Unveiling the Age of Isaac When Abraham Sacrificed Him

The story of Isaac’s sacrificial offering by his father, Abraham, is an intriguing tale found in the Bible. While the precise age of Isaac during this event remains a mystery, delving into the intricacies of the narrative and considering various points can provide us with some fascinating insights. Contrary to conventional beliefs, it is plausible that Isaac was older than we normally imagine, perhaps in his twenties or even older.

Seeking Clues in Chronology

To begin unraveling the enigma, let’s examine the details of the chronology presented in the Bible. Sarah, Isaac’s mother, gave birth to him at the remarkable age of 90 (Genesis 17:17). Assuming Isaac was weaned by the time Sarah passed away at 127 (Genesis 23:1), he would have been around 37. Moreover, the events of Genesis chapters 21 and 22, from the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael to the incident with Abimelech, transpired over a span of approximately 35 years. This timeframe implies a significant passage of time before the sacrifice of Isaac, as indicated by the phrases “many days” in Genesis 21:34 and “after these things” in 22:1.

The Elasticity of the Term “Lad”

The term “lad” used to refer to Isaac in the Bible is a flexible Hebrew word that encompasses a broad range of meanings. It can signify anything from a baby to a young man, even extending to a servant or soldier. Notably, in Genesis 22:5, the servants accompanying Abraham and Isaac are referred to as “young men” (22:3,5,19). This term employed to describe the servants is precisely the same term used in verses 5 and 12 to refer to Isaac. Would Abraham’s companions have been 5 or 7-year-olds? It seems more plausible that they were older, aligning with Isaac’s age.

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The Weight of Responsibility

Another aspect to consider is the task assigned to Isaac: carrying the wood for the impending sacrifice (22:6). The amount of wood required to burn a human body is significant. Could a 5 to 7-year-old child shoulder such a weighty burden? It appears unlikely. This suggests that Isaac possessed the strength and maturity of a young man, reinforcing the notion that he was not a young boy at the time of the sacrificial moment.

Insights from Commentators

Several biblical commentators have shared their views on the age of Isaac during this critical event. Their collective analysis points towards a young man, rather than a young boy. Leupold suggests that Isaac may have been around eighteen to twenty years old. Josephus, the Jewish historian, states that Isaac was twenty-five years old. Clarke leans towards Isaac being approximately thirty-three years old. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown assert that Isaac was “then upwards of twenty years of age.” Manor describes Isaac as “a youth of sufficient strength and agility to carry a load of firewood up a mountainside.” Keil and Delitzsch affirm that Isaac had grown into a young man. Morris concludes that the term “young man” is more suitable in Isaac’s case.

In light of these converging lines of evidence, it becomes increasingly evident that Isaac was not a young boy but a young man when he faced the prospect of being sacrificed by his father, Abraham.

References

  • 5 WS
  • Clarke, Adam. Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon.
  • Gesenius, William. Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago, IL: Moody.
  • Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown. A Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Josephus, Flavius. The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Keil, C.F., and F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Leupold, H.C. Exposition of Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Manor, J. Curtis. Adventures From the Pentateuch. Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible Publications.
  • Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Wigram, George V. The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
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