(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 31)

compelled to deny themselves, that they even resign the very affections
of their original nature, which are neither evil nor vicious in
themselves, to the will of God. There is no doubt that, during the whole
night, he had been tossed with various cares; that he had a variety of
internal conflicts, and endured severe torments; yet he arose early in
the morning, to hasten his separation from his child; since he knew that
it was the will of God.
  "And took bread, and a bottle of water." Moses intimates not only that
Abraham committed his son to the care of his mother, but that he
relinquished his own paternal right over him; for it was necessary for
this son to be alienated, that he might not afterwards be accounted the
seed of Abraham. But with what a slender provision does he endow his wife
and her son? He places a flagon of water and bread upon her shoulder. Why
does he not, at least, load an ass with a moderate supply of food? Why
does he not add one of his servants, of which his house contained plenty,
as a companion? Truly either God shut his eyes, that, what he would
gladly have done, might not come into his mind; or Abraham limited her
provision, in order that she might not go far from his house. For
doubtless he would prefer to have them near himself, for the purpose of
rendering them such assistance as they would need. Meanwhile, God
designed that the banishment of Ishmael should be thus severe and
sorrowful; in order that, by his example, he might strike terror into the
proud, who, being intoxicated with present gifts, trample under foot, in
their haughtiness, the very grace to which they are indebted for all
things. Therefore he brought the mother and child to a distressing issue.
For after they have wandered into the desert, the water fails; and the
mother departs from her son; which was a token of despair. Such was the
reward of the pride, by which they had been vainly inflated. It had been
their duty humbly to embrace the grace of God offered to all people, in
the person of Isaac: but they impiously spurned him whom God had exalted
to the highest honour. The knowledge of God's gifts ought to have formed
their minds to modesty. And because nothing was more desirable for them,
than to retain some corner in Abraham's house, they ought not to have
shrunk from any kind of subjection, for the sake of so great a benefit:
God now exacts from them the punishment, which they had deserved, by
their ingratitude.

17. "God heard the voice of the lad." Moses had said before that Hagar
wept: how is it then, that, disregarding her tears, God only hears the
voice of the lad? If we should say, that the mother did not deserve to
receive a favourable answer to her prayers; her son, certainly, was in no
degree more worthy. For, as to the supposition of some, that they both
were brought to repentance by this chastisement, it is but an uncertain
conjecture. I leave their repentance, of which I can see no sign, to the
judgment of God. The cry of the boy was heard, as I understand it, not
because he had prayed in faith; but because God, mindful of his own
promise, was inclined to have compassion upon them. For Moses does not
say, that their vows and sighs were directed towards heaven; it is rather
to be believed, that, in bewailing their miseries, they did not resort to
divine help. But God, in assisting them, had respect, not to what they
desired of him, but to what he had promised to Abraham concerning
Ishmael. In this sense Moses seems to say that the voice of the boy was
heard; namely, because he was the son of Abraham.
  "What aileth thee, Hagar?" The angel reproves the ingratitude of Hagar;
because, when reduced to the greatest straits, she does not reflect on
God's former kindness towards her, in similar danger; so that, as one who
has found him to be a deliverer, she might again cast herself upon his
faithfulness. Nevertheless, the angel assures her that a remedy is
prepared for her sorrows if only she will seek it. Therefore in the
clause, "What aileth thee?" is a reproof for having tormented herself in
vain, by confused lamentation. When he afterwards says, "Fear not," he
invites and exhorts her to hope for mercy. But what, we may ask, is the
meaning of the expression, which he adds, "where he is?" It may seem that
there is a suppressed antithesis between the place where he now was, and
the house of Abraham; so that Hagar might conclude, that although she was
wandering in the desert as an exile from the sanctuary of God, yet she
was not entirely forsaken by God; since she had him for a Leader in her
exile. Or else, the phrase is emphatical; implying, that, though the boy
is cast into solitude, and counted as one forsaken, he nevertheless has
God nigh unto him. And thus the angel, to relieve the despair of the
anxious mother, commands her to return to the place where she had laid
down her son. For (as is usual in desperate circumstances) she had become
stupefied through grief; and would have lain as one lifeless, unless she
had been roused by the voice of the angel. We perceive, moreover, in this
example, how truly it is said, that when father and mother forsake us,
the Lord will take us up.

18. "Arise lift up the lad." In order that she might have more courage to
bring up her son, God confirms to her what he had before often promised
to Abraham. Indeed, nature itself prescribes to mothers what they owe to
their children; but, as I have lately hinted, all the natural feelings of
Hagar would have been destroyed, unless God had revived her, by inspiring
new confidence, to address herself with fresh vigour to the fulfilment of
her maternal office. With respect to the fountain or "well", some think
it suddenly sprung up. But since Moses says, that the eyes of Hagar were
opened, and not that the earth was opened or dug up; I rather incline to
the opinion, that, having been previously astonished with grief, she did
not discern what was plainly before her eyes; but now, at length, after
God has restored her vision, she begins to see it. And it is worthy of
especial notice, that when God leaves us destitute of his
superintendence, and takes away his grace from us, we are as much
deprived of all the aids which are close at hand, as if they were removed
to the greatest distance. Therefore we must ask, not only that he would
bestow upon us such things as will be useful to us, but that he will also
impart prudence to enable us to use them; otherwise, it will be our lot
to faint, with closed eyes, in the midst of fountains.

20. "And God was with the lad." There are many ways in which God is said
to be present with men. He is present with his elects whom he governs by
the special grace of his Spirit; he is present also, sometimes, as it
respects external life, not only with his elect, but also with strangers,
in granting them some signal benediction: as Moses, in this place,
commends the extraordinary grace by which the Lord declares that his
promise is not void, since he pursues Ishmael with favour, because he was
the son of Abraham. Hence, however, this general doctrine is inferred;
that it is to be entirely ascribed to God that men grow up, that they
enjoy the light and common breath of heaven, and that the earth supplies
them with food. Only it must be remembered, the prosperity of Ishmael
flowed from this cause, that an earthly blessing was promised him for the
sake of his father Abraham. In saying, that Hagar took a wife for
Ishmael, Moses has respect to civil order; for since marriage forms a
principal part of human life, it is right that, in contracting it,
children should be subject to their parents, and should obey their
counsel. This order, which nature prescribes and dictates, was, as we
see, observed by Ishmael, a wild man in the barbarism of the desert; for
he was subject to his mother in marrying a wife. Whence we perceive, what
a prodigious monster was the Pope, when he dared to overthrow this sacred
right of nature. To this is also added the impudent boast of authorizing
a wicked contempt of parents, in honour of holy wedlock. Moreover the
Egyptian wife was a kind of prelude to the future dissension between the
Israelites and the Ishmaelites.

22. "And it came to pass at that time." Moses relates, that this covenant
was entered into between Abraham and Abimelech, for the purpose of
showing, that after various agitations, some repose was, at length,
granted to the holy man. He had been constrained, as a wanderer, and
without a fixed abode, to move his tent from place to place, during sixty
years. But although God would have him to be a sojourner even unto death,
yet, under king Abimelech, he granted him a quiet habitation. And it is
the design of Moses to show, how it happened, that he occupied one place
longer than he was wont. The circumstance of time is to be noted; namely,
soon after he had dismissed his son. For it seems that his great trouble
was immediately followed by this consolation, not only that he might have
some relaxation from continued inconveniences, but that he might be the
more cheerful, and might the more quietly occupy himself in the education
of his little son Isaac. It is however certain, that the covenant was
not, in every respect, an occasion of joy to him; for he perceived that
he was tried by indirect methods, and that there were many persons in
that region, to whom he was disagreeable and hateful. The king, indeed
openly avowed his own suspicions of him: it was, however, the highest
honour, that the king of the p]ace should go, of his own accord, to a
stranger, to enter into a covenant with him. Yet it may be asked, whether
this covenant was made on just and equal conditions, as is the custom
among allies? I certainly do not doubt, that Abraham freely paid due
honour to the king; nor is it probable that the king intended to detract
anything from his own dignity, in order to confer it upon Abraham. What,
then, did he do? Truly, while he allowed Abraham a free dwelling-place,
he would yet hold him bound to himself by an oath.
  "God is with thee in all that thou doest." He commences in friendly and
bland terms; he does not accuse Abraham nor complain that he had
neglected any duty towards himself, but declares that he earnestly
desires his friendship; still the conclusion is, that he wishes to be on
his guard against him. It may then be asked, Whence had he this
suspicion, or fear, first of a stranger, and, secondly, of an honest and
moderate man? In the first place, we know that the heathen are often
anxious without cause, and are alarmed even in seasons of quiet. Next,
Abraham was a man deserving of reverence; the number of servants in his
house seemed like a little nation; and there is no doubt, that his
virtues would acquire for him great dignity; hence it was, that Abimelech
suspected his power. But whereas Abimelech had a private consideration
for himself in this matter; the Lord, who best knows how to direct
events, provided, in this way, for the repose of his servant. We may,
however, learn, from the example of Abraham, if, at any time, the gifts
of God excite the enmity of the men of this world against us, to conduct
ourselves with such moderation, that they may find nothing amiss in us.

23. "That thou wilt not deal falsely with me." Literally it is, 'If thou
shalt lie;' for, among the Hebrews, a defective form of speech is common
in taking oaths, which is to be thus explained: 'If thou shouldst break
the promise given to me, we call upon God to sit as Judge between us, and
to show himself the avenger of perjury.' But 'to lie,' some here take for
dealing unjustly and fraudulently; others for failing in the conditions
of the covenant. I simply understand it as if it were said, 'Thou shalt
do nothing perfidiously with me or with my descendants.' Abimelech also
enumerates his own acts of kindness, the lore effectually to exhort
Abraham to exercise good faith; for, seeing he had been humanely treated,
Abimelech declares it would be an act of base ingratitude if he did not,
in return, endeavour to repay the benefits he had received. The Hebrew
word "chesed" signifies to deal gently or kindly with any one. For
Abimelech did not come to implore compassion of Abraham, but rather to
assert his own royal authority, as will appear from the context.

21. "And Abraham said, I will swear." Although he had the stronger claim
of right, he yet refuses nothing which belonged to the duty of a good and
moderate man. And truly, since it is becoming in the sons of God to be
freely ready for every duty; nothing is more absurd, than for them to
appear reluctant and morose, when what is just is required of them. He
did not refuse to swear, because he knew it to be lawful, that covenants
should be ratified between men, in the sacred name of God. In short, we
see Abraham willingly submitting himself to the laws of his vocation.

25. "And Abraham reproved Abimelech." This complaint seems to be unjust;
for, if he had been injured, why did he not resort to the ordinary
remedy? He knew the king to be humane, to have some seed of piety, and to
have treated himself courteously and honorably; why then does he doubt
that he will prove the equitable defender of his right? If, indeed, he
had chosen rather to smother the injury received, than to be troublesome
to the king, why does he now impute the fault to him, as if he had been
guilty? Possibly, however, Abraham might know that the injury had been
done, through the excessive forbearance of the king. We may assuredly
infer, both from his manners and his disposition, that he did not
expostulate without cause; and hence the moderation of the holy man is
evident; because, when deprived of the use of water, found by his own
industry and labour, he does not contend, as the greatness of the injury
would have justified him in doing; for this was just as if the
inhabitants of the place had made an attempt upon his life. But though he
patiently bore so severe an injury, yet when beyond expectation, the
occasion of taking security is offered, he guards himself from fixture
aggression. We also see how severely the Lord exercised Abraham, as soon
as he appeared to be somewhat more at ease, and had obtained a little
alleviation. Certainly, it was not a light trial, to be compelled to
contend for water; and not for water which was public property but for
that of a well, which he himself had digged.

27. "And Abraham took sheep." Hence it appears that the covenant made,
was not such as is usually entered into between equals: for Abraham
considers his own position, and in token of subjection, offers a gift,
from his flocks, to king Gerar; for, what the Latins call paying tax or
tribute, and what we call doing homage, the Hebrews call offering gifts.
And truly Abraham does not wait till something is forcibly, and with
authority, extorted from him by the king; but, by a voluntary giving of
honour, anticipates him, whom he knows to have dominion over the place.
It is too well known, how great a desire of exercising authority prevails
among men. Hence, the greater praise is due to the modesty of Abraham,
who not only abstains from what belongs to another man; but even offers,
uncommanded, what, in his own mind, he regards as due to another, in
virtue of his office. A further question however arises; since Abraham
knew that the dominion over the land had been divinely committed to him,
whether it was lawful for him to profess a subjection by which he
acknowledged another as lord? But the solution is easy, because the time
of entering into possession had not yet arrived; for he was lord, only in
expectation, while, in fact, he was a pilgrim. Wherefore, he acted
rightly in purchasing a habitation, till the time should come, when what
had been promised to him, should be given to his posterity. Thus, soon
afterwards, as we shall see, he paid a price for his wife's sepulchre. In
short, until he should be placed, by the hand of God, in legitimate
authority over the land he did not scruple to treat with the inhabitants
of the place, that he might dwell among them by permission, or by the
payment of a price.

28. "And Abraham set seven ewe-lambs of the flock by themselves." Moses
recites another chief point of the covenant; namely, that Abraham made
express provision for himself respecting the well, that he should have
free use of its water. And he placed in the midst seven lambs, that the
king being presented with the honorary gift, might approve and ratify the
digging of the well. For the inhabitants might provoke a controversy, on
the ground that it was not lawful for a private man, and a stranger, to
dig a well; but now, when the public authority of the king intervened,
Abraham's peace was consulted, that no one might disturb him. Many
understand lambs here to mean pieces of money coined in the form of
lambs, but since mention has previously been made of sheep and oxen, and
Moses now immediately subjoins that seven lambs are placed apart, it is
absurd, in this connection, to speak of money.

31. "Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba." Moses has once already
called the place by this name, but proleptically. Now, however, he
declares when, and for what reason, the name was given; namely, because
there both he and Abimelech had sworn; therefore I translate the term
'the well of swearing.' Others translate it 'the well of seven.' But
Moses plainly derives the word from swearing; nor is it of any
consequence that the pronunciation slightly varies from grammatical
correctness, which in proper names is not very nicely observed. In fact,
Moses does not restrict the etymology to the well, but comprises the
whole covenant. I do not, however, deny that Moses might allude to the
number seven.

33. "And Abraham planted a grove." It hence appears that more rest was
granted to Abraham, after the covenant was entered into, than he had
hitherto enjoyed; for now he begins to plant trees, which is a sign of a
tranquil and fixed habitation; for we never before read that he planted a
single shrub. Wherefore, we see how far his condition was improved
because he was permitted to lead (as I may say) a settled life. The
assertion, that he "called on the name of the Lord," I thus interpret; he
instituted anew the solemn worship of God, in order to testify his
gratitude. Therefore God, after he had led his servant through
continually winding paths, gave to him some relaxation in his extreme old
age. And he sometimes so deals with his faithful people, that when they
have been tossed by various storms, he at length permits them to breathe
freely. As it respects calling upon God, we know that Abraham, wherever
he went, never neglected this religious duty. Nor was he deterred by
dangers from professing himself a worshipper of the true God; although,
on this account, he was hateful to his neighbours. But as his
conveniences for dwelling in the land increased, he became the more
courageous in professing the worship of God. And because he now lived
more securely under the protection of the king, he perhaps wished to bear
open testimony, that he received even this as from God. For the same
reason, the title of "the everlasting God" seems to be given, as if
Abraham would say, that he had not placed his confidence in an earthly
kings and was not engaging in any new covenant, by which he would be
departing from the everlasting God. The reason why Moses, by the figure
synecdoche, gives to the worship of God the name of invocation, I have
elsewhere explained. Lastly, Abraham is here said to have sojourned in
that land in which he, nevertheless, had a settled abode; whence we
learn, that his mind was not so fixed upon this state of repose, as to
prevent him frown considering what he had before heard from the mouth of
God, that he with his posterity should be strangers till the expiration
of four hundred years.

Chapter XXII.

1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and
said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, [here] I [am].
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only [son] Isaac, whom thou
lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a
burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took
two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for
the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had
told him.

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place
afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I
and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid [it] upon
Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they
went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he
said, Here [am] I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but
where [is] the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt
offering: so they went both of them together.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built
an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and
laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his
11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said,
Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here [am] I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any
thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast
not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind [him] a
ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram,
and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said
[to] this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second
16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou
hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son]:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply
thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which [is] upon the
sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because
thou hast obeyed my voice.
19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went
together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham,
saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother
21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor,
Abraham's brother.
24 And his concubine, whose name [was] Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and
Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.

1. "And it came to pass." This chapter contains a most memorable
narrative. For although Abraham, through the whole course of his life,
gave astonishing proofs of faith and obedience, yet none more excellent
can be imagined than the immolation of his son. For other temptations
with which the Lord had exercised him, tended, indeed, to his
mortification; but this inflicted a wound far more grievous than death
itself. Here, however, we must consider something greater and higher than
the paternal grief rind anguish, which, being produced by the death of an
only son, pierced through the breast of the holy man. It was sad for him
to be deprived of his only son, sadder still that this eon should be torn
away by a violent death, but by far the most grievous that he himself
should be appointed as the executioner to slay him with his own hand.
Other circumstances, which will be noted in their proper place, I now
omit. But all these things, if we compare them with the spiritual
conflict of conscience which he endured, will appear like the mere play,
or shadows of conflicts. For the great source of grief to him was not his
own bereavement, not that he was commanded to slay his only heir, the
hope of future memorial and of name, the glory and support of his family;
but that, in the person of this son, the whole salvation of the world
seemed to be extinguished and to perish. His contest, too, was not with
his carnal passions, but, seeing that he wished to devote himself wholly
to God, his very piety and religion filled him with distracting thoughts.
For God, as if engaging in personal contest with him, requires the death
of the boy, to whose person He himself had annexed the hope of eternal
salvation. So that this latter command was, in a certain sense, the
destruction of faith. This foretaste of the story before us, it was
deemed useful to give to the readers, that they may reflect how deserving
it is of diligent and constant meditation.
  "After these things God did tempt Abraham." The expression, "after
these things," is not to be restricted to his last vision; Moses rather
intended to comprise in one word the various events by which Abraham had
been tossed up and down; and again, the somewhat more quiet state of life
which, in his old age, he had lately begun to obtain. He had passed an
unsettled life in continued exile up to his eightieth year; having been
harassed with many contumelies and injuries, he had endured with
difficulty a miserable and anxious existence, in continual trepidation;
famine had driven him out of the land whither he had gone, by the command
and under the auspices of God, into Egypt. Twice his wife had been torn
from his bosom; he had been separated from his nephew; he had delivered
this nephew, when captured in war, at the peril of his own life. He had
lived childless with his wife, when yet all his hopes were suspended upon
his having offspring. Having at length obtained a son, he was compelled
to disinherit him, and to drive him far from home. Isaac alone remained,
his special but only consolation; be was enjoying peace at home, but now
God suddenly thundered out of heaven, denouncing the sentence of death
upon this son. The meaning, therefore, of the passage is, that by this
temptation, as if by the last act, the faith of Abraham was far more
severely tried than before.
  "God did tempt Abraham." James, in denying that any one is tempted by
God, (James 1: 13,) refutes the profane calumnies of those who, to
exonerate themselves from the blame of their sins, attempt to fix the
charge of them upon God. Wherefore, James truly contends, that those
sins, of which we have the root in our own concupiscence, ought not to be
charged upon another. For though Satan instils his poison, and fans the
flame of our corrupt desires within us, we are yet not carried by any
external force to the commission of sin; but our own flesh entices us,
and we willingly yield to its allurements. This, however is no reason why
God may not be said to tempt us in his own way, just as he tempted
Abraham,--that is, brought him to a severe test,--that he might make full
trial of the faith of his servant.
  "And said unto him." Moses points out the kind of temptation; namely,
that God would shake the faith which the holy man had placed in His word,
by a counter assault of the word itself. He therefore addresses him by
name, that there may be no doubt respecting the Author of the command.
For unless Abraham had been fully persuaded that it was the voice of God
which commanded him to slay his son Isaac, he would have been easily
released from anxiety; for, relying on the certain promise of God, he
would have rejected the suggestion as the fallacy of Satan; and thus,
without any difficulty, the temptation would have been shaken off. But
now all occasion of doubt is removed; so that, without controversy, he
acknowledges the oracle, which he hears, to be from God. Meanwhile, God,
in a certain sense, assumes a double character, that, by the appearance
of disagreement and repugnance in which He presents Himself in his word,
he may distract and wound the breast of the holy man. For the only method
of cherishing constancy of faith, is to apply all our senses to the word
of God. But so great was then the discrepancy of the word, that it would
wound and lacerate the faith of Abraham. Wherefore, there is great
emphasis in the word, "said," because God indeed made trial of Abraham's
faith, not in the usual manner, but by drawing him into a contest with
his own word. Whatever temptations assail us, let us know that the
victory is in our own hands, so long as we are endued with a firm faith;
otherwise, we shall be, by no means, able to resist. If, when we are
deprived of the sword of the Spirit, we are overcome, what would be our
condition were God himself to attack us with the very sword, with which
he had been wont to arm us? This, however, happened to Abraham. The
manner in which Abraham, by faith, wrestled with this temptation, we
shall afterwards see, in the proper place.
  "And he said, Behold, here I am." It hence appears that the holy man
was, in no degree, afraid of the wiles of Satan. For the faithful are not
in such haste to obey God, as to allow a foolish credulity to carry them
away, in whatever direction the breath of a doubtful vision may blow. But
when it was once clear to Abraham, that he was called by God, he
testified, by this answer, his prompt desire to yield obedience. For the
expression before us is as much as if he said, Whatever God may have been
pleased to command, I am perfectly ready to carry into effect. And,
truly, he does not wait till God should expressly enjoin this or the
other thing, but promises that he will be simply, and without exception,
obedient in all things. This, certainly, is true subjection, when we are
prepared to act, before the will of God is known to us. We find, indeed,
all men ready to boast that they will do as Abraham did; but when it
comes to the trial, they shrink from the yoke of God. But the holy man,
soon afterwards, proves, by his very act, how truly and seriously he had
professed, that he, without delay, and without disputation, would subject
himself to the hand of God.

2. "Take now thy son." Abraham id commanded to immolate his son. If God
had said nothing more than that his son should die, even this message
would have most grievously wounded his mind; because, whatever favour he
could hope for from God, was included in this single promise, "In Isaac
shall thy seed be called." Whence he necessarily inferred, that his own
salvation, and that of the whole human race, would perish, unless Isaac
remained in safety. For he was taught, by that word, that God would not
be propitious to man without a Mediator. For although the declaration of
Paul, that 'all the promises of God in Christ are yea and Amen,' was not
yet written, (2 Cor. 1: 20,) it was nevertheless engraven on the heart of
Abraham. Whence, however, could he have had this hope, but from Isaac?
The matter had come to this; that God would appear to have done nothing
but mock him. Yet not only is the death of his son announced to him, but
he is commanded with his own hand to slay him, as if he were required,
not only to throw aside, but to cut in pieces, or cast into the fire, the
charter of his salvation, and to have nothing left for himself, but death
and hell. But it may be asked, how, under the guidance of faith, he could
be brought to sacrifice his son, seeing that what was proposed to him,
was in opposition to that word of God, on which it is necessary for faith
to rely? To this question the Apostle answers, that his confidence in the
word of God remained unshaken; because he hoped that God would be able to
cause the promised benediction to spring up, even out of the dead ashes
of his son. (Heb. 11: 19.) His mind, however, must of necessity have been
severely crushed, and violently agitated, when the command and the
promise of God were conflicting within him. But when he had come to the
conclusion, that the God with whom he knew he had to do, could not be his
adversary; although he did not immediately discover how the contradiction
might be removed, he nevertheless, by hope, reconciled the command with
the promise; because, being indubitably persuaded that God was faithful,
he left the unknown issue to Divine Providence. Meanwhile, as with closed
eyes, he goes whither he is directed. The truth of God deserves this
honour; not only that it should far transcend all human means, or that it
alone, even without means, should suffice us, but also that it should
surmount all obstacles. Here, then, we perceive, more clearly, the nature
of the temptation which Moses has pointed out. It was difficult and
painful to Abraham to forget that he was a father and a husband; to cast
off all human affections; and to endure, before the world, the disgrace
of shameful cruelty, by becoming the executioner of his son. But the
other was a far more severe and horrible thing; namely, that he conceives
God to contradict Himself and His own word; and then, that he supposes
the hope of the promised blessing to be cut off from him, when Isaac is
torn away from his embrace. For what more could he have to do with God,
when the only pledge of grace is taken away? But as before, when he
expected seed from his own dead body, he, by hope, rose above what it
seemed possible to hope for; so now, when, in the death of his son, he
apprehends the quickening power of God, in such a manner, as to promise
himself a blessing out of the ashes of his son, he emerges from the
labyrinth of temptation; for, in order that he might obey God, it was
necessary that he should tenaciously hold the promise, which, had it
failed, faith must have perished. But with him the promise always
flourished; because he both firmly retained the love with which God had
once embraced him, and subjected to the power of God everything which
Satan raised up to disturb his mind. But he was unwilling to measure, by
his own understanding, the method of fulfilling the promise, which he
knew depended on the incomprehensible power of God. It remains for every
one of us to apply this example to himself. The Lord, indeed, is so
indulgent to our infirmity, that he does not thus severely and sharply
try our faith: yet he intended, in the father of all the faithful, to
propose an example by which he might call us to a general trial of faith.
For the faith, which is more precious than gold and silver, ought not to
lie idle, without trial; and experience teaches, that each will be tried
by God, according to the measure of his faith. At the same time, also, we
may observe, that God tempts his servants, not only when he subdues the
affections of the flesh, but when he reduces all their senses to nothing,

(continued in part 32...)

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