The Christian Bible Reference Site

Abraham and Isaac

Genesis 17-22

God Calls Abram

Sometime around 2000 B.C., God spoke to a man named Abram [A brum] and said,

"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (NIV, Genesis 12:1-3)

So at age 75, Abram left the land of Haran and set out for the land of Canaan. He took his wife, Sarai [SAYR eye], his nephew, Lot, and all their possessions and slaves.

Ishmael Is Born

Abram was worried about God's promise that he would be the ancestor of a great nation of people. He and Sarai had no children, and Sarai was beyond the age of childbearing. But Sarai had an Egyptian slave girl named Hagar, and she gave Hagar to Abram as a second wife. Hagar bore Abram his first son, a boy named Ishmael [ISH may ell].

The Covenant

A covenant is an agreement, and God made an agreement with Abram when he was 99 years old. God appeared to Abram and said,

"I am God Almighty; serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation." At this, Abram fell face down in the dust. Then God said to him, "This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of not just one nation, but a multitude of nations!" (NLT, Genesis 17:1-4)

God also gave Abram and Sarai new names, Abraham [A bruh ham] and Sarah [SAYR uh], to mark their entry into this new covenant.

Isaac Is Born

One day, as Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent, he looked up and saw three men standing there. Abraham instantly recognized them as messengers from God and bowed down to worship. One of the men told Abraham that Sarah would have a son within the next year. Sarah overheard this and laughed at the idea that she could have a child; she was already almost ninety years old!

However, just as promised, Sarah became pregnant and had a son the next year. Abraham named him Isaac [EYE zik]. When Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90.

Hagar and Ishmael Are Driven Away

Abraham forces Hagar and Ishmael out of the family

Abraham forced Hagar and Ishmael out of the family because of Sarah's jealousy.

After Isaac was born, Sarah became jealous of Hagar and Ishmael. She did not want them around anymore and did not want Ishmael to get a share of Isaac's inheritance. Abraham cared for his son Ishmael, and he was greatly distressed by Sarah's demands. But God assured Abraham that Ishmael would also be the ancestor of a nation of people, so Abraham reluctantly sent Hagar and Ishmael away forever.

The Supreme Test of Faith

Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son

Abraham was willing even to sacrifice his own son in obedience to God.

God tested Abraham to see how strong his faith really was. Was Abraham really worthy to be the ancestor of two great nations of people? Would Abraham go so far as to sacrifice his only remaining son if God asked? So God said to Abraham,

"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." (NRSV, Genesis 22:2)

Abraham did not hesitate. He took Isaac and set out for the land of Moriah. He gathered firewood. He built an altar and placed the wood on it. He tied up Isaac and placed him on the altar. He took his knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to God.

At that moment the angel of the LORD shouted to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Yes," he answered. "I'm listening." "Lay down the knife," the angel said. "Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me." (NLT, Genesis 22:11-12)

Abraham had passed the test. He had demonstrated that he was willing to obey God - no matter what!

Father of Three Great Religions

Three great religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism - trace their spiritual heritage to Abraham.

Ishmael had twelve sons who became princes of twelve Arabian tribes. The Muslims of today trace their heritage to Abraham through Ishmael.

Isaac had twin sons - Esau and Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons who were the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Jews trace their lineage to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob.

Because of their shared heritage with the Jews, Christians also count Abraham as their spiritual father.


Was it a Sin for Abram to Take Hagar as a Wife?

In cases where a wife could not bear children, it was a common practice in the ancient world for the husband to take a second wife to bear his children. Nothing in the laws of that time prohibited such an arrangement.

Was it a Sin for Abraham and Sarah to Own Slaves?

Slavery was very common in the ancient world, and owning slaves was considered normal and proper at Abraham's time in history. Later Jewish law did not prohibit slavery, but it did limit harsh treatment of slaves. Slavery is incompatible with Jesus' message of love and respect for all people. However, it took many hundreds of years for human societies to abolish slavery.


It was not Abraham's wealth, intelligence, power, race or nationality that qualified him to be the ancestor of whole nations of people. It was his faith and willingness to obey God - no matter what. He left his home and his homeland when God called him. He proved his obedience by his willingness to sacrifice his own son, if God told him to do it. Throughout the Bible, men and women who were willing to put their whole trust in God were the ones God used to accomplish His great works.