Exegetical essay on genesis


The purpose of this assignment is to write an exegetical essay from scripture and to analyse it. I have chosen to exegesis chapter 22 in the book of Genesis. Genesis is the first book of the Bible and Moses is claimed to be the author of the first five books of the Bible, which are called the Pentateuch and are commonly accepted by both Jews and Christians.[1] The story of Abraham and his descendents is found in the book of Genesis. He was a shepherd and came from Ur in Mesopotamia which is modern day Iraq, from Ur Abraham and his family moved to Heran.


The three main characters within this story are God, Abraham, and Isaac. The narrative shows that what we have here is a story of anguished faith on the path of Abraham. In substance and literacy style this is a dramatic story of God dealing with Abraham; the opening phrases heighten the tension of the story.

Abraham He was the first person to recognise, worship and teach the idea that there was only one God, therefore, the birth of monotheism stem from him; before then people believed in many gods. Abraham is a personal name, at the beginning Abraham was known as Abram 'father is exalted,' but this was changed by God to Abraham 'father of a multitude,' (Gen 17:5) He is regarded by the Jews as the first Patriarch of the Jewish people, and became known as a great example of faith. The history of the Jewish people begins in the bronze-age times in the Middle East when God called Abram to migrate to Canaan, promising him that he would be a father of a great nation if he did as God ask him. [2]

Abraham has been a man of faith, trusting in God's promise, this is evident as the following chapters in Genesis state that he was ready to department from his home land (Gen 12:1-4), his response to the promise of an heir Isaac whom he had when he was 100 years old, and numerous seed (Gen 15:4-6) and his embrace of circumcision in (Gen 17: 22-27) all at the command of God.

The Testing of Abraham's (22:1-19)

The whole of 22:1-19 reverberates with the echoes of earlier parts of the Abraham cycle. The chapter begins with, 'And it came to pass after these things God tested Abraham'.[3] this gives an introduction that a new story is about to begin, and that some time had past between this trial of Abraham and the events recorded at the end of the last chapter; there the narrator 'implies that Abraham had retired physically and spiritually in Beersheba, for he says he planted an orchard and called on God.'[4] Furthermore the reader has been alerted by the verb 'test' that something difficult is about to be asked of Abraham.

The story begins when God commands Abraham saying, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountains which I shall tell him." This gives an allusion to the very first command given to Abraham in (Gen 12:1), "Go by yourself to a land which I shall show you"; it also gives a parallel between God's last and first command to Abraham; that is 'which I shell tell you', and 'which I shall show you'.

We know that Abraham had had expelled his firstborn son whom he was fond of from his presence on God's command in (Gen 21:12-13) so indeed Isaac was his only son on whose survival fulfilment of all the promises depended.

This challenge follows a plot sequence starting with an exposition as the challenge is given Abraham is confronted with a decision of whether to sacrifice his son or not. The plot incites action as Abraham rises to the challenge and leaves for the sacrifice. Here the narrator highlights his theme in details like rising early in the morning and cutting firewood gives a hint of obedience to come; Abraham leaves as soon as possible eager to obey God's command shows obedience, takes his own wood so that he would not be delayed in making the sacrifice again obedience.

As they arrive at the mountain the narrator gives us a close up look at Abraham's faith. He tells his servants to stay behind he will go make a sacrifice, and both he and the boy will return. These three verbs all show a strong determination on the part of Abraham 'to go' 'to worship'' to return'. God had promise to create a nation through Isaac many times. Such was Abraham's faith that he believe that even if he had to destroy his son, he was under the illusion that somehow God would bring Isaac back (Heb 11: 17-19) explains that he was expecting God to raise Isaac from the dead, this is implied in Abraham's statement to his servants, "we will come back to you" (v5). Yet the lesson Hebrew's draw from this chapter is one of faith.

As Abraham and Isaac go up the mountain alone, Isaac asked his father, "where is the lamb for the burnt offering"; from this question emerges an important statement of faith from Abraham who says, "God himself will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering.[5] The Hebrew word for provide is Yire'eh taken from the word Ra'ah. This is the central theme of the passage and turning point of the narrative. Abraham response is full and immediate; it is a statement of utter trust and confidence

Finally the plot comes to a climax as they came to the place where God sacrifice was to be made; he laid the wood, bound Isaac. The action now rises to a climax as Abraham is about to kill his son, this is an emotional centre of the story; he was prepared to the point of actually performing the sacrifice. God intervene at the last moment instructing him not to kill his son. Abraham has completed the test which is assured by the words of God, "Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me." Until that very moment God could not say these words, when Abraham's faith reached this point, then God said, "Now, I now," The structural feature we may observe here is the parallel between the command (v2) and resolution (v12). The first creates a crisis and the second resolves the crises, that is

"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love" (2)

"You have not withheld your son, your only son (v12)"[6]

A lamb was substituted instead of his son to be sacrifice. He called the name of the place "The Lord will provide" (Jehovah-Jireh).

God is omniscience and He knows what is in Abram's heart. Furthermore, child sacrifice is strictly forbidden under the Mosaic Law in (Lev 18:20). God stop Abraham from committing and act of child sacrifice, because that is outside of His plan.

The consequences of Abraham's actions are recorded as the covenant promise is renewed. God's promise has been reinforced by an oath, "By myself have I sworn, when God makes an oath He can swear by nothing higher than Himself as is recorded in (Heb 6:13); He says "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. The word seed is used instead of descendants; this is known as a 'Metonymy' when one name is exchange for another - a figure of relation. Furthermore, the narrator is expressing a comparison between the number of stars and sand to the number of Abraham's descendants, therefore is using a figure of speech called a 'simile' meaning 'similar or like; He goes on to say, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. The Jews are God's people and will have many enemies, Abraham also may have acquired himself a few enemies. Within this passage God is promising that they will conquer the land. Also the way in which gate is use here is called a 'synecdoche', which mean part of something stands for the whole; here the gate of the city stands for the entire city, and Abraham descendants would not only posses the gates of the cities but they will possess the whole city. God finally says, "For in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."


The story of Abraham is about the reward of faithful obedience to the will of God. The test was designed to see if Abraham would be obedient. The test tends to show the disposition of the heart, God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promise and long-awaited son; so to strengthen his character and deepen his commitment to God. The test was a challenge to go beyond his previous limits, and God's goal in the challenge was to increase Abraham's faith; the real surrender was that of Abraham's will to that of God.


  • Alexander, Pat and David. The new Lion Handbook to the Bible (Oxford, UK: Lion Publishing plc), 1999.
  • Brueggemann, Walter, Genesis Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1982).
  • Butler, Trent C. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers), 2003.
  • Carson, D.A. France, R.T. Motyer, J.A, Wenham, G.J. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press), 1994.
  • Cate, Robert L. How to interpret the Bible (Nashville: Broadman Press), 1983.
  • Gibbs, Carl B. Principles of Biblical interpretation: An Independent-Study Textbook (Springfield, Missouri: Global University), 2004.
  • The Thompson Chain - Reference Study Bible: KJV (Indianapolis, Indiana: Kirkbride Bible Co), 2004).
  • Thompson, William D. Preaching Biblically: Exegesis and Interpretation (Nashville: Abingdon), 1981.
  1. Trent C. Butler, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 635-636.
  2. Trent Butler, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 10.
  3. The Thompson Chain - Reference Study Bible, 22.
  4. Carl B. Gibbs, Principles of Biblical interpretation: An Independent-Study Textbook (Springfield, Missouri: Global University, 2004), 238.
  5. The Thompson Chain - Reference, 23.
  6. Walter Brueggemann, Genesis Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1982), 186.

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