.
Recounted in Jasher 23, the story contains 90 verses from the time God calls to Abraham regarding Isaac to the time of Sarah’s death. Verses 40-75 chronicle the trip to the mountain. In addition to the details provided in Genesis 22, Jasher speaks of:
- God showing not only Abraham, but Isaac that he’s been chosen by God as a worthy offering
- Isaac’s gratitude to God for being chosen for such an honor
- Isaac’s “cheerfulness of heart” in the process
- Abraham’s emotions and bittersweet pain as he discusses it with Isaac
- Isaac’s last words about his mother
- Isaac’s cooperation and his assistance to Abraham in the binding
- The prayers of the onlooking angels
The account is not only heartwarming, but the human details add a perspective that brings us closer to the possible emotions of both God and Yeshua in the sacrifice they both made for us. We can learn more about them both as we view the responses of Abraham and Isaac.
For Isaac’s part, two things stand out:
1. His sense of honor in being chosen as a worthy gift for God
And when they were going along Isaac said to his father, Behold, I see here the fire and wood, and where then is the lamb that is to be the burnt offering before the Lord? And Abraham answered his son Isaac, saying, The Lord has made choice of thee my son, to be a perfect burnt offering instead of the lamb. And Isaac said unto his father, I will do all that the Lord spoke to thee with joy and cheerfulness of heart. (Jasher 23:50-52)
And in verse 56 he repeats, “But I am of joyful and cheerful heart in this matter, and I say, Blessed is the Lord who has this day chosen me to be a burnt offering before Him.”
It’s with this same spirit that Peter encourages us thousands of years later, “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13)
2. His willingness — even commitment — to die for God
Jasher 23:61, “And Isaac said to his father, Bind me securely and then place me upon the altar lest I should turn and move, and break loose from the force of the knife upon my flesh and thereof profane the burnt offering; and Abraham did so.”
Isaac’s joy and willingness to participate in offering his life shows us another perspective of Yeshua’s experience. “…for the joy set before him he endured the cross…” It also demonstrates the spirit of submission that we are striving for in our walk with God, no matter the cost.
For Abraham’s part, as much as we dislike to read the story, Jasher brings out the emotions a father would have in sacrificing his son.
“Abraham’s tears gushed down upon Isaac his son. And the hearts of Abraham and Isaac rejoiced at this thing which the Lord had commanded them; but the eye wept bitterly whilst the heart rejoiced.” Jasher 23:63-64
As emotional as it was for Abraham, the emotions for God truly sacrificing his Son through a grueling death would be at least as strong. God, as Abraham, probably wept at the sight of his Son on the cross. God, as Abraham, would’ve been both heartbroken and yet pleased at the sacrifice.
In the end, the same reasons that make it hard to read this story bring us face to face with God’s undeniable love for us. Beyond the anguish of Abraham and the thought of giving up your own son or daughter, God suffered and endured the heartbreak of a Father as His Son died to offer us eternal reconciliation with Him.