Abraham, Abraham
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Services, Apr 2013 to Feb 2014
Part 1 of 3


According to Dr E.W. Bullinger, who wrote the classic reference book entitled, “Figures of Speech used in the Bible,” the repetition of names belongs to the larger category of figures of speech known as duplication, which involves the repetition of the same word in the same sense. Under this category of duplication, when the word is repeated in close and immediate succession, no other word or words coming between, it is called Geminatio or Iteratio or Conduplicatio.

Dr Bullinger observes that there are ten occurrences of this figure of speech in the Bible involving names. Seven of these are used by God to man (four in the OT and three in the NT), and the other three being used under other circumstances. He writes, “When thus used, the figure calls special attention to the occasion or to the person, and to some solemn moment of importance in the action, or of significance in the words.”

According to him the ten occurrences involving name repetitions in the Bible are:

(1) Abraham, Abraham (Gen. 22:11)

(2) Jacob, Jacob (Gen 46:2)

(3) Moses, Moses (Exo 3:4)

(4) Samuel, Samuel (1 Sam. 3:10)

(5) Martha, Martha (Luke 10:41)

(6) Simon, Simon (Luke 22:31)

(7) Saul, Saul (Acts 9:4)

(8) Lord, Lord (Matt. 7:21-22, Luke 6:46, 13:25)

(9) Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Matt 23:37, Luke 13:34)

(10) Eli, Eli (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34, Ps 22:1)

In this series of articles, we’ll be looking at each of these passages as well as some others involving word repetitions. We begin with the story of Abraham in Genesis 22 where the LORD instructed him to offer up Isaac.

Context

Much of the biblical record of the life of Abraham, thus far, has to do with Abraham’s waiting for the arrival of his promised son. From the day that the LORD called Abraham, He promised to make of him a great nation. Abraham was 75 years old at that time and his wife was barren and childless. Many things happened between then and the eventual arrival of the promised son almost 25 years later.

The beginning of chapter 21, which records the birth of Isaac, marks the end of a long wait, and not only that but it also provides the resolution to the tension that existed between God’s promise and reality. The seemingly impossible gap between promise and reality was finally bridged when Sarah gave birth to Isaac.

But now at the beginning of chapter 22, once more, tension and conflict enters into the narrative. The gap between promise and reality reopened in what was to be the climax of Abraham’s spiritual life and journey. 

Genesis 22:1-19 may be divided into three parts. First, preparation for sacrifice (vv. 1-9), second, the sacrifice itself (vv. 10-14), and third, the blessing of obedience (vv. 15-19).

We’ll consider just the first part in this article.

Preparation for sacrifice
(vv. 1-9)

Verse 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.”

The phrase “After these things” refers to the events recorded in the previous chapter, particularly, the birth of Isaac and the sending away of Ishmael. Quite a few years had passed since then. Isaac was no longer an infant or even a toddler. According to verse 6, he was old and strong enough to carry the wood that Abraham had prepared for the burnt offering.

We are told in verse 1 that God tempted Abraham. The word “tempt” can be translated “test.” In Hebrew, the way the sentence is formed gives emphasis to the fact that it was God who was testing Abraham. This was not Satan tempting Abraham like how he tempted Job. No, God was the one who initiated this test. He called out to him, ‘Abraham,’ and Abraham responded to the familiar voice of God with “Behold, here I am.”

The LORD then 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.”

This command from God must have been very perplexing to Abraham for at least two reasons. First, it seemed to go contrary to God’s law. God had earlier said to Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Later on in Deuteronomy 12:31, the Lord would express His hatred not only for murder but also for child sacrifice. We read, “Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” Child sacrifice was an abomination to the LORD. So the command to offer his son up as a burnt offering must have perplexed Abraham because it didn’t seem to fit with the revealed will of God.

But secondly, the command was perplexing because of the significance of Isaac for the covenant. This was no ordinary child. This was THE seed and THE child of promise. He was a very vital link in the whole chain of promises that God had earlier given to Him. Isaac was the embodiment of all God’s promises. Without Isaac, there would be no Messiah and no salvation and no blessing for the world.

Now notice the way that the LORD spoke to Abraham about Isaac in verse 2. He said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest…” Abraham would have gladly given up his own life for his only son, whom he loved dearly. However, the LORD did not give him that option.

Well, Abraham’s response is recorded in verse 3. He rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, took two of his young men and Isaac his son, and cut enough wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place that God had told him about.

No words from Abraham’s lips are recorded. Just actions. Here is the man who interceded for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Six times, he pleaded with the Lord not to destroy them if a certain number of righteous persons could be found in them. However, on this occasion, Abraham is strangely quiet. There are times when actions do indeed speak louder than words, and there are times when actions are all that are needed. Abraham’s actions reflected prompt obedience and humble submission to the will of God.

So Abraham and his band went on their journey. On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. He then said to his young men, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” This final part of the journey would involve only himself and his son. The two servants would have no part to play except to wait until Abraham and Isaac had finished worshipping the LORD and returned to them. Both the verbs “worship” and “come back” are in the 1st person plural. “We will go over and worship, and we will come back to you.”

According to Hebrews 11:17-19, we learn that Abraham really believed that he and Isaac would return. He may not have known how things would turn out and he certainly did not receive any explicit promise from God concerning a resurrection. Nevertheless, he believed that God would do what is good and right. He reasoned that God had the power to raise the dead, and that if necessary, He could do that for Isaac. He knew and believed that God’s promise concerning Isaac and God’s command to kill Isaac were not contradictory even though he did not understand everything that was going on. He simply believed God’s word and responded in obedience to it, and left the resolution of the problem in the hands of God.

In verse 6, Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and placed it on Isaac while he himself carried the fire and the knife, and the two of them went together, and as they went, Isaac said to Abraham his father, “My father:” and Abraham said, “Here am I, my son.” And Isaac said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

What a heart wrenching question that must have been! But Abraham calmly and wisely replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:” so they went both of them together. Isaac was satisfied with his father’s answer and didn’t ask further.

Verse 9 says, “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.”

That place which God had told him of was the very place where Solomon, almost a thousand years later, would build the temple of the LORD. Upon his arrival at Mount Moriah or Jerusalem, Abraham goes about to build an altar using the wood that he had brought.

Then when the altar had been constructed, Abraham bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Isaac could have resisted but he did not. He had full confidence that his father would do what is right and best. 

Thus, all the necessary preparations for the sacrifice had been completed. Now, all that was left to do was to actually carry out the sacrifice….

… to be continued

Ps. Linus Chua