I'saac (Heb. Yitschak', יַצחָק, laughter, in the poet. books sometimes יַשׂחָק, Yischak', Ps 105:9; Jer 33:26; Am 7:9,16, in the last two passages spoken of the Israelitish nation; Sept. and N.T. Ι᾿σαάκ, Joseph. Ι᾿σακος, Ant. 1, 10, 5), the only son of Abraham by Sarah, and the middle one of the three patriarchs who are so often named together as the progenitors of the Jewish race.
I. Personal History. — The following are the facts which the Bible supplies of the longest-lived of the three patriarchs, the least migratory, the least prolific, and the least favored with extraordinary divine revelations. A few events in this quiet life have occasioned discussion.
1. The promise of a son had been made to his parents when Abraham was visited by the Lord in the plains of Mamre, and appeared so unlikely to be fulfilled, seeing that both Abraham and Sarah were "well stricken in years," that its utterance caused the latter to laugh incredulously (Ge 18:1 sq.). B.C. 2064. Being reproved for her unbelief, she denied that she had laughed. The reason assigned for the special visitation thus promised was, in effect, that Abraham was pious, and would train his offspring in piety, so that he would become the founder of a great nation, and all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him. SEE ABRAHAM. In due time Sarah gave birth to a son, who received the name of Isaac (Ge 21:1-3). B.C. 2063. This event occurred at Gerar. Isaac was thus emphatically the child of promise. Born, as he was, out of due time, when his father was a hundred years old and his mother ninety, the parents themselves laughed with a kind of incredulous joy at the thought of such a prodigy (Ge 17:17; Ge 18:12), and-referring to the marvelousness of the event when it had actually taken place, Sarah said that not only she, but all who heard of it, would be disposed to laugh (Ge 21:6). The name Isaac, therefore, was fitly chosen by God for the child, in commemoration of the extraordinary, supernatural nature of the birth, and of the laughing joy which it occasioned to those more immediately interested in it. This signification of Isaac's name is thrice alluded to (Ge 17:17; Ge 18:12; Ge 21:6). Josephus (Ant. 1, 12, 2) refers to the second of those passages for the origin of the name; Jerome (Quaest. Hebr. in Genesis) vehemently confines it to the first; Ewald (Gesch. 1, 425), without assigning reasons, gives it as his opinion that all three passages have been added by different writers to the original record. There need be no dispute as to which of these passages the import of the name refers; it includes a reference to them all, besides according with and expressing the happy, cheerful disposition of the bearer, and suggesting the relation in which he stood, as the seed of Abraham, the channel of the promised blessing, and the type of him who is pre-eminently the Seed, whose birth has put laughter into the hearts of myriads of our race. The preternatural birth of Isaac was a sign from heaven at the outset, indicating what kind of seed God expected as the fruit of the covenant, and what powers would be required for its production-that it should be a seed at once coming in the course of nature, and yet in some sense above nature-the special gift and offspring of God. When Isaac was eight days old he received circumcision, and was thus received into the covenant made with his father; while his mother's skeptical laughter was turned into triumphant exultation and joy in God (Ge 21:4-7). (See De Wette., Krit. p. 133 sq.; Ewald, Gesch. 1, 388; Hartmann, Ueber d. Pentat. p. 269; Lengerke, Ken. p. 290; Niemeyer, Charact. 2, 160.) SEE NAME.
2. The first noticeable circumstance in the life of Isaac took place in connection with his weaning. This precise age at the time is not given, but we may suppose him to have been (according to Eastern custom) fully two years old. In honor of the occasion Abraham made 'a great feast, as an expression, no doubt, of his joy that the child had reached this fresh stage in his career-was no longer a suckling, but capable of self-sustenance, and a certain measure of independent action. For the parents, and those who sympathized with them, it would naturally be a feast of laughter-the laughter of mirth and joy; but there was one in the family--Ishmael-to whom it was no occasion of gladness, who saw himself supplanted in the more peculiar honors of the house by this younger brother, and who mocked while others laughed-himself, indeed, laughed (for it is the same word still, מצִֵחק, Ge 21:9), but with the envious and scornful air which betrayed the alien and hostile spirit that lurked in his bosom. He must have been a well-grown boy at the time; and Sarah, descrying in the manifestations then given the sure presage of future rivalry and strife, urged Abraham to cast forth the bondmaid and her son, since the one could not be a co-heir with the other. Abraham, it would seem, hesitated for a time about the matter, feeling pained at the thought of having Ishmael separated from the household, and only complied when he received an explicit warrant and direction from above. At the same time, he got the promise, as the ground of the divine procedure, "For in Isaac shall thy seed be called," that is, in Isaac (as contradistinguished from Ishmael. or any other son) shall the seed of blessing that is to hold of thee as a father have its commencement. It is probable that Abraham needed to have this truth brought sharply out to him, for correction on the one side, as well as for consolation and hope on the other, as his paternal feelings may have kept him from apprehending the full scope of former revelations concerning the son of Hagar. The high purposes of God were involved in the matter, and the yearnings of natural affection must give way, that these might be established. In the transactions themselves the apostle Paul perceived a revelation of the truth for all times-especially in regard to the natural enmity of the heart to the things of God, and the certainty with which, even when wearing the badge of a religious profession, it may be expected to vent its malice and opposition towards the true children of God (Ro 9:7,10; Ga 4:28; Heb 11:18). The seed of blessing, those who are supernaturally born of God, like Isaac, and have a special interest in the riches of his goodness, are sure to be eyed with jealousy, and, in one form or another, persecuted by those who, with a name to live, still walk after the flesh (Ga 4:21-31). SEE ISHMAEL.
It has been asked, what were the persecutions sustained by Isaac from Ishmael to which Paul refers (Ga 4:29)? If, as is generally supposed, he refers to Ge 21:9, then the word מצִהֵק, παίζοντα, may be translated mocking, as in the A.V., or insulting, as in 39:14, and in that case the trial of Isaac was by means of "cruel mockings" (ἐμπαιγυῶν), in the language of the Epistle to the Heb 11:36. Or the word may include the signification paying idolatrous worship, as in Ex 32:6; or fighting, as in 2Sa 2:14. These three significations are given by Jarchi, who relates a Jewish tradition (quoted more briefly by Wetstein on Ga 4:29) of Isaac suffering personal violence from Ishmael, a tradition which, as Mr. Ellicott thinks, was adopted by Paul. The English reader who is content with our own version, or the scholar who may prefer either of the other renderings of Jarchi, will be at no loss to connect Galatians 9:29 with Ge 21:9. But Origen (in Genesis Hon. 7, § 3), and Augustine (Sereno 3), and apparently Prof. Jowett (on Ga 4:29), not observing that the gloss of the Sept. and the Latin versions "playing with her son Isaac" forms no part of the simple statement in Genesis, and that the words מצִחֵק, παίζοντα, are not to be confined to the meaning "playing," seem to doubt (as Mr. Ellicott does on other grounds) whether the passage in Genesis bears the construction apparently put upon it by St. Paul. On the other hand, Rosenmüller (Schol. in Genesis 21:9) even goes so far as to characterize ἐδίωκε - "persecuted"-as a very excellent interpretation of מצִחֵק (See Drusius on Ge 21:9, in Crit. Sacr., and Estius on Ga 4:29.)
What effect the companionship of the wild and wayward Ishmael might have had on Isaac it is not easy to say; but his expulsion was, no doubt, ordered by God for the good of the child of promise, and most probably saved him from many an annoyance and sorrow. Freed from such evil influence, the child grew up under the nurturing care of his fond parents, mild and gentle, loving and beloved.
3. The next recorded event in the life of Isaac is the memorable one connected with the command of God to offer him up as a sacrifice on a mountain in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22). B.C. cir. 2047. Nothing is said of his age at the time except that he is called "a lad" (נִצִד), perhaps sixteen years of age. According to Josephus (Ant. 1, 13, 2), he was twenty- five years old. That Isaac knew nothing of the relation in which he personally stood to the divine command, came affectingly out in the question he put to his father while they journeyed together, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Even then the secret was not disclosed to him; and only, it would appear, when the act itself was in process of being consummated, did the fearful truth burst upon his soul that he was himself to be the victim on the altar. Yet the sacred narrative tells of no remonstrant struggle on the part of this child of promise, no strivings for escape, no cries of agony or pleadings for deliverance: he seems to have surrendered himself as a willing sacrifice to the call of Heaven and to have therein showed how thoroughly in him, as in his believing parent, the mind of the flesh had become subordinate to the mind of the spirit. To act thus was to prove himself the fitting type of him who had the law of God in his heart, and came to do, not his own will, but the will of him that sent him. But the death itself, which was to prove the life of the world, it belonged to the antitype, not to the type, to accomplish. The ram provided by God in the thicket must meanwhile take the place of the seed of blessing. In the surrender by the father of his "only son," the concurrence of the son's will with the father's, the sacrificial death which virtually took place, and the resurrection from the dead, whence Abraham received his son "in figure" (Heb 11:19), are all points of analogy which cannot be overlooked.
The offering up of Isaac by Abraham has been viewed in various lights. It is the subject of five dissertations by Frischmuth in the Thes. Theol. Philol. p. 197 (attached to Crit. Sacri; originally Jena, 1662-5, 4to). By bishop Warburton (Div. Leg. b. 6:§ 5) the whole transaction was regarded as "merely an information by action (comp. Jer 27:2; Eze 12:3; Ho 1:2), instead of words, of the great sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of mankind, given at the earnest request of Abraham, who longed impatiently to see Christ's day." This view is adopted by dean Graves (On the Pentateuch, pt. 3:§ 4), and has become popular. But it is pronounced to be unsatisfactory by Davidson (Primitive Sacrifice, pt. 4:§ 2), who, pleading for the progressive communication of the knowledge of the Christian atonement, protests against the assumption of a contemporary disclosure of the import of the sacrifice to Abraham, and points out that no expiation or atonement was joined with this emblematic oblation, which consequently symbolized only the act, not the power or virtue of the Christian sacrifice. Mr. Maurice (Patriarchs and Lawgivers, 4) draws attention to the offering of Isaac as the last and culminating point (compare' Eald, Geschichte, 1, 430-4) in the divine education of Abraham, that which taught him the meaning and ground of self-sacrifice. The same line of thought is followed up in a very instructive and striking sermon on the sacrifice of Abraham in Doctrine of Sacrifice, 3, 33-48. Some German writers have spoken of the whole transaction as a dream (Eichhorn, Biblioth. f. bibl. Liter. 1, 45 sq.), or a myth (De Wette), or as the explanation of a hieroglyph (Otman, in Henke's Magazine, 2, 517), and treat other events in Isaac's life as slips of the pen of a Jewish transcriber. Even the merit of novelty cannot be claimed for such views, which appear to have been in some measure forestalled in the time of Augustine (Sermo 2, De tentatione Abrahae). They are, of course, irreconcilable with the declaration of St. James, that it was a work by which Abraham was justified. Eusebius (Praep. Evang. 4:16, and 1, 10) has preserved a singular and inaccurate version of the offering of Isaac in an extract from the ancient Phoenician historian Sanchoniathon; but it is absurd to suppose that the widely-spread (see Ewald, Alterthümer, p. 79, and Thomson's Bampton Lectures, 1853, p. 38) heathen practice of sacrificing human beings (so Bruns, in Paulus's Memorab. 6:1 sq.) received any encouragement from a sacrifice which Abraham was forbidden to accomplish (see Waterland, Works, 4:203). Some writers have found for this transaction a kind of parallel-it amounts to no more-in the classical legends of Iphigenia and Phrixus (so Rosenmüller, Morgenl. 1, 95), etc. (see J. G. Michaelis, De Abr. et Is. a Graecis in Hyrilum et Orionem conversis, Freft. a. O. 1721; Zeibich, Isaaci ortus in fubula Orionis vestigia. Ger. 1776). The story of Iphigenia, which inspired the devout Athenian dramatist with sublime notions of the import of sacrifice and suffering (AEsch. Again. 147, et seq.), supplied the Roman infidel only with a keen taunt against religion (Lucret. 1, 102), just as the great trial which perfected the faith of Abraham and molded the character of Isaac draws from the Romanized Jew of the first century a rhetorical exhibition of his own acquaintance with the meaning of sacrifice (see Joseph. Ant. 1, 13, 3). The general aim of certain writers has been, as they consider it, to relieve the Bible from the odium which the narrated circumstances are in their opinion fitted to occasion. That the passage is free from every possible objection it may be too much to assert: it is, however, equally clear that many of the objections taken to it arise from viewing the facts from a wrong position, or under the discoloring medium of a foregone and adverse conclusion. The only proper way is to consider it as it is represented in the sacred page. The command, then, was expressly designated to try Abraham's faith. Destined as the patriarch was to be the father of the faithful, was he worthy of his high and dignified position? If his own obedience was weak, he could not train others in faith, trust, and love: hence a trial was necessary. That he was not without holy dispositions was already known, and indeed recognized in the divine favors of which he had been the object; but was he prepared to do and to suffer all God's will? Religious perfection and his position alike demanded a perfect heart: hence the kind of trial. If he were willing to surrender even his only child, and act himself both as offerer and priest in the sacrifice of the required victim, if he could so far conquer his natural affections, so subdue the father in his heart, then there could be no doubt that his will was wholly reconciled to God's, and that he was worthy of every trust, confidence, and honor (comp. Jas 2:21). The trial was made, the fact was ascertained, but the victim was not slain. What is there in this to which either religion or morality can take exception? This view is both confirmed and justified by the words of God (Ge 22:16 sq.), "Because thou hast not withheld thy only son, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." We remark, also, that not a part, out the whole of the transaction must be taken under consideration, and especially the final result. If we dwell exclusively on the commencement of it, there appears to be some sanction given to human sacrifices; but the end, and the concluding and ever-enduring fact, has the directly opposite bearing. Viewed as a whole, the transaction is, in truth, an express prohibition of human sacrifices. Nothing but a clear command from God could have suggested such a service. "A craving to please, or propitiate, or communicate with the powers above" by surrendering "an object near and dear" to one, which canon Stanley erroneously says is the "source of all sacrifice," and to which he attributes Abraham's conduct in the present case (History of the Jewish Church, 1, 47), could never have led to such an act. — The idea is wholly improbable and irrational. Kurtz maintains that the basis for this trial of Abraham was laid in the state of mind produced in him by beholding the Canaanitish human sacrifices around him. His words are: "These Canaanitish sacrifices of children, and the readiness with which the heathen around him offered them, must have excited in Abraham a contest of thoughts.... and induced him to examine himself whether he also were capable of sufficient renunciation and self- denial to do, if his God demanded it, what the heathen around him were doing. Butt if this question was raised in the heart of Abraham, it must also have been brought to a definite settlement through some outward fact. Such was the basis for the demand of God so far as Abraham was concerned, and such the educational motive for his trial. The obedience of Abraham's faith must, in energy and entireness, not lag behind that which the religion of nature demanded and obtained from its professors. Abraham must be ready to do for his God what the nations around him were capable of doing for their false gods. In every respect Abraham, as the hero of faith, is to out-distance all others in self-denial" (Hist. of the 0. Coven. 1, 269). Objectively, the transaction was intended to recognize the element of truth in human sacrifices, while condemning the sacrifices themselves (p. 269,270). SEE SACRIFICE.
4. Isaac passed his early days under the eye of his father, engaged in the care of flocks and herds up and down the plains of Canaan. At length his father wished to see him married. Abraham therefore gave a commission to his oldest and most trustworthy servant to the effect that, in order to prevent Isaac from taking a wife from among the daughters of the Canaanites, he should proceed into Mesopotamia, and, under the divine direction, choose a partner among his own relatives for his beloved son.
Rebekah, in consequence, becomes Isaac's wife, when he was forty years of age (Genesis 24). B.C. 2023. In connection with this marriage an event is recorded which displays the peculiar character of Isaac, while it is in keeping with the general tenor of the sacred record regarding him. Probably in expectation of the early return of his father's messenger, and somewhat solicitous as to the result of the embassy, he went out to meditate in the field at the eventide. While there engaged in tranquil thought, he chanced to raise his eyes, when lo! he beheld the retinue near at hand, and soon conducted his bride into his mother's tent. In unison with all this is the simple declaration of the history, that Isaac "loved her." Isaac was evidently a man of kind and gentle disposition, of a calm and reflective turn of mind, simple in his habits, having few wants, good rather than great, fitted to receive impressions and follow a guide, not to originate important influences, or perform deeds of renown. If his character did not take a bent from the events connected with his father's readiness to offer him on Mount Moriah, certainly its passiveness is in entire agreement with the whole tenor of his conduct, as set forth in that narrative. (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. ad loc.)
Isaac having, in conjunction with his half-brother Ishmael, buried Abraham his father, "in a good old age, in the cave of Machpelah," took up a somewhat permanent residence "by the well Lahai-roi," where, being blessed of God, he lived in prosperity and at ease' (Ge 25:7-11). B.C. 1988. One source of regret, however, he deeply felt. Rebekah was barren. In time, however, two sons, Jacob and Esau, were granted to his prayers (Ge 25:21-26). B.C. 2003. As the boys grew, Isaac gave a preference to Esau, who seems to have possessed those robust qualities of character in which his father was defective, and therefore gratified him by such dainties as the pursuits of the chase enabled the youth to offer; while Jacob, "a plain man, dwelling in tents," was an object of special regard to Rebekah — a division of feeling and a kind of partiality which became the source of much domestic unhappiness, as well as of jealousy and hatred between the two sons (Ge 25:27-28). SEE ESAU.
5. The life of Isaac, moreover, was not passed wholly without trials coming in from without. , A famine compels him to seek food in some foreign land (Ge 26:1 sq.). B.C. cir.: 1985. At the occurrence of this famine Isaac was expressly admonished by God not to go down into Egypt, but to abide within the boundaries of the Promised Land; and occasion was taken to renew the promise to him and his seed, and to confirm in his behalf the oath which had been made to his father. The Lord pledged his word to be with him and to bless him in the land-which he certainly did, though Isaac did not feel so secure of the promised guardianship and 'support as to be able to avoid falling into the snare which had also caught his father Abraham. When sojourning in the neighborhood of Gerar, during the prevalence of the famine, and no doubt observing the wickedness of the place, he had the weakness to call Rebekah his sister, in fear that the people might kill him on her account, if they knew her to be his wife. It does not appear that any violence was offered to Rebekah; and the Philistine king, on discovering, as he did, from the familiar bearing of Isaac towards Rebekah, that she must be his wife, simply rebuked him for having, by his prevarication, given occasion to a misapprehension which might have led to serious consequences (Ge 26:10).
No passage of his life has produced more reproach to Isaac's character than this. Abraham's conduct while in Egypt (ch. 12) and in Gerar (ch. 20), where he concealed the closer connection between himself and his wife, was imitated by Isaac in Gerar. On the one hand, this has been regarded by avowed adversaries of Christianity as involving the guilt of "lying and endeavoring to betray the wife's chastity," and even by Christians, undoubtedly zealous for truth and right, as the conduct of "a very poor, paltry earthworm, displaying cowardice, selfishness, readiness to put his wife in a terrible hazard for his own sake." But, on the other hand, with more reverence, more kindness, and quite as much probability, Waterland, who is no indiscriminate apologist for the errors of good men, after a minute examination of the circumstances, concludes that the patriarch did "right to evade the difficulty so long as it could lawfully be evaded, and to await and see whether divine Providence might not, some way or other, interpose before the last extremity. The event answered. God did interpose" (Scripture Vindicated, in Works, 4:188, 190).
There is no improbability, as has been asserted, that the same sort of event should happen in rude times at different intervals, and, therefore, no reason for maintaining that these events have the same historical basis, 'and are, in fact, the same event differently represented. Neither is it an unfair assumption that Abimelech was the common title of the kings of Gerar, as Pharaoh was of the kings of Egypt, or that it may have been the proper name of several kings in succession, as George has been of several English kings.
In all respects except this incident, Isaac's connection with the Philistine territory was every way creditable 'to himself, and marked with tokens of the divine favor. He cultivated a portion of ground, and in the same year reaped a hundred fold-a remarkable increase, to 'encourage him to abide under God's protection in Canaan. His flocks and herds multiplied exceedingly, so that he rose to the possession of very great wealth; he even became, on account of it, an object of envy to the Philistines, who could not rest till they drove him from their territory. He reopened the wells which his father had digged, and which the Philistines had meanwhile filled up, and himself dug several new ones, but they disputed with him the right of possession, and obliged him to withdraw from them one after another. Finally, at a greater distance, he dug a well, which he was allowed to keep unmolested; and in token of his satisfaction at 'the peace he enjoyed, he called it Rehoboth (room) (Ge 25:22). Thence he returned to Beersheba, where the Lord again appeared to him, and gave him a fresh assurance of the covenant-blessing; and Abimelech, partly ashamed of the unkind treatment Isaac had received, and partly desirous of standing well with one who was so evidently prospering in his course, sent some of his leading men to enter formally into a covenant of peace with him. Isaac showed his meek and kindly disposition in giving courteous entertainment to the messengers, and cordially agreed to their proposal It was probably a period considerably later still than even the latest of these transactions to which the next notice in the life of Isaac must be referred. This is the marriage of Esau to two of the daughters of Canaam (Judith and Bashemath), which is assigned to the fortieth year of Esau's life, coeval with Isaac's hundredth. These alliances were far from giving satisfaction to the aged patriarch; on the contrary, they were a grief of mind to him and his wife Rebekah (Ge 26:35).
6. The last prominent event in the life of Isaac is the blessing of his sons (Ge 27:1 sq.). B.C. 1927. It has been plausibly suggested (Browne, Ordo Saeclorum, p. 310) that the forebodings of a speedy demise (ver. 2) on the part of Isaac, whose health always appears to have been delicate (Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. ad loc.), may have arisen from the fact that his brother Ishmael died at the age he had just now reached (Ge 25:17), although he himself survived this point for many years (Ge 35:28). When old and dim of sight (which fails much sooner in Eastern countries than with us), supposing that the time of his departure was at hand, he called for his beloved son Esau, and sent him to "take some venison" for him, and to make his favorite "savory meat," that he might eat and "bless" him before his death. Esau prepared to obey his father's will, and set forth to the field; but through the deceptions stratagem of Rebekah the 'savory meat" was provided before Esau's return; and Jacob, disguised so as to resemble his hairy brother, imposed on his father, and obtained the blessing. Yet, on the discovery of the cheat, when Esau brought in to his father the dish he had prepared, Isaac, remembering no doubt the prediction that "the elder should: serve the younger," and convinced that God intended the blessing for Jacob, would not, perhaps rather could not, reverse the solemn words he had uttered, but bestowed an inferior blessing on Esau (comp. Heb 12:17). SEE EDOM. This paternal blessing, if full, conveyed, as was usual, the right of headship in the family, together with the chief possessions. In the blessing which the aged patriarch pronounced on Jacob, it deserves notice how entirely the wished-for good is of an earthly and temporal nature, while the imagery which is employed serves to show the extent to which the poetical element prevailed as a constituent part of the Hebrew character (Ge 27:27 sq.). Most natural, too, is the extreme agitation of the poor blind old man on discovering the cheat which had been put upon him. All the parties to this nefarious transaction were signally punished by divine Providence (comp. Jarvis, Church of the Redeemed, p. 47). The entire passage is of itself enough to vindicate the historical character and entire credibility of those sketches of the lives of the patriarchs, which Genesis presents.
Yet Isaac's tacit acquiescence in the conduct of his sons has been brought into discussion. Fairbairn (Typology, 1, 334) seems scarcely justified by facts in his conclusion that the later days of Isaac did not fulfill the promise of his earlier; that, instead of reaching to high attainments in faith, he fell into general feebleness and decay moral and bodily, and made account only of the natural element in judging of his sons. The inexact translation (to modern ears) of צִיַד, prey taken in hunting, by "venison" (Ge 25:28), may have contributed to form, in the minds of English readers, a low opinion of Isaac. Nor can that opinion be supported by a reference to 27:4; for Isaac's desire at such a time for savory meat may have sprung either from a dangerous sickness under which he was laboring (Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences, pt. 1, ch. 6), or from the same kind of impulse preceding inspiration as prompted Elisha (2Ki 3:15) to demand the soothing influence of music before he spoke the word of the Lord. For sadness and grief are enumerated in the Gemara among the impediments to the exercise of the gift of prophecy (Smith's Select Discourses, 6:245). The reader who bears in mind the peculiarities of Isaac's character will scarcely infer from those passages any fresh accession of mental or moral feebleness. Such a longing in an old man was innocent enough, and indicated nothing of a spirit of self-indulgence. It was an extraordinary case, too, and Kalisch sets it in its true light: "The venison is evidently like a sacrifice offered by the recipient of the blessing, and ratifying the proceedings; and hence Jacob killed and prepared two kids of the goats (verse 9), whereas, for an ordinary meal, one would have been more than sufficient; it imparted to the ceremony, in certain respects, the character of a covenant (comp. 21:27-30; 26:30; Ex 12:2; Ex 24:5-11, etc.); the one party showed ready obedience and sincere affection, while the other accepted the gift, and granted in return the whole store of happiness he was able to bequeath. Thus the meal which Isaac required has a double meaning, both connected with the internal organism of the book" (Comms. on Genesis 27:1-4).
7. The stealing, on the part of Jacob, of his father's blessing having angered Esau, who seems to have looked forward to Isaac's death as affording an opportunity for taking vengeance on his unjust brother, the aged patriarch is induced, at his wife's entreaty, to send Jacob into Mesopotamia, that, after his own example, his son might take a wife from among his kindred and people, "of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's brother" (Ge 27:41-46). B.C. 1927. SEE JACOB.
This is the last important act recorded of Isaac. Jacob having, agreeably to his father's command, married into Laban's family, returned after some time, and found the old man at Mamre, in the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned (Ge 35:27). B.C. cir. 1898. Here, "being old and full of days" (180), Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (Ge 35:28). B.C. 1883.
In the N.T. reference is made to the offering of Isaac (Heb 11:17, and James 2, 21) and to his blessing his sons (Heb 11:20). As the child of the promise, and as the progenitor of the children of the promise, he is contrasted with Ishmael (Ro 9:7,10; Ga 4:28; Heb 11:18). In our Lord's remarkable argument with the Sadducees, his history is carried beyond the point at which it is left in- the O.T., into and beyond the grave. Isaac, of whom it was said (Ge 35:29) that he was gathered to his people, is represented as still living to God (Lu 20:38, etc.); and by the 'same divine authority he is proclaimed as an acknowledged heir of future glory (Mt 8:11, etc.).
II. His Character. — Isaac, the gentle and dutiful son, the faithful and constant husband (see Becker, De Isaaco, etc., Greifsw. 1750), became the father of a house in which order did not reign. If there were any very prominent points in his character, they were not brought out by the circumstances in which he was placed. He appears less as a man of action than as a man of suffering, from which he is generally delivered without any direct effort of his own. Thus he suffers as the object of Ishmael's mocking, of the intended sacrifice on Moriah, of the rapacity of the Philistines, and of Jacob's stratagem. But the thought of his sufferings is effaced by the ever-present tokens of God's favor; and he suffers with the calmness and dignity of a conscious heir of heavenly promises, without uttering any complaint, and generally without committing any action by which he would forfeit respect. Free from violent passions, he was a man of constant, deep, and tender affections. Thus he mourned for his mother till her place was filled by his wife. 'His sons were nurtured at home till a late period of their lives; and neither his grief for Esau's marriage, nor the anxiety in which he was involved in consequence of Jacob's deceit, estranged either of them from his affectionate care. His life of solitary blamelessness must have been sustained by strong habitual piety, such as showed itself at the time of Rebekah's barrenness (Ge 25:21), in his special intercourse: with God at Gerar and Beersheba (Ge 26:2,23), in the solemnity with which he bestows his blessing and refuses to change it. His life, judged by a worldly standard, might seem inactive, ignoble, and unfruitful; but the "guileless years, prayers, gracious acts, and daily thank-offerings of pastoral life" are not to be so esteemed, although they make no show in history. Isaac's character may not have exercised any commanding influence upon either his own or succeeding generations, but it was sufficiently marked and consistent to win respect and envy from his contemporaries. By his posterity his name is always joined in equal honor with those of Abraham and Jacob, and so it was even used as part of the formula which Egyptian magicians in the time of Origen (Contra Celsun, 1, 22) employed as efficacious to bind the daemons whom they adjured (comp. Ge 31:42,53).
If Abraham's enterprising, unsettled life foreshadowed the early history of his descendants; if Jacob was a type of the careful, commercial, unwarlike character of their later days, Isaac may represent the middle period, in which they lived apart from nations, and enjoyed possession of the fertile land of promise. (See Kalisch, Genesis ad loc.)
III. The typical view of Isaac is barely referred to in. the N.T., but it is drawn out with minute particularity by Philo and those interpreters of Scripture who were influenced by Alexandrian philosophy. Thus in Philo, Isaac (laughter the most exquisite enjoyment--the soother and cheerer of peace-loving souls) is foreshadowed in the facts that his father had attained 100 years (the perfect number) when he was born, and that he is specially designated as given to his parents by God. His birth from the mistress of Abraham's household symbolizes happiness proceeding from predominant wisdom. His attachment to one wife (Rebekah =perseverance) is contrasted with Abraham's multiplied connections, and with Jacob's toil- won wives, as showing the superiority of Isaac's heaven-born, self- sufficing wisdom to the accumulated, knowledge of Abraham and the painful experience of Jacob. In the intended sacrifice. of Isaac, Philo sees only a sign (laughter =rejoicing is, the prerogative of God, and is a fit offering to him) that God gives back to obedient man as much happiness as is good for him. Clement of Rome (ch. 31), with characteristic soberness, merely refers to Isaac as an example of faith in God. In Tertullian he is a pattern of monogamy, and a type of Christ bearing the cross. But Clement of Alexandria finds an allegorical meaning in the incidents which connect Abimelech with Isaac and Rebekah (Ge 26:8), as well as in the offering of Isaac. In this latter view he is followed by Origen, and by Augustine, and by Christian expositors generally. The most minute particulars of that transaction are invested with a spiritual meaning by such writers as Rabanus Maurus, in Genesis § 3. Abraham is made a type of the first person in the blessed Trinity, Isaac of the second; the two servants dismissed are the Jewish sects who did not attain to a perception of Christ in his humiliation; the ass bearing the wood is the Jewish nation, to whom were committed the oracles of God which they failed to understand; the three days are the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations; the ram is Christ on the cross; the thicket they who placed him there. Modern English writers hold firmly the typical significance of the transaction, without extending it into such detail (see Pearson, On the Creed, 1, 243, 251, edit. 1843; Fairbairn's Typology, 1, 332). A recent writer (A. Jukes, Types of Genesis), who has shown much ingenuity in attaching a spiritual meaning to the characters and incidents in the book of Genesis, regards Isaac as representing the spirit of sonship, in a series in which Adam represents human nature, Cain the carnal mind, Abel the spiritual, Noah regeneration, Abraham the spirit of faith, Jacob the spirit of service, Joseph suffering or glory. With this series may be compared the View of Ewald (Gesch. 1, 387-400), in which the whole patriarchal family is a prefigurative group, comprising twelve members with seven distinct modes of relation:
1. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are three fathers, respectively personifying active power, quiet enjoyment, success after struggles, distinguished from the rest as Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ulysses among the heroes of the Iliad, or as the Trojan Anchises, AEneas, and Ascanius, and mutually related as Romulus, Remus, and Numa;
2. Sarah, with Hagar, as mother and mistress of the household,
3. Isaac as child;
4. Isaac with Rebekah as the type of wedlock (comp. his Alterthümer. p. 233);
5. Leah and Rachel the plurality of coequal wives;
6. Deborah as nurse (compare Anna and Caieta, E12. 4:654, and 7:1) —
7. Eliezer as steward, whose office is compared to that of the messenger of the Olympic deities.
IV. Traditions. — Jewish legends represent Isaac as an angel made before the world, and descending to earth in human form (Origen, in Johann. 2, § 25); as one of the three men in whom human sinfulness has no place, as one of the six over whom the angel of death has no power (Eisenmenger, Entd. Jud. 1, 343, 864). He is said to have been instructed in divine knowledge by Shem (Jarchi, on Genesis 25). The ordinance of evening prayer is ascribed to him (Ge 24:63), as that of morning prayer to Abraham (Ge 19:27), and night prayer to Jacob (Ge 28:11) (Eisenmenger, Ent. Jsd. 1, 483).
The Arabian traditions included in the Koran represent Isaac as a model of religion, a righteous person inspired with grace to do good works, observe prayer, and give alms (ch. 21), endowed with the divine gifts of prophecy, 'children, and- wealth (ch. 19). The promise of Isaac and the offering of Isaac are also mentioned (Ge 11:32). Faith in a future resurrection is ascribed to Abraham: but it is connected, not, as in Heb 11:19, with the offering of Isaac, but with a fictitious miracle (chap. 2). Stanley mentions a curious tradition of the reputed jealousy of Isaac's character that prevails among the inhabitants of Hebron respecting the grave of Rebekah (Jewish Church, 1, 496 sq.). (On the notices of Isaac in the Talmud, see Otho's Lex. Talm. p. 133; Hamburger, Real-Encyklop. Bible u. Talmud, p. 612 sq.; for the notices in the Koran, see Hottinger's Hist. Orient. p. 25, 52). See Boucher, History of Isaac (Lond. 1864). For older treatises, see Darling, Cyclop. Bibliograph. col. 190.