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Isaac Is a Type and Shadow of Jesus Christ

Isaac Is a Type and Shadow of Jesus Christ

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In a previous post I explained the two-fold reason God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. First, He wanted to test Abraham (Genesis 22:1). Second, He wanted a picture of what He would do with His Son two thousand years later. Isaac is one of the clearest types of Christ in the Old Testament. Here are some of the parallels!

Isaac and Jesus Were Only Begotten Sons

The typology between Isaac and Jesus is immediately established very strongly in Genesis 22:2. The language used regarding Abraham and Isaac is almost identical to the language used in the New Testament regarding God the Father and His Son. In Genesis 22:2 God said to Abraham, “your son, your only son.” He repeated these words two more times:

  • Genesis 22:12—“And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’”
  • Genesis 22:16—[The Angel of the Lord] said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son.”

God does not waste words in Scripture. When He is repetitive, it is for a reason. God does not use highlighting, italics, underlining, or bold for emphasis, but He does repeat Himself when He wants to ensure we do not miss something. God wants us to recognize Isaac was, “[Abraham’s] son, [his] only son.” Abraham had another son, Ishmael, so how can God refer to Isaac as Abraham’s “only” son? The word “only” does not mean “single.” The Old Testament has three Hebrew words for “only.” Here are two of them:

  • Genesis 6:5—“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only [raq] evil continually.”
  • Genesis 7:23—“So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only [‘ak] Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.”

The Old Testament is primarily written in Hebrew (with small portions written in Aramaic), and the word for “only” in Genesis 22:2 is yachiyd, which means “unique.” It is referring to Isaac being Abraham’s special, one-of-a-kind son. The same word is translated as “precious” elsewhere in Scripture:

  • Psalm 22:20—“Deliver Me from the sword, My precious [yachiyd] life from the power of the dog.”
  • Psalm 35:17—“Rescue me from their destructions, My precious [yachiyd] life from the lions.”

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says yachiyd means, “only begotten son.” This makes Isaac look like Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. “Begotten” does not mean “created.” The writers of the Nicene Creed wanted to make sure nobody misunderstood the word, so they said:

I believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made.

The creed teaches Jesus is eternal, and as the Son of God, is equal with God. If begotten does not mean created, what does it mean? The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenes, and it means, “single of its kind.” Again, it means Jesus is God’s unique Son. This separates Him from believers who are sons and daughters of God by adoption, and angels who are also called “sons of God” (Genesis 6:4, Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 cf. Hebrews 1:5-14). Monogenes only occurs nine times in Scripture:

  • Three times Luke used the word to describe parents who lost an “only” (monogenes) child (Luke 7:12, 8:42, and 9:38).
  • Five times John used the word to refer to Jesus as “the only begotten (monogenes) Son” (John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, 1 John 4:9).

The last use identifies the other individual in Scripture given the same title as Jesus:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac… His only begotten (monogenes) son.

Hebrews 11:17

God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, instead of Ishmael, because He wanted him to sacrifice his only begotten, special, unique, precious son. This looked forward to God sacrificing His only begotten, special, unique, precious Son.

Isaac and Jesus Were Named by God

In Genesis 22:2 God said, “…your only son Isaac…” The mention of Isaac’s name draws a connection to Jesus. Isaac also had the rare distinction of being named by God, instead of being named by earthly parents. Notice the parallelism between these verses:

  • Genesis 17:19—“Sarah… shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.”
  • Matthew 1:21—“[Mary] shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

Isaac and Jesus Were Burnt Offerings

In Genesis 22:2 God said, “…and offer him there as a burnt offering…” God did not just ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He specifically said to “offer him as a burnt offering.” Again, God is repetitive to make sure we do not miss this. The words “burnt offering” occur six times between verses two and thirteen. Almost every other verse reminds us Isaac was to be a burnt offering.

Leviticus 1 describes burnt offerings. They were voluntary acts of worship to express devotion to God, or they could serve as an atonement for unintentional sins. The meat, bones, and organs were completely burnt, and this was God’s portion. The animal’s hide was given to the Levites, who could later sell it to earn money for themselves.

Burnt offerings make a fitting picture of Christ. Three times they are called:

…an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17

Paul applies this imagery to Jesus:

[Christ] has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Ephesians 5:2

The key verse is Leviticus 1:4. Let’s look at it, piece-by-piece:

  • Leviticus 1:4a says “[The priest] shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering.” This communicated the transmission of the sin to the sacrifice, and it looked to the way our sins are transmitted to Christ. Isaiah 53:6 says “the Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” In many pictures of the account, Abraham has the knife in one hand, and his other hand is on Isaac’s head to maintain the imagery.
  • Leviticus 1:4b says the burnt offering “will be accepted on [the sinner’s] behalf” looking to the way Christ died in our place.
  • Leviticus 1:4c says the burnt offering will “make atonement for [the sinner]” looking to the way Jesus made atonement for our sins.

The priest shall:

“carry the ashes [of the burnt offering] outside the camp.”

Leviticus 6:11

The same language discusses Christ’s sacrifice:

He… suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

Hebrews 13:12-13

Leviticus 1:9 and 13 say “the priest shall burn all on the altar.” Burnt offerings were completely consumed, and Jesus is the true and greater Burnt Offering who was willing to be completely consumed for our sins.

Isaac and Jesus Were “Offered” Up

In Genesis 22:2 God said, “…and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there…” The Hebrew word for “offered” is alah, but it does not mean “given” or “presented” as we would expect. It means, “to go up, ascend, climb, be taken or lifted up.” The idea is that when something is sacrificed, it is “lifted” up to God. Of the eight hundred eighty-nine times alah occurs in the Old Testament, 676 it translates as “up.” When Abraham was commanded to “offer” Isaac, he was essentially commanded to “lift him up.” Jesus spoke of His sacrifice this way:

  • John 3:14—“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
  • John 12:32—“If I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

Here is the sermon I preached on this material…

Isaac and Jesus Were Accompanied by Two Men on Their Way to Be Sacrificed

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him… And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.

Genesis 22:3, 5

Isaac was accompanied by two men on his way to being sacrificed like Jesus was accompanied by two men when He was sacrificed:

Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.

Matthew 27:38

The two men were not able to witness what took place between Abraham and Isaac. Similarly, when Jesus was sacrificed, nobody could see exactly what took place between God the Father and God the Son. When Jesus was on the cross:

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

Matthew 27:45

The darkness concealed the divine transaction when our sins were placed on Christ.

Isaac and Jesus Carried the Wood for Their Sacrifices

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

Genesis 22:6a

The wood for the burnt offering is emphasized throughout the account—mentioned five times in verses 3, 6, 7 and twice in verse 9. The wood looks to the cross. In both accounts, the wood was the physical instrument on which both Isaac and Jesus would be sacrificed:

[Jesus], bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”

John 19:17

Just like Jesus carried the wood for His sacrifice on His shoulders when He went to die, so did Isaac carry the wood for his sacrifice on his shoulders when he went to die.

Isaac and Jesus Were Willing to Experience Their Father’s Fire

[Abraham] took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

Genesis 22:6b

The fire is mentioned twice, in verses 6 and 7. We would expect verse 6 to say Abraham took the implements for building the fire, but instead, it says he “took the fire in his hand” (NKJV, ESV, NASB) or “carried the fire” (NIV). This sounds odd, but it looks forward to God’s wrath, which is commonly associated with fire:

When God poured out His wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah, He rained fire and brimstone from heaven (Genesis 19:24, Luke 17:29). The location for unbelievers who experience God’s wrath for eternity is “the lake of fire” (Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 14, 15). When Abraham carried the fire, it prefigured the wrath God the Father would pour out and the Son would consume. Jesus prayed:

O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

Matthew 26:39

Jesus drank the Father’s wrath that believers deserve, so there is no more due us:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.

Lamentations 3:22

We are not consumed by God’s wrath, because Jesus was willing to receive it for us. God’s mercy doused the fire for Christians when He lit the fire for His Son.

Isaac and Jesus Were Sacrificial Lambs

But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

Genesis 22:7-8

Abraham thought he would sacrifice Isaac, and then God would raise him from the dead:

He “[concluded] that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.

Hebrews 11:19

If Abraham expected to sacrifice Isaac, why did he also say God would provide a lamb?

The best solution is Abraham saw Isaac as the lamb to be sacrificed.

The Moody Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary on the Whole Bible by the Faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Moody Publishers, 2014. p. 81.

This further establishes the typology between Isaac and Jesus.

When Isaac said, “Where is the lamb?” he asked one of the most important questions in history. When Abraham answered Isaac’s question, he provided one of the most important answers in history. God would provide a lamb, and John the Baptist identified Him two thousand years later when he said:

Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

This was when Isaac’s question was finally answered, and Abraham’s words were finally fulfilled.

Isaac and Jesus Were in Agreement with Their Fathers

[Abraham and Isaac] went together…and Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

Genesis 22:6, 8

The unity between father and son is shown through the repetition of, “the two of them went together.” Consider these verses:

  • John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • 1 John 3:16—“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”

The gospel makes us think of the Father’s love for lost sinners (John 3:16), and the Son’s love for those He died for (1 John 3:16), but this all required the Father and Son working together. The prophet asks:

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

Amos 3:3

The agreement between Abraham and Isaac pictures the agreement between God the Father and God the Son. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He said:

I and My Father are one…That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me.

John 10:30, 17:21-23

Acts 20:28 says, “The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” We would expect the verse to say, “The church of God which Jesus purchased with His blood,” or “The church of God which He purchased with His Son’s blood.” The mention of God purchasing the church with His own blood identifies Jesus as God. If Jesus shed His blood and God purchased the church with “His own blood,” then Jesus must be God:

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

John 3:16

The Father and Son cooperated, and this was prefigured two thousand years earlier when Abraham and Isaac walked to Mount Moriah together.

Discussion Questions

  1. In Genesis 22:2-6, do you see any other parallels between Jesus and Isaac, or God the Father and Abraham?
  2. Which parallel of Isaac and Jesus did you find to be most significant?
  3. What do the fire and wood represent?
  4. Why were Isaac and Jesus both willing to be sacrificed?
  5. Aside from the crucifixion, how else did Jesus demonstrate agreement with His Father during His earthly life?

8 Responses

  1. Hello Pastor Scott,
    This is very insightful and simple to understand. I am blessed. God bless and increase you

  2. Hi Pastor Scott,
    This article was very insightful. I’ve been keeping up with almost all of your material and it’s been very helpful.

    Recently I had the privilege of teaching our youth Genesis 25 which provoked reading the surrounding scriptures and I found Isaac one of the most captivating characters. I also, found these parallels to be a stretch, but because various commentaries announced them as fact, I doubted myself. I find myself doing that often when I interpret something differently then perhaps Pastor Joe or whatever book. Your viewpoint helped me confirm the need to examine abstract concepts.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Josh,
      Glad to hear from you.

      Yes, I know it can be tough when there are conflicting thoughts, not just when it comes to types but interpretations of verses in general.

      I’ve learned to put greater confidence in some commentaries and some commentators than others. I’ve also learned to be more patient and prayerful; patient in terms of not embracing something simply because I read it, but waiting to see it carries out following further study.

      Hope you and your family are doing well!

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